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?; Senate Intel Vice Chair: Paid Russian 'Trolls' Targeted Key States; Interview With California Congressman Adam Schiff; Clinton Publicly Urges Dems to "Resist" Trump Agenda; Trump: U.S. Troops "Fighting Like Never Before" in Iraq. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 29, 2017 - 18:00   ET

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[18:00:10]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: most important probe. The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee reveal new details about their Russia investigation, promising to get answers about Moscow's contacts with the Trump team. Will the bipartisanship last?

Division and delay. The House Intelligence Committee chairman says his next Russia hearing won't happen for about a month, amid partisan turmoil and accusations that he is acting as a surrogate for the president.

I will talk live with the committee's top Democrat, Congressman Adam Schiff.

Like never before. The commander in chief contends American troops in Iraq are fighting in an unprecedented way. Did his attempt to praise U.S. forces clash with the facts on the ground?

And back in the spotlight. Hillary Clinton urges Democrats to resist the Trump agenda in her most partisan speech since the election. Tonight, new speculation about Clinton's future and her daughter Chelsea's political ambition.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news this hour, the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee are promising their investigation of Russia's election meddling will go wherever the facts lead, including any potential involvement by the Trump campaign or the president himself.

Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Mark Warner speaking out on the eve of the panel's first public hearing. They say they are getting unprecedented access to secret information as they review thousands and thousands of documents and look to interview at least 20 witnesses, including the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Burr also suggesting that the committee has reached out to fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The senators repeatedly stressed their bipartisanship. It was all in stark contrast to the turmoil and partisan division that stalled the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian meddling.

Chairman Devin Nunes telling CNN that the panel's next open hearing won't happen until after the Easter recess. Democrats accuse Nunes of trying to provide political cover for the president. Tonight, the White House insists there is nothing problematic with Nunes' conduct, but least one House Republican has now joined with Democrats in calling for Nunes to recuse himself from the entire investigation.

I will talk live with the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Adam Schiff is standing by, along with our correspondents and analysts, as we bring you full coverage of the day's top stories.

First, let's go our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju. He's up on Capitol Hill.

Manu, it's clearer than ever that Senate and House Intelligence Committee investigations, they are playing out, at least right now, very differently.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question, Wolf.

On the House side, that investigation essentially ground to a standstill over the role of Devin Nunes and criticism from Democrats about his handling of this investigation and their calls him to step aside, something that he is rejecting to do so far.

But on the Senate side, the leaders there are trying to show they are doing a bipartisan inquiry, deep dive into the issue of Russia, trying to reassure the public that they will come to consensus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU (voice-over): The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee vowing to answer this fundamental question. Did the Trump campaign coordinate with the Russians to meddle in the elections?

(on camera): From what you have seen so far, can you definitively rule out that there was no coordination whatsoever between Trump officials and Russian officials during the election?

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We would be crazy to try to draw conclusions from where we are in the investigation. I think Mark and I have committed to let this process go through before we form any opinions.

And I would hope that that's what you would like us to do. And as much as we'd like to share minute by minute, even the snapshots we get as a team going through it are not always accurate when we find the next piece of intelligence. So let us get a little deeper into this before you ask us to write the conclusions. That's clearly something we intend to do down the road. RAJU (voice-over): And refusing to rule out if there are any direct

links between Russia and the president.

BURR: And we won't take a snapshot in time and make any observations on it, but we know that our challenge is to answer that question for the American people in our conclusions to this investigation.

RAJU: The committee plans to interview 20 witnesses, including Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law, as well as other Trump associates, and suggesting that Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser, could face questions over his contacts with the Russian ambassador that led to his firing.

BURR: I think it's safe to say that we have had conversations with a lot of people, and you would think less of us if General Flynn wasn't in that list.

RAJU: The Senate leader saying the panel will go wherever the intelligence leads.

[18:05:00]

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I said it was the most important thing I had ever taken on in my public life.

I believe that more firmly now than even when we started. We are going to get it right.

RAJU: The Senate probe gaining more prominence, now that the House investigation is in gridlock. At least one House Republican has lost confidence.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: My sense is right now that the House is in a situation where there's -- the issue has become overly politicized. They are kind of getting into a stalemate position, a bit paralyzed. The Senate is moving on a better trajectory. And I think we are going to have to rely on the Senate for a report on this Russian meddling in the election.

RAJU: While the Senate appears to be moving forward, the House inquiry into Trump campaign ties with the Russians now effectively on hold, amidst Democratic accusations that Chairman Devin Nunes can't run a credible investigation because of a spate of recent controversies, including unexpectedly canceling a public hearing and after he briefed the president on surveillance information he received from a source from White House grounds, even before talking with Democrats on the panel.

Tonight, Nunes tells CNN he is done answering questions about the controversy, vowing to move forward with public hearings, but not before Easter. He wants the ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, to approve of a private briefing with FBI Director James Comey.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: I'm not going to answer any more questions about this. You guys have answered -- asked all these questions. I have been very, very clear with you. RAJU (on camera): How are you doing this, with the committee

Democrats calling for your recusal, and Adam Schiff not even agreeing to James Comey comes into a public hearing? How are you moving forward?

NUNES: We will continue to work through this. We hope that they will -- I think they will be active participants, would be my guess.

RAJU (voice-over): But Democrats say Nunes must go.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: The only way for the House to move forward and be credible is for the speaker to put in somebody else in the chair.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: Now, on the Senate side, I talked to Chairman Richard Burr after that press conference. And he said that, while they are looking into the financial ties of President Trump and to the issue of Russia, he would not say whether or not they are actually going to try to get Donald Trump's tax returns, something that some Democrats want. He said that's not in the scope of their committee.

Now, on the House side, Devin Nunes saying that he wouldn't confirm whether or not a White House official allowed him on the White House grounds to look into that surveillance information that he publicly revealed last week and discussed with the president of the United States. Even Sean Spicer, Wolf, earlier today not saying whether that came from the White House, only because he is saying that he does want to hear from James Comey, but he also wants -- there needs to be bipartisan agreement on that committee for James Comey to brief that House Intelligence Committee.

And there's no bipartisan agreement yet, at least not privately, for the briefing to take place, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Manu, thank you, Manu Raju up on the hill.

Also tonight, the Trump White House is standing firmly in its defense of the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Devin Nunes, and the credibility of his Russia investigation.

But the administration appears unwilling to clear up any of the mysteries surrounding Nunes' claims about surveillance of the Trump transition team or his unusual review of information on White House grounds.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, you and other journalists continue to press White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on this.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. It is becoming a daily ritual at the White House press briefing. Reporters ask officials what they know about House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes' mysterious trip to the White House. And aides to the president don't seem to have many answers.

Today, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was reminded by reporters that earlier this week he offered to look into Nunes' visit and provide some new details. Spicer said he had nothing new information to share. That's what he said at the briefing earlier today.

But I did press Spicer on whether he knows the identity of the person Nunes met with during that mysterious White House visit. And here is what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Do you personally know who the source of Chairman Nunes' information is?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: So that narrows it down somewhat. Spicer also said the White House still supports Nunes in his role leading the investigation, but that questions about how Nunes is conducting this investigation, how he's conducting himself, that those questions are best directed to the chairman and members of the House, Wolf.

BLITZER: On another unrelated matter, we are also learning about a new official role in the White House for the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump. Tell us about that.

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. The White House confirmed that the president's daughter Ivanka Trump will be serving as an unpaid employee of the federal government here with the title of special assistant to the president.

Ivanka Trump, for her part, released a statement saying she decided to take on the official government role to avoid any questions about conflicts of interest. We can put that up on screen.

She says in the statement: "I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethic rules. And I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees."

Throughout the process, she says: "I have been working closely and in good faith with the White House counsel and my personal counsel to address the unprecedented nature of my role."

[18:10:01]

That's the end of that statement there. But, Wolf, we should point out this may raise questions of whether Ivanka Trump will be violating federal nepotism rules. That question will obviously get raised as her father is the president, of course, and her husband, Jared Kushner, is also a White House adviser. But we should point out, Wolf, the president's legal team, White House

counsel, lawyers for the president, have long maintained that the law gives him broad discretion to name his own team of advisers. So when those questions comes up with Ivanka Trump's hiring over here, I would bet, Wolf, that that will be the explanation we get -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure you're right.

All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Earlier this week, we had an extensive interview with the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Devin Nunes.

Right now, joining us is the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: So, we have lot of questions.

I want to go through some specific questions that have been raised. An FBI official, as you may have heard, tells CNN that the FBI director, James Comey, hasn't received an official request from your committee to testify.

Chairman Nunes, a spokesman for Chairman Nunes says Director Comey would not come to testify before the committee without a formal request. That has to be signed, not just by him, but also by you. Nunes said you refused to sign that invitation. Is that true?

SCHIFF: Well, it is certainly true the chairman wanted me to agree to a hearing on Tuesday at 10:00, instead of the open hearing. And we weren't willing to do that.

In fact, we found about -- about the canceling of the open hearing in a very roundabout way, when the agencies reached out to us and said, what do you want us to come talk to you about on Tuesday? And we had to say, what hearing on Tuesday? We have an open hearing on Tuesday.

So, that's the request that we got. We made it clear to the majority we were happy to have Director Comey come back in closed session, but not as a substitute for the hearing that we were supposed to have with Clapper and Brennan and Yates.

And I would also add, we now have the White House saying at least they want Sally Yates to testify. We would like her to testify. The public We would like to hear what she would say. There is no obstacle to having her come in now, except a decision by the chair not to reschedule that hearing.

So, what we have proposed now for days, we're still waiting for a response from the chair, is, let's schedule both hearings.

BLITZER: Is there a stalemate now? He is not going to let this open hearing take place with Clapper or Brennan and Yates that was scheduled for Tuesday unless you sign a letter inviting Comey to come and testify behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee?

Is that the stalemate right now?

SCHIFF: That's one of the issues just as far as the hearings are concerned. We have proposed, let's do both. We're more than happy to do both. And we're waiting to hear back on that.

The broader question is, where does the committee go from here, not just on these hearings? And here is the challenge that we face. We have a chairman who got information on the White House grounds that he won't share, not just with Democrats, but with his own committee.

And I just don't know how to conduct a credible investigation if you have let alone one person, but the chairman of the committee, who is saying I have seen evidence, but I won't share it with anyone else?

What are we to make of that? And the problem is, this doesn't sound like a whistle-blower. A whistle-blower would have come to the committee. A whistle-blower would want the whole committee, Democrats and Republicans, to see this evidence.

Instead, we have someone else on the White House grounds. And that's cast a real cloud over the investigation. It isn't enough for us to go through the motions of an investigation. We need to do one credibly. And I don't know how we can do one credibly under these circumstances.

BLITZER: So, for all practical circumstances, this open hearing with three witnesses, the former officials during the Obama administration, the intelligence officials and the acting attorney general, that is not going to -- that is not taking place any time soon?

SCHIFF: Well, we have asked the chair to reschedule it.

BLITZER: What does he say?

SCHIFF: He won't respond at this point. But we're trying to get an answer. We thought we had a good compromise, which is, if you want to have the closed hearing first, if that was the issue you have in terms of open hearing, we will do the closed hearing first.

We can schedule the closed hearing on Tuesday. We will do the open hearing on Thursday. I think the reality is, Wolf, they don't want to do the open hearing. They saw how the open hearing went on Monday, and they don't want to hear what Sally Yates has to say.

I don't think, notwithstanding what Sean Spicer says, that the White House doesn't want to hear what Sally Yates has to say. But I think the country ought to hear from her. They ought to know, what were the facts that led up to Michael Flynn's firing? How long did the president know that Michael Flynn had lied about a conversation with the Russian ambassador? And bear in mind, this secret conversation wasn't just about anything. It was about, at least reportedly, sanctions that the Obama administration imposed on Russia over Russian hacking designed to help Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Congressman, are you talking with Devin Nunes? How are you communicating? Are you meeting? Because you used to have a very good relationship with him.

SCHIFF: We did. And this has been I think very tough, very tough on all of us. This is someone I worked well with for many years.

But I can't overlook if the chairman of our committee is going to freelance in this way. We just -- I have to be able to represent we're doing a credible investigation.

[18:15:07]

BLITZER: So, you're not even talking with each other?

SCHIFF: We are scheduled to talk tomorrow. I have asked for a meeting with the chair.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Has he agreed?

SCHIFF: As far as I know, he has agreed to do it.

BLITZER: What time is that meeting?

SCHIFF: I don't know the time.

But we asked for a meeting today. We got a meeting tomorrow. And I hope that we can somehow get back on track. But the chairman is going to have to find a way to lift this cloud. Otherwise, we're going to need someone else to preside over this.

I think we really do need someone else to preside over this, if we are doing this credibly.

BLITZER: I know you and your Democratic colleagues were very upset by that meeting he had at the White House last week. You saw that as, what, collaboration between the chairman of your committee and the White House staff, the president specifically, trying to protect the president and change the subject, is that right?

SCHIFF: Well, I don't know what circumstances are.

I do know that apparently the White House told "The New Yorker" that look to the chairman to tell us something about incidental collection. That was before the hearing. That was before the trip to the White House.

Then you have this evening trip to the White House. We don't know who he met. We don't know what he saw. And we only have the chairman's word to believe what he has reviewed.

BLITZER: Have you seen the same documents that he saw at the White House?

SCHIFF: None of us have. And this is the problem.

Democrats haven't seen it. Republicans haven't seen it. At this point, we only have the chairman's word for what it stands for, and the president of course claiming that what the chairman has seen somehow vindicates him.

We can't conduct an investigation this way. That's not sustainable. It's not credible. So, I would love to find us a way for us to get back on track. But I'm not willing to say that something is legitimate if it is not.

And this is going to have to be credible. So, I hope we can find a way to get this investigation fully moving again. For our part, as Democratic members, we are plowing ahead. We're continuing to review the documents and making our witness list and planning to go forward.

BLITZER: But as of right now, you don't even know what those documents were that he reviewed at the White House.

Do you have any reason to believe that the chairman and the source he had at the White House broke any rules by going through those documents?

SCHIFF: I really don't know, Wolf.

All I do know is that the unwillingness of the chair to disclose who this is and the fact that the source was located within the White House compound has raised a profound question about whether this is being done credibly or whether this is being done in concert with the White House.

And given that it's associates of the president who are in some respects subjects of this investigation, that just can't be credibly continued this way.

BLITZER: You and the chairman have the same clearance, security clearance?

SCHIFF: Yes.

BLITZER: You can see the same level of classified information.

SCHIFF: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Do you have the required security clearances to go over to the White House and review these kinds of sensitive documents?

SCHIFF: Of course. Of course.

BLITZER: So, have you no doubt that what he saw, he was cleared to see? SCHIFF: Well, what he saw, he is absolutely cleared to see. He is cleared to see anything, as far as I can tell.

The issue is not whether he has the clearance. There are two issues here. The issue is, why is this only being shared with one member? And why is this not being shared with the rest of the committee? And there are other issues that have been raised about whether he can discuss publicly as he has material that was classified.

But the issue I'm most concerned about, Wolf, is, we need to do this investigation. It is too important not to. I don't think it ought to be just a Senate investigation. And the question is, how do we get this back on track? And I do think, regardless, it does underscore the need to have a fully independent commission analyzing this.

BLITZER: I just want to button this up as far as clearances.

SCHIFF: Yes.

BLITZER: His source at the White House, do you believe that the source at the White House, do you know -- first of all, do you know who that source is?

SCHIFF: I do not know.

BLITZER: You probably have some suspicion, but you don't know for sure, right?

SCHIFF: I don't know yet.

BLITZER: Do you know whether or not that source had himself the clearance or herself the clearances to share that information with the chairman?

SCHIFF: Again, I don't know who the source is, so I don't know what clearances they have or had.

But I can say that the circumstances here are so irregular. If this is information that somebody wanted the committee to have, why hasn't it been presented to the committee? I can only conclude that it really doesn't show what it's being purported to show.

But, again, we're all speculating because the chair hasn't been willing to share it with Democrats or Republicans on the committee. And that's just not sustainable.

BLITZER: He says he is not sharing that information because he is trying to protect confidential sources, sources and methods. You have heard him make -- he made that argument made here in THE SITUATION ROOM the other day.

SCHIFF: Sources and methods are what the agencies do in their tradecraft. It's not what the chairman of the committee does in meetings with someone on the White House grounds.

[18:20:00] That may be protecting something, but it's not protecting sources and

methods.

BLITZER: Chairman Nunes, he told Bloomberg the other day that he actually wrote down what he described as the identifying numbers of these documents so he could request access to them formally for the rest of the committee. Has he shared those numbers with you?

SCHIFF: No. And I don't know what those numbers refer to.

I also don't have any representation that he has asked the agencies who presumably would be the custodians of these records, to provide them to the committee. So, again, we're all speculating. And this is exactly the problem.

We shouldn't be speculating. And, again, it isn't just me. The Republicans on our committee don't have any more idea what this is than I do. And if we're going to be doing a nonpartisan, bipartisan investigation, we can't have a chairman freelancing this way.

BLITZER: And you still want him to recuse himself?

SCHIFF: I think it is in the best interests of the investigation, because I don't know that the public will have confidence in an investigation led by the chairman, given the actions of the last week.

BLITZER: And you don't think there is any way he can fix it?

SCHIFF: I don't know.

I suppose if the chairman came clean on who he talked with and what he saw and we could actually review the records, maybe there is a way of dispelling this. But I don't know.

I think the fact that we have gone this long now, it's over a week, and none of us have still seen these documents raises profound questions that only he can answer.

BLITZER: Congressman Schiff, there is more to discuss. I want to take a quick break.

We will be right back with our questioning. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:25:52]

BLITZER: We're back with the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, his panel's Russia investigation now in turmoil, as the parallel probe in the Senate is moving forward.

The chairman, Devin Nunes, he said today the committee probably won't hold any public hearings until after the Easter recess. What, that's almost a month away. Do you believe that he is trying to delay any serious progress in this investigation? SCHIFF: Well, it certainly is deeply disappointing, if that's the

position he is taking, because there's no reason to delay the hearing that we had scheduled for this week.

As we were talking about earlier, if this is all about trying to avoid Sally Yates testifying, we now have the White House saying they're in favor it. We're in favor it. The public is in favor of it. So, there is no reason it put this off.

I do think that, in addition to Sally Yates' testimony, we will learn a lot from Directors Clapper and Brennan about the kind of tactics the Russians have used in Europe, with the kind of tactics they used here.

It will fill out, I think, a lot of the picture that we got from Directors Comey and Rogers last week. So, I think it will be valuable. The chair and I committed before this degradation of our relationship to doing as much of this in open session as we could. And I think that's very important. I think the public got probably its best glimpse yet at what this involves and why they should care about it.

BLITZER: So, tomorrow, when you meet with the chairman, you will press for an early hearing once again, an open hearing with John Brennan, the former CIA director, James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, and Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general?

That could happen. They were ready to testify on Tuesday, so that could happen within days.

SCHIFF: Oh, yes. No, they are ready at any time.

And I think they are certainly willing, prepared to come and testify. Well, you know, certainly, I will propose to the chair, as we have for several days now, let's schedule both these hearings. I have no objection at all to having the director, Director Comey, back -- come back for a closed session.

But, of course, one doesn't preclude the other. And if the real intention here is merely to permanently cancel and not let the public hear from these witnesses, the chair needs to say so. Otherwise, let's see if we can find a date.

BLITZER: The ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the vice chairman, Mark Warner, he said at a news conference with Richard Burr today that he has seen reports that what he described as Russian trolls, maybe 1,000 Russian trolls were generating fake news targeted at specific states during the presidential election campaign.

He mentioned Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. Have you seen similar reports?

SCHIFF: We are certainly investigating how the Russians used paid media trolls and bots, how they used their R.T. propaganda platform to disseminate information, to potentially raise stories, some real, some not real, to the top of people's social media. We want to know, was that done in a very sophisticated way, in a

targeted way? How sophisticated were the Russians in terms of what states they looked at? And obviously this also could implicate the issue of whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

But that is certainly an area that we need to investigate.

BLITZER: Senator Warner also says this is the most important investigation involving national security he has ever gotten involved in all the years of public service. Do you agree with him?

SCHIFF: I do.

I think probably, in terms of our national interests, there are two other investigations that are of equal seriousness. Obviously, the 9/11 Commission and the joint congressional investigation into 9/11 is in that category.

That largely preceded my time in the Congress, or at least my time on the Intelligence Committee. But you would have to go back to Watergate to find something truly analogous. And we need to find a way to bring back that kind of bipartisan ethic and commitment to this investigation, which has every much -- as much as stake.

BLITZER: Because Senators Burr and Warner on the Senate Intelligence Committee, they say they are opening -- they are open to subpoenaing various individuals, various agencies in the U.S. government, elsewhere for information.

Are you prepared to do the same?

[18:30:05] SCHIFF: Absolutely. And from what we understand the majority is, as well. And if we're doing this in a methodical way as we should, we ought to be subpoenaing those documents, obtaining those documents, before we have a single percipient witness -- that is a witness to the events we're talking about -- come in. So that we're well prepared.

BLITZER: Very quickly, will you subpoena the president's tax returns?

SCHIFF: Look, I think we ought to investigate all of the Russian instrumentalities, and one of the things that the Russians have done, we know, in Europe is they use financial entanglement as a way of exerting influence over businesspeople, as well as political leaders. If we find evidence that they used that tactic here with the Trump Organization, and those tax returns are relevant to that, then I think we pursue them. But I wouldn't, you know, get too far ahead of that.

BLITZER: Will you subpoena the White House visitor logs to try to determine with whom the chairman met at the White House to review those sensitive documents?

SCHIFF: I hope the chairman will decide that he'll be forthcoming on what he saw, who he saw it with, and whether they have any relationship to the White House. We do need to get to the bottom of it. Otherwise there is going to be this permanent cloud hanging over our investigation.

BLITZER: Sounds like you have a very important meeting tomorrow face- to-face with the chairman. We'll see where this investigation goes following that meeting. Good luck.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in.

SCHIFF: You bet.

BLITZER: Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee.

We'll take a quick break. Much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:36:20] BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news. The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, they're vowing to work together to get it right as the panel investigates Russia's election meddling and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

Let's bring in our political team. And Gloria, that Senate intelligence news conference that we heard today was obviously very, very different than what's going on on the House side.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Would you say it was an alternate universe?

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: Wolf, the ranking Democrat and the Republican got along. They seemed to be on the same page about what they could investigation. Mark Warner, the Democrat, clearly would love to see Donald Trump's tax returns, and the Republican, Burr, did not. But aside from that, they both agreed that the committee, as Warner said, will follow the intelligence wherever it leads. So they didn't limit themselves in terms of where their investigation would go.

But what you didn't hear was either of these people going off on a tangent about unmasking people in documents or intelligence; and rather they just kind of were sticking to the task at hand.

BLITZER: You did hear the chairman, Richard Burr of the Senate Intelligence Committee say they they're going through an unprecedented number of documents. They've already got 20 names of individuals they want to call before the committee for questioning, whether in open session or behind closed doors. That's -- that's pretty reassuring to those who want answers on Russia's meddling in the U.S. election.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, no doubt it is. And certainly, what we've seen over the past week between Devin Nunes and, of course, Adam Schiff unable to get together and honestly not even Adam Schiff's fault. I mean, it really is Devin Nunes's fault for the breakdown of bipartisanship over in the House. But what is interesting is that the Senate is following this idea here

in Washington that it's always a little bit older, a little bit more mature.

BORGER: Grown-ups?

PRESTON: A little bit more grown-up than the House, which tends to be a little bit more raucous and rowdy and partisan. And it's really following that pattern, certainly in this investigation.

BLITZER: What did you make, David Swerdlick, of Senator Warner's comments about actually obtaining a lot of the documents they want, because there could be complications?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes. I mean, I think the way that it was phrased, he wants to push but at the same time do it in that more methodical way. You know, not put one step in front of the other and not get ahead of themselves.

Because they have this opportunity, right, to do a do-over here, Wolf. To do it in a way that bespeaks confidence, not the sort of amateur hour that has unfolded the last several days with Congressman Nunes. And I think that's -- that's the way he wanted to frame that.

BLITZER: They both also said, Rebecca, they're open to subpoenaing information, documents from various agencies, individuals. They said internationally, obviously, that's different. You can't go subpoena something overseas. What might they be trying to access?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in terms of overseas international subpoenas or information that they would potentially want, you're looking at potential Russian connections. Investigations.

BLITZER: You're not going to get those.

BERG: You're not going to get those, no.

And I think that really shows the limitations of the Senate intelligence investigation, because while they can subpoena documents domestically, while they can call witnesses domestically, this is an investigation that goes beyond our borders. And that's why the FBI investigation, I think, is going to be able perhaps to accomplish a little bit more and reach more -- more of a conclusion.

BLITZER: You did hear the vice chairman, Mark Warner, the senator from Virginia, say he'd like to subpoena Donald Trump's tax returns; but the chairman...

BORGER: Not so much. In fact, the chairman sort of came out and said, "Let me get this out here. I voted for Donald Trump." It was -- it was interesting that he sort of felt the need to say that, although we might have surmised that beforehand. But yes, they do disagree on that.

[18:40:05] But back to your point about what they agree on, is that there's always this kind of tug of war between the intelligence community and the Congress. How much access will the intelligence community give members of Congress, whom they do not trust, to their documents?

And what you heard today from both of these men was, "You know what? We're going to have to reach some sort of accommodation, because we intend to make it clear to them that you can trust us, but that we want to do this because it's important to the American public."

BLITZER: Mark, you heard Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee, just tell us just a few moments ago, he's got a big meeting tomorrow with the chairman, Devin Nunes. They haven't spoken to each other now in days. They're going to finally get together tomorrow and see if they can fix it. Can they?

PRESTON: No. Although how great would it be to actually be in that meeting and just, and not even hear what they say, just the body language alone would really tell you where we stand.

I think that we're hearing this from Senate side, certainly from senators that the House is basically broken right now. I mean, they've crossed the Rubicon; it's over. They're not going to be able -- whatever finding they come out right now, it's never really going to be fully accepted. This has really fallen squarely in -- squarely in the lap of the -- of the Senate.

BLITZER: Yes, and there's no hearings now scheduled in the House side for, what, almost a month. That's a long time to go.

You clearly heard Adam Schiff say, well, they've got three witnesses, key witnesses -- former director of national intelligence, former CIA director, former acting attorney general -- ready to testify. But Nunes says not so fast.

SWERDLICK: Yes, and it's hard to see what the incentive is, at least on the surface, for Congressman Nunes at this point. You know, if there's something that he doesn't want to come out, it's probably going to come out anyway. And if there's nothing to see here, why not have them?

BLITZER: But he's clearly concerned that whatever these three witnesses say is going to be bad news for the president.

BERG: Clearly. And so it really doesn't help his case that he's now being political. Clearly, there is a political concern here.

And I mean, here is the difference between the Senate and the House side. Everyone in the House is going to be up for reelection next year. They're going to have to explain to their constituents why they did what they did. And Nunes, as a Republican running, is going to have to explain why he either went after Donald Trump or didn't. Burr and Warner not up for reelection next time. That makes a big difference.

BLITZER: Yes, Burr just got reelected himself. All right, guys. Everyone stand by. Just ahead, Hillary Clinton is back, and she's on the attack with her most political remarks since losing the presidential election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We need to resist actions that go against our values as Americans. Whether that's attacking immigrants and refugees, denying climate change or passing bogus laws that make it harder for people to vote in elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:47:31] BLITZER: We're following breaking news tonight on the Senate's investigation of Russia's election meddling. And Hillary Clinton has taken a new step back into the political arena, publicly encouraging the president's Democratic opponents to, quote, "resist his agenda". It's the kind of speech we haven't heard from Hillary Clinton since she lost the election.

Let's get more from our senior Washington correspondent, Brianna Keilar -- Brianna.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, sources close to Clinton stress to CNN that her fiery comments last night don't indicate a more forceful jump back into the political fray, but you be the judge.

(voice-over): Hillary Clinton making a rare appearance as she spoke at a diversity conference in San Francisco.

CLINTON: There is no place I'd rather be than here with you other than the White House.

KEILAR: With her most political remark since losing the presidency to Donald Trump.

CLINTON: We need to resist actions that go against our values as Americans. Whether that's attacking immigrants and refugees, denying climate change, or passing bogus laws that make it harder for people to vote in elections.

KEILAR: Clinton has largely been out of sight in recent month possess. She attended a gala in Washington just days after her loss but with a more subdued tone.

CLINTON: I ask you to stay engaged. Stay engaged on every level. We need you. America needs you -- your energy, your ambition, your talent. That's how we get through this.

KEILAR: Clinton made a customary appearance at President Trump's inauguration but she also tweeted opposition to Trump policies a couple times, like his travel ban. "This is not who we are," she wrote in January. And last week, she declared victory when House Republicans failed no gut Obamacare. But she's mostly laid low, spotted once hiking near her home in New York where it's new apparent she was doing more than getting exercise.

CLINTON: There's a little mantra I've been repeating to myself lately. It's a little silly, the kind of thing that pops into your head when you take a lot of long walks in the woods. Resist, insist, persist, enlist.

KEILAR: On Tuesday, she warned that Republicans will attempt another Obamacare repeal.

CLINTON: Let me let you in on a little secret. The other side never quits. Sooner or later, they will try again.

[18:50:01] We will need to fight back twice as hard.

KEILAR: Clinton also addressed White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's exchange earlier in the day with Urban Radio Network's correspondent April Ryan.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Stop shaking your head again.

CLINTON: April Ryan, a respected journalist with unrivalled integrity was doing her job, just this afternoon, in the White House press room, when she was patronized and cutoff trying to ask a question.

KEILAR: And Bill O'Reilly of FOX News for taking aim at California congresswoman and Trump critic, Maxine Waters.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I didn't hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig.

CLINTON: One of your own California Congresswomen, Maxine Waters, was taunted with a racist joke about her hair. Now, too many women, especially women of color have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride.

KEILAR: While Clinton has been slow to get political, her daughter has not. Chelsea Clinton taking to Twitter in a constant criticism of President Trump, spurring yet again rumors she might run for office, which she tried to put it to rest.

CHELSEA CLINTON, FORMER FIRST DAUGHTER: One thing you may not know about me is I am not running for office. If one steps down or something changes, then I'll answer that question then. But right now, no, I'm not running for public office.

KEILAR (on camera): "Right now", that being a caveat. She didn't say never, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Interesting. All right. Brianna Keilar, thanks very much. Just ahead, the dangerous situation on the ground right now in Iraq.

How does it square with the new head-turning new remark by President Trump?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're doing very well in Iraq. Our soldiers are fighting and fighting like never before. And the results are very, very good, so I just wanted to let everyone know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:20] BLITZER: Tonight, the White House is defending the president's surprising new remark that U.S. forces in Iraq are fighting, quote, "like never before." The press secretary Sean Spicer says Mr. Trump simply was touting progress in the battle against ISIS. But the commander in chief's comment is raising eyebrows as the Pentagon investigates civilian casualties after a U.S.-led airstrike.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, the head of the U.S. military Central Command offering a somewhat different take than the president on the current situation in Iraq.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, General Joe Votel testifying today, giving us a lot of questions about those airstrikes in Mosul. General Votel saying the military has not lessened its concern one bit about civilian casualties but pointing the finger at ISIS when they take human shields.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: We're doing very well in Iraq.

STARR (voice-over): Rare comments on the war in Iraq from President Trump. He may have meant them as morale booster in chief but the timing seemed peculiar.

TRUMP: Our soldiers are fighting and fighting like never before.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: In this particular case, he was ignoring the fact that the really hard fighting occurred with the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and 2007.

STARR: The comments also come just after word of a formal investigation into U.S.-led airstrike in Mosul, after more than 100 civilian deaths.

The Trump administration dropped 100 precision guided bombs on Mosul just last week, according to the Pentagon.

The top commander, General Joseph Votel, acknowledges keeping civilians out of the line of fire while attacking ISIS is growing harder.

GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: As we move into these urban environments, it is going to become more and more difficult.

STARR: As the Trump White House increases bombing and troop levels against ISIS in several countries, still no sign of a Trump military strategy.

LEIGHTON: I think there's the vague idea that you have to throw some troops at the problem, whether the problem is in Iraq, Syria, or Yemen or some other place. More U.S. troops are headed overseas.

VOTEL: I think that is what you continue to see with all of these deployments right here. We are not -- we have -- one of our key principles here with our focus forward is to help our partners fight but not fight for them.

STARR: In Afghanistan, commanders want hundreds of additional troops. In Iraq, another 250 are on the way. In Syria, up to 900 are on the ground at any one time. In Yemen, the U.S. is increasing military support and stepping up airstrikes against ISIS. Trump is also facing calls for more troops to counter Russia from his top general in Europe.

GEN. CURTIS M. SCAPARROTTI, COMMANDER, U.S. EUROPEAN COMMAND: A resurgent Russia has turned from partner to antagonist.

STARR: General Scaparrotti wants a brigade permanently in Europe, more than 3,000 additional troops. Trump has continued to defend Russia.

TRUMP: If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that's a good thing.

STARR: A fundamental disconnect from his defense team. Defense Secretary James Mattis says he's not ready for military cooperation with Moscow.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Russia is going to have to prove itself first.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: U.S. troops, Iraqi troops paying the toll over the years, Wolf. Remembering 30,000 U.S. troops wounded in Iraq during the heavy fighting and more than 3,000 killed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- thanks very much.

That's it for me.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.