Return to Transcripts main page


New Probe Launched Into Flynn-Russia Ties; Boston Celtics Takes Series Lead Over Bulls; Nancy Pelsoi Holds Weekly News Conference. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 27, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:32:07] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the breaking news, a new investigation into retired General Michael Flynn, the one-time, short-lived National Security adviser for President Trump. That investigation coming from the Defense Department inspector general, that as we also learn that General Flynn was warned about taking payments from foreign governments after he retired as a general.

Our panel is back with us.

Page Pate, attorney, to you. Before the break, I posed this question. The White House has been asked for documents and records pertaining to Michael Flynn, his time during the transition, his brief tenure as National Security adviser, and the White House has said no. Can they be compelled to turn over these records?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There can certainly be a subpoena served on the White House for these records. Now whether the White House will comply with that subpoena is a totally different question. The White House will certainly raise objections based on national security, executive privilege, and if they don't want to cooperate with this congressional investigation, they can obstruct that investigation. They can refuse to turn over those documents.

Then it goes to a court. This whole thing is going to get very messy if the White House decides that we are not going to cooperate with Congress in connection with this investigation. This is one of the reasons I've been saying for many weeks now that there should be a special prosecutor appointed to look into this case, give that person subpoena powers and give them access to all of the relevant documents. That's the only way you're going to carry out this investigation successfully.

HARLOW: Jim Sciutto, to you. It was not long ago that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was pointing his finger back at the Obama administration, saying, look, this is a guy who served, you know, to head up the Defense Intelligence Agency until 2014. What about their vetting of this?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The White House, Sean Spicer, have been deflecting responsibility for this in a number of ways. One, they said, listen, you rely on the person who fills out their security clearance form to report everything, saying in effect, you know, if he didn't report it, it's not our job to kind of check that out. But two, saying, as you said, yes, he got his first security clearance back when he was reviewed as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. That was the previous administration. They even said that he applied after he was selected as Trump's National Security adviser, applied again during the transition period before Trump was actually in the White House.

So, again, not their job, which is a remarkable argument to make when you're speaking about in effect the president's senior most national security hire, his National Security adviser, one. And two, about an event that was not happening in secret, as you just showed that picture. Again, it was a trip that folks knew Michael Flynn made, and he gave a speech there. It's just -- you know, if you're talking about vetting and responsibility, it's extremely difficult for this administration to point to the previous administration, says it's their fault about our hire.

[10:35:01] HARLOW: And just a point of fact, the photo, and let's show it again, this was an event in Russia where he's sitting next to Vladimir Putin in December of 2015. He ended his term heading up the DIA in August 2014.

BERMAN: You know, David Chalian, I want to display some sound from Elijah Cummings, the ranking member in the House Oversight Committee, Democrat, just moments ago, which illustrates the pressure that is on this White House right now. Listen.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I honestly do not understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn. I don't get it. After the president fired him. For lying. They should be bending over backwards to help us. It does not make any sense and it makes the American people think the White House has something to hide.


BERMAN: You know, two points here, David Chalian. Today was a day when we were discussing the 100 days of the president in office, the flurry of activity overnight on NAFTA, on health care, on taxes. And yet, once again, Russia getting in the way of it for this administration, and it's not going away.

Next week we have public, high-profile hearings where we will hear from people directly connected to the Michael Flynn investigation --

HARLOW: James Comey.

BERMAN: You know, James Comey, Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, key in the dismissal of Michael Flynn. This is going to be a problematic several days, out of the blue a little bit, for this White House.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: This is -- this is the overall problem with the Russia story for them politically, John, is that it is going to be with us for quite some time. When you have all these open investigations going, the better part of this entire year is going to be moments of the Russia investigation popping back into the headlines. And so, you are right, they clearly wanted to be talking about trade or talking about accomplishments leading up to the 100 days, and this creeps back in time and again.

There is no doubt that that is a political sort of communications and messaging problem that they have to combat. But the larger point on Flynn here with the White House and the pressure you're seeing that's on them, I think they thought if they just fired this guy, they were done with Michael Flynn problems.

To Mark Preston's point, if you're trying to negotiate immunity and you are proffering -- you have something to offer, I've got to believe that the White House still has to pay a lot of attention in their mind of where they think Michael Flynn may be here. And so it's not as simple as just firing and washing your hands of him. I know that that's what the White House would certainly like.

But remember, at the same time that he fired him, Donald Trump was still calling Michael Flynn a wonderful man, a great man. So it does beg the question of this relationship. And to Elijah Cummings' point, the White House would probably be better served if they put out everything that they possibly have on this. That -- once that is exposed, perhaps they can actually start to move away from Flynn.

BERMAN: All right, guys, stick around, because Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, is going to take some questions, we believe, on this subject. So we could get more information, still more revelations on this breaking news, a new investigation into General Michael Flynn. Stick around.



MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: -- have been responsive to your request.


RAJU: They say the documents you want after January 20th are just not relevant to an investigation involving Flynn's payments from 2015 and 2016. Why are they relevant to your investigation --

[10:40:02] CUMMINGS: Spicer also said that they didn't have documents. Remember that? Come on. These guys are playing games. And when you see Mr. Spicer, you can tell him I said that today. They're playing games. They have told us they have the -- they have documents. And then they said executive privilege. And then they said some of them are before the inauguration.

All I'm saying is we -- let me tell you, when Hillary Clinton -- I was on the Benghazi, ranking on Benghazi, and, of course, on oversight. When Hillary Clinton, when they went after her, I mean, if they spent 1,000th of the time going after Trump, President Trump, that they spent with Hillary Clinton, he'd be in big trouble. And I think he said it best, this is not just about Democrats, Republicans or independents, but Republicans are not helping us. You've got to understand that. They are not helping. And they could help.

And so, we, again, all of these documents are relevant because they go to what his relationship was with the Russians, what his relationship was with Turkey. We wanted to see the SF-1686 forms because we wanted to see exactly what he told the president's people with regard to vetting. Did they vet for the highest security position? I mean, we don't know. But again, there is not one shred of evidence that he -- that General Flynn got permission to receive this foreign money or that he acknowledged receipt of it.

RAJU: Are you satisfied with Chairman Chaffetz, his push to get these documents?

CUMMINGS: No. No. I am pleased that he joined me in requesting them. And now the next step is to sit down with the White House and go through some fundamental lessons with regard to separation of powers and the fact that we have to keep them in check. And third, try to figure out how we can work out the document situation. If we cannot come to a conclusion here and get the documents, then there will have to be subpoenas.

Keep in mind that when Hillary Clinton was up, when she was going through what she was going through, they were subpoenaing, and let me tell you, every other day they're holding emergency hearings. All they have to do is use a little bit of that same effort in this regard. All right?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Congressman Cummings.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did Michael Flynn's attorney lie when they put out that statement that said that he had extensively had conversations with the DIA about his payments?

CUMMINGS: There were -- there is no evidence, there is no evidence that -- the documents speak for themselves, by the way. There is no evidence that there was permission either given or even requested or acknowledged with regard to the payments. So you can come to your own conclusions, but we've given you the documents. Take a look at them, all right?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think that Michael Flynn could be charged with a crime?

CUMMINGS: That's not my decision. That's not my decision. My decision is to look into this, investigate it, present it, and let others make those kind of judgments. But I've got to tell you, I'll go back to what I said before, you cannot allow situations where the Congress requests documents and, basically the White House says take a hike. That's simply unacceptable. And it sets a very dangerous precedent.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On your committee, you should call Flynn to testify before you now?

CUMMINGS: I asked the chairman if he would do that, and he said no.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But you think that he should.

CUMMINGS: Yes, definitely. I think the American people need to hear from General Flynn. Keep in mind what his attorney said, he has a story to tell. He said he's got a story. That's what his lawyer said. I am interested to know what that story is, and the implication is, is he has a lot of information that will help the American people and those looking into this get to the bottom of it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I know you said that the Republicans are not helping you. Specifically you mean Chaffetz? Who else do you mean? Who are you directing that?

CUMMINGS: I haven't seen any help. Have you? I haven't seen any from the Republicans, period. I mean, there are few -- a few, but I don't see Ryan helping us. Do you? No.

[10:45:11] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you try to talk to Ryan about it?

CUMMINGS: No, I -- I talk to my chairman, Chaffetz. He's the chairman. He said that he's getting -- his orders come from the top, and I don't go above that, all right? This is my last question.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the chairman's medical absence going to slow down this investigation?

CUMMINGS: No, it should not. It should not. It should not. It should not slow it down. I think the American people want answers. One of the things that I've emphasized as the ranking member of this committee and also the Benghazi Committee, select-committee, is that the things that we do must have integrity. For the American people to buy into them, they have to have integrity. They have to be fair. They have to be transparent.

I mean, when you look at what is happening with Flynn, it's clearly not transparent. And it would leave a lot of doubts with regard to the American people as to what's going on here. But the basic question that I've been struggling with, and as a lawyer, I tell you is something that baffles me, is why in the world, if the president fired someone for lying, do you then seem to protect them? I don't understand that. And I think that that leaves a big question mark for all of us. I've got to go, unfortunately.

HARLOW: There you have it, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, taking a number of questions having to do with this brand new investigation into former National Security adviser Michael Flynn.

A few headlines, we are here to keep the White House in check. No, the Republicans aren't cooperating with us. And you can tell, David Chalian, you can tell Sean Spicer that I think they're playing games with us. What's your takeaway? CHALIAN: You know, it is clear that Congressman Cummings is trying to

make sort of an institutional argument here that Congress, a co-equal branch, separation of powers, has the oversight responsibility to look into this, and when they request documents from the White House, you know, Cummings is saying that he believes the White House needs to be far more cooperative than they're being.

At the same time, Poppy, you see Elijah Cummings and the Democrats' problem here. They're in the minority. You kept hearing him say, I go to my chairman and I ask him to help to cooperate and he gets his marching orders from the top, from Speaker Ryan on down. So that's why he's trying -- what he's trying to do here is apply some pressure, shake something loose from the Republicans to help them join the Democrats to try to get something out of the White House, but the partisan politics here really do get in the way because Democrats have very little power, other than to come before cameras and try to apply this kind of pressure.

BERMAN: And Jim Sciutto, one of the things we just did learn today is that the Defense Department inspector general is now investigating this.

Jim, what exactly does that mean? What will that investigation look like?

SCIUTTO: Well, you have two tracks here right now. One is a legal track, nonreport on a security clearance form. That's a violation of the law, if you're not truthful on that form. As a retired senior army officer, my understanding is that this is an administrative thing for them, still consequential for him, future, perhaps, benefits. I mean, there are a whole host of penalties that they could impose there, so you now have those two tracks.

The other point I would make, and Manu Raju, my colleague, you heard him ask Elijah Cummings this question at the press conference there, is does this make a liar out of Michael Flynn's lawyer? Because Michael Flynn's lawyer released a statement a few days ago saying, no, no, we spoke to the DIA about this, but now Cummings is producing documents saying, no, you didn't ask for permission and permission was not given for this speech and for this foreign payment. That's a real issue going forward.

HARLOW: Manu, what's your biggest question coming out of what we just heard? You were in the room.

RAJU: Well, it's going to be about this fight I think between the White House and the House Oversight Committee. That's the one thing that I tried to ask Mr. Cummings about.

The White House has said it had actually been responsive to the request from the House Oversight Committee, saying that, you know, that the information that they wanted before January 20th, they said that actually, they didn't have, weren't in possession of some of those documents that they wanted pertaining to Michael Flynn and those payments. They said after January 20th, that's just not relevant to your investigation. But when I tried to ask Elijah Cummings about that, he said it is

relevant to the investigation. They also want to know whether or not Michael Flynn disclosed any of this during the vetting process as he was hired to become the National Security adviser. And we have not heard that from the White House as well as you're starting to see this start to break down along party lines.

You saw a bipartisan showing earlier this week when Congressman Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the committee, appeared with Elijah Cummings, but now you're hearing Cummings' frustration that Chaffetz is not pushing hard enough to get those documents and he also wants -- Cummings wants hear from Flynn before the committee, something that actually Chaffetz does not want to hear from because he believes that's the intelligence committee's purview.

So you're seeing some party line breakdowns here as the Democrats want more documents from the White House. So far the White House says no.

[10:50:08] BERMAN: Yes. That was fascinating, Manu, right there, to hear Elijah Cummings say he wants Michael Flynn to come testify before his committee and the House Intelligence Committee investigating right now, now very much a political football.

Mark Preston, I think some context here is important. If you can give it to us, that would be great. General Michael Flynn. Remind us of the role that he played, just how close he was to Donald Trump during this campaign and through the transition. He's not just anybody. I mean, he was in some ways the most vocal, sometimes the loudest supporter of then candidate Trump and harshest critic of Hillary Clinton.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And if you go back, you know, Michael Flynn at the beginning of the Republican presidential primary talked to several different candidates, you know, advised them or at least had a discussion with them. He eventually settled on Donald Trump and really stood by his side.

Donald Trump very loyal to him, Michael Flynn very loyal to him. If you remember back at the Republican convention, Michael Flynn gave a very searing speech against Hillary Clinton, and in fact, he used the term, "lock her up, lock her up," kind of really energized the audience that night in -- for the convention in Cleveland that night.

He is a three-star general. He did work in the Obama administration before being fired because of his management style, but he's also somebody that, as you said, John, was so close to Donald Trump, appeared with him on the campaign trail, helped him on foreign policy and in intelligence matters.

And as Jim Sciutto noted during our coverage here, he really became the top official when it came to intelligence for the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, and became Donald Trump's top adviser.

So again, you go back to what was the vetting process for Michael Flynn when they decided to put him in that role? Forget about the campaign role. I mean, that in itself is troubling enough, but what was the vetting process before he became literally the person on the shoulder whispering in the ear of Donald Trump for those 24 days at the beginning of the administration.

HARLOW: David Chalian, you are White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at 1:00 today. You come out to the podium and you do what?


CHALIAN: I'm glad I don't have that job today. But listen, I think you -- you know, you've got to try and hold your argument. It's not like Sean Spicer is going to just crumble because Elijah Cummings held a press conference, but he is going to be just hammered with questions about this timeline, about these documents again. He's going to have to restate why he doesn't think post January 20th is relevant when the Democratic member of the Oversight Committee says it is, and really delve back into the vetting process.

So he's going to be, no doubt, prepared for all those questions coming his way. I imagine his goal is going to be to try to turn away from this topic as quickly as possible and get back to what they think are the list of accomplishments leading up to the president's 100th day in office.

BERMAN: Good luck with that. Sean Spicer today at 1:00.

David Chalian, Jim Sciutto, Manu Raju, Mark Preston, great discussion. Thanks for being here with this breaking news this morning. We'll be right back.


[10:55:53] BERMAN: All right, after falling behind to the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics succeeds, and now won three in a row and are just a win away from advancing to the conference semifinals. I'm very excited.

HARLOW: Clearly. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys. You know what a difference a week makes, John. You and Celtics fans everywhere, I'm sure, in a panic after the team lost two straight to the eighth-seeded Bulls, but all is well now after the third straight win for Boston.

All-star guard Isaiah Thomas arriving to the arena with his son. And check him out. He looked like he was ready to play. I'm sure he was proud of dad after this one. The 5'9" Thomas coming up big with some huge buckets down the stretch to lead the Celtics to a 108-97 win last night.

All right, tonight, the first round of the NFL draft. This year it's taking place in Philly, right on the iconic Rocky Balboa steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Cleveland Browns have the first overall pick. Draft's going to start at 8:00 Eastern. Each team gets 10 minutes to make their pick in round one. Michigan's football team, meanwhile, is currently in Italy on a week-

long trip that includes holding a practice by the team visiting the Vatican yesterday, taking in Pope Francis' weekly address. And afterwards, Coach Harbaugh met the Pope and gave him a Wolverines helmet and a brand new pair of custom Michigan Jordan shoes. Harbaugh saying, quote, "This has been the experience of my lifetime."

And guys, I wanted to ask you, do you think Pope Francis ever wears those Jordans?

HARLOW: Definitely. And our friend just gave our baby, Sienna, little baby blue air Jordans. There you go.

BERMAN: So she's just like the Pope.

SCHOLES: Just like the Pope now.

HARLOW: She's just like the Pope.

BERMAN: All right. Andy Scholes, great to have you with us. Thanks so much, Andy. We really appreciate it.


BERMAN: All right. There is breaking news this morning. There is a new investigation that has been launched into the former National Security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his ties to Russia.

HARLOW: And all of this is happening as the White House pushes ahead to the 100-day milestone. Stay with us. Much more ahead.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We're going to take you right back to Capitol Hill, where the top Democrat in the House is speaking with reporters. I'm sure she has a lot to say today. Let's listen in.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Welcome, children. We always do what we do here in recognition of our responsibility to our children. As you know, Washington is a place so dedicated to honoring our founders, and you see monuments and statues throughout the city and throughout the Capitol complex to that end, and we do revere our founders and are grateful for their leadership and their vision.

But what we do here, which is part of our founders' vision, is to work for the future. So you're our inspiration. You are our purpose. So thank you for being here today to be -- and for being a constant inspiration as to what our purpose is and our responsibility to our children.

Our founders predicated their optimism on the fact that every generation would take responsibility to make the future better for the next generation. So honoring the vows of our founders and committed to the aspiration of our children, I welcome you.

Thank you for coming. Thank you for coming.

And maybe we'll break some rules today by having some questions from the kids, but we're going to have our own press opportunity upstairs later. So I know that you may be interested in the -- in addition to the fact that this is bring your children to work day, that --