tv CNN Newsroom With John Berman and Poppy Harlow CNN March 19, 2017 8:00pm-9:01pm PDT
religion of nature, the religion of love and the religion of the future. good evening. i am john berman. welcome to cnn's special coverage a. moment of truth for this white house, and we mean that literally and seriously. within the next 12 hours the fbi director could affectively call the president a liar and testify under oath that president obama never ordered wiretaps on trump's phones or any phone in trump tower, and that's what trump said with no evidence, and if that's what we hear from james comey tomorrow, no evidence or wiretaps he would join a trance atlantic all-star team of politicians and
intelligence officials that say claims made or statements made on this subject from the president and his press secretary are not true. that is extraordinary. that's just the next 12 hours. within 48 hours we could hear if the president's first supreme court nominee will have a clear path to nomination, and then the health care plan could have opposition in his own party, and that's some week. the house intelligence committee, the star witness will be the fbi director who for the first time might answer questions on whether there is an investigation into alleged connections between russia and associates of president trump. cnn's ryan noble on how we got to this point. wasting little time, hillary clinton's campaign manager linked the hack to president
trump. >> russian state actors were feeding e-mails to hackers for the purpose of helping trump. >> and then wikileaks unloaded a trove of dnc e-mails and among them damaging conversations and it did not take long for donald trump to embrace the hack and russia's potential involvement. >> russia, if you are listening, i hope you are able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. >> as the clinton campaign worked to contain the political damage, trump refused to back down from his kind words about russia and its leader, vladimir putin. >> i already said he is very much of a leader. far more than our president has been a leader. >> days before the second presidential debate in october, two major bomb shells, first the
department of homeland security blamed russian for the hack, and then another batch of stolen e-mails, and at that debate, once again, trump depended on take the focus off of russia. >> she didn't know if it's the russians doing the hacking. >> the next night a. new president. >> i pledge to every citizen of our land that i will be president for all americans. >> as he started to build his new administration, trump still resisted blaming russia. >> it could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace. they have no idea. >> president obama ordered a full review of how russia meddled in the election which concluded it was working to help trump. >> based on uniform intelligence assessments, the russians were responsible for hacking the dnc. >> 22 days before trump took
office president obama imposed new sanctions on the russian government, and michael flynn spoke on the phone with kislyak, and he met with him in person at trump tower, and an administration official told cnn. trump associates including mike pence called the meetings introductory. >> they did not discuss anything having to do with the united states' decision to expel diplomats or impose a sepb khur against russia. >> that was not true. trump associates also held meetings with the am pastor at the republican convention, but insists they were only introductory gatherings, and jeff sessions was one of them and appearing before a senate hearing on his confirmation, he said this when asked about
possible contacts between the trump campaign and russian officials. >> i did not have communications with the russians, and i am unable to comment on it. >> after taking office, sessions now attorney general admitted that he, too, as a senator met with kislyak twice during the campaign and he said it was in his capacity as a senator and not a member of the trump campaign. he decided to recuse himself, and the president himself took to twitter making this shocking claim. quote, how low has president obama gone to tap my phones during this sacred election process. this is nixon/watergate. bad or sick guy. and no evidence was produced to back it up. at this point even republicans contend the evidence just isn't there. >> i don't think there was an
actual tap of trump tower. >> congressional leaders will attempt to unpack the layers of the controversy with the goal of making the situation clear of the people. >> the white house consisted there was no collusion between the u.s. and the russian government. ryan nobles, cnn, washington. >> thank you to ryan for that. we have a lot to discuss tonight. with me senior legal analyst, and cnn politics executive editor, and cnn political analyst and adviser to four presidents, and national political reporter for the "new york times," and a republican strategist and jennifer gra grandhoepl, and david, i want to start with you.
fbi director comey very possibly quite likely to testify that something that the president of the united states said is not true, that he was wiretapped by former president obama. what does this moment mean for the president and the country, david? >> the president's credibility is correctly on the line tomorrow morning. we have not heard from the fbi director, james comey on this issue, and we heard various supports that he thinks there's nothing to it, and this is the first time he will take the stand and he will tell us one way or the other and clear the air of whether the president was correct or was lying, and when he did something that is unprecedented in our history, and a sitting president accused a former president of a high crime while he was in the office and an impeachable offense, and he did so with no apparent evidence, and tomorrow we will learn whether there was any evidence and that is going to be extremely important to the credibility of the president going forward. he's in all sorts of
controversies now, and this may be a good week for him and he may get his health care bill through the house and may have other good news this week on gorsuch, and on his credibility, it on the line on this issue about his tweet accusing president obama of a high crime. >> jeffrey toobin, james kobe has been in the news a little bit, and remind us of this man, who is james comey and how do you think he will respond to this moment tomorrow? >> you know, he was one of the most distinguished prosecutors of his generation. the u.s. attorney in the southern district of new york in has n manhattan, and fbi director named by president obama, but then in october of 2016 in violation of all justice department policy, he announced that the investigation of hillary clinton had been re-opened on the eve of the election, and he announced it has closed a couple days before
election day, and something that many people believe costs hillary clinton the election, so there is tremendous rage at him in democratic quarters, but he is still the head of the fbi, and he is conducting investigations as we speak, and one possibility is that we will not hear a dispositive answer from comey tomorrow, that he will say that this is a pending investigation, i can't comment on everything, and so the expectation or the hope that we are going to have a neat closure of the trump accusation may not be totally justified. >> alex burns, you were nodding your headpossibilities, and the director could say no evidence of wiretapping because that has leaked out from the fbi over time and he could stop short of talking about any
details about the investigation, if there is an investigation, and any connection between the trump associates and russian associates. >> yeah, this assertion the president made without evidence about the wiretapping of trump tower, and it seems so far it has led others to come forward and say there's no indication this happened. if we do get a hard answer on something tomorrow from comey, that's likely to be it. >> that's a big deal. >> is that a big deal. potentially the bigger deal are the long-term questions that we are unlikely to get a resolution on tomorrow, and not whether there's an investigation into ties between trump and his circle and folks on the russian side, but what any investigation might have turned up, and what the nature of the investigation is the scope of the investigation and who is involved in the investigation, and i think a lot of folks would
be surprised if comey went into great detail about any of that. >> governor, alex was touching on what one of the big issues is here, is there any proof of collusion between trump associates and the russians. listen to what the chief of the house intelligence committee said about that? >> have you seen any evidence of any collusion between what i will call trump world, associates, campaign officials, trump world and the russians to swing the presidential 2016 election? >> i will give you a simple answer, no. >> so the republican nunez is not the only one that says no evidence, and clapper says no, he has seen no evidence of collusion, and if there is no evidence of collusion, does that answer most of the questions? doesn't this eventually die out? >> well, the question is is
there going to be a true legitimate independent investigation of this? there is so much going on around the russia question, whether you started at the rnc, them putting this pro russia language into the platform committee, and all of these people that surrounds donald trump who has ties to russia, and the lies. maybe there's no collusion, and maybe it's just all the lies that have happened since the election to cover-up what they are worried about? it's just too much for a committee like the one in the house to do. it has to be an independent committee for the country to feel like they have gotten an answer. and one other thing about comey's testimony, and i don't know he will do this but i think it would serve the country in a great fashion if he would describe, even if it's not about specifically the investigation, but what the tactics are that the russians are using to
intervene in the united states' glob globally and other elections, and are we at risk concerning russia and what can we do about it, and i agree with the others that i doubt he would say that, but it would be really helpful for congress to know and the people to know what the russians are doing in the u.s. and other places to intervene in elections. >> i think there's bipartisan support for that kind of investigation, and the democrats want to see it go further than that, and there's support at a minimum from both sides of the aisle for that. i am curious how republicans handle this tomorrow going forward? i want to play you how they are responding to the wiretap claims. >> was there a physical wiretap of trump tower? >> no, never was. >> no evidence to support the president's claim that he was
wiretapped of his predecessor. >> do you know of any evidence to support that allegation? >> jake, not that i have seen and not that i am aware of. >> we threw in democratic adam schiff there, and how much distance can republicans afford to place between themselves and the president right now? >> on this specific issue, i think it would be full hearty to be connecting yourself too close to this because as it appears, there doesn't seem to be evidence to support this. he truly believes this. he believes in his mind that trump tower was wiretapped and he continues to fallback on news reports that back it up. at the end of the day, there does not appear to be information that backs this up. even across the pond, foreign leaders are saying it's rubbish and ridiculous. hopefully comey will come out and put an end to this, and let's move on. but i think the government
pointed out a good point. aside from this, and whether or not there's coordination from the trump campaign and russia, there is an overarching concern for our nation. >> it's interesting, you are suggesting in a way that the fbi director would do the republicans a favor if they say no evidence. mark preston, it's not like president trump is entering this week in a position of enormous strength. there's a gallup poll that just came out that said his approval rate something at 37% which is historically low, and the comparisons of past presidents don't matter which is the trend line that is ugly for this president, and he dropped in the last couple of weeks, and what kind of moment is it for him politically? >> it's critical that we should point out 37% is tilted because he has virtually no support
among democrats, and he still continues to do well with republicans, you know, with base voters. even if he was not doing well with the voters, let's assume that the aserosion, and let's assume that we saw that drop like an elevator that had its cable cut, and i don't think donald trump would care. he has shown throughout his campaign that he is not be holden to anybody but himself, and he believes that people should take his word for fact, and then move forward. so it's a critical time for his presidency as david said, his credibility is on the line. while it may not be as apparent in the next couple of days, we are seeing world leaders who are
being skeptical or showing skepticism whether or not they can trust donald trump. you need these leaders whether it's germany or the uk or what have you, australia, and when you are trying to fight isis and other problems such as north korea. >> will it have sean affect on other things. crucial test for the president's agenda, and we're talking about a supreme court nominee, neil gorsuch. he faces a hearing, and the health care bill on the line. plus, i'm going to speak to a key member of the intelligence committee that gets to ask questions to the fbi director tomorrow, and what is the view from russia in this? what do they make of the goings on this week? stick around.
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it's 11:21 eastern time, and you are watching cnn's special coverage on the president's crucial week ahead, and hours from now fbi director james comey will testify on the russia investigation and the president's wiretap claim. the president's supreme court nominee in the hot seat for his confirmation hearing and all of this as house republican leaders scramble to try and lock in the support on the health care overhaul bill. and let's bring back the panel.
jeff, i want to start with you. politics aside, and by that i mean merrick garland, that aside, does he face -- are there any question marks legally speaking with neil gorsuch? >> you know, in this very tumultuous ten weeks of the trump presidency, the smoothest rollout has been the nomination of gorsuch to the supreme court. he is impeccably qualified, highly respected, and very -- you know, there are no ethical questions about him. he has experience, and he has been a judge. the only ground on which to oppose him, and it is a ground that certainly many democrats will embrace, which is too conservative. will not protect abortion rights or african-american brights and will embrace the death penalty
with too much gust yo, and those are the grounds that many democrats will use to oppose him, but anything regarding ethics or controversy, none of that. >> so david, you know, merrick garland was nominated to the supreme court one year and three days ago, and there's that which democrats will not forget, but can they afford to be sour grapes on that, david? >> i don't -- listen, they bring a great deal of justifiable anger to the table after the garland experience. that was -- the democrats are right, and it was held out too long with too little inaction in order to produce this result, and still, jeff is right, this is one of the best moments of the trump presidency was nominating neil gorsuch and the rollout was well done, and i think he's a mainstream
conservative and the democrats have to make a fundamental choice, do they want to oppose garland -- gorsuch because he's a conservative, or are they better off letting some of the democrats in red states go ahead and vote for gorsuch on the basis this is a mainstream conservative and let's save our firepower that is objectionable and goes too far, and they would have more credibility with the public if they did that. >> we happen to have a powerful democrat with us, and what do you think democrats should do here? can democrats afford to upstate their progressive base by not fighting to oppose judge gorsuch tphao this ? >> this is a moment for democrats to be really strong for who they stand for. they stand for average citizens. if they don't use this neil
gorsuch nomination as an opportunity to say he has consistently sided with big corporations against the average citizens, and chuck schumer had a whole series of people that were in cases that were adjudicated by neil gorsuch, who were regular folks and had stories, and shame on democrats if they don't use this, and whether it's about choice or big money in politics, and something that democrats have been railing on, and whether it's about the voting rights act, this is a moment to be clear and strong and regardless of whether you are in a red state or a blue state i think democrats have to be united. >> i think that's a sign of what democrats are facing, and mark let's shift to health care, if we can. the latest whip count, 26 republicans say they are against it or leaning that way, and this
doesn't take into account changes that might happen over the next few days, and we are getting a sense of what those changes might be, and do you think the number 26 is likely to be going up or down at this point? >> likely to go up even though we have seen a successful lobbying effort on behalf of the evidence, and certainly speaker ryan being open to making changes to the bill after initially being reluctant to do so, and even if it passes the house of representatives, johns, we know it's going to go to the senate and it's dead on arrival in many ways because democrats will stand united against the bill and you will see a lot of centrist republicans that will not go for it either because of the cuts in the medicaid program, and among other things as well, and as much as we saw president trump just a few hours ago, he spoke to reporters on air force one coming back from florida, and he said things were going well and things were going great, as he often does say, and things are not necessarily going
great with the health care negotiations at this point. >> alex, you suggests some conservative members in the house are being asked to stick their necks out for something that will not pass? >> that's right. mark eluded to this, and one of the political obstacles and setting aside the substantive objections, there's a broad suspicion in the house that they are being asked to take a tough vote, especially for members in the marginal districts that are going to be competitive in 2018, and they are going to be asked to vote for reducing certain kinds of access to health care and benefits people get under obamacare and then the bill will go to the senate where collins and dean will rip the cuts out of it and replace it with something different, and then the bill will go back to the house and you will have to take it or leave it. these are moderates and some conservative members who are in vulnerable positions, and they
are asking if they are going to have it on their record and nothing to show for it. >> can they afford not to get it threw? >> they have to pass something that has lower premiums and rolls back -- >> the house freedom caucus, there's a tremendous block in the house. that's what they want. without their support this is not going to pass. what we have on the table right now is not what we are going to see on thursday. there will be chances. there have been a lot of behind the scenes meetings, and ted cruz, and mike lee met the mar-a-lago with trump administration officials and they understand the significance of it. republicans in the house and national campaign and won on this issue, and there will be major changes, and we are talking about immediate rolls back on medicaid expansion, and lower premiums and also working -- requiring work for those that get medicaid, and these are changes that have to get it done. >> and will that make the deans
happy? >> no. thank you all for being with us here on this pretty remarkable sunday night. appreciate it. democrats on the intelligence committee are gearing up for this hearing tomorrow, face-to-face with fbi director james comey and they will get to ask him questions on the russia investigation, and we will speak to one of the democrats on the committee coming up next. what is the one thing he wants to know? stick around. (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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must-see tv on capitol hill where in just a few hours the house intelligence committee opens the first congressional meeting into weather russia phel meddled in the u.s. election, and james comey could say publicly there is no evidence that former president obama wiretapped trump tower despite the current president's claims without evidence to the contrary. joining me now eric of california who is a member of the house intelligence committee who will take the redeye from california to washington to be part of the hearings tomorrow morning. thank you so much for getting us on the way to the airport. there's a lot of focus on the fbi director and will he say if
the president's claims of wiretapping are false, and beyond that what do you want to hear from him? >> and what is beyond that is most important, and the question that we all have is are all of the deep personally and political and financial ties to russia just coincidences or a convergen convergen convergence? >> you want him to answer was there a collusion between trump associates and russia? >> whether anybody on trump's team was working with russia while they were attacking us, and he could say this is an open investigation and we would not want to compromise work they are doing now, and i think it's important that the american people understand how significant the interference campaign was against the united states, and they are sharpening the knives right now and ready to come back at us as well as
allies in france and germany with elections coming up. >> and yeah, you bring up a good point, they could say there are investigations and we don't comment on active investigations. will you be satisfied with those answers? >> yes, what we want are assurances that they are pursuing all leads and following the evidence. right now we have no reason to believe they are not doing that, and so if an investigation is closed i think it would benefit the president and the american people to say these were all merely coincidences, but if they are not just coincidences, we want to pursue all of them because it's so unusual that so many people on the president's team has prior ties to russia and were going over to russia as they were attacking us. >> nunez, the chair of the committee says he sees no collusion, and clapper says he has seen no such evidence, and you are privy to things we are
not, and do you dispute those comments that there is no evidence that they have seen that there is collusion? >> i would say this is the first of the investigation, so it's early for us. that's why we are asking the fbi director to tell us what he can to make sure all leads will be pursued and this is about looking forward. i know that americans whether you are republican or a democrat or independent, we want to know when we go to the ballot box, these fights belong to us and no foreign adversary like russia did. >> and the senate intelligence committee has asked him to preserve records, and he admitted happen had contact with a hacker that claimed into the dnc and had contact with them after the hacks, roger stone
said. would you like to see him testify before the house committee, and he would like to testify if it's public? >> yes, i think they are all very important witnesses. if you look at this in the best light toward the trump team, it's just bad judgment that you would have so many connections as russia is attacking us, but if you look at it in a more, i think, common sense light, it seems like as russia's attacking us, these individuals are going over to moscow and it seems like they are working with russia during our election. >> roger stone did not work directly for the campaign, and -- >> he was an adviser. >> not in the summer when the meetings are said to have taken place, and you know, there are meetings between politicians and ambassadors, correct? >> right, and roger stone is not a politician, and carter page is not a politician and jeff sessions who met with the
ambassador two times after it was revealed russia was attacking us, and in the best light that's bad judgment, but why would he deny under oath in a senate panel that he met with them, as a former prosecutor when we would present that to the jury, we would say that is a consciousness of guilt. >> his honesty before the senate is a separate issue and it seemed to be less than forthcoming, and these are questions you will get to ask tomorrow. >> coincidences or convergence? >> you have a redeye to catch and we will let you go. thank you for being us with. we appreciate it. we eluded to it right there. exactly what, if anything, is the fbi investigating right now? one of our reporters who has been digging joins us with the very latest, next.
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this issue. as we sit here tonight do we know exactly what the fbi is investigating? >> well, we have some idea. i think what we have been told is we are looking at russian influence. it's very general. what does that mean? we don't know specifics. whether it involves collusion and some of the fake news and other aspects of what russia did, but we know they are specifically looking at russian influence and what role that played in the election, and what they did, and what was going on, and specifically as to who they are targeting in the investigation, if anybody is being targeted, that we don't know. >> i think we know that tomorrow's hearings will be dramatic, anytime you hear comey say anything in public these days, it's dramatic, about the how revealing do you think they will be? >> i don't think it's going to be that revealing. i think we will get one answer for sure that we all expect to hear tomorrow and that is
regarding the wiretap. outside of that, it's really up in the air. i think he is going to sort of hide behind the this is all under investigation, and he is going to be careful, and i think his answers are going to be structured in a way as to not give anything up, and to not show any biersiouiabias, and th long-term investigation, and they have a lot more work to do before they know exactly what happened here and who was involved, and they don't want to let folks know what they know, and so some of the methods they are using to find out the information that they are gathering in their investigation. >> if he does testify that there is no evidence or that trump was not wiretapped and that's all we get, that in and of itself would be significant, and i think you are right, more than that we will have to wait and see. great to have you with us. go back to digging all night as usual. >> of course.
the russian government denied meddling in the u.s. election, and so how is the house intelligence committee likely to play in moscow? senior international correspondent, nick paton walsh getting reaction, and good morning to where you are, nic. >> yes, the kremlin has been clear, they will not be watching as the hearings get under way tomorrow saying, quote, they are too busy in referring to the constant allegations they were meddling in the elections that it like a broken record. they deny it and it makes them look good on the global stage, and at the same time, too, they have to be realizing the kind of scrutiny on trump and russian
relations makes uthard for the white house if he wanted to generate policies, and the u.s. administration, it's going to be difficult to do that, because he is getting scrutiny if anything they remotely do seems to benefit russia. >> on the streets there, do russians care and are they paying attention? >> i think to some degree, state tv plays to this as well. you know, you have to bear in mind what donald trump said just a matter of hours ago about vladimir putin, calling him a tough cookie. that is obviously a statement, if you compare that to trump, a man born with a large amount of money, and putin rose through the ranks of the kbg to lead it and become president over decades, and they are very different men in terms of their
background, and calling him a tough cookie is what the kremlin wants him to be seen as. you know, frankly i think to some degree comments like that suggest that donald trump is keen not to be critical of the kremlin. frankly, at this point, this is looking like a drama that to most degree plays in russia's favor. >> thank you from moscow. we will talk to you tomorrow as this is going on. what stkedoes this mean for u.s. and national security? a former cia officer joins us next. i sure had a lot to think about. what about the people i care about? ...including this little girl. and what if this happened again? i was given warfarin in the hospital, but wondered, was this the best treatment for me?
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a press conference, but is the global impact of the accusations a laughing matter. steven hall is chief of russia operations, and steve the question is, you know, if you are in russia, right now, and if you are in the kremlin and the intelligence service and you see the president of the united states make a joke about being wiretapped while he is standing next to the german chancellor, what is your reaction? >> the russians have to be extremely pleased with their return on investment, and this started last year with the american intelligence community, what they indicated it was an operation to try and increase the likelihood that donald trump would be elected, so that worked out well because that happened, and now you have the chaos where you have a president who is at war with, well, any number of folks, at war with the press and with his predecessors, barack obama, and he is at war with his
own intelligence community and calling into question their professional work. so this has worked out well for the russians. i don't think we can forget the russian's goal at the end of the day, whether we are talking about germany or the united states or any other u.s. allies like great britain is basically to undermine western liberal democracy. that's what they are really going for here, and they are off to a good start here in the united states, i think. >> you brought up the british, and sean spicer read from a claim that they are spying, and even fox news wouldn't pick up that report. we said nothing, and all we did was report a legal mind. i didn't make an opinion on it,
and that was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on fox, and so you shouldn't be talking to me, you should be talking to fox. >> he might not have an opinion on it, but the british have an opinion on it and they don't like it one bit. if you are in british intelligence, how upset are you and why? >> well, obviously gchq, they reacted very strongly and uncharacteristically, and clearly they felt strongly enough about this particular incident to push back on it. look, our relationship with long-time intelligence allies and strategic allies like the british is not going to be destroyed by something like this, but it does put unnecessary strains on it, and really when you are in the business of collecting intelligence and working with allies to try and thwart terrorists attacks abroad, you want it to be a matte and norsm
relationship. >> what are you looking to hear from these house intelligence hearings tomorrow? >> the first thing that i would really be interested in doing is hoping -- my great hope is there will be focus on the real issue here, which is was there any contact or collusion with the russian government and members of the trump campaign before the elections, and everything else is chafe up in the air, and i think we just have to go down the list of folks that we know had been named and associated with these things, and guys like stone and above all, flynn. we need to ask those folks what was going on? what is the nature of your contact with the russians? explain that to us under oath, and only then can we begin a really in-depth investigation, which has to be an independent
one eventually, and i don't think we can rely on the intelligence oversight committees to do it. >> thank you so much. we will be right back. (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. ♪ ♪
begins tomorrow morning at 9:00. it will be anchored by wolf blitzer and jake tapper. james comey is the headliner. will he testify about whether president trump was wiretapped by president obama, a claim for which there is no evidence. what will he say? we'll find out. i'm john berman. goodnight. nazareth, 2015, one of the greatest discoveries of the century is revealed to the world. could this be the remains of the childhood home of jesus? >> that is entirely possible. >> were these ancient artifacts, the personal belongings of his mother, mary?