tv CNN Newsroom With Brooke Baldwin CNN February 28, 2018 11:00am-12:00pm PST
and with panera catering, it's food worth sharing. panera. food as it should be. hi. i'm briana keilar. a half dozen controversies are rocking the trump inner circle. here is the rundown of all of them. cnn learning special counsel robert mueller is looking at the president's business dealings in russia before the campaign. the president's son-in-law, jared kushner losing top secret security clearance and bombshell saying officials from at least
four countries discussed ways to target kushner, look at his financial woes and his inexperience. white house communications director hope hicks admitting to a house committee she has told white lies and the president's latest slam on his attorney general, calling jeff sessions' actions on surveillance warrants, quote, disgraceful. sessions did just respond. we're going to get into all of this. but first to the breaking news involving the growing tensions between jared kushner and chief of staff john kelly. jeff zeleny is joining us with this. are these battle lines deepening? >> seems they are. seems to be lying in wait, if you will, a bit dormant over the past weeks or so but they are again showing themselves. john kelly, of course, followed the president's directive and stripped jared kushner of his top secret security clearance. this is something that has
ininflameded tensions but something jared kushner knew since friday. he didn't talk about it but was on capitol hill working on his agenda. that's an example aides say he will keep doing his job, keep doing something. the question is, is his job going to remain the same? it almost certainly isn't because he does not have access to the same intelligence information. he doesn't want to prove his critics right by leaving so he's going to stay. at what point do tensions boil over with the chief of staff? he is focusing on the matter at hand. important to remember, he may not have that top secret security clearance but is the son-in-law through and through. perhaps that's the most weighty title of all here.
it's not like he's some adviser who is operating without an entire portfolio. he has the family portfolio, which is significant. >> we have shannon pettipiece from bloomberg news, david sanger, national security analyst, national security correspondent for "the new york times" and very own abby flores with us as well. the white house briefing has been canceled. we were expecting this to be happening right now. it would be something we would discuss. what's going on with that? >> one of the reasons -- the official reason is that the white house says they want the press and the public to focus on guns today. there's an event in the next hour where the president is having lawmakers in. probably more of the real reason is they don't want to answer questions about the security clearance, something we've seen again and again day after day. it's something they don't want to talk about. there are no answers from yesterday. they're trying to not distract their message. so they canceled the briefing. >> do you all remember a time
where a briefing has been canceled like this, on such little notice? >> i don't -- >> yeah. >> not on this short notice. it says something about where they're at. they're saying let's talk about gun issues, which were the third rail of republican and democratic politics. not an area anyone wanted to go, let's say, in january. let's focus on guns instead of everything over here. it's not like they canceled it so they can focus on an infrastructure meeting they had or something. >> we know the white house has been willing to have briefing, even when the president is speaking. sarah huckabee sanders was giving a briefing while the president was speaking in another room. this is definitely something they could have done today if they wanted to. clearly, they don't -- to jeff's point, they don't have anything more to give us. and there's all of this swirling about not just what jared kushner's status is, but what his actual duties are. what is his job description right now? where does that stand at this
point in time given his clearance issues? >> the core element is yesterday they just wanted to discuss security clearance, who has them and how. you might be able to get away with that for a little while. but the issue is exactly the one that abby is talking about. he has two major foreign portfolios to think about. one is mideast peace. and the second was supposed to be china's competitiveness, all the china-related issues. both of those are areas in which it's really hard to understand how you can sit in a meeting, absorb the data if you don't have a top secret or, in some cases, compartmentalized clearance. you know, the israelis, when they send something over, never send it across as met merely th secret level. whether it's worth it or not they always do top secret or higher. almost anything that deals with china, china and north korea or the president's strategy with china is probably -- and
certainly this week on xi jinping's decision to extend his rule to indefinite, those are all highly classified matters what you realize is if you have secret clearance there's a lot of information, a lot of things people read day in, day out may technically be classified. some people will say that's overclassified. how is he, one, supposed to do his job without that information and also do you actually see the president abiding by this, considering -- i think back to
when he was in the oval office with the russians and disclosed classified information to them, highly sensitive information. he doesn't really show respect for these different dividing lines when it comes to properly disclosing information. >> there's an easy way around this. the president can designate anybody they want on earth to receive classified information. i've even seen cases where in very select cases that they wanted reporters to receive classified information. usually when the white house is making an argument in favor of not disclosing something, trying to convince us. he could simply step in and designate that jared kushner can receive information on a narrow group of issues or can get the presidential daily brief or anything else he wants. he would essentially be overriding kelly and that would get further at this tension
between kelly and the president. >> i don't know if he's worried about overriding kelly at this point. your point is well taken. the president is the one who can declassify anything. if he wants to share information from the daily briefing with jared kushner, he can. on that daily logistical level of, you know, i'm meeting with some people from israel who are coming in, i'm making a trip to saudi arabia, which he was very directly involved in situations in the middle east, traveling regularly. really helping from day one, the administration formulate their policy. everyone jokes about jared peace in the middleeast. that was a big part of his portfolio. on a daily, logistical level it's going to be difficult. the president will not be able to declassify every document he wants to request or any briefing he wants to receive. >> it may not just be about contradicting john kelly but what does this say about the white house's approach to
sensitive and classified information that there are enough concerns about jared kushner's situation that he can't get a top secret clearance that the president then overrides that determination to give him that access? this is an administration that made all kinds of hay about hillary clinton's dealings with classified information. it wouldn't be the first time that they've, you know, made a 180 on an issue that they wont once hammered opponents about, but it would be something they would have to talk about and explain. certainly on the hill, there are questions about whether this is appropriate for jared kushner to be receiving this if, in fact, there are concerns he might have been manipulated or foreign governments wanted to manipulate him because of his background and his business dealings. >> there is this report out there that there were a number of countries. this might not be surprising, jeff. that four countries looked at jared kushner -- let's call them financial liabilities.
united arab emirates, china, israel and mexico. his business dealings and naivety, we heard that before and thought this may be someone we can exploit when it comes to issues of national security or foreign policy. >> right. it was a potential open ing. probably one of the other reasons there's not a briefing, because this happened after the briefing yesterday. it's not suggesting that jared kushner did anything wrong, simply that he was vulnerable to manipulation. it is his brand newness to government that's a huge issue. he has taken meetings that have raised eyebrows of national security advisers and officials here. >> the question is judgment as he has those meetings. >> exactly. >> without having others in on the meetings. right? >> no question about it. and susceptible to this. it's probably one of the reasons he has not gotten his permanent security clearance here because all of his financial dealings. this is the issue.
he's operating under a secret clearance now. and we believe it's not even a permanent secret clearance, it's an interim one as well. because the fbi has said that it needs more time. so, this is not entirely been ruled out. it's important to point out he has not been denied a clearance but has just not been given one up to this point. he is a son-in-law and that is not a security clearance but -- >> security blanket. i saw that coming. you stay with me. we have a whole lot more to come up. is robert mueller crossing president trump's red line, now asking questions about the president's business dealings with russia before the 2016 election. also breaking news. attorney general jeff sessions now pushing back against president donald trump's latest insult after trump chastised him on twitter this morning. where does this feud go from here? dick's sporting goods making a big announcement about guns they sell as parkland students
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are important to mueller. first, november 9th, 2013. that's when trump hosted the miss universe pageant in moscow. made significant money from the event and it's also when he began discussing plans to brand trump tower moscow. he tweets trump tower moscow is next. but the deal fell apart relatively quickly and it was never built. sources tell us mueller is asking about that trip and whether sources have compromising information on trump. investigators appear interested around the timing and how that coincided with business talks. 2014, that's the year one source told mueller trump was, quote, serious about running for president. a second run at trying to brand a trump tower moscow.
he had his attorney begin negotiations with different russian backers and even signed nonbinding letter of intent in october that year after he had launched his campaign. he was run ining for president while trying to push this month through. negotiations for trump tower moscow fell apart three months before the iowa caucuses and the project never got off the ground. nowhere did he ever reveal he was negotiating with russians for his businesses there. all of these on the timeline are great interests to mueller as he has been asking different witnesses specific questions about all of this, brianna. >> fascinating timeline. kara skanell, thank you for laying that out for us. as you have the special counsel asking questions, they're looking back in time to president trump before he was president-elect trump.
what does this tell you? >> i think one thing to add to all of this is that when mueller indicted those 13 russians one of the data points that came out of those do you means was that they began their operations at around 2014. and president trump's response to that was, well, i wasn't even thinking of running for president at that time, even though, you know, there were -- even in the newspaper there was some mention of the president then donald trump, private citizen trump talking about this very issue. that's why you can see why mueller might be casting back that far, casting as far back as 2013 to find out what was going on at that time. what kinds of discussions he might have had in russia, what business deal did he have at the time he was deciding to run for president? this might seem germane because
of when we know russian interference began. we don't know what mueller has found. we know these are the questions he's asking. >> critics have said that mueller is getting out of his lane and overstepping the rightful bounds of what he should be investigating. ironically the former special independent counsel on the whitewater investigation ken starr is one of those critics. here is what he said. we don't have that. if you go back and look at whitewater, it was -- i mean, wow! you could argue -- >> talking about getting out of your lane. >> you could argue it was totally rightful and within the purview of what he could do. whitewater, land deal, the travel office. it went into the paula jones' investigation. it was during that, the perjury that president clinton committed pertaining to monica lewinsky
that led to the impeachment. what do you think when you hear ken starr be critical of this? >> basically his argument was that the mueller investigation is there to -- >> we do have it. can we listen? let's roll it, then we'll talk about it. >> i think it's beyond his mandate. the mandate is what happened during the 2016 election in terms of collusion. that's the key idea. >> all right. >> he put it better and more succinctly than i could have put it. so the question for mueller is, is this out of his lane or do you start here because you believe that there is some connection of russian influence that actually does connect up to the campaign? now if you start with 2013, of course, that's the exact period of time covered by the steel
dossier, infamous dossier put together by the former mi6 agent based on sources whom he had known or seen inside russia. even if mueller is not relying on the dossier himself, his investigators must be going back to reconstruct those sets of events. next question that comes out of that is if they found any indication that the people he met, the things he said, whether he talked, as he suggested, about possibly running could have been related to what happened at the internet agency, internet research agency, which started up in 2013 and was getting going in 2013 -- >> it was russian meddling when it came to social media. >> that's right. when you look at what they did, they didn't do much that would
have helped trump very much until later on, 2015. >> i'll tell you who does think this is mueller getting out of his lane. that's the president's lawyer, john dowd. whenever we've asked him about mueller looking into trump's business he says no, that is off the table, outside of his mandate. that's a red line. so, i don't know if this will be the sign that they feel like they've crossed it but the president's lawyers have been very clear that his business dealings prior should be off the table. >> let's not forget, donald trump himself said it. let's listen. >> looking into your finances and your family's finances related to russia, is that a red line? >> would that be a breach of what is actual -- >> i would say yes. >> but does it matter that president trump says that's a red line? >> right. >> does it even matter? does it seem to be mattering to robert mueller and his team? >> right. of course, he cannot, himself, remove robert mueller. but there is this concern among even his close allies that a
line will be crossed and he will put in place the motions that could remove robert mueller as the special counsel. that's the concern here. >> and it's worth pointing out here that at the moment what we know about what mueller is asking about is, in fact, related to russia. he's asking about the 2013 miss universe pageant that was held in moscow. these are related to russia for the moment. the question is, the other part of the mueller mandate, which is any other crimes that might arise as a result of their investigation into the central issue of russia. if they find something else while they're asking these questions, that's when we should ask -- >> paul manafort. >> exactly. >> whole host of charges. >> exactly. >> abby, david and shannon, thank you. breaking news, attorney general jeff sessions fighting back against the president's new insult against him in a rather frank statement. what's the end game here? the president gets ready to hold a live bipartisan meeting on
guns, today the students of marjorie stoneman douglas high school walk back through the doors of their school. what they're saying about returning to lass and the change they've already created two weeks after surviving the massacre. a hilton getaway means you get more because you get a break on breakfast get an extra day by the pool get to spend more time together get more from your spring break getaway with exclusive hilton offers. book yours, only at hilton.com
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shooting. and that includes high capacity magazines and accessories as well. another big change, dick's will no longer sell any guns to people under 21, regardless of state or local laws. >> we actually sold the shooter a shotgun in november of last year. we looked at that, found out that we did this, we had a pit in our stomach and said we need to -- we don't want to be part of this story. we need a responsibility to these kids. and we decided we are not going to sell these any longer. >> joining me now, cnn's alison kosik. you've been covering this story. to be clear, dick's had already made changes after the sandy hook shooting. so what's the difference here? >> reporter: exactly. to be clear here, after the m s massacre at sandy hook, dick's stopped selling assault-style rifles at dick's. but field and stream, a subsidiary of dick's -- field and stream, which has 35
locations across the country, those stores continued to sell those assault-style rifles. as of today, according to ceo ed stack, all stores under dick's will no longer car those assault-style rifles and high capacity magazines that make it easier for shooters to shoot round after round after round without having to reload and no dick's will sell any guns to anybody under the age of 21. we're seeing corporate america, stepping up and listening to those kids in parkland and actually doing something, where congress is not doing something. why is ed stack doing this? he spoke to chris cu. mo earlier today. listen. okay. we do not have that sound bite. but basically ed stack is saying, look, we are doing this for the kids, despite the pressure from possibly shareholders, despite pressures politically and also possibly losing part of their consumer
base, brianna. ed stack felt this was necessary to take these messages where congress won't and take these messages for those kids. >> very interesting interview. alison kosik thank you so much in new jersey for us. >> sure. >> this announcement comes as students return to class at marjory stoneman douglas. 17 of their classmates and teachers were killed in their mass shooting weeks ago. photos from inside the school obtained by cnn show a makeshift memorial. there have been a number of these. makeshift memorials on desks, support dogs in the hallways with the students and cnn's kaylee hartung is live outside the high school. i understand students didn't go to their class, re-entered their same classes they were in when the shooting started. tell us about this. >> that's right, brianna. half day schedule where they met with all eight of their classes but the morning started out of
order, with their fourth block class, the class they were in the end of the day on february 14th when that gunman attacked. as students gathered together with that group, a moment of silence. 17 seconds long, a second for each of the victims. that moment of silence was followed by a sing iing of the school's alma mater. one student told me he didn't think anybody even knew the words to that song but today he heard that song sung louder than ever before. the pride that these students and teachers feel to be part of this community now undeniable. the principal of stoneman douglas told us the focus was on comfort not curriculum. students weren't even allowed to bring backpacks to school. the freshman building where the attack occurred, that building still stands, though it will eventually be torn down. it's a reminder of the tragedy that occurred on february 14th. so, too, are the empty desks in many classrooms where the 14 students who were killed once
sat. as students and teachers told me, they're not trying to forget what happened that day. >> for the past two weeks, we've just been working hard and trying to make change happen. we haven't stopped to think. we've been doing interviews, talking to the media. so there's no media in school today. it was just us. i think it started to hit us more. we started to go back into those same places and think that we were here, this happened and this is something that happened to us. it's just a whole range of emotions. i was sad. i was angry that this happened. but now that we're out of school, we're just ready to get back at it and keep working, even when we're in school. we're not ashamed of our school or afraid of our school. we're proud we go here. >> my last class, ninth period, they were being analytical, mr. pittman, what would you do here? would you let them in? what would you do here in what would you do there? how would we get out of the
room? they were analyzing, trying to find solutions. what if there's a fire? and we can't get out of the room. they're trying to -- they're trying to problem solve and trying to figure out for that type or any other situation. they're beginning to think about their environment around them. >> reporter: a heightened awareness of all students and teachers from stoneman douglas of their surroundings now. this morning, one female student told us she was anxious going to class and seeing the many law enforcement who came out here today to show their support, seeing so many of them made her more anxious. but at the end of the school day, she told us she had no reason to be anxious. all these people coming together back on this campus today for the first time in this capacity uplifting for so many, brianna. superintendent tells us attendance was tremendously good. 95% of the school's students were in classes today. >> tough day for so many of them, kaylee but also
comforting. kaylee hartung in parkland, florida. we do have breaking news to tell you about. that is jeff sessions, striking back. the attorney general, just moments ago, defending himself after president trump attacked him this morning on twitter. his response and the future of his relationship with the president, next. i have type 2 diabetes. i'm trying to manage my a1c, and then i learn type 2 diabetes puts me at greater risk for heart attack or stroke. can one medicine help treat both blood sugar and cardiovascular risk? i asked my doctor. he told me about non-insulin victoza®. victoza® is not only proven to lower a1c and blood sugar, but for people with type 2 diabetes treating their cardiovascular disease,
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attorney general jeff sessions is firing back at president trump. earlier the president tweeted why is ag jeff sessions asking the inspector general to investigate potentially massive fisa abuse? will take forever. has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on comey, et cetera. isn't the ig an obama guy? why not use justice department lawyers? disgraceful! with me here now to talk about this, cnn justice reporter laura jarrett. we now have this response from jeff sessions.
tell us. >> a rare statement from the attorney general after tweets from the president, that he regrets hiring him. finally pushing back. we have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary. of course, he's referring to the referral to the inspector general's office, which he talked about those so-called fisa abuses, stemming from what's outlined in devin nunes' memo of trump associates. then the attorney general goes on, brianna. this is truly extraordinary. he says as long as i am attorney general i will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and
constitution. so you might wonder why today after the president has called for an investigation of hillary clinton and other political rivals, why today is the day. it clearly was a bridge too far for the attorney general sessions. he's coming to the defense of michael horowitz in many ways, straight shooter by any account. the president says yes, he was appointed by president obama to be inspector general but also served under the brush administration on the sentencing commission, brianna. clearly enough was enough for jeff sessions today. >> as you said, obama appointee. when you look at what the president calls a witch hunt, very fuf them are. their political leanings are republican. first off this is extraordinary but it's not unusual for this president with the way he has related to the attorney general.
he has been upset with jeff sessions since he decided to recuse himself from all things russia. what's your reaction to this back and forth today? >> i think that two things. first, we should be worried. even though this president does act impulsively and when he thinks the walls are closing in on him he tends to act out through this stress tweeting. we saw that yesterday with that two-word tweet, "witch hunt." here once again he's attacking jeff sessions again. i'm wondering whether he has in his mind that if he would just fire jeff sessions, then he could somehow, you know, get rid of mueller and get rid of this investigation, which is now moving closer to his own possible misdeeds. >> he is the one who put ag sessions in his position. he is looking at the ig and saying he's an obama appointee. when you look at all the players and what the president is
calling this witch hunt they're almost entirely republicans, right, the key players? >> yes. there are so many layers to this. he is claiming that there was some fisa abuses. but if you look at the schiff response to the nunes memo, there clearly were not any bouss of the fisa process. the four judges were republican appointees. jeff sessions himself is a republican. the head of the fbi, christopher wray is a republican. we have deputy attorney general rod rosenstein, who is a republican. the committee looking over this and the senate are dominated by republican majority. this idea that he's trying to put -- point to someone he claims as an obama person is now going to be looking into something that's even kind of a wild goose chase, you know, is intended as a distraction, i think. >> laura, real quickly, attorney
general jeff sessions, how secure is he in his position right now? >> well, you know, of course, we can't predict what the president will do. but you remember that whole tweet storm back in july when he was going after him, it seemed almost like every morning for a period of weeks there. and he didn't fire him then. so, if he doesn't fire him now, it almost seems as if jeff sessions has called his bluff. >> interesting. jennifer taub joining us with laura jarrett. thank you very much. we appreciate it. president trump is meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to discuss school safety. they're really going to pull back the curtain, hopefully, on this. they'll let the cameras into the room and we'll be watching this live as they do so. battle lines being drawn in the west wing after chief of staff john kelly downgraded jared kushner's security clearance. we'll take a closer look at what
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now that jared kushner's top secret security clearance has been revoked the big question is what's the president's son-in-law, a key white house adviser, allowed to know? i want to bring in rear admiral john kirby, spokesman for the pentagon as well as the state department. tell us, because rear admiral, you've had a top security clearance, top secret security clearance, we should say. also with being able to see
additional secure and sensitive information. walk us through the difference between what kushner did have and what he is going to have now. >> glad to do that. we're talking about top secret and secret. as you know, brianna, there are three levels of clearance, confidential, secret and top secret. it's important to remember that the clearance level itself is not enough. you also have a need to know. can you have a top secret clearance but if you don't have a need to know a certain bit of information or material you won't have access to that. that's important as we get a little later on. highest level of sensitive information in the united states government if it's disclosed without authorization can cause exceptionally grave damage to national security, very, very strong language there. and so the -- it's the most rigid storage and handling and access protocol. so we treat this material very, very carefully. and if you have a top secret clearance it's going to have to get relitigated every five years, owing to the sensitivity
of the information. on the secret side if that information is a little less sensitive, if it's disclosed without authorization it could cause serious damage to national security. not quite exceptionally great but still serious. that information on the secret side is a little less detailed. doesn't have quite the same nuance. doesn't get into sources or methods and doesn't provide the reader a sense of where that information came from, what sources and how we got it. there will be no access to the full president's daily briefing with just secret clearance. that said there are articles and material in the president's daily briefing which are not classified at the top secret level. so ostensabibly, he could have access to that. need to know. declassify material for mr. kushner as the president feels needed. he won't get access to everything in that briefing, he could still get access to things
above what could be considered secret as deemed. and clearance must be reinvestigated every five years. >> in top secret and secret every ten years because it's not quite as sensitive. >> lot of people in town have a high top secret level clearance because it's determined by the agency about whether they can do their job. there's a tendency in government to overclassify. in d.c. today it's difficult to do basic jobs if you don't have a top secret clearance. because we tend to want to preserve the sanctity of this information and overclassify it and raise it up a higher level than it probably needs to be. >> rear admiral john kirby, thank you so much, sir. appreciate it. the wife and daughter of john mccain are hitting back at president trump today for disparaging remarks he made about the senator who is fighting cancer. >> except for one senator who came into a room at 3:00 in the
morning and went like that, we would have had health care, too. we would have had health care, too. >> president trump was referring to the arizona republican's vote against a skinny repeal of the affordable care act last july. since the vote megan mccain says she has had a cordial conversation with the president and first lady. so last week's remarks caught her off guard. >> i really was under the impression this sort of fight between our families and between him and my father, especially at this particular moment, would end. i understand the argument as he is talking about policy and that's the attack. but it still is incredibly hurtful especially after i had this conversation with him on the phone, to have this moment of boo'ing at cpac supposed to be the mothership of conservatism of the republican party. and to see boo'ing at this specific moment in time is incredibly hurtful and i feel, quite frankly, very naive to have believed this would be any different. >> we have much bigger things to
worry about right now than to worry about what the president says. but more importantly, the things that have happened since that vote that he took, his defense bill was passed. just yesterday a human trafficking bill to help stop human trafficking online, the sale of children, was passed. it was the mccain bill. i think the president failed to understand this. but more importantly, in my own -- for my own family, we need more compassion. we need more empathy. we need more togetherness in terms of working together. we don't need more bullying. and i'm tired of it. >> of course, cindy and meghan mccain there. just ahead, the same day that students of marjory stoneman douglas returned to campus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers were invite to the white house
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