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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Meets With Cruz; Interview With Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings; Republicans Divided Over Health Care; Marches, Protests Mark International Women's Day. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired March 8, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And dinner Cruz. As the president tries to rally conservative support, he's breaking bread tonight with his former rival Senator Ted Cruz. Will any kind of offer be on the table?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible ties to the Trump campaign.
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, says he has even more questions tonight after poring over classified intelligence at CIA headquarters. Lawmakers in both parties are scrambling for information before hearings that begin in less than two weeks, hearings that will also look into President Trump's claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama.
Tonight, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says he's ready to subpoena intelligence agencies if necessary to get any evidence that would prove or disprove Trump's allegation.
Sources tell CNN the former President Barack Obama is irked and exasperated by an accusation that his camp has flatly denied.
Also, the White House says President Trump is in full sell mode right now as conservative Republicans revolt against the new House GOP health care bill. Two congressional committees are working into the night on the legislation deemed dead on arrival by critics who call it Obamacare-lite.
Tonight, we're also learning about a new federal criminal investigation into WikiLeaks and its publication of documents purportedly exposing the CIA's hacking operation. The president's spokesman says Mr. Trump is very concerned about the apparent breach.
We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings. He just spent the afternoon meeting with President Trump at the White House. As well as journalist and author Thomas Friedman. And our correspondents and analysts, they're also standing by.
First, let's go to CNN's Jessica Schneider.
Jessica Schneider, congressional investigations on Russia are heating up, even as the White House says the president himself is not a target. What's the latest?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, several congressional committees are ramping up their search for the truth. Their members going straight to the source, whether the FBI or the CIA, and they're even digging through the evidence themselves.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee taking their search for the evidence in the Russian election hacking probe directly to CIA headquarters to examine a trove of classified information.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: In many ways, we have got even more questions now. We have got more information we have got to get access to.
SCHNEIDER: Democratic Mark Warner, vice chair of the committee, won't say if he's seen any evidence that President Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russians, but says he did see details today of Russian interference.
WARNER: A lot of what we saw today was the evidence underlying how Russia manipulated the news, how it hacked into the DNC and John Podesta and leaked out in favor of one candidate against another candidate.
SCHNEIDER: Republican Senator Susan Collins will examine the evidence next week. She also wants the president to prove his wiretapping claims.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I would like him to turn over any evidence that he has supporting his tweet from this weekend about surveillance. I think that would be helpful to our investigation.
SCHNEIDER: The White House still offering no evidence, as Press Secretary Sean Spicer continues to field questions about whether President Trump is tied to the Russian hacks.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is interesting how many times this fake narrative gets repeated over and over and over get and yet no evidence has ever been suggested that shows that the president has anything to do with any of the things that have been -- it's a recycled story.
SCHNEIDER: Senators Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Whitehouse sending this letter to FBI Director James Comey and acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente seeking copies of any warrant applications and court orders related to wiretaps of President Trump, the Trump campaign or Trump Tower.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: When it comes to surveilling an American citizen, the only way you can do it awfully, any president, is to obtain a warrant. If there is no warrant, then that checks that box.
SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, FBI Director Comey still refusing to publicly comment on Trump's wiretap allegation, but he did allude to the high legal bar for securing a warrant at a cyber-security conference in Boston today.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: The government cannot invade our privacy without good reason reviewable in court. That's the heart of America.
SCHNEIDER: Sources tell CNN Comey was incredulous after President Trump's tweets and directed his staff to ask the Justice Department to tamp down on the allegations. That hasn't happened. But Comey believes his job is secure.
COMEY: You're stuck with me for about another six-and-a-half years.
SCHNEIDER: FBI Director Comey just one of the notable names requested as a witness for that March 20 House Intelligence Committee public hearing.
And tonight Republican Senator Susan Collins leaving the door open to the possibility of requesting President Trump's tax returns as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation. Wolf, she says she also wants a public hearing.
BLITZER: Jessica Schneider reporting for us, Jessica, thanks very much.
Tonight, we're getting some breaking news.
I want to quickly go over to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
What are you learning, Jeff?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, learning that former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, of course the former Utah governor as well, has been offered and indeed has accepted, I'm told, the position to be ambassador to Russia.
This is just coming in, Wolf. And very interesting here, because Jon Huntsman, of course, once thought about running again for the Republican presidency and is far more of a hawk on Russia than this administration has been.
But, Wolf, I'm told by an administration official that Mr. Huntsman has indeed been offered and has accepted. This is all but a done deal, but not quite, I'm told, pending a vetting process here. He was, of course, the ambassador to China during the first term of the Obama administration, one of the rare Republicans in the Obama administration.
But, Wolf, if this goes through, which we believe will it will and could be announced in the coming days, Jon Huntsman will be heading to Moscow, of course very key here as the this whole Russia investigation stills hangs over this White House -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A major assignment for the governor, Governor Huntsman. We will watch that closely, the confirmation hearings as well.
You also have some more news about how President Obama reacted to President Trump's accusation that he ordered a wiretap of him on at Trump Tower in New York City.
ZELENY: We do. Wolf, we were talking to people close to the former president today.
And of course he woke up last Saturday, like many people did, including many people here in the White House, and was stunned by the allegations that this president said he personally had approved a wiretap of Trump Tower.
Now, we are told that the president, the former president was irked and exasperated by yet another accusation from this president. We're told he wasn't furious about it because simply he's not surprised by much that this president has said. Of course, he's lived through many years of Donald Trump asking questions and raising questions about Mr. Obama's citizenship and other things.
But, Wolf, this took it to a new level. Irked and exasperated were the words that were used to describe the feelings of the former president. And important to point out, Wolf, the two have not still spoken since Inauguration Day here at the White House.
BLITZER: Interesting. Very interesting indeed.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also spoke about the president's attempts to sell to fellow Republicans the Obamacare replacement bill. What's the latest?
ZELENY: He did, Wolf. This is the sales pitch to the highest degree here.
Sean Spicer at his daily briefing today was saying this president intends to go out in the country to sell in, and so interesting geographically to talk about. Many of these conservative Republicans who are raising deep questions about this bill are from Trump districts that he carried.
Many of them were alongside him last year as he won his presidential campaign. This is what Sean Spicer described how the president would sell this plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Make no mistake. The president is very proud of the product that we have produced.
We are out in full sell mode all around the country talking about how we think this is the best way to solve the problem that the American people face and why we believe that the solutions that we put forward in this bill are the right ones.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So the president out in full sell mode. It is an open question yet if the Republican critics of this will buy this plan.
There are many reasons to believe that they will not. They simply think it does not go far enough. But, Wolf, it is the big test, the first big test of the movement of this president that carried him into the White House here to see if they can help him within legislation, pass legislation as well, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jeff, thank you, Jeff Zeleny reporting.
We're joined now by a key Democrat who actually met with President Trump today over at the White House just a little while ago.
Congressman Elijah Cummings is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. He's a member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the ranking Democrat.
Congressman, thanks very much joining us.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: It's good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, so you just went to the White House. You had a chance to sit down with the president. You spoke on health care. I want to get to that.
But I want to ask you first about the president's claims that former President Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower phones. Senator Lindsey Graham says he's ready to subpoena the intelligence agencies for evidence. He's looking for copies of warrant applications, court orders.
Could there be a wiretap as part of a criminal investigation as far as you know on the business side of the Trump Organization?
CUMMINGS: It's hard to say.
But I do not -- let me be clear. I have worked with President Obama for six years, spent a lot of time with him. And I cannot even imagine imaging him ordering any type of tap on Donald Trump, President Trump.
And I think that I am glad that Lindsey Graham and Ms. Collins, Senator Collins, are asking for any kind of warrants or any kind of evidence that might be available. But I can tell you I don't expect anything to come up there.
I think it's -- I think Donald Trump, our president, woke up one morning and decided to make these allegations. And I think that, in a way, Wolf, what this may do is cause the president to hesitate more when he gets ready to start tweeting, because, again, we have limited government resources, we have limited government personnel.
And to have these kind of allegations circulating is very unfortunate. But, hopefully, we will get to the bottom of it, and I expect that we will see that there is absolutely, I think, perfectly no truth to it.
BLITZER: You're a member of the Oversight Committee, a key member.
Last, Democratic Congressman -- the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, told me of the investigation, he said be careful what you wish for as far as the White House seeking Congress' investigation of all of this.
Is it possible this could uncover information, for example, that President Trump doesn't want uncovered?
CUMMINGS: I think that's quite possible.
But I think we need to let the -- we need to follow the evidence wherever it may lead. Wolf, I have practiced law for many years. And a lot of times, following evidence is like pulling a string off an unraveled softball and can lead to almost anything.
I think -- but, again, I think we need to get back to something I call regular order, where we allow our agencies like the FBI, CIA, to do their job. These are people who are committed to justice and to truth. We need to let them do their jobs.
And I think that, in the end, we will find out the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But when we go around making accusations, as President Trump has done, and we say things that basically put President Obama in a bad light, and there's to my knowledge no proof of it, I think it's very, very unfair.
And so that's why I applaud what Ms. -- Senator Collins and Senator Graham are aiming for, and that is getting any kind of information that might be available.
BLITZER: And they're both Republicans. And a whole bunch of Democrats want that obviously as well.
CUMMINGS: Sure. Sure.
BLITZER: I spoke with Democratic House Intelligence Committee member Representative Jackie Speier earlier today. She said she's looking -- she's afraid that even having an investigation gives credibility to President Trump's claims about President Obama.
Do you agree with him on that?
CUMMINGS: I think there may be some truth to that. But, Wolf, when we have a president like President Trump who constantly says things that are not accurate, at some point, maybe, just maybe, Wolf, this is a way to cause him to pause before he does these things.
Words can be very hurtful, and they can lead to a lot of problems. And I believe, Wolf, that, when the truth meets the lie, usually, there are negative consequences.
BLITZER: You put out a letter today, Congressman, to the -- and you sent it to the White House counsel to look into Jared Kushner's business ties, possible conflicts of interest, the son-in-law of the president, senior adviser to the president right now.
What are you hoping to find and are you getting new information?
CUMMINGS: We just want to look to see exactly -- Kushner had said from the very beginning that he was going to do everything in his power to not have entanglements with regard to his financial situation.
We believe that there are some issues that are still outstanding and we want to get to the bottom of them. After all, Mr. Kushner is a vital member of the president's staff. He advises him on a daily basis and he is playing a major role.
I still don't think that the president has gotten rid of his entanglements. He is still in violation of the GSA lease and he also has the emoluments problem. And so we just want to look and see what's going on there.
And as I told the president today in our meeting, I said, Mr. President, I want you to be successful. And I made it clear the success is lifting up the lives of all the American people.
But, hopefully, we can address these issues, get them out of the way, so that the American people will feel that they have a sense of transparency, not only with Mr. Kushner, but also with the president.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the meeting you had today at the White House with the president.
I know, among other things, you spoke about drug prices, something that so far is not part of the House Republican leadership's health care plan. Did you tell him that, first of all, you clearly oppose this repeal and replace bill?
CUMMINGS: Yes, he's aware of that.
But we spent most of the time, Wolf, talking about drug prices. What we have is a lot of drug prices. What we have is a lot of companies, pharmaceutical companies, that are raising the prices of drugs unreasonably. You go to a drugstore in January, and a prescription is $100. You go back three months later, it's $600.
We see this over and over again. And a lot of these drug companies are doing it because they can do it. I have already heard that President Trump -- I have him say that many times, that they're getting away with murder, that is, the pharmaceutical companies.
And so basically this is something that Bernie Sanders and Congressman Welch and I have worked on for many years, and the president said he wants to help us to bring forward a proposal that will allow, Wolf, for Medicare to negotiate prices, just like the VA and Medicaid does.
Right now, we have got Medicare paying sometimes 70 percent more than VA or Medicaid. That's ridiculous. And so the president made a commitment today, as a matter of fact, he's very enthusiastic about it, that he would work with us on a piece of legislation that we plan to file in two weeks.
I warned him that he would not get very much cooperation from his Republican friends in the Congress. But he said that didn't matter for him. He said he wanted to make sure that he did something not only for the citizens of Baltimore, but the citizens in the Rust Belt and those in Ohio. He wanted to clear that he wanted to make a difference for them.
BLITZER: You also suggested that in the meeting with the president you spoke about some of the language he's used involving African- American communities around the country.
BLITZER: I want you to tell our viewers what you said to him and how he responded.
CUMMINGS: Yes, I said it in a very respectful way, and I said, Mr. President, maybe no one has said to you, so I'm going to tell you today that it seems that, when you talk about the African-American community, you seem to want to judge our community by our weakest link.
I said there are vibrant and many, many vibrant African-American communities throughout this country. People are doing extremely well. And I said I have lived in the same house for 35 years in the inner city of Baltimore. I don't feel threatened. I feel very good about it.
And I said, do me a favor. When you are talking about the African- American community, don't make it sound like we're in foxholes, we're afraid to walk down the street.
And he shook his head and said: You got a point there. I'm going to change. I'm going to change that language. You're absolutely right.
One of the other things that I also told him is that he has Vice President Pence doing an investigation on voter fraud. And I said, Mr. President, come on, now. Come on, Mr. President. There is no voter fraud.
I said, but there is voter suppression. I said in North Carolina, a three-judge panel has already said that the North Carolina legislature, with precision, did everything in their power to stop African-American people from voting and people who would normally vote for Democrats.
And said, you cannot have a legitimate voter survey or evaluation of the United States without addressing the issue of voter suppression. He agreed with me.
I presented to him two letters, one to Vice President Pence, one to him, that laid out all of those issues, and he said: You have got a good point there.
The other thing that I told him was with regard to historically black colleges and universities. I said, you met with our black college presidents the other day. I said, I'm a graduate of a black college. My wife and daughters are.
I said, but did notice that there was no money in the executive order. Mr. President, I want you to find a way to help these colleges that do a phenomenal job in lifting up our children and diverse children from all over the world.
And he said: I promise you I'm going to look into it.
BLITZER: So, bottom line -- and I know you're a proud graduate of Howard University here in Washington. I take it you emerged from the meeting with the president today encouraged?
CUMMINGS: I was encouraged.
But we're going to wait and see what happens. I thought he was enthusiastic about everything that we talked about. I don't think he took anything in a negative way.
And I thought it was a sincere meeting. So, now we have to wait and see. I told him that I was not there for a photo-op, I was there to make a difference.
And I reminded him that, he being 70 and I being 66, one of the most important things we can do is present a platform for our young people to be all that God meant for them to be. And I walked out of the meeting feeling that we were on the road to getting something...
BLITZER: And I just want to be precise, Congressman. On the issue of voter fraud, he promised he would accept your advice on that, your recommendation?
And on the issue of speaking about African-American communities, he also agreed with you to accept your advice? I just want to be precise. Is that right?
CUMMINGS: Yes, that's exactly right.
BLITZER: Congressman Elijah Cummings, thanks very much for joining us.
CUMMINGS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead: the new criminal investigation of WikiLeaks. What does it tell us about security at the CIA and the validity of the documents that were exposed?
And we're getting breaking news on a major offensive against ISIS. We have details after this quick break.
BLITZER: There is more breaking news.
Sources are now telling CNN that U.S. Marines have arrived in Northern Syria ahead of a major offensive against the self-proclaimed ISIS capital.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working the they for us.
Barbara, what are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, those Marines are on the ground in Syria with their artillery. Their job now will be to back up the local U.S.-backed fighters, the people that the U.S. is supporting as they move on Raqqa.
Very sensitive, a very dangerous situation for them. The Pentagon will not confirm the details. They won't say exactly how many Marines or exactly where they are. But they did this in Iraq as well. And when they did it in Iraq, it was several hundred Marines that went in there.
This is the second major U.S. military expansion in days. Just days ago, 100 Army Rangers also went to a different location in Northern Syria to help back up some of the efforts to bring peace to that area. Syria is a place where more U.S. troops are arriving and the war is growing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly is.
Barbara, there are also some new developments tonight in the WikiLeaks publication of CIA spy tactics, including details of how the agency allegedly hacks smartphones, smart TVs around the world. Update us on that.
STARR: Well, Wolf, tonight the CIA, as I think you would expect, has no official comment confirming any of this. But they did issue a statement saying these kinds of leaks Aleppo something every American should be worried about.
STARR (voice-over): A federal criminal and intelligence investigation is being opened into WikiLeaks' publication of documents detailing alleged CIA hacking operations, several U.S. officials tell CNN.
The new investigation is an acknowledgment the documents appear to be largely authentic, detailing how the CIA hacks into common devices like phones, televisions and computers overseas.
The Trump administration won't publicly confirm the leak, but appears to have known about it for some time.
SPICER: All of these occurred under the last administration. That is important, all of these alleged issues.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks.
STARR: The White House says this time it's a serious breach.
SPICER: This alleged leak should concern every single American in terms of the impact it has on our national security.
STARR: The FBI and CIA will investigate for potential criminal activity and who might have been behind it. Officials would not say if they believe an employee, a contractor, or a foreign government was involved. WikiLeaks claims former U.S. government hackers or contractors leaked the material to them.
JAMES LEWIS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: There's things in the story that make it look like the information is, for the most part, real. But there's problems about how you would get that if you were an individual.
So, we can't tell, but I think it's either an individual or the Russian government.
STARR: Officials say documents detail hacking programs that have been used, as well as some being developed to collect intelligence overseas. One allegation, the CIA can hack into smart TVs, placing televisions into a fake off mode that can listen to conversations and relay those conversations back to U.S. spies, according to WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks also suggests the CIA was even studying technology that would allow them to take control of a car by hacking into its systems. The document mentions products made by Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung may have been hacked.
It's no secret operating systems have shown vulnerabilities and manufacturers regularly offer fixes. The most notable hacking in a terrorism case came when the FBI paid a private company more than $1 million to hack into the phone of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook.
Even now, the FBI director saying:
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America. There is no place in America outside of judicial reach. (END VIDEOTAPE)
STARR: The next big worry is that WikiLeaks could publish the computer code, the road map on how to conduct this kind of hacking activity.
And U.S. officials tonight, Wolf, tell me that would be a road map to disaster.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.
Tonight, the White House says the president is very concerned about this apparent CIA breach, even though, as a candidate, Mr. Trump said he loved WikiLeaks for posting e-mails stolen from Hillary Clinton's campaign. The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer was asked about that. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[18:30:19] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's a big difference between disclosing Podesta -- John Podesta's Gmail accounts about a back and forth and his undermining of Hillary Clinton and his thoughts on her, on a personal nature, and the leaking of classified information. There is a massive, massive difference between those two things.
And I think it is, again, the interest and the outrage that occurred last year by a lot of Democrats when it came to leaks, it's interesting that we're not hearing just as much outrage now when it comes to some of our issues of national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're joined now by the "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman. He's the author of a book entitled -- there you see it -- "Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration." It's a major bestseller right.
Tom, thanks so much for joining us.
TOM FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Respond to Sean Spicer, what he just said.
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, when -- when you basically don't take seriously the fact that a foreign power is hacking our election on behalf of one candidate -- this time it happened to be on behalf of Mr. Trump; next time it could be against Mr. Trump. These things have to be taken very seriously.
You know, Wolf, this was a very important year, 2016, early 2017. I have a chapter in the book called "Is God in Cyberspace?" And the reason I raise that is that our lives have moved to cyberspace. This is a year where we discovered -- this is where we do business; this is where we educate; this is where we find a date, where we find a spouse.
But cyberspace has a very particular quality. We're all connected there, but no one is in charge. There's no stop lights, no courts. No 1-800 "Please stop Putin from hacking me." And one of the big challenges we face now in our lives, our banking, our finance, our politics, move to this realm where we're all connected and no one is in charge.
How do we bring rule and order there? It's going to be a big, big problem.
BLITZER: You wrote a very powerful column in today's "New York Times." And you write about the president's advisers, who are doing their best to try to back up his assertion that President Obama ordered a wiretap on him during the campaign at Trump Tower in New York City. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: He is going off of information that has lead him to believe this is a very real potential.
GENERAL JAMES KELLY, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I don't know anything about it, other than when I was sitting in the office studio here, watching CNN. If the president of the United States said that, he's got his reasons to say it, he's got some convincing evidence that that took place.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's at probably a level above my pay grade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what do these statements say to you about the Trump administration right now?
FRIEDMAN: What they say, Wolf, is something really quite tragic. This administration, all the people around the president, including former General Kelly, now head of homeland security, are being asked to burn up their credibility, their trust with the American people by defending the indefensible, by saying the king has clothes when he's naked. Absent evidence to the otherwise -- to the contrary, Wolf.
It seems clear that the president woke up on Saturday morning without consulting anybody, read an article on Breitbart or some other far, you know, right website, and then took that as evidence and was the basis of a tweet attacking his predecessor, making the most vile charge that he wiretapped him in an enterprise he equated to Watergate. Now it doesn't get any more serious than that.
But what we have now is an entire administration around Trump that's being asked to basically burn up their credibility by somehow dressing this up as somehow having some basis in fact. Maybe it does. Maybe that will come up, but up to now, we haven't seen a shred of evidence about that from either the head of the FBI, the former director of national intelligence, or anybody else.
BLITZER: Not just Watergate. He compared it to McCarthyism. And he said President Obama is a bad or sick guy. He insisted it was a fact -- he used the word "fact" -- that "President Obama was tapping my phones in October just prior to election."
And you're right. By all accounts he never even asked the FBI director, James Comey, to confirm this.
FRIEDMAN: And not only that, he still hasn't asked him, according to the White House, whether there's any truth there. But yet we're supposed to now get Congress to go investigate this thing so they can somehow obfuscate the whole thing, and they'll get lost and they'll move on to something else.
And the long-term effect of this -- you know think about it. If you're a foreign leader, what do you think? Do I share any information with this guy? Is he going to tweet me afterwards? Is he going to shoot me in the back? You're eroding trust for that moment.
I was watching the show before I came on. You talked about North Korea and these other serious issues. What happens when the president has to come to the nation, look in the camera and say, "Trust me. I had to do this vis-a-vis North Korea or Iran or Russia"? How can we have any normal relations with Russia now until we get to the
[18:35:16] BLITZER: Well, let me read a sentence from the column in the "New York Times." This is you. "One day soon something will happen in North Korea, the South China Sea, Ukraine, Iran that will require him to make a judgment call. Trump will have to look the American people in the eye and say, 'Trust me. I decided this is based on the best information and advice of the intelligence community.' Or 'Trust me. We needed to work with Russia on this.' And who will believe him? There is nothing more dangerous than a U.S. president who's squandered his trust before he has to lead us through a crisis." This is your greatest fear right now.
FRIEDMAN: You know, Wolf, I was actually watching your interview with General Kelly, and it was an important interview, because I think I know what happened.
I think Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway -- I'm just making this up. But someone at the White House probably looked at each other and said, "Let's see. My credibility is shot. Your credibility is shot. Who can we put out there to defuse this? Let's use one of the generals."
They bring General Kelly here. He was sitting in this chair and he said, "f the president said this, it must be true." Yet, he couldn't tell you why it was true. He couldn't tell you the president had told him it was true. He couldn't tell you that the FBI director told him it's true. This is an honorable man, a war hero, and they -- they used his credibility to get through a news cycle. Shame on them.
BLITZER: Let me play this other clip. This is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, speaking about President Trump and saying, "You know what? Don't take his words literally." Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: The president is a neophyte to politics. He's been doing this for a little over a year, and I think a lot of the things that he says, you guys sometimes take literally. Sometimes he doesn't have 27 lawyers and staff looking at what he does, which is, I think, at times refreshing, and at times can also lead us to have to be sitting at a press conference like this answering questions that you guys are asking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He' the president of the United States, and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee says he's a neophyte; don't take his words literally.
FRIEDMAN: He's a 70-year-old man, who's run a global business. He doesn't have people around him. That sounds like -- that's a sign of the apocalypse. That's the head of the House Foreign Relations Committee.
BLITZER: Intelligence Committee.
FRIEDMAN: Intelligence Committee, excuse me. You know, basically excusing this.
By the way, I want to ask him, how should we take him figuratively, then? What's the figurative -- what was he saying figuratively about President Obama?
I mean, to say that is also to so demean the president. It's basically saying, "Look, he's a little boy. He plays with his Twitter on Saturday morning. Don't take it literally."
But Wolf, what happens when Trump comes out and says, "I had to preempt in North Korea or in Iran or somewhere else?" Should we take that figuratively? How do we know when to take him figuratively, when to take him literally, when to think that it's just a cartoon show? This is just so destructive in the long run. It's not -- Wolf, it's not adult behavior, let alone presidential behavior.
BLITZER: You know, a lot of others, including a lot of Republicans, agree with Nunes that they think he's a neophyte and don't take his words literally. There's a widespread belief of that.
FRIEDMAN: God save us from an America where we don't know when the president is speaking factually, when he's speaking literally and when he's speaking hypothetically.
BLITZER: Tom Friedman is the author of "Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration." Thanks very much. Thanks for writing the book. Thanks for joining us.
FRIEDMAN: Great to be here, Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom Friedman, thank you.
Just ahead, we'll have more on the investigation into President Trump's wiretap claim and President Obama's reaction. We're told he's irked. Will he share his feelings publicly?
[18:43:44] BLITZER: We have breaking news tonight. Lawmakers are now seeing evidence that would prove President Trump's claim that President Obama had him wiretapped during the campaign.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is asking the Justice Department for any information on Mr. Trump's claim, and Graham tells CNN he'll subpoena intelligence agencies if necessary.
Let's dig deeper with our experts and analysts. David Axelrod, so far no evidence to back up the president's claim that the former president, your former boss, President Obama, ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower during the campaign. An Obama spokesman had said earlier neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.
Tell us how President Obama, when you were there, would approach matters of surveillance.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, very scrupulously. Look, Barack Obama came to that office, Wolf, having served in the United States Senate, having spent many years teaching constitutional law. He understood very well where the lines are, and so did everyone who worked in that White House.
Presidents cannot order surveillance on American citizens for political reason or any reason, and that -- that authority belongs only to the appropriate investigative agencies and only then with the approval of the courts. That's what separates us from countries like Russia. Vladimir Putin places surveillance on his political opponents and worse. We do not. President Obama understands that and what was appalling about what's transpired over the last few days is apparently President Trump does not.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, a pretty shocking allegation he makes against his predecessor.
As you know, Gloria, the former president, President Obama, said on the right occasion when core values are at issue he would speak out publicly. Wouldn't you say this is a core value?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think he was personally attacked here, and yes, a president cannot order a wiretap of somebody he doesn't like just because he wants to do it. So, it is a core -- it is a core value other. Politically, though, I think, and David can speak to this better than I can, at this point, I think the president has larger things he may need to talk about, the former president, whether it's a question of, you know, immigration coming up, or whether it's a question of healthcare, for example. And I think it's probably smart of him right now to let his former aides do the talking for him and let the nation know that he was incredulous about this and probably pretty irked by it. But I think it's best for him not to engage with Donald Trump on this.
BLITZER: I suspect he was a lot more than just irked by this. I'm sure he was very, very angry.
Jackie, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said the White House has no evidence that President Trump is currently under any counterintelligence investigation. But he says the president is still standing by his early Saturday morning tweets, that President Obama ordered wiretaps of him at Trump Tower.
How does the White House reconcile that?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They haven't. They haven't shown any evidence that any of this happened to begin with, which is why Lindsey Graham and what the Senate is doing right now is important. They're a little bit calling the White House's bluff, asking for information and asking of documentation, because as Gloria says, the sitting president just can't wiretap someone for the heck of it.
So if this happened, there is evidence out there that should show that, you know, what happened here. We just don't know yet.
BLITZER: David Swerdlick, how do you see it?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, if there is a there there, then, (a), the White House has the ability to get to the bottom of it on their own. And, right now, based on what we know that's been reported out, what Sean Spicer said today doesn't match up, there is cognitive dissonance there. Everything right now that is known by the public goes back to Breitbart, to Heat Street, to Mark Levin, and none of those things match up with the acquisitions that the president made in his tweet storm.
BLITZER: David Axelrod, react to Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who says, well, you know, the president is a neophyte to politics, don't take his words literally. When you heard that, what was your reaction?
AXELROD: Well, my reaction was I'm sure what yours may have been, Wolf, as someone who's covered global affairs as long as you have. There isn't a person on the planet whose words aren't scrutinized and parsed as much as those of the president of the United States, the most powerful person in the world.
And to casually throw these things out, to degrade not just your predecessor but our whole system of laws and democracy the way that he did with that tweet is going to be taken seriously and the world is going to look at America and say, is America living up to the ideal that's it claims. And so, I think it has enormous repercussions.
The president has not made the adjustment from candidate to the presidency, and he has to come to realize that when he tweets, those things are more than just a political gambit. They can have really profound implications and until he does, we're going to be going through this exercise, I fear, again and again.
BLITZER: Yes, we heard that from Tom Friedman as well.
Gloria, let me take the turn and now to the repeal and replace Obamacare. Today, some Republicans preemptively were already suggesting the Congressional Budget Office, the estimates that they put out, they're not very accurate, don't pay that much attention.
I want you to listen to what the House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said about the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, what he said today versus what he said about the CBO in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), MAJORITY WHIP: For everybody to think that we're just going to wait around and wait around. We've asked CBO, by the way, for a score. Anybody who thinks the we're just going to wait and let some unelected bureaucrats in Washington stop us for following through on our promise.
They don't even know what's in the bill! They won't even release the CBO score! There are rumors flying around. There are all these back- door, secret negotiations.
[18:50:02] There are no budget gimmicks in this document. In fact, it's not our numbers they're using. There's an independent referee at the Congressional Budget Office that scores everybody's budget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was then, that was back in 2013, independent referee and now, some unelected bureaucrats in Washington. It sounds like he's changing his tune rather dramatically.
BORGER: Well, he is. Look, if you like the Congressional Budget Office numbers on your particular issue, in this case, it's their replacement for Obamacare, you know, you're going to say you like it. If you don't like it, you don't like it.
And I -- you know, I have to say, however, that the person who is in charge of this scoring, of this Congressional Budget Office is a Republican who was appointed by Tom Price and Senator Mike Enzi. They approved his appointment. He worked in the administration of Bush 43.
So, he is a conservative with Republican credentials and now they're trying to destroy the credibility of his numbers, which we haven't seen yet. And, you know, so this is not some wild-eyed liberal who's running this office. It's actually someone with a Republican pedigree.
BLITZER: Yes. And this is a serious problem, because when it comes to the floor, there's going to be this estimate from the CBO. KUCINICH: Well, and they're trying to have their cake and eat it,
too. That is -- you can't. And that is the problem here. And they're trying to spin it and it's just, it isn't going to work, because the numbers are going to come out, and they're going to have to start all over because even if they dispute it, the numbers are there.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Everybody, stick around. Don't go too far away.
Just ahead, some sharp political overtones as the U.S. marks International Women's Day.
[18:56:33] BLITZER: People around the world are marking International Women's Day, an annual celebration of women's achievement and a call to action for equality.
CNN's Athena Jones is joining us.
Athena, there were marches, there were protests across the United States, marking International Women's Day. You were watching.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I was at the two of the protests here in Washington.
And you'll remember, Wolf, it was just a few weeks ago that hundreds of thousands of people came out to demonstrate for women's rights in cities across this country and across the globe. Well, today is an extension of the activism we saw the day after inauguration day. Participants here in D.C., many wearing red, as a show of solidarity, marched on the White House and to the Labor Department to demonstrate for abortion rights and for issues like equal pay.
JONES (voice-over): Tonight, women across the country are taking to the streets.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We don't want the world to know a day without a woman, but we want people to understand what that day would be like. And it would not be a day that takes us to our fullest aspirations for the future.
JONES: Rallying for equal rights. Thousands of women nationwide taking the day off to commemorate International Women's Day, a move that forced some D.C. area schools to close, due to inadequate staffing.
JONES: This march in D.C. was to protest the so-called gag rule President Trump reinstated soon after taking office. That rule prevents any organization receiving U.S. foreign aid from offering abortions or even providing information about them. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what feminism looks like.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to stand up for women's rights. This administration doesn't seem to respect or understand the importance of what it means to be a woman. And so, I wanted to be here.
JONES: Women from coast to coast, marking the day with their own marches, in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it wasn't for us, how would men even get into this world?
JONES: In fact, women all over the world gathered to honor the day.
The United Nations even holding their own series of events to promote universal paid parental leave with Academy Award-winning actress, Anne Hathaway, delivering the keynote address.
ANNE HATHAWAY, ACTRESS/ACTIVIST: Paid parental leave is not about taking days off work. It's about creating the freedom to define roles, to choose how to invest time and to establish new, positive cycles of behavior.
JONES: Democrats and Republicans alike coming together in appreciation of women.
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: We stand with our sisters across the country who have walked out in defense of equal rights for women.
JONES: President Trump taking to twitter saying, "I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy."
And the first lady hosting a White House luncheon to mark the occasion. This as celebrities like Katy Perry and Amy Schumer took to social media in a show of solidarity.
JONES: And one woman who took the day off from work so she could be part of today's event outside the White House told me that even though the kind of policy changes that she supports face a tough road ahead in the Republican-controlled Congress, she said, it's important that we continue to do these things, to have these protests, have these resistance movements, so they have no choice but to listen -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena, thanks very much.
That's it for me.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.