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U.S. Markets Open After Historic Day; Lawmakers Call For Sessions to Recuse Himself; Jewish Center Threats Coming From Overseas; Interview with Sen. Patrick Leahy. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 02, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Investigations. I think what everyone has to agree on is that we need a level of greater transparency as these investigations go further, and we have to keep it open, whether we need someone outside the administration, not with regard to Sessions specifically, but this entire issue of Russian involvement.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, guys, thank you very much. Jeffrey Toobin, Jonathan Turley, we appreciate it. We'll stay on this as it's all developing moment by moment.

Want to turn to Wall Street and the opening bell just rang. Numbers, well, we'll see, the market is just getting started here. The president, this morning, tweeting, "since November 8th, Election Day, the stock market has gained 3.2 trillion in gains and consumer confidence is at a 15-year high. Jobs!"

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now.

Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're talking all morning about all of that market value added since Election Day. And I can show you exactly what that looks like when you look at this chart. Since Election Day, the Dow Jones Industrial average, that's the 30 big stocks in the Dow, up almost 16 percent. And the S&P 500, that's the broader index of stocks, you -- probably your stocks in your 401(k) probably look more like the S&P 500. That's up 12 percent.

But it's all about perspective you guys, so let's step back. This 2.7 trillion rally, when I look at the value added in just U.S. stocks, it's almost $3 trillion. Let's broaden it out, back to the bottom in 2009. Look at the scope of this rally. You could almost say the so- called Trump rally is sort of the icing on a very big, sweet cake. The Dow up 14,000 points since 2009. The S&P 500 up about 265 percent, you know, more than doubling for both of them.

A couple of things going on here. Lower taxes for companies. That's what they're all hoping for. The president's presidential sound the other night made investors think he can probably get tax reform done. He might be able to get infrastructure done. They're hoping that he can deliver on the promises they've baked in to these prices. Also the economy is humming along. The president, in his tweet,

absolutely right, a 15-year high for consumer confidence. The Fed will likely start raising interest rates. That's good for banks. Banks make more money when interest rates start to rise. So you're seeing the bank stocks at or near record highs.


ROMANS: The irony here still of this big rally, this $2.7 trillion in wealth, it's gone to investors --


ROMANS: And big companies. Will it go to main street and not just Wall Street? That's what we have to see this year.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it's interesting, and investors up until this point, they don't like turmoil at the White House. So today as the Russian stories heat up again --

ROMANS: Absolutely right.

BERMAN: Maybe the market will cool off again.

ROMANS: That's absolutely right.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, great to have you with us. Thank you so much.

ROMANS: You too. See you, guys.

BERMAN: All right, still to come from us, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee joins us to tell us whether he thinks Jeff Sessions lied under oath to them.

Plus, our very own intrepid reporter Manu Raju hearing from both Democrats and Republicans for reaction to this quickly developing story.


[09:37:04] BERMAN: All right, breaking just moments ago, a new Republican House member, a conservative stalwart, calling on the attorney general to recuse himself from any investigation into Russian campaign contacts.

HARLOW: Our Manu Raju is on The Hill prowling the halls of Capitol Hill with his reporting.


HARLOW: So what is this Republican congressman saying right now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. That's Raul Labrador. He's a member of the House Judiciary Committee. He's also a leading member of the House Freedom Caucus, which is the very conservative wing of the House Republican conference, saying just moments ago to me and other reporters down here that it's time for Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from this Russia investigation because he believes all these questions are going to continue to mount about Russia. So it makes sense for the integrity of that investigation for him to step aside.

Now, he did not go as far as a lot of Democrats want, which is to name a special prosecutor. Labrador did not say he thinks that there should be a special prosecutor or the fact that -- or whether Sessions should resign, which, of course, we're hearing from Democrats on the Senate and the House side this morning.

But the fact that another House conservative has said it's time to recuse himself, Jeff Sessions is now under mounting political pressure from his own party to make a decision here about how to move forward on this investigation into potential contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the presidential election and whether any laws were broken. That FBI investigation that is ongoing now, who will oversee that? Will it be Jeff Sessions or will it be someone else at the Justice Department. That is a question that both the White House and the Justice Department will have to make today.

But as we hear -- we're hearing from Raul Labrador on -- other people such as Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader here in the House saying that he should also recuse himself, key question for Sessions now, what will he do now that the calls are growing within his own party for him to step aside.

HARLOW: And, Manu, are there any key Republicans right now who are saying the opposite, who are not just saying -- you know, not just -- not saying anything, but is there anyone saying no he should not recuse himself and here's why?

RAJU: We're hearing some of that. I think there was some -- most members though are saying -- they're not calling -- going as far as saying he should recuse himself. They're saying, well, we need to learn a little bit more. I want to get to facts. I want to get to the bottom of what exactly Jeff Sessions said and did. So some members are saying, well, we haven't seen all the reports yet and we don't want to comment. So the people are being careful, if they're not going for -- all-out for urging Sessions to recuse himself.

HARLOW: Right.

RAJU: But we're not hearing a robust defense of Jeff Sessions in the hallway right now.

HARLOW: Defense.

BERMAN: No. Without that robust defense, and with more and more Republicans saying recuse, recuse, recuse. If the White House doesn't (ph), it puts this administration at direct odds --


BERMAN: With Republicans on Capitol Hill. And that would be a tough spot to be in. Manu Raju for us up there. Great reporting. Get back to work. Hit those hallways for us, Manu.

[09:39:51] All right, still to come, Jewish community centers targeted with bomb threats and a wave of hate across the nation. New information about where federal officials believe these threats are coming from. That's next.


HARLOW: All right, happening any moment, we are expecting to hear from members of the bipartisan task force combating anti-Semitism. This is a group of lawmakers -- you're going to see them live right there -- they're urging the president to develop and implement a strategy to combat this wave we've seen of anti-Semitic threats and attacks across the country. They say they also plan to come up with their own proposals to improve the government's approach across the board to anti-Semitism.

Also this morning, we have this new information about where law enforcement officials think these threats are coming from. All these calls to Jewish community centers, they may not be originating in this country. Why do they think that? Some of the voices are muffled or distorted, many of them advocating violence against Jews.

[09:45:06] BERMAN: Dozens of centers have been hit by threats in recent weeks. CNN's Brynn Gingras, following the story, joins us now.

Brynn, what are you learning?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were talking to all these centers and learning a lot. Law enforcement does say that they think that these calls are originating overseas from either a group of individuals or actually maybe just one person. And, like I said, we've been in touch with a number one -- a number of these Jewish community centers that received these threats, and some of them multiple threats, and the nature of the calls, according to them, certainly vary. Centers say they've received threats where the voice of the caller was male, others female. Some have been automated calls. Others have been like a robo call. And others a live human, possibly using voice masking technology. And in those cases, we actually talked to one center where the receptionist had previous training and she was able to keep the caller calm, keep that caller on the line, and really she was able to ask questions, like, where is the bomb and get answers.

We also know from talking at these centers that the robo call carries the same threat. And that's been recorded. And now law enforcement has been using that as a tool to see if it's the same threat being used at all these various centers.

What is the same? The threats do sound the same. That there's a bomb in the building. Usually it's a direct threat against killing Jews. So with all of this, you guys can all imagine, this is a challenge for law enforcement. The FBI and the Justice Department's civil rights division, they are investigating. We also know that the Department of Homeland Security is continuing to work with some of these centers on just training for situations like this. Luckily, we have not seen any more threats since that fifth wave we

saw on Monday. And all of these have turned out to be hoaxes. But, guys, I can tell you, that talking to one of the directors, you know, when they get one of these waves of threats, one center gets a call and they all communicate with each other. So this one director told me he goes into work expecting possibly they're next, they're going to get a threat and they -- every time the phone rings, you know, they're -- they have anxiety.

HARLOW: Of course.

BERMAN: I've got to say, the fact there have been five waves, that speaks volumes in and of itself.

GINGRAS: Right. But you can see why it's complicated.

BERMAN: All right, Brynn Gingras, thanks so much.

HARLOW: Thank you. Thanks for the reporting.

All right, coming up, Attorney General Jeff Sessions this morning facing mounting calls for him to recuse himself from investigating alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. It's not just the Democrats this morning laying on the heat. It is Republicans as well.

Coming up next, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy will join us. He's among those calling on Sessions to recuse himself. He sits on the committee that asked Sessions that key question in his confirmation hearing. He will be with us next.


[09:51:58] BERMAN: All right, breaking this morning, senior Republicans on Capitol Hill calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from any investigation into Trump campaign contacts with Russia. Some Democrats flat out say he should resign.

HARLOW: That's right, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy is on the Senate Judiciary Committee. That's the committee that asked Sessions specifically in his confirmation hearing process about contacts between the campaign and Russian and what he would do about them if he were confirmed attorney general. You're looking at what Leahy posed (ph) to the attorney general in the paper back and forth, which is part of this confirmation process.

So let's talk about whether the senator thinks that the attorney general was honest with him.

Senator Leahy, thank you for being here.

And before we get to your written questionnaire question, let's listen to the exchange between the attorney general and your Democratic colleague, Senator Al Franken, on January the 10th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president- elect last week that included information that, quote, "Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump." These documents also allegedly say, quote, "there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government." If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn't have -- not have communications with the Russians. And I'm unable to comment on it.


HARLOW: I did not have communication with the Russians. He's the one who offered up, senator, that he was a surrogate for the campaign at that time. Do you believe that the attorney general lied to your committee?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I didn't believe that his answer he gave to Senator Franken. I think Senator Franken asked a very clear question. I don't think he gave an accurate -- I don't think Senator Sessions gave an accurate answer. So I asked a very, very specific question. I think, you know, you've -- you have had it.

HARLOW: Yes, we have it. We'll pull it up.

LEAHY: And -- but what I said, in it I said, asking him about it, remember, now, these answers are under oath, under oath, and I said, "did you have any contact either before or after Election Day." I thought my question was very clear. His answer is very clear. He said "no." Well, that's not what happened. And I think this raises (ph) questions.

BERMAN: You asked him -- senator, just to be clear, you asked him if he had contact before or after the election about the 2016 election. To that he answered "no." So does that give him wiggle room because he could say he met --

[09:55:06] LEAHY: No.

BERMAN: OK, why?

LEAHY: It doesn't because one of those was at the Republican National Convention when he -- when he met with the Russians. Gosh, what did they talk about? Hey, gee, the food is really great here. Come on. We're all grownups here. Well, Senator --

BERMAN: Well, there are ambassadors -- ambassadors always go to conventions, senator.

HARLOW: And this was a big gathering. Now, because they met on the grounds, it was a Heritage Foundation event at the convention, doesn't necessarily mean they talked about it. But I --

LEAHY: And --

HARLOW: We want to get your specific answer, senator --

LEAHY: And then they --

HARLOW: On two -- on two questions. The first is, in his oral testimony, do you believe that he perjured himself? Did he lie with intent to Senator Franken in his response?

LEAHY: He did not give an accurate answer. The answer --

HARLOW: Did he lie?

LEAHY: The answer is not true. We'll let others make that determination.

You know, I was a prosecutor. I would not have accepted that answer. And I know Senator Franken does not.

But the fact you have to -- let's not lose sight of the bigger facts here. And this is something that concerns both Republicans and Democrats. Russia has been and continues -- continues today to be meddling in affairs in the United States. They're doing this in other countries around the world.

Now, we're the greatest democracy in the world. Are we going to allow a country like Russia to undermine our democracy? I don't care if it benefits Republicans or Democrats. The fact is, Russia, a country that has no love for us, should -- they should not be allowed to interfere with our elections. Obviously Attorney General Sessions, as we investigate this matter, can't be part of the investigation. He has totally disqualified himself from being part of the investigation. We have to have an investigation the American people can trust. They're not going to trust an investigation by him.

BERMAN: Senator, have you met with any ambassadors over the last year?

LEAHY: I did. Last week I met with the ambassador from Colombia, in Colombia, along with the president of Colombia. As you know, I've worked an awful lot with other senators to bring about and help them as they try to stop the war that's been going on there for over 50 years.

BERMAN: Sure. Sure, senator, you're doing your job as senator. And part of a senator's job is sometimes to meet with ambassadors.


BERMAN: So could there not be benign reasons for these meetings between then-Senator Sessions and the Russian ambassador?

LEAHY: If it was benign, why did he give the answer he did? Again, I'm a former prosecutor. These are the kinds of things that raise a lot of questions in my mind. HARLOW: All right, we want to get you on the record as well with a

direct response to your written questionnaire, which is also, by the way, as you noted, under oath, asking Sessions about whether or not he had any contact with the Russian government about the election, either before or after Election Day. His response, one word, "no." Do you believe he lied to you with that response?

LEAHY: He did not give a truthful answer.

BERMAN: Senator, these are, again, and I understand your feelings, these are serious charges. You are saying that the attorney general of the United States may have perjured himself. What do you suggest doing about that inside vis-a-vis, will you --

LEAHY: These are --

BERMAN: Go ahead.

LEAHY: These are serious questions. And I understand the disparity of them. I've been -- I'm the dean of the Senate. I've been here longer than anybody else. I don't make these allegations lightly. I make them very seriously, in the same way I would have when I used to prosecute people. The fact is we know -- we know two things, or several things. One, the attorney general cannot be involved in any investigation of Russia. He has totally ruled himself out of that, whether he likes it or not.

The second thing, though, and the thing that we have to look at, it goes way beyond Jeff Sessions or anybody else, why is Russia meddling in our affairs? Why is Russia meddling in our elections? And what are we going to do, all of us, to get a clear, honest -- honest and objective answer to the American people? The American people, I don't care what party they belong to, they deserve an answer, why is Russia trying to undermine our form of democracy?

BERMAN: Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont, the dean of the Senate. Senator, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate your time, sir.

LEAHY: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: We've got much more coming up on the breaking news right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Thanks so much for joining us.

[09:59:50] The next 60 minutes will be crucial for the future of the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions. In the next 60 minutes, we're waiting to hear from two leading Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Overnight, Pelosi said that Sessions should flat out resign.