Return to Transcripts main page
Flynn Offers To Testify In Exchange For Immunity; Lawyer: Flynn "Certain Has A Story To Tell"; McCain: Election Meddling Undermines Democracy. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired March 31, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. So glad you're with us this Friday.
Let's make a deal! Former national security adviser Mike Flynn says he is willing to talk to congressional investigators if he is granted immunity from prosecution. Flynn, through an attorney, is making an offer to the FBI and the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to appear before them and talk and answer their questions about Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia.
Now, of course, Flynn was fired after misleading the White House about his own deals with Moscow's ambassador to the United States. Flynn's attorney releasing a statement saying, "General Flynn certainly has a story to tell. He very much wants to tell it should the circumstances permit."
And the President weighing in just a short time ago, tweeting, "Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in what is a witch hunt excuse for a big election loss by media and Democrats of historic proportion."
Also this morning, the Kremlin is striking a pretty dire tone. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DMITRY PESKOV, PRESS SECRETARY FOR THE PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA: New Cold War? Well, maybe even worse. Maybe even worse, taking into account actions of the present presidential administration.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Worse than --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Let's begin this hour with Sara Murray who joins us at the White House. A lot going on this Friday morning.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is a lot going on, beginning with Democrats hitting back at the President's tweets. Congressman Adam Schiff, who's the top ranking Democrat on that House Intelligence Committee, tweeted back to the President's comments about Michael Flynn today, saying, "The question for you, Mr. President, is why you waited so long to ask after you learned Flynn, through your V.P., had misled the country." Of course, Poppy, as you pointed out, Michael Flynn was ousted from
his job as national security advisor because he misled Mike Pence about his interactions with the Russian ambassador. Now, that gets us to his lawyer saying, sure, Mike Flynn will come to the Hill, he will testify in these probes about Russia, but there is a catch. He wants immunity in exchange for the testimony.
I want to read you a portion of the statement from Flynn's lawyer explaining this ask, saying, "No reasonable person who has the benefit of advice from counsel would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution."
Now, this is what the President and Michael Flynn are saying about needing immunity today. But listen to what they said when Hillary Clinton and her associates wanted immunity previously.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MIKE FLYNN (RET.), FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: When you are given immunity, that means that you've probably committed a crime.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if you're not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: So a very different tone when they were referring to associates of Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail than they are taking now. We will see how this progresses. So far, we have not heard from these committees on the Hill about whether they would accept this agreement of testimony in exchange for immunity. Back to you.
HARLOW: All right, Sara Murray at the White House. Thank you so much.
And the plot is thickening also around the embattled Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Reports this morning that Devin Nunes was given highly sensitive intel from staffers inside the White House. The reporting added to the bipartisan firestorm that Nunes is too cozy with the administration to lead this investigation of the administration. This is one of many developments unfolding this morning.
Let's go to Capitol Hill where we find Suzanne Malveaux. Good morning.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Well, the House and Senate are not in session today and Congressman Nunes is really in the center of all of this. He's back in his home state of California, at least for the weekend, but all the buzz here on Capitol Hill is really about the speculation, whether or not there was collusion between Nunes and the White House, which led potentially to providing cover for President Trump and his allegations that he was wiretapped.
So here is how it went down. Yesterday, the White House acknowledged, saying that there were staffers who had uncovered some materials related to the surveillance in the campaign of 2016. They then invited the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to come to the White House and to view the classified information.
Now, a lot of questions, a lot of speculation, that is set off here because it followed previous press reports that identified the people who actually gave and shared the classified information with Nunes when he was on the White House grounds. And, Poppy, you remember that was the same information that he took to the President the following day.
So a lot of questions about why it would be that the White House, that these are the same individuals of the NSC, go and use the House Intelligence Committee Chair to deliver this message to the President? Why not go directly to him? This is the Democratic counterpart asking those very questions and raising those red flags.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, UNITED STATES HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: The timing certainly looks fortuitous, and probably more than fortuitous. But per the letter, it said that the Ranking Member had been asking to review these materials, which, of course, I have.
[09:05:07] That suggests, of course, that these are the same materials that the Chairman has reviewed. And if that's the case, it begs the question, why all the subterfuge if that's what it was? Maybe there is an innocent explanation here. I don't understand it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: So a lot of questions coming from the House Intelligence Committee. Democrats there, as you see. And they have not yet put out a statement in terms of whether or not they're going to be viewing that classified information, take up the White House invitation.
The Senate Intel community, for its part, says that it would like to see those documents, but not on the White House grounds. They are asking for the White House to deliver those documents to them. They don't want to compromise or be too cozy with the White House at this point, considering that there are so many questions, Poppy.
HARLOW: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, great reporting. Thank you.
And still, we have the House Intel Committee just ground to a halt on this investigation. No more meetings planned, no more hearings, as far as we know. Let's talk about all of this.
I'm joined by Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today." Juliette Kayyem is here, our national security analyst and former Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security under President Obama. And Paul Callan joins us, esteemed CNN legal analyst and criminal
defense attorney and former prosecutor. So nice to have you here. You just wrote a great op-ed on this on the home page of cnn.com.
Because we have to start with Flynn, I'm completely fascinated by this letter from his attorney. He's got a story to tell, folks. He wants to tell it, if you can make a deal. What do you make of all of this and this sort of idea, as you put it, of a "Queen for a Day"?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is fascinating, and criminal defense lawyers face this all the time with clients who may or may not have a problem with potential criminal charges. And when you want to try to sell your story to the prosecutor so that they'll give you immunity --
HARLOW: Which he's doing here.
CALLAN: -- which he's doing, they have what's called a "Queen for a Day" session. It's based on an old T.V. show from the 1950s when a woman would come in and tell a tragic story. And if she had the most tragic story, she would get a washing machine, believe it or not, or something like that.
Lawyers now call this "Queen for a Day" sessions because the story is being sold to the prosecutors. If they like the story, they'll give you immunity. If they don't like the story, they'll say, no immunity, we're going to proceed with our investigation.
That's the next step General Flynn is facing, to try to sell his story to the prosecutors. Now, what prosecutors will look at, one, is he telling the truth? Two, can he implicate somebody else who's as high up or higher up?
HARLOW: Or higher up.
HARLOW: Right, or higher. Juliette, what do you make of all this and the President tweeting Mike Flynn should ask for immunity? And then he goes on to say this is a witch hunt, et cetera, et cetera. I mean, he wants Flynn to tell his story. That's interesting.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. I don't know how much to make out of the tweet. It's sort of more evidence that, at least, the President himself, if not the inner circle, just aren't taking this seriously. I mean, every aspect of it is, at best, sloppy; at worst, signs of some, you know, sort of cover-up or collusion.
And I think Paul is absolutely right, that this is big news about Flynn. There's no question about it. He is the first person in the inner circle who is suggesting that he's going to turn his back on them, but what we don't know is the substance of the proffer.
It may be nothing. It may not satisfy what either committees or, indeed, the FBI want to hear or need to hear to get an investigation. And for all we know, Flynn is the one who they're focusing on, right?
KAYYEM: So we don't know how far up this goes. And so it is significant, but we don't yet know how to read the fact that the proffer has not been accepted. Is it just a matter of timing, or is it that he hasn't offered anything?
But as for the tweet, you know, obviously, this is United States of America. We need to take this seriously. No one who takes it seriously questions Russia's involvement with our election or their attempts to do so in Europe and other elections, and so the tweet, sadly, I think, speaks for itself.
HARLOW: Susan, I would be remiss not to note what both the President and General Flynn said about those who want immunity and what it means just last year. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLYNN: When you are given immunity, that means that you've probably committed a crime.
TRUMP: And if you are not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Well, I suspect their perspective on this might be a little different now, especially for General Flynn. And I can tell you, these are words no White House wants to hear, "former top aide seeks immunity because he wants to tell his story."
You know, if you go back to the Watergate investigation or the Iran country investigation, this is how they unfold. There's an allegation, an official gets ensnared in it, he offers to tell his story, and you never know where that trail is going to lead.
[09:10:03] HARLOW: I was just telling the control room that I wanted to get to this point that I want you all to weigh in on as well. On top of this big Flynn story, there's also this more and more aggressive stance being taken by Russia in the tone that they are taking.
So, Dmitry Peskov, who is the spokesperson for Vladimir Putin, was on "Good Morning America" this morning. And he was asked sort of the state of relations between the United States and Russia right now. Just listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: If we're at the lowest point in history, that means we're in a new Cold War. PESKOV: New Cold War? Well, maybe even worse. Maybe even worse,
taking into account actions of the present presidential administration.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Worse than --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: So, Susan, I also wanted your take on that. I mean, he said, yes, new Cold War, maybe even worse. What's the play here?
PAGE: You know, this is really very serious. There have been very serious policymakers who think we need to have a better relationship with Russia. The Obama administration famously tried a reset that didn't work out.
And despite questions about the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia, there are those who think this is a dangerous path that we're on, this increasing tension, you know, with a big rival, potential adversary, right there at the edge of Europe. I mean, this has consequences for NATO, for American security, and more.
HARLOW: Right. And you've got Secretary of State Tillerson over meeting with those NATO officials right now overseas. It's interesting to see, Juliette, this response from the Kremlin comes the day after Sara Murray's great reporting that the Trump administration, not so keen on making a grand bargain with Russia anymore.
KAYYEM: Right. It may be that, in their attempts to sort of sway an election or, as we heard from the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, certainly create a narrative that was pro-Trump, it may be that they now realize that Trump does not have the capacity or the focus to actually change grand policy.
But to remind viewers, there is other issues involved with this investigation not having to do with policy or NATO or Russia/U.S. relations. And that has to do with whether there are any financial gains between Trump and his inner circle, Manafort specifically but other, and Russian oligarchs.
And so what was most interesting to me in the House Intel hearing, which we sort of forget about now since all the hoopla, is that FBI Director Jim Comey said, there is no difference between the oligarchs and money issues and the Kremlin. In other words, he views them as the same. So I think this investigation may go in many directions at this stage.
HARLOW: All right. Very quickly before we go, Paul, I just want you to weigh in Devin Nunes. Now we know, according to this, you know, fascinating, "New York Times" reporting, they're saying it's this White House officials that gave him the intelligence that might small bad. Anything legally fuzzy there?
CALLAN: There's really not anything legally fuzzy because he's Chairman of the Intelligence Committee. He has a security clearance, and where he chooses to read his intelligence is strictly up to him. HARLOW: Or get it from, where he chooses to get it from.
CALLAN: So it's very bad politically, but I don't see legal problems for the Chairman.
HARLOW: All right. Thank you so much.
CALLAN: Thank you.
HARLOW: Again, Paul's fascinating column, read it right now on cnn.com. Ladies, thank you very much as well.
A lot for us this hour, the fallout over Flynn. We're staying on top of all of the fast moving developments. Lawmakers' reaction next.
Also, former Vice President Joe Biden making some waves. He says it's time for the President to, quote, "grow up."
And the President wants to hire American, but here is the problem. U.S. factories along the Rust Belt are trying, they tell us, but they can't. So who are they hiring? Syrian refugees. Wait until you see this story.
HARLOW: So this morning, President Trump agreeing that his former NSA chief, Michael Flynn, should ask for immunity and testify and tell his story. The president tweeted that immunity would protect Flynn against what he's calling a witch hunt.
Here to discuss that and a lot more, Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York. Nice to have you here.
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Good to be with you.
HARLOW: So let's jump off right on that news. I mean, Flynn is saying he's got a story to tell. That's the words of his attorney and he's seeking immunity. Otherwise, it's pretty clear he is going to plead the Fifth. So should he get that immunity? Do you want to hear his story?
MEEKS: I think that the American people want to hear this story. This is really getting exhausting and I think it is time for patriotism to really step in here.
HARLOW: What do you mean?
MEEKS: What I mean is that who is he going to testify about? We need an independent commission or special prosecutor.
HARLOW: It looks like he is going to testify in front of the Senate and House Intelligence Committee and talk to the FBI. MEEKS: Right. I want him to talk to the FBI. I want an independent commission or a special prosecutor so that we could get to the bottom of it. Too much politics is going on right now.
HARLOW: You don't believe on the House side, your side, that their intel committee could get this done because of all the hoopla between Schiff and Nunes and all that, right?
MEEKS: That is correct.
HARLOW: All right, but do you agree with Charlie Dent, the Republican Congressman who told us on this show this week the Senate Intel Committee should take over? If not, why don't you think the Senate Intel Committee who has no political issues at this point in time can handle this?
MEEKS: We had a special prosecutor investigate a president for whether or not he lied on a sexual situation.
HARLOW: You're not answering my question.
MEEKS: What I'm saying --
HARLOW: Why can't the Senate do it?
MEEKS: Because I think that the American people need someone who there is no question about. That's why this is about patriotism.
HARLOW: You are basically saying that in no circumstance can the Senate Intel Committee do their job ever? I mean, that is what they're set up to do.
MEEKS: I'm saying let them do their job. Let them do what they are doing, but at the same time, they still should be -- when we had 9/11, it was a special commission that was set up. The Senate could have done it. The House could have done it. We could have done the review. But in the opinion of everyone at that time because our national security was at stake, we decided we wanted an independent commission set up.
[09:20:05]So what we're talking about now with regards to Russia, the involvement if anybody else was involved, that is our national defense.
HARLOW: Would you be saying the same if the president was a Democrat?
MEEKS: For sure. I don't want the politics of it. I believe for example what you are hearing now about whether or not there was surveillance or not surveillance, whether it was coincidental or not, let the special prosecutor investigate all of it so we could get to the bottom of it and the American people could have the confidence that the politics didn't play into any of it.
HARLOW: Staying on the theme of Russia, we're seeing Russia take a much more aggressive verbal stance against the United States just this morning. The spokesperson for President Putin went on "Good Morning America" and George asked him are we looking at another cold war?
And his response is new cold war? Well, maybe even worse. Maybe even worse taking into account the present presidential administration. What stance do you want to see the Trump administration take on Russia at this point in time?
MEEKS: It is clear that we've got to continue to work with our NATO allies and others, that we've got to continue the substantiations that are currently in place, that we've got to make sure that we put pressure on Mr. Putin with our NATO allies.
That he cannot continue to interfere with the Democratic processes of countries around the globe, which clearly they're doing. If you look not only hear in the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands. Supposedly he didn't win in that election. There is concern in what's taking place in Russia.
HARLOW: Very quickly, on health care, you have said you'll work with the Trump administration, it looks like the president wants to work more with you guys, more with the Democrats than he does with his own Republican House Freedom Caucus. How do you see that?
MEEKS: Well, if the president now understands that the Freedom Caucus wants nothing, if he's going to do what he said his promise was, that he was going to make sure that costs went down, that everybody is covered, I think that we could find ways to do that.
HARLOW: Do you think this president could make Obamacare better?
MEEKS: Well, I don't know. He has said that's what he's going to do. He's talking about repealing the Affordable Care Act. Let's not repeal it. Let's fix it. Let's repair it and everybody can agree that we can work together.
HARLOW: But you know, the Republican House Freedom Caucus doesn't think this is a repeal at all.
MEEKS: That's why we are hoping that we get moderate Republicans to join and to work with Democrats and really do something collectively and leave those individuals who think government shouldn't have anything to do with health care, leave them out because that doesn't make sense.
HARLOW: Nice to have you here. Thanks very much. Have a good trip. I know you're heading overseas.
MEEKS: Thank you.
HARLOW: Still to come for us, the Trump White House is fighting several battles at once. We will hear what to expect next from a man who knows exactly what it is like to be in that job in the west wing. Very excited to have David Axelrod joining us next.
[09:27:20] HARLOW: Only 71 days in, and the storm is churning around the Trump administration on a few fronts. Former NSA Chief Michael Flynn has a story that he wants to tell, but guess what? He wants immunity to tell it.
Also the "New York Times" reporting that two staffers inside the White House are the ones that provided that intelligence to embattled House Intel Chair Devin Nunes.
Joining us to talk about this, David Axelrod, CNN senior political commentator, former senior adviser to President Obama, and host of a very awesome podcast, "The Axe Files," which I listen to with my daughter every night when I'm making dinner and it did not put her to sleep.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I want her comments.
HARLOW: OK, she's 11-months old. We'll get back to you on that one. Let's start on the news because former National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn, his attorney says he's got a story to tell if he's granted immunity.
This is what the president tweeted this morning. "Michael Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt, excuse for big election laws by the media and Dems of historic proportion."
This is a big deal, David, because this is someone so close to the president, a trusted adviser and then in his inner circle and then having one of the top jobs. It's interesting to me that the president has been encouraging him to tell his story. How do you see it?
AXELROD: Well, look. I don't know. I mean, first of all, the president's tweets are driving this story in many ways, which is really bewildering to me. Let's back up for a second. Everyone agrees that the Russians interfered in our election in a big way.
John McCain, who is on the podcast that will be on CNN tomorrow night said this was like dropping bombs on our country, worse than dropping bombs on our country.
And the president is involved in tweets like this, and it is a mistake. It is a mistake. But, yes, this is a big moment, it seems to me. You know, Mike Flynn was as close to Donald Trump as could be.
HARLOW: As you could get.
AXELROD: He was for a few short weeks the national security advisor.
HARLOW: Let's take a minute and listen to what you just mentioned because you have this fascinating sit down with John McCain that's part of your special hour airing tomorrow night on CNN. Here is that exchange. Play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AXELROD: It is now clear everyone seems to agree that the Russians did interfere in our election campaign.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If you destroy the fundamental of democracy, there is certain fundamentals, rule of law, respect, et cetera, but one of them is freedom to elect legitimately leadership. That's fundamentally principal. And if you destroy that, then you have really destroyed democracy.
AXELROD: If an American citizen were complicit with the Russians in try to interfere in our elections, would that be tantamount to treason?
MCCAIN: I think you would have to gauge exactly the circumstances. You know, there's one thing you have a conversation.