Return to Transcripts main page
FBI Chief Incredulous over Trump's Wiretap Claims; Trump Compares Obama Wiretap to Nixon and Watergate; THAAD Missile Defense System Arrives in South Korea; Trump Signs New Travel Ban; Breitbart Apparent Source for Wiretap Allegation; President Trump and Stress Eating. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired March 7, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:10] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.
Ahead this hour:
The FBI director incredulous over President Trump's unfounded accusations that former President Obama wiretapped his phones. Trump compares the alleged wiretapping to the Watergate scandal but what does the former White House counsel of the Nixon administration have to say? John Dean joins us this hour.
And after North Korea's ballistic missile tests the U.S. delivers the first pieces of its controversial missile defense system to South Korea despite protests from Beijing, Moscow and Pyongyang.
Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. It's great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. The first hour of NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.
The U.S. President looks to be heading toward another clash with the U.S. intelligence community. According to one source, FBI director James Comey was incredulous over Mr. Trump's allegations that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of his phones last year. President Trump also has no evidence and we're told Comey is frustrated the Justice Department has not spoken publicly to counter the claim.
Meantime White House spokesman Sean Spicer was asked if President Trump still supports the FBI director. Spicer dodged the question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the President's view of James Comey right now? Does he have the President's full faith and confidence to stay on as the FBI director?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I'm not -- I don't think -- we have only heard unsubstantiated anonymous sources make those claim. I don't think Director Comey has actually commented on anything that he has allegedly said. So I'm not going to comment on what people say he might have said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Well, joining me here in Los Angeles Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson and Republican consultant John Thomas.
Ok John -- forget what Sean Spicer actually said there. What is important is what he did not say. He did not say that the President supports Comey. Again, there is a rift between the intelligence department and the President.
JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, Comey has a gun and that's he can make a public statement. I think the President is waiting to see is he willing to use that weapon.
And also I think Spicer makes a good point. Comey himself hasn't made a statement. And so to speculate as to Comey's intent is just that, speculation at this point.
VAUSE: I think, you know, all the problems and the fallouts the last time Comey made a statement, is it sort of unrealistic to think that he would go public again and in a way he is making a public statement by letting it be known.
DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: In a way he totally has. I mean has gone to the "New York Times", he's gone to other publications and basically off the record on background has insinuated that look, this is outrageous, this didn't happen.
But I think what this ultimately underscores is the fact that the President is a compulsive flamethrower and we really ought to start calling him by his true name which is liar, liar, liar-in-chief.
Whether it's the Electoral College, the biggest landslide since Ronald Reagan, the voter fraud, or scores of other lies that have come out I mean this is just -- the lying is just beyond the pale.
VAUSE: John you state, you know, Comey has not made a public statement but, you know, if the President wanted he could actually speak to James Comey, the FBI director. He can also talk to the head of national intelligence but as of Monday morning it seems the President hasn't done that. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARA HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I don't know that he has talked directly with the FBI director.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: He can ask the Director of National Intelligence if this is true. Has he done that?
SANDERS: Look, I don't know that actually that is the case, George. From my understanding is that there is a process that this has to follow and in order to go through that process the first step is a congressional review. And that's what we're asking to take place right now. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Ok. Whether or not that is the first step I think is debatable. But, John -- it certainly appears that Donald Trump has more faith in what is essentially a dubious report which appeared on the Breitbart Web site than he does in the intelligence community.
THOMAS: I think it's more than the Breitbart Web site. I think there were a lot of claims, including the "New York Times" that talked about potential wiretapping.
We do know that General Flynn's phones were wiretapped, were tapped when talking to a Russian ambassador. There are suspicions that -- and I think they're fair suspicions that Trump allies perhaps were spied upon.
President Barack Obama's statement over the weekend parsed his answer in saying I did not order a wiretap. It doesn't mean that a wiretap wasn't done, that he wasn't privy to a wire top. So I think President Trump just wants the facts.
VAUSE: If a wiretap was done, Dave, doesn't that indicate something serious happened?
JACOBSON: Precisely. I mean it's even more -- you know, it's a scarier issue if there really was a wiretapping. That means that he really worked theoretically or someone in his campaign worked for a foreign entity for an outside government which is even scarier. I mean that basically I think highlights the fact that perhaps there was collusion if there was a wiretap.
[00:05:09] VAUSE: Ok. There does seem to be a pattern here to these controversial tweets coming from the President. They seem to happen early on a Saturday morning.
Back in January he went after Democratic Congressman John Lewis as being all talk, talk, talk, no action. A few weeks later he took aim at the failing "New York Times" and fake news, then the comment about a so-called judge. That was after his first travel ban was blocked by the court. Dave -- is this a shabbat problem? You know, with Jared Kushner and Ivanka are observing Jews but when they're not around, the President kind of goes off the rail.
JACOBSON: Right. They let the wild beast out. I mean, look the challenge here is that Donald Trump is an ultimate sort of mastermind when it comes to shifting headlines. And perhaps at the end of the week when there's scandal and controversy plaguing his White House and his administration he is trying to change the subject and he goes to war whether it's with John Lewis or President Obama or any other entity.
But I think what it really does is that it illuminates the fact that Donald Trump has got off his leash and his staff is not around him to sort of rein him in.
THOMAS: I think the deflection argument in this case from what I'm hearing from senior people in the White House, this is not a deflection about wiretapping. He believes it to be true.
On the weekend he has more time. So, of course he tweets.
VAUSE: A lot of people believe a lot of things that don't actually make a lot of sense but they're not the President. So I guess, you know, this has a lot more implications.
Stay with us because the U.S. Republicans have unveiled their long- awaited bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. The plan would do away with the individual mandate which requires most people to have health coverage or face a tax penalty. But it would still allow young adults to stay on their parents' plan until they are 26. House committees are expected to vote on the measure on Wednesday.
John -- already four Republican senators seem opposed to this; they're calling it Obamacare light. Is this actually going to get through Congress in its current form?
THOMAS: I think it will. The issue is, is this like just putting a band-aid on the problem. It's not fixing the problem. The White House has to lay out more of a comprehensive fix. But they are under such pressure because public opinion is turning against the President and his position on healthcare. So he has to start putting something out.
VAUSE: Dave, will Democrats support it? Yes or no?
JACOBSON: No, absolutely not. And by the way, public opinion is on the side of Democrats. Hart Research put out a poll. It's reported by the "L.A. Times" today. 62 percent of Americans believe that they ought to keep the elements that people like about the Affordable Care Act and then just fix it, not repeal and replace.
VAUSE: Ok. Let's go quickly back to the President's weekend Twitter storm. After making those incredibly sensational remarks about the former president, Barack Obama, Mr. Trump also hit out at Arnold Schwarzenegger, tweeting he's been fired from "The Apprentice" for bad ratings.
John -- you look at the series of tweets. This came all within, you know, short span of each other. And the timing here, does the President sort of equate high crimes and misdemeanors within the Oval Office with bad TV ratings?
THOMAS: Well, I think President Trump understands ratings are equivalent to votes. He understands both of those things. But look, I got to give President Trump credit. He said Schwarzenegger would fail. He failed.
JACOBSON: Sour grapes.
I mean look, he said during his speech the other day that he was essentially going to put these petty battles behind him.
JACOBSON: Right. And now he is going to war over Twitter with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
VAUSE: Ok. John and Dave -- good to see you. Thank you.
VAUSE: During that weekend tweet storm by the U.S. President, Donald Trump compared his predecessor Barack Obama with former president, Richard Nixon and Watergate.
"How low has President Obama gone to tap my phone during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad or sick guy."
As a reminder, the Watergate scandal refers to a break in and attempt to bug the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972. It was ultimately linked to the re-election campaign of then President Richard Nixon. And while it's still not known if Nixon knew about the break-in ahead of time his administration tried to cover it up and eventually Nixon was forced to resign.
No one knows more about Watergate than John Dean. He was White House counsel at the time. He joins us now in Los Angeles. Mr. Dean -- thank you for being with us.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Pleasure.
VAUSE: Is it possible for a president in 2016 to simply order a wiretap or surveillance essentially for political purposes?
DEAN: Not easily. I can't imagine President Obama and Michelle heading out in the dark of the night to plant bugs in some opponent's office. Not likely to happen.
There are laws that really make it quite possible. And Nixon actually initially ordered wiretapping through the FBI; some 17 wiretaps mostly on newsmen then on some NSC staff, as well as one of his own speech writers.
It was during the campaign, at his campaign, that a bungled effort to try to bug the Democratic National Committee. There is no evidence, I didn't see it when I was there. I've never seen it historically that Nixon had any knowledge of that wiretapping. So he really wasn't responsible and I'm not sure that Donald Trump understands that for the wiretapping itself.
[00:10:04] VAUSE: The Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, he told CNN he does not know what the evidence would be to the President's claim but he believes it must be convincing. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: If the President of the United States said that he's got his reasons to say it. He's got some convincing evidence that took place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: At this point, should we just take the President at his word?
DEAN: Well, that's what we used to do. Presidents, pre-Watergate got the benefit of the doubt. Post Watergate they have not got the benefit of the doubt. So for Trump to put this out there without offering any evidence, he is just asking for the blow back he is now experiencing.
And I don't -- there has been no viable evidence produced since his tweet that it's even possible. There is -- are some conspiracy theories on the hard right that have been percolating but they are really not credible and they are kind of citing (ph) themselves in their own boot strapping and it's pretty weak stuff. There is no source at this point.
VAUSE: In that tweet about Watergate Mr. Trump compared Barack Obama to Richard Nixon. In your opinion, how does Donald Trump at this point compare to Richard Nixon.
DEAN: Well, he compares in the sense that they are both clearly authoritarian personalities but with some differences. Nixon was much more authoritarian behind closed doors. We know about his personality because of his secret taping system whereas Donald Trump is even more authoritarian than Nixon. On a ten-point scale Nixon is probably a six or seven whereas Trump is a ten or maybe even an eleven.
And he is right out there with it. In fact, he ran on it. It was part of his persona that got him elected.
VAUSE: Right now, it seems that supporters of President Trump, they believe that he can do no wrong. All these scandals don't really seem to matter at least at this point.
While for the critics of the President they believe he can't do anything right. Everything seems to be a major scandal. Given that political environment right now where do you see all of this heading? What happens next?
DEAN: Well, this is very typical of authoritarian followers. There are two types of authoritarians. One are those like Trump who are called social dominators and there is a lot of research on this, lot of -- decades of it since post World War II.
And so we know that most authoritarian personalities are followers and they will blindly follow. They will accept their leader. As Trump said, he could go out on 5th Avenue and shoot someone and they would still support him. That's probably true.
That's why they -- they're not terribly interested in whether he has a source or not, they just like the fact that he is attacking the former president. They are the people who liked him calling Obama a Kenyan rather than an American. So this is really what he is doing is poking old coals and raising some problems that are really going to hurt him in the long run in his relationship with Mr. Obama.
VAUSE: Ok. John Dean -- it's been a pleasure to speak with you. Also we should mention, author of the book "Conservatives without a Conscious" selling well now, I understand.
Thanks for being with us sir.
DEAN: Thank you.
VAUSE: Well, the first pieces of a U.S. defense system that can shoot down North Korean missiles are now in South Korea. The THAAD system arrived a day after Kim Jong-Un supervised the launch of four ballistic missiles but the deployment has been planned for months. The U.S. says the system is for defense. China and Russia though believe it is a security threat.
Let's go to Paula Hancocks now live from Seoul. So Paula -- that is the sort of the view from Beijing as well as Moscow but what about Seoul? What is their reaction now to the deployment of what seems to be a sort of ramping up by the U.S. of its defensive systems there?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John -- as you say, this has been some time in the making. We have known that this was going to arrive at some point. And we had a phone call just last week between the South Korean defense minister and the U.S. Defense Secretary and they both pledged that they would make this happen as soon as possible given the renewed threat they saw from the North Korean missile program.
So there's a fairly split opinion when it comes to the public here in South Korea. Certainly those in the southern part of the country where this unit is going to be based don't want it there. They don't want it next to their homes, farmers are complaining. There are some that have environmental concerns which the U.S. and South Korea have been trying to -- trying to placate those in the local community. But certainly for the rest of South Korea, this has been some time in the making.
[00:14:49] We've also heard from the commander of the U.S. Central Command -- Pacific Command, sorry -- Admiral Harry Harris and he has said that yesterday's missiles only confirmed the prudence of the decision to deploy THAAD to South Korea pointing out that you had those four missiles from North Korea yesterday and then hours later this element for THAAD arrived at Osan Air Base. So it shows there is an absolute need for it -- John.
VAUSE: The timing is coincidental according to the Americans but it does seem quite fortuitous, I guess, for the South Koreans. This missile -- or anti-missile defense system are being deployed in other places around the world. Just how effective is it?
HANCOCKS: Well, they have it already in Guam, in Hawaii. It's been operational for several years. And the way it works is it intercepts a missile as it is heading towards the territory.
So it effectively takes it out in the air in the earth's atmosphere or outside.
So it has been tried and tested. The U.S. says it is very successful. There are some that question how successful it will be within South Korea. Certainly the monitoring group 38 North has said that there are certain longer range missiles it will not be able to hit, that it has about a range of a thousand kilometers at this point. So certainly the short, the medium, intermediate range missiles should be able to be taken out.
But of course, also multiple missiles could be a problem for many missile defense systems. And you see just yesterday on Monday, North Korea firing four ballistic missiles simultaneously. So certainly they are, according to experts, not just testing their missiles but testing the missile units to be able to carry out these multiple launches knowing that that would be more of a problem for the likes of THAAD -- John.
VAUSE: Paula -- stay with us. Matt Rivers is joining us now live from Beijing.
Matt -- the Americans say that this system is purely for defense. Beijing though has a very different take.
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Beijing has consistently said ever since this was first announced that the deployment of this anti-missile defense system is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt by the United States to firmly cement its strategic influence militarily in the region and further contain China.
They say that it's part of the general overall U.S. strategy to box China in on all sides and they also bring up privately that this missile defense system also has radar capability with it that is really the real threat according to some in the Chinese military. They say that that ability really hampers China's ability within its own borders.
They also say look, how would the United States feel if China deployed some kind of antimissile defense system right near the U.S. border, say in Cuba? The United States wouldn't be happy with that. And so for China to react any different way and for the U.S. to be critical of the Chinese reaction they say is merely hypocritical.
VAUSE: Well, we went down that road once before but with the Russians, not the China.
Matt Rivers -- thank you. Matt Rivers, live in Beijing and Paula Hancocks, live also at this hour in Seoul.
We will take a short break.
When we come back, President Trump unveils travel ban 2.0. Just ahead we'll see how it is different from the first controversial executive order. And later a closer look at the apparent source of President Trump's
[00:18:13] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.
Senior Trump officials are forcefully defending the President's new travel ban saying it will stand up to any court challenge. But some states and immigrants rights groups are already weighing their legal options. Mr. Trump refused to allow reporters into the room as he signed this new executive order.
This one is more limited in scope than the first ban. Iraq was removed from the list meaning six Muslim-majority countries are now affected and valid visa and green card holders and permanent U.S. residents are all exempt. The new ban takes effect March 16th.
Joining me here in Los Angeles: the executive director of the National Immigration Forum Ali Noorani; criminal defense attorney Sara Azari; and from Amman, Jordan CNN's Jomana Karadsheh.
And Jomana -- first to you, Iraq is off the list of banned countries. How is that being seen right now in Baghdad and how did they essentially negotiate to get off the list?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well John -- this is how expected this new executive order was and what details it had. Hours before President Trump signed it we had a statement coming out from the Iraqi foreign ministry expressing quote, "deep relief" that Iraq had been taken off the list saying that this is an important step in the right direction. That it will strengthen cooperation between the United States and Iraq especially in the field of counter terrorism.
This is, of course, coming after weeks of intense lobbying from Iraqi officials including the prime minister who spoke to President Trump trying to make the case also for Iraq to be removed off the list. But we also know that U.S. officials including defense officials have been lobbying to get Iraq off this travel ban because of the importance of Iraq when it comes to the fight against ISIS.
It's worth keeping in mind there are more than 5,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq who are advising and assisting Iraqi troops in their fight against ISIS.
And when the initial travel ban on January 27 came into effect there was concern that, you know, there would be a rise in anti-American sentiment. We've heard calls that Americans should be expelled from Iraq from within that country. And also there was that vote in the Iraqi parliament to apply reciprocal measures. So I think all of this did help Iraq get its way at the end of the day.
But one group of Iraqis, of course, that will be not expressing deep relief at this point is refugees, John, because they have been waiting for years and now they have to wait for another four months potentially to try and get to the United States. VAUSE: Ok. Jomana -- thank you for that; the view there from Amman.
Ali -- I want to get you in this. Do you see this new travel ban as an improvement in any way? Is there anything positive in this sort of slimmed-down version that you can point to?
ALI NOORANI, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM: We have serious concerns about this ban. It remains something that we believe is going to have serious constitutional questions as we go through the court process.
I think that, you know, you can make a case that they have narrowed the ban so it doesn't include those who have green cards. But at the end of the day the intent of this executive order is very clear and that it is a Muslim ban and we do have serious concerns.
VAUSE: Ok. Well, this new executive order replaces the one that was blocked by the courts. The Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he said that this new travel ban will be defended by the Department of Justice. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Department of Justice believes that this executive order, just as the first executive order, is a lawful and proper exercise of presidential authority. This Department of Justice will defend and enforce lawful orders of the President consistent with the core principles of our constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Sara, from a legal point of view looking at all the changes that have been made, will this one stand up in court?
SARA AZARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, John. If it's ban number one, two, three or ten, for as long as it is carving out these countries which are majority Muslim -- I mean almost 100 percent Muslim -- it is an Islamic Muslim ban and it is based on religion, it's unconstitutional and it's really un-American because it goes against our fundamental values and beliefs as Americans.
And so Mr. Sessions is saying this because apparently there was a report today that Homeland Security through the Justice Department has investigated 300 individuals who are traced to terrorist acts and then to these countries. We don't have findings from this investigation.
[00:25:07] Just because there was an investigation doesn't mean that the conclusion is actually there. So there's an issue. And there's an issue because much like some of the other assertions and accusations that we've seen come out from Trump and this administration there is no evidence to support that these particular countries or nationals from these countries committed terrorist acts on U.S. soil.
Not one example has been presented. And that is why the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals couldn't really reconcile this as a national security threat because there's no evidence to support that. VAUSE: Yes. It was interesting that despite everything the President
said about, you know, needing to get this ban done so urgently because of the threat, Ali, it could actually wait for the President to sort of bask in the glow of a good speech in Congress. What does this mean?
NOORANI: I mean exactly. Last Wednesday, the day after his speech in joint session, we all thought they would be announcing this ban. And they gave themselves a handful more of additional days.
So it leads us to question, what are the national security implications of this ban? And clearly there aren't any.
VAUSE: Did you think that he would actually change his mind after the controversy of the first ban?
NOORANI: I think if there's one thing that we learned about President Trump is that he's pretty set in his ways.
VAUSE: Ok. So a fundraising e-mail was sent out shortly after the President signed the executive order. It goes to how this ban will fight radical Islamic terrorism and the President is keeping his campaign promises. So with legal challenges which are pretty much guaranteed could this e-mail end up as being evidence in court?
AZARI: It could because remember that the court, the justices or judges that are reviewing this are not limited to the four corners of this order. They will look at the totality of the circumstances. They will look at what's missing.
And so we did get some indication from the Ninth Circuit Court before on the first ban that you know, Mr. Trump had made all these assertions throughout his campaign, promising his supporters that he's going to eradicate Islamic terrorism, et cetera. And so the court actually used that. It's a bell that you cannot un-ring.
Ali, this order does not apply to current visa holders. It does not apply to green card holders -- so put that to one side. How does it actually impact the American Muslim community?
NOORANI: Well, I think it impacts the American-Muslim community in that it leads to a very high level of anxiety and fear. So that it means that if you are a Syrian refugee who's been resettled by an evangelical church in South Carolina or you've been here for generations you are going to ask yourself once or twice before you report a crime to the law enforcement which at the end of the day it makes us all less safe.
And the other part about this is the economic implications. The message that the Trump administration is sending to the world is that we don't want tourists. We don't want visitors. We don't want people to come and bring their talents to the United States. And that, at the end of the day, is a terrible deal for the American worker.
VAUSE: Ok. Ali and Sara -- thanks for being with us.
AZARI: Thank you.
VAUSE: We'll take a short break.
When we come back, President Trump has made some explosive claims about his predecessor and it's putting him at odds with the FBI director.
Ahead -- what apparently sparked that Twitter tirade which started the entire controversy.
[00:28:02] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[00:31:27] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause. Time to check the headlines this hour.
A source tells CNN, the FBI director was incredulous over President Trump's allegations that former President Obama wiretapped his phones during the 2016 campaign. The source says James Comey felt compelled to push back on the unsubstantiated claim. Senior FBI officials asked the Department of Justice to publicly reject Mr. Trump's accusations. So far, though, no public comment from the department.
And Donald Trump has unveiled his revised travel ban. Iraq no longer on the list. Mr. Trump refused to allow reporters into the room as he sign the executive order. It temporarily bans travel to the United States from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
House Republicans have unveiled their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. It would scrap the Affordable Care Act individual mandate which requires most people to have health coverage or face a tax penalty. In its place, tax credits to encourage people to buy insurance on the open market. The bill would still protect those with pre-existing conditions and allow young people to stay on their parents' insurance plan until age 26.
The U.S. and South Korea are speeding up their plans to use the Thaad Missile Defense System. The first pieces arrived in Seoul one day after North Korea launched four ballistic missiles. North Korea, China and Russia see the system as a threat. The U.S. says it is only for defense.
When U.S. President Donald Trump unleashed his barrage of tweets early Saturday morning with sensational and unfounded accusations that former President Barack Obama had ordered his phone be tapped seemed to come out of nowhere, and, well, it still to be confirmed, this article posted Friday on the Alt-Right Web site, Breitbart, may have actually been the spark.
So to break down this Breitbart story, CNN's senior medial correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources" Brian Stelter joins us now from New York.
Brian, good to have you with us. BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Thanks.
VAUSE: Let's go through the writing here. So out of the gate, the story refers to the Obama administration requesting the wiretap. So at the end of the day, it's the FBI which makes the request, right?
This seems to imply it came directly from the Oval Office.
STELTER: Right. The story tries to put this much more squarely on former President Obama. It's part of a narrative that we've seen from Breitbart and other right wing Web sites saying that the Obama administration on the way out the door, Obama himself and his aides now have been trying to undermine the new president at every turn.
This has been a popular narrative for weeks, but it's really picked up steam in recent days because of this Breitbart story and because of the conservative radio host Mark Levin. They presented this conspiracy narrative that Trump has latched on to.
VAUSE: OK. Let's go forward to the story. Just a couple of lines down. The story says Donald Trump was joking when he asked for Russia to find Hillary Clinton's 30,000 missing e-mails. But that's not how many in the intelligence community heard these comments, right?
STELTER: Right. My head is a little bit dizzy from the spinning that's going on in this Breitbart story. You know, what happened at that press conference in July of last year, President Trump may have sounded like he was joking, but his words were taken very seriously, not just by journalists but by members of the intelligence community and by folks in Russia, it would seem.
This was a serious comment the president made even if he said it in a light-hearted way or was trying to have some fun. He was the G.O.P. candidate for president talking about Russia, to be going and finding his rival's e-mails.
[00:35:06] VAUSE: OK. To line four in the article, which deals with the WikiLeaks release of e-mails from the Clinton campaign chair John Podesta saying that the Clinton campaign blames Trump and the Russians.
It wasn't just the Clinton campaign blaming Russia, was it?
STELTER: No, far from it. This was an intelligence community consensus conclusions reached by multiple agencies from many different directions. But what you are showing here, John, is the way that a framing of a story can really confuse an issue. It can really muddy the proverbial waters. This is what a point of view sites like Breitbart do really well.
There's obviously room all over the Web for opinion journalism. For point of view journalism. But I think what we see as a result when people read these stories and don't necessarily know where the writer is coming from, a point of view of the writer has or why things are being spun a certain way, it can be awfully confusing. VAUSE: OK. The story then talks about the scandal over Michael Flynn, the national security adviser who was forced to resign after revelations he lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. The story describes Flynn as a private citizen at the time of the conversations.
Also says the acting Attorney General Sally Yates was later fired for insubordination and then actually refers to Flynn misleading the vice president, adding in brackets, perhaps inadvertently.
So let's sort of clear this up, because Flynn was actually named national security adviser, November 17, long before he had that conversation with the Russian ambassador. Sally Yates actually tried to warn the incoming president that there was a problem. And who knows if Flynn lied inadvertently or not.
STELTER: Well, that is an open question and many folks have reached the conclusion that he was been deceptive in his comments. But Flynn has been turned into a martyr of sorts by the Breitbart and Sean Hannity of the world.
I've been noticing this in conservative media circles pointing to Flynn as the first victim of what is described as this Obama attempt to take down Trump.
You know, Mark Levin called this a silent coupe. Rush Limbaugh and others as well. There is a real attempt to say all of Trump's troubles are really Obama's fault.
VAUSE: OK, Brian, thanks for breaking it down. Appreciate you being with us.
VAUSE: So what does President Trump have to do with what Barbara Streisand eats? Well, coming up, the singer is taking a bite out of Trump caused stress with a big helping of pancakes and maple syrup.
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.
[00:40:00] CNN is teaming up with young people around the globe for a unique student-led day of action against modern day slavery with the launch of My Freedom Day, March 14th.
Driving My Freedom Day is a simple question, what does freedom mean to you.
Here's what some students in Asia had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom to me is to be able to pursue my passions and dreams and to achieve what I want do in my future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom according to me is an emotion. It's much more than a right or an expression.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom to me is waking up every day without having to worry that my rights will be taken away from me. Living peacefully and happy with my friends and family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be free is to have the power to help others.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Join us on March 14th to stand up from slavery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So send us your answer via tweet, photo or video across social media using the #MyFreedomDay.
U.S. President Donald Trump is at the center of a host of controversy. Now he's being blamed for an outbreak of stress eating. And as CNN's Jeanne Moos explains, singer Barbara Streisand is leading the pack with pancakes and lots of maple syrup.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What does President Trump have to do with Barbara Streisand eating pancakes? The singer sure had great timing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's IHOP's national pancake day.
MOOS: When she tweeted, Donald Trump is making me gain weight. I start the day with liquids, but after the morning news, I eat pancakes smothered in maple syrup. And Babs isn't alone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do think I'm doing a lot of stress eating, to be honest. Swear at the TV and have to get the munchies.
MOOS: Trump's supporters were swearing at Streisand and rewriting her lyrics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The way we were --
MOOS: Became the weight we were. And you don't bring me cheesecake anymore.
Streisand has been vehemently anti-Trump rewriting her own lyrics at a Hillary fund-raiser.
BARBARA STREISAND, SINGER: And if by chance, he gets to heaven, even up there he'll declare chapter 11.
MOOS: And doing a duet with Jimmy Fallon as Trump.
STREISAND: I can do anything better than you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you can't.
STREISAND: Yes, I can. MOOS (on-camera): And while Streisand jokes about Trump-induced weight gain, actress Lena Dunham cites the opposite effect.
LENA DUNHAM, ACTRESS: Donald Trump became president, and I stop being able to eat food so --
MOOS: She was responding to Howard Stern saying she looked smaller.
DUNHAM: Try soul crushing pain and you too will lose weight.
MOOS: Though Dunham was joking, there is anxiety in the air.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can feel it. My anxiety is like my stomach starts to bubble.
LAUREN BISK, PSYCHOLOGIST: I think we're experiencing Trump Fatigue Syndrome.
MOOS: Clinical Psychologist Lauren Bisk says people thought once the election was over, it would be over. But nope.
BISK: Actually my practice has picked up since the election.
MOOS (on-camera): Are you having any symptoms because of the sort of heightened political tension in the air?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, just allergies.
MOOS: Guess he doesn't need extra pancakes. But she might.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How about one day without a CNN alert that scares the hell out of me.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. "World Sport" is up next. And then I will be back with another hour of news from all around the world. You're watching CNN.