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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  March 29, 2017 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT

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call it a tale of two committees. tomorrow the senate intelligence committee launches hearings on all matters trump and russian tomorrow. allegations of collusion between him and the white house continue, it's quite a contrast,
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two committees. jessica schneider reports. >> reporter: tonight, the top democrat and republican on the senate intelligence committee say they are pouring through thousands of intelligence documents as part of the bipartisan investigation into russian meddling during the election. >> this was one of the biggest investigations that the hill has seen in my tenure here. >> reporter: standing in contrast to the house inquiry stalled by partisan finger pointing, the senate chairman and ranking democrat stress they are working together closely. >> we, together with the members of our committee are going to get to the bottom of this. >> reporter: the senate committee saying it's getting unprecedented access to intelligence and will hold its first public hearing tomorrow. >> remember to not lose sight about what this investigation is about. an outside foreign adversary effectively sought to hijack our most critical democratic process, the election of a president. >> reporter: the committee has asked 20 people to testify so far. >> i think it's safe to say that
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we have had conversations with a lot of people. and you would think less of us if general flynn wasn't in that list. >> reporter: general flynn's lawyer tells cnn the committee has not interviewed flynn and only spoken to his attorneys. paul manafort will talk to the committee. jared kushner extended the same offer. questions have been mounting about kushner's meeting in december with the chairman of the state sponsored russian bank veb, sergei gorkov. >> the committee will conduct an interview with mr. kushner when the committee decides it's time to set a date because we know exactly the scope of what needs to be asked of mr. kushner. >> reporter: sources tell cnn the committee wants to hear from christopher, steele, the former british. >> he and i are tapping into everything we can to understand how we increase our reach. >> reporter: the house intel committee at a standstill, all
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hearings this week canceled. at least one house republican says the senate should take over. >> this sounds like they're kind of getting into a stalemate position, paralyzed. the senate is moving on a better trajectory. we're going to have to rely on a senate for a report on this. >> reporter: democrats continue to call interest chairman devon nunes' recusal. >> the hairman will have to find a way to lift this cloud. otherwise, we're going to need someone else to preside over this. i think we need someone else to preside over this if we're going to this credibly. >> reporter: nunes says he is committed to staying put. he says he is finished answering questions about the controversy and vowing to move forward with public hearings but not before easter. nunes wants the ranking democrat to approve a private briefing with fbi director james comey. >> we will continue to work through this. we hope -- i think they will be active participants. >> jessica joins us now from the
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capital. the fact is unless paul ryan asks him to step down, he stays put, right? >> reporter: that's right. speaker ryan has expressed his full support for nunes saying he will not ask him to recuse himself from the investigation. speaker ryan going so far as to say that nunes is conducting a fair and thorough and credible investigation into all of this. really, a full endorsement from speaker ryan. chairman nunes himself saying he is not going anywhere. anderson. >> jessica, thanks for the update. more from congressman schiff who spoke with wolf blitzer. >> an fbi official, as you may have heard tell cnn that james comey hasn't received an official frs request from your committee to testify. chairman nunes -- a spokesman says director comey would not come to testify before the committee without a formal request that has to be signed not just by him but also by you. nunes says you refused to sign that invitation.
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is that true? >> well, it's certainly true the chairman wanted me to agree to a hearing on tuesday at 10:00 instead of the open hearing. and we were not willing to do that. in fact, we found out about the cancellation of the open hearing in a round about way when the agencies reached out to us and said, what do you want us to come talk to you about on tuesday? and we had to say what hearing on tuesday? >> was there a stalemate now? he will not let this open hearing take place with clapper, brennan and yates, that was scheduled for tuesday unless you sign a letter inviting comey to come and testify behind closed doors before the house intelligence committee? is that the stalemate right now? >> you know, that's one of the issues, just as far as the hearings are concerned. we proposed let's do both. we're more than happy to do both. and we're waiting to hear back on that. >> are you talking can nunes? how are you communicating? are you meeting -- you used to have a very good relationship with him.
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>> we did. this has been i think very tough, very tough on all of us. this is someone i worked well with for many years. but i can't overlook if the chairman is going to freelance in this way. i have to be able to represent we're doing a credible investigation. >> you are not talking with each other? >> we are scheduled to talk tomorrow. i asked for a meeting. >> will you subpoena the white house visitor logs to try to determine with whom the chairman met at the white house to review those sensitive documents? >> i hope the chairman will decide that he will be forthcoming on what he saw, who he saw it with and whether they have any relationship to the white house. we do need to get to the bottom of it, otherwise, there's going to be this permanent cloud hanging over our investigation. >> the view of the house intelligence committee's ranking democrat there, you have here mr. schiff. for more on view from the white house, let's bring in athena jones. sean spicer has been pressed on the nunes question for a few days. did sean spicer have any more
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answers today? >> reporter: no. he did not have any more answers today on who cleared chairman nunes into the white house, who he met with. this is despite telling reporters on monday that he would look into it. today he said, i have asked preliminary questions, but i haven't gotten answers yet. i will look into it. i will continue to do that. meaning, i will continue to look into it. spicer also took issue with the fact that reporters have been asking about what he calls process matters. who cleared nunes into the white house, what door did he come in, who did he meet with? he could not answer the question of who nunes' white house source was. he argued the questions are getting in the way of dealing with the substance of what chairman nunes had to report about this incidental collection of some names of trump associate in intelligence reports, which anderson is, of course, a side show to this larger investigation into any possible ties between trump associates and russian officials. >> the counter to that is if he gave the information of how he got in, the questions would stop. it's not hard to find out that information for the white house.
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>> reporter: that's right. it's not hard to find it out at all. according to a former obama administration staffer said this is something spicer could have this answer in ten seconds if he wanted to. all it takes is the push of a button. we're talking about a system that keeps track of the comings and goings of everyone who entered or leaves the white house. it's not difficult information to find out. it appears that either spicer doesn't know how to access it or maybe doesn't want to access it in order to provide those answers to the press. anderson. >> athena jones, thanks. bring back in the panel. if the intense was to distract from the substance of the russian investigation or what came out of the hearing last monday in a way that reflects well on the president and his allies, they have done the opposite. >> right. it makes you sort of wonder, this is the best case scenario
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for them. you have paul ryan standing behind nunes saying he doesn't want him to step down. they want to continue what they have been doing, which to most people look at it and say that this really reflects badly certainly on the republicans and on the white house. yet, this seems to be their best case scenario. so what we can deduce from that is whatever the alternative would be which would be having a real hearing would be worse, that chairman nunes is doing this precisely because this is the better outcome than we would have in his eyes than if we had a real investigation. what kind of information will we be getting? >> matt, the reporting from the white house, talked to him the morning of last monday's hearing, foreshadowing the strategy that chairman nunes would use in his opening remarks, things he would talk about about incidental collection. the idea that he did that in order to give the president some
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sort of political cover, if that's the case, what do you make of that? it seems like the white house and chairman nunes were operating from same play book. >> it looks that way. that in and of itself is really bad. even if nothing nefarious is going on, even if it's a coincidence, this is the appearance of impropriety. if you are running an investigation, the last thing that you want to do is give that appearance. i think this is just one of the many weird things that we're seeing happen. again, a lot of smoke, no fire. yet that we know of. but why does nunes go to the white house and talk to the -- brief the president before talking to the ranking member or members of his own committee about this? then most recently, cancelling those hearings. to the jared kushner question, why does he decide to meet with a banker? gorkov? there's a lot of really bizarre things happening on the
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republican side right now. we don't know enough to say that it's necessarily nefarious. but it's definitely unusual. >> congressman kingston, you know this better than anybody. that committee, the house committee, they can have more than one meeting a week. if they wanted to have a closed door meeting with director comey and mike rogers of the nsa and also that week have an open hearing with sally yates and james clapper and john brennan, they could do that? >> they could do that. i do support nunes' decision to let things cool down. i have never seen so many people run to the cameras on the intel committee. i will say it's happening on both parties. the ranking member -- i don't think he can make a meeting. for him or others to complain about process, devin nunes can go down to the white house and look at evidence any time he wants to. for them to worry about process when they're comfortable taking
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leaked sources -- what about this evelyn farcus story? where's the process? how did she know as early as last summer that general flynn was possibly compromised? which is disturbing. how did she know that? she was no longer with the state department. she should not have been in intel circumstances at all. how was it she was talking to her fellow clinton supporters, to the obama team and saying preserve the records and spread them around? if you want to talk about how is all that possible? why are they instead worrying about devin nunes going to the white house? it's inconsistent. it's almost laughable. >> carl is it -- is the process of how devin nunes got into the white house, does that matter? >> yes, it does. something staggering is going on here. we have had the most basic aspect of our democracy attacked
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by a foreign power in the view of all the u.s. intelligence agencies. we now have the majority party in the house of representatives trying to obstruct a real and legitimate attempt to find out what occurred, to find out what the trump family, the trump campaign, the trump business organizations, relationships with russians are and what occurred. there's an obstruction of attempts to find that out. there's a coverup going on as is known to every one of these intelligence agencies. >> absolutely not. richard burr was on air today, very bipartisan way. let me be the first to say that the senate approach is completely even-handed and bipartisan and all that good stuff. the senate committee alone could resolve this. senator mccain said today that the white house -- he saw no evidence that the white house was trying to block this investigation.
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he gave the senate committee high marks. at the same time, he criticized the house committee. criticism of the house committee is fine. to use this hyperbole that there's a coverup and irregularities, i think there's messiness. they need to calm down. all of them need to get off the air, go back in closed door session. >> then why didn't -- >> let me answer you for one minute. i'm using the term coverup because that's the word that people in the intelligence agencies both in the trump and the obama administrations are calling what's going on. it doesn't mean there's an obstruction of justice. it doesn't mean somebody should go to jail for it. they need to know more. what they know, these investigative agencies, including the fbi, including the cia, including other intelligence agencies, they are having impediments thrown -- >> actually -- >> can i finish?
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let me finish please. impediments thrown in their way day in and day out by the white house and by republicans on capitol hill. look, the democrats -- i'm not saying they are angels in this thing about how go investigating this either. we need, in fact, a special prosecutor. we need a 9/11-type commission to get to the bottom of all of this. we have coming in a new deputy attorney general who perhaps will appoint a special prosecutor. >> congressman, i want you to respond. and then we got to go. >> why would devin nunes not sign the invitation to have comey appear? i mean adam schiff. if he is sincere about this, there's absolutely no reason for him to not sign that invitation for comey to come. wouldn't we all agree on that? >> he wanted him to come in the public hearing though. i think -- wasn't that his reason? >> wasn't it -- my understanding is the reporting was, i believe -- i will double-check this.
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he was willing to do that if they scheduled a public hearing with clapper and the others as they had planned. >> this is not a legislative deal. this is an investigation. if he is serious -- he is not saying, i will trade you this guy for that guy. this is about -- >> i guess -- i don't want to speak for him. wasn't he curious about why the public hearing had been canceled without any information from nunes? >> you know what? i believe he has a right to be curious about it. he has the right to race cane about it. i can't for the life of me take somebody seriously who says, i want to hear from comey but he won't sign the invitation to get comey there. frankly, i think a lot of the hearings should be behind closed door. richard bur and mike warner said the same thing today >> more with the panel in a moment. senator angus king joins us. melania trump spoke out. we will tell about you that
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chairman devin nunes feuding with the fellow members but not contradicting that comey said as well, it was hard not to see today's press conference as a breath of fresh air. it looked like nunes is obstructing the investigation he is supposed to be conducting. the republican chairman of the senate panel and top democrat on it promised to go where the facts lead them and each declared confidence in the other. joining us is angus king of maine. he is an independent who caucuses with democrats. do you have any condense in the senate intelligence committee's ability to conduct this investigation and come to an accurate conclusion wherever the facts may lead? >> i do. that's exactly what we're trying to do. that's the goal. we're all working on keeping it together on making it bipartisan. here is an interesting thing. if you watched the press conference chairman burr and mark warner this afternoon, if you didn't know, you couldn't tell which was the republican
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and which was the democrat. i think that's an important way to think about this. the committee is very closely balanced. it's eight republicans, six democrats and me. they're really good members of this committee. i think we are going to be able do it. the intent is non-partisan, follow the facts. i'm not going to participate in a whitewash and i'm not going to participate in a witch hunt. i think we're on a good start. it doesn't mean it's not going to be hard. we're on our way. >> you have full confidence in chairman burr, his impartiality. he was tapped by the white house to knock down reports of ties between russia and the trump campaign. but from you -- as far as you see it, he is going to be impartial? >> i believe so. i work with him every day. i think he gets it. i think he realizes to quote hamilton, history has its eyes
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on him. this is one of the most important pieces of work any of us have ever been involved in. as i say, it's a very -- it's a good committee. we have a tradition of working together on a bipartisan way. we have a long history of working with the intelligence community. i think we're in a good place to move this forward. >> i want to ask you about something you just said. i don't want to misquote you. this is the most important thing -- one of the most important things you have worked on. earlier today, senator burr said this is one of the biggest investigations the hill has seen. senator warner said it's the most important thing he has ever taken on in his public life. where do you see this in terms of importance? >> well, i put it right up there. this was an attack on our democracy. by the way, the hearing that we're having tomorrow, which is a public hearing, i think we should do as much of our work in public as we can. is going to talk about the fact that the russians are doing what they did here all over the world. they have been doing it in eastern europe right now while
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we're talking they're koog it in france. they're messing around with their election. they're doing the same thing in germany. this is a new kind of aggression that they're carrying out. not only all -- all the attention has been focused on what did the russians do, the hacking of the e-mail, the release to wikileaks, the question -- the second question which is were there connections between the trump campaign and the russians. the third issue that i don't think has gotten enough attention is the russians were also probing and pushing on our state election systems. they were trying to get into voting machines and registration. that's pretty scary stuff. they weren't doing it for fun. it appears they weren't successful. but they're going to be back. i view this -- we have some history to cover here. but we have also got to think about where this is going in the future. they're going to be back in 2018 and 2020. the reason this should be bipartisan or nonpartisan is, they could come after either side.
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putin isn't a democrat. he's not a republican. he is an opportunist. he will come after who he thinks is standing in his way. that's why we have to get to the bottom of it for the good of the country. >> do you think there needs to be a select committee or independent commission? >> i don't think so. the reason -- a couple of reasons. one is to set up -- we already are a select committee. if you had another senate committee, you would have 15 other members. it wouldn't be materially different than the committee that you have today. it's a very well balanced committee. we have conservative members, some more on the progressive liberal side. it's a good committee. the idea of an outside commission -- a lot of people talk about that. the mechanics of that, there would have to be a statute or resolution. it would have to be bipartisan, who gets to appoint? does the president have a role in it? plus, you would have to start all over with security clearances for the staff and members of the commission. it would be six to eight months
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before such a group got to where we are today. >> we also learned today that michael flynn is on the list of people your committee is going to speak to. do you think he needs to testify in an open hearing? do you know what you want to ask him? >> well, not yet. i think that's why the chairman and mark warner today said we're going to take our time and be sure we understand exactly what people know and what the right questions are. but i think, yes, i think as much as we can do in public is important for two fundamental reasons. one is, if we're going to have any credibility in terms of where we land, where we end up, people have to have seen what we see. we can't go behind closed doors for six months and then come out and say, here is what happened. i don't think that's going to have credibility. the second reason is has to be public in my view is we want the american people to know what the russians are up to so they
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understand that this is not a one off and when it happens in 2018 or 2020 or 2024, they can say, oh, the russians again. that has to be -- that has to be part of what this committee conveys to the american people. because otherwise, you know, we're going to be struggling in the dark. now, there will have to be some behind closed doors meetings, because of intelligence methods and sources. but other than that, i think in public ought to be the rule. >> senator king, i appreciate your time. thank you very much. good luck to you. reaction from the panel next. the holdout who turn the trump university lawsuit upside down and take $25 million out of the pockets of the people who say they were ripped off. more details ahead.
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back with the panel to talk about the conversations held with the senate intelligence member. but also questions about jack asked earlier about why comey did not receive an official request to appear before the committee. it wasn't signed by congressman schiff.
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late this evening, wolf blitzer asked congressman schiff about it. >> an fbi official, as you may have heard tell cnn that james comey hasn't received an official request from your committee to testify. chairman nunes -- a spokesman says director comey would not come to testify before the committee without a formal request that has to be signed not just by him but also by you. nunes says you refused to sign that invitation. is that true? >> it's certainly true the chairman wanted me to agree to a hearing on tuesday at 10:00 instead of the opening hearing. we were not will doing that. we found out about the cancel ation of the open hearing in a very roundabout way when the agency said, what do you want us to talk to you about on tuesday. we said, what hearing on tuesday? >> back now with the panel. does it strike you as odd the way all of this is playing out on the house side?
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i talked to one committee member yesterday, a democrat who said, we can have multiple meetings in a week. there shouldn't have to be just one meeting. >> it's very odd. it's bizarre, actually. i think that most people that you talk to in washington who know congressman nunes would say that he up to this point, prior to this, was considered a straight shooter, man of integrity. the way he is behaving is not really consistent with what a lot of people would have expected. i don't think he has been very particularly forthcoming when he is asked questions, basic questions like who let you into the white house. there's been a lot of cloak and dagger stuff that's very strange. it does make me wonder actually about what's going to happen on the senate side. we're expecting them to step in and be grown-ups. senator burr had issues where he created controversy by running interference for white house. he's also like nunes is somebody who was close to the president when he was running
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for office. he was the national security adviser on the campaign. will he end up being co-opted in a similar way to congressman nunes? who clearly has been co-opted by the white house. >> the fact that most of the senate's meetings are going to be behind closed doors, whatever comes out in those meetings, it won't be televised. it won't be -- if one believes what director comey and others said monday at the house meeting, was embarrassing for the white house, white house won't face that same position. >> yeah. i think that one of the things we could agree on is that the house side was ill served by sort of having this out in the open in terms of trying to get attention. whether it's congressman schiff or nunes, the most dangerous place to be is between them and a tv camera. nunes held two press conferences, i think, the day that he briefed president trump. which in and of itself was problematic. look, who knows how the thing
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will shake out in the senate. just watching that press conference today, anderson, it reminded me of a bygone era. i don't want to get too optimistic or naive here. it did feel like these were adults who were going to take this very seriously. we do have a real problem, even if you get rid of the part about donald trump and the part about president obama wiretapping him allegedly and all that, and just think about what senator king was talking about, about russia trying to meddle in our elections. it's incredibly serious. and it does seem today at least, for one day, like some adults are going to be looking into it. >> in terms of russia meddling into the u.s. election, do you see that as an act of war, as one of the most serious things there is? >> you know, it could be an act of war if we know how serious it is, how wide it is. one of the things king said -- it was the first time i heard anybody talk about it was the going down to the state and local election level.
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i have heard that there was no result, nothing changed as a result of that. i thought that was an interesting statement in itself. i do want to point out that senator king and senator warner, both democrats -- well, king is at least partially an independent or officially. but they both have said the select committees are doing a good way and to quote him, they're functioning in a nonpartisan way. i think that's good. i want to point out with adam schiff and the democrats, if prior to last week they had not been calling for a special prosecutor, it would have been a different story. this just -- well, now they have another excuse to call for a special prosecutor. if they hadn't started that in january, there would have been some -- a lot more credibility to it. they have been saying, he was acting really fine. he was doing a great job until he went down to the white house and then this week he just came off the rails.
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really? they have been saying they wanted a special prosecutor all along. it's hard to give them credibility. i do think in contrast to people like mark warner and angus king, the senate does have a totally different approach here. it's a more productive approach. >> carl, just back to what sean spicer said about wanting sally yates to testify. do you believe he will come to regret saying that? do you believe that sally yates could face a tough hearing given she was fired by president trump for refusing to defend his travel ban and telling other people in the department of justice not to? >> i think that sean spicer has no regrets about anything that has to do with the truth. i think that our expectation of getting anything truthful out of sean spicer's office at this point is delusional. he is not paid to give us transparency or the truth. that's not his job. and he showed himself to be someone whose interests are anti
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thet cal to the truth. we need to get back to the basics that jack a moment ago was talking about, that senator warner was talking about. that is what occurred in the interference in the most basic aspect of our democratic process, the election. that goes to why we need to know absolutely everything about what relationships have existed between donald trump, his family, his campaign, his business associates with russian business interests. what is so impossible to understand if the trump white house is interested in anything like the truth, is why they won't open up on these questions. the american people deserve to know, particularly about the business interests. >> i want to thank everybody on the panel. a new twist in the $25 million trump university settlement and
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how one person's decision may sink the deal. we'll be right back. at crowne plaza we know business travel isn't just business. there's this. 'a bit of this. why not? your hotel should make it easy to do all the things you do. which is what we do. crowne plaza. we're all business, mostly.
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trump university, which as
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you know wasn't really a university at all, is be a being in the spotlight. trump did something he vowed never to do. he agreed to a settlement. $25 million. tomorrow the judge in the case, the one who candidate trump said could not be partial, will consider a motion that could throw those millions in the air. drew griffin tonight reports on the person behind it. >> reporter: it's all sherry simpson has left of what she first thought would be her ticket to financial freedom. leftover pamphlets, books and how-to brochures from trump university. they were supposed to teach her how to be a real estate millionaire. and she says when she plopped down her money, $20,000 back in 2010, she really believed signing up for donald trump's real estate school would lead to a wealthy future. >> success. it's going to happen to you. >> i went for trump because of his alleged reputation.
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he promised us that he hand picked all of his mentors and teachers and that they were all trained with his system. >> reporter: simpson says she found out it was all a charade. when the chance came to join a class action lawsuit seeking to get her money back, she signed up. now she's making a legal move that's threatening to put the entire settlement in jeopardy. she filed a motion with the san diego federal court asking she be allowed to opt out of the national trump university settlement. she wants the ability she says to sue donald trump one on one. if the judge agrees, the entire settlement agreement could be tossed out. >> you are the lone holdout in all of this. >> i am. i'm not looking to stop the settlement itself. >> reporter: but you could? >> i could. i'm really hoping that it doesn't.
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>> reporter: the attorneys who are negotiating a settlement on behalf of thousands of trump university students first thought they could recover 50% of what students paid. but they announced last week the settlement could cover up to 80% of what students paid to trump for his discredited real estate school. they have also filed motions trying to block sherry simpson from opting out of the settlement that she already agreed to. simpson's argument, she thought all along she could opt out of a settlement if the settlement did not provide all the money she says trump owes her. why not take that money and run instead of facing a possible elongated and i assume very costly federal lawsuit? >> and possibly very nasty given his history with this case. >> reporter: it will be nasty, of course. >> i think what he did to me and what he did to everybody else was really fraudulent. and i'd really like to take him to trial.
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i'd like to hold him accountable for what he did. >> reporter: that means taking donald trump into a courtroom. and she may end up defending herself as well. simpson is a registered democrat. during the campaign, she even recorded an anti-trump commercial for an outside group trying to defeat donald trump. >> america, do not make the same mistake that i did with donald trump. >> reporter: while she described herself as just a single mom, sherry simpson is also an attorney. an attorney who specializes in real estate foreclosures, bankruptcies. she's had her law license placed on probation and has herself filed for bankruptcy twice. >> reporter: let me ask you a tough question for an attorney who deals with bankrupt says and foreclosures. how could you be so gullible and how could you be so, i'm sorry, but at the time, dumb to fall for this sales pitch? >> can i ask you a question back?
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it looks like the whole country has done the same thing. he is a salesman. donald trump was the salesman. he was the one behind it. to the best of my knowledge, he was an extremely successful billionaire real estate mogul. i never suspected that it was a money making scheme, that there was no substance behind the smoke and mirrors. i really didn't. >> reporter: you said in the beginning of this interview you aren't a political person. are you still not a political person? >> i'm still not a political person. >> reporter: you seem like an anti-trump person. >> yes. except this didn't start when he was running for president. this didn't start when he was president. this started for me seven years ago. the mere fact that he is now our president shouldn't stop me or anybody else from continuing a lawsuit that was started long before, that was started on the basis of a fraud committed against us. >> reporter: you feel he got away with it? >> i do.
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i feel he got away with it. >> right now, it sounds like she wants the ability to sue him. if she got her chance to sue him, what's the potential up side? what is she after? >> seven years interest, plus anderson, three times that amount in damages. we're talking about $80,000 plus. and something else. she wants an actual apology from donald trump himself. anderson. >> the case is tomorrow in san diego. obviously, we will see if the judge gives her that chance. up next, melania trump stepping into the spotlight making two rare public appearances to honor women and speaking at one of them for ten minutes. her message to the crowd when we continue. (alarm beeping)
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first lady melania trump made an appearance when the president addressed the crowd he had this to say about his wife. >> so as you know, melania is a very highly accomplished woman and really an inspiration to so many and she is doing some great job. in fact, i shouldn't say this, but her poll numbers went through the roof last week. what was that all about? through the roof. she has to give us the secret. >> well, earlier in the day, mrs. trump had perhaps the best solo moment when she gave a ten-minute speech at another event honoring women. more on that from our randi kaye. >> ladies and gentlemen -- >> reporter: it was first lady melania trump's first visit to the state department, her first visit to any cabinet department.
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more than two months into her husband's term, mrs. trump is still keeping a low profile. until today, the last time she spoke before a television camera was february 18th at a thank you rally in florida with her husband. >> thank you. >> reporter: here at the state department, she took part in the international women of courage awards. >> these honorees who have fought on the front lines against injustice are true heroes. >> reporter: the first lady is still living in new york city at trump tower with the couple's young son barron at least until he finishes the school year. her arrival in washington this week, considered such a rare event, that "the washington post" likened it to a rare bird sighting. >> i urge you to not be afraid to fail. a failure will never have the power to define you as long as you learn from it. >> reporter: it seems the first lady is taking steps to define her platform, highlighting education and women's
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empowerment at this event. impeccably dressed, she presented awards to women and girls. from around the world, floernd their courage. >> i ask you to allow the young to exemplify these heroic women to inspire you in your own lives and to remind yourself that you, too, are capable of greatness. >> reporter: it has been an unusually active week in washington for the first lady. on monday, she announced her new communications director. and on tuesday night, she and the president hosted a bipartisan reception for senators and their spouses at the white house. >> enjoy these incredible musicians. they are really something special. melania, thank you very much. >> reporter: melania trump hadn't been in washington since earlier this month when she hosted a luncheon to celebrate international women's day. but there isn't any video of her speech since the press was escorted from the room as she
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took the podium. >> hello. how are you? ing >> reporter: before that, melania trump appeared in new york city on march 2nd reading to children at new york's presbyterian hospital from a book, she told the kids, was one of her favorites, dr. seuss', "oh, the places you'll go". >> you can steer yourself any direction you choose. >> reporter: randi kaye, cnn, new york. >> joining us now is senior contributor, author of "first women." it's interesting how rarely we've seen first lady melania trump since her husband took office. >> it is. i mean, she's really an enigma. she's in some ways like the mona lisa. when you see her, you're not really sure how involved she is, how much she wants to be there. clearly she wasn't really interested in him running in the first place and i think her taking this firm stand not to immediately move to washington
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was in a way, a really brave move. although i do think she feels the pressure and i've talked to friends of hers who say she is going to definitely come this summer after barron finishes the school year. >> it is a brave stance to -- she's focusing on her son and to kind of -- it's clearly not the traditional role that we've seen for first ladies, at least initially. that may change over time. historically, there have been some other first ladies who have been private as well. >> yeah. i mean, michelle obama wanted to stay in chicago with her two young daughters. jackie kennedy rarely campaigned for her husband in 1960. a lot of times first ladies have not really bought in to moving into the white house but they kind of suck it up and do it anyway. not everyone is a nancy reagan or barbara bush so i think that people give the first lady a lot of leeway. i think people want to like
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melania trump and i think you see that with her approval ratings soaring above her husband's by far. so i think we'll be seeing a lot more of her. i think the fact that she has a skeleton staff, it's about four people, which is incredible because michelle obama had a staff of 24 people in the east wing. so you see the scaled back version of what she's going to be doing compared to her predecessor but i think we'll be seeing more of her this summer when she moves here. >> it's also sometimes an unfair comparison because it often takes first ladies a long time, more than we kind of remember, to figure out kind of how they are going to fill the role. i mean, michelle obama didn't instantly come up with the initiatives that she is now so well known for. >> that's right. the let's move campaign took her about a year to come up with. she was very meticulous about finding the perfect campaign for her. it's hard because they have to find something that's not offensive to anybody, it has to be something that is pretty apolitical and she has the added challenge of cyberbullying, it
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has ties to her husband's tweeting so immediately people criticize that. a cyberbullying campaign would make total sense. so i think she has the added difficulty because she's married so such a divisive character right now. >> appreciate you being with us, we'll be right back. ♪ if you have moderate to severe ulcerative colitis or crohn's,
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that's all the time we have. see you tomorrow night. time to hand things over to don lemon with "cnn tonight." >> breaking news, a source telling cnn that jared kushner's meetings with russian officials, including with a head of a bank under u.s. sanctions were an attempt to find the right person to engage with on russia, a back-channel to vladimir putin. this is "cnn tonight." i'm don lemon. the source saying the meetings weren't about sanctions on russia. meanwhile, we're now just hours away from the senate's first public hearing on russia's meddling in the election. top leaders of the senate intelligence committee outlining their bipartisan plan for the investigation saying they'll interview 20 witnesses, including kushner. >> this was one of the biggest investigations that the hill has seen in my tenure here.