Return to Transcripts main page
NYT: FOX & O'Reilly Paid $13 Million to Five Women; Source: Trump's Susan Rice Improper Unmasking Claim is False; Sessions Orders Review of Police Reform Deals. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired April 4, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ELLISON: ... women do. I don't think the women who are coming forward come out of it with a badge of honor or feel like they're particularly more employable than they were before they made the claim. So...
[07:00:10] CUOMO: And proof of purpose, you can track it. You can look at women who have made these claims that became high-profile and you just see what has happened to their career lives after that.
STEEL: What's interesting is the five women who received settlements after making allegations against Bill O'Reilly haven't worked on TV news again.
CUOMO: And in terms of culture change, I think that's the point. What do you think in a situation like FOX News will make a difference?
ELLISON: Well, I think it takes a long time, in fact. Bill O'Reilly is still there. He helped...
CUOMO: He just redid his contract.
ELLISON: Just renewed his contract. Roger Ailes basically founded the network with Rupert Murdoch, and Bill O'Reilly was their first big star and has remained so. He is the biggest star that they have today.
I think that, while you have all the other people who are still there, you have all the kind of executives who supported Ailes and were there along with. There's an apparatus that supported him and how they were following his orders, and everyone pinned everything on Ailes.
But I think if you're a woman in that environment or a man in that environment or anyone in that culture, you look around and you wonder what really has changed. They brought in a new human resources person who put out a statement yesterday, and they said, "Here are all the numbers that you can call." I think it's very intimidating to actually make those calls.
And I think it just takes a long time. I don't think that there's necessarily ill intent all over the organization, but they haven't taken some steps, clearly, to make people feel like it's a safe place to work.
CUOMO: The timing that they brought up about the -- and Emily brought up about these latest settlements coming after Roger Ailes is... ELLISON: Absolutely.
CUOMO: ... going to add smoke to the situation. Sarah, thank you very much. And Emily, I appreciate it. We look forward to the reporting, always.
Thanks to you, our international viewers, for watching us. For you "CNN NEWSROOM" is next. But for our U.S. viewers, we have a lot of news. What do you say? Let's get after it.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: If somebody inappropriately unmasked an American name, you would want to know that.
CUOMO: President Trump wants you to believe he is the victim of a crooked scheme.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no reason to believe that anything illegal done here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you're going to block Judge Gorsuch, then you're going to block anyone that a Republican president would nominate.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This isn't about finding a consensus nominee. This is about 40 more years of decisions.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a 36-year-old guy who has no actual knowledge about any policy areas.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's a lot of areas that he has been working diligently on behalf of the government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't seen a lot of regular order from this administration when it comes to making foreign policy.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. President Trump trying to deflect again from the expanding web of ties between his team and Russia, the president alleging former national security adviser Susan Rice improperly unmasked the identity of Trump associates who were caught up in surveillance of foreign targets.
CAMEROTA: The president wants us to believe he's the victim of, quote, "a crooked scheme," but there is no evidence of any wrongdoing. In fact, national security experts say that a national security adviser requesting that an identity be unmasked was a reflection of how much traffic there was involving Trump people and Russia. It's a very busy day, 75 of the Trump presidency. We have it all
covered. Let's begin with CNN's Jim Sciutto live in Washington. Jim, give us all of your latest reporting.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, good morning.
The only public comment coming from Rice so far is an aide speaking to us here at CNN, calling the allegation that Rice improperly unmasked the names of Americans false.
But set that aside for a moment. I've spoken to senior intelligence physicians, former officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations who say a couple of things. One, unmasking is not unusual. It is done by senior national security officials to get more information about the intelligence they see. It is not illegal. There are protocols put in place after 9/11, processes for doing exactly this.
But also, most importantly, it's not public. It is not leaking. That information is shared just between the intelligence briefer and that national security official who asks for that information.
This latest publicist -- publicizing of this effort here and the issues around unmasking appear to be the latest effort to back-justify the president's unproven allegation that President Obama surveilled him during the campaign.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Former President Obama's national security advisor, Susan Rice, at the center of President Trump's latest attempt to renew his unproven wiretapping claim and divert attention away from his team's contacts with Russia. President Trump seizing on conservative media reports that claim that Ambassador Rice unmasked the names of Trump transition officials caught up in surveillance...
STEVE DOOCY, CO-HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL'S "FOX & FRIENDS": At its core, if this was surveillance for apparently political reasons...
[07:05:03] SCIUTTO: ... tweeting that he was spied on before the nomination and calling it a crooked scheme. A source close to Rice telling CNN that the allegations that she did anything unusual or improper, false.
The White House, meanwhile, blasting the media for ignoring the ginned-up scandal.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: From a media standpoint, somewhat intrigued by the lack of interest that we've seen in some of these public revelations.
SCIUTTO: As officials stress that unmasking names in intelligence reports is a routine procedure, something different from leaking this information to the press. REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If somebody feels that
it has -- that there's intelligence value -- and of course, there's a whole series of procedures that you have to go through, and lawyers look over your shoulder; so there's nothing at all unusual about unmasking.
SCIUTTO: The administration's latest justification a far cry from President Trump's initial claim one month ago, that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, an accusation that Mr. Trump has since attempted to redefine...
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That really covers surveillance and many other things.
SCIUTTO: ... and justify even after his own FBI director refuted the claim.
TRUMP: I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.
SCIUTTO: Last week the Trump administration tried to distort comments made by a former Obama defense official, Evelyn Farkas...
SPICER: Dr. Farkas's admissions alone are devastating.
SCIUTTO: ... to substantiate Trump's contention that Obama spied on him. Farkas says her comments were, quote, "wildly misinterpreted."
And the week before that, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes got wrapped up in the White House's diversion.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The president needs to know that these intelligence reports are out there.
SCIUTTO: Briefing the commander in chief and the media before his own committee about classified information of incidental collection on the president's associates.
TRUMP: I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found.
SCIUTTO: Trump calling Nunes's announcement vindication. Days later it turns out that officials inside Trump's White House were the original source of the documents shown to Nunes.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We believe that this is nothing more than just an effort to roll more smoke bombs into an investigation that was making progress.
SCIUTTO: Now, there are legitimate questions about the protocols for unmasking names. Those are open questions by both parties. There's also a question as to whether that unmasked information after it was shared with a senior national security official was then shared with other officials or possibly leaked. But based on what we know now, the information out there now, Chris
and Alisyn, we don't know that. And that unmasking by itself certainly not a crime and also certainly not unusual.
CUOMO: It sure is being used as fuel for suspicion.
CAMEROTA: That is really interesting information. Jim, please stay with us, because we want to bring in the rest of our panel to discuss all this. WE have reporter and editor-at-large for CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza; and CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Mudd.
Phil, President Trump has every reason to try to change the subject from whatever connections his campaign team was having with Russians. Some say today we're seeing this is an effort to do this. So explain to us if what Susan Rice did, if it is proven that she had these names unmasked, why that is business as usual.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sure. And let's be clear. You say the president has every reason to divert the conversation. White Houses since the beginning of time have the appropriate responsibility in some ways to spin the news in the direction they want to spin it.
This is purposefully misleading the American people. That's different than spin. Let's take this and put it in context.
Going back to the fall, everybody in America knows that we had questions, including questions coming from the White House, about inappropriate Russian intervention in the American election -- stealing e-mails, for example -- from both sides of the aisle.
Then going into January, President Obama at that point on January 2 sanctioned the Russians for this activity. Now what are you doing if you're Susan Rice at this point? You're reading information including intercepts about how the Russians are responding to these sanctions. And I'm going to guess in this situation you're seeing information in those intercepts that indicate the Russians are talking to American person No. 1, American person No. 2.
And as the national security adviser, you've got to be saying, "I need to know who these Americans are who are interfering with the president's right to sanction the Russians." So she says -- this is where unmasking comes in -- "I need to know who these Americans are."
Let me flip this. If she had said, "I don't have an interest in knowing which Americans are interfering," I think that would have been dereliction of duty.
But let's be clear. This is not spin from the White House. This is misleading the American people on something that is common practice in the intelligence business, Alisyn.
CUOMO: I mean, look, Mr. Cillizza, what we keep seeing is the White House avoiding the discussion of Russian interference. It has become synonymous in their minds with they did something wrong. And that does a disservice to truth here, because we need to know what happened with this hacking, who knew, who might have helped and who how to avoid it going forward.
And to that point, the White House wants to talk about this unmasking and play on the ignorance of this process. They do not want to talk about yet another weird meeting between someone connected to Trump and someone connected to Russia.
[07:10:14] This one happening in the Seychelles with the founder of Blackwater, who just happens to be the brother of Betsy DeVos, who's now the education secretary. His name is Erik Prince.
Well, he's not in the administration. Why do we care? That is an improper suggestion. He's close to Bannon. He has been known and connected to advising efforts for President Trump in Trump Tower. Down in Washington, D.C., he's a relevant person. What do you make of this meeting?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I'll add he gave $250,000 to a Donald Trump super PAC. You know, these are not -- these are not -- that's not a small amount of money.
What I make of it is where there's smoke and smoke and smoke and smoke, you should investigate whether there's fire. I'm not saying there is fire.
But Donald Trump's course has been true since the beginning, is to say, "You know what? I didn't do anything wrong," which is what he says publicly. And then he should say, "And that's why we should have a full-scale investigation into this. Let Congress look into it as much as possible."
The problem here -- and Phil and Jim make this point -- really importantly, is basically what they are doing here is saying, "Oh, unmasking over here. See they were." It's an allegation in search of evidence. And that's what it has been from the start, Chris.
This -- he made a tweet on a Saturday morning based on something he read in Breitbart. That is -- that is a fact. The FBI, the CIA, the head -- Devin Nunes, everyone who looks at this stuff has said there is zero evidence that Trump Tower was wiretapped, ordered by the president, although he couldn't even really do that.
But that allegation, take -- that is separate from what we're talking about here. And I think the goal is to try to just conflate it, put it all in the mix, muddy the waters and say, "Well, at the end of the day, I was sort of right," which is what Trump is saying. And just not -- on the facts, on the merits that's not right.
CAMEROTA: Jim, back to Susan Rice for a second. And this is one of the things that is raising eyebrows about her from the White House as well as right-wing media. She was asked about this, and about the unmasking on PBS something like 10 days ago. I might have that date wrong. And she said something to the effect of "I don't know anything about that."
Could she have said at that time, "Yes, I was quite concerned about some masked names that I saw, and I asked to know the identities"?
SCIUTTO: Absolutely. I mean, she could have. I mean, she could have explained at that point that that's part of the job. It happens not just to her but to national security officials, and not just related to Trump, and not just related to Russia, but related to a whole host of intelligence reports these officials say every day. She didn't do that. Certainly, a lost opportunity.
CAMEROTA: Do we know why? Has she explained her -- her...
CUOMO: Did she lie?
CAMEROTA: Explain why?
SCIUTTO: The fact is, I don't know. I do know this, because I asked that question of people close to her yesterday. They said that from her perspective, she doesn't know what specific unmasking Devin Nunes, Trump and others are talking about, in part because that is something that she asks, she says -- or asked during the regular course of her work as the national security adviser. She asked to unmask names, you know, in multiple intelligence reports, some related to Russia and some not.
And to be clear, remember, Devin Nunes when he first came out with this didn't say specifically that it was Russia. It was others, as well. And I do -- I noted this earlier in the broadcast, that when you do ask these questions, they are meticulously logged by law. You know, you can't do it in secret. There's a paper trail of it.
So we don't know what the explanation is for her comment there, but I do know from speaking to people yesterday close to her that she doesn't know specifically what Devin Nunes and others are accusing her of when it comes to unmasking, because that's something she did during the regular course of her job.
CUOMO: But Phil, to what you call purposeful deception here. Even if you assume Susan Rice was lying, she's being shady, she didn't want people to know what's going on. Fine, let's assume that. But Phil Mudd, she wasn't shady enough to cover her tracks in trying to get these names unmasked in the first place. She went through the paperwork. So she wound up creating a paper trail that wound up unearthing her own deception? That doesn't make any sense either.
MUDD: It doesn't make sense to me. And one of the directions I'm looking is who decided to release her name and all these accusations about leaks? My guess is that was not the intelligence community. That's somebody who wanted to divert attention away from the Russia conversation.
But let me pick up for just a moment to be sure we understand the formality of this process that Jim was just talking about. When you're in the room and an intelligence briefer gives you a document, a top-secret document that says, for example, "A Russian official, a Russian diplomat was talking to U.S. person No. 1," that's how it reads. And you say in the case that I'm familiar with -- you're the FBI director -- "I need to know who U.S. Person No. 1 is, because I need to know who's communicating inappropriately maybe with the Russian diplomat.
[07:15:16] That goes into a formal process. The briefer doesn't just say, "Well, that's John Doe." You've got to go back and make a formal request. Your name is logged. So when she made those requests, she had to know that this is going to appear in logs until the end of time, that her name was at that point potentially searchable.
So to suggest that there was some sort of underhanded process here is not appropriate. She did what a lot of intel guys do.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you.
CUOMO: Thanks, guys.
CAMEROTA: So much to get our minds around, and you have really helped us this morning. Thanks, guys.
CUOMO: And these days, it seems like you know, you have to pay attention to what's not being talked about, because there's so much distraction going on. Here's a point in that way.
The Trump White House is going after former President Obama's law enforcement agency. Why? Attorney General Jeff Sessions is ordering the Justice Department to review police reforms that were put in place in the past eight years.
CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns live at the White House with more. This was an eyebrow popper. You know, go through this difficult process of finding admissions of fault, finding things that can be changed, and now they want to undo those or question them or second-guess them? Why?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, it's important, because it's, No. 1, a signal and perhaps a sign that the Justice Department under President Trump, as well as Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, is looking to reverse course, or at least change direction on the issue of policing police departments around the country.
The attorney general putting out a memo, essentially telling the Justice Department that it wants a comprehensive review of, among other things, the consent decrees that the Justice Department has entered into with a number of cities around the country, including Baltimore most recently, which had so much unrest due to allegation of police use of excessive force.
So the Justice Department now saying that they want a comprehensive review of the reform activities. We actually have part of that memo for you in a graphic. It's says, "Misdeeds of individual actors should not impugn or undermine work the legitimate and honorable work that law enforcement officers or agencies perform in keeping America's community safe."
So this is a campaign promise from Donald Trump, to essentially take the handcuffs off of police departments; and this memo by Jeff Sessions appearing to be the very first step. Back to you.
CAMEROTA: OK, Joe Thank you very much for all of that reporting.
So back to this story where the White House is using the unmasking of Trump associates to support the president's unfounded wiretapping claims. But those are two separate issues. Congressman Jim Himes next on the latest.
[07:22:05] CUOMO: All right. President Trump right-wing media types peddling a fake scandal. What is it? Well, this suggestion that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice improperly unmasked the identity of Trump associates. It's part of what our president calls "a crooked scheme." An associate of Rice says it's just plain false.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes. He serves on the House Intel Committee, something that has also been accused of being a crooked scheme because of what happened with Devin Nunes.
You met last night. Are you guys getting back to work? Can you get back to work in earnest?
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Yes, I think so, Chris. We did, you know, after a week of canceled meetings and, you know, back and forth over this whole issue, we did meet yesterday. And I'm happy to say it looks like we're under way. We have been promised access and, of course, the lead Democrat, Adam Schiff, has gotten access to the material which sent Chairman Devin Nunes off on his -- I guess escapade would be the right word.
And so I do think we're getting back to business, which is really important here, both for the investigation but also for the oversight role that we have to play.
CUOMO: All right, so answer this criticism then. You can't be taken seriously with anything that comes out of that committee, because you have Nunes, who you know went around the committee, who you know, at worst, lied; at best, was confusing about where he got that information from.
And it seemed to be a naked attempt to front-run a favorable narrative to the White House. Why should anybody believe anything that comes out of that committee?
HIMES: Well, for starters, we will be there. The minority opposition is in the room. And we will not be there if we are denied access to witnesses, if we're denied access to particular lines of inquiry.
And, look, I understand that there's always going to be a little bit of a question around the chairman's motivations. I mean, this isn't the first time, you know, his objectivity has been called into question. You'll recall a couple of weeks ago when it turned out that he and the chairman over on the Senate side were knocking down a "New York Times" news story.
So I understand that that shadow exists. But, look, we are -- we are going to stay in this investigation because we don't have an outside commission because, because other the FBI and the Senate, we're the only game in town. But we will walk out if there is, at some point, an effort to keep us from seeing information we might need to do to do a good report.
CUOMO: The fear is that you have people using it as a propaganda arm of the White House. And we see the next piece of evidence, the next brick in this wall of what Phil Mudd, you know, a various themed (ph) CIA guy, calls "purposeful deception" with this unmasking scandal, you know, suggesting that unmasking is leaking, when it isn't; suggesting that Susan Rice was undertaking this crooked scheme of surveillance of the Trump folk, which is demonstrably untrue.
If that's what's going to be coming out, and it's going to be backed up by someone like Nunes, how is that oversight?
HIMES: Well, I guess I know -- I guess I'd observed that a Republican could do all that, certainly a Republican who is interested in joining this effort to cloud the waters on, first of all, the existence of an FBI investigation into Trump administration links and possible collusion with the Russians.
[07:25:19] But also interested in sort of backing up this absurd tweet about -- about surveillance of Trump Tower. You could do that investigation or no investigation.
What's more concerning to me, Chris, is that, you know, when you have a president who relies on falsehoods and lies -- "the biggest inauguration ever, 3 million fraudulent votes, my health care bill is going to cover more people, be cheaper and be terrific, beautiful and wonderful" -- when your castle is constructed on utter falsehood, one of the things you have to do over time is you have to take all of the power out of the truth.
You need to suggest that maybe Susan Rice's activities, which everybody is saying were, if they occurred, were perfectly proper for a national security adviser, you have to sort of say, "Oh, well, that's the other side of the story," that all of this is just Republicans fighting Democrats one more time.
Forget about the fact that the FBI is investigating this administration. Forget about the fact that the president openly promotes falsehoods, because this is just another darn Democratic versus Republican fight.
That's a huge win for a White House which wants to both distract the attention of the American people but also for whom doing away with an absolute sense of truth with any power to it is really important.
CUOMO: So did this meeting in the Seychelles between Erik Prince, who has numerous connections -- financial, familial and otherwise -- to the Trump administration, with a Putin adviser, did that get any attention now by your committee in your last meeting? HIMES: Well, you know, it only broke yesterday. So it's sort of on the list of possibly odd-looking meetings between people associated with this administration and the Russians.
And so, yes, of course, we'll look into that. But let me step back here and just, in the interest of truth, let me say something that the other side has not been willing to say about the Susan Rice thing.
There's not necessarily anything improper about a meeting between Erik Prince and a Russian official in the Seychelles. There's not necessarily anything improper about Jeff Sessions talking to the attorney general.
This is what an investigation is for. An investigation is to determine whether there was something improper here.
But as one of your previous correspondents said, the best way to get to the answer about whether there was anything improper is for the White House to do the exact opposite of what they have been doing for the last couple of months, which is to say, "Guys, let's move on. There's nothing here. And in order to show you that there's nothing here, I'm not going to criticize the investigation as a witch hunt. I'm going to do everything I can to help it, because the investigation will clear me and my people."
Of course, the White House has acted in exactly the opposite fashion of a White House which knows that there was no wrongdoing and which wants to move on.
CUOMO: And, Congressman, you know I'm that on you about this, about the integrity of the investigation, not because of you necessarily but because of the answers themselves being so important and what happened with Russian interference, who knew and how we avoid it going forward.
So you know you always have a forum here to discuss what you think the public needs to know about that investigation. Thank you and...
HIMES: Yes, absolutely. And look, this is why -- this is why we always wanted an outside commission, so that you couldn't level these charges of partisanship. But we didn't get that. So, again, we're kind of one of the few games in town.
CUOMO: Jim Himes, thank you very much for being on NEW DAY.
HIMES: Thanks, Chris.
CAMEROTA: Chris, we're following breaking news right now from Syria. Reports of a gas or a chemical attack, this days after President Trump said the U.S. would not try to topple Syria's leader. Senator John McCain joins us live on this next.