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What Did President Trump Know and When?; Tillerson Denounces Russian Aggression in Ukraine; Officer's Painful Road Back to Duty; Exploring How ISIS Recruits Westerners; Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 31, 2017 - 07:30   ET



[07:32:57] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Did President Trump foreshadow the bizarre and wild two weeks in this led-up to the reports alleging that White House officials gave House Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes classified reports?

Let's take a quick look back.


BERMAN (voice-over): This is President Trump on March 14th, hinting at something.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.

BERMAN: On March 21st, pressed for evidence of the president's wiretapping claims, Press Secretary Sean Spicer might also have done some foreshadowing.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Let's see how the week goes.

BERMAN: The following day, March 22nd, the chair the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes, who also served on the president's transition team, briefed the media and the White House before his own Intelligence Committee about getting his hands on intel of incidental collection of Donald Trump and his associates.

Nunes presented no evidence but on March 27th, we learned he viewed documents on White House property. The administration's response to questions over collusion with Nunes?

SPICER: It doesn't really seem to make a ton of sense.

BERMAN: But yesterday, March 30th, the "New York Times" reported two White House officials played a role in providing Chairman Nunes with the evidence he is describing. Within minutes of that report hitting, the White House invited the highest ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees to view new classified materials regarding surveillance in the 2016 election.


BERMAN: All right. Want to discuss this now with CNN contributor and former White House ethics lawyer, Norman Eisen, and Trump supporter and former George W. Bush political director Matt Schlapp.

Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.

Ambassador, let me start with you. What did the president know? When did he know it? What did the White House know? When did it know it? Why are those relevant questions here?

NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, good morning. Thanks for having me. The questions about the president matter because since the Russia scandal broke was during the campaign, my bipartisan colleague, the George W. Bush White House big czar, Professor Painter, and I said that Donald Trump has a disturbing mystery at the middle of his finances.

[07:35:12] He denies Russian financial connections, but his son before Mr. Trump ran for president said they see a lot of Russian money in their businesses and Russia is very important to their assets. So we need answers to whether Mr. Trump has financial incentives for his bizarre --


BERMAN: But what does it have to do with this information and when and how Devin Nunes got it?

EISEN: Two words. Cover-up. This goes to -- this whole strange Keystone cop affair of Mr. Nunes, who is a close Trump associate himself, he sat on the transition team, running to the White House. His obfuscation. Remember, there's questions now about whether he was honest. He said it was not a White House source. Hiding it from the committee. Parsing through this data in the White House.

It has the smack of a cover-up. And the critical question is, why is Donald Trump instead of saying as Matt's boss would have said, let the chips fall, we'll cooperate? Why is he furiously denying, hiding, covering things up, and stonewalling? Can it be because he has hidden financial ties that he does not want revealed?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Matt, your response?


MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, my response is the following. I don't know this for sure, Alisyn. But I'm going to try to answer your questions here. I think when the president initially came out with these tweets with surveillance in quotes, I think he tweeted that -- this is going to be shocking -- because somebody told him that the Trump team was being surveilled.

I don't think that should be very shocking. And I think what we're seeing here is a process. I will give you, it is very uneven. But I think we're seeing a process whereby the American people and the voters are going to see the evidence and they'll be able to make up their minds.


SCHLAPP: As to whether it was appropriate surveillance or inappropriate surveillance.


SCHLAPP: All the rest of this -- all the rest of this, Alisyn, is absurd because what it gets to is one very basic question about Russia and our elections. Vladimir Putin has tried to affect our elections. All the FBI experts say it.


SCHLAPP: Cycle after cycle after cycle. This is nothing new. It's repugnant. It's terrible, it's unlawful. But it's nothing new. The idea that any of these people involved in the Trump campaign had to help Vladimir Putin do something he does every cycle. It's on its face really not --

CAMEROTA: But, Matt, I just want to press you on one thing.


CAMEROTA: Because the timeline is fishy. OK. Unless President Trump had a crystal ball or, to your point, he had actual information.


CAMEROTA: How could he have foretold on March 15th where he said, I bet something will come out about wiretapping evidence in the next two weeks?

SCHLAPP: Because I think there is evidence to show that there was inappropriate surveillance of the Trump team.


CAMEROTA: OK. Hold on. Hold on, Matt.

SCHLAPP: Let me just finish. General Flynn was unmasked, which was unlawful. We don't know who did that. We're going to find out who did that. Were other people unmasked?


SCHLAPP: I think the Obama team --

BERMAN: I think leaking -- I think leaking classified information is unlawful. Unmasking in and of itself isn't necessarily unlawful, Matt.

SCHLAPP: Well, let's not have it both ways. If you --

BERMAN: I was only having it one way there. So again, we have to talk about what's legal and not legal. I just want to correct you on a few points, Matt. Hang on one second. Hang on one second.

SCHLAPP: But if you -- if you're somebody who gets unmasked, do you realize how inappropriate?

BERMAN: Again which is not necessarily illegal. It's not necessarily illegal.

SCHLAPP: What you're saying --

BERMAN: No, no, you said unmasking.


SCHLAPP: I want to press here. You're saying the reporter didn't commit a crime.

BERMAN: That's not what I'm saying.


SCHLAPP: Unmasking is unlawful.

BERMAN: I said leaking can be unlawful. Unmasking in and of itself is not, which is what you said, and I think it's important to get clarity on that.

SCHLAPP: Let me clarify what you're saying. If an FBI person unmasks somebody and gives that to a reporter, that unmasking is unlawful.

BERMAN: OK. But you've now changed exactly what you said.

SCHLAPP: No, I haven't.

BERMAN: Matt, and the other point I want to make here. You said that there's no question that Russia meddled in this election, which is something that Donald Trump, the president of the United States --

SCHLAPP: Tried to. Tried to.

BERMAN: Barely -- barely admitted to and then only after months and months and months of saying there is no evidence of it, so you went farther than the president did.

EISEN: That is the key --

SCHLAPP: Well, let me try to answer the question, which is I think that Russia tries to do everything it possibly can to destabilize our country. I think Russia is a threat to America on the globe. And I think the fact that we take the next step to assume that it was the Trump campaign that was coordinating with them to do it. They don't need anybody's help.


BERMAN: You are at odds now with the FBI director James Comey who announced to the American people last week that the FBI is investigating allegations of collusion between Trump associates and Russians.

SCHLAPP: I understand.

[07:40:09] BERMAN: And he said he would not do that, because he was asked a direct question by Congressman Mike Turner, unless there were credible allegations of such a thing.


BERMAN: Norm, I want to let you get into this conversation.

EISEN: Yes. Here's the -- there is much to agree with in what Matt has said. Certainly we should look at the question. There is no proof that anything improper happened with these materials that Nunes snuck over to the White House in the dead of night to examine.

SCHLAPP: Oh come on.

EISEN: We should look at it. But, Matt, the big issue here and you said it, our country was attacked. I know you are a patriotic American. That is the focus here. We don't understand Donald Trump's own financial ties because he won't release his taxes to the attacker. We know that Mr. Flynn wants immunity. Under the federal statute, you've got to assert self-incrimination in order to get the immunity. He has incriminating information. That has to be the main focus, Matt.

The attack on our democracy. Mr. Trump's role. What did he know? When did we know -- when did he know it? And if Flynn gets his immunity -- I agree with Donald Trump's tweet. We should get a proper from Flynn. If it seems like he's telling the truth, he has information that's important, get it out there because this is a crisis.

SCHLAPP: Ambassador --

EISEN: Our country was attacked.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead.

SCHLAPP: Ambassador, I think you and I could agree on something. I want to know exactly what Russia tried to do in this election and I don't think we hold back on knowing what that information is. Let's let the American people know. Number one. Number two, surveillance is a very, very important thing that happens that the government does and it is very powerful. If you allow a president or his administration to go beyond the confines of the law and if we find out information that that happened, we ought to also treat that seriously. Because guess what? The most recent president can then do the same thing which is also a problem.

CAMEROTA: Right. But you don't know if it's that, which is what Donald Trump --

SCHLAPP: You don't either. You don't either.


SCHLAPP: You agree with me --

CAMEROTA: Hold on. That it could be incidental collection?

SCHLAPP: No. No. No. Let's be clear here. Even if it's what we call incidental, what we know is -- what we know at the charges is that, the incidental -- you know what it means now, Alisyn? It means almost every conversation that can happen. And that is the problem which is if that is given to the president's team and if he is allowed to say who is on that conversation, there are all kinds of ethical problems with that. And the ambassador agrees with me.


EISEN: If you will agree with me that we should get Donald Trump's Russia related taxes, Matt, I will agree with you on that. We need to know his financial connections.

SCHLAPP: I've always said he should release his taxes.



BERMAN: We'll let you guys agree on another time together.

CAMEROTA: They just did. Point of agreement.

Guys, thank you very much. Have a good weekend.

SCHLAPP: Bye-bye.

CAMEROTA: America's top diplomat condemning Russia while President Trump is calling on investigations about Russia. He is calling those investigations a witch hunt. So why isn't the administration on the same page? We have a live report for you next.


[07:46:26] BERMAN: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denouncing Russian aggression in Ukraine, and it comes a day after revealing that the U.S. no longer wants to oust Syria's leader.

CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott traveling with Secretary Tillerson live in Brussels.

Good morning, Elise.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, you know, when you heard President Trump during the campaign and even when he was elected talk about a warming towards Russia, talking about NATO being obsolete, you would have thought that his top diplomat would have come here reinforcing that message. But for the first time, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived here talking about the need to give NATO the resources it needs, working together and talking about countering Russian aggression in Ukraine and eastern Europe, which the ministers are going to speak about during their day today.

And then, you know, Secretary Tillerson came from Turkey yesterday which his comments really took a significant break with the Obama administration. You know, they insisted that President Assad must go, but you heard Secretary Tillerson say yesterday that Assad's future will be determined by the Syrian people. You heard the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, doubling down on that, saying that Assad is not the priority, getting rid of him, ISIS is.

And it's pretty clear that the Trump administration now wanting to focus on ISIS, putting the Assad question aside right now, even though that doesn't really square with a lot of its allies. I'm sure they'll hear a lot about that today -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Elise, very fascinating to hear the new thinking on Assad. Thank you very much for all of your reporting from the ground there.

Up next, what leads someone to join ISIS? CNN's Clarissa Ward profiles a young man willing to kill and die for ISIS. She joins us to talk about it next.


[07:46:52] BERMAN: One rookie stands apart from the 80 new graduates at the Suffolk County, New York Police Department. He had to go beyond the call of duty just to make the force.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has the story.



BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Officer Matias Ferreira's first week as a Suffolk County, New York police officer. But the 28-year-old is no rookie. Rather it's been a long painful road getting to this point.

FERREIRA: I was, like, wow, I'm so young. I'm not sure if I'm going to even be able to stand again.

GINGRAS: That moment was five years ago, soon after fulfilling a dream of becoming a Marine.

FERREIRA: And 9/11 was definitely a big impact and a big turnaround for, you know, actually going through with my dreams.

GINGRAS: His first deployment brought him to Afghanistan. And during a raid, he jumped on a hidden IED.

FERREIRA: I fell on a 30-pound bomb, which when it was set off, my legs were both amputated below the knees. I remember, you know, the Medevac coming in and my guys put me on a stretcher and put him on a HILO, and saying hey, man, you're going to be OK. You're going to be all right.

GINGRAS (on camera): Any anger that this happened?

FERREIRA: No. There's -- surprisingly there was no anger. You know, I was very blessed to survive the blast. And so for me to point any fingers at anybody would just be silly. I was just pointing fingers at the people to help me, like, hey, you, I want you to help me walk and I know that you run. I want you to help me continue to run.

GINGRAS (voice-over): He walked, he ran, and it only took him three months of rehabilitation. His next challenge, to join the police force. The Marine veteran who also once saved the baby from a smoldering car crash knew he had a tough road ahead, academy training. This time going through it as a double amputee.

FERREIRA: There was an exercise that we did, it was called the fist man. And that's when you are simulating with the baton use, and there was one time where the fist man proceeded to attack me and I fall on the ground and to them it was a good test to see if I would be able to get back up. And I was able to just prop back up.

GINGRAS (on camera): Why was it so important to you that you were able to do everything equally?

FERREIRA: It wouldn't be fair that I was given, you know, something on a golden platter.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Ferreira graduated the academy president of his class, an honor given to him by his fellow recruits. And now in uniform again, he is an inspiration to the community he serves.

FERREIRA: I tried to get myself involved in everything I can to help somebody's bad day turn into a good day.

GINGRAS: Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.


CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. Thank goodness for people like that. What an inspiration.

BERMAN: I got to say, what amazing pictures, too. Those are stunning to see.

CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile, we want to show you this. There is this CNN special report tonight and it gives up a rare and unfiltered look at how ISIS recruits its soldiers in the West. Here's a clip of "ISIS BEHIND THE MASK."


CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Meet Younnes Delefortrie, a 28-year-old ISIS veteran. Younnes offers a rare insight into the mind of an unrepentant ISIS supporter. YOUNNES DELEFORTRIE, FORMER ISIS SOLDIER: We are Muslims who are

dreaming of a caliphate. Every Muslim in the world, even if he has a beard from one meter to one millimeter, a Muslim has to believe in the caliphate.

WARD: That dream led Younnes to the civil war in Syria and to ISIS. He says he never killed anyone there.

[07:55:09] (On camera): Let me ask you something. If you had been asked while you're in Syria to execute someone, would you have done it?

DELEFORTRIE: Look, in Islam there is the pledge of alliance.

WARD: Would you have done it?

DELEFORTRIE: Because you have to obey the Emir.

WARD: So you would have?

DELEFORTRIE: That's the Islamic law and believe me, it's not a funny thing to execute people. It is something terrible, but, yes.


CAMEROTA: All right. CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward joins us now to tell us about her reporting.

Clarissa, fascinating. It's also fascinating that this guy that you interview, he is 28 years old, correct me if I'm wrong. A former Catholic altar boy from Belgium, who has made this metamorphosis.

WARD: Yes. And this is what we have to understand. Islamic extremism is no long this kind of remote foreign threat from people in far away countries speaking in foreign tongues. It's within our own societies now. The Internet and the kind of incredible ISIS propaganda machine has meant that their warped ideology has really managed to permeate western society. And we have seen thousands of young people in the west who have been drawn in by the allure of this ideology who have ended up in Syria and Iraq and joining groups like ISIS. The problem is when they go back home, what do authorities do with them, how do they know who comes back to live and who comes back to kill.

BERMAN: That's such a big question because he's not an ISIS fighter anymore. Right? He's not in Syria and Iraq. But he's not like he's retired from the ideology. He still believes what he believes, correct?

WARD: And this is what's so rare about Younnes and spending time with Younnes. I have interviewed a lot of ISIS or former ISIS fighters who have come back and normally they don't want to show their faces. They certainly won't talk about still supporting the ideology, they will say that they had a complete revelation, that they realized it was terrible. Younnes is a very kind of unvarnished look at a sort of much more sinister reality, which is, I still support the ideology. I regret coming back. I wish I was still there.

I say that I won't be violent in any way or launch any attacks but what you realize is that it's up to security services and they have a very challenging task in doing this to determine who is just an extremist and who might actually carry out a violent attack because not every extremist becomes a terrorist.

CAMEROTA: You talk about the allure of this radical ideology that drew him and he talked about the motivation being that he wants a caliphate. What is the allure?

WARD: The allure, and this is so misunderstood. The allure was the romanticism of a brotherhood, of being god's warriors, of being somebody. Back at your home country in the west, you were a nobody. You were shun by society. Here you're a rock star. You are somebody. You have a sense of purpose. You're participating in this brotherhood and we are going to, you know, honor Allah's law and bring back the glory of the former days of -- the golden age of Islam and that is very intriguing and seductive message to a lot of young people in the west who simply don't feel that they have a reason or a strong sense of purpose at home.

BERMAN: Can I ask you one question? Not disconnected from this really. The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday said that it will be up to the people of Syria to ultimately decide the side of Bashar al-Assad, the leader of Syria, which is a verbal policy shift, right? It had been the policy of the last administration that Assad should go. The thing is, the Obama administration, they didn't do anything about it. So does this effectively change anything?

WARD: Effectively I don't think it changed as much. Because as you say, John, and this is a really important point. While the Obama administration talked a lot about Assad must go, they didn't actually do anything to make it happen. At the same time, this could potentially be a big miscalculation because one thing that the Trump administration is possibly not taking into account is that ISIS was born in the vacuum of the Syrian civil war and the terror and the bloodshed that they have perpetrated sprang directly from the chaos and the terror and the bloodshed that the Assad regime is responsible for.

Assad's forces have killed hundreds of thousands of people, many more than ISIS, and as long as you have them in power, as long as they are killing innocent people, you will have a magnet or a pull for young Muslims all over the world who feel the west has basically handed us over to this brutal dictator.

CAMEROTA: Clarissa Ward, fascinating to watch your reporting. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

WARD: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Join us tonight for "ISIS: BEHIND THE MASK." It is 10:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

We're following a lot of news this morning, so let's get right to it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Flynn is taking the fifth. Refusing to testify without immunity.

MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: When you are given immunity, that means that 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. And in fact, I'm quite sure that people in the West Wing had no idea that I was there.