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DOJ: Sessions Did Not Disclose Russia Meetings on Security Clearance Form; Interview with Republican Congressman Michael Burgess from Texas. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 25, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:32:39] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. There are new questions about the interactions between Russian officials and members of the Trump administration. In a story first reported on CNN, the Justice Department says Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose his meetings with the Russian ambassador last year on his security clearance forms.

CNN's Joe Johns live in Washington with the latest.

This comes down a little bit, Joe, to the who do you want to believe? Sessions people say they were told by some legal expert they didn't need to disclose these meetings. That's only one interpretation.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, because his critics say he should have known better under the circumstances, Chris. But the attorney general's office says he was advised against listing Senate-related contacts with foreign dignitaries on his security clearance forms, which might be the end of the story, but for the investigation into Russian interference in the last election and the A.G.'s previous failure to disclose Russian contacts.


JOHNS (voice-over): Attorney General Jeff Sessions once again under scrutiny, this time for not disclosing meetings he had with the Russian ambassador when he applied for a security clearance. The Justice Department defending Sessions saying he was instructed by an FBI employee that he did not need to disclose those meetings.

REP. WILL HURD (R-TX), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Because I think the intense scrutiny that he knew he was going to go under. Over sharing is probably better than under sharing.

JOHNS: Sessions also failed to disclose these same contacts during a Senate confirmation hearing.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians. JOHNS: That revelation sparking criticism that ultimately led to

Sessions' recusal from involvement in any Russia investigations into the Trump campaign.

Democrat John Conyers now calling on the Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation, alleging that Sessions has displayed a troubling pattern of behavior that demands careful review.

Trump advisor Jared Kushner and ousted national security advisor Michael Flynn also submitted incomplete security forms. Flynn failing to properly disclose payments linked to Russia. The House Intelligence Committee now preparing to subpoena Flynn for documents related to his interactions with the Russians after he refused to cooperate with previous Senate intel requests.

[06:35:03] REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's my hope that we'll be subpoenaing very shortly both his testimony, documents, his businesses, to make sure that we use every avenue possible to get the information our investigation needs.

JOHNS: This after CNN reported that U.S. intelligence officials intercepted Russian conversations detailing how they thought they could use their relationship with Flynn to influence Trump and his team.

"The New York Times" now adding that Russian officials also targeted Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, in discussions. All of this as former FBI Director James Comey failed to turnover memos documenting his interactions with President Trump to the House Oversight Committee by last night's deadline, including a memo allegedly showing that the president attempted to pressure Comey to shut down the investigation into Flynn.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), CHAIR, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Nobody has actually seen these documents. We're assuming that they're there, but I haven't seen that they're there, and so I'm skeptical and want to see them ourselves.


JOHNS: OK. So, the former FBI director James Comey also was scheduled to testify in front of the house oversight committee yesterday, but that hearing was postponed. So, Comey could then speak with the special counsel, Robert Mueller. First, Comey is expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee after Memorial Day -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we will look forward to hearing what that date is. Thank you very much, Joe.

So, two of America's closest allies are frustrated by U.S. intelligence leaks. Is the U.S. in danger of losing their cooperation? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [06:40:31] CAMEROTA: The Trump administration dealing with fall-out after several high profile intelligence leaks. British officials now reportedly withholding their intel to the U.S. about the Manchester investigation as a result. Israel also angered about the classified info that President Trump reportedly revealed to Russian diplomats.

So, joining us to talk about all of this is Richard Clarke. He is the former national coordinator for security and counterterrorism, and he is the author of a new book "Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes." He famously warned the Bush administration about the al Qaeda attack before 9/11.

Great to see you, Richard. Thanks for being here.


CAMEROTA: How troubling is it that our two closest allies, the U.K. and Israel, are now concerned about the U.S. not being able to be trusted with their intel?

CLARKE: It's remarkable. They are, in fact, our two closest allies, the best producers of intelligence in the world. They give it to us on a regular basis. They both have been burned within one week by the United States government.

At the same time, the president is talking loosely about the location -- secret location of submarines off the Korean coast.

If we get a reputation -- if this administration gets a reputation of being a leaky ship on sensitive national security issues, we're not going to get that information anymore. I can tell you from personal experience when you don't get information you need in the counterterrorism business because someone is holding on to it for whatever reason, people die.

CUOMO: Now, full disclosure, I have leaned on you for many years in terms of sophisticated understanding of intelligence and what to do with it, and you have talked many times not all leaks are equal.

CLARKE: Right.

CUOMO: The kinds of information that intel officials want to get out we're seeing in the U.S. right now with the intel community could very easily be explained as reaction formation.


CUOMO: They're worried about the integrity of government. They're worried about integrity of their democracy. They're going to start giving information. So, through what lens do you look at a leak?

CLARKE: What damage could it do, and what would the affect of that be?

So, when you see a picture of a part of a bomb, there's no need for us to see that. We don't need to see how they made the bomb. That could be damaging to the investigation.

On the other hand, when the president of the United States says to you stop an investigation, well, that's information the public needs to know.

So, I think you need to -- you need to say, yes, there are leaks that are in the public interest, but when you as a government official make the decision to leak, you're taking on a huge risk and personal responsibility, and you have to pay the price if you -- if you get exposed.

CAMEROTA: Well, look, this is what we saw with President Trump divulging classified information to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office. You know, we've heard a lot of people say, well, the president has the complete authority to share classified information, but there's a protocol normally that you go to, and you alert the originating source.

CLARKE: And how do we know he did that? Because someone in the White House calls CIA, and someone in CIA evidently leaked it to "The Washington Post". That's the guess.

That means it's very, very rare for CIA officers to leak information like that. That means they are very alarmed about the kind of conduct they're seeing out of this West Wing.

CUOMO: Hmm. So the book, "Cassandras, those who can predict negative outcomes in the future." Why is it a precious commodity? Why is it something that has to be cultivated within government and the intelligence community?

CLARKE: Cassandra in Greek mythology was cursed by the gods. She could see the future accurately. Sounds like a good thing. But the curse was no one would believe her.

And what we have done is gone by in seven cases, seven case studies and looked at disasters, and the variety of different fields -- intelligence, engineering. In all of these cases, there was an expert, an outlier who said exactly what was going to happen and was ignored. So what we say in the book is how can we tell when we're the executive in a company, when we're the mayor of a city, governor of a state, president of the United States, how can we tell when someone comes into the room with their hair on fire whether they're Chicken Little or Cassandra?

CAMEROTA: What's the answer?

CLARKE: It's a very complicated answer in the book.

But there are some -- there are some things that happen in every case.

[06:45:01] If the thing you are warning about has never happened before, people will not believe it. If the thing you are warning about has been a Hollywood movie -- asteroids coming into the Earth, biological weapons killing everybody, that sort of thing -- it becomes outlandish in the eyes of the decision maker. They've seen that. That was Hollywood. That was science fiction. I'm not going to worry

about that. I have my agenda. Don't get me off my agenda.

CUOMO: But it's so relevant in a different context of what we're seeing today in our political culture. You know, truth has been politicized, and people are choosing to believe as true only that which they believe already, and that is a big point for you.

CLARKE: No, exactly. All of our Cassandras, all of our case studies, they all said the same thing to us. They didn't know each other, and they were in different fields.

They all said, I have the data. I hope I'm wrong. I hope this isn't going to happen. Look at my data. Tell me what's wrong with the data.

So, they're all about facts, these experts about facts. Increasingly in Washington facts don't matter.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we have seen that. That is a terrible development.

Thank you, Richard, for being here. It's great to talk to you. The book, again, is "Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes". Great to talk to you.

CLARKE: Thank you.

CUOMO: Always a pleasure, sir.

The GOP health care reform plan, which passed in the House, has now been scored. What does this mean for the Republican effort to overhaul Obamacare? Those who are in favor of this plan are going to have to answer for the score. We're going to ask the chair of the House Health Committee how he believes that this is good for the American people and which American people is he talking about? Next.


CUOMO: The Congressional Budget Office just confirmed concerns about the Republican health care bill -- 23 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026, 51 million Americans wouldn't have health care coverage combined. OK? That's the number altogether: 23 more million more than were expected.

All right. So the numbers tell one story. The politicians tell another one. So, let's get into it.

Republican Congressman Michael Burgess from Texas. He is the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. Also a medical doctor.

Congressman, always good to have you. Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, stiff criticism about this bill as confirmed by the CBO.

[06:50:03] Here's what he said. I want to give you a chance to respond. (CROSSTALK)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: We can call this legislation whatever we want. You can call it a destroy health care bill. You can call it a tax break for the rich bill, but we should not call it a health care bill.


CUOMO: Your take?

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: Well, no surprise. I probably disagree with the distinguished senator from Vermont.

But, Chris, let's look at some important things here. The premiums as reported by the Congressional Budget Office score do decrease 4 percent to 30 percent depending on some calculations, and that is significant because in the first three years that the Affordable Care Act has been in place, Department of Health and Human Services just released the figures that the average premium in the individual market, which is what we're talking about, the average premium increase was 107 percent. In some cases, it tripled.

This is what is deprive says people of insurance coverage. Now, from a physician's perspective, you know, I really care more about the access to care than the access to coverage. Coverage is important. It's an important part of the equation.

But I'm also concerned about people who have coverage who find that their deductibles are so high that they basically don't use their coverage. They don't use their insurance. They postpone care because the policies that they have essentially don't work for them.

CUOMO: I understand.

BURGESS: This has been the whole idea to try to bring policies and people together, try to bring care and people together, and this is one more step in the process. And then here is a very important point that people conveniently forget -- this is not the end of the story. Of course, the Senate side of the story, and we can talk about that as well.

But even after a bill is signed into law, it doesn't stop things. Things are going to continue. The very active subcommittee, we consider lots of legislation. We're working on a big FDA bill. We did a mark-up in subcommittee last week, we'll do mark-up in full committee next week.

There are things that are going to be happening in the health care space continually through this, your next year, and I would wager for quite some time. A lot of people back home are concerned that I didn't repeal enough of Obamacare, that I left the independent payment advisory board, for example, still on the books.

Yes, that's something we're going to have to tackle. I expect we'll likely have some bipartisan support for that because I've heard Democrats complain about that body as well.

There are a number of things that are ahead of us that we can work on together. This is just one more step in the process. I, for one, am so grateful that all the senators that said they're so much smarter than house guys and they want to work on this, God bless them. Get to work.

CUOMO: Look, I mean, you have a different political dynamic going on in the Senate where they have to be more sensitive, some of these senators, who states where you have a lot of poor people, who needed the Medicaid expansion, who are going to be pushed off either by the state or by the financial reality. So, they're a little bit more sensitive to that

BURGESS: May I speak to that? May I speak to that?

CUOMO: Congressman --

BURGESS: That was part of the issue as we had the bill in our committee back in March, if you remember that.

CUOMO: Right.

BURGESS: One of the charges to us was you have 19 Republican senators who are in states that have expanded Medicaid, and the reconciliation bill from 2015 was felt to not be fair enough to those states, and we worked very hard on trying to make that fair as well as fair to states like mine that didn't expand.

CUOMO: Right. But I mean, you have -- well, as you know, expansion and not expanding is one of the factors that screwed up the ACA's roll-out in terms of --

BURGESS: Then, they should have drafted the bill better in the first place, Chris.

CUOMO: States that didn't have money, and if you look at the markets where you had premium spikes, very often not taking the Medicaid expansion caused a problem. So, it's a little convenient to say that premiums are going up, but not discuss why.

I want to talk to you about this bill for a second, congressman, as a doctor. You say, you know, I'm a doctor. I care about patients. I don't understand. Please help me.

How can you look at this bill and the CBO score and say as a doctor you feel good that people are going to have more access. You have to know that less people will have access and these premium reductions that you are trumpeting as a success of this bill go to those who make more money. The less money you make, the less of a premium bump you get, and the more likely it is that your premium will go up, and we're not even talking about the preexisting condition problem.

BURGESS: The premium reductions go to people in the individual market who right now are being pushed out of the market by the ever- increasing premiums. CUOMO: But income is relevant. We have the statistics, and the more

money you make, the better off you're going to be with this bill. And I'm not saying that's right or wrong, but as a doctor, the less money you have, the less chance that you are going to save money with this bill.

Does that sound right to you in terms of your oath as a doctor to want to give care to the needy?

[06:55:04] BURGESS: Look, the problems that exist in our health care system are never and were never going to be fixed by a single bill. That was one of the false premises of Obama care. That it was going to fix everything, and we had nothing to change after it was passed.

CUOMO: But this is supposed to be the fix. Context matters, congressman.

BURGESS: This is the first step of a multi-step process.

CUOMO: What does it mean better? If it's better for me, okay, if I didn't get my health care through CNN -- thank God they got a great health benefit package here. I make a lot of money. I would be OK with this. I'd be OK with it. I like that you're not going to make businesses provide care. It's going to help my friends who have businesses. They're not going to have to spend as much money. That's great.

But if I'm struggling, if I'm on the margins, there is a better chance that my premiums will stay flat or go up. There's a chance if I'm on Medicaid that I'm going to lose my care under this bill. There's a good chance that if I have a preexisting condition, I get priced out of coverage. How does that make it better?

BURGESS: Well, you have asked a number of questions. Just since you alluded to your personal situation, I purchased insurance in the individual market on I had a health savings account. That went away because the president told me I had junk insurance, and I would have to buy a policy now that was sold through the marketplace. It was triple the premium. The deductible went through the roof, and as a consequence, and I speak to many people who are in exactly the same situation, they feel as if they don't have coverage.

Why do I have to pay these expensive premiums when I have an insurance policy that I can't use? So, those people also need to have some consideration.

Now, on the Medicaid side, there is now going to be a tax credit that will be available to help people purchase insurance. One of the big problems in the Affordable Care Act is every time the premium goes up, someone who has a subsidized premium, they're good. The subsidy went up as well. If you earn below 138 percent of the federal poverty level or above 400 percent of the federal poverty level, that increase in cost is entirely on you.

With the tax credit that will now be available after 2020, that becomes much more -- that is moderated for people who are not covered by subsidies. Then the biggest swing for me has always been the individual mandate. How in the world can the federal government mandate that you purchase something --

CUOMO: The Supreme Court ruled on that.

BURGESS: I get it.

CUOMO: This is a broader conversation to have. It's a good start. We're going to have plenty of time to talk about it.

BURGESS: You're right.

CUOMO: And I appreciate you coming on as a doctor and a lawmaker. You are a fundamental part of this conversation. Thank you, sir.

BURGESS: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn?

BURGESS: All right, Chris.

One of our other top stories, a Republican congressional candidate charged with assault a accused of body slamming a reporter. The incident was captured on cell phone recording. You have to hear this. We'll bring it to you.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get the hell out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He grabs my recorder. He throws me down, my glasses break.

CUOMO: The Republican candidate for congressional seat in Montana earning an assault charge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Voters need to pay attention. Temperament does matter.

JOHNS: Attorney General Jeff Sessions not disclosing meetings he had with the Russian ambassador.