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CNN NEWSROOM

Report: Why Trump Embraces Conspiracy Theories; FBI Chief Incredulous Over Wiretap Claim; Nude Pics of Female Marines Posted Online. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 6, 2017 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We also need to keep the ballot box safe from illegal voting. We are going to protect the integrity of the ballot box, and we are going to defend the votes of the American citizen.

We had a massive field of people. You saw that. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks. And they show an empty field. I said wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out. The field was -- it looked like a million, million and a half people.

I'm the one that got him to put up his birth certificate. Hillary Clinton was unable to get there. I will tell you she tried, you look at her campaign. Everybody knows it happened. And I would say that everybody pretty much agrees with me.

All I did was point out the fact that on the cover of the "National Enquirer" there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast. Ted never denied that it was his father.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Ted Cruz did deny that his father had anything to do with Lee Harvey Oswald or JFK'S assassination. Let's talk about all of this with Paul Musgrave a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. And Karen Tumulty national political correspondent with the "The Washington Post". Paul I want to start with you and the Op Ed that you wrote in the "Washington Post" talking about normalizing paranoia. What did you mean by that?

PAUL MUSGRAVE, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS: Well, there has been something really interesting that's happened over the last couple of months. Normally, the people who believe political conspiracy theories are people who are partisans of the opposition party. But President Trump's governing style means that he is intentionally using conspiracy theories and misdeeds as a way to perpetuate his own political agenda. And that's mainstreaming things that used to be part of the paranoid fringe in a way we have frankly almost never seen before in American history.

BASH: Karen, you have been doing reporting on this. And you compared this to a car. What did you mean by that?

KAREN TUMULTY, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: I think yes, the lead of my story today says that he has turned his presidency onto a road with no guardrails and no center line. Look, it's -- trafficking in conspiracy theories is something that Donald Trump has done for a long time either to build a political base or as we've seen, to change the subject. But now Donald Trump is the head of the government of the most powerful nation in the world, and when he says these things, he also enlisted, as we heard today with the white house press secretary -- he enlists all the power and all the institutions of that government to either, you know, to back him up on this, to sort of help him further this. And I think this is a completely different situation than we have seen in the past where it's been either a celebrity.

BASH: Can say that again.

TUMULTY: A celebrity throwing these things around or a political candidate. This is -- this is a whole different situation when, again, he is speaking as the commander in chief of the United States of America.

BASH: Paul Musgrave, you are an academic. Have you seen anything in history that even comes close to this?

MUSGRAVE: Well, unfortunately, yes, in the 19th century a lot of same sorts of hatred and fear that President Trump is stirring up used to be directed at immigrant groups like Catholics or the Chinese and they formed the basis for some of the United States nastiest policies toward minorities. There have been other times during the annexation of Texas when Britain said that slave owners were interfering in American politics. We have forgotten those because over the 20th century increases in education and media, all of those made it harder we thought for people to peddle these sorts of untruths. But with Trump a lot of what we thought we knew about politics has gone out the window.

BASH: Yes, that is a true fact. That is not an alternate fact. It is definitely a lot of things have gone out the window. Luckily, unlike the 19th century we have technology and a free media like ours, all of ours, where we can try to beat back conspiracy theories as much as possible. Thank you both, to both of you. We encourage everybody to read both of your pieces in the "Washington Post."

Up next, former Obama communications director Jen Psaki will join me live to react to the current President accusing her former boss of wiretapping him.

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Sources are telling CNN's Pamela Brown that FBI director James Comey was incredulous after he heard President Trump's allegations that former President Obama wiretapped his phones. Some former intelligence directors are speaking publicly on the matter, denying that intelligence agency wiretapped Trump's phones and calling the President baseless -- at least his accusations are baseless and harmful to U.S. security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, HOST, MEET THE PRESS: If the FBI for instance had a FISA court order of some sort for surveillance would that be information you would know or not know?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Yes.

[15:40:00] TODD: You would be told this, if there was a FISA court order on something like this?

CLAPPER: I would know that, yes. Something like this, absolutely.

TODD: At this point you can't confirm or deny whether that exists?

CLAPPER: I can deny it.

TODD: There is no FISA court order?

CLAPPER: Not to my knowledge.

TODD: Of anything at Trump tower?

CLAPPER: No.

MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: If you take literally what the President tweeted. The plumbing doesn't work that way. It could not have happened the way he said it, that the president of the United States directed surveillance on someone. He hasn't been able to do that since the mid-1970s.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: When he accuses a past president of wiretapping without any evidence of that being the case, it makes us vulnerable. It weakens the United States and makes us vulnerable to our enemies. That's the danger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: I should also add that the first director of national intelligence John Negroponte was on this show an hour ago with a similar reaction. I want to talk about this with Jen Psaki who served as the communications director under President Obama. Also with me, mike rogers who was the chairman of the house intelligence committee. Jen, let me start with you, your reaction to the President's allegation that your former boss wiretapped his phones?

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHIT HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I hadn't had enough coffee yet when the tweets started flying on Saturday morning. But I think you look at the comments of everyone from former director of national intelligence James Clapper to the reports by Pamela Brown about Comey's comments, this is not even how it works. If there is a wiretapping that would go through the deputy of justice. That's not something the President orders, not this President, not Trump, not treasures for decades. We are not surprised -- I wouldn't say I was surprised by the attack by President Trump. Remember, this is the same guy who has been peddling conspiracy theories including about President Obama and whether he was born in the United States, for decades. This is something we talked about in the white house but this wasn't on the list.

BASH: You know, yes, that's true, but at least at the beginning during the transition, President Trump was then President-elect Trump, was very effusive in his praise for President Obama. Have you spoken to the former President about these allegations?

PSAKI: I have not spoken with him, no, about these allegations. I think if you are him and you are sitting -- and I have spoken to a number of people who still work for him. But I would say that this is something that you -- most people should be having a collective eye roll to. There is no basis in them. The problem is that there is a false equivalency between the calling for investigations, and it is a confusing storyline right now for a lot of people.

BASH: On that point, Mike Rogers, do you think this is intentionally confusing, trying to kick up dust so that people don't really know -- they hear about investigating and wiretapping, what's going on?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, it gets back to what my mother told me, nothing good happens about 3:00 in the morning. Maybe he should be sleeping at that point. Listen, it's clear that there is no way that the President of the United States can order legitimately any wiretap. That's just not the way the system works. There are two things that Clapper said I think are really important. One if there is no FISA warrant, I found that being and a bold statement as well as him saying there was no collusion with the Russians. If you think about all of the discussions over the last months those are two very definitive statements.

Again, there are still some questions to be answered here as we move forward but it is not helpful for the President of the United States to say that the former President, unless he throws a dossier on the table that shows that he illegally tapped someone's phone. It just doesn't happen that way. It can't work that way. There may have been some -- if you listen to representative Himes and you listen to the former director of national intelligence they all leave out -- he called it article three, I think he was talking about title three, which is the criminal application for a warrant. That could have brushed past somebody in the campaign. And that's the only thing I can think trying to piece all this together.

BASH: If you were still the chair of the intelligence committee would I just blow off the questions from the white house or the requests from the white house to investigate this?

ROGERS: This would be the quickest part of any investigation, you haul in the FBI director, you haul in the national clandestine service folks and the criminal side of people who go through the process of applying for these warrants. And then you haul in the DOJ people responsible for the same thing, and you ask the question, I think you would have an answer probably within 30 minutes. This is not something that you can -- this is going to linger on for very long if the investigators are doing their job. [15:45:00] BASH: Jen, as somebody who was up until a month and a half

ago sat in the white house directing communication strategy, just -- I know you said you are not surprised. But what do you make of what we've seen never mind the last four or five weeks but in the last two or three days?

PSAKI: I think they are really at risk of putting their own credibility -- they have put their credibility on the line here. And they continue to chip away at it. And that's not a place you want to be as a spokesperson or as a senior official, and certainly not as the President. And they haven't each had a crisis yet. What is happening now is we are starting to question the public comments of the President of the United States. People who work for him. And we haven't even faced a national crisis or an international crisis. That's not where you want to be if you are a senior member of the white house staff.

BASH: I'm guessing that's not where the current senior staff wants to be, for sure. Jen Psaki, Mike Rogers thank you so much for your insights, appreciate it.

Coming up next, the Navy is investigating after explicit photos of female Marines were posted on line without their knowledge. Details on the male veteran who blew the whistle.

[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: A disturbing discovery. Hundreds of explicit photos of former and current e-mail Marines and other service members have been posted online. A defense official tells CNN that members of a private Facebook group have been sharing lewd photos of women without their knowledge. I want to bring in CNN's pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara, first of all, you know, have you ever seen anything like this? You have obviously been covering the pentagon for so long and are wired probably more than anybody else there. But also, do you know if they have been able to identify who is responsible?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, a major military investigation now under way, Dana. The NCIS, Naval Criminal Investigations Service, looking into all of this. It was brought to their attention several weeks ago by a former marine who had been online, came across this site and discovered what was in it. He brought it to their attention. So that investigation very quietly begun. They're trying to determine how many people were involved. By all accounts, the photos of the women not suitable to be -- to describe on a news station like CNN. Very lewd, very salacious. It is possible some of them were originally taken under consensual circumstances but then shared not with the consent of the women. It is possible some of the photos were taken under stalking circumstances.

BASH: Wow.

STARR: So, all of this very much being investigated, all of this subject to disciplinary action. Marine corps leadership making very strong statements against it and trying to figure out at this point exactly what it is they may be dealing with. Dana.

BASH: Barbara, thank you. These women who, you know, are serving this country put themselves in harm's way to be allegedly hurt like this by their fellow servicemen is -- is quite disturbing. Barbara, thank you so much for that report. Sure.

Backlash erupts after President Trump accuses his predecessor of wiretapping his phones without offering proof. What are the Republicans on The Hill saying about this? I'll ask one next.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: More on our breaking news. FBI director James Comey is said to be incredulous over President Trump's claims that former President Obama wiretapped his phone. How are Republicans reacting? I'm bringing in Virginia Republican Congressman Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL and Iraq war veteran. You're also a member of the homeland security committee. Point blank, let me ask you, do you think the President has a basis for this allegation?

SCOTT TAYLOR, CONGRESSMAN, VIRGINIA: Well, thank you for having me today. I appreciate it. I am aware of no evidence from the President, if he was wiretapped or not. I think it's a pretty serious allegation. I know chairman Nunez said he'll look into it. I am not aware of any evidence. I'd love to see some, of course. It's a pretty shocking allegation, of course. If the white house has some evidence, if they're able to, in a way that doesn't impinge on classified information they should probably release something or should definitely work with the committees in equation to do Congress to do so.

BASH: Are you worried about American credibility when a President puts forward an unsubstantiated claim such as this about his predecessor?

TAYLOR: Well, again, it is a big claim, of course. And like I said, I think that, you know, the appropriate committees, if they decide it's in their purview to investigate it, they should. I certainly am not aware of any evidence but we'll see how it all plays out. But I think that it's -- like I said, it's a big claim. And we should take it seriously if the President of the United States is saying that. We should look into it, see if there is anything there or not. If not, I imagine he will be rebuked.

BASH: Would you be one to rebuke him if there is no evidence that comes to the fore?

TAYLOR: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BASH: Congressman. Let's talk about the travel ban the President signed today, the revised travel ban.

TAYLOR: Mm-hmm.

BASH: You agreed with the President at the beginning with taking a pause, but you had a problem with some of his rhetoric at the time. Do you support what you have seen today, the revisions, taking Iraq out, for example, and making clear that people who have green cards and so forth are excluded from this?

TAYLOR: Well, I agree -- I still disagree with the rhetoric that happened before, but I certainly agree with taking a pause. I think it's important to keep in mind -- and yes, you're right, it is important that folks with green cards who are here legally are not unnecessarily affected, of course. Let's look at the six countries. Three of them are on the state sponsors of terrorism list. Four arguably are failed states. I am happy that Iraq has stepped up and is working with the United States to make it more secure. The vetting stronger, of course. I think it is important that we do take a pause. Again, this is certainly within the purview of -- and the power of a President on both sides, whether they wanted to reduce it or increase it.

BASH: It's in the power of the President, but really quickly, do you think, as a member of the homeland security committee, it is necessary for the security of this country to put this ban in place?

TAYLOR: I am on the appropriations committee. We oversee DHS, the funding of that.

BASH: Thank you for clarifying that.

TAYLOR: I didn't want to take credit for that. But anyways, I do think that -- I do think that it's important for our security. And I think the people overwhelmingly of the country want that as well too. Again, just today the FBI comes out and says that 30 percent -- 30 percent -- of their domestic terrorism cases they are investigating are from folks who are refugees. It's important not to label refugees as bad people.