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U.S. Secy. of State Condemns Russian Aggression in Ukraine; Trump Voters Skeptical About Russia Connection; Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired March 31, 2017 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:30:38] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denouncing Russian aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere at a meeting with NATO. Russian officials responded just moments ago.
CNN's Matthew Chance live in Moscow with more -- Matthew.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These are comments from Rex Tillerson being critical of Moscow. He seemed very much a friend of the Kremlin. He was awarded the Medal of Friendship, in fact, by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, when he was a CEO of Exxon.
But he says he is attending this NATO meeting in Brussels today to talk. One of the things he wants to talk about is the posture of NATO in Europe, particularly in response in Eastern Europe to Russia's aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere. Well, already, there's been a reaction from the Russian foreign ministry to that statement by Rex Tillerson, secretary of state.
We don't want to see U.S. -- sorry. We want to see U.S. foreign policy, Maria Zakharova said to me, not just quotes. That's the spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry, basically saying they want to see actions, not words from the U.S. secretary of state.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Matthew, thank you very much for all of that breaking news.
So, they are some of President Trump's most ardent supporters. Up next, part two of my panel with Trump voters. Are they concerned about ties to Russia? You'll see, next.
[06:35:53] CAMEROTA: Now to part two of my Trump voter panel. How do President Trump's die-hard supporters feel about the accusations of ties between Russia and team Trump?
We gathered some of them at the old statehouse in Hartford, Connecticut, to find out whether they think Russia meddled in the U.S. election.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CAMEROTA: How many of you, raise your hands, are concerned about the Russia implications and allegations you've heard?
Why aren't you worried about any possible ties between the Trump team and Russia?
SARA MARIE BRENNER, FORMER DELAWARE COUNTY CHAIRMAN FOR TRUMP CAMPAIGN: And that's what they're supposed during campaign -- I mean, you know, dozens of diplomats who meet with senators and congressmen, a lot of people misunderstood I think when Trump compliments Putin. You might respect him just because of what they've been able to accomplish, and if you look at Putin, even though we don't agree with what he does, as far as his agenda, he has done a pretty good job of accomplishing it in Russia. People on the left have misconstrued that as meaning that Trump wants to be like Putin.
CAMEROTA: But if you are saying it's business as usual, lots of people meet with Russian diplomats, then why didn't Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions disclose it?
BRENNER: He came forward after and said that he had met with ten or twelve other diplomats through the course -- I don't remember if it was that week or that month. It's what they do. Right.
JOSH YOUSSEF, FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE COUNTY CHAIRMAN FOR TRUMP CAMPAIGN: And we have this Russophobia like in place from the Cold War or something. I mean, the United States has wholesale surveilled hundreds of millions of its own citizens vis-a-vis the NSA situation that Edward Snowden revealed x number of years ago, and we're pointing our fingers all over the world about how bad this person is, how bad (INAUDIBLE) meddling in their business.
CAMEROTA: Do you think we're as bad as Russia?
YOUSSEF: I don't think -- not even close to as bad as Russia. I don't know enough about Russia. All I know is when is the last time Russia actually did something terrible to the United States?
CAMEROTA: Do you think that Ronald Reagan suffered from Russia- phobia?
YOUSSEF: I don't know. I don't know.
BRENNER: That's a totally different time. Totally -- I mean, you know, you had communism. You had -- I mean, that was a totally different time in the world. I don't think comparing the Russia of Reagan to the Russia of today --
CAMEROTA: Does anybody here think that Russia meddled in the election?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Possibly.
TONI DIBARTOLO, VOTED FOR DONALD TRUMP: I think that we have to be very careful with Russia. I feel that there should be a mutual respect between the United States and Russia, but I think that I am concerned, but I think we should just listen to history in regards to Russia as far as walk softly and carry a big stick.
CAMEROTA: What dos that look like?
T. DIBARTOLO: To me?
T. DIBARTOLO: Building up our own military, being in a negotiating place of strength, and power.
YOUSSEF: Look what happened when we went looking for trouble in the Middle East with weapons of mass destruction. Look what that -- look what happened, it destabilized the whole region when we start crossing other people's borders, meddling in their sovereignty at our own expense, we -- the instability is grave and consequential.
CAMEROTA: The question is whether they meddled in our sovereignty.
BRENNER: So far, everything we've heard is that they have not had any impact on what happened here.
CAMEROTA: Wait a minute. Everything that we've heard is that more than a dozen intel agencies said they did meddle. Are you comfortable with that?
BRENNER: Comey said --
CAMEROTA: They did meddle, and they are still investigating this. They did hacking.
BRENNER: Comey has said that there's no proof there was any change in the outcome.
CAMEROTA: So what? Are you comfortable that they tried?
BRENNER: The Chinese try. The North Koreans try. I mean, that's just part of international relations.
CAMEROTA: We just accept that?
BRENNER: No, nothing accepted.
PAX HART, VOTED FOR TRUMP: It's this collusion between Trump and Russia, that's what's false.
CAMEROTA: They're based in collusion on whatever it is. They have on Carter Page, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn. That's what the FBI is investigating.
HART: Paul Manafort left the administration.
CAMEROTA: But what if he did something before he left?
HART: He got rid of him because he was ineffective.
T. DIBARTOLO: Very concerned about that. CAMEROTA: Why? Why are you concerned about it, Toni?
T. DIBARTOLO: Last time I actually spoke to you we talked about General Flynn, and I said I was a General Flynn fan.
[06:40:00] CAMEROTA: I remember.
T. DIBARTOLO: Yes. I admired his record. He is a three star general.
CAMEROTA: I remember. Did your impression of him change?
T. DIBARTOLO: Well, I still respect that he served the country in the past. I would be lying to say I wasn't disappointed. He did make an error. He apologized for it, and he resigned.
PAULIE DIBARTOLO, VOTED FOR DONALD TRUMP: The way I look at it, the way I look at that, is to be honest -- I mean, let me ask you a question, Alisyn. Do you remember what you had for lunch last Tuesday?
CAMEROTA: So you think he really just didn't remember that he met with the Russian ambassador?
P. DIBARTOLO: You cannot remember every fine detail.
CAMEROTA: Yes, but lunch is different than meeting with a Russian ambassador.
BRENNER: Not when you meet with a lot of ambassadors and that's part of your job.
HART: If you go to social media now, you will see die hard Hillary supporters who are adamant that this is a puppet administration of Vladimir Putin. People actually think that. It's insane.
CAMEROTA: Jared Kushner is going to go speak to the Senate Intel Committee. They're interested in whether he was having a business deal with a Russian banker with ties to Putin. Let's just say that is what it is. You are comfortable with that?
HART: I think remember during the campaign there was mention of that, and they were open about it. There wasn't a secret during the campaign.
CAMEROTA: Yes, I think that the number of times that he met with them was not disclosed.
HART: We'll see how that plays out.
CAMEROTA: Vice President Dick Cheney said this week, quote, "There is no question that there was a very serious effort by Putin to interfere with our democracy." He said some would refer to as an act of war.
HART: There's a certain level of interaction going on in the intelligence community where everyone is vying for -- CAMEROTA: So, you accept some meddling and you accept some spying.
HART: We were spying on --
BRENNER: Donald Trump the center of it, right?
HART: We were spying on Angela Merkel.
WILLIAM "BILLY" BAER, VOTED FOR DONALD TRUMP: That's right. Why are we singling out Russia like they're so --
CAMEROTA: Do you not think that Russia is worse than Germany?
BAER: I'm not really -- I'm concerned about my own government. Russia, I don't think, is reading my emails. Russia is not intercepting my phone calls. Russia is not listening to conversations. Russia is not putting people in prison without indictment.
CAMEROTA: Russia is putting people in prison without indictment.
BAER: I'm talking about America. I'm talking about America. Come on.
We're talking about Russia, what they were doing to their citizens or what they're doing to us. How about what we're doing to ourselves?
BRENNER: I think we have to get to the point where we let things like this whole Russia thing settle down and move on and let the man be president.
BERMAN: It's stunning. You look at viewers for a Republican president in 2016. They are unrecognizable from past Republican voters in past elections. We're going to hear from Senator McCain later.
Second point on it, Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday which almost seemed to be reaching out to everyone on that panel, except for -- you better be concerned about this. The Russians are trying to break into this election, influence the election. It may have been the Democrats side this time, but next time, it could be the Republicans.
This matters, and these people, they did not seem to care.
CAMEROTA: Look, if I can sum it up, I think that they care more about issues at home. They feel this is a distraction. They think the media should move on because they think that there are more pressing issues at home. That's what I have heard them saying.
BERMAN: Fascinating. Just fascinating.
All right. Fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn says he is willing to answer questions about before if he gets immunity from prosecution. Should he get that immunity? We're going to ask our national security experts ahead.
[06:47:30] CAMEROTA: So, believe it or not, a winter storm is headed for the Northeast. This is no April Fool's joke.
CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has our forecast.
How dare you, Jennifer?
JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know. So evil this morning.
This is the last thing people in New England want to hear, but, yes, snow on the way. Already some in New York, and it's pushing towards Boston. In fact, that's where we could see anywhere from, say, four to eight inches of snow as we go through the next couple of days.
Because of that we have winter weather advisories in place, winter storm warnings. And in fact, in the farther north you go, the more snow that we are planning on seeing. But this is going to be a mixed bag. We are going to see snow, freezing rain, sleet, and then plain old rain.
So, it is going to be a messy, messy couple of days across northern portions of New England. Also because of this we have some flood warnings in effect that we don't need to ignore either -- John.
BERMAN: All right, Jennifer. Thanks so much.
The Final Four teams hit the floor tomorrow night in Arizona. Who will come out on top?
Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report".
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, John.
You know, I was there last year in Houston where North Carolina lost at the buzzer to Villanova. Definitely a devastating moment for the Tar Heels, and their head coach Roy Williams says that moment, well, it was definitely tough to get over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROY WILLIAMS, NORTH CAROLINA HEAD COACH: In the locker room was the most inadequate feeling I have ever had in my life. It's hard. It's hard to think about. It's hard to talk about it. What I did was try to tell them was focus on using this feeling as fuel, as motivation to work extremely hard in the offseason. That's really what I used it for. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: The Tar Heels are going to take on Oregon tomorrow night in the late game. South Carolina and Gonzaga, they get started a little after 6:00 Eastern.
Be here to join us here on CNN 2:30 Eastern tomorrow afternoon for all access at the Final Four. A CNN "Bleacher Report", we'll get you ready for all of the action.
All right. Finally, this is part awesome, part terrifying. A giant swarm of bees made a surprise entrance during the ninth inning of the Padres-Rockies spring training game in Arizona. Look at this. Everyone had to hit the deck. It looked like a bank robbery was taking place right there on the field. Eventually, the bees gathered on the radio mike, and the game was able to end peacefully, and there were no reports of anyone being stung, Alisyn.
I tell you what, bees. One thing I really do not like.
CAMEROTA: But is that the protocol? You hit the deck like that?
SCHOLES: I guess so. I guess that's the way to stay safe from bees. Just hit the deck.
CAMEROTA: I'm so glad to know that.
BERMAN: That's what they teach you in the minors. And ultimately the guys in the big leagues, they know to knock when the bees come on the field.
CAMEROTA: I guess so. That was quite a visual. Andy, thank you.
All right. It looks like that call to Devin Nunes to look at classified documents came from inside the White House.
The call is come from inside. We dig deeper, next.
[06:54:00] CAMEROTA: President Trump's fired national security advisor Mike Flynn says he has a story to tell, but he wants immunity to tell it.
So, let's discuss with CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA counterterrorism official, Phil Mudd, and CNN national security commentator and former chairman of the House Intel Committee, Mike Rogers.
Mike, if you were still chairman of the Intel Committee, would you give Mike Flynn immunity?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Not if there were an FBI criminal investigation, I wouldn't do it. I just think you're going to work cross-purposes to what is probably an already difficult job for the FBI. So, I would not come out and offer that immunity. I would offer him to testify if he wanted to do that where.
CAMEROTA: But if he says he is not going to -- I mean, he said he was not going to testify without immunity. So, how do you get to the story that he wants to tell?
ROGERS: Well, first of all, I think you just have to let the FBI have the first run at this. If the articles are correct, they've also asked the FBI for immunity as well.
You know, listen, the more this stew starts to tray flavor here, you can -- it's pretty clear if Flynn was lying to the vice president, he was -- he likely perjured himself or at least lied to the FBI as well, if he had that same statement.
[06:55:12] So, there is clearly a reason his attorney now and I have been in these as an FBI agent with the prosecutors trying to proffer plea deals, and, you know, what you find is that in a lot of these cases, more often than not, the defense attorney wants this more than the defendant and they oversell what they can provide because they're a little bit worried about something.
So, I mean, there's a lot to this that I think has to be worked through. When the committee does that, it puts some parts of the investigation in jeopardy. And I just wouldn't do that.
BERMAN: Again, just to make a point here, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that they're seeking immunity from the FBI and the congressional hearings and they're the only source reporting that right now.
But as a former investigator, Phil, I saw you smirking there because Mike brings up a great point there.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sort of smiling, not smirking.
BERMAN: As far as you know, it's a one way street, right? It's Flynn's people looking for immunity. Not the investigators on either the congressional side or the FBI offering immunity. And you as a former intel guy, you are pretty skeptical of people seeking immunity.
MUDD: In this case, I think Mike Rogers is taking his polite pills this morning. But I agree with him.
Let me be more blunt. No, no and hell no. His lawyer says he has a story to tell. If you live in Washington, D.C., down the street from the Congress, it is the Hoover building. That's the FBI. Across the street from the FBI is the Department of Justice. Why doesn't he want to tell that story to investigators who were investigating this at the FBI many months before Congress opened an investigation?
There's an answer why. He says something or he wants to say something I think is potentially illegal. I think Mike is dead on. Congress -- the Senate can continue their investigation if the Department of Justice at some point chooses to say that they're not going to prosecute Mike Flynn, that maybe the Congress could come say we'll offer him immunity.
Until then, I have a story for his lawyer and for him and for us as the American people. If you have a story to tell, go tell it to the Department of Justice and the FBI. Don't ask for immunity.
CAMEROTA: Hey, Mike, we've heard both General Flynn in the past and Donald Trump in the recent past publicly say, if you are asking for immunity, it means you've committed a crime. Does that follow?
ROGERS: Well, again, listen, as former FBI who has done these cases, who tried to get immunity for certain people to actually testify against other people and tell all of the horrible deeds they've done in the past -- not always. It doesn't always mean that.
But I will say, you know, if you can back up for one second, if you go before a congressional committee and even mistakenly say something that may not jive with what you told Department of Justice, you can get yourself in trouble. You can either perjure the Congress or perjure the FBI, both are crimes, both can go, you can find yourselves with a criminal prosecution.
So, again, that's why I wouldn't have him -- if he is a subject of an FBI investigation, which it is certainly apparent that he is at least of interest of the FBI, then I think it would not even serve the committees well to have him come testify in an immunity status.
BERMAN: Phil, quickly, the other big -- sorry. Sorry, Chairman.
ROGERS: No, go ahead.
BERMAN: Phil Mudd, the other big story in Washington right now is this "New York Times" report that White House staffers, people working inside the White House, were the ones who provided Chairman Nunes intelligence about incidental collection. Now, you -- I think worked inside the national security staff, Phil. What's your opinion if this is true of White House staffers giving information like they did?
MUDD: Well, the questions over the past week have been about the appropriateness of Representative Nunes' actions. I think the next couple of days' questions will get tougher. Not for him, but for the White House.
If you are serving an executive branch in the executive office building as he I did, you said, I served there under President Bush, you should not be passing information directly to the legislative branch. I think the questions for the White House will not only be something done that was inappropriate, but did somebody at the White House violate regulations by doing that. And that's a question that should come up as early as today. I think the White House inviting people in to see the intelligence now is because they're worried they did something wrong, and they're trying to paper over it.
CAMEROTA: What do you think, Mike?
ROGERS: Well, I think it was very inappropriate for national security staffs to reach out directly back unless there was a whistle blower provision, and there is certain provisions under the law for whistleblowers that would even go into the White House if they had some activity that they thought was beyond the pale. Just -- none of this appears to be any of that. And so, I think the folks that leaked it have -- at least it was inappropriate conduct for them to do that. And I think, you know, whatever followed from that, I'm still trying to understand.
CAMEROTA: Gentleman, thank you for helping us understand this a little bit better. We appreciate you both being here.
We want to thank you, our international viewers, for watching. For you "CNN NEWSROOM" is next.
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