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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
WH Refuses To Back Off Trump's Wiretap Claims; FBI Director: "No Information" To Support Trump Wiretap Claim; Comey: FBI Investigating Possible Trump Campaign-Russia Links; Awaiting Trump Remarks On FBI Director Comey's Testimony; FBI Investigating Ties Between Trump Campaign, Russia; Personal Electronics Banned On Some US-Bound Flights; Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 20, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN WOLF AND THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: -- starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, the breaking news. The FBI director says there's an investigation into links between the Trump campaign at the Russian government as he's denies any evidence of Trump's wiretapping claims. The president will be speaking live this hour. Will he fight back? Plus more breaking news, personal electronics banned on direct flights from a dozen airlines into the United States. A major security concern linked directly to Al-Qaeda tonight. And is Sean Spicer's credibility shot? Let's go OutFront.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront. President Donald Trump is wrong and the White House tonight so far will not admit what the FBI Director James Comey said in a rare public appearance today. Comey declaring under oath that there is, his words, no information to support Trump's claim that the Obama Administration wiretapped his phones at Trump Tower. He also said there's no evidence of Trump's charge that Britain spy agency eaves dropped on him at the request of the Obama Administration.
And in another, crucial headline tonight, Comey publicly confirming for the first time that the FBI is investigating whether members of the Trump Campaign colluded, coordinated are their words to -- with Russia to influence the 2016 election. A revelation that even House Intelligence Committee learned for the first time today in this testimony. But despite the extraordinary words from James Comey, the White House Spokesman, Sean Spicer responded with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Following this testimony, it's clear that nothing has changed. Senior Obama Intelligence Official had gone on record to confirm that there is no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. The Obama CIA Director said so, Obama's Director of National Intelligence said so, and we take them at their word.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Well, we're awaiting the president who will be speaking live shortly. He is expected to address the remarkable scene on Capitol Hill today. The moment that happens and he starts on this. We are going to break in on whatever we are doing and bring it to you. I want to begin with Jeff Zeleny, he is OutFront at that Trump rally in Kentucky. And Jeff, this was crucial testimony from the FBI Director, frankly an extraordinary event to watch in full and the president meantime getting ready to have another rally with his supporters.
JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOSUE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, this is a Trump rally in every shape and form. You can see behind me here people holding signs, you know, his true believers. But (INAUDIBLE) Erin, Tonight could not be a different moment in his presidency. Take a stock of what happened today. The FBI Director confirms that there is indeed an investigation from the campaign last year and he also -- he refutes -- he refutes what the president has been saying over wiretapping now for the last three weeks or so.
So when the president arrives here in a few moments, yes, he'll be built up by these supporters but his troubles have not been left behind back in Washington. FBI Director James Comey delivering an extraordinary rebuke of the wiretapping accusation.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets.
ZELENY: Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, the FBI Chief said he's found no evidence to support the president's astonishing allegation. He was spied on at Trump Tower by President Obama.
COMEY: We have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all of its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.
ZELENY: Those tweets, now infamous have been rejected in every corner of Washington except at the White House. For 16 days, the president has gone to great lengths to defend this tweet. Terrible. Just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism. But those words debunked in rare public fashion today by his FBI Director.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: So President Obama he could not unilaterate order a wiretap of anyone?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No president could.
ZELENY: And Admiral Michael Rogers head of the NSA took issue with the subsequent unfounded claim from the Trump White House that the British could have been involved.
SCHIFF: Did you ever request that your counterparts in GCHQ should wiretap Mr. Trump on behalf of President Obama? ADM. MICHAEL ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: No, sir, nor
would I. That would been expressly against the instruct of the Five Eyes agreement that's been in place for decades.
ZELENY: But for the first time, the FBI Director publicly confirmed the agency since last July has been investigating Russian meddling into the presidential race and any links the Trump Campaign had to Moscow.
COMEY: The FBI as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
ZELENY: While the hearing was under way, the president fired off this tweet. The NSA and FBI told congress that Russia did not influence electoral process but that statement took Comey's words out of context he later explained.
COMEY: It certainly wasn't our intention to say that today.
ZELENY: The FBI Director spoke about Russia's actions in blunt terms saying their goal was to influence the election and help Donald Trump.
COMEY: Engaged in a multifaceted campaign of active measures to undermine our democracy and hurt one of the candidates and hope to help one of the other candidates.
ZELENY: At the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer argued today the hearings revealed nothing new. He was pressed on how he drew that conclusion considering Comey and Rogers said they were still investigating any links between Russia and the Trump Campaign it.
SPICER: Investigating it and having proof if there are two different things. There's a point at which you continue to search for something that everybody's been briefed hasn't seen or found. I think it's fine to look into it, but at the end of the day they're going to come to the same conclusion that everybody else has had.
ZELENY: Now, Sean Spicer went on to say as he tried to limit the involvement of the Russian operatives with the campaign operatives. He said that Paul Manafort spent a very limited time on the campaign and had a limited role. Erin, you'll remember Paul Manafort was the chairman of the Trump Campaign who worked on the campaign for six months from last March until august. But from that White House podium, Sean Spicer said, look, he played a very limited role in that. Erin, this is just the beginning of all of this, certainly not the end. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I guess that would go on the category of an alternative fact. We're going to talk more about Paul Manafort who -- it is safe to say was central, crucial to that campaign for a long time. OutFront now, Evan Perez, Justice Correspondent Dana Bash, Chief Political Correspondent, Jason Miller who serve as communications director to Trump's presidential transition team, Ned Price, former CIA Analyst and Special Assistant to President Obama and spokesman for the National Security Council, John Avlon, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast and Paul Callan, former prosecutor all going to be with me for most of the show as we go through all of the -- by the way, a few of just significant things that we have learned.
Evan, let me start with you. When you saw Sean Spicer today, the president's team, the president still not backing away from his wiretapping claims. Comey testified under oath that he has no information that supports Trump's tweets, his allegations. Could Comey be any more definitive?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTIC CORRESPONDENT: Erin, I don't think you can be more definitive than that. If there was a wiretap of any kind, it would have to go through the justice department and that's what Comey talked about. Not only that the FBI wasn't responsible for it but he said that the justice department looked into this and found no evidence that there was anything there. So I don't know how you can get an answer that is more firm. It may have been a lawyerly answer have Jim Comey but it is a fairly definitive answer.
BURNETT: So, Ned, the chairman of the committee Devin Nunues says he doesn't believe the president's credibility took a hit today. He -- you just heard Sean Spicer say there was nothing new that came out of this.
NED PRICE, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I don't understand how that's the case, Erin. It was Devin Nunes himself last week who said there was no evidence of wiretapping. He joined a growing chorus of people who work for this administration, people in the house and the senate, people in a position to know whether there was any truth to the president's baseless accusation on Twitter all of whom who said there was no evidence. And as Evan just said, Director Comey today put a period on that and we should put this to rest once and for all.
BURNETT: So let me play the director in fold just so everyone can hear exactly what he said, not just a quick bite of it but here's the full statement he said about the evidence on that. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components, the department has no information that supports those tweets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sean Spicer, John at the news conference when asked if the president would withdraw these allegations, would apologize for these allegations in response to what Comey said right there. Here's how Sean Spicer responded. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: No. We're -- we started a hearing, it's still ongoing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Still ongoing. Nothing new.
JOHN AVLON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes. I mean, look, this goes way beyond, you know, refusing to apologize, to absolute denial of what's right in front of his face. This is Baghdad Bob, you know, the emperor is not wearing any clothes territory. And what's really sad and what I think is also a sinister is if lying becomes a sign of loyalty to the president, because what he's being asked to do and what he just did is deny what the director of the FBI said under oath, that is not a sign that will build any credibility in this administration to dangerous side.
BURNETT: Jason, is he going to address it tonight at this rally? We are -- we are told that he probably will, do you think he will?
JASON MILLER, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: Well, knowing the president I would imagine this issue will probably come up but there are a couple things I want to point out from today. First I think Sean had it exactly right when he said there wasn't anything new. And again, how do we know that there wasn't anything new? Because there were leaks of supposed confidential information that was put out there heading into the weekend, the continued problem of leaks which the word espionage was thrown out there today.
And I do think this is very dangerous the fact that information's being leaked like this, the unmasking of American's information. But, again, what we still don't know are the names of the Americans who are unmasked by this backdoor surveillance whether it's the FBI or the NSA or the CIA. Look, going into this weekend, the administration had already walked back a bit and said that when they're talking about wiretapping they're talking about surveillance overall. And we still don't know what Americans were getting swept up into this. And so, I think to go and say that this was a complete rebuke that there was absolutely --
BURNETT: Well, the problem is -- Chief, when you say swept up into this, we don't know there's a this at all. A matter of fact we've been told that there is no evidence of this. Dana?
MILLER: Well, then, how did -- I mean, how did the Michael Flynn conversation come out then?
BURNETT: Well, that is why we understanding to routine surveillance of a Russian diplomat.
MILLER: But again, even in that case, General Flynn's name should have been masked in that but it was leaked out, and so it's one or two things, either it's an intentional move by a political appointee or it's a indirect play by someone who maybe is --
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jason, this is exactly the way that the House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes wanted the committee hearing to go today, to do exactly what you just said, for that to be the message. I love you, brother, but to say that there was nothing new in this hearing today when the director of the FBI said publicly under oath that the president of the United States was wrong when he tweeted that his predecessor wiretapped him and that's just not his opinion but the opinion of the Trump Justice Department, I'd say that's pretty new. Never mind the fact that he formally confirmed that there has been an investigation at the justice department going on of your former campaign, the former boss.
MILLER: -- had walked back and said, look, he's talking about surveillance overall and Spicer from the podium had said that a couple times as well. And so I think this broader issue of surveillance, I mean, this unmasking issue is a very big deal. This is very serious. People should go to jail for this.
AVLON: Jason, look. You know for a fact that folks -- when your former colleagues Manafort and Flynn are being distanced, there is a concern that this could invoke the espionage jacket. But trying to flip it along this the riff that the news but the -- the leaks are real but the news is fake, that's a losing argument.
BURNETT: But I also want to ask you about this distancing Jason that's going on because Jeff just referred to it but the White House Press Secretary today saying Manafort who we know had extremely close ties to Russia professionally was just a bit player in this campaign, here's how Spicer described him. I want to play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: There's been discussion of Paul Manafort who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Okay. Let's be clear. Manafort joined the campaign in March, it was in a dark place at that time, he turned it around, he did the delegate map, he's the one who did the whole play at the convention, stayed in that position until August, got promoted of course to campaign chairman. How could anyone say, Jason, that it was a limited role -- for a very limited role for a very limited amount of time? I mean, it's ridiculous.
MILLER: Well, I'll let Sean go ahead and offer his description. Obviously I worked with Paul Manafort on the campaign and then he exited the campaign in August or so. But, I mean, going to this whole issue of the Russian collusion, I mean, that was one of the things that came out today was the fact that they don't have anything. There's absolutely nothing to this. And so this is, I mean, I would call it a political snipe hunt where apparently the FBI are the only ones who don't realize there's no such things as snipes.
BURNETT: What's your -- what's your takeaway, Paul here? Did you take away from this that here is nothing in terms of evidence? Because of course, a lot of this Comey had to say no comment or I can't answer because it was part of the investigation.
PAUL CALLAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Yes. So quite to the contrary, we can't conclude that there's nothing here with Comey saying I can't talk about collusion with the Russians, I can't say anything about that part of the investigation. You know, as a lawyer when you're in court and you have a client that's going to take the 5th amendment, when he takes the fifth repeatedly which is the fundamental equivalent of no comment, no comment, no comment, the court says you can't hold that against the defendant. But you know something? People start to the wonder. And when people Comey kept repeating I can't talk about it, I can't talk about it.
BURNETT: But it is under investigation.
CALLAN: It's under investigation and it was all the things having to do with contact with the Russians. All right? It wasn't having to do with the wiretap stuff. On that he said, listen, there's nothing there. And to me, the most surprising thing was the justice department under Jeff Sessions authorized him apparently to say that. There's nothing there.
BURNETT: All right. So let's just --
MILLER: --both Nunes, Clapper, I mean, other -- even other democrats had come out and said that there's absolutely nothing to this Russian's influencing the elections and pushing it one way. Again, you can't blame the Russians for telling Secretary Clinton not to campaign in Wisconsin or to call millions of people a basket of deplorable. I mean, they ran a terrible campaign. Donald Trump ran a much better campaign, that's why he won.
BURNETT: And just -- and just to be clear in terms of influence on the election what Comey said today is he wasn't going to comment on that again. Presumably part of the investigation as to whether they are very clear involvement in the election resulted in actually influencing its outcome said that's beyond the preview of what they looked at in the original intelligence report. Brief break. All staying with me. The breaking news continues, live pictures, Trump is about to speak live and as I said we anticipate that he will respond to Comey's explosive testimony on Capitol Hill.
We'll see the second he starts on that, we're going to break live even if we're in the middle of a commercial. Also breaking, almost all electronics banned from direct flights into the United States, New York, Chicago, Detroit from a dozen airlines. We're going to tell you exactly who was behind this breaking threat the best as we understand it at this hour. And Trump attacking President Obama for playing too much golf. So why is Trump now called the golfer in chief.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: The breaking news, President Trump about to take the stage at a rally in Kentucky. The first time he can publicly address FBI Director's James Comey's extraordinary testimony. Comey confirming the FBI is investigating possible ties between the Trump Campaign and Russia and possible coordination. It is a story the president again today called fake news on Twitter. Comey for his part was tight lipped when it came to exactly who when it comes to names is under investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC SWALWELL, UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE FROM CALIFORNIA: Was Donald Trump under investigation during the campaign?
COMEY: The same answer as before, I'm not going to answer that.
SWALWELL: Is he under investigation now?
COMEY: I'm not going to answer that.
WILLIAM HIMES, UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE FOR CONNECTICUT: Have you been asked to provide assistance to the current Ukrainian government with respect to Paul Manafort, and how do you intend to respond to that request?
COMEY: It's not something I can comment on.
SCHIFF: Do you know who roger stone is?
COMEY: Generally, yes.
SCHIFF: Are you aware that he was a partner of Paul Manafort?
COMEY: Mr. Schiff I'm worried we're going to a place I don't want to go which is commenting on any particular person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Manu Raju is OutFront. And Manu, you know, we picked that for a moment because first specific reason, because what Comey didn't answer can give us actually a lot of insight into who is under investigation, right?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's right. I mean, you can probably tell from that line of questioning and the reason why Comey did not want to answer is because they are looking into those individuals precisely and now we know according to James Comey's own testimony today they're looking into any possible coordination that occurred between Trump Associates and Russian Officials during the presidential election.
And there are reported contacts that occurred between Roger Stone and Guccifer 2 who's the -- who is of course known to intelligence agency as a -- as a hacker, a Russian hacker as well as Paul Manafort, his relationships with Russian Officials and Carter Page another Trump adviser as well. Undoubtedly those are under scrutiny. Now, one person whose name that did come up in that clip you played was President Trump himself.
When he was asked -- when Comey was asked today whether or not Trump is being investigated, he responded saying, I'm not going to talk about that. Don't interpret -- over interpret but I have briefed the chairman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee on this very issue. So after the hearing, Erin, I asked the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is Donald Trump under investigation? Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES, (R) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I don't have any evidence of that. I continue to say that. I'd like to receive evidence if it exists, but it doesn't exist as of right now.
RAJU: Do you know if the FBI is looking into the president himself and his business ties in Russia?
NUNES: I highly, highly doubt that, but, you know what? We don't -- we don't know everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANU: So highly doubtable, we don't know everything. Not able to close the door. And this is one reason why, Erin, Nunes also revealed today that they just learned two weeks ago that the FBI was conducting this investigation. They meaning the top leaders in congress, the so called Gang of Eight, the people that get that highly sensitive classified information they just learned this. So they do not know the extent of this FBI investigation, certainly don't know the extent of President Trump himself being investigated and one reason why there was some frustration you saw between some of the republicans and James Comey in that the hearing today, Erin.
BURNETT: Absolutely. All right. Thank you very much, Manu. I want to bring back my panel. And Evan, you know, part of the reason Nunes perhaps kept the door open there and what he, you know, doesn't know is what he learned today along with everybody else, right? Comey mum about the details of the investigation but for the first time today direct, there is a formal investigation into the links between the Trump Campaign and Russian possible links and possible coordination between the two on election interference. Everybody just learned that today.
PEREZ: Right. And Erin, what's more interesting is that even the chairman and the ranking member of that committee did not know what Comey was going to say today. They did not expect him to go as far as he did. And certainly we did not expect him to go as far as he did. But I'll say this. You know, in talking to people -- we've been talking to people close to the investigation in the last few weeks, there's no indication that there's any reason to believe the president is under investigation personally.
But -- here's the but, the problem is that the FBI is still in the early stages of this. There's a lot they do not know yet and that's the reason why Comey could not answer some of those questions definitively. We know James Clapper and some of our former officials have said they said they didn't see any evidence of collusion. Well, the problem for the FBI is that there's still a long way to go here. They don't know yet whether or not they might uncover some type of evidence that might change all of that. So, that's the reason why he has to answer the question the way did he today. There's a long way to go in this investigation.
BURNETT: And Paul, Comey said the investigation is going to include, you know, assessment of whether crimes were committed. So, when you're talking about what they're looking at, right? Possible links and possible coordination on election interference, what would it take for someone to have committed a crime?
CALLAN: Well, the big one that everyone would think of if they're colluding with the Russians is this espionage. It's just the espionage of 1917, Snowden was indicted for that, the Rosernbergs were indicted for that but you know something, what was turned over, not atomic secrets, Hillary's email. So, they're not investigating that as a realistic possibility. But there are a ton of other statutes, interfering, wire fraud would be one of them, interfering with computer networks in the United States to steal and hack.
CALLAN: They're all felonies, they're all serious crimes. But I think to push it to espionage would be pushing too far.
BURNETT: So, as they were having a discussion today, Ned, trying to understand as best they could, right? There was a lot of wordsmithing that had to go on in terms of the links between the campaign and the Russians. It was a strong back and forth between the top democrat, Adam Schiff and Comey. Schiff went through various positions Trump has taken and established that those positions were positions were favored by Putin, among them sanctions against Russia that Trump had open to getting rid of those, easing them. Here's what Trump told The Wall Street Journal just before taking off, as he said, if you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody's doing some really great things? Schiff pressed Comey about Russia's preference when it came to lifting those sanction and I want to play the exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Would they have a preference for a candidate that expressed an openness for repealing the sanctions over Ukraine?
COMEY: Again, I don't want to get into the business of commenting on that. I know --
SCHIFF: Then let me ask you this way, Director. Would they like to see the sanctions on Ukraine go away?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: It was all in the asking but they did this on sanctions, they did this on Putin, wanting a businessman in the office, they did this on Putin's aversion to NATO.
PRICE: Well, breaking (INAUDIBLE) over the weekend is that -- had seen direct evidence of deception in terms of this administration's ties to Russia and circumstantial evidence of collusion. I think what he was pointing to and all of those cases where those data points, those yet unexplained heretofore circumstantial data points that with Director Comey's revelation today suggesting that there is an ongoing investigation, it must be more than circumstantial in the eyes of the FBI. The FBI does not open an investigation if all they have -- if all they have are unconnected circumstantial data points. There's smoke and we know there must be something to the smoke.
BASH: Erin, he also went further. He -- the FBI Director in pretty explicitly saying that the belief of the U.S. Officials, the U.S. Government at this point is that the Russian Government, Vladimir Putin, was working actively to try to hurt Hillary Clinton and sort of by way of doing that trying to help Donald Trump. So the question that, Evan and we all have sort of been trying to figure out whether or not the FBI knows and I don't think that they know the answer to this yet is whether or not the Russians went so far as to try to get anybody in Trump's orbit to help them with that.
That really is the fundamental question that they are -- that they are looking into that clearly would be a -- an unbelievable story if that were the case. The intent by the Russians, according to what James Comey said today was there. And I also think that that was interesting to hear him say in open testimony.
CALLAN: But the question though is what would they know? What would Trump operatives know during the early campaign that could help the Russians?
MILLER: Let me jump in as someone who's a Trump campaign member. You know, I actually have to say that I do feel a bit for the Clinton Campaign to now see what a stink bomb from the FBI Director smells like. You know, they had it come flying at them in October and now we're seeing it being thrown at the president now and the problem with it is to mix my metaphors a little bit, now we're as Trump supporters punching at ghosts because the claim gets thrown out there.
If they've supposedly been investigating this since last summer then put it out there, then put it out there for people to see what it is. I mean, the fact of the matter is if there was something, I think it would be out there and what I'm really concerned about and I think millions of Americans are also concerned about is that this is becoming a concerted effort to try to delegitimize this presidency. And the fact of the matter is the election's over and it's -- no, hold on a second because this is -- this is saying that there's somehow this collusion. I mean, I can tell you that Vladimir Putin was never in a campaign staff meeting.
AVLON: Yes. But --
AVLON: -- during the RNC, members of -- members of your campaign at that time worked to change language regarding the Ukraine to soften it. Why would they do that? That's a reasonable question, we know it happened.
MILLER: John, which members?
AVLON: We don't know why it was done.
MILLER: OK, John. Which members? Which members?
AVLON: J.D. Gordon and other people who called up New York and interviewing in The Daily Beast by Tim Mak and others about that at the time.
MILLER: So when I heard -- when I heard J.D. Gordon's name, with all due respect to Mr. Gordon I had to look him up on Wikipedia. I didn't know who this guy was. So, I mean, platforms for things that are --
AVLON: But Manafort only worked there for a short time and Flynn was, you know, barely national security adviser. I mean, problem is, these patterns, we know as of today there's an investigation. That's serious. That's serious and it's not normal and we're going to have to proceed with it. It's not about delegitimizing a president, it's about pursuing an investigation.
MILLER: This goes back to my point about the Clinton Campaign and now knowing what it's like to have some charges be thrown out there. I mean, this is just -- it's just obviously ridiculous. I mean, to go and say that the campaign was somehow colluding with a foreign government, you know, that's pretty outrageous. This is outlandish stuff.
PRICE: We know from his own admission that Roger Stone, a close associate of Donald Trump had outreached to WikiLeaks. He called it a Back channel. He knew that WikiLeaks is coming out with these bunch of e-mails long before they put out the Podesta e-mails. We also know that he was in touch with a hacker Gruccifer 2.0 who was a Russian Intelligence Persona. So that right there is some evidence of a collusion.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all. I appreciate it and we have more breaking news coming in at this hour. Almost all electronic devices being banned and carry-ons in more than a dozen airlines that fly directly into the United States. One American official says the supplies to all devices larger than a cell phone, and that would be an iPad or a laptop, anything like that. Obviously this is a stunning story. Our source telling CNN this could be linked to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And that it could be connected to intelligence picked up in a recent Special Forces raid in Yemen. Yes. That raid. Rene Marsh is OutFront. And, Rene, obviously, stunning development and I think, in many sense, it's a total mistake. They didn't want anybody to know that there was this fear of something happening.
What do you know now?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: So, we do know that the Trump administration is getting ready to announce these new security restrictions for passengers flying on direct flights to the United States from very specific countries due to this, quote, "security concern".
Now, all of these electronic devices will be banned if they are larger than a cell phone. They will not be allowed in the cabin of a flight from certain countries in the Middle East, as well as Africa. Those passengers will have to put their electronics in their checked luggage.
We also are hearing from CNN's Barbara Starr that another U.S. official is telling us that the ban on some of these electronics is believed to be related to al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP. The intelligence community has been tracking this threat for quite some time, but the officials said that some new information from a recent U.S. Special Forces raid in Yemen contributed to this ongoing concern.
As you know, Erin, AQAP has had a really active effort to build bombs with little or no metal content, which would make it very easy to get past security check points at airports and smuggle it onboard a commercial aircraft. However, we first learned about this story from a tweet by Royal Jordanian Airlines based in Amman, Jordan. They tweeted out that this ban would take effect for all of their flights going to North America starting on Tuesday.
We do want to point out, we believe at this point that nearly a dozen flights will be impacted, international flights.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Rene.
And OUTFRONT now, the Republican congressman from Ohio, Mike Turner, member of the House Intelligence Committee, one of the lawmakers who questioned the FBI director and the NSA director earlier today.
I want to ask you about that, but first, the breaking news on the terror threat on an incoming flight to the United States as you heard the reporting coming from al Qaeda, people banned from laptops, iPads, carrying them onboard the plane in the actual cabin itself. What you can tell us about this?
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Erin, we've not been briefed, but as the reports are indicating, the Department of Homeland Security is looking at this issue. We do all know from other news reports of not just about this, that there has been some concern for some time about electronic items being used to hide explosive devices and their threats to airline traffic. BURNETT: Yes.
TURNER: So, this is along the lines of things that we've heard concerns about before and it certainly if it occurs shows the Department of Homeland Security is tracing down these leads.
BURNETT: A ban, of course, is a big move and al Qaeda's chief bomb maker is based in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He's attempted bombing on passenger planes, including the Christmas Day underwear bomb to Detroit. You know, hearing that a security concern from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is causing a ban on virtually all electronics coming on to flights in a dozen airlines, coming to New York, Detroit and Chicago, that feels very real, Congressman, and very scary.
TURNER: Absolutely, absolutely. And when you look at, you know, how, you know, those who seek to do us home have progressed, everything from the shoe bomber forward, you know, this is all about getting the intelligence we need, applying it to, you know, the type of protections and interventions that we can do, and then trying to lessen that threat and this certainly sounds like it can be part of that.
BURNETT: All right. I want to get to the other breaking news about the hearing. You all saw you there today. You were there when the FBI director confirmed for the first time that there's an investigation and the possible links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination -- actual coordination between the two. When you heard that, what did you think?
TURNER: Well, there's a couple of things. I mean, first off, we'd already had hours of classified briefings from these two gentlemen and from the FBI director himself. But this hearing was the effort from the chairman to bring forward this discussion, this debate in a public forum, in a public fashion so that the people would understand what we're dealing with in the Intelligence Committee on this important issue of possible collusion with the Trump campaign and the issue, which is even more important, of how do we assess the Russians' attempts to affect the outcome ever our elections and how do we intervene in the future to protect the electoral process.
BURNETT: So, you support that investigation being -- going all the way to its conclusion, that they should be looking into any possible links or coordination was the word the FBI director used?
TURNER: Well, I don't think anyone would say that the FBI should not look at these issues. But I think it is important to put into perspective, as the FBI director said, that we should not read into either way the fact that this investigation has been ongoing. It's been ongoing since June.
One shocking thing of this is that's an admission from the FBI director that as we came to the end of the campaign, he had both the Clinton campaign and the Trump campaigns and their nominees, Republican and Democrat nominee, under investigations with the FBI. That certainly is shocking when you look at that context.
[19:35:01] BURNETT: Well, it's embarrassing perhaps for the country. But when people say there's -- where there's smoke, there's fire, one of our panelists just said it and others have been saying it today, do you agree with that?
TURNER: You know, it's interesting listening both to the people who are comment thong and, of course, in the hearing people are pointing out evidence or things that they think are dispositive of this. If you look at, you know, Clapper, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency coming forward and saying before he left in January, that's him having served from July through January during the investigation, that he saw no evidence, the chairman of the intelligence committee openly saying at the end of the hearing, we've seen no evidence and we're asking the FBI and the intelligence committee to come forward -- I think it certainly is highly speculative and people shouldn't be jumping to conclusions.
BURNETT: So --
TURNER: This is an important issue and it does need to be addressed, but it certainly shouldn't be played out in the media.
BURNETT: OK. One thing that was very clearly addressed today in that aspect when it came to coordination, he said we're still investigating. He didn't say that when it came to wiretapping, all right? He couldn't have been more definitive. As we've been reporting, there is no evidence. It did not happen that President Obama wiretapped President Trump.
Do you think that President Trump should apologize, that he should retract the accusations that he made which frankly were personal, they were alleging that President Obama had done something criminal? Should he apologize?
TURNER: Well, one thing that we know is the president needs to explain. I mean, no one understands why he made that statement. We do know that there are a number of claims of interceptions of Trump communications, of Trump campaign communications, all of which were leaks that were made to the press. You heard the FBI director say today that a lot of stories in "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" were not true although, he wouldn't tell us which ones were.
TURNER: He has told us, but we can't tell because he's telling us in a classified session. So, I think the president needs to explain and I think we need to pursue this issue of leaks. But this is all based upon the fact --
BURNETT: But when it comes to interception of communications, Congressman, that does go back to the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, right, who is being monitored as many foreign diplomats are and certainly ones from Russia, right? That was how that was picked up. You're right. The fact that it happened was leaked.
But it's not as if they're talking about all kinds of other communications, right? That's been specifically what it's been about.
TURNER: No, actually, "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" have ran articles claiming other communications have been captured which again, you know, you have the FBI director saying, no, I can't tell you which one of these are true and which one are not, but if you look at the news reports, they're claiming a number of communications were captured, all of which I think go to the issue that crimes have been -- have occurred, people have broken laws for these leaks and we need to stop the leaks also.
BURNETT: OK. Separate from the leaks, though, just to be very clear, when it comes to President Trump, you're saying he needs to explain, not apologize to Barack Obama?
TURNER: Well, I mean, at this point, the ball he's in his court. We've had the FBI director say there's been no evidence, are the chairman of our committee, ranking member on a bipartisan basis came forward and said no evidence. I think on the Senate side, it had the same. I think the ball's in the president's court (AUDIO GAP) what did he mean by this Trump and why -- this tweet and why's he saying that.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congressman. I appreciate your time.
TURNER: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, breaking news: President Trump going to be speaking any moment at that rally in Louisville that you see on your screen. What will he say to the FBI Director Comey?
Plus, Sean Spicer, credible or not. The president's spokesman goes to any length to defend his boss, even when frankly what his boss did was indefensible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:42:37] BURNETT: New tonight, the president's Press Secretary Sean Spicer coming under criticism for defending conspiracy theories and falsehoods.
Brian Stelter is OUTFRONT.
SPICER: I'll try to keep this relatively short. BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Sean Spicer's
briefings are contentious.
SPICER: Hold on, but no, no. You're asking -- hold on.
SPICER: I don't have a full read on that yet.
STELTER: And as for his credibility, well, that's being questioned more every day. Today's example, trying to distance President Trump from his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
SPICER: There's been discussion of Paul Manafort who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time. But beyond --
REPORTER: He was -- he was the chairman of the campaign!
SPICER: Hey, Jonathan, hold on. You can stop interrupting other people's questions. Hey, Jonathan, somebody's asking a question, it's not your press briefing. Julie's asking a question, please calm down.
STELTER: Manafort's role was not limited. Hired in March 2016, he was promoted to chairman in May, managing the campaign at a crucial time. When reporters pressed --
REPORTER: He worked for the campaign for five months, he was the campaign chairman he was there for a number of pivotal decisions. So, I'm wondering, how is that insignificant?
STELTER: Spicer got the facts wrong again.
SPICER: Paul was brought on sometime in June.
STELTER: Again, this press release says March.
SPICER: We're on the first chapter.
STELTER: Two months in, and the story of this presidency is about trust, lack of trust. On day one, Spicer shocked the press corps with false statements about crowd size.
SPICER: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.
STELTER: Defending the boss means bending into contortions.
SPICER: He doesn't really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally.
STELTER: Reporters don't know what to believe. Last month, CBS reported that Navy Secretary nominee Philip Bilden was likely to withdraw. Spicer instantly denied it, calling Bilden 100 percent committed. And sure enough, Bilden withdrew a week later.
Spicer often brings printouts of news stories to the podium, using and misusing reporting to prove his point.
SPICER: Quote, "Three intelligence sources have informed FOX News that President Obama went outside a chain of command."
STELTER: Last week, Spicer shared FOX's baseless claim about Obama using the British to tap Trump, sparking an international incident.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: The credibility of these spokespeople in tatters.
STELTER: Today, Spicer said it was silly to equate quoting a news story to support for that story.
[19:45:02] SPICER: I think merely reading a story that's in a paper is not vouching for it, it's reading the story.
STELTER: In some ways actually weakening his own position, saying it doesn't matter what I say up in this podium, but I'm just reading a story, I'm just quoting somebody else. He's not giving himself his own support and his own credibility.
BURNETT: Sort of along the lines of what Trump has always said, well, somebody said or I heard, or very much on the line of --
STELTER: But now, President Trump also said in August, I will never lie to you. I will never tell you something I do not believe. In the context today of what we learned about wiretapping, very notable words.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Brian.
I want to go straight to our Mark Preston, our senior political analyst.
I mean, Mark, Brian's report I think just laid it out so perfectly. Contentious press briefings, but today, the Paul Manafort thing says so much. I mean, it's just a patently absurd thing to say, involved in a very limited way for a very limited amount of time. I mean, is Spicer losing his credibility?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, certainly with some reporters, he may be losing his credibility and I think Brian's absolutely right. You know, one of the lines that he had in his script right there was that defending the boss means bending into contortions. And we've seen that from Sean Spicer from day one.
You know, the interesting thing, though, Erin, is when he was hired, when he was brought on, when he was named the press secretary, there was a lot of relief in Washington, not only on Capitol Hill from those who understand the legislative process and communications, but also reporters as well.
And look, does he have a battle, an ongoing battle right now with the media? No question about that. The credibility, question, though, is -- you know, I leave that to up others.
BURNETT: So, what is he going to do? Because you're right, people at first were relieved. But, you know, take the crowd size issue when he came out and blatantly said that and it was not true. I talked to someone who was in the room when that whole conversation happened with the president and what that person told me was the president was just steaming angry, yelling at Sean and Reince and everyone else, and the answer from all of them was simply "yes, sir, yes, sir," not a single person pushed back against the president when he was asking them to lie.
PRESTON: Right. And if you remember that day, too, when Sean Spicer had come out and had made that, that are was his first public statement on camera. You know, the president had only been president for about 30 hours at that point, very difficult position to be in because either you're going to good out and do what the leader of the free world tells you to do and order something as frivolous as we're talking about, or you're going to quit on principle. And if you quit on principle, then the question is, like should you have done that anyway?
So, look, often times, Erin, when you see spokesmen out there and certainly in this Trump administration --
PRESTON: -- the spokesperson is speaking to an audience of one, not speaking to the masses, and I think that's the biggest issue right now.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Mark.
And next, the man likely to be the Supreme Court's next justice in the hot seat. Neil Gorsuch facing angry Democrats.
And Jeanne Moose or on the golf in chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: So, on a couple of occasions, he's actually conducted meetings there, he's actually had phone calls. So, just because he heads there doesn't mean that that's what's happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:51:32] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump's pick for the Supreme Court in the hot seat. Hearings now underway for Neil Gorsuch, and Democrats find themselves wrestling with the decision over how hard to fight with frankly is one of the brightest spots of the Trump presidency so far.
Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Judging is sometimes a lonely and hard job.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch starting his confirmation hearings defending his fellow judges, the recent targets of the man who nominated him.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to fight this terrible ruling. We're going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court.
SCHNEIDER: Gorsuch never mentioning Trump by name had nothing but praise for his profession.
GORSUCH: But I've seen how these men and women work, who hard they work, with courage and collegiality, independence and integrity.
SCHNEIDER: The discussion on the first day of hearings dominated by another judge, Merrick Garland, nominated by President Obama. His confirmation was blocked by Republicans.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: Judge Garland was denied a hearing and this vacancy has been in place for well over a year. I just want to say, I'm deeply disappointed that it's under these circumstances that we begin our hearings.
SCHNEIDER: Senator Ted Cruz argued the vacancy in the midst of an election justified the delay.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I would suggest that Judge Gorsuch is no ordinary nominee. Because of this unique and transparent process, unprecedented in the nation's history, his nomination carries with it a super legitimacy.
SCHNEIDER: Gorsuch, a close friend of the man he could replace says Antonin Scalia influenced his own judicial philosophy.
GORSUCH: He reminded us that words matter, that the judges' job is to follow the words that are in the law, not replace them with those that aren't.
SCHNEIDER: Democrats on the committee raising several concerns. They say Judge Gorsuch favors big business.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Your record on corporate versus human litigants comes in by one count at 21-2 for corporations.
SCHNEIDER: He has never ruled on an abortion case, but author a book on assisted suicide in 2009, writing, "the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong."
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You're going to have your hands full with this president. He's going to keep you busy.
SCHNEIDER: And many senators are wondering just how closely he will align himself with President Trump.
DURBIN: We need to know what you'll do when called upon to stand up to this president or any president.
SCHNEIDER: But Senator Cruz saying Gorsuch should be based on his record, not President Trump's.
CRUZ: We should evaluate this nomination on the record, on the merits.
SCHNEIDER: The tough questions and possible fireworks will start tomorrow as we launch into the first day where senators can press Judge Gorsuch on the issues. The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote April 3rd -- then the nomination will go to the full Senate, where under the current rules, Erin, Republicans will need to round up 60 votes to avoid a filibuster and get Judge Gorsuch confirmed -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Jessica, thank you.
And next, just how much time does Donald Trump spend on the golf course? It's a fair question. It's one he asked frequently of his predecessor.
Jeanne Moose hits the links to find out.
[19:57:42] BURNETT: President Trump versus President Obama on the golf course.
Jeanne Moos takes a swing.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "Golf Digest" called him the golfer in chief. But because he used to slam President Obama --
TRUMP: He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods.
MOOS: Trump is getting heat because he himself has been doing so much golfing.
SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN/TV HOST: He's the Tiger Woods of hypocrisy.
MOOS: Before he was president, Trump posted tweets, "Like can you believe with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf?"
TRUMP: Because I'm going to working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf. Believe me, folks.
MOOS: Hard to believe President Trump seems to have played golf ten times in his first two months. We say seems because the White House avoids talking about it.
As the CBS reported tweeted, White House press aides wouldn't say if POTUS played golf, told of Twitter photo of POTUS golf attire, he said he may have hit a few balls.
Reporters have resorted to poring over photographs like this, looking for telltale signs. Aha, he's wearing a golf glove.
Trump has said it's best for presidents to play with other leaders.
TRUMP: I would not have made certain deals if it weren't for golf. Big deals.
MOOS: The only time he played golf with a leader, the president gave Japan's prime minister a pat on the shoulder. Golf diplomacy?
SPICER: Help foster deeper relationships in Southeast Asia, in Asia rather.
MOOS: So, who is the better golfer? Obama or Trump?
"Golf Digest" calls Trump the best golfer to hold presidency, with a 2.8 handicap, compared to President Obama's 13.
And look who else golfs? There's Ivanka in a dress billowing like Marilyn Monroe and high heels instead of golf shoes.
But with the president sneaking off, we're going to need a little birdie to tell us when he's gone golfing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump for the birdie.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: Now, we got to fact-check that handicap.
Thanks for joining us. Don't forget, you watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere on CNN Go.