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FBI Asks Justice Department to Refute Trump Claims; Sessions to Send Amended Testimony to Senate; U.S. "Strongly Condemns" North Korea Missile Tests. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired March 6, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously. Whoo!
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Chris Cuomo didn't know you could take pictures with a shirt on.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That's true, though.
BERMAN: If you follow Cuomo's Instagram feed --
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You can't come at me. I already came at you. This session is over.
BERMAN: -- it is virtually shirtless Instagram.
HARLOW: I think we got real news here.
HARLOW: I'm not so sure about your sourcing on that one, Cuomo. All right. Thank you, guys.
BERMAN: All right. Let's get started. Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.
HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. So glad you're with us.
Did the FBI Director essentially just call the President a liar? This is one of the unprecedented developments in an extraordinary morning at the White House today.
Sources tell CNN that FBI Director James Comey has asked the Justice Department to publicly reject the President's explosive claim that President Obama had ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump's phones before the election. This all has to do with the giant Russian cloud casting a shadow over the White House.
BERMAN: And a new CNN/ORC poll out just this morning shows nearly two in three Americans want a special prosecutor to launch an investigation into alleged contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. And the news comes at a time when the President has a long list of things he should or would like to be dealing with. Within the next couple of hours, he could release his revised travel
ban. And this morning, the administration is responding to a new provocation from North Korea. North Korea launching several new missiles overnight.
We are covering this all. Let's begin, though, in Washington with CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash.
And, Dana, you know, a remarkable, historic request from the FBI Director to the Justice Department. Please correct the President, he seems to be saying.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And we don't know the answer as to whether the Justice Department will do that.
Now, we can also look at kind of the way things in Washington tend to work, John, which is the fact that we know that the FBI requested from the Justice Department that the record be corrected, is an indication, a sort of leaked indication, that there is no wiretapping. That was not an accident that reporters know about that request.
Now, the question is, where does all of this come from? The former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, was on the Sunday shows yesterday, and he said he doesn't know. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I will say that, for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the President-elect at the time or as a candidate or against his campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, what the President is a master at -- and we have seen it many times -- is to try to take the story away from something that he is not happy with, and he does that with his Twitter account.
And that is what he did, no question about it, when he started tweeting out these allegations about the former president at 6:00, 6:30 in the morning on Saturday, after he left Washington really unhappy about the fact that Jeff Sessions recused himself from the FBI probe, about the fact he didn't feel like he had a good week last week.
But here's the thing to remember, there still is an investigation into allegations, questions, about any connection between Russian officials and Trump campaign officials. We don't know if that's at the Justice Department right now, but we do know that that is what they're looking at on Capitol Hill.
On that, James Clapper also said, at least by the time he left office several months ago, he actually didn't see evidence of collusion. Listen to what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAPPER: This could have unfolded or become available in the time since I left the government. But at the time, we had no evidence of such collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DASH: Now, that's a big sort of gift to the President and to the Trump administration and one that, I would think, that they're going to hang a lot of hopes on. Having said that, it has been several months since he left. And as I said, the intelligence committees in the House and the Senate are looking into whether or not more information has come out since he left -- John and Poppy.
HARLOW: All right, Dana Bash reporting. Thank you very much, Dana, for that.
Also breaking this morning, as early as, well, now, any moment, the Trump administration could release this new version of the executive order on immigration or the so-called travel ban. We're getting new details about what is going to change, what countries will be included, which will not be included.
Our justice reporter, Laura Jarrett, is in Washington with us this morning. One of the big headlines this morning is one country that, it looks like, is not going to be included, right?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN REPORTER: That's exactly right. So White House counselor Kellyanne Conway announced this morning that Iraq is no longer on the list of banned countries. Based on their enhanced screening and reporting measures, she said earlier this morning.
[09:05:02] We'd heard previously that top members of the President's Cabinet had advocated for that change based on diplomatic reasons. And we're also learning this morning that top Iraqi officials had advocated as well. So we'll have to see exactly how this new executive order clarifies why Iraq has dropped off.
BERMAN: So, Laura, how might all the delays we've seen, how does this affect the argument from the government that this is urgent, that they need this order for national security?
JARRETT: Well, this will be interesting to see how it plays out in court. Because to the extent that the government has spent the past intervening weeks working on it, rewriting the executive order, to come in compliance with the law, no judge is going to fault them for that, trying to get it right.
But to the extent that this was about politics and about delaying the rollout because of some relation to the President's speech last week, then that could come back to bite them, to the extent that the government starts using words like "emergency" or invoking a national security need again in court -- John, Poppy.
BERMAN: All right, Laura Jarrett for us. We are watching this very closely. Again, this new travel ban, it could come at any time this morning. We'll bring it to you if and when it happens.
Also today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he is under scrutiny for his contact with the Russian ambassador, two meetings that he did not tell Congress about. He is set to update his testimony to the Senate about that.
HARLOW: All right. This is going to be written testimony, though. It doesn't look like he's going to go before the Judiciary Committee again. Our Phil Mattingly is tracking all of it for us from Capitol Hill this morning.
Wow! I mean, this was the lead story on Friday, and so much has transpired over the weekend since then. But this is still a very key focus, Phil. What are you hearing?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, for a number of different reasons. And as John noted, Poppy, Attorney General Sessions' amended testimony will be sent up to the Hill in the next couple of hours. He will also respond to various questions that Democratic members posed in writing to him as well.
What he won't be doing is coming up to the Hill to testify again. While the nine Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee requested that in writing, Charles Grassley, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, rejected that out of hand.
But, guys, what's interesting here is kind of the fallout from all of this. Now, obviously, Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from the Justice Department's Russia investigation. That leaves it to the Deputy Attorney General, who, currently, is an acting.
This week, Capitol Hill, the U.S. Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to consider President Trump's pick for that selection. And as that all happens, keep in mind a couple things.
John, you noted a very interesting number in the CNN/ORC poll today. Two-thirds of Americans polled believe that a special prosecutor should be appointed. Seventy-five percent of Americans believe that Russia is now a real threat. Well, it would be the Deputy who would be responsible for appointing a special prosecutor.
With that all in mind, the Deputy Attorney General nominee will be meeting with Senate Judiciary today. And one of the members on that Committee, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, has said, he will use, quote, "every tool in his power" to block that nomination out of hand until he gets a commitment that a special prosecutor would be appointed by Rod Rosenstein and his selection to be Deputy Attorney General.
Now, guys, as we've seen over the last couple of months, obviously, Republicans don't need Democrats to move the nominations along. But if you look at the fallout from what happened on Friday with Attorney General Sessions, it goes a lot deeper than just amended testimony. Other nominees are going to have to deal with this going forward, specifically on the special prosecutor issue.
HARLOW: Yes. Phil Mattingly on the Hill. Thank you for that.
Also this morning, the State Department, strongly condemning a new round, another round, of North Korean missile tests saying the U.S. is ready to defend its allies with a, quote, "range of capabilities."
BERMAN: Yes. North Korea fired four ballistic missiles overnight, three landed in Japanese waters. CNN International Correspondent Will Ripley is live in Tokyo.
Needless to say, Will, the Japanese, very, very on edge over what they're seeing from North Korea.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, John, because those missiles, three of them landed less than 200 miles from the Japanese coast. And it's not just Japan, it's also South Korea and the United States saying that this, perhaps, may be the most urgent security threat facing the Trump administration right now.
I was in Pyongyang a couple of weeks ago after the first missile launch of Donald Trump's presidency. And officials that I was speaking with there said they were undeterred by the thought of more economic sanctions or other attempts by the United States and the United Nations and others to slow their missile and their nuclear program. They said they're going to continue to move forward.
People have been told that they may have to go hungry or go without electricity to keep producing these weapons because they're told, through state propaganda, that they're under the imminent threat of invasion by the United States. So what that means is, the global community has been unable to stop these tests, and North Korea is inching closer to their goal of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the mainland United States.
HARLOW: And the response this morning from China is?
[09:10:02] RIPLEY: Well, they're certainly irritated, Poppy, because this is all happening during China's biggest political assembly of the year, the National People's Congress. They don't want to be talking about this. Their Foreign Ministry did put out a statement this afternoon urging all sides to remain calm.
I can tell you from visiting Pyongyang, people use Chinese cell phones, they're driving Chinese vehicles, and there's a lot of Chinese currency that's going into that country that's paying for their very small economic growth and also paying for their nuclear missile program. But China certainly doesn't want a destabilized North Korea, which is why they continue to trade and continue to fund, which is why there are growing calls for China to face some sort of penalty for essentially enabling Kim Jong-un to continue growing his arsenal.
BERMAN: All right. Will Ripley for us in Tokyo. We'll continue to watch for further White House response to this, seen as the North Korean provocation, as the morning continues. Our thanks to Will.
The big story this morning, though, the President says he will be proven right on his wiretap claims. But where exactly did he get this information? You know, is the internet always the most trustworthy place? Just asking.
Also, it was one of the President's signature campaign issues, cracking down on illegal immigration. Now, he's facing pretty big push back from economists. We'll tell you why.
HARLOW: Also this morning, a veteran uncovers a secret site with explicit photos of female Marines. Now, the Navy is trying to track down who is behind it. We'll be right back.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So the White House said it would not comment further on the president's eyebrow rising claims that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign, and then they commented further.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: A few times actually this morning on a number of different networks. Neither the president nor his aides in those comments offered any evidence to support these allegations. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is his information that President Obama tapped his phone based solely on something he read in the media? Yes or no?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I haven't had the chance to have the conversation directly with the president. He's at a much higher classification than I am. He may have access to documents that I don't know about, but I do know we take this very seriously and we think it should be thoroughly reviewed and investigated, and we're asking Congress to do their job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Here to discuss, Brian Fallon, CNN political commentator and former Justice Department spokesperson, and also formerly with the Hillary Clinton campaign. Kevin Madden is here, CNN political commentator and a Republican strategist. Tom Fuentes, joins us, former FBI assistant director and our law enforcement analyst, as well as our justice reporter, Laura Jarrett.
Tom, let me begin with you since you were formerly the director of the FBI and let's take through some of these things. The White House this morning as you just heard there is saying that the president knows things that others don't. That's true to an extent.
Wouldn't others, though, be privy to this information, any wiretap information that the president says that he has without providing any evidence of that at all?
TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Poppy, I was former assistant director at the bureau. A FISA wire is very close hold in the government. There would be a handful of FBI agents and only the FBI is authorized to do a FISA wiretap, and then those affidavits with Department of Justice attorneys from the National Security division present that to the FISA court.
Again, this is all top secret, very close hold. So a number of officials whether at the White House and other places would not be aware of a FISA. However, the director of the FBI absolutely would be aware.
HARLOW: And the director of National Intelligence, who also shot it down yesterday when asked on "Meet The Press."
BERMAN: And if the FBI presumably with the OK of the FBI director is asking the Justice Department to correct the record here, that's a pretty extraordinary thing, Tom.
FUENTES: It's very extraordinary. I've never heard of anything like this ever where essentially a statement made, even if it's through media by the director of the FBI directly contradicts statements made by the president of the United States.
So it's very serious, but again, only the FBI is authorized to do FISA wiretaps, so the director absolutely would be the one person in Washington that would know for sure, in addition to the court itself, but the director of the FBI would know.
HARLOW: So the director of the FBI, Laura Jarrett to you as our justice correspondent, could come out, Comey could come out as he did during the campaign, and he could talk about this and shoot it down himself. Instead he's not. He's asking the Department of Justice to do that.
It complicates things as the fact that the Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any investigation having to do with Russia, which this would likely fall under. So then what does the Justice Department do? Who would come out and comment on this if they're going to?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: It's interesting. The timing here is pretty interesting. Tomorrow the Judiciary Committee will actually hold a hearing for Rod Rodstein to be the deputy attorney general. This will be far more entering because fireworks will be going with senators asking this very question about how Mr. Rodstein plans to handle this as the deputy attorney general. He will be the number two and he will be the go-to when Sessions recuses.
BERMAN: Of course, in the meantime, is Dana Bente (ph), who was the U.S. attorney in Virginia and an Obama appointee, he could do it I presume if he wanted to in the meantime, but has not as of yet.
Kevin Madden, it's interesting, because one of the reports that you read in the papers over the weekend is that President Trump wasn't really thrilled with the defense he was getting from some Republican officials over the weekend to his tweets.
Marco Rubio, a senator from Florida, he was out on the Sunday shows and he seemed bewildered, shall we say. Listen to what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I'm not sure what it is he is talking about. Perhaps the president has information that is not yet available to us or the public. If it's true, obviously we'll find out very quickly. If it isn't, he'll have to explain what he meant by it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[09:20:04]BERMAN: You know, Kevin, why aren't more Republicans coming out to defend the president? What kind of position does this put them in?
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Quite frankly, this is the last thing they want to talk about. If you take a look at the White House agenda and the agenda promoted by Republicans on Capitol Hill, you have some very big issues. You have Obamacare repeal and replace that they're trying to kick off this week.
You have border security issues that you want to address. You have tax reform that you want enacted and you have infrastructure and regulatory reform. That's an agenda that would ordinarily take a term and a half, and they're all trying to do it in a year.
So the idea that the president is making these allegations on a Saturday morning via his Twitter feed and by Sunday dumping it in the lap of congressional Republicans, that's not going to be met with a whole lot of enthusiasm on Capitol Hill.
They would prefer again that this White House focus on the bigger issues that got the president to the White House in the first place and issues that they also ran on in November. That's where they want the focus to be.
HARLOW: It's not where the focus is right now certainly. Brian Fallon, to you, the former director of National Intelligence up until a month and a half ago, James Clapper, said this. This is the other bit of news that he made when asked about any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: This could have unfolded or become available in the time since I left the government. At the time, we had no evidence of such collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: So he's saying unequivocally, Brian Fallon, that up until January 20th when he was no longer in that post, they had no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. That brings back to the fore the question of what needs to be investigated, what should be investigated. This is the guy that oversees all the intelligence agencies. You say?
BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We're learning more and more as additional facts come out in the weeks since the election has taken place. But I think the flimsiness of Donald Trump's conspiracy theory here is exposed not just by the fact that the president lacks the legal authority to order unilaterally a wiretap.
But also if anything, this president exercised extraordinary restraint in terms of the information not divulged in the weeks leading up to November 8th. Remember we subsequently learned that it was known to federal authorities that Trump associates had contact with Russian officials in the months leading up to November 8th.
That was known to the administration. Yet President Obama said nothing about that. It's really a far-fetched conspiracy theory to think he would have illegally mounted this wiretapping of Trump Tower and then sat back and said nothing and let Donald Trump win sitting on facts that might have been important for the public.
So I think as Director Clapper's comments indicate, these reports about Director Comey's strong feelings that these allegations should be debunked come forward, I think this is being exposed as a false conspiracy theory.
I don't blame Jim Comey for wanting this information out there, the integrity of the FBI is being called into question. Ironically Donald Trump is helping make the case for the special prosecutor.
If he believes the FBI and the Justice Department were complicit on an illegal wiretapping ordered by President Obama, it will call for a special prosecutor all the more.
So I think you'll hear Democrats and maybe even some Republicans in the coming weeks use this Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, nomination to try to leverage a commitment to appoint a special prosecutor.
BERMAN: All right, guys, Brian Fallon, Kevin Madden, Tom Fuentes, Laura Jarrett, thanks so much for being with us.
HARLOW: Still to come for us, U.S. stocks really rocking since the president's win in November. Will the Trump bump continue? You're looking at futures down a little bit. The opening bell just moments away.
BERMAN: Plus President Trump wants a probe into his wiretap claims. Lawmakers, they want proof.
BERMAN: All right, will this be another winning week for the stock market, or will the president's later escapades on social media cause investors to get a little jittery and maybe stall this round?
HARLOW: Markets don't like the unknown or totally unpredictable. We are moments away from the opening bell this Monday on Wall Street. Our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, joins us with what we can expect. Crystal ball time, another record week?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I don't know. The president is off message here. What these companies want, they want a lower tax bill and assurances that they'll continue to make record profits in some cases. As soon as you get off message on that, the Trump bump turns into a Trump blah. That's what we're seeing here this morning.
Last week another great week for the S&P 500. Six weeks in a row of the S&P 500 moving higher. That's a really nice trend overall. That has continued here. That's because companies think that they are going to profit in a Trump era, a Trump administration.
Now for it to be fair here, this rally is going to be eight years old this week. It will be the eighth birthday of the bull market. This thing has been charging higher for some time. When President Obama took office, they passed a stimulus, tried to stabilize the banking sector.
Finally the economy eight years later is roaring ahead again. You have an eight-year-long trend here that has been capped, most recently by enthusiasm over Trump's legislative agenda. Every time he gets off that and he gets sidetracked, you start to see a little nervousness in the markets.