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Improper Unmaksing Claims; GOP Set to Change Senate Rules; Improper or Illegal Unmasking; Trump's Response to Syria. Aired 8:30- 9a ET

Aired April 4, 2017 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:30:00] SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: American people has been tweaked, we've got to get to the bottom of it. We'll find out what went on.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Right. But my only point is that very -- you can have an allegation that is in search of proof --

KENNEDY: Sure.

CUOMO: You know, as opposed to proof that leads to an allegation. The idea that, well, maybe she did it for political reasons, there's zero reason to believe that at this point. You know there was a trail that she asked for the unmasking the way you're supposed to, which would be stupid if you were doing it just to leak, right? So she had the proper trail. There is no proof that it was leaked. And, if anything, it suggests that there was such a volume of contact between Trump folk and Russian operatives that they expurred (ph) her curiosity in it and yet it's been used as a scheme to advance the president's notion of him being a victim. That doesn't seem troubling to you?

KENNEDY: All valid points. And you may be right. But we don't know whether you're right. Yours is one point of view. We've got to find out -- I mean consider the context, Chris. If we weren't in such a politically charged environment about Russia, we might just move on from this. But we are in a politically charged environment. I mean I remember studying about Russia in college. I'm scared to admit that. I think this is extraordinarily politically charged environment. So I think the fair thing to do, now that the allegations have been raised, is to just add it to the list that the committee is going to investigate, get the facts, do it in a transparent manner and then tell the American people. And the American people, they'll figure it out. I mean not all Americans read Aristotle, but they usually figure things out pretty well.

CUOMO: What do you think's going to happen with Gorsuch? Do you think we have a new justice this week?

KENNEDY: I do.

CUOMO: Do you think it's going to take a bust-up of the 60 vote rule and the use of what's being called the nuclear option, changing the Senate rules and making this a straight up and down vote? Are you OK with that? KENNEDY: I hope we don't get to that. I really do. And if Neil Gorsuch

were -- if he were a marginal candidate, if he were some chucklehead, I would say, OK, you know, let's talk about it. But this guy is a legal rock star. No reasonable person can listen to Judge Neil Gorsuch testify for 20 to 30 hours and come away not thinking that he's qualified, eminently qualified, to be on the United States Supreme Court.

Now, I think the Democrats, they don't want him on the Supreme Court. They want a liberal. Well, that's not going to happen. "La La Land" is a movie. We don't live it in here. Well, maybe we do in Washington some days, but that's not going to happen. Trump's not going to nominate a liberal. So, I mean, what are we fighting over here?

I hate to see us change the rule. But we didn't start it. It really started back in 1992 when then Senator Biden talked about it and then in 2013 the Senate changed the rules to require just a majority vote for all judicial nominees, except Supreme Court. I'd rather it not happen. But if it does happen, it's not going to be the end of cavitation and the world won't spin off its axis.

Neil Gorsuch is qualified to be on the United States Supreme Court. The man is bruit (ph) and has a consistent judicial philosophy. You may not agree with it, but you can't say he's unqualified. And I'm hoping my friends on the Democrat side see that and let us have an up and down vote, because that's what we're fighting over, Chris.

CUOMO: Right.

KENNEDY: All this nuclear option and culture, that's complicating it. All we're fighting over is whether Neil Gorsuch should have nominated by duly elected president of the United States that I realize some people like and some people don't, whether Neil Gorsuch should have an up or down vote by the United States Senate, which is why my constituents sent me up here. I don't think it's unreasonable to say, let's have an up and down vote and let the chips fall where they may.

CUOMO: Senator Kennedy, appreciate the candor. You're always welcome on NEW DAY, sir.

KENNEDY: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Chucklehead, that is not a word I use enough, but I will.

CUOMO: I was going to say, you called me that.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Why is President Trump peddling another scandal? What will he do today about the very real international crisis unfolding in Syria? Our all- star panel discusses all of that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:38:22] CAMEROTA: The president calls it the real story, allegations that President Obama's former national security advisor, Susan Rice, improperly unmasked the names of Trump associates captured in incidental surveillance. But a source tells CNN that unmasking is quite par for the course.

Joining us is Christine Quinn, former New York City council speaker and president of Women in Need, CNN political commentator and conservative contributor to "The Hill," Kayleigh McEnany, and political commentator and former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, Amanda Carpenter.

So, it's hard to follow all of these threads, but here we are today. You've heard the CNN reporting, Amanda, that there is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it's quite customary for a national security advisor to get an intel report, see a masked name -- let's say it refers to American number one -- and say, this is intriguing, who is this, and ask for it to be unmasked. Where is the controversy?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, all these terms are sort of being put into a blender. There's a big debate between surveillance and targeting. Here's what we really need to find out. Were Trump associates the target of any improper surveillance? We do know that --

CAMEROTA: And James Comey has said no.

CARPENTER: Right. We do know that Mike Flynn's name was leaked, but was there anything improper about what he is doing? I think it's always important to remind everyone that Flynn resigned, lost his job, not because of anything to do with the leaks, not because he was doing anything necessarily improper that we know about, it's because he lied to the vice president. And so we're getting tangled up in this big mess and Susan Rice should answer some questions but there's no evidence now that she did anything that was improper, although everyone is casting aspersions on the intelligence community now.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Kayleigh, no evidence that Susan Rice did anything improper or illegal. Why is the Trump White House fixated on it, therefore?

[08:40:07] KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, they know things we don't know. They've actually seen these documents purportedly. Unmasking is par for the course under two circumstances, if the person, the American citizen, is suspected of committing a crime or if you need the person's name in order to understand the intelligence information. Well, on this network, on March 22nd, Manu Raju told Jake Tapper that his congressional sources told him that the information they'd seen, the conversations they'd seen were conversations about the Trump family. They were conversations about Trump's plans for the administration. How does that have foreign intelligence value? How is that evidence of committing a crime? There are real questions here. We'll get to the bottom of them, but there are questions in the Trump administration

CAMEROTA: Hard to know --

MCENANY: Right.

CAMEROTA: What it is that all of this is about because Devin Nunes was quite complicated in his explanation. He didn't even seem to know what he was saying.

CHRISTINE QUINN, FMR. NYC CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: And, remember, that Nunes had to go -- by his own words -- to the White House to check with his source. That, to me, is very curious if we're going to start looking for a leak. But let's take a step back. On this show this morning we've seen tragic coverage of events and real catastrophic events in Syria. And what we need now is a United States government at every level that's working in a professional, forward-moving way. Many of these diversions, my word, and these random tweets thrown out there for us to chase the new shiny thing all came around in the context of the investigations that were going on, and will hopefully still go on, about Russia,

CAMEROTA: Yes.

QUINN: This is not -- these all may be on a list of things that should be looked at by the investigation, but they are not things that should be thrown out to distract the American people, the media and lawmakers when we have truly crisis things going on.

MCENANY: But what if --

CARPENTER: Here's the substance of what we should be concerned about and where the Trump administration may be going or may be toying with, do we want the intelligence community to be doing their jobs? We know now that Mike Flynn was talking possibly about sanctions with Russian officials. Trump associates were talking with Russian officials. Is Trump really saying he wants the intelligence committee to turn off all surveillance whenever a Trump member of the administration comes into play? That would mean no one is doing their job. There is a reason for that information and Trump needs to be put in the hot seat and asked, do you want this to end or not? Is there wrongdoing or not? Because if this is where you're going, go make that request and let's have that debate and put -- you know, (INAUDIBLE) --

MCENANY: Right.

CAMEROTA: But, Kayleigh, is this all getting in the way of the real crisis? I mean what we're seeing with a gas or chemical attack in Syria that the president of the United States should be weigh in on somehow?

MCENANY: He should weigh in on this. That is -- that is of the utmost importance. What has happened to the Syria people is inexcusable and I think he should work on those safe zones that he mentioned during the campaign. That is paramount.

That being said, you know, Democrats are kind of like the -- calling -- the pot calling the kettle black here because Democrats are throwing out all these accusations of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians. Left and right we hear leaking, we hear Democrats bringing this up. And so Trump is merely responding to those allegations with what should be the real concern (INAUDIBLE) --

(CROSS TALK)

CAMEROTA: (INAUDIBLE) wiretapping allegations (INAUDIBLE) he started it.

CARPENTER: This has nothing to do with the investigation.

CAMEROTA: I mean the wiretapping allegations that he claims that President Obama wiretapped him. That's this --

QUINN: Right.

CAMEROTA: Sort of wild goose chase that we've been on ever since then.

QUINN: And he started that. And this is par for the course with President Trump. When things aren't going exactly the way he wants and he can't control the circumstances, he deflects, throws out new ideas and blames others. This president says that the former president of the United States had bugged him, had wiretapped him. That would be completely illegal. He started this conversation and then it's been carried on by other members of the Republican Party, like Chair Nunes.

So, look, this isn't a time for partisan blaming. There's an investigation that must be completed on the question of Russians hacking the American people --

CARPENTER: And it's important to keep the two issues separate between the Russian investigation --

QUINN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CARPENTER: And the leeks, which right now minimal is -- completely within the Trump administration's control to clamp down on rather than blaming the media, blaming President Obama. He needs to be the president, take responsibility, own it.

QUINN: Agree.

CAMEROTA: Yes, there's lots of different threads. We're following all of them.

Ladies, thank you very much for the analysis this morning.

Let's get over to Chris.

CUOMO: All right, President Trump has tweeted about a lot of controversies and yet at this hour there's a real controversy going on, an international crisis unfolding in Syria. Children have died. We have not heard from the president yet. What will he do? That's part of "The Bottom Line," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:47:44] CUOMO: More information continues to come out of Syria. We do know at this hour, dozens are reportedly dead, hundreds injured. It's said to have been a chemical or some type of gas attack. Leaders from England, France and Turkey condemning the attacks. So far we have heard nothing from the president of the United States. He did just recently tweet or re-tweet moments ago once again about his fake Susan Rice scandal.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN political reporter and editor-at- large, Chris Cillizza.

Yes, Trump's choices of what to tweet about, especially right now, are going to be worthy of criticism. But the larger question of response should get priority. The United States has not found a successful path in Syria and now we see fresh evidence of the problem.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Right. I mean, look, this is one of President Obama's biggest foreign policy nightmares, Chris, the red line and, you know, when it was crossed and then what we would do and no solution. So this is not an easy problem to solve.

The hard thing here is that Donald Trump is a total neophyte when it comes to foreign policy. Now, you can make the exact same argument for Barack Obama. He spent two years in the Senate, but -- but Donald Trump has spent zero time really studying foreign policy. He's much more focused on economics and his business. So this is all new to him and it comes at a time, this latest report out of Syria, where we're not entirely clear who is at the tiller -- I'm using that word advisedly because of Rex Tillerson -- he's sort of non -- a non-entity publically at the moment and we have Jared Kushner, son-in-law of the president, with a surprise trip to Iraq.

So there's a lot of questions about sort of who is the person that Trump is relying on when it comes to advising him on the best way to react here in what is an extremely complex and difficult situation. This is not on Donald Trump as it relates to the U.S.'s involvement or lack thereof in Syria. This is a difficult issue. But how he responds is an early test of his sort of foreign policy medal (ph). And we have very little indication of what that will be based on prior actions.

CAMEROTA: We have a little bit of indication this week based on what Secretary Tillerson, as well as Ambassador Nikki Haley have said about Syria, and basically they've said that the goal is no longer to remove Bashar al Assad, and that the future of Syria is in the hands of the Syrian people.

[08:50:18] CILLIZZA: And -- well, and, Alisyn, that's consistent at least with what Donald Trump outlined in a very broad sense during the campaign, which is, you know, we need to -- we can't get involved in every conflict that happens everywhere. I'd also say this will re-open a conversation about human rights that begin with the El-Sisi visit. It goes back to -- speaking of Tillerson -- goes back to Tillerson not holding a press conference, as is traditionally done by the secretary of state, when the annual Human Rights Report comes out. That detailed a number of problems in Egypt, as well as other countries.

Look, Donald Trump has said from the beginning, we need to let people sort of handle their own business --

CUOMO: Yes.

CILLIZZA: And he's put a priority on counter terrorism at the moment over human rights and that balance. So we'll see if that continues. Obviously this is a -- sort of a horrifying event. We'll see sort of what he says. My guess, Chris, I think you're right not to -- he hasn't said anything yet. My guess is he will say something. This is not the kind of thing you can go unremarked, I don't think.

CUOMO: That's true, but it does go to what his instincts are, right?

CILLIZZA: Yes.

CUOMO: This is not a man who thinks twice before acting on his own gut and his instinct this morning was to talk about Susan Rice and his fagazi (ph), you know, crooked scheme scandal and not about what's going on in Syria. It would not take a lot of intelligence help from other agencies to say, our sympathies go out to the victims here.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

CUOMO: Their murder will have a just response, as other countries did, because the question becomes, you don't want to do anything that's a policy position. You don't say anything, that's a moral position.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

CUOMO: And as those who have traveled to these parts of the world and see what's going on, moral authority is America's biggest advantage and where will that be now?

CILLIZZA: And which -- which, by the way, is the argument against torture that John McCain and others have offered, that if we sacrifice moral authority, what do we have?

One thing I'll say, there's no question what Donald Trump cares -- he latches on to certain things and he cannot give them up. He cannot walk away. The Russia thing is the latest -- the wiretapping claim, trying to prove he is right, trying to find evidence for an unfunded allegation he made on, breaking news, Twitter a few weeks back.

CAMEROTA: Chris Cillizza, thank you for being our "Bottom Line."

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: You can be sure to check out Chris Cillizza's new piece on cnn.com. It is up now.

CUOMO: How about some "Good Stuff," next?

CAMEROTA: We need it. Let's do it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:55:13] CUOMO: All right, a little bright spot here. Some "Good Stuff." A Virginia bridal shop owner giving a couple the wedding of their dreams for free.

CAMEROTA: Come on.

CUOMO: Yes. Erica Murphy (ph) and her fiance just, like many, couldn't throw a big wedding. Didn't have the money. All their cash went to Erica's medical treatments for lymphoma.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There -- there's nobody else that I would rather be on the rest of this journey with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Christine Greenberg (ph) heard about it. Her heart went out to the couple. And you see the wedding guru lost her fiance to cancer, so she had a connection.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was dealt a pretty tough blow and she never felt bad for herself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Instead, Christine took charge, reaching out to local vendors who are covering the cost to everything, from the rings, to the venue, everything that goes into it. A magic moment provided by those who care enough to help somebody else.

CAMEROTA: That is so beautiful. Generosity and love conquers all. Thank you for that.

CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman picks up after this very quick break. We'll see you tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:59:58] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning. New threads connecting Russia to associates of President Trump, contacts with Russian intelligence, reports of a secret meeting on a remote set of islands, all of this as new debate emerges over whether the Obama administration was eyeballing the Trump campaign.