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tv   Wolf  CNNW  March 31, 2017 10:00am-11:01am PDT

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hello, i'm wolf blitzer in washington. wherever you're watching from around the world thanks very much for joining us. we're keeping a very close eye on the white house briefing room right now where the press secretary sean spicer to come out shortly to brief reporters and take questions on the congressional investigations into russian interference in the u.s. presidential election as well as links between the trump campaign and russia and the bombshell from michael flynn who now says he's willing to testify in the investigation but only if he's given immunity from any prosecution. an idea president trump endorsed
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in a tweet earlier this morning. saying mike flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt, excuse for a big election loss by media and dems of historic proportion. that from the president of the united states. we're now hearing reaction from both congressional committees on michael flynn's immunity demand. let's get straight to the breaking news. phil maddingly is on capitol hill. jim acosta is inside the briefing room. phil, what are you hearing right now from both the house and senate intelligence committees about this request for immunity from prosecution in exchange for flynn's testifying? >> wolf, at least initially cool would be the best way to describe the response according to sources in both the senate and the house intelligence committees based on their investigation. the idea that they would grant immunity. one thing we're hearing reportedly, it's too early in the process for them to consider a request, but both committees
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saying they would be unlikely to ascede to this question. we also just received a statement from adam schiff, the top democrat on the committee who initially pointed out it is a grave and momentous occasion that the former national security adviser would be even considering asking for immunity on anything. then he went into details about why the committees might be reluctant to provide such a thing. a key portion of the statement saying we will discussing the matter with our counter parts on the senate intelligence committee and the department of justice. we are also deeply mindful of the interest of the department of justice in this matter. that latter point is the key one that i've heard up to this point as these conversations really kicked into high gear last night. the idea that they don't want, both sides of the chambers when it comes to how these committees are looking into this, they don't want to do anything that
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would impede an fbi investigation. what they're looking into right now. that's kind of the key point that adam shift is trying to make. it's early in the process. they aren't where were near considering such a idea. when they get to the point if consideration is something that occurs, they want to be very careful that they don't do anything, provide anything or agree to anything that would undermine what the justice department is doing. >> stand by for a moment. i want to go to the white house. jim, the president was asked about the flynn immunity request during a white house appearance with members of the national association of manufacturers just a little while ago. listen to this. >> any comment on michael flynn, mr. president? >> no comment from the president on -- when asked about michael flynn. the white house had refused to comment on the situation until the president actually tweeted about it earlier this morning.
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here's the question. does this somehow complicate how sean spicer will need to address this in the upcoming briefing this hour? >> well, wolf, i don't think sean spicer is going to be able to do what the president did during that discussion with the national association of manufacturers. he's not going to be able to simply bite his tongue and not make any comments. we should point out the president did put out a tweet earlier this morning about all of this saying that mike flynn should ask for immunity and that this is a witchhunt, excuse for a big election loss by media and d dems of historic proportion. some complicating factors in all of this namely back during the campaign both then candidate donald trump and general michael flynn made some comments about hillary clinton and some of the people around her who were being talked about giving immunity when it came to their legal and their challenges they were
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involved in and michael flynn on in 2016 says when you were given immunity that means you have probably committed a crime. donald trump at a campaign rally back in september of 2016, if you're not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for? obviously those are comments that sean spicer are going to have to deal with during this briefing coming up in about half an hour from now. i think the question comes at a very critical time in all of this because all week long the main pushback that we've heard from sean spicer with respect to some of these questions about how devin nunes came to the white house grounds and obtained access to that information that he presented to the president and in part to the news media, you know, the response from sean spicer on to all of that has been that the news media is more interested in process than in substance. the question will become i think for this briefing today where does michael flynn's request for
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immunity fit? does it fit into the questions of processor substance? of course there are a lot of democrats on capitol hill who say what michael flynn has to say at this point goes very much to the heart of the substance of this situation. >> jim, we also know the names of two white house staffers who helped the house intelligence committee chairman devin nunes get into the white house, go through those documents. what more do we know right now? >> all we know at this point, wolf, and obviously this is following up on reports in the new york times and "the washington post" is that cnn has been able to confirm that michael ellis and ezra coen, two officials who work for the national security council were involved in helping devin nunes access that information that he was accessing when he was on the white house grounds during that mysterious visit more than a week ago. what is unclear is what exactly those officials were doing in
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terms of helping chairman nunes obtain that information. of course, as i was saying a few moments ago and as we heard some sean spicer this week during the beefin briefings, the white house has not wanted to ask that questions. so the question becomes now that we're here at the end of the week, and you have the resigned national security adviser michael flynn asking for immunity up on capitol hill and at the justice department, do we get some more answers this afternoon. >> another key question and who authorized those white house officials to get him in, to have access to the highly classified documents, did the national security adviser approve it, did the chief white house counsel approve it, did the president approve it. those are key questions we don't know the answers to those questions right now. maybe they'll be forthcoming at some point. thanks very much jim at the white house, phil up on capitol hill. let's talk more about the
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possible legal implications. joining us laura coats, former federal prosecutor. it is early in the process, but both house and senate intelligence committees have to be sensitive. if they're going to give immunity, they have to make sure it's not going to undermine any justice department investigation. >> right. and the people who give immunity is the justice department. it has implications across the board. whether or not you get immunity depends on three things. number one, do i not already have this information? can i get it from nowhere else? two is it truthful and will it implicate someone at a higher level? the fish rots from the head. if i can go above you and get anyone else above you in this case. to give leverage and compromise the ability prosecutor somebody it has to be substantive.
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we don't know all of the facets of the this investigation. the fbi has done it since july but there could be other avenues they have not yet been able to pursue. >> the statement from congressman schiff also said this. he's the rafrnking democrat. when the time comes to consider request from immunity from any witness we will of course required a detailed proffer of any intended testimony. explain what that means. >> here's how it works. if you have a request for immunity, you have this kind of off the record dance you do where you say what are you going to tell me, i'll let you know if you really qualify for immunity. is it worth my while. what they'll do is kind of give a proffer meaning here's what i intend to say. at that time the fbi will essentially evaluate whether or not, again, they already knew about it or i can't get this anywhere else but from you. and remember, there's not yet a smoking gun. we don't have this one piece of evidence. what we have is smoke which in the law is kind of
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circumstantial evidence. it may be that general flynn's testimony is worthwhile because it may be able to connect that right now what are seemingly unconnected points that could be make up a better case. >> laura, excellent explanation. i want to bring in congresswoman jackie spear, democrat from california, a member of the intelligence committee. thanks for joining us. >> thank you, woclf. >> what do you think of michael flynn's offer? >> the fact that michael flynn on the campaign trail talked about immunity as admitting that you have committed some offense is kind of telling in and of itself. but i agree with everyone who has said that it's very premature. again, there's no way that immunity is going to be granted and it would be granted by the department of justice if and only if it provided a bigger fish in terms of dotting the is
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and crossing the ts and getting to someone who is more critical in terms of violating the law. but we also know -- >> i want to interrupt for a moment. you say a bigger fish. he was the national security adviser to the president of the united states. there aren't a whole lot of bigger fish out there. clearly the president is a bigger fish. >> that's right. and if he would be in a position to say the president was engaged in working with the russians in trying to undermine the election, that would be big. >> that would be huge. but i just want to be precise. as of this moment, you don't have any hard evidence to back up that suspicion. >> no, not at all. >> okay. so let talk about michael flynn a little bit more. his attorney speaks of claims of treason against his client. is the house investigation looking at possible crimes committed by trump associates
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right now? >> they're looking at everything associated with the russian interference with our election. it was director comey who said their investigation is look at the relationship of persons within the trump campaign and whether or not they were coordinating with the russians in an effort to undermine the election. so that all becomes part of our investigation. >> but you always defer to the fbi investigation, the fbi director comey. he said there's a criminal investigation under way a week or so ago. you will always take steps to make sure you do nothing to undermine his investigation, right? >> that's correct. absolutely. >> cnn has now confirmed that at least two white house officials, maybe m are helped provide your chairman devin nunes of the intelligence committee with the information when he went over to the white house.
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they then -- he then came back the next day, presented that information to the president as you recall. i interviewed the chairman this past monday and we had this exchange. listen to this. >> did you meet with the president or any of his aides while you were there that night. >> no. in fact, i'm quite sure that people in the west wing had no idea that i was there. >> by holding the meeting on the white house grounds, it makes it appear that someone in the administration was coordinating the release of this information to you. is that not the case? >> no, it's not the case. >> you think he was telling the truth? >> no. i don't. let's also remember how this all started. this started with a tweet by the president when he was unsupervised on a saturday morning. he then attributed it to a judge on another station as being, you know, a jurist with great reputation and then that jurist was terminated by that other station and for the last three
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weeks all we have done is talked about this. and i'm firmly convinced that the president and his aides concocted this and drew devin nunes into it and he became an advocate and an abetter to what i think is an absolute fabrication. and for the president of the united states to pursue this in this manner and frankly have all of us directed away from what we should be doing which is looking at the russia connections is really a shameful set of circumstances. >> do you have any knowledge, do you know if higher ranking white house officials approved the visit by nunes to the white house, access to that sensitive information? we know two white house officials brought him there, showed him that information. one official from the national security council. another official from the white house council's office. do you know if higher ranking
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white house officials approved this visit or did these two guys just act on their own? >> you know, i don't think anyone acts on their own in the white house. there's always someone that you've got to get approval from. and let's go back in time. before our open hearing by the intelligence committee, it was the president of the united states who either tweeted or said in a public setting that just wait, there's going to be information coming out that's going to vindicate me on this. this has been totally and completely orchestrated by the white house and i believe the president knew about it or was part of the effort to do this. >> the white house has offered to show a classified documents they've uncovered which supposedly involve surveillance, indirect surveillance of white house -- of trump campaign, trump transition officials. they've said they will share this information with the chairman, the ranking member of
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your house intelligence committee. will you see them as well? >> well, i believe we absolutely must see all of that information. and let's be clear, too, that when devin nunes talked about it, he said it was incidental collection and he believed it was legal. there is incidental collection that goes on when we are in the process of following a foreign person. because we are trying to find out information about that other country. so if a foreign person ambassador or a frn dignitary is communicating, there can be incidental collection. it is almost always masked. and if the hearing we had on the intelligence committee, the admiral rogers went to some lengths to talk about the process they go through to unmask an aide. again, devin nunes said he thought it was masked but he could tell who it is. the fact that he could tell who it is doesn't change the fact that it was masked.
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>> congresswoman jackie spear, thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you. >> the congressional intelligence hearings of michael flynn are two of the big topics likely to be discussed at length during the upcoming white house daily briefing. sean spicer expected to go to the lectern shortly. we'll have live coverage. stand by this hour. also president trump calling out members of his own party, picking a fight with the house freedom caucus, republican congressman. mo brooks is a member of that caucus. there he is standing by live. we'll get his reaction when we come back.
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welcome back. look at live pictures from the white house briefing room. press secretary sean spicer about to answer reporters questions and there are many questions on the agenda right now. likely to weigh in for example on former national security adviser michael flynn's request for immunity for prosecution and the very latest on the house and senate intelligence hearings on russian meddling in the u.s. presidential election. live coverage of that coming up. stand by. in the meantime, let's get some perspective on all of this and more from republican congressman mo brooks of alabama. he's a member of the conservative freedom caucus. he's joining us from huntsville. congressman, thank for joining us. >> my pleasure, wolf. >> let's get your reaction to the news, michael flynn offering to testify in change for immunity from prosecution . is that a good idea from the u.s. government's perspective? >> i don't know the details of the evidence that the united states government mayor may not have against general flynn.
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quite frankly i should not know. this investigation should be conducted by the fbi or any other investigative agency in a close to the vest fashion until such time as they make a decision whether to go forward or not. from a defense attorney perspective f you' perspective, if you're going to have someone who is involved in an investigation, you should always does for immunity. i don't know if there's a reason, ie, i committed a crime and i want pro tektek protectio. i say that with having been a prosecutor where i prosecuted felony jury trials and helped organize the grand jury for the district attorney or when i was district attorney of madison county for a couple years which is where hunts vville alabama i. >> the fbi director james comey told the house intelligence
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committee a week or so ago that the russia investigation actually started in late july. if this is an ongoing -- he said criminal investigation, counter intelligence investigation, should the president be weighing in on all of this with that kind of tweet as he did today saying yeah, he should be getting a -- he should be getting immunity from prosecution in the middle of an fbi investigation? >> well, i'm not the president. it's not something that i would do. i don't think it's appropriate to weigh into these kinds of investigations. personally i believe it should be kept a little bit quieter. that those kind of offers should be made to the appropriate authorities, the fbi and the house and senate committees that are investigating this kind of stuff t. should be done behind the scenes. and ultimately what i hope will come out of all of this is there will be thorough investigation done and by our law enforcement
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agencies on the other hand and to a large degree we ought to hold back until we have those conclusions. again, having been a prosecutor, huntsville, alabama, sometimes what the initial evidence may show is not what the final evidence may show. that's why you have these investigations that take some period of time. i know it's hard not to talk about these things because the public is so interested. but to me, if i was in charge, i would broaden the investigation involving russia in a variety of different ways and hopefully these investigative agencies and committees will give us a report once their investigation is concluded, once all the evidence has been martialed so that we can have a better understanding of how to react to it to prevent any wrongdoing from occurring in the future. >> your colleague is the respect congressman, chairman of the oversight committee in the house. he responded to the president's accusations of a witch hunt,
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immunity for michael flynn. i want you to listen to what he said. listen to this. >> no, i don't think it's a witch hunt. look, it's very mysterious to me why all of a sudden general flynn is out there saying he wants immunity. a, i don't think congress should give him immunity. if there's an open investigation by the fbi, that should not happen. i also don't believe the president should be weighing in on this. they're the ones that actually would prosecute something. >> based on what i've already heard from you, i assume you agree with congressman chafins. >> to a large agree i think jason is spot on. i also heard jackie spear and i think her comments are also important to weigh and take into account as we work our way through this. the bottom line is as with any investigation, we have investigators who are interviewing witnesses, accumulating evidence. we in the public sector don't always have a full picture. i would urge the american people to wait for a thorough investigation.
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and the results. we can demand a thorough investigation. we probably will not know for sure until that time occurs. >> one quick question before i let you go, congressman. a different subject. the fallout from the failure of the repeal and replace health care bill. the president calling out your group, the freedom caucus. he tweeted and said the freedom caucus will hurt the entire republican agenda if they don't get on the team and fast. we must fight them and dems in 2018. i want you to respond to the president. you're a member of that freedom caucus. you were i believe ready to vote no against that legislation, but go ahead and respond. do you see this as a threat from the president against members of the freedom caucus like you? >> well, if you've read the art of the deal, you looked at president donald trump's history, this is a part of his method of operation. i'm not overrule concerned about
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it. anytime you take a position on a controversial public policy issue, you're going to have some folks that like what you're doing and some folks who don't like what you're doing. moving forward, though, i hope the president will bear in mind that the freedom caucus is going to provide the bull work of the support the president needs on things like border security, trade agreements and making sure that the trans pacific partnership does not resurface in a different shape or fashion. our support is going to be necessary for tax cuts and for the protection of free enterprise. so we're not always going to agree, but there are some major issues going forward where the president will need our support and i hope he will bear that in mind. we're probably the most reliable conservative voice in the united states congress at this point in time. as far as this issue goes, i'm more than happy to get all the credit anyone wants to give me and the freedom caucus for being instrumental in killing a very bad bill that only has 17% support with the american people and that increases health
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insurance premiums for american citizens somewhere in the neighborhood of 15% to 20% over the next couple years, over and above the increases that you would expect from obamacare and the source for that information comes from the congressional budget office and the joint committee on taxation. so i'm proud of the stance that i took and others took as we defeated bad legislation that would hurt america long term. >> congressman brook, he's already tweeted naming names of some of your colleagues in the freedom caucus. get ready for some tweets against you as well. >> comes with the turf. >> it certainly does. we're once again waiting for the white house press secretary sean spicer to come out. take questions from reporters. we're going to have live coverage of that. get ready. also an isis fighter unmasked. a closer look at what's driving westerners to join this terror group. a report you will see only here on cnn.
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michael flynn's request for immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony and the very latest in the house and senate intelligence committee hearings on russian meddling in the u.s. presidential election. we're going to bring you live coverage of that momentarily. today the president said he agreed with the michael flynn asking for protection, but listen to what both president trump and flynn have said in the past about immunity. >> the very last thing that john just said is no individual too big to jail. that should include people like hillary clinton. i mean, five people around her have had -- have been given immunity to include her former chief of staff. when you are given immunity, that means you've probably committed a crime. >> her aides took the fifth amendment and her ring leaders were given immunity. and if you're not guilty of a crime, why do you need immunity for? >> different version then as opposed to now. joining us now gloria, david,
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laura and eugene. gl gloria, what a difference a few months make. >> right. i think in trump's tweet he called it a witch hunt. i think people on the intelligence committees would probably disagree. >> and the fbi. >> and the fbi. that you had james comey saying there is a counter intelligence -- you know, there is an investigation. this is -- you have the intelligence committees making it very clear, particularly in the senate, that this is an investigation into russian ha hacking into an american election. we're going to take this investigation wherever it leads us. so it's not a witch hunt against flynn. it is a question about what the russians tried to do with our election and then of course you have to ask the question why did flynn decide that he needs immunity. >> yeah. david gregory. >> it au just 's so hard to und
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what the president is thinking and what he's doing. he seems to think this is a all and joke and he's fired two people because of this very investigation, because of the manipulation of -- and the hacking of our election. so he's listening. he's paying attention. the fbi is investigating. and yet they have no control over there at the white house. the chief of staff doesn't. the white house counsel doesn't. the national security adviser doesn't. when you have people who are handing over collected intelligence to the head of the intelligence community in a highly inappropriate way, it just shows you that they're not taking any of this investigation seriously. and yet now they've got somebody in a very high position who has a story to tell and who would like immunity. may not get it. what is the story he's got to tell in maybe she doesn. maybe he doesn't like -- excuse me, to the russian ambassador. communications at a time when
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there were big sanctions put in place as a result of manipulating the election by the previous administration. >> david, let's not forget what james comey said a little bit more than a week ago. he said as with any counter intelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed. this is a criminal investigation that's been going on since july. >> a criminal investigation that's been going on. a very serious matter that's bigger than this president or this election. it's about the integrity of our elections and about the u.s. presidency. what also appears to be at work here is that the white house appears to be investigating its own intelligence agencies with regard to why certain information has been leaked, why it has been made public. we know the president's upset about that. has reason to be upset about it. but is that part of what's at work here? are they investigating the fbi and the information that's being collected? >> it's interesting and tell me your analysis, flynn now wants immunity, but the other names that have come up, we haven't
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heard their lawyers say they're demanding immunity. how do you explain that? >> he is the only one really that has kind of an actual criminal allegation that may be pending. that logan act, remember everyone was talking about a couple month ago. a private citizen was trying to u surp the role of a president or executive. that's never been used before, that law, so it's really kind of the tissue. but remember the biggest thing about immunity is you have to have something that's actually worthwhile to the government. and it has to be truthful. right now i don't know that he has information. is it personal vindication? is it professional vindication or is it literally a story that leads to understanding an actual criminal act? that's going to be the key here. remember the person who can give immunity is the attorney general and the department of justice. he's recused himself from the russian investigation. without a deputy attorney general firmly in place who mayor may not oversee this
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actual investigation, this has monumental implications about how long it will even take. >> you heard congresswoman jackie spear say, you know what, you only give immunity if that person can provide testimony or evidence to go to someone higher up. and in this particular case, he's the -- he was the national security adviser to the president. there's not that many higher ups. there's the president of the united states. >> there aren't that many higher ups, but there's certainly interest from dm interest from e people on the committee in knowing the role the president and the vice president may have played or in this situation regarding russia and the election. we don't have that information. but certainly there will be people wanting to know if flynn can provide some insight into that. >> they're not at the place in the investigations where they even know whether they would be in a police to want to give him immunity. because they're at the mason stages of this. >> you're talking about the
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house and senate? >> yeah. >> what about the fbi? we don't know how far along they are. >> we don't know where they are. the other thing to consider here and the president for this is really oliver north and the iran contra committee because if you you'll recall, he was given immunity by congress, but there was also an independent counsel look at the same thing because congress decided it was more important to get to the truth than a conviction. well, that's not how the independent counsel of the. so ollie north testified before the congress, but in the end walsh had a conviction but it was overturned. >> a lot of officials remember now. here's sean spicer. >> good afternoon. first off, i want to catch everyone up who wausn't able to make the briefing last night on the executive orders on the trade -- executive orders the president will be signing. the first directs the department of commerce and the office of the u.s. trade representative to
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examine every form of trade of use in none reciprocal practice that contributing to the large trade deficit which the largest major nation in 2016 at $500 billion. within 90 days the department of commerce and the u.s. trade representative will submit a comprehensive report to the president on the causes of our unduly large trade deficit. it's the first time in modern history that an american president has called for such an investigation. it's our findings will allow us to make smarter decisions on behalf of the american people about our trade policy of our country going forward. that's why the afl/cio, the united steelworkers, and the aerospace workers all came out to applaud the order. the second order addresses the current lack of was inments enf.
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counter veiling duties. they were put in place to address the problem of other countries dumping undervalued goods into american markets. making it impossible for american businesses to compete with artificially low prices. this is especially a problem in countries whose government s subsidize exports into our country. there's a mechanism for assessing these type of transactions and imposing financial penalties when it's determined that this kind of malicious dumping has occurred. since 2001 the u.s. customs and border protection agency has not collected over $2.8 billion in these duties. you think about it, we could do a lot by maximizing this enforcement power for our country. we need to do a better job on behalf of the american worker. if a foreign company often due to its being partly or entirely government run or subsidized is
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able to flood with a cheap steel, they'd price american companies out of the system. say you're the owner of a steel company in ohio. you can't compete with some of these below market prices. you have to find other ways to meet your bottom line like closing your factory or laying off workers or maybe close down entirely. by not properly using this enforcement mechanism, we're costing americans who work in so many industries, not just in steel but agriculture, mechanical, machinery and other manufactured good. president trump was elected to do everything he can to support american workers and manufacturers. together these two executive orders are significant step in accomplishing the president's promise to end unfair trade practices once and for all. also yesterday we were pleased to see that senators mansion of west virginia and hyde announced their support for neil gorsuch. clare mccas cal conceded that among a list of potential
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nominees that judge gorsuch was according to her one of the better ones. we hope that her praise leads to additional support. it's hard to find any reason except for obstructionism to see why fellow democrats and her caucus have not been able to join them. as i said yesterday, judge gorsuch is highly regarded having received a rating of well qualified from the american bar association and has demonstrated an unbear lelparalleled -- fiel nearly 300 questions from senate democrats on the committee and 70 pages of written answers about his personal records and has demonstrated a mainstream judicial release record with nearly all of the decisions being joined by a democrat appointed judges. without a clear justification, senate democrats have fudged the facts on recent history, tried to mislead the american history claiming a nonkp -- this would
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make history in a very bad way. they've also forgotten their own words. i cited briepreviously the regr of invoking the filibuster by president obama, then senate obama and the words that many other senate democrats on why blocking a vote for a judge having gone through the process has no precedent and is irresponsible. let me state one more argument that many democrats have recently made. current members of the september seem to also rejek tct the noti of a supreme operating with eight not nine justices. bernie sanders, jdianne feinstein, ben car don. each of these senate democrats need not listen to me or the president but their own words as recently as last year. the president told the american people in his weekly address
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that was launched earlier today why it is. again, we call on senate democrats to end this unnecessary obstruction and confirm qualified jurist from the bench. filed an appeal in the ninth circuit to hawaii's federal judge against the lawful and executive order dealing with protecting this country. moving on to some of the events today. this morning the president met with former secretary of state. they had an opportunity to talk about regional threats. current affairs hot spots. our attempt to defeat isis. and many more areas. it was a great meeting where they discussed many of the challenges facing our country and the president sought former secretary of state and national security adviser's advice on a variety of subjects. he also signed house juoint resolution 42 and hr 1362 naming a v.a. outpatient clinic.
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also this morning the president join the president the national association of manufacturers and some of its members ceos unveil the annual manufacturers outlook survey. an incredible 93% 6 manufacturers surveyed by the national association of manufacturers now have a positive outlook for the future with a 20 year record high that's more than 35 points higher than that same rating was last year. to quote from the survey itself, the rising confidence stems from the belief that the new administration in washington, d.c. will bring much needed regulatory relief as well as reforms to the tax code and a significant infrastructure package. the optimism is evident across the spectrum of indicators. the dow is up over 12% since election day. the national association of home builders is at its highest level in 12 years. the gallop small business index shows small business owners are
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the most optimistic events since 20 2007. the president has taken immediate steps to do business in this country and we are at the beginning of this process. on top of these significant steps taken in the executive orders this morning, he's also withdrawn from the trans pacific partnership trade agreement. cleared the way for keystone, dakota pipelines, began a wide reform of regulatory processes and signed legislation preventing the burdensome stream protection rule from causing further harm to america's coal industry. the president was glad to see the report added to the list of measurements reflecting the optimism that his pro growth policies have created. this afternoon the president will meet with the director of the national institute of health before signing the aforementioned executive orders on trade at 3:30. he will meet with the director of the office of management and budget. in cabinet news today, the secretary of state rex tillerson
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is in brussels attending the nato foreign ministers meeting. it he reaffirmed the trump administration commitment to nato. secretary tillerson also stressed the need for all member countries to meet their defense spending commitment swlas well the need for nato to take a stronger role. to reaffirm the commitment to nato and to discuss ways to strengthen the alliance and in order to cope with challenges in international security. released the 2017 national trade estimate. the annual report which is required by law surveys barriers faced by american exporters. its findings reinforce the need for the president's trade agenda which prioritizes the enforcement of the trade laws to protect american workers and job create ors. the president looks forward to having the ambassador so that he can begin his important work in
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earnest and fulfill the mission of this report. transportation secretary who yesterday celebrated the 50th birthday of the department of transportation today $10 million in emergency relief funds to help begin repairs on atlanta's collapsed i-85 overpass. this will help ensure the bridge is replaced safely and in a timely manner. the white house office of intergovernment affairs has spoke with the governor. the financial reports as filed by commissioned officers here in the white house, right after i'm done here we're going to have a background briefing with senior white house compliance and ethics officers to walk you through how that process will go and the release of that
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information. and will update you if there's any further information to add. sunday is world autism day further research into the causes and treatment for the autism disorder and we will be celebrating the individuals and families who are impacted by autism. it's a really interesting story how this came to be, the head of the organization has done work with this. bob wright is a long-time friend of the president and his wife suzanne was struggling with pancreatic cancer. he said he would light the white house pblue.
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it's in suzanne and bob wright's honor that this will occur for this great cause and i hope bob knows suzanne is looking down proudly to see that that pledge has been fulfilled. with that, i'd be glad to take your questions. john roberts? >> sean, a couple of questions if i could about chairman nunes' visit to the white house. fox news has been told that chairman nunes who did the unmasking of certain individuals and who ordered the unmasking of those individuals. is the white house aware of that information? >> i don't know what he knows and i've tried to not get into the specifics of that report. it's not in our interest to talk about the process, what occurred between chairman nunes and coming here was both routine and proper. chairman nunes and ranking member schiff, who is expected
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here later today, both possess the appropriate credentials and clearances. we've invited democrats here and i've been told that material they will see will shed light on the investigation. i know a lot of folks wants to talk about the surveillance. the substance, the unmasking and leaks, is what we should all be concerned about. it affects our liberties, our fre freedom, our civil liberties. the day before the president tweet a comment by a foreign policy official evelyn farkas has raised serious concerns on whether or not there was an organized and widespread effort by the obama administration to use and leak highly sensitive and intelligence information for political purposes. she said on television, i was urging my former colleagues, frankly speaking, the people on the hill, get as much intelligence as you can. i had a fear that they were
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essentially watching the trump staff who is worried about the trump administration. that's what's out there and i know nbc news has just reported something very similar about information that was used by the obama white house to spread this information in this information. dr. farkas' admissions are devastating. on march thi4th, the president raised questions about whether they were being improperly monitored for political purposes under the obama administration. later in march, in the ordinary course of their work, national security council staff discovered information that may support the questions raised by the president and dr. farkas' claim. these are serious issues. they raise serious concerns and, if true, it would be devastating. we're committed to working, as we said multiple times, to get to the bottom of what happened, why it happened and who was
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involved. for this reason, we're in the process of ensuring that the reports that the nsc staff discovered in the normal course of business are made available to those committees investigating to ensure that all of the facts come to light. if everyone was treating the president and the administration fairly, you'd ask about the substance and the materials. as we've said before, when you talk about russia in particular, everyone who has been briefed on this subject, from republican to democrat to cia, former obama administration clapper, brennan, you name it, all of those people come back with the same conclusion. there's been no evidence of the president's campaign and russian officials. it was hillary clinton who was the architect of the last administration's failed reset policy. she told russian state tv it was designed to strengthen russia. that was their goal, to strengthen russia. she made concession after concession, selling off one-fifth of our country's
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uranium, paid speeches, paid deals, getting personal calls from vladimir putin. if you really want to talk about a russian connection and the substance, that's where we should be looking. that. not there. >> i wasn't expecting to tap quite such a deep well with that question. intelligence officials also tell us that chairman nunes knew about the documents that he viewed at the white house back in january but ended up looking at that at the nsc only because he could not get access through some of the other intelligence agencies. basically, it was a last resort to come here to the white house to view them. do you know if that's the case? >> i don't. but i think it tracks everything -- i saw a couple tweets yesterday where people were saying that the nsa was trying to get documents. from a narrative of what's been out there -- and again, we've tried to be very careful about this. and consistent about how we want this handled.
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but everything that he's said and when he came out initially, he made it clear that he had been looking into this and he stated that much earlier than the president had raised this issue about surveillance and unmasking individuals for areas that had nothing to do with russia, nothing to do with substantive intelligence or surveillance, so i think as we continue down this path and we focus on the substance, we see more and more -- a very, very troubling and devastating path. >> one more thing to clear up on practice, if i could. we're being told by intelligence officials that the two individuals who were identified yesterday ezra cohen-watnick and michael ellis, were not the source for the information for the intelligence chairman. they did play a role in helping to sign him in so he could view the intelligence. >> again, john, i'm not -- if i start commenting on every one of
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these stories, i can't -- that's not our practice. i mean, again, part of it is if we confirm some things and not others, we go down a slippery slope. we continue to say this is the substance of this matter and what continues to come to light in terms of obama officials admitting either off the record or on the record consistent with what dr. farkas says, there was an attempt to do something politically motivated with the intelligence out there and the question is why. who else did it? was it ordered? by whom? but i think more and more, the substance that continues to come out on the record by individuals continues to point to exactly what the president was talking about that day on march 5th. jonathan? >> sean, we heard from the president this morning saying mike flynn should ask for immunity. we know the president has long-standing views on what immunity means. he said in september, if you are guilty of a crime, what do you
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need immunity for? so does the president think mike flynn is guilty of a crime? >> he thinks mike flynn should go testify and do what he has to do to get the story out. >> with or without immunity? >> that's up to him and his lawyer to decide. i'm not going to give mike flynn or anyone else legal advice from the podium but the president's view is he should go up there. he should testify. >> but the president gave legal advice from his twitter account. >> right. and i understand. >> and he's said in the past the only reason you ask for immunity is if you've committed a crime. >> respectfully, what he's asking is go testify. get it out there. do what you have to do to get there and tell congress and everyone exactly what we've been saying for a long time. again, i get your point but i think the interesting thing is if you start for a second and realize what the president is doing, do whatever you have to do to go up and make it clear what happened, take whatever precaution you want or however your legal counsel advises you.
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it's quite the opposite and again i think that that compared to the narrative that you hear from a lot of folks in this room all the time is a little bit opposite. here you have a president telling mike flynn and others to go up there, make sure in fact we talked about the other day with members of the administration, that the president volunteered. this doesn't look at an administration that isn't doing everything it can to get to the bottom of this in an appropriate way. that's been lost on a lot of you. that every action we have taken -- we've got up here and we've talked about russia and the lack of connection. we've talked about the fact that every single person who has been briefed has come away saying none exists. and yet at the end of the day, the narrative still comes at us and now we're going to a point where we encourage people to talk to the house and intelligence committee, the appropriate investigators, so they can continue to get to the bottom of this. that's quite