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tv   CNN Newsroom With Poppy Harlow and John Berman  CNN  March 2, 2017 6:00am-7:01am PST

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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 himself. so the issue here is the facts.
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what did jeff sessions do? did he tell the truth under oath about what he did and do the facts about what he did and said compromise his authority as the nation's chief law enforcement officer. >> this morning cnn learned jeff sessions who was a u. slt senator and trump campaign supporter met twice last year with the russian ambassador to russia. why might this matter? because repeated contacts between trump officials and ambassadors and senator sessions under oath said he was not part of it. >> and 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 activity.
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i have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and i did not have communications with the russians. >> i did not have communications with the russians he said then. now we know he did have communications with the russian ambassador. but a short time ago he defended this sworn testimony. >> 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. i don't have anything else to say about that. >> what about the calls to recuse yourself from your agency's probe of the -- >> well, i've said that whenever it's appropriate, i will recuse myself. there's no doubt about that. >> when it's appropriate, i will recuse myself. stay tuned for developments on that. we have developments breaking all over the world, from the justice department to the capital of moscow. let's begin with laura jarrett from the justice department. what are the facts here?
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>> reporter: the attorney general seems to want to draw a line now between conversations he had with his senator hat on and those as a campaign surrogate. but the real issue here is transparency at this point. in his judiciary committee questionnaire earlier this year senator patrick leahy wrote, quote, 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? sessions' response was no. now the white house says that sessions ian sers on this were consistent and truthful. he wasn't acting as a trump surrogate. this is the latest attacks against the trump administration bipartisan democrats. but, of course, the chorus of voices calling for sessions to step aside today is growing louder every minute, and with republicans as well. this as we are also learning
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from "the new york times" last night that the obama administration in the waning days sought to distribute widely information about russian hacking into the election. so there are a lot of moving pieces here, poppy, john. >> there are indeed. laura jarrett stay with us. we want to get straight to capitol hill for the reaction from there. that's where sunlen serfaty is. this is not just split along party lines. this is not just democrats calling for him to recuse or resign. this is from top republicans? >> that's right, poppy. swift reaction on capitol hill from democrats and notably many republicans now calling for sessions to recuse himself. you have many democrats, too. a growing number of democrats asking for him and calling for him to resign including just the latest, senator claire mccaskill who also earlier this morning essentially called out jeff sessions for his defense, saying these communications happened in his capacity on the senate armed services committee. mccaskill tweeting, i've been on
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the armed services committee for ten year. no call or meeting with russian ambassador ever. ambassadors call foreign members of relations committee. as you noted earlier, a top republican, jason chaffetz tweeting out moments ago, ag sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself. we just heard in the last few minutes on cnn senator franken. he is the senator who was at the confirmation hearing when sessions was having the hearing for attorney general, and he questioned him asking him if there were any done taccontacts. this morning senator franken said his answer then was misleading at best. >> at the very least this was extremely misleading. i don't -- 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
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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 talked to any russians about the campaign, hen 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. >> there will be a lot of action up here on capitol hill. within the next hour we will hear from nancy pelosi who has already called for sessions' resignation. we'll also hear from senator chuck schumer at a press conference in just about an hour. very clear, poppy and john. democrats are keeping up the pressure. >> we'll hear from pat leahy, senior democrat in the judiciary committee. we'll get a changes to ask him, do you feel jeff sessions lied to you in that committee. sunlen serfaty on capitol hill. thanks so much. of course, kevin mccarthy and jason chaffetz calling for recusal. unlikely that would happen if it wasn't already in the works. stay tuned.
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that could happen any minute. meanwhile, russia says when it comes to all this controversy, this is not their headache. keep this in mind. according to former u.s. officials, u.s. intelligence considers the russian ambassador kislyak one of rush's top spies and spy recruiters. we'll bring in international diplomatic editor nic robertson who is in moscow. what is russia saying about all this. >> reporter: they're pushing back hard, saying this is misinformation by the media. calling it media vandalism, coming from the spokeswoman for the ministry. she says how low can the media go? she said we used to talk about propaganda and then hype. they says this is a situation, and she's aiming this directly at cnn, where she is saying this is the media, the western media is becoming big brother, as in george orwell's 1982 -- i say '82, because that's what she
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said. we believe she cement his book 1984. she's also pointed out russian diplomats, this is their job, ambassadors around the world. this is their job to meet with people. from the russian point of view, this is a very robust defense of their position. they see this as an american problem. the spokesman for vladimir putin dmitry peskov has said today this is something that is an emotionally charged environment inside washington at the moment. there's a real sense here in moscow that this is something that the united states needs to sort out amongst its own politicians and diplomats and not involve russia. there's a sense here that any possibility of a renewed relationship between the united states and russia is really being washed away at this time. so a great deal of consternation and specific anger being fired at thoegs who would accuse the
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russian ambassador in washington of being a spy. >> nic robertson in moscow, thank you very much. let's bring in our panel. dug high is with us, cnn political commentator and republican strategist. also joining us in a moment will be brian fallon, our political commentator and former press secretary for hillary clinton. also still with us, our justice reporter laura jarrett. let me begin with you, doug. the highest ranking republican yet to reply this morning, kevin mccarthy. here is how he put it. >> i think the trust of the american people, you recuse yourself in these situations. >> you said you would urge him to recuse himself? >> i don't have all the information in front of me. i don't want to prejudge. i think for any investigation going forward, you want to make sure everybody trusts the investigations, there's no doubt within the investigation -- >> does that require his recusal, congressman? >> i think it would be easier from that standpoint, yes. >> i think it would be easier from that standpoint, yes.
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two-fold question. one, doug, would he will calling for that were a recusal not in the works? two, can republicans on the hill afford not to call for recusal at this point? >> on the first point, we don't know yet. the story obviously broke late yesterday. we don't have enough information. that's what kevin mccarthy wanted, more information. given his comments and jason chaif fits' comments, i think more and more republicans will be calling for that. your second question, when you talk to congressional republicans as i do every day, there's a constand yin and yang on where they stand on trump. yesterday we're talking about donald trump's speech, how well he did, how he defied expectations and is this a pivot and so forth. now we're talking about whether the attorney needs to recuse himself. we've seen this time and time again with trump where they have one day of good news and at the end of the day we get bad news.
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it's why congressional republicans in the house and senate are always nervous. when they see good news, they worry bad news is just around the corner. >> the number two member of the house, republican member calling for recusal before 9:00 a.m. in the morning. i don't know it can last much past noon. we will continue to watch that. brian fallon, former spokesman for the hillary clinton campaign. before that, at the justice department. so you have connections here to this. in your mind, i suppose as a democrat, not as a justice department former spokesman, is recusal enough here for the attorney general? >> first of all, i think he needs to take the step of recusing himself. as of this morning he was still dodging that question. according to the "wall street journal" he's under investigation himself, these contacts he had with the russian ambassador are themselves being looked at by the fbi. i think there was sufficient basis for him to need to recuse himself before based on the role he had in the trump campaign. now that he's one of the subjects of the review conducted by the fbi he can't possibly
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stay atop that investigation. i think recusal is a matter of hours, not a question of the any longer. then the larger question becomes, poe testimony criminal conduct here. jeff sgss in the late 1990 when the issue was bill clinton was very clear perjury is a basis to have to step down and leave your office. i think there's going to be increasing calls not just for jeff sessions to recuse himself, but to step down. it was a black and white question posed to him. he answered it definitively. usually in these circumstances you'd see him or a representative from him saying he didn't remember the meeting. the perjury statute actually involves a willfulness standard. here they're acknowledging he full well remembered the meetings and tray ear trying to claim it was not a pertinent thing for him to have to mention. that's pretty choppy waters for him legally. i think there's a clear perjury charge to be filed here. i would look for the democrats on the committee to try to force chuck grassley's hand to make a referral on the perjury charge to the u.s. attorney and the district of columbia. i think he's going to have to
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retain private counsel. this was a conversation he had in a hearing before he was actually confirmed. this is not an official justice department function. i think he's in legal hot water. >> cnn is not reporting what the "wall street journal" is on the fact that sessions is under investigation or was investigated by federal officials. >> we don't have that yet. laura, here are the facts. what we do mow is attorney general sessions had these two meetings in july and september. his own justice department says it. we know one was totally in private. so we also know that right now contact, alleged contact between trump advisers and the campaign and russia is being investigated. there is actually no question that sessions would have to be a witness in his own investigation, correct? and if that's the case, when how can he investigate it? so if he recuse us himself, who does it, who leads? >> that's a very interesting
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observation, poppy. if he decides to step aside, there is a mechanism here for the acting demity attorney general, dana ben they to come in and step in and take over this investigation and sessions can step aside without having to resign or anything like that. there is precedent for that. there's history. the attorney general holder did that, mukasey did that. there's a mechanism to do that. it's going to be up to sessions at this point. there is no longer the independent counsel statute which would have helped congress prompt this. it's really going to be up to him on the timing for moving something like that forward. >> doug, just to be clear, what's the political cost at this point? it seems like that's a relatively easy move to make at this point, say, you know what? it's just too murky right now, too much smoke here, i shouldn't be involved. >> i think the political loss is massive not just for the attorney general but the entire administration. just yesterday we were talking about donald trump potentially
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turning a corner, pivoting, what a great night it was for him. we're not talking about that anymore. we know as we go further down the line, democrats will continue to talk about this, not just franken and leahy. nancy pelosi has weighed in. since we're seeing republicans already ble going to crack, mccarthy and chaffetz, there's indications that more republicans will and the cost will be massive. >> senator meet with ambassador, they do. and that's sort of part of sessions' defense here. the difference here, is it not, the timing, especially the second meeting, especially the september meeting because that was at the height of the investigation -- sorry -- at the height of the concern -- >> after the hacks of the dnc to be sure. >> right. the concern about how much russia was trying to tip the scales in the election. how much is timing a factor here, not just the fact that there was this meeting? >> so timing is a factor. i also think it's a factor that, look, while it may be not
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unusual for certain senators to meet with foreign ambassadors, it's actually unusual for them to do so based on their assignment on the senate armed services committee which is the panel on which jeff sessions serves. "the washington post" which broke this story actually surveyed the other members of the committee. no other committee members met with the russian ambassador even once in their duties as a representative on the senate armed services committee. he met with this representative from russia twice. >> just to clarify, 26 of those members, 20 got back to "the washington post" said they didn't meet. six of them did not respond. >> that includes the chairman of the committee, john mccain. you would have thought if the panel had business that would have necessitated a meeting with the russian ambassador, at least you would have seen a meeting happen at the level of the chairman. it's quite interesting when you have all these rumors swirling about, connections between the trump campaign and the russian government, the only member of the panel meeting with the russian government is jeff
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sessions. secondly, they changed their story in the last few hours since the story initially broke. the jeff sessions spokesperson changed the story about what exactly was discussed. initially they said he couldn't remember what was discussed in the september conversation. then the administration official put out a quote late last night saying they did discuss the election, it was perfunctory, just in passing. now this morning jeff sessions is remembering everything and saying he didn't talk about the election. the changing story is another basis to question this. lastly, he was not just asked about it once in the open hearing by senator franken. he was asked about it in writing subsequently by senator leahy and he misled the committee again twice. >> hang on, brian. there's a slight difference with the leahy question. the leahy question was directy about campaign issues. >> john, anyone advising senator sessions as he was going through his confirmation process would
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have advised him to clarify the record from his previous congressional testimony. that was a free pass to clean that up. he chose not to do so which is reason for suspicion. >> brian, hang on one second. wait, there's more, right? laura jarrett, it wasn't just this report coming out of "the washington post" and confirmed by cnn about the jeff sessions contacts. there's "new york times" report that says the obama administration was so concerned about this on its way out, that it basically tried to disseminate as much of this intelligence as possible on its way out the door. what have you learned there, laura? >> reporter: that's right. what we're hearing is basically president obama got the intelligence report and officials wanted to make sure it was as widely distributed as possible to avoid duplication of the problems that we saw with russian hacking in the future, but also to leave a trail, right? to make sure that when he was gone, there was something left over to show what exactly happened there, john. >> laura jarrett, doug heye, brian fallon, thanks for being
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with us. appreciate it. >> still to come, if attorney general jeff sessions is under fire for talking to russia as we were talking ab, can he really oversee this investigation? how so? we're going to dive into all the legal aspects of this. >> what constitutes perjury? what would it take to prove that? >> jeff toobin will join us. get ready. it might get ugly on the hill in the next hour. not just democrats, republicans, too. >> wow, the stock market, its streak continues. a huge gain yesterday. what's in store for today? that's next. you may be muddling through allergies. try zyrtec® for powerful allergy relief. and zyrtec® is different than claritin®. because it starts working faster on the first day you take it. try zyrtec®. muddle no more®.
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credit karma. give yourself some credit. 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. i don't have anything else to say about that. >> what about the calls to recuse yourself from your
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agency's probe of the -- >> well, i've said whenever it's appropriate, i will recuse myself. there's no doubt about that. >> that's brand new this morning. the attorney general jeff sessions says he will recuse himself if it's appropriate about these two previously undisclosed meetings he did have during the meeting with the russian ambassador. when would it be appropriate? republican chair of the house oversight committee says now, do it now. moments ago he wrote this, ag sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself. democrats go further, they say he should flat-out resign. they say he per juried himself. we're joend by jeffrey toobin, cnn senior legal analyst, and jonathan turley, a law professor at george washington university. mr. toobin at an undisclosed location, first to you, what constitutes perjury here? how will we know whether jeff sessions pure jerd himself? >> perjury is an intentional
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false statement under oath. it's not a mistake, it's not a misremembering, it's lying, inning tenlly saying a false statement at a time when you're under oath. that's only one of the possible crimes that are implicated by this sort of issue. you also have making a false statement that is not under oath which is a lesser crime, and then there is a misdemeanor which is withholding information from congress. all of those crimes are traditionally investigated when issues of misleading congress come up. >> so you mentioned intent, which is very important. did he intentionally lie under oath. jonathan turley, brian fallon formerly with the clinton campaign and the justice department, made the point in session' written testimony to senator leahy's question, similar question about contact with russians during the election, he could have used that as an opportunity to
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clarify himself. here is how the white house ethics lawyer under president george w. bush put it, misleading regarding the intentions is a good way to go to jail. how do you see it? >> i think it's a serious issue. he should do it right away to establish there would be a conflict of interest going forward. this has come up before. you had the scandal, the itt scandal in the '70s where that attorney general ultimately resigned, was charged with that lower misdemeanor that jeffrey was talking about. you've also had other attorney generals accused of perjury including eric holder who said he had nothing to do with the targeting or potential prosecution of journalists. this has come up in the past. i think we're well short of establishing a clear case for perjury. we have a good case for recusal in my view. but at the end of the day, we
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have to learn more. we have two meetings here, one of which was in the senate office. these senator tend to be well schooled on avoiding election or campaign discussions, specific campaign discussions in their offices. that's really drilled in to them. but there will be records of meetings of that kind. these offices are pretty valuable real estate, to get into those offices you have a lot of people involved. it is something that deserves a fuller explanation. >> go ahead, jeffrey. >> i just wanted to -- in fairness to eric holder, eric holder was accused by republicans in hearings of lying. he was never even criminally investigated by anyone for lying under oath. that was a political attack on eric holder. but it is true. and i think we need to be very careful about this.
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i don't know if jeff sessions committed perjury or made a false statement or committed any crime at all. all i think -- the responsible thing to do at this point is to say it is worthy of looking into because of all these circumstances. >> then there's this other issue. if you take these two polls of recusal which both of you seem to agree on, and republicans on the hill. that's one poll. you have resignation and perjury on the other poll. both of you seem to think that's sort of the extreme end there that would take a lot more proving. in the middle you have how does this whole investigation get handled now. say there's recusal. what would it take, jeffrey, to trigger a special prosecutor here? >> well, during the '80s and '90s, there was a law that essentially forced the appointment of what was then called an independent counsel, independent counsel lawrence walsh investigated the iran contra affair. i was a member of the staff.
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i'm very familiar with that. that law expired. there's no more mandatory independent special prosecutor law. basically it's left entirely to the justice department's own discretion whether they appoint an i understand den counsel, whether the attorney general simply recuses himself and allows the investigation to be managed by other people within the justice department which is especially complicated now because there are not many confirmed people within the justice department. so the question is really does he appoint an outsider, someone who is completely outside the justice department. or does he simply recuse himself and let other people within the justice department manage this investigation? >> jonathan turley, to you, just so i'm clear, if sessions were not to recuse himself, he would indeed be called as a witness in his own investigation, right? >> that's clearly a possibility.
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the justice department has historically opposed the appointment of outside counsel. they're very proud almost culturally of being annual to be independent. that doesn't mean that's the end of the question. there's also congressional investigations. i think what everyone has to agree on is that we need a level of greater transparency as these investigations go further, and we have to keep it open, whether we need someone outside the administration, not with regard to sessions specifically, but this entire issue of russian involvement. >> guys, thank you very much. jeffrey toobin, jonathan turley, we'll stay on top of this. we'll turn to wall street and the opening bell just rang. numbers, we'll see the market is just getting started here. the president tweeting since november 8th, election day the stock market has gained 3.2 trillion in gains. consumer confidence at a 15-year high. christine romans joins us now. good morning. >> we talked a lot about that market value added since
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election day. i can show you what that looks like. since election day the dow jones industrial average, the 30 big stocks of the dow, up almost 16%. the s&p 500, that's the broader index of stocks, probably your stocks in your 401(k) look like the s&p 500. it's all about perspective. this 2.7 trillion rally, when i look at value added, u.s. stocks, almost $3 trillion. back to the bottom in 2009, you can almost say the trump rally is the icing on a very sweet cake. the dow up 14,000 points since 2009. the s&p 500 up about 265%, more than doubling for both of them. a couple things going on here. lower taxes for companies. that's what they're all hoping for. the presidential sound the other night, made investors think he might get tax reform done, might get infrastructure done. they're hoping he can dwlifr on
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the promises. the economy is humming along. 15-year high for consumer confidence. the fed will likely start raise interest rates. banks more money. bank stocks at or near record highs. the irony of this big rally, $2.7 trillion in welgts, it's gone to investors and big companies. will it go to main street and not just wall street. that's what we have to see. >> investors up to this point, they don't like turmoil at the white house. today as the russian stories heat up, maybe the market will cool off. christine romans, thank you very much. still to come from us, a senior member of the house u judiciary committee joins us to tell us whether he thinks jeff sessions lied. plus our own manu raju hearing from both democrats and republicans for reaction to this quickly developing story.
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breaking just moments ago. a new republican house member, a conservative stallworth calling on the attorney general to recuse himself from any investigation into russian campaign contacts. >> our manu raju is prowling the halls of capitol hill. what is this republican saying now? >> raul labrador is a leading member of the house freedom caucus, the very conservative wing of the house republican conference saying just moments ago to me and other reporters that it's time for jeff sessions to recuse himself from this aush yeah investigation because he believes all these questions are going to count to mount about russia. so it makes sense for the integrity of that investigation,
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for him to step aside. he did not go as far as a lot of democrats want which is to name a special prosecutor. he did not say he thinks there should be a special prosecutor or the fact that -- or whether sessions should resign which we're hearing from democrats on the senate and the house side this morning. the fact that another house conservative has said it's time to recuse himself, jeff sessions is under mounting political pressure from his own party to make a decision here about how to move forward on this investigation into potential contacts between the trump campaign and russian officials during the presidential election and whether any laws were broken. that fbi investigation that is on going, who will oversee it? will it will jeff sessions or someone else at the justice department. that's a question that the white house and the justice department will have to make today. as we hear from raul labrador, other people such as kevin mccarthy, the house republican leader here in the josing he should also recuse himself, key
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question for sessions now, what will he do now there that there's calls for him to step aside. >> are there key republicans saying -- not saying anything, but is there anyone saying no, he should not recuse himself and here is why? >> reporter: we're hearing some of that. most members are saying, they're not going as far as saying he should recuse himself. they're saying, we need to learn a little more, i want to get to the bottom of what jeff sessions said and did. some members are saying we haven't seen all the reports yet and we don't want to comment. the people are being careful, not going "a.m.: wake-up call" for sessions to recuse himself. we're not hearing a robust defense of jeff sessions. >> without that robust defense, more and more republicans saying recuse, recuse, recuse. if the white house doesn't, it puts the administration in direct odds with republicans on capitol hill. ma knew raju, great reporting.
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get back to work, hit those hallways for us. >> still to come, jewish community centers targeted with bomb threats and a wave of hait across the nation. new information about where federal officials believe these threats are coming from. that's next. coming back a symptoms kept on my long-term control medicine. i talked to my doctor and found a missing piece in my asthma treatment with breo. once-daily breo prevents asthma symptoms. breo is for adults with asthma not well controlled on a long-term asthma control medicine, like an inhaled corticosteroid. breo won't replace a rescue inhaler for sudden breathing problems. breo is specifically designed to open up airways to improve breathing for a full 24 hours. breo contains a type of medicine that increases the risk of death from asthma problems and may increase the risk of hospitalization in children and adolescents. breo is not for people whose asthma is well controlled on a long-term asthma control medicine, like an inhaled corticosteroid. once your asthma is well controlled, your doctor will decide if you can stop breo and prescribe a different asthma control medicine, like an inhaled corticosteroid.
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lapg any moment, we are expecting to hear in members of the bipartisan task force combating anti-semitism. this is a group of lawmakers that are urging the president to develop and implement a strategy to combat this wave we've seen of anti-semitic threats and attacks across the country. they say they also plan to come up with their own proposals to improve the government's approach across the board to
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anti-semitism. also this morning, we have new information about where law enforcement officials think these threats are coming from, all these calls to jewish community centers may not be originating in this country. why do they think that? some of the voices are muffled or distorted, many advocating violence against jews. >> brynn gingras following the story. what are you learning? >> reporter: we're learning a lot. law enforcement says they think these calls are originating overseas from either a group of individuals or actually maybe just one person. like i said, we've been in touch with a number of these jewish community centers that received the threats. the nature of the calls certainly vary. centers say they've received threats where the voice of the caller was male, others female. some have been automated, a robo call, others a human using voice masking technology.
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a receptionist had previous training and was able to keep the caller on the line and able to ask questions like where is the bomb and get answers. we know from talking at the centers, that the robo call carries the same threat. that's been recorded. now law enforcement has been using that as a tool to see if it's the same threat being used at all these various centers. what is the same? the threats do sound the same, that there's a bomb in the building, usually it's a direct threat against killing jews. with all of this, you can imagine this is a challenge for law enforcement. the fbi and the justice department civil rights division are investigating. we also know the department of homeland security is continuing to work with some of these centers on training for situations like this. luckily we have not seen anymore threats since that fifth wave we saw on monday. all of these have turned out to be hoaxes. i can tell you, talking to one of the directors, when they get one of these waves of threats, one center gets a call and they all communicate with each other. this one director told me he
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goes into work expecting possibly they're next, they're going to get a threat. every time the phone rings, they have anxiety. >> the fact there have been five waves speaks volumes. >> you can see why it's complicated. >> brynn gingras, thanks so much. attorney general jeff sessions this morning facing mounting calls for him to recuse himself from investigating alleged ties between russia and the trump campaign. it's not just the democrats this morning laying on the heat. it is republicans as well. coming up next, democratic senator patrick leahy will join us. he's among those calling on sessions to recuse himself. he sits on the committee that asked sessions that key question in his confirmation hearing. he will be with us next. it's an important question you ask,
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breaking this morning, senior republicans on capitol hill calling on attorney general jeff sessions to recuse himself from any investigation into trump campaign contacts with russia. some democrats flat out say he should resign. >> that's right, democratic senator patrick leahy is on the committee which asked sessions specifically curiduring his confirmation process about contacts between the trump campaign and russian officials. let's talk about whether the senator thinks that the attorney general was honest with him. senator leahy, thank you for being here. before we get to your written questionnaire question, let's listen to the exchange between
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the attorney general and your democratic colleague, senator al franken, on january 10th. >> cnn just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week that included information that, quote, russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about mr. trump. these documents also allegedly say, quote, there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between trump surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government. 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. >> i did not have communication with the russians. he's the one who offered up, senator, that he was a surrogate for the campaign at that time. do you believe that the attorney general lied to your committee? >> i didn't believe that the answer he gave to senator franken. i think senator franken asked a very clear question. i don't think senator sessions gave an accurate answer. so i asked a very, very specific question. i think, you know -- >> we have it. we'll pull it up. >> but what i said, in it i said, asking him about it, remember, now, these answers are under oath, under oath, and i said, did you have any contact either before or after election day. i thought my question was very clear. his answer is very clear.
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he said "no." well, that's not what happened. >> you asked him, senator, just to be clear, you asked him if he had contact before or after the election about the 2016 election. to that he answered no. does that give him wiggle room? >> no. >> because he could say he met -- >> it doesn't. because one of those was at the republican national convention when he met with the russians. do you think they were saying, the food is really great here? come on, we're all grownups here. >> ambassadors always go to convention. >> this was a big gathering. they met on the grounds, a heritage foundation event, doesn't necessarily mean they talked about it. we want to get your specific answer on two questions. the first is, in his oral testimony, do you believe that he perjured himself? did he lie with intent to senator franken in his response? >> he did not give an accurate
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answer. >> did he lie? >> the answer is not true. we'll let others make that determination. i was a prosecutor. i would not have accepted that answer. and i know senator franken does not. but the facts, let's not lose sight of the bigger facts here. this is something that concerns both republicans and democrats. russia has been and continues, continues today, to be meddling in affairs in the united states. they're doing this in other countries around the world. now, we're the greatest democracy in the world. are we going to allow a country like russia to undermine our democracy? i don't care if it benefits republicans or democrats. the fact is, russia, a country that has no love for us, they should not be allowed to interfere with our elections. obviously attorney general sessions, as we investigate this matter, can't be part of the
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investigation. he has totally disqualified himself from being part of the investigation. we have to have an investigation the american people can trust. they're not going to trust an investigation by him. >> senator, have you met with any ambassadors over the last year? >> i did. last week i met with the ambassador from colombia, along with the president of colombia. i've worked with other senators, as you know, to bring about and help them as they try to stop the war that's been going over there for over 50 years. >> senator, you're doing your job as senator, and part of a senator's job to sometimes to meet with ambassadors. so could there not be benign reasons for these meetings between then-senator sessions and the russian ambassador? >> if it was benign, why didn't he give the answer that he did? again, i'm a former prosecutor. these are the kinds of things
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that raise a lot of questions in my mind. >> we want to get you on the record as well with a direct response to your written questionnaire, which is also, as you noted, under oath, asking sessions whether or not he had any contact with the russian government about the election either before or after election day. his response, one word, "no." do you believe he lied to you with that response? >> he did not give a truthful answer. >> senator, these are, again, i understand your feelings, these are serious charges. you are saying that the attorney general of the united states may have perjured himself. what do you suggest doing about that? will you -- go ahead. >> these are serious questions. and i understand, i'm the dean of the senate, i've been here longer than anybody else. i don't make these allegations lightly. i make them very seriously, the same way i would have when i used to prosecute people. the fact is, we know two things, or several things. one, the attorney general cannot
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be involved in any investigation of russia. he has totally ruled himself out of that, whether he likes it or not. the second thing, though, and the thing that goes way beyond jeff sessions or anybody else, why is russia meddling in our affairs, why is russia meddling in our elections, and what are we going to do, all of us, to get a clear, honest, honest, and objective answer to the american people? the american people, i don't care what party they belong to, they deserve an answer, why is russia trying to undermine our form of democracy. >> senator patrick leahy in have the -- leahy from vermont, dean of the senate, thank you very much. we have breaking news right now. >> announcer: this is stone in breaking news. good morning, everyone, i'm
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p poppy harlow. >> i'm john berman. thanks for joining us. in the next 60 minutes, we're waiting to hear from two leading democrats, senate minority leader chuck schumer and house minority leader nancy pelosi. overnight sessions said sessions should flat out resign. she accused him of lying under oath, under penalty of perjury uhrour when he said this back in january. >> 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 activities. i have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign, and i did not have communications with the russians. >>

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