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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  March 3, 2017 12:00am-1:01am PST

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>> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. >> and hello, we're coming to you live from atlanta. welcome to our viewers here in the united states and all around the world. i'm natalie allen. >> and i'm steven. we are following breaking news out of washington. new reports of contacts between donald trump's campaign advisors and the russian ambassador to the u.s. >> attorney general jeff sessions will not be investigating any of those allegations. he recused himself thursday, acknowledging he met with the russian envoy twice last year. sessions failed to disclose those meetings during his senate confirmation hearings. a growing number of democrats in congress say sessions didn't go far enough. they want him to resign. >> president trump is standing by his attorney general, calling the controversy a witch hunt. he released a statement on thursday saying, jeff sessions is an honest man. he did not say anything wrong. he could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional. this whole narrative is a way of saving face for democrats losing
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an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win. democrats are overplaying their hand, they lost the election, and now they have lost their grip on reality. >> meantime, the senior trump administration officials says the president's son-in-law jared kushner and former national security advisor michael flynn also met with the russian ambassador at trump tower in december. >> the top campaign advisor says he and two others met with the russian envoy sergey kislyak during the republican national convention last july. >> i'm not going to deny that i talked with him. >> so you did talk with him. >> i will say that i never met him anywhere outside of cleveland. let's just say that much. >> the only time that you met him was in cleveland? >> that i may have met him possibly, might have been in cleveland. >> okay. for more on attorney general jeff sessions' decision to recuse himself, here's cnn's pamela brown. >> i have recused myself in the matters that deal with the trump
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campaign. >> reporter: just three weeks into his job as the nation's top cop, attorney general jeff sessions announcing he is taking himself off of any investigations regarding russia after revelations that he failed to disclose two meetings he had with russia's ambassador to the u.s. a man considered by u.s. intelligence to be one of russia's top spies. >> let me be clear. i never had meetings with russian operatives or russian intermediaries about the trump campaign. and the idea that i was part of a, quote, continuing exchange of information during the campaign between trump surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government is totally false. >> reporter: the two meetings between sessions and the russian ambassador took place last year. first in july on the side lines of the republican convention, and then again on september 8, when the russian ambassador met then senator sessions in his
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office when he was a member of the senate armed services committee. at the time sessions was also a leading trump campaign surrogate. >> do you swear -- >> reporter: at sessions' hearing on january 10th, he denied any contacts between trump surrogates and russia. >> 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 at a time or two in that campaign, and i didn't have -- did not have communications with the russians. and i'm unable to comment on it. >> reporter: sessions defending his answer. >> i was taken aback a little bit about this brand-new information, this allegation that surrogates -- and i had been called a surrogate for donald trump -- had been meeting
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continuously with russian officials and that's what i focused my answer on. in retrospect, i should have slowed down and said, but i did meet one russian official a couple of time. >> reporter: last night when news of the meetings with russia's ambassador broke, justice official first said sessions did not remember the details of the meetings. then his spokesperson said sessions met with multiple foreign ambassadors in his role as a senator on the armed services committee, not as a trump campaign surrogate. but a justice official also acknowledged superficial comments about the election did come up in those talks. and then late last night in a written statement, sessions denied holding meetings specifically with the purpose of discussing the 2016 campaign with the russians, 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. still, some democratic leaders are calling on sessions to resign. >> it would be better for the country if he'd resign. >> he has proved that he is
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unqualified and unfit to serve in that position of trust. >> reporter: and for contacts, it's not unusual for attorneys general to recuse themselves from an investigation. in fact, past attorneys general have recused themselves multiple times during their tenure, including president obama's attorney general for a time, eric holder. typically what would happen is the deputy attorney general or a u.s. attorney would then over see the investigation. pamela brown, cnn, washington. >> leslie joins us now from london. she's a senior lecturer in international relations at the university of london. first of all, how much trouble do you think the white house and the president donald trump is in? because depending on what side of the aisle you're in here in the u.s., some people are saying, well, there is nothing untoward, it's nothing you're meeting ambassadors if you're part of the presidential campaign. democrats calling for the attorney general to resign and generally calling into question the credibility of the president
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on this. >> i remember that the issue is not that jeff sessions met with the russian ambassador. the issue is that he wasn't honest about this and he didn't reveal this. he actually offered explicitly in his confirmation hearings the statement that he had had no contact. so, it's the lying under oath, which is a grave problem, and it's also -- you have to remember the broader context here, right? there are ongoing allegations of russian efforts to undermine the integrity of the u.s. elections. this is extraordinary. if you think about it, right, this is the attorney general is very important role in the u.s., as we know, and having this integrity of this office is absolutely essential. so, it's the dishonesty rather than the context. of course it's not obviously the case that it was wrong for him to meet and it's not clear what the content of those discussions was, but to actively deny that is a very serious concern now. >> right. and that's as far as the
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specific case of the attorney general jeff sessions is concerned. but back to my question about what it's doing politically to the president, it seems that the white house is constantly playing defense at a time when they should be 100% focused on their main legislative issues. >> that's right. and we're barely into this presidency and it's only been several weeks. we haven't hit the 100 day. we've lost a national security advisor, shortest tenure in history. so, this question of u.s. and the trump administration's relationship with russia has plagued this presidency, and it has prevented i think sort of forward looking. interestingly, we were expecting the release of a revised travel ban on wednesday. that has not come out, and in large part i'm sure due down to the fact -- i'm not saying that's a good or bad thing. but in large part it is a sign of a distraction. so, this has been very damaging for the trump administration, and it's not going to stop,
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right. the investigations will proceed. there are a lot of questions about whether or not there will be an independent prosecutor or who will lead those investigations. but it casts a very serious shadow over the current presidency, and one that the rest of the world, of course, i'm sitting here in london, the rest of the world is very aware of this, following this, and it raises a lot of uncertainty and concerns in europe as well. >> is there anything at this stage the president can do to put this behind him? >> reporter: i think that the wisest move, of course, would be for the president to say we need to look at this. it's appropriate to pursue an investigation, an independent prosecutor has been suggested. it makes sense, i think, to take it out of the justice department so long as the attorney general remains in place. of course, he's recused himself which is a good move. but really the president should support this. rather than tweeting, right, that this is, you know, all about the democrats being sore losers, to respect the integrity of this kind of investigation is absolutely essential on the part of the president of the united states of america.
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>> do you feel the president has a credibility gap now after he said to reporters that he had no ties to russia, nor did his campaign? he was really very categorical about it during that infamous press conference a few weeks back when reporters asked him about it. >> reporter: yeah. this is clearly the credibility issue on the relationship between the president and his -- the people surrounding him and the connections with russia is one, again, that's been cast a shadow over the current presidency. it's not going away. and every time it gets quiet for a few days, there is sort of a new revelation. i think this will continue to be absolutely central. it raises some real credibility issues, and it's a massive distraction. it's a necessary distraction now because it's absolutely essential i think to investigate further. but again, the wisest move for those in the white house right now would be to just to back an investigation and to let the process of looking into this go
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forward, and to grant that that's important to the integrity of american democracy. >> all right, leslie in london, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> appreciate your time. >> let's look at the time line hereof how revelations of connections with russia have plagued the trump campaign and administration. it started last year with trump campaign manager paul manafort on august 14th, "the new york times" reported on a $12.7 million secret cash payment earmarked ford manafort from a pro-russian political party in ukraine. manafort denied the story but resigned from the campaign a few days later. >> and fast forward to december and mr. trump has picked michael flynn to be his national security advisor. investigators intercept communications between flynn and the russian ambassador, including calls on december 29th. now, why is that important? that's the same day the obama administration imposed sanctions on moscow for interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. >> flynn, the white house and the kremlin initially said
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sanctions were not discussed in those calls. turns out that may not have been true. and michael flynn resigns february 13th. he admitted giving the vice-president elect incomplete information. >> and now the top cop of the u.s. has had to recuse himself from investigations on contacts between moscow and the trump campaign because of those previously undisclosed meetings with the russian ambassador. >> well, let's get the perspective from moscow and head there now. cnn's international diplomatic nick robertson joins us now. what are the implications of pointing the finger at moscow's man in washington? >> reporter: well, the reaction here is one of anger, of frustration, of claims by the foreign ministry spokes woman that this is a media vandalism. we've heard from the president spokesman here as well, pest could have describing the atmosphere in washington as one that is emotionally charged and they really need to wait until
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the situation in washington is normalized. there is a huge frustration that this internal political fighting, as they see it, that is going on in washington is tarring russia and in particular their ambassador there. this is something really that we're hearing very, very strong push back from from officials here, particularly the foreign ministry spoekts man -- spokes woman rather, speaking about the allegations that the russian ambassador to washington according to former and current u.s. officials quoting from intelligence officials saying that he is indeed a spy and a spy master. this is how she responded to our matthew chance. >> i mean, mr. kislyak is a well known, i mean, world class diplomat who was a deputy minister of foreign affairs in russia who has communicated with his american colleagues for
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decades on different fields. and cnn accused him on being a russian spy, recruiting -- >> it was u.s. officials that accused him of that. >> stop, stop spreading lie and false news. this is a good advice for cnn. >> reporter: are you concerned that the investigations into russia are going to turn up more secret meetings? >> please, stop spreading lies and false news. >> i think you get a sense there of the frustration and the anger. the point being from officials here that this was a diplomat who was doing his job, she said. it's the job of diplomats in whatever country they're in, and whatever, you know, whatever country they're representing to get out and talk with people, understand what the officials in that country are thinking, and ever more so when there is a change in administration. their point being, he was doing absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. this is outrageous. these accusations are outrageous
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and wrong and the bigger point, they are damaging the relation between the united states and russia at an important time. >> i was going to ask you about this, if they can be damaged any more than they are right now. and it also, perhaps, delays relating to the mess in the middle east and doing something about it and working together on the wars going on. >> reporter: sure, i mean, there are very big important issues that are very important for russia to deal with, and they are currently deal with them. they've got sanctions on them from europe, from the united states over ukraine, syria, they have an active military campaign going on there. it has in the past, at least at a diplomatic level involved the united states in trying to find a peace solution there. and the sense in reesh is they have no one to go to. the state department no clear policy, and part of that is because the relationship between washington and moscow is so
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strained at the moment and is toxic and polluted by these accusations and by the involvement of the russian ambassador in washington. so, you know, while we hear from the president's spokesman saying we need to wait until the situation normalizes, the reality of that chance that sort of warm relationship that was being sort of built in the nature of the dialogue we were hearing from president putin and from president-elect trump and now president trump, that's gone away and that is replaced by a sense from russia's side the window for dialogue is closed, that it's still open, that there is a potential to talk, indeed russia really sees if it closes the window on this current administration, it has another four years to wait potentially before there is a chance to, you know, change the dialogue with washington. so, the perspective here is that they need to wait, but the reality is that that waiting is incredibly frustrating. i mean, they have foreign policy issues that they want to push
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ahead with, that they are pushing ahead with. sanctions on the country that they would like to see lifted and none of this can happen until they can improve the dialogue with washington, and this atmosphere right now, that doesn't seem like it's about to happen any time soon, natalie. >> i know it doesn't at all. all right, we thank you, nick robertson for us from moscow. thank you, nick. >> there is another major story that we are following this hour. vice-president mike pence reportedly used a private e-mail account in his dealings while he was governor of indiana. and that account was hacked. >> the indianapolis star newspaper broke the story and the reporter behind it explained what he found. >> reporter: he used a personal aol account to correspond with his top advisors on issues related to homeland security and other sensitive issues. the cyber security experts told us, you know, can be vulnerable
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to attacks from hackers. in fact, the e-mail was hacked. his e-mail account was hacked by apparently a scammer who, you know, sent an e-mail out to his contacts claiming that pence was stuck in the philippines and needed some money wired to him. >> all right. stay with us. we're going to take a short break. when we turn bark, can attorney general jeff sessions be charged with perjury after he failed to mention he met with russia's ambassador? we ask cnn's legal analysts. stay with us. and verizon has been ranked number one for the 7th time in a row by rootmetrics. (man) hey, uh, what's rootmetrics? it's the nation's largest independent study and it ranked verizon #1 in call, text, data, speed and reliability. (woman) do they get a trophy? not that i know of. but you get unlimited done right. (man 2) why don't they get a trophy? (man 3) they should get something. (woman 2) how about a plaque? i have to drop this. my arm's getting really tired. unlimited on verizon. 4 lines, just $45 per line. this is one gorgeous truck. special edition.
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like at a comfort inn? yep. free waffles, can't go wrong. i like it. promote that guy. get the lowest price on our rooms, guaranteed. when you book direct at book now. welcome back. the trump white house apparently didn't know that u.s. attorney general jeff sessions met twice last year with russia's ambassador to the u.s. a senior administration official says the white house only learned of it when the news broke wednesday night. on thursday, sessions recused himself from any investigation into the trump campaign's relationship with russia. >> but sessions wassant the only trump advisor who met with the ambassador. cesareanier official says the president's son-in-law jared kushner and former national security advisor michael flynn also had a brief meeting with him at trump tower in december. >> let's bring in cnn legal analyst and criminal defense attorney page bait to see what
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the legal implications are of all this. page, good to have you with us. one of the questions that is being raised obviously is was there anything illegal in what jeff sessions said to congress during his confirmation hearings, listened to how charlie christ, a democratic congressman put it? >> the notion that you have somebody at the head of the justice department, which essentially is what he is, and saying that he's digging in his heels, that he's recusing himself, he's going to go to time-out room in elementary school, the analogy i draw is not to be funny. it's to put the seriousness of this issue where it needs to be. we have an attorney general basically being exposed for having lied to the american people while under oath. that's called perjury. that is an offense that somebody ought to charge him for. >> all right. so, let's ask a lawyer. is it perjury? >> it could be, but it doesn't sound like perjury to me. perjury is a specific federal crime. you have to be under oath and he clearly was at the time he gave this answer.
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you have to make a false statement. and i think if we look at what he said, it's arguably a false statement. he said he had no communications with the russians. >> and we now know he met twice, with the ambassador. >> there's more. you have to show the person willfully intended to mislead, in this case congress when he gave his answer. and i think there is enough about that answer where senator or mr. sessions can now say that i was speaking only as a representative of the trump campaign. and in that connection i didn't have any communications with the russians. >> but it's kind of difficult to understand from a layperson's point of view. he is asked the question about contacts with russians. he's met with the ambassador twice and he says, i've never had contacts with the russians. how is that not intention to mislead? >> in a perjury prosecution or any investigation relating to a false statement made under oath, one of the first things a prosecutor looks at is the question. before you even get to whether the answer is truthful, look at the question. was it precise, was it vague?
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was it clear that the subject matter that the questioner was asking about was limited to one particular type of communication or was it so broad as to cover everything? in this case, i think senator franken was not very precise with his question. he was talking about the breaking news, he was talking about the allegation that the campaign had continuous communications with the russians. and, so, in that context since the question was kind of vague, it's harder to prove a perjury case. >> but the answer sounds pretty precise. >> it was. in fact, i think the answer was nonresponsive to the question. senator franken basically asked him, what would you do if you found out this was going on? and instead of answering that question, mr. sessions said, well, i didn't have any communications with the russians, which was really nonresponsive. and in my opinion, should have led to a follow-up question from senator franken saying, well, hold on a second. did you have any communications at all with the russians during the campaign? had that question been asked and answered, i think we would see a perjury prosecution.
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>> you're saying as it stands it's not clear whether or not it was perjury, it would have to be litigated, and the answer certainly isn't a home run one way or another. >> right. >> who would actually take the initiative of bringing this case? >> it would have to be the department of justice and of course mr. sessions is at the top of the department of justice. unless he appoints special counsel to investigate not just the russian connection, but whether or not his testimony before congress was perjury, then nobody is going to look at it because even though the statement was made to congress, congress cannot investigate someone for a crime. that is left up to the executive -- >> there is not going to be a case unless jeff sessions brings a case or instructs someone else to bring a case against himself? >> that's exactly right. >> all right. page peyton, cnn legal analyst, appreciate it. >> thank you. >> lots of analysis around this one for sure, and we'll continue to bring you more in just a moment. president trump says jeff sessions did nothing wrong with his meeting with the russian ambassador. some top democrats want the attorney general to step down.
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>> the fact that the attorney general, the top cop in our country, lied under oath to the american people is grounds for him to resign.
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>> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. >> hi, everyone, welcome back. good to have you with us. i'm sir ill. >> and i'm natalie. u.s. attorney general jeff sessions was not the only member of the trump campaign who met with russian officials last year. >> senior trump administration official says the president's son-in-law jared kushner and former national security advisor michael flynn also met with the russian ambassador at trump tower in december. >> on thursday, sessions gave in to political pressure and
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recused himself from any investigations into the trump campaign and its contacts with russia. >> president trump says he stands behind sessions and is accusing democrats of going on a witch hunt. >> cnn's manu raju has more on the controversy surrounding the attorney general. >> reporter: under mounting political pressure, attorney general jeff sessions stepped aside from any fbi inquiry into russia and the trump campaign. >> i have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the united states. >> reporter: the decision came after new revelations that sessions met twice with the russian ambassador during the campaign season. sergey kislyak, the russian ambassador is considered by u.s. intelligence to be one of russia's top spies and spy recruiters in washington. according to current and former senior u.s. officials, russian officials dispute this
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characterization. sessions failed to disclose those contacts with kislyak during his confirmation hearings in january. in sworn testimony, sessions was asked about russia's meddling in the elections and alleged ties between trump associates and the kremlin. >> i have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and i didn't have communications with the russians. and i'm unable to comment on it. >> reporter: in a questionnaire, senator patrick leahy asked sessions if, quote, you have 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, no. but sessions said he did not mislead the committee, saying that the two meetings with the russian ambassador were not tied to his role in the trump campaign. >> i was taken aback a little bit about this brand-new information, this allegation that a surrogate -- and i had been called a surrogate for donald trump -- had been meeting
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continuously with russian officials, and that's what i -- struck me very hard and that's what i focused my answer on. and retrospect, i should have slowed down and -- >> reporter: democrats say that sessions' recusal is hardly enough. demanding that he resign. >> the fact that the attorney general, the top cop in our country, lied under oath to the american people, is grounds for him to resign. >> reporter: senate democratic leader chuck schumer wouldn't say if sessions committed perjury, but called for a special prosecutor. >> it would be of alice and wonderland quality if this administration were to sanction him to investigate himself. >> reporter: but house speaker paul ryan rejected calls for an independent investigation. >> if there really is nothing there on the whole russia issue, why not just allow a special
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prosecutor to investigate -- >> first of all, we don't have that law remember at the end of the day we have to have protect our intelligence assets. we do not want to compromise our sources and our methods of getting intelligence from any adversary let alone russia. >> reporter: and on capitol hill fbi director james comey was making the rounds including a private briefing with the house intelligence committee. but after that briefing, democrats were not happy, including the top democrat on the committee, adam schiff who said that comey was not forthcoming on a lot of key details and now schiff calling for an independent prosecutor to go after this issue of possible russia connections with the trump campaign associates. but the question is will republicans go along with that. we're not getting any indication that is going to happen as of yet. manu raju, cnn capitol hill. >> david ciders is senior reporter for politico, the attorney general, david, has recused himself from this investigation. what is the reaction on capitol hill? >> well, i think from democrats it's fairly predictable.
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this is not enough for them and they want to keep pushing the issue. we saw chuck schumer and nancy pelosi both call for a resignation, not just a recusal. clearly they want to pound this issue home. on the republicans it was a bit more of -- there was some moderating that had to be done. initially they were saying there should not be a recusal, and then overnight into thursday we saw at least some of them breaking ranks and saying that would be appropriate. >> and, so, what of sessions now? he sits out a major investigation into russia and their involvement in the election. >> well, what he said is that he was advised by attorneys in the office that this was the appropriate thing to do since he was a surrogate in the campaign. this falls to the deputy now, most likely assuming his confirmation, and then we'll see. he does sit on the sideline. >> president trump said this in a statement about what happened. jeff sessions is an honest man.
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he did not say anything wrong. he could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional. what is the reaction to the president's words on this? >> i think clearly that he's doubling down and calling this a witch hunt. you know, the president's strategy, i think, or avenue from the get go on this was to not go after the alleged ties between the campaign and russia but rather to focus attention on leaks. there is some indication that his base appreciates that and that republicans may be more concerned about going after who is leaking and who is giving information to the press than you're hearing about what those ties actually are. and, of course, the democrats go ballistic about this. i'm out here in california where we have a congressman tweeting out links to how to leak better to reporters. so, the liberal side of things clearly sees this as an opportunity. >> well, the bottom line is somehow we are going to learn
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hopefully what involvement they did have, and we are also hearing that two more of trump's advisors, we know mike flynn met with the ambassador, russian ambassador, and so did jared kushner, his son-in-law. that is coming out now. is there a sense that this is trickling out and perhaps there is more here? >> well, not only that, we also heard about carter page today. i mean, there clearly are more advisors from the campaign and people close to the president who are coming out as seen as having these connections. now, individually, i'm not sure any of those is a huge deal. but really what this is is a kind of drip, drip, drip that keeps the president on this issue instead of things that he would like to be talking about. i mean, it was just how long ago that he gave this speech to congress that was fairly well received and he was getting positive remarks or reviews for and then immediately the conversation has turned and
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changed to russia. these drips don't help his efforts going forward. >> right. and what more might he have to do about this other than blame the leakers as far as does he need to step up more and address the american people over the russia issue? >> you know, i'm not sure. the polling, not today that i've seen, but before these last series of leaks, suggest that, yeah, americans were interested in some kind of investigation, but it's not clear that his base is, the people who he's really trying to cater to. so, i don't know that he needs to. i also don't know if, in my city or anybody else's city, that this is the first issue of concern on their minds. so, i'm not sure what he has to do. and clearly what he's trying to do is to get this behind him and move on to something else. >> we'll see if he's able to do that. david sideers with politico, thanks for joining us. >> thank you.
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>> and on another topic president trump made overhauling the military a major pillar of his campaign. how he says he's going to do that when we come back.
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we're following breaking news. u.s. attorney general jeff sessions has recused himself from all investigations into the trump campaign and its contact with russia. >> president trump faced a flurry of questions about the announcement as he was leaving a navy event. here's that exchange. >> mr. president, did sessions recuse himself from the investigation into your campaign and russia? >> i don't think so at all. i don't think so. >> when do you think sessions spoke to the russian ambassador? when were you aware he spoke to the russian ambassador? >> i wasn't aware of that. >> mr. president, do you think he should have spoken truthfully about whether -- >> i think he probably did. >> you know, even when you're the president and you're setting out to do one thing, if the media is following you, they're going to be asking you
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questions. >> is there a microphone there? yeah, you can't escape. >> doing their jobs. well, trump had spent the event focusing on his plan to beef up the military. he toured the uss gerald ford, a newly built aircraft carrier. >> later he spoke aboard the ship in true trump form to make things great again. >> i am calling for one of the largest defense spending increases in history, and by eliminating the see questions ter and the uncertainty it creates, we will make it easier for the navy to plan for the future, and thus to control costs and get the best deals for the taxpayer which, of course, is very important, right? got to get a good deal. >> let's talk more about this with rick francona in la quinta, california. you compared the spending to the
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military spending of several other countries, just to put things in perspective. u.s. the biggest military spender in the world by far with almost $600 billion. this was for the year 2015. that's three times as much almost as the next biggest spender, china. so, my question is does the u.s. need, in your assessment, to spend more money on this military? >> i think we do because our commitments are worldwide. when you look at these other countries that we're comparing this military spending with, they generally have a regional focus or just their own self-defense focus. so, when you're looking at a military with a worldwide presence, a worldwide mission such as the united states, it's much, much more expensive to run that kind of a department of defense. and we've been suffering over the last several years with the sequestration. so, our real spending has not increased at all. at the same time, we've increased the operations tempo. if you look at the u.s. military, we've been in the state of war since 2001, almost nonstop. this takes a terrible toll not
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only on the personnel, but the equipment, and our equipment is aging. we need to replace some of it. we need to refurbish a lot of it. so, all of that costs money. >> but, colonel, that being said, is there anything that the u.s. wants to do or has wanted to do in recent years that it hasn't been able to do? >> yes, i think that they would like to introduce a more aircraft and more ships on a faster pace. if you look at the u.s. air force, it is the smallest and oldest that it's ever been. many of our bombers are much older than the pilots flying them, many over 50 years old. our tanker fleet is aging. we need to replace those. the fighters are old and aging, and other nations are introducing fifth generation aircraft. we have fifth generation aircraft. we just don't have enough for our worldwide equipment. it's taking a real toll. >> u.s. president trump wants to spend upwards of $50 billion for
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fiscal year 2018. he also wants to find some money to add onto that for fiscal year 2017 this year. do you feel that -- what is the u.s. military going to be able to do that it currently cannot do? >> well, as you know, he wants to increase the number of carriers. we currently have ten navy carriers. he wants to increase that to 12. that's a major, major investment. these are very expensive ships and it's not just the carrier because if you're going to increase another carrier, that means you're going to have to increase to another carrier air group. and that's going to be a lot of ships talking, maybe 40, 50 ships. he wants to increase the size of the navy up to 350 ships. all costing a lot of money. it's not that we don't have enough equipment to do the job now. it's that we don't have enough modern equipment and we don't have enough equipment to replace as we go. if you look at the serviceability rates of marine corps aircraft, navy aircraft,
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even air force aircraft, they are very, very low. we're probably at the minimum acceptable rate right now. >> all right. cnn military analyst rick francona, thank you very much. >> good to be with you. >> well, in just a moment we'll take a closer look at moscow's ambassador to the united states, the man alleged to be a top russian spy. is he? look at that in a moment. ves. verizon. (mic thuds) uh, sorry. it's unlimited without compromising reliability, on the largest, most advanced 4g lte network in america. (thud) uh... sorry, last thing. it's just $45 per line. forty. five. (cheering and applause) and that is all the microphones that i have. (vo) unlimited on verizon. 4 lines, just $45 per line. guests can earn a how cafree night when theypring book direct on and stay with us just two times?
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hour, jeff sessions is under fire after meeting with russia's ambassador during the presidential election campaign and failing to disclose the talks during his confirmation hearing as u.s. attorney general. he denies any wrongdoing. >> both critics and supporters say the kremlin envoy is well known in washington and according to one u.s. law maker, it's unlikely that sessions forgot about meeting him. >> he didn't tell the truth. let me put it that way. anyone that knows ambassador z kislyak, knows he's a formidable persona, and he's not easily forgettable. this last meeting or talk took place in september when there was a lot of heat going on about
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what russia was doing. and, so, it is -- i can't comprehend his not understanding the seriousness. this particular ambassador has been a fixture in washington for a very long time and has a very big reputation. and one would remember meeting with him. >> kislyak is considered one of the kremlin's top spies by u.s. intelligence and that is according to current and former u.s. government officials. >> but russia denies that. cnn's senior diplomatic correspondent michelle kosinski reports. >> reporter: russian ambassador to the u.s. sergey kislyak has spent a dozen of his 66 years living and working as a diplomat in the united states. he and his wife natalia often seen out and about seen at parties and events in washington, d.c. >> i personally have been working in the united states so long i know almost everybody.
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>> he's straight out of central casting. perfect english, heavy russian accent, immaculate suits. he's blunt and he stands out. >> reporter: trained as an engineer in russia and described as highly intelligent, kislyak joined the foreign ministry at the height of the cold war in 1977. he's been ambassador to the u.s. for more than eight years running. but some u.s. intelligence officials believe he's more than that. far more. they believe he has very close ties to russian intelligence. according to current and former senior u.s. government officials. here speaking at stanford, he described the u.s.-russia relationship just after donald trump was elected president. >> most probably we're leading into the worst point in our relations after the end of the cold war. >> reporter: he expressed optimism, things would get better. this week he attended the president's address to congress. now, though, the controversy over kislyak's meetings with
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u.s. attorney general jeff sessions is the second time the ambassador finds himself at the center of the storm r5rding the trump white house. then incoming national security advisor michael flynn had told top members of the administration that when he spoke to kislyak by phone prior to the inauguration, he did not discuss sanctions against russia. later, though, admitting he did not remember whether they had talked about that, flynn was forced to resign. those conversations had been captured and recorded, according to u.s. intelligence officials because russian diplomats' calls routinely are and some of the content raised flags. kislyak has not responded to the latest flap over attorney general sessions. his spokesman saying they have nothing to add to this. from the russian foreign ministry responding to questions over whether he himself is a spy. >> stop spreading lies and false news. >> reporter: echoing a now familiar refrain. something i've heard from former
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spies is that the russians have really stepped up their spy game in recent years skpuand you can that by looking at their embassy in washington, d.c. they estimate half of the personnel in there are related to intelligence. as russia continues to figure into the political controversy in america right now, whether it's hacking, spying or just talking, michelle kosinski, cnn, the state department. >> if you're in government or if you happen to be president, international espionage is not a laughing matter. but if you are a late night comedian, it's just more material. >> have at it. and the u.s. talk show hosts are having a field day with the jeff sessions story. have a listen. >> big news today out of the kremlin. i'm sorry, i misread that. white house. [ laughter ] what makes it worse is that he lied under oath while interviewing to be the guy who prosecutes people for lying
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under oath. how do trump's people keep forgetting that they've met with russians? the russian is always the highlight of your day. you could meet an alien after a russian and still, you'll never happened on the way to ha alien. oh, my god, i met a russian. >> he recused himself but he still claims he did not lie under oath. then he said, i'm not under oath right now, am i? [ laughter ] if i am, you've got to tell me. >> when asked if the allegations were true, sessions said absolutely niet. this afternoon jeff sessions said campaign -- i thought he said champagne. [ laughter ] >> so, there was a mix up. it's an honest mistake. >> a little bit more from the comedians actor alec baldwin is known for his skagting i am person asian of donald trump on saturday night live. he says he didn't hate trump, but when he was asked to play the part he said he wasn't interested until his first dress
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rehearsal. he told talk show host jimmy kimmel what happened next. >> i had no idea what i was going to do. i tried to stick my face out. my mouth out. i was in the makeup room. they were putting my wig on. it was like a scene from a mental hospital. the wig on me, china, china. >> he's got the china thing down. baldwin and kimmel later discuss the possibility the actor would play the president at the white house correspondents dinner. mr. trump says he won't attend it this year. we'll have to wait and see if alec baldwin attends. getting crazy. thanks for wraching. i'm natalie allen. >> early start is next for viewers here in the united states. stay tuned. more news coming up with max foster out of london.
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president trump standing by his attorney general. it came hours after jeff sessions said he'd recuse himself from matters regarding the 2016 election. will this be enough to quiet critics who say sessions lied about meeting the russian ambassador? good morning, thanks for getting an early start with us. i've david briggs. >> i'm christine romans. it is friday. i like to say that twice, it is friday. march 3rd, it is 4:00 a.m. in the east. let's continue with that breaking story overnight. president trump stepping forward with a powerful defense of attorney general jeff sessions just hours after sessions recused himself from any