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The Situation Room
Trump Repeats Claim that Obama Administration Wiretapped Him; White House: No Regrets for U.K. Spying Claims; Former Clinton Advisor Responds to Russian Bank Investigation; Tillerson Warns North Korea, Military Action an 'Option'; Trump Repeats Claim Obama Admin Wiretapped Him; White House And Trump: No Regrets For U.K. Spying Claim; British Government On Alleged Trump Spying: "Ridiculous"; Justice Department Responds To House Intel Request For Surveillance Info. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 17, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Wire cage. President Trump boxes himself in again. Suggesting he was wiretapped by President Obama, the Justice Department gives Congress what it knows about the president's claims; and one top lawmaker says it adds up to nothing.
[17:00:22] No regrets. After a spokesman angered a close ally by citing a report saying British intelligence spied on President Trump, the president says he has nothing to apologize for, saying, the claim came from FOX News, and the White House says it has no regrets.
White House breach. Unlike a previous intruder, last week's accused fence jumper didn't make it inside, but a source says he was on the White House grounds for 15 minutes before he was caught. And now officials say a Secret Service laptop with Trump Tower floor plans has been stolen.
And behaving badly. Secretary of State Tillerson visits the DMZ and warns the U.S. would consider military action if it's provoked by Kim Jong-un. And President Trump accuses North Korea of, quote, "behaving very badly."
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. President Trump again suggests he was bugged by the Obama administration, saying to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, "At least we have something in common." That refers to Merkel being wiretapped by the U.S. during the Obama years.
Asked today if he regrets any of his tweets, such as the wiretap accusations, the president answered, "Very seldom."
The Justice Department meanwhile gave congressional investigators today a document about the president's claims. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says he's confident it will show no evidence of wiretapping. All of this just a day after the White House infuriated Britain by
citing a report claiming a British intelligence agency spied on President Trump at the request of President Obama. The claim was made by press secretary Sean Spicer, citing FOX News. British officials called the allegations "utterly ridiculous." But President Trump refuses to apologize, passing the buck to FOX News, and his spokesman now says the White House doesn't regret anything.
And after standing just feet from North Korean soldiers at the dividing line between North and South Korea, Secretary of State Tillerson today warned Kim Jong-un's regime that the United States would consider military action against North Korea if it's provoked. Previous administrations have also said all options are on the table, but where others -- where others tried to engage the North, Tillerson is now stressing that the policy of strategic patience has ended.
I'll talk to Jake Sullivan. He was national security adviser to Vice President Biden, the top adviser to Hillary Clinton. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they're standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.
Let's begin with President Trump. Defying all evidence, all logic, once again raising the claims that he was bugged by his predecessor. First up, our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
Jeff, you were there at the White House news conference in the East Room of the White House. The president is clearly doubling down.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president did stand by those allegations that he was wiretapped by President Obama that are now some two weeks old. Now, they've been debunked across Washington by Democrats and Republicans alike but not the president.
But suddenly, this is now all escalating into something of an international incident. The White House tonight can't even agree on whether it apologized, expressed regret, or whether it should have.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump did not back down today from his unproven claim that President Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as wiretapping, I guess, by you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps.
ZELENY: Meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the president referenced past reports that Merkel's phone had once been tapped by the NSA. The president also did not apologize to the British government for suggesting that British spies were behind the wiretapping.
TRUMP: And just to finish your question, we said nothing. All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. ZELENY: Asked by a German reporter whether it was a mistake to blame
the British spy agency, the president passed the buck to FOX legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, who first raised the possibility.
TRUMP: I didn't make an opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on FOX, and so you shouldn't be talking to me. You should be talking to FOX, OK?
ZELENY: An hour later, FOX News responded.
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: FOX News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano's commentary. FOX News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time in any way, full stop.
ZELENY: The wiretapping claim escalated into an international incident after White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended the president Thursday. From the White House podium, Spicer repeated Napolitano's suggestion that a British intelligence agency helped Obama spy on Trump.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement. Quote, "Three intelligence sources have informed FOX News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn't use the NSA; he didn't use the CIA; he didn't use the FBI; and he didn't use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ.
ZELENY: That commented infuriated Great Britain, one of the most important U.S. allies. A spokesman for British Prime Minister Teresa May said, we've made clear to the U.S. administration that these claims are ridiculous and should be ignored.
A senior administration official said earlier today Spicer and national security adviser H.R. McMaster offered what amounted to an apology to the British government. But Spicer later disputed that, saying the administration had no regrets.
All this made the first meeting between Trump and Merkel even more awkward. Two years ago, the president suggested Merkel's immigration policy was ruining Germany.
TRUMP: And the German people are going to riot. The German people are going to end up overthrowing this woman. I don't know what the hell she's thinking.
ZELENY: The German chancellor today gave only a passing nod to the tension, pointing out that she was beginning to forge a new relationship with her third American president.
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): in the period leading up to this visit, I've always said it's much, much better to talk to one another and not about one another.
ZELENY: So Wolf, these two leaders did have a chance to talk to one another in the Oval Office, as well as in a private luncheon. They are beginning this new, important relationship.
Wolf, all this was overshadowed by the president again doubling down, standing by those allegations here.
But Wolf, a bit of confusion today at the White House. We started off this morning with a senior administration official saying that Sean Spicer and the national security adviser had expressed regret and expressed a form of apology to the British government. But then Sean Spicer after that press conference, after seeing what the president said, he said there was no regret at all here. So we are ending the day here where they have not cleaned this up at all.
The open question is what does the British government think about this, because they said that they would not talk about this claim anymore. And the president again essentially repeated that at this -- at the press conference, saying that all questions should be asked of FOX News.
So Wolf, we end the week here two weeks into this still a cloud hanging over this White House.
BLITZER: I'm sure the British government is not happy about any of this. Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thanks for your terrific reporting.
President Trump's meeting with one American ally comes after the White House cited reports accusing another ally of spying on the president.
Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. You've been talking to your sources. What's the fallout from that false accusation against Britain?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as it happens, I was at the GCHQ in Britain last week. This is outside of London, the government communications headquarters, basically the British equivalent of the NSA. This is an organization that's very reticent about making public comment on intelligence matters.
But when I spoke to them yesterday, they are very quick and unusually aggressive in knocking this story down, using words like "nonsense," "utterly ridiculous." That's a rare comment from them. They wanted that to be the final word from GCHQ, in addition to what was communicated privately to the White House from the British ambassador here and from others in the British government.
They wanted that to be the final word. It may very well be the final word, but the fact is this is now left out there by the Trump administration, which was, in effect, given an opportunity to move on, but the president didn't let it be, in effect. So the question now is, does the U.K. government feel the need to go public once again? I'm told not yet, but it's possible the longer this lasts.
BLITZER: Interesting. Speaking of apologies, Republican Congressman Tom Cole said this today about President Trump's allegations against the former president, President Obama, allegations that he was wiretapped by the former president. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, I see no indication that that's true, and so it's not a charge I would have ever made. And frankly, unless you can produce some -- some pretty compelling proof, then I think the president, you know -- President Obama is owed an apology in that regard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: With the hearings early next week: on Monday the House Intelligence Committee is going to have open hearings on all of this. If there's absolutely no evidence outside of some baseless news media reports, do you see the White House finally admitting the president was wrong?
[17:10:00] SCIUTTO: Based on past patterns both before and after the election, no, frankly. You already have President Trump's own attorney general, of course Republican, his appointee, saying there's no evidence. You have the Republican speaker of the House saying there's no evidence. You have Republican and Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees saying there is no evidence. We are told that when the FBI director, James Comey, who's already said in private there's no evidence of this, but when he goes public on Monday at that hearing, that he may do the same thing in public. But you already have those denials in public. That has not moved the president or his spokesmen.
What we are seeing moving is really a definition of the terms, the president himself trying to redefine what he said. Today next to Angela Merkel, he said that, "Well, I never expressed any opinion on this. I just was quoting a FOX News report."
I'm just going to call for the sake of the record one of President Trump's many tweets, those two weeks ago. Here's one of them referring to, "I bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October just prior to the election."
The president himself referring to this allegation as a fact, not saying that FOX News said it. Not putting anything in that tweet in quotes, certainly.
So the president attempting to redefine what he said. The fact is, there's a record there as to what he charged, but still again, the White House not backing off that charge, in effect.
BLITZER: Yes. It's an amazing situation. All right, Jim Sciutto, reporting for us. Thanks very much.
Joining us now, Jake Sullivan. He was the national security adviser to then Vice President Joe Biden, also a top adviser to Hillary Clinton both at the State Department and during her presidential campaigns. Thanks, Jake, very much for joining us.
JAKE SULLIVAN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO JOE BIDEN: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: I want to, first of all, get your reaction. You heard President Trump at the news conference today sort of smile and look at Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, and say, his words, "At least we have something in common," referring clearly to the fact that she was wiretapped, at her personal cell phone, during the Obama administration. He was smiling about it.
What do you make of that comment, suggesting that he was wiretapped by President Obama, and she was wiretapped by President Obama?
SULLIVAN: I think the alarming thing about it is that he continues to double, triple and quadruple down on what is a false claim, a claim that has been debunked by the intelligence community, by Republicans and Democrats on the Hill, by everybody other than the White House.
So one of two things is true. Either he knows it's wrong and he's lying about a national security issue, in which case it's going to be hard to trust him going forward, or he can't tell the difference between truth and fiction. And in a crisis, that's really going to matter.
If you buy into conspiracy theories, if you start believing everything you hear on FOX News and the rubber really hits the road and America's security is at stake and you're sitting in the Oval Office, you're putting American lives at risk.
So I think this is an alarming situation, and we should take it very seriously.
BLITZER: And we heard Shepard Smith of FOX News flatly deny this allegation that there was any evidence at all, the president referring to Judge Andrew Napolitano, a FOX News contributor, saying he had three sources that British intelligence had, at the request of President Obama, decided to bug Trump Tower and Donald Trump during the campaign.
The British government is angry. They say that's ridiculous. What's your reaction to all of that?
SULLIVAN: We work closely with Great Britain on just about every national security issue you could imagine. Maybe most importantly on fighting terrorism, on keeping this country safe.
When you make outlandish and false accusations about what the British have done and then refuse to express regret or back down, and you stand by those accusations, you fray that relationship. And fraying that relationship, undermining the trust between us and Great Britain, again puts American lives and American security in jeopardy.
So I think the White House should clean this up and clean it up fast. And frankly, this is just a matter of common sense. If you screw up and you're pointed out to have screwed up, you should just say, "You know what? That's on us. We made a mistake. We're going to learn from it. It won't happen again. The fact that the Trump administration can't do this should worry everyone, Republican or Democrat.
BLITZER: Because what the president said is that the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, was simply referring to what he called "a very talented legal mind on FOX," just citing what that very talented legal mind on FOX had to say, and if you have any questions go talk to FOX.
FOX has since then issued that flat denial that they couldn't confirm anything that that very talented legal mind on FOX had to say.
SULLIVAN: Well, this is an example of passing the buck. President Trump and the White House put forward this outlandish allegation that, in fact, the British intelligence service...
BLITZER: Well, they say they were just citing this report.
SULLIVAN: They read it from the podium of the White House briefing room and put their weight behind it in doing so. So having done that, they then try to pass the buck to FOX. That's a lot like the president passing the buck on the death of a Navy SEAL over to the military, rather than accepting responsibility where it lies for everything. The buck stops at the president's desk, and he should take -- step up and take responsibility for it.
[17:15:03] BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to another story. Last week CNN reported that the FBI is still -- still -- investigating what's being described as this odd link between a computer server -- computer servers at a Russian bank called Alfa Bank and a server that dealt with Trump, the Trump Organization, although that server was outside Trump Tower. It wasn't at Trump Tower.
The FBI has refused all comment. The Trump Organization and the Alfa Bank have denied any contact. The allegation originally as you well remember came up during the presidential campaign in an article in Slate magazine. It was widely dismissed at the time, at the time when you were working for the Clinton campaign. You issued a statement calling it a secret hotline between Trump and Russia and asking that it be investigated.
How surprised were you to hear last week that this investigation is still ongoing?
SULLIVAN: I wasn't surprised, because what we learned during the campaign was that very serious computer science experts, people who work closely with the United States government, had uncovered this secret hotline between the Alfa Bank, the Russian bank, and the Trump Organization.
Now, of course, we didn't know for sure if, in fact, that were the case, but we knew that it should be investigated, and we knew that, given how serious these computer scientists were, they weren't just making up crackpot theories. So it wasn't surprising to learn that, even as of last week, the FBI is still looking into this.
BLITZER: And do you have any idea what they're looking for? SULLIVAN: I don't. Of course, I don't have a line into the FBI on
this, but what I know, based on public reporting, is that there is very unusual server activity between this Russian bank and the Trump Organization, which suggests contact that took place over the course of the campaign. Getting answers to what the nature of that contact was and why they were going to lengths to hide it, to encrypt it, is really important; and the American people deserve answers.
BLITZER: All right, Jake. There's more breaking news coming in, including on the very, very sensitive subject of North Korea. We're going to take a quick break. We'll resume our coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM after this.
[17:21:28] BLITZER: We're talking with Jake Sullivan, a former top adviser to the vice president at the time, Joe Biden, and the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
But first, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gets a very close look at North Korea and issues a warning to Kim Jong-un saying American military force is an option.
Let's go live to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. So Barbara, what's behind all this tough talk?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, every day North Korea is getting closer to a weapon that could potentially attack the United States, and that is why you are seeing a change in policy.
STARR (voice-over): With North Korean soldiers at his back on the DMZ, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used his visit to South Korea to dramatically unveil Donald Trump's doctrine towards Kim Jong-un, the dangerous and unpredictable North Korean leader. Gone are the days of hoping sanctions and tough language make Kim stop his weapons program.
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Let me be very clear. The policy of strategic patience has ended. We're exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. All options are on the table.
STARR: Tillerson ruling out old negotiating strategies that would have allowed the North to freeze its current program. Critics say a clear policy is now critical.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: If you say strategic patience is no longer our policy, that's great, but what has replaced it?
STARR: North Korea is accelerating its nuclear and missile efforts, according to the latest U.S. intelligence analysis.
TILLERSON: North Korea is now pursuing programs that would allow them to present a clear threat to continental United States.
STARR: The potential for military response by the U.S. is very real. Tillerson not ruling out a preemptive strike.
TILLERSON: If they elevate the threat of their weapons programs to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table.
STARR: Satellites overhead North Korea's underground nuclear test site are now showing two areas on the surface that have been cleared out of rocks and dirt. A new nuclear test could happen at any time.
And engines for intercontinental ballistic missiles also appear ready for testing. The threat: how soon North Korea can put together all the pieces. A nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the United States.
But because so much of North Korea's nuclear and missile program either is hidden underground or constantly moving, targeting is tough. The U.S. is continuing to send missile defense equipment to South Korea and keep ships and radars at sea to help detect any North Korean tests that may be coming.
STARR: But privately, U.S. commanders are in agreement. A preemptive U.S. strike against North Korea would be very difficult, most likely to result in Kim Jong-un retaliating by unleashing an artillery barrage on Seoul, South Korea. Thousands, perhaps millions could be killed -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a horrendous situation. All right, Barbara, thanks very much. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
We're back with Jake Sullivan. He was the national security adviser to Vice President Biden, also a top adviser to Hillary Clinton at the State Department and during her presidential campaign.
When they're saying "no more strategic patience, all options are on the table," what does that say to you?
SULLIVAN: You know, it says to me that they're now taking the logic of the Obama policy of the last four years to the next step. There were not talks between North Korea and the United States over the past four years. There was an effort to ratchet up sanctions, both at the Security Council and bilaterally. And the Obama administration kept all options on the table. That's only appropriate.
[17:25:12] So I think what Secretary Tillerson is finding is the same thing George Bush found and the same thing Barack Obama found, which is this is a very difficult problem to solve; and it's going to require creativity and strength in order for us to confront the North Korean nuclear challenge.
BLITZER: I mean, Barbara Starr says the casualties could be enormous if there were, let's say, a U.S. military preemptive strike. What, there are a million North Korean troops north of the DMZ with thousands of pieces of artillery, missile launches; nearly a million South Korean troops south of the DMZ; nearly 30,000 American troops right along the militarized zone. This would be a disaster for everyone.
SULLIVAN: And the capitol city of South Korea, Seoul, is within striking distance...
BLITZER: Thirty miles.
SULLIVAN: ... of that artillery.
SULLIVAN: Less than 40 miles from the DMZ. We're talking millions and millions of civilians to go along with U.S. service members and, as you say, South Korean and North Korean troops. So the stakes here are enormous.
But think about the flip side of the equation. If, in fact, North Korea were to go ahead and put a nuclear weapon on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile that they could aim at the United States, that would be a clear and present danger, and we would have to react.
And so I think it's appropriate that Secretary Tillerson has put all options on the table. It just matters that that not be the beginning and end of the policy. We need a comprehensive policy that includes diplomatic, economic and security-related measures, and work closely with our allies in doing so.
BLITZER: And all this explains why President Obama said to President Trump the gravest national security threat facing the United States right now stems from North Korea.
SULLIVAN: It seems like the Trump administration is taking him seriously; and that's to the good; and we should all root to that, no matter which party we belong to.
BLITZER: All right, Jake. Thank you. Jake Sullivan, helping us better appreciate the enormity of this issue.
Coming up, the political fallout after President Trump stood next to the German chancellor and stood by his claim of being wiretapped by President Obama.
Plus, more on the revelation the latest intruder spent -- get this -- 15 minutes on the White House grounds with alarms going off before the Secret Service caught him.
[17:30:00] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. President Trump standing by his claim he was wiretapped by President Obama. When questioned by a German reporter during today's news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the president glanced over to the chancellor and said, and I'm quoting him now, "At least we have something in common."
Let's bring in our political experts. And Gloria, let me start with you. The president repeating this unproven claim that he heard on Fox News by Judge Andrew Napolitano, that the -- a British intelligence service that spied on Trump during the campaign under orders from President Obama. When asked about that, the president said, "You shouldn't be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox." He did say that Andrew Napolitano is a very talented legal mind. Here's what Fox, a little bit after the news conference, had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS CHANNEL NEWS ANCHOR: Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano's commentary. Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time in anyway. Full stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was a strong statement from Shepard Smith.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sort of covers everything, doesn't it?
BLITZER: Where -- yes, and I mean, where does the president go from here?
BORGER: I don't know. When you lose Fox News and you're -- and you're the president, where, you know, where do you go? I -- it was sort of stunning to me watching that press conference today, because it was clear that the president was willing to pick a fight and continue a fight with the United States' closest ally, Great Britain, in order to avoid apologizing or saying he was wrong or saying, at the very least, that he regretted a statement he made that was completely unfounded.
Instead, he said, "We said nothing," and then tried to pin it on Fox News and others. When he has, at his disposal, the entire intelligence apparatus of this country to find out the answer to a question of whether the Brits actually spied on him, which by the way, is against their own law. So he's accusing them of breaking their laws.
BLITZER: And what was your reaction when you heard what the president had to say, David?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND FORMER BARACK OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Well look, the president has dug himself and his team into a very deep hole and as his want rather than bagging up or apologizing, he's decided to dig deeper. It's pretty remarkable to see him, as Gloria said, standing next to the Chancellor of Germany, impugning America's closest ally on the basis of some commentator on Fox News, of whom Fox news would even embrace on this particular allegation. But we've seen this before, Wolf. This is -- this is the same guy who, during the campaign, suggested that Ted Cruz's father was involved with Lee Harvey Oswald. And when he was challenged on it, he said, "I was just repeating what the National Enquirer said." That was as a candidate. Now he's president of the United States. And the fact that he continues to do that with the emblem of the president in front of him is pretty stunning.
[17:35:00] BLITZER: You know, and Rebecca Berg, when he was asked, you have -- by this German reporter, do you have any regrets about some of your tweets, and he said, "Very seldom," and then he tried to make a joke looking at Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, whose personal phone was wiretapped -- was said tapped during the Obama administration, "At least we have something in common," reinforcing this notion that Obama was also tapping his phone.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND REAL CLEAR POLITICS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It was a little bit tone deaf, Wolf, to say the least. I mean, you wonder how this sort of display could affect the president's ability to work with a close ally like Germany in the future, how it could potentially damage his credibility with an ally like Germany or Great Britain in the future. I mean, imagine for a second if you will, what could happen if Donald Trump decides he needs to carry out a military operation or god forbid go to war, and he needs help from an ally like Germany or Great Britain, goes to them with intelligence that he says makes the case for him to go to war. Will they believe him? Will they view him as a credible source of information? I mean, this is -- this is a serious question that this raises.
BLITZER: Yes, I looked at Angela Merkel's face, that when he said, "At least we have something in common," you could see her stark reaction. I suspect she can believe what the president was saying.
Gloria, you have a new column on cnn.com on the importance of the president's actual words. Among other things, you write this, "Now that he's president, his words actually do matter. He's not just trying to win an election; he's leading the free world. We're supposed to believe what he says and trust him. And if there's a crisis, we want to believe that he is considered, calm and deliberative. As in, not prone to tantrums."
BORGER: Right. And what I was referring to there was, of course, the pre-breakfast tweeting that occurred about two weeks ago on the whole wiretapping issue. You know, you can only go to the well so much as president, and David knows more about this than I do, but you have to have the trust and the confidence of the people you're going to lead. And when there's a serious crisis, if they don't take you seriously, and they don't take you literally, because they should take you literally in a time of crisis, what are they -- what's the public supposed to do? You know, during the campaign, we heard a lot. You know, don't take it, you know, take him seriously but don't take him literally. I think it's time to take him literally now as president of the United States.
BLITZER: He certainly is. All right. Everybody stand by. We're going to have more on the breaking news. We got to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:40:00] BLITZER: We're back with our political experts. We're
following the breaking news. David Axelrod, you worked in the White House for President Obama, what, for four years, you were one of his top advisers. At what point does an adviser go to a president of the United States, speak truth to power and say, "You know what? This has to stop?"
AXELROD: It has to happen. Presidents have to have those people around them. But, you know, one of the things that strikes me about this administration, Wolf, is Donald Trump is new to politics and he's new to the whole political world. A lot of the people who surround him are new to him. He wasn't close to Reince Priebus. Steve Bannon came on in the campaign in August. Kellyanne Conway was working for Ted Cruz a year ago. And the only person there who has a long- standing relationship with him is his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and of course his families, whom he's been relying on over the years.
So, you know, I had -- I had a several-decade relationship with Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett did, Rahm Emanuel did. Robert Gibbs had worked for him for years at the time that he became president, and there were people with whom he was close and in whom he had trust, who could go in and be very blunt with him, didn't always like what you had to say but he was willing to hear it and consider it. I don't know if anybody in the White House feels that relationship other than perhaps Jared and his family members on the side, and that's a dangerous situation. You need people to be blunt with you at critical moments.
BLITZER: Is there anyone, Gloria, there that can do that?
BORGER: No, I don't -- I really don't think there is. I mean, he doesn't have somebody that I think he would regard as a peer other than maybe family members that he -- that he clearly trusts. And don't forget, Donald Trump doesn't come from the world of politics, as David was saying, and the accountability that comes with politics. He ran -- he ran a private company, he was -- he was the big cheese at the top, people who worked for him could be "yes men", he didn't have to report to a board, he didn't have public stock, and he wasn't in public office. And so, when he spoke, that was it. That was the word. And it doesn't work that way in politics, and it doesn't work that way in government, as presidents discover, but does he have a Jim Baker? Does he have a David Axelrod? No, I don't -- I don't think he does.
BLITZER: He does have some generals there, General Mattis, General McMaster, General Kelly. He likes to listen to generals. You would think that they might be able to speak to him and say, "You know what? This is not a time to start quoting a legal contributor to Fox News, a commentator."
BERG: That's right, but it seems like Donald Trump, not only in the White House but also in the campaign, also listens to Fox News and other cable news shows as if they were his advisers. We all remember that moment where he was asked where he got his foreign policy information, and he said he got it from the shows, he got it from cable news. So, I think there are really two parts to this. First, you need to have advisers who will tell you what is happening, give you good advice, but the other part of this is the president. The president needs to want this information, needs to want to know the truth, and needs to regard the facts as important.
[17:45:14] BLITZER: Do you think he can change?
AXELROD: You know, Wolf, you -- Wolf, you mentioned the generals. It feels like General McMaster got thrown under the bus today on this issue involving the Brits. But maybe the generals could station some troops around that cell phone from which the president tweets, and him back away when he has the impulse to do that.
BORGER: And, you know, you asked me whether the president can change. He's a 70-year-old man. He's done business his way his entire life. I talked to lots of people who have said; over the years, they've never heard him apologize for anything or admit a mistake. So, we kept waiting for the pivot during the campaign. That was crazy. That would never happen. So why would we expect that the Donald Trump presidency would be any different from the way Donald Trump has been over the last 50 years of his life?
BLITZER: He's spending the weekend in Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach once again this week. And let's see, tomorrow morning, it will be two weeks exactly since that first tweet was posted at 6:35 a.m.
BORGER: I'll set my alarm.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens tomorrow morning.
AXELROD: Stand by.
BLITZER: All right. Coming up, a closer look at the very close ties among U.S., British and other English-speaking intelligence agencies, known as the "Five Eyes". How much damage has been caused by the White House's repeating the false story of President Obama asking the British intelligence service to spy on Donald Trump?
[17:50:00] BLITZER: Our breaking news; President Trump, once again, suggests he was wiretapped by President Obama just a day after the White House repeated claims that President Obama got British intelligence to do the alleged spying. Britain is furious. The White House says it has no regrets and there are now new questions about the impact on intelligence sharing among a group of very, very close allies. Our Brian Todd has been looking into all of this for us. What are you finding out, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, the relationship between U.S. and British intelligence seems as tense as it's ever been. Sources tell CNN; President Trump's National Security Adviser offered what amounted to an apology to the British for the White House citing the claim that President Obama used British intelligence to spy on Mr. Trump. But the White House Press Secretary disputed that, saying, the administration did not apologize. Tonight, we have new information on the partnership of spies between America and its closest allies.
TODD: An accusation that tonight is still bringing outrage from across the Atlantic. The White House Press Secretary reciting a claim from a Fox News Analyst that former President Obama got British intelligence to spy on Donald Trump.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI, and he didn't use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ.
TODD: GCHQ, Britain's equivalent of the NSA; a super-secret eavesdropping agency with some of the world's best technology. According to the Fox analyst quoted by Sean Spicer, using the GCHQ to spy on Donald Trump would have given President Obama plausible deniability.
SPICER: He's able to get it and there's no American fingerprints on this.
TODD: The British are furious, calling the comments "ridiculous". The head intelligence overseer in Britain's parliament saying today, "Long-standing agreements between the Five Eyes countries means they cannot ask each other to target each other's citizens." What are the Five Eyes countries?
JAMES BAMFORD, "BODY OF SECRETS" AUTHOR: Five Eyes is basically one organization. They share everything, they collect -- help each other collect information.
TODD: Five Eyes, the intelligence agencies of English-speaking allies: the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Experts say, after working so well together to defeat Germany and Japan in World War II, those nations formally established Five Eyes right after the war to spy on the Soviet Union. Experts say they meet at least once a year; and from human intelligence, to wiretapping, to hacking, it's the most effective intelligence sharing alliance in the world.
BAMFORD: Basically, GCHQ and NSA are closer than NSA and CIA. And what they've done is they divided the world up into spheres of interests so that Britain, for example, can collect against Europe or Russia a lot better than the United States can, so this is the area of focus. The U.S. can eavesdrop on South America, or to some degree, a lot of the Pacific area.
TODD: The brotherly ties between British and American intelligence agencies often immortalized on the big screen.
FELIX LEITER: You must be James Bond.
TODD: When James Bond met up with his CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter.
JAMES BOND: That's what I like about U.S. intelligence. You'll lie down anybody, including you, brother.
TODD: Tonight, intelligence analysts fear the fall-out from the White House citing an unproven accusation.
ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: What the U.K. has that we don't is listening sites closer to the Middle East. They have a listening site, for instance, in Cyprus, which is absolutely crucial to our collection. If they close that down, or they throttle off the information, it will risk American lives.
TODD: Now, other experts say, that may not happen because then the British may not get access to U.S. intelligence, which they depend on, as much as America depends on the British. What may happen, analysts say, is that the British and the other Five Eyes partners may get increasingly nervous about sharing some intelligence with the Trump administration, not knowing how it would be used or if it will be talked about in the open. And as a result, some intelligence may be held back from the Americans, Wolf.
BLITZER: That's a very, very worrisome development. Thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting for us.
Coming up, President Trump, once again, suggests he was bugged by the Obama administration and says he very seldom regrets any of his tweets. And the Justice Department gives Congress what it knows about the president's claims, and one top U.S. law makers suggests it adds up to -- nothing.
[17:55:00] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Out on a wire. President Trump not backing down from his wiretap claim, as the Justice Department hands over related documents to congressional investigators. The president has increasingly isolated in his allegation, with top republicans saying there's no evidence and one now is calling on him to apologize to President Obama. How long will the president stand by his claim?
Utterly ridiculous. In a rare statement of Bristish intelligence agency, dismisses allegations despite on President Trump allegations that were refuted by the White House Press Secretary, where White House officials forced to apologize.