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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger; U.S. Airstrike Responsible for Civilian Deaths in Iraq?; Republican Congressman Under Fire; White House Looks to Move on From Health Care Failure; Interview with Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired March 27, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A confidential source meeting just steps from the Oval Office.
THE LEAD starts right now.
The beleaguered chairman of the House Intelligence Committee now admits he had a secret meeting on White House grounds just hours before going public with claims about surveillance of the Trump transition team, so who was he meeting with?
Plus, President Trump blasting conservative Republicans over the health care loss, but can the president get a win on his next big campaign promise without their help?
And at least 100 civilians killed after a U.S.-led airstrike in Iraq. Now urgent investigations into how this happened as the finger- pointing begins.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in for Jake today.
And we start with the politics lead and a stunning admission by the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Republican Congressman Devin Nunes confirmed to Jake Tapper that he was on White House grounds last Tuesday. Why is that important? That's the day before he rushed to the White House or now, I guess we should say, rushed back to the White House and announced that President Trump's communications may have been incidentally intercepted during surveillance.
Now, at the time, Chairman Nunes refused to say how he learned this, but today's admission raises the question of whether someone in the White House or at least in the administration was his source. It comes as Democrats say the House committee cannot move forward with an impartial investigation.
And now Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer just called on the Senate floor for Speaker Ryan to remove Chairman Nunes as the chair of the Intelligence Committee.
Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee is set to hold its first public hearing this week, this as CNN has confirmed one of the president's close advisers, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will testify about his meetings with Russian officials, including reportedly a Russian banker.
CNN's Jessica Schneider following all of this for us.
And we want to start with the House Intelligence chairman, Chairman Nunes today. The White House did or did not confirm that it could be his source, Jessica?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Did not confirm.
In fact, John, Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly deflected the questions about what the White House knew, saying that they will leave it simply to Chairman Nunes to explain what he's been looking at and where he got it.
Now, Nunes himself refusing to reveal his source, and now the calls for replacing Nunes as head of the investigation are growing.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The night before this unusual press conference...
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: What I have read bothers me, and I think it should bother the president.
SCHNEIDER: ... it turns out House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes was actually on White House grounds. His spokesman confirming Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source.
That's where Nunes tells CNN he viewed information indicating incidental collection of the president's communications. A government official told CNN Nunes was seen at the National Security Council offices of the Eisenhower Executive Building.
Despite Nunes' assertion that no one from the White House knew he was there, it raises several questions. Who granted Nunes access onto the White House grounds? Who led him into the secure room at the EOB and who accessed the computer system to view the files?
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer not providing answers.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would be glad to check on that. I'm not sure that that's how that works, but I will follow up on that point.
SCHNEIDER: Nunes still hasn't chaired the details with Intelligence Committee members and Democrats are questioning Nunes' ability to be impartial.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Without further adieu, Speaker Ryan should replace Chairman Nunes. SCHNEIDER: House Speaker Paul Ryan standing by the chair. "Speaker
Ryan has full confidence that Chairman Nunes is conducting a thorough, fair and credible investigation."
Meanwhile, President Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has agreed to face members of the Senate Intelligence Committee as new information emerges about his meeting with prominent Russians. The White House previously disclosed Kushner's December meeting at Trump Tower with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Now the White House admits Ambassador Kislyak requested a second meeting, to which Kushner sent his deputy, Avrahm Berkowitz.
Kushner then had another meeting at the request of Ambassador Kislyak with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russia's Economic Development Bank. Through the campaign and transition, Jared Kushner severed as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials. Given this role, he's volunteered to speak with Chairman Burr's committee, according to a White House spokesman.
Democratic lawmakers continue to express concerns about the Trump team's ties to Russia, Congressman Jim Himes telling CNN's Kate Bolduan this:
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: This is hardly an isolated case, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and now Jared Kushner, all people who have been a little bit less than forthcoming about what the nature of those meetings were and whether they even occurred. Look, that in and of itself is enough for an investigative committee want to talk to everybody.
SCHNEIDER: Now, Jared Kushner is the fourth and most prominent Trump associate to agree to meet with lawmakers.
Last week, we saw former campaign chair Paul Manafort, former adviser Roger Stone and former policy adviser Carter Page all agreeing to talk to the House Intel Committee, Manafort also offering to talk to the Senate committee.
Now, as for the questions about how Intel Chair Devin Nunes got on to the White House grounds, we do continue to ask questions from the administration, but still at this hour, John, no answers.
BERMAN: All right, Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.
Want to bring in now Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Thanks.
BERMAN: Chairman Nunes says he was on the White House grounds in order to meet with his source in a secure location where he could view, I, guess, the information provide by the source, even though, by the way, Chairman Nunes, I suppose, could have done it on Capitol Hill. What's your reaction to this?
KINZINGER: So, look, I have said from the very beginning we need a bipartisan answer to what happened with regards to Russia and the Trump campaign.
I guess I don't -- I'm having a hard time really seeing what the big, in essence, scandal about the chairman going to the White House itself. I mean, from what I understand, the Intel Committee, the chairman himself goes to a lot of different areas to view different information. This may be where that was located.
And I can tell you, you know, I know Chairman Nunes well. He has a very good reputation in Congress as being fair. I know that he's a patriot, that he intends to do well. So I think the idea of going to the White House to get this information, I'm having a hard time really seeing where that -- the big scandal is there, because I just don't.
BERMAN: I think the question is, and this is what some Democrats and some critics say, is that if this information, which is seen as favorable to the White House, was provided by the White House, and we know that something was provided now on White House grounds, does that mean that Chairman Nunes, who has oversight over the intelligence community, is instead working for the White House?
KINZINGER: Not necessarily.
Again, I think there's really kind of two issues we're conflating here. They are all related to an extent, but there's the area of the issue of the people being caught up in unmasking, people being caught up in wiretaps, and the question is then, why were their names released? That is one investigation that I think this is probably more related to.
The broader issue of Russia is I think being well hounded out in the Senate and House Intel Committees. So, again, I just don't see the issue of, you know, Chairman Nunes going to the executive office of the White House -- or the White House ground.
It is a huge branch of government, and I don't know that that necessarily leads to him saying that, you know, somehow he's working for the president, besides that's just where the information happened to reside that he needed to get ahold of.
BERMAN: Well, if the president's people are giving him information about the president, is it truly an independent investigation?
KINZINGER: Well, we don't know. I don't know who gave him the information, but if it comes from a different council, NSC, something like that, we just don't know.
Again, I just don't think necessarily going there to get the information was a big deal. He admitted, look, hey, if you guys are upset by me going to the White House, I understand that before I briefed Congress.
But I know him as a person and I know him as a congressman. He's very fair and honest. But, look, we have to get to the bottom of what happened, and I think he's doing that, and I think the committee is going to do that, both the Senate and the House side.
BERMAN: All right, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, stick around. We have a lot more to talk about with you, including the president's son-in- law Jared Kushner, his meeting with a Russian ambassador or Russian banker, and his imminent meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
BERMAN: Well, we're back now with the politics lead.
White House officials insist they are not concerned that House intelligence Chair Devin Nunes met with a source on the White House grounds the night before announcing some of President Trump's personal communications might have been collected during routine surveillance.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said -- quote -- "I'm not going to get into who he met with or why he met with them."
Back with me now, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
Congressman, thanks again for being with us.
I want to play for you some sound from Democratic Congressman Jim Himes, who sits in the Intelligence Committee. And this is what he said about the Devin Nunes meeting on White House grounds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HIMES: Congress is to serve of as a check and a balance on the president, on the White House, and so -- and yet Devin, Chairman Nunes, has -- whatever it is he's done, it's been at the White House. It appears to have been in the service of the White House. And so it is very clear that he owes us an explanation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, Congressman, you have been very clear. You want some bipartisan answers on what went on with Russia.
Can you get bipartisan answers from this committee, if the Democrats on it don't trust the Republican chair, if the Republican chair isn't giving the Democrats on the committee the information about where he's getting this intelligence, and, as far, as we know, as of now, at 4:13 Eastern time, hasn't shared with them the actual intelligence?
KINZINGER: Yes, look, I'll leave where to Devin and to the White House to talk about -- actually, Devin, because he's the one that got it. But, look, I think when Congressman Himes, you know, I respect him.
When he says something like going into the White House, but yet we're supposed to have oversight, look, that's the executive branch of government. The executive branch of government has some intelligence functions that Congress has to get information from in order to still have oversight and in order to still -- to do that stuff.
So, I guess the idea of going to the executive branch does not violate the idea that we're not practicing oversight over the administration. I think -- I think you can do both, because, again, the administration is where a lot of this intelligence is collected and disseminated from.
So, look, we need bipartisan answers to this. There's multiple investigations going on in both the House and Senate Intel Committee. The thing I worry about, though, is the more that this is brought into the public sphere, and the media has a responsibility to talk about this, but the more everybody kind of comes out and starts to make this a partisan issue, it actually takes away from the nature of the investigation.
BERMAN: So, Congressman, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who happens to be President Trump's son-in-law, he's going to go speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee. He admits meeting with the Russian ambassador during the transition. That, we already knew about.
We learned today, though, that he also met with a Russian banker during the transition, a Russian banker who works for a bank that suffered under sanctions levied by President Obama. Does -- the idea of these meetings, do they raise any questions for you?
[16:15:01] KINZINGER: Well, I think he definitely needs to be accountable to it.
You know, the idea of meeting with an ambassador, I've met with the Russian ambassador before and I'm a pretty strong Russia hawk. So, that's why ambassadors are here. I don't think it's improper for them to be meeting with an incoming administration.
The banking question is something that needs to be answered, especially when you talk about the fact that sanctions were put on to Russia, especially that we had a different president at the time who determined that sanctions were correct and intensifying sanctions, in fact, because of hackings were correct. We have one president at a time, so it could possibly be improper to have that meet, you know, and that's the information we need to have.
There's probably nothing necessarily illegal about it. There's nothing illegal about meeting with ambassadors, but I think this goes into the whole question that we all need answers to, the American people are asking for answers to, which is what role did Russia play, if any?
BERMAN: What would be improper possibly about those meetings? KINZINGER: Well, I think, you know, if you're meeting with a bank --
if you're meeting with a bank officer that's been affected by sanctions, you know, the question is, what are you meeting about? And -- and if in fact that's a discussion of sanctions or future policy, that could possibly be improper depending on if that was discussed. So, I think Jared, Mr. Kushner coming in and speaking to the Senate Intel Committee is probably a good start, and hopefully we get some answers from that.
BERMAN: All right. Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, thanks so much for being with us. We really do appreciate your time.
KINZINGER: You bet. Thanks, John.
BERMAN: All right. President Trump says he's moving on from health care to tax reform, but who will he turn to in Congress for support after spending the weekend playing the blame game?
[16:20:56] BERMAN: Welcome back.
Fresh off the Republican health care debacle, the White House now trying to regroup, looking ahead to the next legislative goal -- reforming the tax code. You know what? Health care, that was supposed to be the easy one. The tax code, that's much harder.
CNN's Ryan Nobles is live at the White House.
And, Ryan, the administration still trying to figure out how to work with Republicans, its own party, in Congress.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, not just Republicans but perhaps now maybe Democrats as well, and now the big question here at the White House today is, what big issue will they tackle next? And will they have any partners on Capitol Hill?
NOBLES (voice-over): Tonight, the White House is moving on.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks very much. It's my pleasure to welcome such incredible women.
NOBLES: Trying to change the subject from their defeat on health care, bringing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the briefing room for a surprise appearance, where Sessions outlined a plan by the administration to withhold federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities.
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The American people want and deserve a lawful system of immigration.
NOBLES: And now, the president is eyeing tax reform, a campaign promise but something that could be even more complicated than overhauling Obamacare. TRUMP: We're probably be going right now for tax reform, which we
could have done earlier, but this really would have worked out better if we could have had some Democrat support. Remember this. We had no Democrat support. So, now, we're going to go for tax reform which I've always liked.
NOBLES: No matter what the White House takes on next, they will still need congressional support. After falling short of winning over the conservative Freedom Caucus, the president isn't exactly working to fix the relationship tweeting over the weekend, that, quote, "Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club for Growth and Heritage have saved Planned Parenthood and Ocare," even though Freedom Caucus members like Virginia Congressman Dave Brat claimed they still want to work with the White House.
REP. DAVE BRAT (R-VA), FREEDOM CAUCUS: I think he's being ill-advised about even the critique of the House Freedom Caucus. Some of those promises won't make their way into law. And that's what we're fighting for. We want President Trump to be a success.
NOBLES: But Trump might be looking for support in other places.
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think it's time for our folks to come together, and I also think it's time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board as well.
NOBLES: There was zero Democratic support for the health care overhaul, and so far, no Democrats have said that they will vote for Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. At this point, the idea that wayward Democrats may help the administration score a victory seems slim.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: If he aims a proposal aimed at the middle class and the poor people, doesn't give breaks to the rich, they are doing great, God bless them. I'm glad they're doing great. They don't need another tax break. We could work with them. But I don't think they're headed in that direction.
NOBLES: Meanwhile, Trump is publicly turning the page, welcoming women business leaders to the White House and signing a series of bills into law that roll back Obama-era regulations as his team regroups.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We all internally talk about what went well and what didn't, and we do that not just with the bad but the good.
NOBLES: Vowing that they've learned from their mistakes.
NOBLES: And there is some talk today that perhaps President Trump isn't the deal-maker that he claims to be after this big health care defeat, but Press Secretary Sean Spicer argued just the opposite today, saying that the president knows when it's time to walk away -- John. BERMAN: All right. Ryan Nobles for us at the White House -- thanks
so much, Ryan.
I want to bring in Congressman Ted Yoho, Republican of Florida. He's a member of the House Freedom Caucus. He opposed the party's health care overhaul bill.
Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.
REP. TED YOHO (R-FL), FREEDOM CAUCUS: Thanks for having me on, John.
BERMAN: So, you heard the criticism there.
BERMAN: Ryan just read it in his piece, that tweet from the president. He said Democrats are smiling because of you and the Freedom Caucus. Your response?
YOHO: I think that's -- that's not the right narrative. You know, if you look at the people that were opposed to this bill, the Freedom Caucus, which I'm a member of and I'm not speaking for them, they were less than half of the people opposed to this. You had a lot of the moderates, in fact, you have one of the chairmen of the most powerful committees in Congress opposed to this. And as you pointed out, there were no Democrats. That tells you there's something wrong.
And so, you know, people say this bill was a failure. I don't see it as a failure, anymore than when they were doing one of the Apollo launches and get down to the last second countdown and they stop it because something is wrong.
[16:25:04] You know, they want to make sure they have a successful launch. They went back and they found out what was wrong, they came out and launched it, and that's what will happen here.
My prediction is that it will be done sooner than later and I admire President Trump for having the wisdom to say you know what, let's not get a defeat. Let's pull this bill, let's revamp it and for Paul Ryan to have the courage to do it.
And, you know, people are calling it a defeat and I think that's way wrong no. More of a defeat than Tom Brady in that last series of play in the super bowl calling a time-out. They went to the huddle, huddled up, got a new play and got the ball over the finish line and that will happen here.
BERMAN: You criticized or you didn't criticized, you said moderate Republicans are also to blame. I talked to Mike Turner of Ohio, who is certainly more moderate I think you would say than you, and he actually said that the Freedom Caucus made this bill worse. He said that you pushed it too far to the right, taking out the essential benefits and things like that, so you say everyone is to blame. He says not so much, it was the Freedom Caucus that pulled it too far in one direction. YOHO: Well, you know, I mean, we can debate that, and I would
disagree with that because there were some things in there, and if you still look at the underlying structure it leaves the skeleton or framework of the Affordable Care Act that can be rebuilt. Think of Ronald Reagan came to office to get rid of the Department of Education. They thought they could reform that, and now look at it. It's one of the largest as far as appropriations departments in our government, and -- and the results are terrible.
We don't want that to happen for the American people.
BERMAN: So --
YOHO: And so, we need to get this right. It needs to have 100 percent repeal, and my question I guess I would ask people out there that are listening. The House brought up a bill in 2015 that was in that reconciliation package that gutted Obamacare a lot more than this bill we had. It passed the House and the Senate and went to President Obama who we knew was going to veto it. Why can't we do that same thing now and start all over and then you're going to have Republicans and Democrats that come in to fix health care for the American people?
BERMAN: Is Paul Ryan doing a good job as speaker of the house?
YOHO: Paul Ryan has got a tough job. I think Paul is doing a great job. I voted for him this year. But our job, too, is to hold people accountable as we get held accountable by our constituents. We did a survey in our district, and there was over 3,400 people that we surveyed, 200 people wanted us to vote for this bill. The rest said do not support this bill.
BERMAN: And we heard from many people who were calling offices saying that they were against it.
BERMAN: I don't think it was just your district. So, the question now is, what's next? What's next is supposed to be tax reform and, by the way, fixing Obamacare was supposed to be easy compared to tax reform. So, specifically, let me ask you about the border adjustment tax, it's something that Speaker Ryan we believe supports.
Would you be supportive of the border adjustment tax?
YOHO: You know what? I've read into it and I've heard from different groups in our districts, some like it, some are OK with it and some don't like it. I think there's something that will have to happen had. I think this will be easier than the affordable care act of what you just brought up, John. There were no Democrats on this.
BERMAN: But you're not supportive of the border adjustment tax today? You don't vote on it?
YOHO: I am not averse to the border adjustment tax. Every Republican or the Republicans and Democrats and independents want tax reform, and I think it will be an easier push than health care. BERMAN: Let me ask you about something that the chairman of the
Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows, said over the weekend. He was talking about tax cuts and he said he does not believe now that the revenue lost from tax cuts would need to be offset by spending cuts. Are you OK with that? Are you OK with the notion of maybe increasing the deficit even for tax cuts?
YOHO: It's -- you know, there's so many moving parts in here. You have to move forward on something. I would be OK to do that because you -- what's not being factored in there is the increase in growth.
You know, this is going to jump start investment in America. This is going to bring businesses back here.
BERMAN: But I do think everyone is taking into account dynamic growth and, you know, the dynamic scoring of this, but it's something unusual to hear from the Freedom Caucus that things don't have to be offset. Normally when there's spending increases, you want corresponding tax cuts and the like, and vice versa. But now, you're saying you can cut taxes, don't have to cut spending.
YOHO: Well, I mean, if the Affordable Care Act stays there right now, there's $1 trillion almost coming in in tax revenues. Again, when you jump-start the economy, the amount of people going back to full-time work, which the Affordable Care Act had people at 30 hours a week, put them back to full-time work and people won't be underemployed anymore. So, these are things I don't think that are figured into the dynamic scoring probably as accurately as they should be.
Just like the Affordable Care Act, you know, if you looked at the CBO scoring of that was going to come in under $800 billion, around $800 billion. Truth be known, it was going to be over $2 trillion. So, you know, the scoring mechanisms, I see them more statistic than actual dynamic.
BERMAN: Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida, great to have you with us.
YOHO: Thanks for having me on, John.
BERMAN: All right. The White House says it's willing to work with Democrats now to get things done. So, are Democrats ready to play ball, or is the partisan divide in Washington just too deep?