tv CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield CNN March 4, 2017 10:00am-11:01am PST
>> this is a statement just received from a spokesperson. he said a cardinal rule of the obama administration was that no white house official ever interfered by any independent investigation led by the department of justice. as part of that practice, neither president obama nor any white house official ever ordered surveillance on any u.s. citiz citizen. any suggestion otherwise is is simply false. so we have a categorical denial that president obama ordered any sort of wiretapping of then candidate trump. of course, we are still waiting to hear from the trump white house, more of an explanation, what is he basing these accusations on. he ooffered no proof, no eviden. we know the president is golfing right now and we know, fred, that that is a president who has been accusing the former president, president obama, of a
whole slew of things. he's saying that obama is behind the protests we're seeing at town hall, republican town halls across the country. that niese congress members are holding and that obama or his team are behind the leaks, so it's clear that the president is angry. he woke up this morning and began tweeting around 6:30. now he's on the golf course and we are still wait g ing for morf an explanation from his team. >> all right. west palm beach. thank you so much. keep us posted. so, former u.s. justice department officials are also speaking out about this. we're getting new details. he just spoke with a former senior official. what are you hear iing pr the people who are now u speaking? >> it goes further than the obama administration. these are people directly involved in the investigation that were familiar with what the fbi was doing, what the department of justice was doing
and where they'ir investigation was going, what they were looking at. it's basically a flat, flat denial. i'll read what this former u.s. official told me. he said this didn't happen. it is made up. false. wrong. the official was careful to say that if we had to go down this road, it would have been difficult for us. they would have to go before a a judge, get a warrant to get permission to do this. it doesn't even sound like they were thinking about doing this. there was a huge investigation ongoing. it's still ongoing. into the russia's meddling into the election at no time did anyone present to the department of justice, why don't we get a wiretap of o donald trump's foep. so they are stressing, these are official, an official who's directly involved in the investigation, who's familiar with the investigation.
and has stressed that at no time, did this happen. >> and so, how would this be separate from or related to the obama administration handing over classified information as it relates to russia before president obama depart ed? >> so, because this was a, this would would be involved the fbi and have been an fbi investigation, what trump seems to indicate is that he was the target of the investigation was his sort of phones. his stuff that was wiretapped, so, i don't know that the fbi would have at that time, before he was president, directly briefed him on what the, their investigation was. whether they were going, what they were looking at. the director, director comey has this sort of, he likes to keep it separate, he doesn't like to
talk about ongoing investigations. even with the president. i mean, this is what sort of happened a couple of weeks ago when we reported that the white house asked the fbi to knock down some of these reports. and the point is, there's these rules and the rules are you cannot, you have to keep fbi investigations separate and outside of the white house. so, i don't know, i don't believe the fbi would have briefed him on this. now, it could be that he went to the fbi today or went to some u.s. officials and said hey, were there any fisas out on me. it seems to tweet this o early in the morning, i don't think that would have happened in the morning and i don't know what the fbi would do if he did go to them and ask them, but i think the bottom line is from talking to these official, this did not happen. so everyone basically just kind of sort of wondering where he's getting this from. >> and you mentioned that many of them are simply shocked, too, that this would be said out loud by a sitting president about his
predecessor, without also presenting some facts or something to back up these accusations. >> absolutely. are they surprised? probably not. but you know, when they use words like nonsense, i think that tells you a lot. that's a pretty strong sort of a strong way to categorize what he's saying. but they're not surprised. i mean, it's pretty, it's a pretty severe allegation. it goes really, it's just sounds to them, obviously, ludicrous and immediately when i started calling some of our sources this morning, the reaction was this is just, it's nonsense. it just did not happen. >>. >> thank you so much. let's discuss further steve, a retireded cia chief of russian operations. julian, jay newton small, a contributor with time magazine. good to see you. >> thank you.
>> jay, let me begin with you. a former senior u.s. official with direct knowledge of the investigations. justice department calling trump's wiretapping claims false and wrong. >> this morning, i heard a lot from my sources on capitol hill republicans who said they're very worried about about this. two weeks ago, mitch mcconnell warned donald trump essentially to say we could do with less tweeting. it hurt our cause in confirming your cabinet, in getting legislation done and they had this great week, they had the joint justice of congress where he stayed on message the entire time and it was a very well receiveded speech then to wake up saturday morning to this series of tweets, which is again, a huge distraction, just causes a whole other fur yor, it's just not what they want to
see on capitol hill. really, they consider this a huge distraction and it just reignites the whole debate in america about whether or not this should be investigated. >> and this after you know, donald trump was winning some phrase after his you know, address to joint members of congress, and then seemed to be refraining from tweeting. people even saying he was behaving in a more presidential fashion. then now, this. what's behind this either instinct of not being able to help himself to have to kind of stream of consciousness via tweet? >> it's either strategic, meaning the administration and the president libs to di tract the president, the media a, with this kind of tweet scandal while they're trying to do other things in terms of deregulation.
instead, we wake up with the president herbally making a mccarthy -- while claiming he's a victim. anytime there's a turping point, we should take a breath because this is probably coming the next day. >> so, steve, who is with us on the phone, just a reminder, which is what trump tweeted 6:30 a.m. today. just found out obama had my wires tapped in trump tower before the victory. nothing found. this is mccarthyism. how could he have just found this out at 6:30 in the morning? could this be the result of any kind of intelligence briefing or
he's using some other source to justify these thoughts? >> i doubt it it's the result of of briefing. there's been different news agencies that have been repo reporting. it's an investigation, president trump's investigations to russia. i'd like to pull attention to how a fisa court works. this is a key check and balance. to get the warrant for this. to include rreagan, these thing are not done simply and easily. there have been a number of time
where is the government has been b frustrated, not being able to get the type of coverage it wants ch there's a high bar for this kind of thing. whether it was denied, whether it was requested. any of these things he's alleging via tweet. >> it's a difficult area because of course, as we've seen, the white house likes to keep its distance as the it should from ongoing investigations. if the investigation involves either part of the trump team or perhaps donald trump himself, that's going to be a real difficult issue. these are structured so that it makes it difficult to get into the political realm.
it's a panel of federal judges who makes these decisions. i think something president trump is beginning to learn about how the judicial system works. >> we've been hearing from trump, who is being very critical in recent weeks of president obama. in fact, this just might be considered the latest example of president trump upping his attacks on his predecessor, this is what he said just tuesday. the time for small thinking is over. the time for trivial fights is behind us. we just need to courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts. the bravery to express the hopes that share our souls. >> you heard the rumblings in the room, it's not moving forward. it's looking back or at least in his view, kind of looking back trying to get to the bottom of something that again, there's no evidence of happening.
>> he would always pick ab enemy and rail against that enemy. really united because they were saying on your side, we're going to help you fight, that's what he's still -- of the people or whether it's president obama. it's really about the mentality, which is classic donald trump, the question is, is it helpful in -- democrats, i want to create legislation and what seems to be b baseless claims. >> all right, thanks to all of you. appreciate it. straight ahead, white house and
the web are growing more tangled by the day, butplus, we're keep an eye on pro trump rallies. that's straight ahead in the newsroom. a heart attack doesn't care what you eat or how healthy you look. no matter who you are, a heart attack can happen without warning. a bayer aspirin regimen can help prevent another heart attack. be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen. bayer aspirin.
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jeff sessions says he will amend his testimony to congress on monday, this after he recused himself from any investigations into possible ties between russian officials and the trump campaign. several more trump aides said they had contact with russians during the campaign, including donald trump oes son-in-law, who is now a top adviser. president trump calling it a total witch hunt by the democrats. a former adviser spoke with anderson cooper last night and said in his case, any contact with the russian ambassador was incidental.
>> speak to the russian ambassador for more than ten seconds. >> never more than, again, i don't want to talk specifics, but i can assure you, i've never spoken with the ambassador more than ten seconds. yeah, that's a safe statement. >> i want to bring back a a cnn national security analyst who's joining us on the phone. historian professor, julian. good to see you. and here, hopefully steve as well. while the president making accusations of his pred seecess still in the forefront is this growing web. involving people on trump's campaign or continuing to be in the white house. who have had meetings in the past. with the russian ambassador, you're looking at the faces of them, including the son-in-law, who's a key adviser, a senior advisder now and then michael fn
lost his job over not disclosing enough about this meeting with the russian ambassador. this investigation is continuing to widen. is it going to continue to be a distraction for this trump white house? >> well, it can become much more than a distraction. i think that's part of the aggressive tone you've heard from the president. you have two questions. the first is it's not really question. the russians intervened in the election through hacking and fake news and the second is what was all this contact between russian officials and trump campaign officials all about. and what we saw this week in addition to the story about attorney general sessions were more demands, including from republicans to conduct an investigation, either through a select committee or special prosecutor and not just rely on the republican led intelligence committee, so this is broadening and it's both consuming a lot of time for the administration and for republicans. on capitol hill.
and it also poses a threat. a scandal of this sort can really consume a white house. >> and so, steve, with us on the phone now, while attorney general sessions has recused himself from anything related to the investigation of the russians and involved with u.s. elections, is it your view there needs to be a special prosecutor involved even though there are also committees on capitol hill that need to continue forward with its investigations. is this right for a special prosecut prosecutor? >> yes, i think it's time for some sort of independent mechanism to get involved here. the reason is is because what the russians manage to accomplish in this multipronged influence campaign they were able to conduct during the presidential election could be worse if there was some sort of cooperation or collusion between the trump campaign and the russias. we don't know that. that's why the investigations are going on and that's probably
why some of these wiretapping activities that president trump was complaining about are happening, but when you call into question the potential outcome of the election, in other words, if there was some sort of collusion, does that indeed call into question is outcome of the election, president trump's election, then it becomes such u a hyper partisan situation that you really need something that is far away from the political sphere as possible to do what really amount to a countersb counterintelligence investigation, as to what the role was with the russians and where this is all going, so i think it's time to do something, as far as away from politics as possible on this one. >> and when jeff sessions took to the cameras on thursday and said he's recusing himself, he said in hindsight, perhaps i should have revealed more. in your view, is this amounting to many oversights or cover ups? >> well, there's been a lot of
denials like this. and then following the denials comes some rev lielation that te were more discussions. the more you see of that, the more it at least looks like a cover up and that's why there are these calls for some kind of independent or bipartisan investigation. but it's hard not to follow this story. and not think that the trump administration is at least trying to conceal the extent of f the interaction with russian officials. again, no evidence of collusion. but there's certainly more discussions than they initially admitted to. >> then if donald trump through his tweets, is offering a diversion, does it instead make matters worse, call more attention to these relations potentially between russia counterparts and the trump administration or campaign? >> well, it gets you know, is yet another data point. another part of this steady drum beat about what was happening
between the trump team and the russians. and it does call more attention to that, which may not be a bad thing if you favor like i do, a full investigation into finding out what that relationship was. maybe it was nothing, maybe it was stam, but we need to get to the bottom of it. >> thank you so much, appreciate it. >> thank you. straugt straight ahead, several pro trump rallies this afternoon. we'll talk to supporters b about why they turned out today, plus, a republican senator lindsey graham faces a the tough crowd in a town hall. the feisieisty exchanges, strai ahead. >> i think elections matter. no, you don't. >> fair elections. >> you want the same policies even though you lost. it don't work that way. s been re for the 7th time in a row by rootmetrics. (man) hey, uh, what's rootmetrics? it's the nation's largest independent study
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because we need to. i want to rebuild, i want to rebuild our military because it's broken. i want to build a keystone pipeline. >> just a sample of then agenda graham we want to push. it got quite rowdy and folks were very excited about all that was taking place there. lindsey graham met with cheer, jeer, he tackled a whole lot of political issues and continue v versy, including president trump's tweeting accusing barack obama of wiretapping the trump tower just before the election.
without providing any evidence whatsoever. talking about trump there. >> i don't know if it's true or not, but if it is true, illegally. it would be the biggest political scandal since wa watergate. >> cnn's with we have been monitoring this today. what more did lindsey graham talk b about because he did tackle that at the top. >> right out of the gate, then began to segway to some of the other topics as he faced his first time crowd. this morning, he tackled several issues. not really that whole alleged wiretapping issue, but also, the economy, veterans issues and s yes, russia. >> the tweet by president trump was earth shattering. he claims that the former president illegally wiretapped his campaign.
we need to get to the bottom of that. don't you agree? >> are you going to push for a russian investigation and not just support one? everyone's involvement in russia needs to be investigated. >> all right. >> i believe that the russians did interfere. it wasn't a 400 pound man sitting on a bed somewhere. it was russian intelligence services. you know what i have in common with some of you, i didn't vote for trump either. >> there is clearly opposition against the president. he's a very outspoken critic to trump and that is something he made very clear during today's town hall there in south carolina. but going back to what we talk ed about, it was an interesting dynamic because at no point, did he lose control of this.
yes, there were people angry and passionate about the issues he was talking about, but for the most part, things d did stay in control. of course, things wrapping up. >> it was fascinating because there have been a number of town halls across the country and they had ochk rolled out quite differently. this was a staged setting and it provided the optics that senator graham was very much in control of what was going on. that he was the main attraction. you know, he was engaging with the audience. and i wonder if this was far more advantageous for him than some other town halls we've seen. >> that may be key as more lawmakers host town halls, is tto try to be engaging with members of the crowd, whether they're supporting your policies or against. you saw some holding out red hearts. my colleagues saying they would hold those up to express their displeasure with the senator and green cards for those issues
they were in support of. >> thank you so much. >> meantime, dozens of pro trump rallies are happening today. supporters outside the washington monument in the nation's capitol. those are the pictures you're look iing at now, then there's rallfully nashville, tennessee two national groups are organizing the coast to coast event. sarah gannon is live in new york where there's a rally still underway there in manhattan, so, sarah, what's happening exactly? >> yeah, you can see behind me, there are about 200 people who came out to as they say in their own words, celebrate the president of the united states. and rallies like this, we're seeing across the country today. they're calling these spirit of america rallies. they were organizeded mostly through facebook groups by a group called main street patriots. and they're essentially people, we talked to some of them, they wanteded to come out, kind of as a show of force, or against some
protesting the other protesting, protesting the antitrump protests. in michigan, ohio, pennsylvania, in new york, here in the city also on long island. you mentioned the one in nashville today. i talked to some of the people who came out here to 5th avenue in front of trump tower and asked them why they felt it was important for them to come out. take a listen. >> feel like there's been a lot of antitrump untrue statements made about him and i'm here to show that the silent majority does support trump. >> because i vote d if for him and supported him and he's doing exactly what we asked him to do. i'm completely happy. for everything he's doing. >> so, a little bit earlier today, in front of trump tower, there was an anti trump protest. it was education based. and some of those protesters have actually stayed behind. might not be able to see them
because of the city buses, but they're across the street and for a while, they were changing chants back and forth across the street. now, the nypd say they anticipate the antitrump protest is going to grow again as another is scheduled to come down in front of trump tower here about 2:00. >> thank you so much in manhattan. appreciate it. new details on the fight to beef up security along the border. the department of homeland security now considering a proposal that would separate children from their parents when cross ng the u.s. illegally. that is next.
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proposal that would separate children from adults when they try to cross the border illegally. this is meant to protect kids since sometimes, they are kidnapped and used to cross the border t. newest statistics show more than 54,000 children and na family members were apprehend at the end of october. cnn washington correspondent ryan nobles joins me new. how would this work? >> as you mentioned, it's goal is to curb the smuggling and exploitation of the children, but critics argue it could separate families and could be difficult to impbment. border patrol policy allows children and adults to be b released into the united states while their cases are pending, but under this new policy, the adult could be detained while the child would be put under protecteded status. maybe with child protective services or family member already in tus. now, in a statement, david lapin
b b b, a spokesperson for the department of security said quote, the journey north is a dangerous one, with too many situations where children brought by parent, relatives or smugglers are often exploited, abused or may lose their lives. with safety in mind, the department of homeland security continuely explores options that may discourage those from even beginning the journey. the obvious question, which dhs has yet to explain, is how the agency plans to determine which children are being exploited and which are traveling with family members. the policy at this point is just a proposal, those fine details are still being worked out. during the campaign, president trump promised while he'd have a tough line on immigration, he'd work to keep families together and the obama administration did propose a similar policy when president obama was in office, but chose not to implement it because it was just too tough to put in place. >> so what's next, what's the
potential timeline here? >> well, it's going to have to be hashed out within the department of homeland security and we're still waiting for further executive orders that could come out from white house, so it's going to be a matter of time where all these different agencies come together with a more formal plan before this is actually implemented. >> thanks so much. in washington, appreciate it. u.s. attorney general jeff sessions said he didn't lie under oath and meetings with a russian ambassador and he's expected to amend his testimony on the matter, but will that be enough? our legal team weighs in. (vo) this is not a video game. this is not a screensaver. this is the destruction of a cancer cell by the body's own immune system, thanks to medicine that didn't exist until now. and today can save your life. ♪ ♪
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on monday, jeff sessions will amend his testimony about his meetings with the russian ambassador. president trump still calling the controversy over his answers a quote, witch hunt. sessions has since recused himself into an investigation over possible ties between the trump campaign and officials. the campaign announced his decision following he met with russia's ambassador, twice. something he denied during his confirmation hearing, but the attorney general insists that he has done nothing wrong. >> so, in the end, i have followed the right procedure. just as i promised the committee i would. just as i believe any good attorney general should be. and a proper decision i believe has been reached. >> all right, let's bring in our legal guys. avery in cleveland. good to see you.
and richard in new york, joining us from las vegas. good to see you as well. all right, so, just to refresh everyone's memory, let's listen again to the confirmation hearing question that's being made a reference point when senator al franken asked then senator sessions before confirmation, this was back in january. >> 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 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. >> all right, so, richard, you first. sessions says that answer was correct as he understood it at
the time. is it the phrasing that's key. in your opinion. >> it's not. it's an objection. failure to respond to the question, judge. he didn't answer the question. he threw out what looked like a prepared response here. fred, the elephant in the room here is to what extent if any did the trump, was the trump campaign come poliply sit with attack on our process. that's the issue. people surrounding trump have ties with the russians. they're being investigated. the question here to the proposed attorney general was what would he do if he saw someone have those ties. he offered himself up on a platter. he gave an incorrect answer. it was purgery, fred, it was a lie. it was an overactive occurring, the question is, the intent aspect of it and he had opportunity to amend that answer after reviewing the trypsin of his testimony. he never did, fred.
he never did until he was caught by "the washington post." now, at this stage, he wants to modify and clarify. it's like you rob a bank and six months later, they catch you and you say, oh, here's the money, i didn't mean to rob the bank. he committed a crime, fred. he's the attorney general. it's incomprehensible. >> so, avery, your chuckling tells me you're in disagreement with almost everything richard just said. >> looks like a verdict with all the evidence. what's involved here is it seems improbable if you met with sergei, the russia ambassador, and this is a guy you don't forget. he fills up a room. six months before the testimony. four months, it seems like something's wrong at best ineptitude. but the most important person here is dandana, that's the nam
nobody knows, the acting attorney general and he has the authority to appoint an independent prosecutor. we've seen that before. when attorney general ash croft recused himself. jim >> and do you see that happening likely because of the meetings with ambassador? >> i think it should. i think a straight shooter with the former u.s. attorney in the district of virginia and i think like any other good attorney general, there should be an investigation. it doesn't mean a prosecution, but you've got to get to the facts and the fact that mr. sessions is going to amend in writing, that doesn't do it. he's got to go back in front of senate judiciary, if you appear before a committee, be put back under oath and then clarify, not written. that's not the way to do it. >> do you see that potentially happening because there are some within the senate judiciary who
say they want him to testify again, they want to ask him questions in addition to the supplement he'll be offering for confirmation hearings? >> he should, but he won't. >> and do you see it potentially happening though, richard? >> no. there's no way he's going to appear before that committee again and answer verbal questions. >> if invited or if that is the decision of the judiciary committee, how would he refuse that? >> he would just refuse it. he's the acting attorney general. there are no charges brought against him. he's no way going to go before them again because he blew it the first time. answer with a team of lawyers and prepare responses. as far as special prosecutor, there is no more special prosecutor statute. that expired in '99 and independent prosecutor who does not answer to the department of justice and the the president must be appointed here, fred,
otherwise, we're never going to get a true objective investigation. >> here's the timeline of the meetings that we're talking about. in terms of senator jeff sessions, the net is fairly wide with other trump campaign folks, carter paige, the son-in-law, jared kushner but as it pertains to jeff sessions, he met with the ambassador at the rnc in july and there was another meeting, a later, and as senator and then jeff sessions said there's a distinction. i mean, when he used the language as sometimes, i'm described as a surrogate, so are the meetings different when you are on the campaign trail versus a senator. perhaps few referral brows when you're meeting with the ambassador as a senator, avery? met with a lot of people.
>> the fact that the campaign paid $2800 for jeff sessions to be here in cleveland during the convention and then another $223, it was a campaign surrogate. so if he wants to parse, that's awful for an attorney general but that's going to be his explanation. did he lie? i don't know. and no doubt about it. >> would it make a difference whether you are having this meeting as a senator or a surrogate of a campaign? >> that's a question of fact, fred. he was the first u.s. senator to support trump. he was his ardent supporter. he was by his side from the beginning here. he was his man and at the republican national convention speaking to a russian ambassador which slipped his mind and then met a month later which slipped his mind. this is on the heels of general flynn having to resign his office. it comes on the heels of the intelligence agency.
>> some would argue it's not telling a full story. how is it different, avery? >> because he was put under oath. it makes it more serious. yes, it's not right because he was not under oath but the fact is they locked him under oath, he should appear again. i don't think he will because of the potential criminality of saying something again inconsistent with the facts and with the truth. >> we'll leave it right there. gentlemen, thank you so much. always great to see you every saturday. >> always great to see you too. >> appreciate it. still ahead, we are learning more about what fishes in the trump administration actually knew about these allegations now coming from the sitting
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tomorrow night, cnn's original series "finding jesus" returns for a second season. series explores the ground breaking rather discovery about the role of pontius pilate. >> did others tell you about me? >> i am not a jew. your own nation and chief priests have handed you over to me. >> pilate is almost having a
conversation as opposed to interrogating someone. >> are you king of the jews? >> our kingdom is not of this world. everybody who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. >> what is truth? >> when pilate asks jesus, what is truth, we have a great example of dramatic irony. truth should be exactly the thing he understands. >> all right, "finding jesus" airs tomorrow night, 9:00 eastern time right here on cnn. next hour of the "cnn newsroom" starts right now. hello, again. thank you so much for being with me. i'm fred pleitgericka whitfield. senior trump administration officials say they learned of a tweet storm about