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tv   New Day  CNN  March 2, 2017 5:00am-6:01am PST

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>> barbara, sorry to keep you on hold. we have you on for another top story and that is there may be this shift in policy that commanders in the field, generals will have more autonomy to act on raids more quickly rather than having to run it up the flagpole and get the president's approval. what do we know? >> well, maybe more autonomy. it's something they wanted. there was a big feeling in the pentagon that the obama white house were micro managers, they wanted every detail on all kinds of missions before they would move and approve them. commanders felt some of them, they had a hand tied behind their back, they needed to move faster. the trump white house at this point looks like it is willing to give them some of that flexibility. but there is a real bottom line here. it doesn't mean that the president is not the commander-in-chief and isn't responsible ultimately for every military operation to some extent out there. there is some risk involved in taking that step back. what our sources are telling us,
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president trump will continue to be briefed on everything, but he is likely to give some more confidence, more authority to the defense secretary, to his top generals when they say they want to do something, he's likely to approve it much more quickly. if some of these missions go wrong, if they turn tragic, it may be a risk for the president. >> barbara starr, thank you for that reporting. mike rogers, thank you as always. >> thanks, guys. good to see you. we want to let you know the man who questioned senator sessions, senator al franken will join us live in a few minutes. let's continue our breaking news coverage right now. >> this is cnn breaking news. >> good morning everyone. welcome to your "new day." attorney general jeff sessions is under fire this morning for failing to disclose two meetings he had with a russian diplomat. sessions was still senator at the time but also an advisor to the trump campaign when he met
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last year with russia's ambassador, and that person is considered by u.s. intelligence agencies to be a high level spy. >> that's interesting. the attorney general says he never talked to any russian personnel about the campaign. but these revelations come in the justice department. that's where the reports are coming from, from "the washington post." sessions during his confirmation hearings certainly gave information that was inaccurate. moments ago the attorney general was speaking out about the revelations. the white house is back in damage control, day 42 of the trump presidency. let's begin with cnn's joe johns live at the white house. it certainly has legs this story, that's for sure. >> reporter: certainly seems that way, chris. jeff sessions was one of the president's earliest supporters in the united states senate, now attorney general, now on the defensive about statements he made before a senate committee during his confirmation hearing.
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the justice department revealing attorney general jeff sessions met with russian ambassador sergei kits love twice during president trump's campaign in 2016. contact sessions did not disclose under oath at his senate confirmation hearing. >> i have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and i did not have communications with the russians. i would just say to you that i have no mfgs about this matter. >> reporter: sessions denying any impropriety, releasing a new statement saying, quote, i never met with any russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. i have no idea what this allegation is about. it is false. but the justice department revealing that sessions met met with kiss lock last july on the sidelines of the republican national convention. four months after sessions was named chairman of the trump campaign's national security advisory committee. sessions met again with the
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ambassador last september in his senate office. the white house blasting allegations by leading democrats that he mislead congress as partisan politics. in a statement saying, quote, sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the senate armed services committee which is entirely consistent with his testimony. sessio sessions' spokeswoman says there was nothing misleading about his answer. the denials from sessions and the white house are in direct conflict with what the justice department says happened. senior government sources tell cnn that ambassador kiss lock is considered to be one of russia's top spies in washington. last december u.s. intelligence intercepted conversations between the ambassador and lieutenant general michael flynn. flynn was later fired for misleading the vice president about discussing sanctions with russia. obama administration officials scrambled to preserve any
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information about possible contacts between president trump's campaign aides and russia before mr. trump took office. the officials quickly spreading information about russia's efforts to leave a clear trail of intelligence. the white house has repeatedly denied any such contact. >> at what point -- how many people have to say that there's nothing there before you realize there's nothing there? >> reporter: on facebook this morning a spokesperson for the russian foreign ministry disputing cnn's characterization of the russian ambassador. also this morning, another network caught up with attorney general sessions. he denied any wrongdoing and said he would recuse himself in this case if necessary and when appropriate. chris and alisyn? >> joe thank you very much for that update. top democrats want attorney general jeff sessions to resign or at least recuse himself. some republicans also insisting that the attorney general recuse
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himself from any russia investigations. cnn's sunlen serfaty is life from capitol hill with this developing story. >> reporter: very swift reaction on capitol hill. many lawmakers saying sessions needs to recuse himself and calling for a special prosecutor and others going one step farther. a handful of democrats saying sessions needs to resign including nancy pelosi who says in a statement, quote, sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign. there must be an independent bipartisan outside commission to investigate the trump political, personal and financial connections to the russians. so far republicans up here on capitol hill are not rushing to defend senator sessions, including his former senate colleague senator lindsey graham. >> if there is something there and it goes up the chain of investigation it is clear to me that jeff sessions who is my dear friend, cannot make this
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decision about trump. so there may be nothing there, but if there's something there that the fbi believes is criminal in nature, then for sure you need a special prosecutor. >> reporter: all this as the house intelligence committee was already moving forward on their own investigation looking into all of this, announcing last night the parameters of their probe which the committee says will focus on contacts between russian officials and campaigns, who leaked what information and the u.s. government's response to russian cyber activity. this just adds one more layer to what was already a very complex investigation. chris? >> sunlen, thank you. attorney general jeff sessions speaking out just moments ago outside his home. here is what he told nbc abilou the allegations. >> i have not met with any russians at any time to discuss any political campaign, and those remarks are unbelievable
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to me and are false. i don't have anything else to say about that. >> it's not saying he never had contact. thaebs what he said to senator franken. he's saying specifically that the context was driving his answer, it wasn't about the campaign. will that hold up. let's discuss with republican congressman tom cole of oklahoma. does that put it to bed for you, what you heard from jeff sessions? >> it absolutely does. i think the hysteria, the desperation on the part of democrats is almost laughable. the idea that somehow jeff sessions was conspiring with the russians to impact the election is simply an unbelievable fiction. so, yeah, i think it's pretty much a tempest in a teapot. >> let's not get ahead of the implications. sometimes that makes it easier to dismiss the shorter questions, which is, he was asked a question about whether he had any contact with russian officials and he said no twice. that's not true. that means nothing to you? >> no, it wasn't, frankly.
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i think he understood that question to be did you talk to somebody about the campaign. look, it's not unusual for a united states senator or even lowly congressmen to meet with ambassadors. i do it all the time. we don't usually talk about anything to deal with campaigns. we usually talk about relations between our respected countries or some request they have. so i don't find this unusual in any way. what strikes me as unusual is the manner in which democrats seize on this. if they want to figure out why they lost the election, they need to look in the mirror. they nominated a flawed candidate who ran a bad campaign. that's pretty much why you lose most elections in america. >> i think that's a little bit of a distraction at this point, don't you? this is about what happened during his confirmation process. i think if you want to go broader context, i don't know that you want to go to the election unless you want to go to the hacking. that's the concern. you have the intelligence committee conclusion that your
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party does seem to want to run away from as quickly as it can. doesn't matter to you that you know the extent of any contacts between our government and whatever russian activities led to the hacking? >> first of all, on the hacking issue, i'm quite content to have any investigation anybody wants to have. other countries try to impact what happens in the united states. quite frankly, we try to impact what happens in other countries. that's not unusual. the first interference in the american elections was in the 1790s by the french government. that's sort of normal. the real question here, did it have any impact on the eastbound lex? no. do we want to know what the russians are up to? of course we do. to suggest that somehow senator sessions was involved in the manipulating the election or in some way, some inappropriate contact with russia, i'd have to see a lot more than what we've seen. frankly, this is an old political guy, i would tell my friends on the other side of the aisle, we want to figure out about the election, again, start looking at your own campaign,
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your own campaign and candidate. you'll figure out why you lost pretty quickly. >> you think there's no cu curiosity in why he didn't answer this. you say a lot of people met with the russian ambassador. have you? >> i met with him in a green room once, yeah. >> so no, not really. >> but in my office, no. do i meet with ambassadors on a regular basis? absolutely. >> but not the russian ambassador. the reason i ask is that claire mccaskill who is on that same committee with sessions also says she never met with the russian ambassador let alone alone in her office. >> she's also a minority party. maybe you'd like to talk to somebody in the majority. who they meet with -- the real question here, was there any impact on the election, did senator sessions do anything improper? no, he didn't. if he misspoke, he should issue a clarification. frankly i think he took the question to mean have you talked to the russians about the campaign and i think he probably responded appropriately when he said no. there's some confusion here, i think that's all there is is
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confusion. i don't see anything sinister. >> there's certainly confusion. i don't think that's speculative at all he gave an answer that was fundamentally inaccurate. to your question and your suggestion, if the attorney general knew that there was a meaningful distinction between a meeting he might have had at a senator on a certain committee and as a trump surrogate, don't you think he would have pointed that out? don't you think he would have said, yes, i did meet with this person twice, but it was in this capacity, not in this capacity? >> i think he probably in retrospect would like to have said that. the real question here, you do lots of meetings. the schedule is pretty packed. i just don't see this as that significant. g again, if the implication is this is why the dem kratz lost the election, it's not. >> i think it's as much a defense mechanism as it is a
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justification by the democrats. any time a question comes up about telling the truth, you guys say the election is over. i think everyone should accept that at this point. but you do have that other context. if you want to talk politics, lying under oath was sure a big interest for you when it involved hillary clinton. >> i don't think he lies under oath. i think he probably wasn't as clear in his answer as he should have been, particularly given the fact that we have this sort of hysteria on the part of our friends on the other side of the aisle. >> you think all questions about russian intervention are hysteria? >> no. i actually said earlier, if you go back and rerun the tape, i think an investigation is appropriate. do i think they had any impact on the the election? absolutely not. >> what's the hysteria? >> the hysteria is here is a lot of friends believe the russians managed to manipulate the election and somehow president trump is sort of a manchurian
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candidate. it's just not -- >> what does that have to do with what happened with sessions? we had sessions not answer questions accurately. that's the extent of the inquiry right now. >> if this is the biggest inaccuracy they can find in hours of testimony under oath, i think it's laughable. i think the guy probably sits there for eight or nine hours, answers multiple questions, maybe made a mistake here, either didn't recall or wasn't clear. i just don't see a plot here. i don't think this is very sinister. again, in my friends want to chase this particular rabbit, so be it and that's fine. i don't think it's going to get them any closer to the truth as to why they lost the election. i think when they begin to think about that, it will actually help them if they're analytical as opposed to hysterical. >> i think it's so interesting that you say you see a legitimate interest if finding out the extent of russian hacking efforts. yet every time i'm trying to ask you about whether or not any of this is relevant to that discussion, you go to the election. i just want to draw your attention to one more thing. the second conversation between
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sessions, according to "the washington post" and this russian official happened in september in private in jeff sessions' office. both meetings, one which you could execution as just coincidence at the convention, happened after the u.s. intel officials disclosed russia was attempting to interfere in the election. why wouldn't sessions have seen that as relevant to disclose? >> i can't speak for jeff sessions and what he recalled or what he thought was relevant and what he thought wasn't. what i'm suggesting here is i don't see anything serious here. i think anybody that does or that this has some impact on the election is badly mistaken. i'm happy to have that debate or argument with anybody. in terms of russian activity or any country. believe me, every country in the world tries to influence elections. the prats, president obama went to britain and told e them not to vote for brexit or they'd go to the back of the line.
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a blatant interference in a democratic country's elections. i don't think it had any impact one way or the other. i would suggest the same thing is probably true here. >> i appreciate your conclusions, congressman. hopefully we'll get the investigations to get the proof for them soon enough. appreciate you being on the show as always. >> thanks for the invitation. >> always. coming up, what does senator al franken think about this, where does he think it should go from here? just as we extended the information to cole and all the other congressman, we extend it to the white house every day. once again they've declined the request. we do have breaking news to tell you about right now. the u.s. carrying out air strikes in yemen. let's get right to barbara starr at the pentagon with the breaking details. what have you learned, barbara? >> a senior u.s. official does confirm to cnn that overnight the u.s. conducted a number of air strikes against al qaeda in
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yemen. of course, this coming about a month after that controversial raid on the ground that left one navy s.e.a.l. dead and a number of civilians also killed. what we don't know may be the most interesting question. was the intelligence that led them to conduct these air strikes overnight, did any of that intelligence coming from that controversial raid on the ground? we don't know the answer to that yet. what we do know is the u.s. military very much stepping up the campaign in yemen, going after al qaeda in that country, going with air strikes and possible additional ground raids and now we have seen the next step here, these air strikes overnight in yemen. allison? >> appreciate it, barbara. thank you very much. democrats are calling for attorney general jeff sessions to recuse himself from russian investigations or to even resign because of the inaccuracies in his confirmation testimony. the only democratic senator who
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voted to confirm sessions joins us next. of bad breath germs. this is 100% useful for a 100% fresh mouth. just ask listerine® users. the very people we studied in the study of bold. people who are statistically more likely to stand up to a bully. do a yoga handstand. and be in a magician's act. listerine® kills 99% of bad breath germs so you can feel 100% in life. bring out the bold™. also try listerine® pocketpaks for fresh breath on the go. there's nothing more than my so when i need to book a hotel room, i want someone that makes it easy to find what i want. gets it. they offer free cancellation, in case i decide to go from kid-friendly to kid-free. now i can start relaxing even before the vacation begins. your vacation is very important. that's why makes finding the right hotel for the right price easy. visit now
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information into insight. z2a1gz zx9z y2a1gy yx9y with the russian ambassador. this is a fact that he failed to disclose at his confirmation hearing. sessions denies the allegations. house oversight chairman jason
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chaif fets tweeted just moments ago just this, attorney general sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself. let's discuss with west virginia senator joe manchin. senator, good morning. >> good morning, alisyn. how are you? >> i'm well. thanks for being here. you were the only democrat to vote for senator jeff sessions to become attorney general. this morning do you feel misled? >> basically i asked for jeff to recuse himself when i thought the investigation into mike flynn, because he definitely worked with mike flynn. they campaigned together. jeff should recuse himself from all of these investigations that have russian ties or russian investigations going on within the fbi or any other of other intel committees. i've asked point-blank. with that, i want to see what the facts are, but jeff is going to have to answer to these. the facts will take us to the
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truth. t . >> congressman jason chaffetz agrees with you, called for attorney general sessions to recuse himself. some of your other democratic colleagues have gone further. they think he should resign for misleading congress. >> i understand that. i wasn't in the committee hearing. i don't know. i'm not on that committee that jeff went through for the hearing. jeff is going to have to answer to this. if there's facts that bear out there's actions to be taken, we'll have to vote on those actions. i will take the am quote vote to move forward and build trust in this government. people have to have trust in what we're doing. it's not about who you vote for, who you don't vote for. it's the facts. the intel committee will take us to where the facts are. the facts whether take us to the truth and the truth will lead us to make the decisions we have to make to keep this solid solid and whole and protected and people have confidence we're
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doing our job. >> another network just caught up with attorney general sessions this morning. he said once again, i know nothing about this. i didn't ever have any conversations with the russians about any campaign dealings what so efr. there's basically nothing to see. if you're calling for him to recuse himself, it doesn't sound as if he's open to recusing himself? >> alisyn, it's clear he should recuse himself. if the fbi is investigating mike flynn for his talks with the russians, then that basically is very clear that jeff -- that jeff should not be involved. >> if he doesn't want to recuse himself, then what? >> then i think jeff is making a horrible mistake and we'll have to take actions. you cannot function as attorney general or any other high official in government without the confidence of the people. you can't function. now, with that being said, jeff has got to put him snefl a position to where his word is
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his bond, people trust him. if the trust is not there, then it's hard for him to move forward. he needs to put any of this behind him, get the facts out. if he's never talked to the russians concerning any campaign, campaigning or how they could be more helpful in the campaign and distort our elections, if there's no facts to that whatsoever, that's one thing. the other thing s what was the conversation? was it his official duty being on armed services. ian armed service, i served with jeff. >> have you met with the russian ambassador in your capacity? >> i have. i've met with him with a group in my capacity with a group of other senators. that happens. we meet with all the ambassadors or try to any way to build the relationships, if you can have some rapport and talk and have some type of interactions back and forth.
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that's not unusual. >> good to know. this is great context for us. so if you were questioned by a congressional committee, would you disclose that? >> absolutely. i disclosed it to you. in my official capacity as a member of the armed services, wanting to understand the people we have and the people we do business in a country that i think is the most dangerous country to the united states of america, russia, somehow you have to have some kind of communications. that's in my official capacity. that's nothing -- that's my job. >> senator, when you say we need to get the facts out, if this was a private meeting in senator sessions' office between himself and the russian ambassador, how are you going to get the facts out? >> jeff is going to have to come forth with this. he's going to have to talk about this. if the facts are there that he met with them, the same as other officials meet with them, meet
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with different people all the time, there's nothing wrong with the meetings. we talk about official business. is there a pathway forward? can we build a relationship so you don't start pushing buttons and shooting missiles at us. that's part of our job as armed services. i don't know. jeff is going to have to build that trust up. if he doesn't, he has to look and see if he can be effective or not. >> senator, very quickly, before i let you go, one last thing, i know you liked some portions of president trump's address before congress on tuesday night, and you stood up and applauded when the rest of your democratic colleagues were sort of sitting silently or giving a thumbs downment you were supporting what he said about coal miners. today dozens of activists say they will deliver more than 225,000 signatures on a petition to senator schumer to demand that he remove you from any senate democratic leadership because they don't believe that you are really a sort of bona
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fide democrat. >> alisyn, i think they're calling me unacceptable. that's what i've understood. these are the same people that asked all of us and had a million people sign a petition not to have chuck schumer as our leader of our democratic caucus. so i understand that. you know what? the democratic party is a big tent. we have people all over the board. you can be a little bit of anything and everything, as long as you believe you want to help people and make it better for them. i'm happy to sit down with them and talk with them. if we agree to disagree, it will be respectful on my part and hopefully on theirs, too. it's part of democracy. this is what we're involved in today. >> there you go, senator manchin, we always appreciate you coming on "new day" and talking to us. >> sure thing, alisyn. thanks. >> the harshest question that can be asked about this entire jeff sessions situation is whether or not he lied under oath about contacts with russia. up next, we'll talk to the senator in question, al franken. he's the one who asked sessions
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about this. what is his take, what should happen next? let's see. elease gels have laser drilled holes. they release medicine fast, for fast pain relief. tylenol®
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senator al franken calling on attorney general jeff sessions to recuse himself immediately after the justice department reveals he met twice with a russian ambassador last year while he was a trump campaign advisor. however, senator sessions failed to disclose that during his confirmation process in response to a question from senator franken. here is the exchange. >> if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the trump campaign communicated with the russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do? >> senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those
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activities. i have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and i did not have communications with the russians, and i'm unable to comment on it. >> now, when faced with this inaccuracy, the attorney general recently said this. >> i have not met with any russians in any time to discuss any political campaign, and those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false, and i don't have anything else to say about that. >> senator al franken joins us now live. senator, do you accept that explanation from the attorney general? >> not really, because between -- in between the revelation that he answered my question in what would at best with an extremely misleading way, his office had said that he had no -- he had met with the
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russian ambassador but he hadn't -- didn't have any recollection of what the content of the discussion was. and so that is the -- so now we have a third iteration of this which is i didn't discuss anything about the campaign. well, first it is i didn't meet with any russians. then it's i met with the russian ambassador, but i don't remember what we discussed, and then it's these charges are that i met with the russian ambassador and discussed the campaign, we didn't discuss the campaign. these are all contradictory. i had simply asked him what would he do if he had learned that other members of the campaign had met with the russians, hoping he would say he would recuse himself. he chose not to answer that, but instead chose to say that he had not met with the russians and,
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of course, the ambassador from russia is a russian. >> do you think that sessions lied to you? >> i would say at the very least this was extremely misleading. i would love for him -- i'm going to be sending him a letter to have him explain himself, but he made a bald statement that during the campaign he had not met with the russians. that's not true. whether he in his head thought that he was answering whether he had talked to any russians about the campaign, then he should have said so. he should have said i met with the russian ambassador a couple times, but we didn't discuss the campaign. but then his office shouldn't come out with an explanation saying he talked with the russian ambassador but doesn't remember what they talked about. and he needs to explain himself here. and for him to get on his high
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horse and say i don't know what all this is about, i just asked a question. and he was the one who offered this. i didn't ask him have you talked to any of the russians during the campaign. i didn't ask him that. i asked him, what would you do if you learned that members of the campaign had met with the russians, hoping he'd say he'd recuse himself in any investigation. instead he chose to answer the way he did which again, as i said, is extremely misleading at the most charitable. >> well, there are two basic defenses that are being offered up for sessions. one is from the white house and it's basically just a political blame game. that's a distraction. so i don't really care about that. but the other one is that it's context, that he didn't think the question was about meetings that pertained to the election and they used his response to senator leahy of vermont who did one of the written
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questionnaires -- questions in a questionnaire. and he asked in that question, several of the president-elect's nominees or senior advisers have russian ties. have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the russian government about the 2016 election either before or after election day. and sessions answered in a word no. do you think it is a fair defense that he said no because in his judgment he never met with them about the election? >> well, we don't know if that's tr true. we don't know if in his judgment he never met with them about the election. in the hearing, what i developed, he misrepresented his record as a prosecutor. he said he personally handled four civil rights cases, and he didn't personally handle. and then he answered my question
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in a way that was either deliberately misleading or misleading because he literally didn't remember that he had met with the russian ambassador or are he interpreted my question differently. look, this is an extremely serious matter. this is the other major foreign power interfering with the democratic election of the united states of america. nothing could be more serious. >> representative tom cole of oklahoma was on. he says the exact opposite. he says, look, you want to ask questions about russia, that's fine. but that's not why you lost the election, you democrats, and this is hysteria, and jeff sessions didn't pure jury himself. he didn't think it had anything to do with the question you asked about whether or not the campaign was coordinating. this is much ado about nothing. i think he saeft tempest in a teapot. your reaction? >> well, there's all kinds of
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things in there. one, we don't know the extent to which this interference which was massive, they had thousands of trolls on top of this interference, of their hacking, putting out fake news. cole misrepresents my question. my question was simply, and it was a question that senator sessions or attorney general sessions did not answer. but there's no way for us to know whether or not this changed the election for cole to state that categorically is obviously unjustified. this is an election decided by 70,000 sloets, and this is a massive effort to change the
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election. so i would say that representative cole is way off base here. and i think that just is so self-evident from -- if you know all the context of my questioning and the answer of senator sessions. >> now, one of the reasons it was so important to get you on this morning is that you had -- for you, essentially, very animated argument about what your questioning was about and what you wanted. you got into it with senator cruz and senator cornyn about being misrepresented in terms of what you were trying to bring about in your own questioning. what was that -- >> but that was on a different matter. that was on whether senator sessions, who had been turned down in 1986 for a federal judgeship because it was deemed that he wasn't reliable on civil
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rights, tried to reinvent himself by answering a questionnaire for our hearing saying of the ten cases, most important cases he personally handled, four of these civil rights cases. it turns out he did not handle them at all. >> i got it was different subject matter. but i'm saying you seem to be convinced that the senator wasn't being straight with you guys. do you feel this is another example of that? >> i do. i think this was extraordinarily misleading. that's why i'm writing a letter to him to clarify himself. i think you should do a press conference on this. >> you think he should recuse himself. >> he should definitely recuse himself. i think he should recuse himself before knowing that members of -- my question on this matter
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came out immediately after it had come out that members of the campaign, the trump campaign had interacted regularly with the russians. so my question was will you -- was going to be will you recuse yourself if that turns out to be the case. he didn't answer that part of the question. he said i was a surrogate for the campaign and i never met with the russians. the ambassador from russia is a russian. >> true. last question, what do you think should happen next? you're sending a letter and want more clarification. what else? >> well, i would like to say -- he should right now say i recuse myself from any investigation by the fbi, any investigation, if we have to appoint a special
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prosecutor or recuse myself from that process, he should say it's clearly legitimate for anyone listening to that answer or that question to not trust my veracity on this matter. i don't see how anyone -- if he wanted an answer to that by saying, look, i've met with the russian ambassador a couple times. we did not discuss the campaign or the election at that time, if he had said that, that would be different. >> then we would not be here having this conversation today. but that's not what he said. and now we're going to have to ask even more questions. senator, thank you for making yourself available this morning and helping us understand the context of this conversation. >> thank you, chris. >> be well. alisyn? >> chris, let's talk about this. the house oversight committee chairman, jason chaffetz tweeted moments ago, attorney general
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sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself. so what is next for attorney general jeff sessions? let's get to "the bottom line" with cnn political director david chalian. good morning, david. >> good morning, alisyn. >> another day, another russian intrigue. maybe there is nothing there as attorney general sessions just said to nbc news when they caught up with him this morning. let me play this for you. >> well, i have not met with any russians at any time to discuss any political campaign, and those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false and i don't have anything else to say about that. so thank you. >> what about the calls to recuse yourself from your agency's probe of -- >> i've said that whenever it's appropriate, i will recuse myself. there's no doubt about that. >> david, what does that mean, whenever it's appropriate? >> i imagine that's not going to be operative for very long.
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when you have jason chaffetz and al franken on the same page saying you need to clarify and recuse, i imagine it's not going to be too long before attorney general sessions makes that clear. he has said that line before, alisyn. he said i'll recuse myself if there's something to recuse myself from. that has been his posture. that clearly is not going to be a sustainable posture at this point. you did hear him actually in that comment to nbc start trying to clarify the comment saying he didn't discuss any campaign matters with russian officials, already sort of changing what he said in his testimony to senator franken. >> look, let's just be clear. that's every attorney general's starting point, yeah, if there's a reason for me to recuse myself, i will. that's not the context here. but do you think that this is the end of the political implications here, that sessions may have to recuse himself on any on going inquiries or the special prosecutor statute is triggered, that he won't be able to be a part of that, or do you
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think there might be more. >> clearly more fallout today on the hill. the white house is going to have to start answering questions about a timeline, about what it knew when about this communication between sessions and the russian ambassador. remember two things, one, senator sessions was preparing for confirmation hearings. so the question is did this come in that topic? inside trump world in early january it was revealed michael flynn had conversations. you would think they would look into any other conversations with the russian ambassador. i think this isn't going away obviously, chris, as a story line. i think politically look at what you see happening here. kevin mccarthy, the house majority leader and jason chaffetz, oversight guy, already getting out saying he's got to recuse himself now. they're clearly trying to sort of provide the answer that every republican member of congress is
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going to get asked today and sort of get out in front of this. i think they're also trying to prevent calls of a special prosecutor because they don't want to see this unravel too quickly. >> president trump doesn't need this distraction. the last time there was a distraction like this with national security adviser general michael flynn, he was forced to resign. so how does president trump respond to all this? >> i would imagine we're not going to hear from president trump when we see him later today. he's giving a speech trying to talk about his call for increased military spending. he wants to get back to all those rave reviews from his address to the joint session of congress, and this is part of the road show that is aimed at selling that address out in the country. when we hear from him later, i doubt this will be an issue. but this is my point, alisyn. i do think the trump white house is going to have to answer questions about this today because i think even more so because of the flynn scenario you described. it's dealing with the same
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character, this russian ambassador. >> the white house posture has been the same. it was blame the media first then. and that wound up just raising the stakes of proving what's true, and they're doing the exact same thing this time. don't they have to deal with it differently if they want to cut it short? >> they would be wise. every sort of crisis communications expert would say that at this point, it's quite clear this story is not going away, and they probably would be wise to come up with a process in which they could put out every fact they understand. as you know they've already instructed from the white house council's office, they see the investigations coming, the counsel's office says don't destroy anything, preserve all the documents you have on this. they're clearly girding for this to be with them for the long haul. >> david chalian, thank you for "the bottom line." >> let's take a quick break. we'll be right back.
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why are people on that side of the river so afraid of the ego egori? >> i see. why -- >> speaking foreign language. >> i'm going to say you said no, you should not cut off my head. that was a clip from the new cnn original zee reese "believer." it takes best-selling author and author reza aklan exploring the rituals of faith-based groups around the world like the one you just saw. what is the right answer to should i cut off your head now? >> seems so much like what we
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deal with. >> yeah. i expected a couple of those interviewers to be like, shut up or i'll cut off your head. those are called the agori a hindu sect that reject concepts of purity and pollution which is key to hindu spirituality. in order to prove that rejection, they take part in these theatrical displays of self pollution which include covering themselves in the ashes of the dead, eating rotted fruit and animals, occasionally even corpses. >> and you're in gauging in this right now. you have ashes of the dead on you. >> i'm covered in the ashes of the dead. >> did you have to eat flesh? >> i did have to eat some things -- it was something. they take all their food out of human skulls. they basically live on these cremation grounds. as sort of insane as that sounds, there's something beautiful about the faith underneath it. there are many, many different ways of expressing that faith
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which is, if there's no such thing as purity and pollution, then the entire cast system upon which so much of indian society is based is useless, that everybody is the same. if god lives inside of you, nothing can pollute you. so some people do take part in these kinds of displays. ag aghori open clinics for leprosy patients or orphanages for undercast kids. >> that's what you're doing with "believer," right? this story isn't just interesting on its face because of that colorful exchange, but because you're getting insight into what that means. in indian culture, the cast system is so baked in, and this is one of the ways they get away from it with their own faith. that's what you're trying to do in a lot of different ways. >> exactly. more importantly trying to show people that, as strange or as foreign or exotic as these other religious traditions may seem to you, when you really get to know them, there's something very familiar, something similar in the way that you believe
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yourself. many people, many christians, many jews, a lot of people would say, of course there's no such thing as purity and pollution. of course what's inside of you can't affect your relationship with the define. so to go through that 44 minutes with me, to go from this place of, that's the weirdest thing i've ever seen to, okay, yeah, that make sense. it's a good journey. >> that's fascinating, right? you're going to take the exotic that we would never have access to, if not for your cameras and you traveling there. you're going to show it to all of us. are you worried that it will make some things seem as though we don't have common ground, that it is too weird for some in the audience? >> i think a lot of people have asked that question. i think there is this sort of fear that, oh, you're kpot sizing religion, sensationalizing it. i always say follow us through this journey.
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we're talking about religions that have heavy baggage, aghoism, scientology, view due, these are religions that people just naturally have opinions of already. >> and feel anxiety about. >> exactly. i guess what i'm triepg to do is get you to start thinking in a deeper way, to reframe your perceptions of people who seem different than you. if you can do it in a tv show, maybe you can do it in the world. >> look, it's very instructive. you don't have to go to that extreme of perversity. you deal with it all the time within islam. you have a huge part of the american population right now that is afraid that muslims will come here and import sharia instead of the u.s. constitution, and people really believe it. you and i got sideways on this issue once because i believe that's something you've got to address as muslims. it sucks that each of you is appointed to defend your own faith, but that is a reality
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that people feel here. how do you deal with it? >> i think we're in a time right now of profound religious polarization. we have an administration that is using a lot of fear of religions and religious people in order to drum up political support. i think we need to as americans learn about the things that connect us instead of the things that divide us. that's what i'm trying to do with this sew. >> reza, it looks fascinating. thank you for previewing it. you can catch "believer" with reza aslan sunday at 10:00 p.m. eastern on cnn. >> that may be the line of the day. if you keep talking, i'll cut off your head. "newsroom" with poppy harlow and john berman begins right after this break. he help of thet taxes in decades, a talented workforce, and world-class innovations. like in plattsburgh, where the most advanced transportation is already en route. and in corning,
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but they're different.d kind it's nice to remove artificial ingredients. kind never had to. we've used real ingredients, whole nuts, and natural flavors from the very beginning. give kind a try. good morning everyone. i'm john berman. >> i'm poppy harlow. so glad you're with us. just breaking this morning, calls to recuse or resign. moments ago senior republicans saying that the republican attorney general should recuse himself from investigations into the trump campaign contacts with russia. senior democrats say he should flat-out resign. house oversight committee chairman, republican jason chaffetz tweeting moments ago, ag sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse


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