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Comey: FBI Investigating Possible Trump/Russia Collusion; Trump Tweet During Hearing Seems To Counter Testimony; NSA Chief: No Evidence Britain Involved In Any Wiretap; U.K. Prime Minister To Trigger Article 50 On March 29; Le Pen and Macron Lead Recent Polls in France; Index Reveals World's Happiest Country. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 20, 2017 - 16:00   ET




HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. Thanks for joining us on this Monday. I'm Hala Gorani. We're coming to you live from

London. This is THE WORLD RIGHT NOW.

Let's get right to an extraordinary hearing on Capitol Hill. For the first time, we now have public confirmation that the FBI is investigating

possible collusion between Donald Trump's campaign team and Russia.

The FBI director, James Comey, testifying on Capitol Hill, also said the investigation is very complex and he cannot give a timetable for how long

it may last. Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee, along with the National Security Agency director, Mike Rogers.

Both of them discounted, by the way, on another topic, Mr. Trump's claims on Twitter that he was wiretapped by the Obama administration last year.



JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: 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 of its components. The department has no

information that supports those tweets.

MIKE ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: Again, my view is the same as Director Comey. I have seen nothing on the NSA side that we

engaged in any such activity, nor that anyone ever asked us to engage in such activity.


GORANI: Now, FBI Director Comey also confirmed that his agency has been investigating Russia's attempt to meddle in the U.S. election since last



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 and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts. As with any counterintelligence

investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.


GORANI: Well, a lot of ground to cover this hour. Let's bring in Michael Smerconish, host of "SMERCONISH" on CNN, Robert Baer, a CNN intelligence

and security analyst and former CIA operative. Matthew chance is our senior international correspondent in Moscow, and Christopher Mayer, a

former British ambassador to the United States.

Michael Smerconish and Bob Baer, let's start with you. Michael, first of all, we're learning today that this investigation into possible collusion

between Trump campaign staff and Russia dates back to July.

I mean, we, of course, very publicly saw James Comey give a press conference saying they were launching an investigation or un-suspending an

investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails, yet we heard nothing about this investigation. Why not?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, "SMERCONISH": Well, you raise a really interesting point. And I'm sure some of the Clinton supporters are going

to be railing against the idea that they already perceive FBI Director Comey as having, himself, meddled in the election by acknowledging, gets a

little complicated, but acknowledging that they were then looking at former Congressman Anthony Weiner's server to find out if there were evidence of

Secretary Clinton using private e-mail in an inappropriate fashion.

So, why, at that time, for parody, didn't the FBI director say, oh, and by the way, we're also looking at the potential of collusion on the part of

the Trump campaign, with some Russian influences? What I thought was most significant today is the fact that FBI Director Comey acknowledged that

there was such an investigation.

I don't think that, frankly, people who were paying close attention in the United States are surprised by that revelation, but rather, surprised that

he admitted that that was the case. And one other observation I'll just make for our friends around the globe, because this does get complicated.

The issue is this. Did the Trump campaign aid and abet any hacking, any meddling on the part of Russian influences in the American election? We

don't know the answer to that question. We may never know the answer to that question, but that's the big issue.

GORANI: Yes, that's the big question. I mean, was there active sort of, you know, cooperation to try to discredit, to weaken the campaign of

Hillary Clinton? Bob Baer, let me get to you. What did you find most interesting, most surprising in the testimony today?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: First of all, I wasn't surprised that Comey came out and said there's an investigation. The FBI

can't avoid an investigation with the evidence that's public at this point. Some of the most interesting stuff for me was, Roger Stone.

That's been reiterated in this hearing that he was in touch with the hackers that got into the DNC e-mail. There's no reason for that. I mean,

it's suspicious on the face of it. If this were a true FBI investigation, he would be hauled in now and questioned under oath.

[16:05:11]GORANI: And that's not happening. By the way, just to -- sorry, Bob, just to jump in, to tell our viewers, Roger Stone is a longtime close

friend and adviser to now President Trump. So he's someone who's known him a very long time and who during -- and there's a picture of him, by the way

-- and who says during the campaign, he had some contact with Guccifer 2.0, who claims to have hacked the DNC server.

BAER: You know, it's unusual for a campaign to be in touch with Russian intelligence. It's just -- I can't recall when this has occurred, when so

openly, and also, Roger Stone's predictions that Podesta, campaign manager's e-mail would be soon exposed. I mean, how could he possibly have

known that, unless he heard it from the Russians or the Russian proxies? I find this all very disturbing. If this was a true counterintelligence

investigation, you know, there would be a lot of people that would have lost their jobs by now.

GORANI: And, Michael, politically, what kind of impact will this have? We saw the president tweet, he tweets pretty much every day, but I mean, is

this something that is going to have an impact on this very new White House?

SMERCONISH: Well, it leaves him out there all alone. It was two weeks ago, Saturday, just past, two weeks ago that the early in the morning, east

coast time in the United States, he awoke in Mar-a-Lago and sent out a succession of tweets where he said that Barack Obama, who was either a bad

or sick guy, those were President Trump's words, had wiretapped him at Trump Tower.

And today, FBI Director Comey said, we have no reason, no evidence to believe that that's the case. So, one by one, individuals who are in the

know, in the intelligence community, have said, there's no evidence, no justification, no basis for President Trump to have made that assertion.

He's literally all alone now. And what I note is that the Republican response, largely, in the hearing today is to focus on the methodology

where we're learning this, the leaks, not the substance of whatever that information was.

GORANI: And by the way, I mentioned Donald Trump's tweet. This is what he had to say. This was as the hearing was ongoing, "The NSA and FBI tell

Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process," but that is at odds with the comments that James Comey himself made to a Democratic

Congressman. Listen.


COMEY: It's hard for me to react. Let me tell you what we understand the state of what we've said is. We've offered no opinion, have no view, have

no information on potential impact, because it's never something that we looked at.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: OK, so it's not too far of a logical leap to conclude that the assertion that you have told the Congress

that there was no influence on the electoral process is not quite right?

COMEY: Right. It certainly wasn't our intention to say that today because we don't have any information on that subject.


GORANI: So Bob Baer, to you. You have the FBI director basically saying, we can't say either way at this stage. How long is this going to take,

because the American people are going to want answers on this, about this investigation and whether or not that there was collusion.

BAER: Well, you know, it's funny, because they were talking about Watergate that they were kids. I actually lived through Watergate, and I

think what we're going to see here is a drip, drip. It's going to be very difficult for this White House to contain this, especially when the White

House is in full denial and is trying to distract us with these false, absolutely false, unbelievable silly claims that Obama tapped his phone.

Everybody in the intelligence community knew that that couldn't have happened and didn't happen, so these -- you know, getting our attention

away from this is not going to work, attacking the press is not going to work. And you know, what evidence we do have out there, I'm sorry, but

this looks like there was coordination between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign. Did Trump know about it? Let's wait and see.

GORANI: Yes, and we'll see what comes out, by the way. There's more testimony tomorrow and certainly this will be -- continue to be a news

story with revelations on a regular basis, as we've seen. Michael Smerconish in Pennsylvania, thanks very much. Bob Baer in Colorado.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Reaction now from Russia. Matthew Chance joins us again from Moscow. We didn't have reaction, really, Matthew, we had a pre-action, if you want to

call it that, before the hearings even started.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, look, the Russians have been very dismissive of these hearings, they're calling

the political atmosphere in the United States hysteria. They're calling it a witch hunt and that's all part of that.

[16:10:05]But it's really incredible what we've been watching today on Russian state television, for instance, when it comes to media coverage of

these pretty historic hearings. It's so rare that there's a Congressional hearing that involves Russia being broadcast in this public way.

And you know, it wasn't even on state television. The Russians were knee- deep in other news, regarding, of all things the Eurovision song contest. So they're purposefully ignoring these very important developments that are

unfolding in Washington.

And one of the reasons for that is, of course, the frustration. The idea that everything Russia says, everything Russia does is interpreted in a

negative way in the United States. But behind that frustration, there's a certain amount of fear, as well.

That a relationship that they thought was going to get much better, and it's a pivotal relationship, remember, between Moscow and Washington, a

relationship they thought was going to get better is actually turning out much, much worse than anyone in the kremlin, anyone in Russia really

dreamed of.

And so their tactic at the moment it seems is to turn their backs on this and not comment on it any further. I spoke to the kremlin spokesman during

these hearings as James Comey was speaking and making this point that these investigations were underway, and the kremlin spokesman said, look, I don't

see anything worthy of comment on.

GORANI: All right, and just out of curiosity, what's the news regarding the Eurovision song contest? What's the big news there?

CHANCE: This is of much more importance as far as the Kremlins are concerned. The Eurovision briefly, it's going to be held in Ukraine later

this year, and there's some concern that the Russian entrants may not be given entry to the competition.

GORANI: All right. Well, it's important, as well. Eurovision matters in this part of the world. Thank you very much, Matthew Chance, live in


Also today, a strong rebuke of the White House claim that Britain helped wiretap Mr. Trump. The National Security director, Mike Rogers, agreed

that the allegation is, quote, "utterly ridiculous," and, quote, "nonsense."

We're joined now by Christopher Mayer, a former British ambassador to the United States. So we first --


GORANI: Yes, hello. We first heard the press secretary, Sean Spicer, basically read out some sort of summary of something that was said by a

guest commentator on Fox News that GCHQ helped the Obama administration, allegedly, tap Trump Tower during -- so this created some sort of

diplomatic incident, almost, between the two countries, where the Britain demanded, essentially, that the United States publicly deny this.

MEYER: One of the problems we've had on this side of the Atlantic is we don't know whether we've had an apology or not because initially, it seemed

that the Americans did apologize to us for the utterly false and, quote/unquote, "ridiculous allegation" that GCHQ, our listening agency, had

been commissioned by President Obama to eavesdrop, wiretap Trump Tower, a ludicrous assertion. I mean, beyond ludicrous. It's hard to find the

right adjective to describe this.

GORANI: But they did not apologize, Ambassador. They did not apologize --

MEYER: No, at first, but that is part of the problem. We thought they had apologized for maybe 24 hours, 12 hours, whatever it was. But then when we

got the further explanation from the president hills, and the very wonderful Sean Spicer, it was in a kind of irresponsible reference to

something that -- what was his name, former Judge Napolitano had --

GORANI: Judge Napolitano, yes.

MEYER: -- had said on Fox News. And from our point of view, that only compounded the offense. It was a -- how can I put it? The

irresponsibility and the carelessness with which these allegations are thrown out. So the one good thing, let me just say, Hala, is that in the

hearing today, Admiral Rogers was able to repeat on the record, before a congressional committee, that it was a ridiculous allegation that had - no

substance, not least because they had found no evidence that President Obama had, in any event, sought to wiretap Trump Tower.

GORANI: And in fact, I want to run that piece of sound. We have Mike Rogers there in that hearing, denying that GCHQ played any kind of role in

wiretapping Trump Tower. Listen.


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The president and his spokesman, Sean Spicer, have suggested

that British intelligence, through its NSA or GCHQ, wiretapped Mr. Trump on President Obama's behalf. Did you ever request that your counterparts in

GCHQ should wiretap Mr. Trump on behalf of President Obama?

MIKE ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: No, sir nor would I. That would be expressly against the construct of the five eyes agreement

that's been in place for decades.


GORANI: All right. So there, a clear denial. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, is visiting Washington. Should he ask for an apology? Do you


[16:15:08]MEYER: Well, he should certainly expect an apology, whether he will get an apology remains to be seen. I mean, I have no idea whether the

new secretary of state will actually give an apology, but he deserves to -- we deserve to have one, because the allegation is unbelievably serious.

And as Admiral Rogers said, it goes against long-standing convention, which binds the so-called five eye countries together, Canada, America, New

Zealand, Australia, and U.K., and it would have required the signature of the secretary of state himself, Boris Johnson's predecessor. So, this is

why seen from London, this is a ludicrous allegation and I think Mr. Johnson merits an apology and an explanation.

GORANI: I wonder -- well, I mean, I don't think so the expectation, frankly, is that he's going to get one. Is it damaging to the relationship

between the U.S. and the U.K.? Because Theresa May, you may have seen the picture that accompanied Theresa May's interview by "Vogue" magazine.

This was her and Donald Trump when she visited Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. She said he was a gentleman. She held his hand, there, to stabilize

him, I think, when they were crossing some sort of ramp or stairway area. They seemed to have a good personal relationship.

MEYER: Well, I think it started off very well and she scored a number of tricks while she was -- that's not the right phrase to use on American TV,

is it? She gained a number of achievements, at least 100 percent support for NATO. And the hand-holding thing, to this day, we're not quite sure

what it really was.

Was he generally holding her hand or just suggested, balancing himself down some step down a slope? Who knows? And they started -- well, they opened

the account well, but I have to say, what had the allegations about GCHQ are without doubt a complication.

This is something we do not need in our relationship. And I have no doubt that the two intelligence agencies will continue that very, very close

working relationship, which has been in place since the Second World War.

And having the president of the United States on top of this, making the allegation that he has made, is, how can I put it, to put it mildly, a

complicating factor.

GORANI: And we'll see what happens when Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary of the U.K. visits Washington. Thanks so much, Christopher Meyer

for joining us. We always appreciate your time for joining us live on the program.

While all of this was taking place, President Trump was welcoming the Iraqi prime minister to the White House. The prime minister, Haider al-Abadi

arrived in Washington a few hours ago, probably relieved, by the way, there's no longer a travel ban that applies to citizens of his country.

This is his first face-to-face meeting with the new president. There was a firm handshake. The two leaders are expected to talk about U.S. aid to

Iraq and their country's alliance against ISIS.

Their meeting comes shortly after the White House revised that travel order I was talking about, removing Iraq from the banned countries from the list.

There they are in the oval office, and in that very seat, Angela Merkel was sitting just a few days ago.

Still to come tonight, save the date, the British government tells us when it will trigger Article 50 to begin pulling out of the E.U. Details on

what lies ahead for all of Europe.



GORANI: The date has finally been set. Nine months after Britain voted to leave the E.U., the prime minister will formally start the process in nine

days. Theresa May will trigger Article 50 next Wednesday. That will start negotiations over the terms of Brexit. So what is next?

The prime minister will write to the E.U. president, Donald Tusk, telling him that the U.K. is leaving the union, and she will write that on the 29th

of March. Mr. Tusk said he expects there to be an initial response within 48 hours of that.

Then comes the real negotiations, which are expected to last two years. Mrs. May said the negotiations will deliver for her people.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I'm very clear that I want to ensure we get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom that works for

everyone across the United Kingdom, or parts of the U.K., when we enter these negotiations. I've set out my objectives. Those include getting a

good free trade deal. They include getting issues, continuing work together on issues like security, perhaps the core of what we're doing.

We're going to be out there, negotiating hard, delivering on what the British people voted for.


GORANI: CNN's Nic Robertson is here with me in our London studios. So how will it work, this whole process? We know the letter will be sent next


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: And we know Donald Tusk, the E.U. Council president has said that within 48 hours, he'll give

some guidance, some guidelines to the 27 E.U. nations. But then we also understand that it's going to take another four to six weeks for those

countries to kind of figure out their negotiating position.

Technically, it goes from the European Union Council to the commission, to then give some guidance on the, you know, on the parameters of the

negotiation, based on the letter, of course, and then that goes to the council, who then have a mandate to begin the negotiations.

So that's what it really begins. So triggered by the end of this month, 29th. So maybe we're looking at middle of May? Early May, middle of May,

before they're actually getting into that negotiation.

GORANI: But here's my question, what's in that letter? We know it will be a letter. It's a physical letter, right? What will be in it? Is it just

a page, like ten pages? One of those little bound booklets?

ROBERTSON: Well, you know, Theresa May --

GORANI: What is in it?

ROBERTSON: Theresa May has kept a lot of information very close to the chest. So far, she probably has a good idea. David Davis, the Brexit

minister, he probably has a very good idea, as well. Maybe a handful of other people, but we don't actually know.

I mean, it quite simply could be, we are leaving and this is the day we're doing it on and this is it official. But you know, people are speculating,

five to ten pages, potentially. She could write on that letter, for example, that all those -- because there's been a lot of discourse about

the E.U. citizens already living in Britain, what guarantees should she give to them.

She could say off the top, I'm going to be magnanimous and before we get into negotiations, I'm going to allow these E.U. citizens living in Britain

already that they can continue to live here. We don't think that's incredibly likely, because she wants to use it as a bargaining chip.

But these are the parameters she may sort of replicate her Lancaster House speech, where she laid out her view for what Brexit is. We heard her

giving a little bit of it again. So you know, maybe --

GORANI: A lot of mystery surrounding the letter. In the same way we don't exactly know what Brexit will mean. If it's hard, if it's somewhere in the

middle, if it means --

ROBERTSON: Well, she doesn't like to use the term, hard or soft. But the reality is, by wanting to control immigration in Britain, it's going to be

what's generally regarded as hard.

GORANI: And E.U. reaction, quickly? I mean, as you said, it's going to be several days after that letter that we hear from the E.U.

ROBERTSON: You know, this is where Theresa May has done it right, if you will. And she reminded everyone of that today, that she says she would do

this by the end of March, trigger Article 50 and that was Angela Merkel's response. We knew this was coming. Theresa May said she would do it by

the end of March, and here she is.

Merkel did say, when they're in Rome for their 60th anniversary of the treaty of Rome, there will be some discussion about it there among the E.U.

27 leaders.

[16:25:12]The E.U. Commission has said, yes, we're ready, wherever it arrives, we're ready to deal with it. The message is, no surprise, we're

ready but a lot of -- that letter. We don't know what's in it, and neither do they, at the moment.

GORANI: All right, interesting stuff. Thanks very much, Nic Robertson, as always, with the latest on when the U.K. will trigger Article 50.

Still ahead, we'll return to the U.S. House Intelligence hearing on Russia and discuss the political implications of what we're hearing on Capitol



GORANI: America's FBI director has confirmed there is an investigation underway into possible coordination between Trump campaign officials and

Russia. James Comey also told the Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, there's no evidence to support the president's claim that Barack Obama

wiretapped him.

President Trump's Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, has wrapped up the first day of his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Democrats began by venting their anger at the Republican-controlled Senate that refused to even consider President Obama's nominee last year. Gorsuch

promised that if confirmed, he would serve patiently and impartially.

The British prime minister will formally start the process of the U.K. leaving the E.U. in nine days. Theresa May will trigger Article 50 next

Wednesday. It's expected the negotiations over the terms of Brexit will take two years to complete.

America's FBI director, James Comey, has confirmed there is indeed an investigation underway into Trump campaign officials' communications with

Russia. That, alone, is huge news. Intelligence officials are not known for revealing many specific details in a public setting.

But House Intelligence Committee members are delving deep into media and other reports to shape their questions. The top-ranking Democrat, Adam

Schiff, referenced several reports, including the Steel dossier that everyone's been talking about. But hasn't been fully substantiated to make

his case for why Americans need this hearing. Listen to Schiff.


SCHIFF: In early July, Carter Page, someone Candidate Trump identified as one of his national security advisers, travels to Moscow on a trip approved

by the Trump campaign. While in Moscow, he gives a speech critical of the United States and other western countries for what he believes is a

hypocritical focus on democratization and efforts to fight corruption.

[16:30:00] According to Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, who is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. intelligence,

Russian sources tell him that Page has also had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin, CEO of the Russian gas giant, Rosneft. Sechin is reported to be a

former KGB agent and close friend of Putin's.

According to Steele's Russian sources, Page is offered brokerage fees by Sechin on a deal involving a 19 percent share of the company. According to

Reuters, the sale of a 19.5 percent share of Rosneft later takes place with unknown purchasers and unknown brokerage fees.

Also, according to Steele's Russian sources, the campaign is offered documents damaging to Hillary Clinton, which the Russians would publish

through an outlet that gives them deniability, like WikiLeaks. The hacked documents would be in exchange for a Trump administration policy that de-

emphasizes Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and instead focuses on criticizing NATO countries for not paying their fair share, policies, which, even as

recently as the President's meeting last week with Angela Merkel, have now presciently come to pass.

In the middle of July, Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign manager and someone who is long on the payroll of pro-Russian Ukrainian interests,

attends the Republican Party convention. Carter Page, back from Moscow, also attends the convention. According to Steele, it was Manafort who

chose Page to serve as a go-between for the Trump campaign and Russian interests.

Ambassador Kislyak, who presides over a Russian embassy in which diplomatic personnel would later be expelled as likely spies, also attends the

Republican Party convention and meets with Carter Page, and additional Trump advisers, J.D. Gordon and Walid Phares. It was J.D. Gordon who

approved Page's trip to Moscow.

Ambassador Kislyak also meets with Trump national security campaign chair, and now Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Sessions would later deny meeting

with Russian officials during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Just prior to the convention, the Republican Party platform is changed, removing a section that supports the provision of lethal defensive weapons

to Ukraine, an action that would be contrary to Russian interests. Manafort categorically denies involvement by the Trump campaign and

altering the platform.

But the Republican Party delegate who offered the language in support of providing defensive weapons to Ukraine states that it was removed at the

insistence of the Trump campaign. Later, J.D. Gordon admits opposing the inclusion of the provision at the time it was being debated and prior to

its being removed.

Later in July, and after the convention, the first stolen e-mails detrimental to Hillary Clinton appear on WikiLeaks. A hacker who goes by

the moniker, Guccifer 2, claims responsibility for hacking the DNC and giving the documents to WikiLeaks.

The leading private cybersecurity firms, including CrowdStrike, Mandiant, and ThreatConnect, reviewed the evidence of the hack and conclude with high

certainty that it was the work of APT 28 and APT 29, who are known to be Russian intelligence services. The U.S. Intelligence Committee also later

confirms that the documents were, in fact, stolen by Russian intelligence and Guccifer 2 acted as a front.

Also in late July, candidate Trump praises WikiLeaks, says he loves them, and openly appeals to the Russians to hack his opponent's e-mails, telling

them that they will be richly rewarded by the press.

On August 8th, Roger Stone, a long-time Trump political adviser and self- proclaimed political dirty trickster, boasts in a speech that he has communicated with Assange and that more documents would be coming,

including an October surprise. In the middle of August, he also communicates with the Russian cutout, Guccifer 2, and offers a Breitbart

piece denying Guccifer's links to Russian intelligence.

Then later in August, Stone does something truly remarkable, when he predicts that John Podesta's personal e-mails will soon be published.

"Trust me," he says, "it will soon be Podesta's time in the barrel #CrookedHillary."

In the weeks that follow, Stone shows remarkable prescience. "I have total confidence that WikiLeaks and my hero, Julian Assange, will educate the

American people soon," he says, "#lockherup."

"Payload coming," he predicts, and two days later, it does. WikiLeaks releases its first batch of Podesta e-mails. The release of John Podesta's

e-mails would then continue on a daily basis up until the election.


HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: That was Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, discussing media reports about alleged Trump campaign/Russia ties, clearly

saying, look, we need to look into this. Something, you know, doesn't sound right. It's possible something went on. The Trump campaign staffers

colluded with Russia.

[16:35:08] CNN Political Analyst and "Washington Post" Columnist Josh Rogin joins me now from Washington with more.

What did you make of this first day of testimony by the FBI Director and the Director of National Security Agency?

JOSH ROGIN, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think most of us in Washington were surprised by how much FBI Director and NSA Director said at

today's hearing. They revealed that there was an investigation ongoing. They revealed that it began in July of 2016.

They talked about that it does examine people who are currently serving inside the Trump administration as well as some who are not. They

dismissed the wiretapping claims, said they had no evidence of that. They dismissed the White House's claims that there was any involvement by

British intelligence in that story. And they actually talked a lot about what they know about Russian interference in the U.S. election.

So, you know, over the course of these six or seven hours, we got a lot of new information. Despite that, the White House had a press conference

immediately after, saying that there was no new information, that nothing was learned.

GORANI: And in fact, Donald Trump tweeted, saying that James Comey had confirmed, you know, something that he had not confirmed --

ROGIN: Well, that's right.

GORANI: -- which is that there had been no interference. Right. And then, in fact, Mike Rogers -- or I should say, James Comey, when asked,

said, I cannot make that statement. I can't take that position.

ROGIN: Well, it was more that. There was a series of tweets from the official POTUS account, that's the government account, not Donald Trump's

personal account, in real time, that were misleading about the things that Comey and Rogers were saying.

Trump's Twitter feed said that the officials had said there was no evidence of Russian interference in the political process. That wasn't true. They

said that James Clapper had said that there was no collusion. That wasn't exactly accurate.

So we saw a real time spin effort from the White House that continued into the press conference that sought to sort of shape the coverage. I don't

think it was really that successful.

GORANI: I mean, what impact would this have on the White House, I wonder? Because do they care, really? I mean, does the Trump White House care

when, really, they're talking directly to their base, whether Trump makes, you know, these outlandish accusations directed at former President Obama,

that he wiretapped Trump Tower or not?

It's out there. He's talking to his base, and his base is still very much liking what they're reading and hearing.

ROGIN: Well, that's true. I think it's clear that the White House does care about these allegations. They talk about them all the time. They're

very active in pushing against them.

They can no longer state that they're unaware of an investigation. That's a big change that will force them to change their talking points. They're

confident that their base will continue to support them. What they're not confident about is where Republicans in Congress will fall down.

We saw a lot of Republicans at these hearings, defending the Trump administration, focusing on the leaks rather than on the substance of the

leaks. But in the end, even top Republicans are forced to acknowledge now, on the record, that there's no evidence of wiretapping claims, especially

no evidence that they're attributable to President Obama or his administration.

So we see a widening gap between what congressional Republicans are willing to say and what the White House is willing to say. And that's certainly a

concern for the White House.

GORANI: And, Sean Spicer, the Press Secretary, was asked about all of this. This is what he said today in the briefing room.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the President stand by his comments that he's not aware of any contacts that his campaign associates had with Russia

during the election?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the second one is, has anyone from the White House --

SPICER: Well, can I just amend the first?


SPICER: Obviously, just to be clear, I know that -- I'm trying to think through this for a second because, obviously, General Flynn --


SPICER: But, again --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're talking during the campaign, before the election.

SPICER: Right. And I'm not aware of any at this time. But even General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign. And then, obviously, there's been

discussion of Paul Manafort, who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.


GORANI: I mean, Sean Spicer there is having to really just kind of jump through hoops here. He says, yes, the President is standing by the claim

that, you know, there was no contact. And then, wait, wait, wait, hang on. Actually, Flynn, and also, there was -- you know what I mean. Gosh, he's

got a tough job.

ROGIN: Yes. I mean, he's spinning as hard as he can. It's really quite misleading. Paul Manafort was the campaign chairman. He was heavily

involved in the campaign. General Flynn was the top foreign policy adviser to Trump during the campaign and became his national security adviser, so

to dismiss him as a volunteer is kind of ridiculous.

Overall, what we see the White House doing is cutting bait with anyone they can cut bait with. The people who they can't cut bait with are the people

who are still in the administration. And we also saw an effort by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes today to focus on those people.

So they're trying to draw a distinction between those who were involved before Trump took office, and those after. But for the FBI, that

distinction is a lot less meaningful because their investigation spans the time before Trump was elected and after he took office.

[16:40:08] GORANI: Right. Since July, in fact.

ROGIN: That's right.

GORANI: Thanks very much, Josh Rogin, in Washington.

And joining me now from Washington, as well, with more on the House hearing is CNN National Security Analyst Steve Hall. He's also a retired CIA

operations officer with -- the head of the Russia operations.

Thanks very much for joining us. One of the things that the FBI Director, James Comey, didn't want to be drawn in were comments on specific

individuals. He was asked about Paul Manafort. He couldn't talk about whether or not current members of the administration were being looked at,

et cetera. So we got generalities, but we did learn new things.

What did you think was most interesting?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Hala, I drew two things. Obviously, a lot of information and Josh is right. There's a whole lot of

things that happened in the six hours.

But one of the things that was important to cut out with was that Director Comey did indicate and confirm that this is a counterintelligence

investigation that's been going on for a while. Counterintelligence investigations are really, really sticky because you've got a lot of

classified, a lot of secret information that is being used during the course of the investigation.

And of course, as you mentioned, it also can pertain to some of the people or it might pertain to some of the people that came up during the course of

the discussions today, people who had been members of the Trump campaign or the Trump team. So that's going to be complicated and it's going to slow

things down, even though, towards the end of the hearings, we got the clear indication that the committee really wanted things to move ahead as quickly

as possible because of the political pall that this sort of casts on the situation.

But the second thing that struck me, Hala, was, you know, I had hoped that there had been a possibility, at least, for more bipartisanship. And

pretty early on, it became clear, as more and more chaff came up, to, in my view, direct attention away from the central question, which is, was there

contact, cooperation, collusion, whatever you want to call it, between the Trump campaign and the Russians?


HALL: So that's going to be a tough row to hoe. And I wonder whether we're just going to require an independent mechanism to continue on with


GORANI: You could clearly see the partisan lines drawn there during that hearing, but why aren't some of these individuals being questioned by the

FBI as part of this investigation?

I mean, wouldn't you expect then, I don't know, Mike Flynn or Paul Manafort to be summoned, to talk to FBI agents and officials about what they knew,

didn't know or where they were at any given time? I mean, isn't that something you would expect?

HALL: Yes, absolutely. And that's clearly in the FBI's charter. It's got a big piece of -- the lion's share of the counterintelligence investigation

charter. And when that part of the investigation, when it reaches that point in the investigation, I think that they are going to want to talk to

those people.

Timing in these things is of utmost importance, again, because on the counterintelligence piece, you know, if you're going to act on a piece of

information that you're acquired, perhaps clandestinely, you've got to be careful when you decide to call somebody in and ask them about it. It can

have impact on other parts of your investigation. It adds a whole another layer of complexity on to what is already a very complex criminal or could

be a criminal investigation. And it's just going to take a lot of time to unwind it, which is politically unfortunate for those who have now fallen

under this sort of cloud.

GORANI: But when you say a lot of time, because, I mean, obviously, American people, many of whom have been hearing these allegations float

around, and this investigation has been ongoing since July.

We're only hearing it publicly confirmed today, even though James Comey went very publicly on the record about an investigation that was sort of

reactivated into the Hillary Clinton e-mails but said nothing of this one. So the question is, what could it be, months? Could it be years?

HALL: Well, there are two things there. I mean, it could easily be months. It could be longer. You know, years would be a little long, but

I've seen counterintelligence investigations that have gone on for a long time due to their complexity.

But to add insult to injury or to pour salt in the wound, a lot of it is so sensitive and so classified that it's not like a normal criminal type of

thing, which the FBI and the DOJ, the Department of Justice, could be perhaps, more open about. So it's going to be long and it's going to be

secret. And that's going to be really hard for an open society like ours to deal with.

GORANI: All right. Steve Hall, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate your time on CNN.

We will be right back after a quick break. Stay with us.


[16:46:50] GORANI: The House Intelligence hearing on Russia's meddling in the U.S. election, that investigation into the possibility that Russia

influenced the election. For the first time, the FBI Director, James Comey, said his Bureau is investigating whether there was indeed any

coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. And when it came to Donald Trump's unfounded claims he was wiretapped by former President

Barack Obama, Comey said he had no information to support the allegations.


JAMES COMEY, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: No individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone. It has to

go through an application process, ask a judge, the judge can then make the order.

SCHIFF: So President Obama could not unilaterally order a wiretap of anyone?

COMEY: No president could.


GORANI: All right. That's not the only denial. We've heard others say there's no evidence, on both sides of the aisle. Let's talk with Larry

Sabato. He's the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Thanks very much for joining us. I mean, this is a very fresh, new administration. And already, we have a hearing like this about whether or

not the campaign team colluded with Russia to try to disrupt the electoral and democratic process. What do you make of, you know, already, this type

of big cloud hanging over an administration?

DR. LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: You're correct to say it's unusual. In fact, it's really unprecedented.

Only new President Gerald Ford, back in 1974, had early hearings because of his pardon of President Nixon. This is a much bigger investigation

involving more people and more subjects. And this was absolutely the worst day for President Trump and his administration since he has taken office.

GORANI: There were clear partisan lines here. I mean, you had the Republican congressmen and women acting very differently, asking very

different questions, with a different focus, than the Democrats, for instance. But what is, potentially, the impact on Donald Trump and his

White House, at this stage?

SABATO: There is an immediate impact and a longer-term impact. The immediate impact is the headline we're going to see everywhere tomorrow,

which is the FBI Director and intelligence officials, generally, and people in power on both the Democratic and Republican sides have now categorically

ruled out what President Trump insisted had taken place. That President Obama, a guy he called bad and sick, had wiretapped him, either during the

campaign or during the president-elect period.

It is absurd. It's laughable. And so that's the short-term effect. It puts him in a bad light there.

The longer-term effect this investigation of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. There's a lot there. It's bound to take a long time.

This isn't going to happen within a few days, so it's a cloud that hangs over the administration.

GORANI: And it's a drip, drip thing, too, as well. And by the way, and I don't know what your take is on the approval rating, but Gallup has a new

number out. The approval rating for Donald Trump is 37 percent; disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing in office, 58 percent. His approval

rating is actually declining little by little, chipping away at that number. Could you put that in historical context?

[16:50:13] SABATO: Certainly. Once again, it's unprecedented, at least since we started the age of polling in the 1930s. No new president has

ever been where Trump is now. Actually, no new president had ever been where Trump was on, on Inauguration Day. The polling average has never had

him over 50 percent. And this is his honeymoon period, so this is extraordinary.

Frankly, I don't think he'll fall much further than the mid-30s because he has a base that will believe anything he says or does. And it's about a

third of the electorate, a little more than a third. It's not the 46 percent he got on Election Day.

But this is not helpful because congressmen and senators read polls. And they know whether the President is popular in their state or district.

This will hurt some of his attempts to pass legislation.

GORANI: But, you know, internationally -- and we're not in the United States, so all of this news is coming to us -- we're looking at it

differently. You know, many people who dislike Donald Trump, internationally, will say, his White House is in chaos, there's no way he

can last four years . You know, he's destroying even the closest of relationships, for instance, the way he greeted Angela Merkel, which people

were extremely offended at the fact, for instance, that he didn't shake her hand in the Oval Office, et cetera.

But inside the United States, I mean, is there also the belief, perhaps, that this administration is reckless and that, at some point, it's going to

end up, you know, damaging itself so much that it can't go on?

SABATO: Certainly, the 54 percent who did not vote for Donald Trump already believe that. And I think the percentage has grown, as Gallup has


As far as Trump not finishing out the term, in a legal sense, there are only two ways to getting out -- impeachment, which is an impossibility,

given Republican control of both Houses of Congress, and a 25th amendment to the U.S. constitution procedure, which also requires a participation of

a Republican congress and Trump's own cabinet.

So I would say the chances aren't very good, but you're absolutely correct to say that we've never had an administration like this. There are three,

four, five controversies a day. And as unpopular as Trump is in the United States, I think around the world, it's been a long time since we had a

president this unpopular.

GORANI: Right. And it's certainly giving us journalists a lot of work. Larry Sabato, thanks very much, of the University of Virginia.

SABATO: Thank you.

GORANI: Always appreciate having you on. Speaking of presidents and presidential elections, the five candidates hoping to be the next president

of France are taking part in their first televised debate.

According to recent polls, Emmanuel Macron and the far-right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, are both in the lead. Then they're followed by

Francois Fillon -- he's in the middle -- Jean-Luc Melenchon, and then to the far right, even though he's from the left-leaning Socialist Party, is

Benoit Harmon. They're all hoping to change their performance with their - - I should say, favorability numbers with this performance. Melissa Bell joins me live from Paris with more.

Who's coming out on top?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, we're really watching, Hala, the most extraordinary debate. I mean, not only because this kind of

debate before the first round of a presidential election in France has never been held with all these candidates. There are 11, now, official

candidates. Lots of controversy over the fact that just the top five in the polls had been selected. But there's extraordinary tension here and,

really, the whole of France gripped to their television sets.

So you get this sense that already this populist wave, we've wondered a great deal, Hala, together, about what it would bring in France? Who's

going to become the next French president? Already, it's changed the nature of French politics.

And you have these five candidates facing off in this unheard of sort of debate at this particular stage, with the two candidates that represent the

parties that have essentially shared power since the start of the fifth republic, the socialists and the traditional right, pretty much excluded as

far as the polls go from the second round for the time being. So lots of tension, and they're all really hoping to make a difference with this

particular debate, Hala.

GORANI: I mean, I know it's still ongoing, but, I mean, who's the one making the biggest splash so far?

BELL: Do you know, it's been really interesting to watch, the extent to which those polls have really boosted the confidence of the two leaders?

And they are the far-right's Marine Le Pen, and the centrist independent, Emmanuel Macron.

You know, many people in France have sort of laughed as he launched his campaign a few months ago, saying that could never work in France. You

cannot start from nothing and become a serious presidential candidate. And yet, tonight, he is looking absolutely confident.

[16:55:04] And both of them seem very sure, boosted, as they are, by the figures, boosted, as they are, by the polls, and by this sense that there

is, perhaps, for the first time ever in French politics, absolutely everything to play for in a presidential campaign that is as unpredictable

as anyone can remember.

GORANI: It's certainly been a crazy one, like none we've seen before. Melissa Bell, thanks very much, in Paris. There's a debate going on there.

We're going to be back after quick break. Stay with us.


GORANI: Finally this hour, how happy is your country? There's a new happiest, country according to the Annual Index, unseating the long-time

winner of this report. Let's countdown to the top three.

I don't know what the Nordics do so well. They're always up there, though. Iceland, at third. Three-time winner Denmark finished in the number two

spot this year. Second happiest isn't bad. And the number one happiest country in the world, Norway!

You might always be interested to know -- also, I should say, interested to know, where some of the big names came in. The U.K. rose four spots to the

19th spot. The U.S. dropped to 14th. And France -- what's going on, France? -- came in at 31st happiest country.

This has been THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Thanks for watching. I'm Hala Gorani. I'll see you tomorrow, same time, same place.