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Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity; Reports: White House Staffers Gave Nunes Intel Files; Interview with Sen. Angus King. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired March 31, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We appreciate you both being here.
[07:00:04] We want to thank you, our international viewers, for watching. For you, CNN NEWSROOM is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Flynn is taking the fifth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Refusing to testify without immunity.
MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: When you are given immunity, that means you probably have committed a crime.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has a story to tell, if they're willing to cut a deal.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Did you meet with the president or any of his aides while you were there that night?
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: No. In fact, I'm quite sure that people in the West Wing had no idea that I was there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two White House officials found the intelligence and provided it to Mr. Nunes at the White House.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We invite the Senate and House ranking members and chairmen to the White House to review that material.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: The timing certainly looks fortuitous and probably more than fortuitous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like a coverup. I don't say it lightly.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to NEW DAY. Chris is off this morning. John Berman joins me. Happy Friday.
BERMAN: Happy Friday to you. Good to be here.
CAMEROTA: Great to have you here. We do begin with breaking news. President Trump's fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, offering to testify before Congress if they'll grant him immunity. His lawyer says Flynn, quote, "has a story to tell" about Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. election and possible ties to the Trump campaign.
BERMAN: The White House is facing a new firestorm this morning. Explosive new reports revealing it was White House staffers who gave the House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes those confidential documents about incidental surveillance of Donald Trump associates.
We've got a lot to cover on day 71 of the Trump presidency. Let's begin with CNN's Sara Murray, live at the White House. Michael Flynn seeking immunity, Sara.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John.
Even more twists and turns as we dig into these Russia probes, looking into ties between Donald Trump and associates and respected Russian operatives.
Now Michael Flynn, that ousted national security advisor, says his offer to testify comes with a catch.
MURRAY (voice-over): President Trump's fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, offering to testify before congressional investigators if he gets immunity from prosecution. Flynn's lawyer saying in a statement, "General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit. 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."
Flynn's lawyer saying discussions with both House and Senate committees have taken place, but so far the offer has not been accepted.
The Trump administration is already battling allegations of collusion, amid probes in both the House and Senate about Russia's meddling in the U.S. election. The White House declining to comment about the Flynn news, as Flynn's own words from last year about Hillary Clinton loom large over his potential testimony.
FLYNN: The very last thing that John Podesta just said is no individual too big to jail. That should include people like Hillary Clinton. I mean, five people around her have had -- have been given immunity, to include her former chief of staff. When you are given immunity, that means that you probably committed a crime.
MURRAY: Then-candidate Trump echoing Flynn's words.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: And if you're not guilty of a crime, why do you need immunity for? Right?
MURRAY: For weeks, House and Senate investigators have expressed interest in speaking with Flynn, in addition to at least three other former Trump associates.
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think it's safe to say that we have had conversations with a lot of people. And you would think less of us if General Flynn wasn't in that list.
MURRAY: The retired general was forced to resign less than a month into Trump's presidency after admitting he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn's firing coming only after intense media scrutiny about Flynn's account and weeks after the Justice Department warned the administration that Flynn may have opened himself up to blackmail.
But even after forcing Flynn out, the president praising his former adviser.
TRUMP: General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media.
MURRAY: Now this White House is insistent that questions about Russia are merely a distraction. Officials have said repeatedly they believe there will be no evidence of collusion between Trump campaign officials and suspected Russian operatives. It's worth noting those leaders of the Senate probe have not gone so far. And they say they'll wait and see where the evidence takes them.
BERMAN: All right. Sara Murray at the White House. But wait, there's more. Another controversy consuming Washington. Several media reports say that staffers inside the Trump White House shared intelligence files with the embattled House Intelligence Chairman, Devin Nunes. Nunes took that information, then, directly back to the president, it seems, rather than his own committee and that weird chain of events fueling accusations of coordination.
[07:05:04] CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live on Capitol Hill with more -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
Well, both the House and the Senate are not in session today. And the congressman at the center of all this, Congressman Nunes, is back in his home state of California for the weekend.
But the controversy over whether he colluded with the White House to back Trump's claim that he was wiretapped is taking center stage on Capitol Hill this morning.
MALVEAUX (VOICE-OVER): Embattled House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes facing growing allegations of collusion with the White House. Multiple media outlets now reporting that White House officials provided Nunes with intelligence reports during a secret visit to White House grounds last week.
NUNES: I briefed the president on the concerns that I had.
MALVEAUX: A bizarre development, considering that Nunes went back to the White House the next day to brief President Trump on material he allegedly got from the president's own staff.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, "NEW YORK TIMES": Was this an attempt to find post-facto justification for the president's tweets? We don't have any answers, because as usual, the White House just doesn't really answer questions about this.
MALVEAUX: Nunes's previous statements contradicting this new report.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: By holding the meeting on the White House grounds, it makes it appear that someone in the administration was coordinating the release of this information to you. Is that not the case?
NUNS: No, it's not the case.
MALVEAUX: "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" also reporting that one of the individuals who let Nunes into the White House was brought on by former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Both newspapers also reporting that Flynn's successor, General McMaster, wanted to fire this staffer, but Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner stepped in to prevent it from happening.
Only now is the White House extending an invitation to the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to review classified information.
SCHIFF: 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. 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's an innocent explanation here. I don't understand it.
MALVEAUX: White House press secretary Sean Spicer refusing to confirm or refute the report.
SPICER: I'm not commenting on the reports. I'm not going to get into it.
MALVEAUX: This latest development coming two weeks after President Trump suggested that more information would come out to support his still unproven wiretapping claims.
TRUMP: We will be submitting things before the committee very soon that hasn't been submitted as of yet. I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront.
MALVEAUX: All the speculation over whether Nunes and the White House engaged in collusion overshadowed the first day of the Senate Intelligence Committee's hearings, where they really delved into Russia's disinformation campaign and also the fact that they continued to try to hack U.S. Systems -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you very much for all that reporting.
Joining us now is independent Senator Angus King of Maine. He's a member of the Senate Intel Committee.
Good morning, Senator.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good morning, Alisyn. How are you?
CAMEROTA: I'm doing well. Thanks for joining us on this very busy news day. And I don't just mean your work in the Senate Intel Committee. I mean your birthday. Happy birthday.
KING: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: All right. Enough frivolity. Let's get to the news. So will you, as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee, grant immunity to General Michael Flynn who is asking for it?
KING: Well, certainly, I think it's premature to answer that question. Now, there's a process that has to be gone through. The committee has to -- it isn't the decision simply of the chair or the vice chair. So we're going to have to understand exactly what he's proposing.
But one of your commentators earlier made the point that he is also the subject to an FBI investigation. We don't want to do something that will compromise that. So whatever we do will be in coordination with the FBI.
CAMEROTA: Well, Senator, here's what we know so far, is that Michael Flynn's attorney says he has a story to tell about Russia. Meaning either the ties or Russia's meddling or the hacking or a combination of all that. Don't you want to hear that story?
KING: Well, we do, but we don't want to compromise the investigation going forward. We have to understand more detail of what he does have to say. And usually when someone requests immunity, they do have a story to tell.
But the other piece is that the FBI is also investigating this matter; and as I say, we're going to have to coordinate with them. All in good time. I think that's the essence of it. Everybody wants to get the news today or tomorrow. I don't want to do something and we don't want to do something that would compromise our ability to ultimately get to the bottom of the truth of this matter.
[07:10:07] CAMEROTA: Senator, moments ago, the president just tweeted about this very thing. He said -- I'll read it to you -- "Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt. Excuse for big election loss by media and Dems of historic proportion!" -- exclamation point.
KING: Well, I wish he'd have taken a couple hours yesterday and watched the hearing that we had at the Senate Intelligence Committee. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Russians were behind an effort to interfere with our elections. That came through loud and clear, NO. 1.
No. 2, there is no doubt that this is a Russian pattern for years. One of our witnesses took it back into the '30s. They've been trying to do this kind of disinformation as part of their -- their tool kit, has been. They're doing it right now in France and Germany. And to continue to deny that is just -- it just flies in the face of all of the reality.
One of the witnesses testified how we know it was the Russians and the technical background. So this is not a witch hunt. This is an effort to get to the truth of some very important questions. And I don't think the president does himself any good by continuing to deny what is, I think, very straight-forwardly established.
Now, there isn't the -- whether or not the Trump campaign was in coordination with the Russians is not establish. And that's going to be part of the investigation. But when you start denying the basic facts that something happened that the Russians were behind, you know, I just think it undermines the president's credibility on the subject generally.
CAMEROTA: Senator, I want you to explain a little bit further what you learned yesterday that makes you say there is no doubt whatsoever that the Russians interfered. Because we've been saying allegedly interfered. What to you is the smoking gun that makes this not alleged, but a fact?
KING: Well, one of the important pieces of testimony yesterday afternoon, we had about four -- four hours of hearings yesterday was by a guy named Jim Mandian (ph), who is -- he's probably one of the leading experts in the country on cyber intrusion, cyberattacks, the forensics, which is how you determine where it came from.
And he testified at some length about the technical background of how they draw their conclusions that it has things to do with where is the I.P. address? What time of day were these things? What are the kinds of standard software and computer language that's used? This is the science. And I'm sure there's a bit of an art to it, too.
But also, this was the unanimous conclusion of the intelligence community way back last October. And again, part of the evidence is that they're doing it right now. We know that they're involved in the presidential campaign in France, trying to promote one candidate and trying to sully the reputation of the other. So I just -- I think that's established. And the longer the White House or the president tries to argue with that, like I say, it undermines the credibility then to go forward and say, yes, but something may have happened, but we didn't have anything to do with it.
I just -- everything I've seen and particularly it was underlined yesterday by the witnesses that we had, that this is -- we know that the Russians were doing this. It was a very sophisticated operation. And by the way...
KING: ... one of the things that was -- came clear yesterday is they're going to keep doing it. Buckle your seatbelts. This isn't a one-time deal in 2016.
CAMEROTA: There was something else that happened yesterday at your hearing. Another witness that said something very eyebrow-raising. This was Clint Watts, a national security expert. Let me play for our viewers what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINT WATTS, NATIONAL SECURITY EXPERT: Follow the trail of more dead Russians in the past few months. There's been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation who have assets in banks all over the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: What does that mean, Senator, "Follow the trail of dead Russians"?
KING: Well, he was -- he was following conversation about follow the trail of the money, and there have been a number of deaths. Vladimir Putin's opponents have a way of turning up either dead or sick or in some kind of extremis.
CAMEROTA: But is that somehow connected to the U.S. meddling?
KING: I don't think you can make that connection. I'm not prepared to make that connection. They may have just been garden-variety opponents of the regime in some way. So I -- there may be a connection. I'm not ruling it out, but I'm also not saying that there -- that there was.
I think that's yet to be determined. One of the things we learned yesterday is there's a lot more to come. A lot of information out there. We're starting to dig into it on our committee. I think all of us have now been to Langley, the CIA headquarters and started to go through the classified documents. I have. I know Marco Rubio has. Many of the other members.
[07:15:18] And I want to follow this thing where it leads. I think the other news from yesterday that, again, as you mentioned, sort of got buried by all the business about the House chair, was that we're really proceeding in a non-partisan way. And I think that's really important. It's not going to be easy. There are going to be times when it's going to be a strain on that.
But I think many of the members on both sides realize that Vladimir Putin is an equal opportunity bad guy. And he came -- may have come after the Democrats this time. But he could just as easily turn around and come after the Republicans next time if it suits his purposes. His purposes. Not ours.
CAMEROTA: Very quickly, Senator, what do you make of the news this morning that Devin Nunes was provided the sensitive information that he saw at the White House by White House officials that we're not naming, White House officials?
KING: Well -- well, first, I sort of repeat what Chairman Burr said the day before yesterday at this press conference. I don't -- I really want to focus on what we're doing and not get into commenting on what the House is doing. I think it's pretty clear that the chairman should not have gone to the White House in the midst of all this by himself without informing the rest of his committee. But as to how they sort that out and what the results are, the House is going to have to sort that on their own.
CAMEROTA: Senator Angus King. Thank you very much for being on NEW DAY. Have a great birthday.
KING: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Moments ago, President Trump said that General Michael Flynn should seek immunity. So is that political advice? Is it legal advice? Is it smart? That's next.
[07:20:46] BERMAN: President Trump weighing in just moments ago on a request from his fired national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, who's seeking immunity in exchange for his testimony before Congress.
This is what the president wrote just moments ago: "Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt. Excuse for big election loss by media and Dems of historic proportion."
Going to discuss this. We're going to bring in political analyst David Gregory; CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" reporter Abby Phillip; and CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem.
There's a couple aspects of this that are fascinating, David Gregory. So the president of the United States weighing in on someone involved in an investigation. Saying he should seek immunity in and of itself. I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like that.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's a lot we've never seen when we're dealing with President Trump, who continues to treat this as a joke, and who seems to justify inappropriate behavior by members of his own White House staff who had no business leaking this information. And it really raises the question of who is in control there, whether the White House chief of staff or the national security adviser or the White House counsel has control or whether, in fact, there was, you know, kind of open season to investigate the leaking that was going on, which is troublesome and which the president is so upset about.
But the fact that the president keeps considering this a joke, even though he's fired two people close to him. Senior advisers as a result of all of this, it seems hard to reconcile.
David Gregory; CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" reporter Abby Phillip; and CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem.
Juliette, how do you see this?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think the way David put it is exactly right, that the more the White House views this as a joke, the -- I think it really does undermine any narrative they might have to defend themselves.
I mean, you look at all the activity, in particular, the Nunes activity last week and, of course, Mike Flynn and the news last night. And the White House needs to have a narrative. There's just no question about it. Just too many data points to suggest that they can just ignore this or keep invoking Hillary Clinton.
But I also, for viewers, just to remember the rest of the world is also watching this. We tend to think insular. You know, like, oh, this is our own domestic politics. You think of countries like North Korea or China, Russian, we're putting more troops in in Iraq and Syria. All of this lack of focus, lack of formality by the White House is viewed by them, as well. And it will impact how they treat us as enemies or as foes.
BERMAN: You know, it's important to also note what the president of the United States is saying is a witch hunt. He's calling an FBI investigation into alleged connections, collusion between Trump associates and the Russians, he's calling that a witch hunt. He's calling a Republican-led Senate investigation into the same thing a witch hunt.
So Abby Phillip, you get the sense now that this White House, this president is all in on discrediting any questions at all about possible contacts between his campaign and Russia and perhaps doing whatever it takes to distract from that.
PHILLIP: That's right, and he has been for quite some time. What -- what I think is happening here is that this is a president who has -- he says and as his allies say likes to punch back. And that's what he's doing right now. He's punching back at the folks who are -- he believes are coming after him.
The problem is this is very real. It's not just people making comments about him. This is the product of an actual investigation. So when he responds to it, he's creating reactions out in the world. I mean, we saw this happening with the wiretapping claim.
When the president says something, it -- it results in other people taking actions that can then come back and hurt him more. So for the White House, this is a real problem. They are trying to move forward on real legislation, on issues that they want to push on the jobs agenda. And every time that the president goes on Twitter and pours gasoline on this fire, he's creating a big explosion that is just coming back on their faces in a way that is very damaging to a sort of long-term agenda that is not all about Russia every single day.
[07:25:06] CAMEROTA: David, Michael Flynn's attorney has dangled this very juicy morsel and said to the Senate and House intel General Flynn certainly has a story to tell. What are we to make of that play?
GREGORY: Well, we don't know. First of all, anybody is entitled to seek immunity and is not some indication of guilt, contrary to what he himself said, and what President Trump has said. There are -- in these investigations, politics sometimes gets crazy. And you do have not just a committee looking into you, but you have the FBI and things can get out of hand. And you want legal protection.
So there's nothing untoward about seeking that kind of immunity. Maybe he's unhappy with how he was treated as a result of all this. In the internal investigation in the White House that led to him being fired, because he wasn't honest about his contact with Russian ambassador. He certainly has lots of contacts here advising President Trump going back to the campaign on the issue of Russia. He himself, Flynn has extensive contact within Russia.
I think all this becomes relevant to the core question, which did the campaign in any way work with Russia in the attempt to manipulate the outcome of the election? Again, the president gets very sensitive about this. We don't have evidence to suggest that what Russia tried to do actually determined the election? They did try to influence it. And the president has got to get beyond himself and his own ego and think about the presidency and importance of the presidency.
BERMAN: He is calling, you know, seeking answers on that a witch hunt. And I might add that moments ago, secretary of defense, General James Mattis, he was speaking overseas. And he said the Russian violation of international law are a matter of record from what happened in Crimea to other aspects of their behavior, including mucking around in other people's elections.
So while the president of the United States is calling this a witch hunt, Juliette, the secretary of defense is saying the exact opposite. Saying essentially, there are valid questions about this.
And again, back to the immunity here. Michael Flynn isn't just anybody. Michael Flynn may have been the most important foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump during the campaign. And for a few days, was his national security adviser in the White House.
KAYYEM: That's exactly right. So we need to make clear to viewers we don't know the nature of the proffer. What is it, in fact, he is going to say? People should not say, you know, this is all of a sudden in the Oval Office. We have the proof. That is just absolutely not true. What the content of the proffer could be anything from "There's
nothing there" to -- to at least proof by Mike Flynn that there may have been some influence by Trump or his close associates.
So what we do know at the very least is that Mike Flynn would -- was so close to this White House so early on and he was a controversial figure for many of us in the national security world. His politics and political statements about Hillary Clinton and "lock her up" were viewed as both Democrats and Republicans as a little bit disconcerting for someone in a the uniform to be saying that. And so Mike Flynn does have something to say, but we don't know if it's what the FBI or the intelligence community want to hear. That we have to wait on.
But certainly, I will say, just looking -- you know, looking at the White House right now, this is the last thing they wanted. Because Mike Flynn is the first person in the inner circle to now suggest that he is no longer going to go down with the ship if it is going down.
BERMAN: Interesting to hear the president say he should seek immunity given what you're just saying, Juliette.
Juliette, David, Abby, thanks so much for being with us.
President Trump, he said we'd know a lot more about his unproven wiretapping claims in about two weeks. Fast forward that to all of the twists and turns we are seeing now. Interesting timeline. We're going to break it down next.