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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With California Congressman Devin Nunes; Four People Killed in London Terror Attack. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired March 22, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD.
We are following the breaking news in London, an attack that police are treating as an act of terrorism at the British Parliament. We know four people are dead. That includes a police officer, as well as the attacker. Twenty at least are injured.
It's a full counterterrorism investigation that is under way right now. The attack began when the assailant hit multiple people with his car on Westminster Bridge. Several people were seen down on the ground there and a woman was pulled from the water.
The attacker then rammed his car into Parliament gates. He exited the vehicle, stabbing a police officer. A short time ago, police in protective gear were seen investigating the vehicle.
Let's get right to CNN's Nic Robertson. He is in London for us. He was on the scene shortly after the attack.
Nic, what's the latest?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The latest from here, Jake, police are yet to give us any information about the identities of the deceased or any of the victims who were hit by the car and are injured.
However, we do know, we do know that three of those people hit by the car were police officers. Several others were young French teenage students who were touring the city. All of this began in the middle of the afternoon here.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Terror unfolding by the minute in the shadow of Big Ben today.
MAN: This House is now suspended.
ROBERTSON: The heart of London's government suddenly suspended, Parliament locked down just after 2:40 p.m. local time, amid reports of an attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I could hear is bang, bang, bang, like loud. ROBERTSON: At 2:52, parliamentarian Grant Shapps tweeted, "Walking
through commons cloisters to vote. Heard four gunshots. Police had members of Parliament hit ground and crawl to cover."
Officers moved swiftly to secure M.P.s indoors. According to the leader of the House of Commons, at least one assailant entered the gates of London's iconic government building, then stabbed and killed one police officer before being shot by police. One British lawmaker rushed to join first aid responders to aid the injured officer, all of this as Prime Minister Theresa May was in the building making her weekly visit to the heart of British government.
She was swiftly evacuated to a secure area. Just outside, possible clues to the assailant's path to Parliament.
MARK ROWLEY, METROPOLITAN POLICE ACTING DEPUTY COMMISSION: The attack started when a car was driven over Westminster Bridge, hitting and injuring a number of members of the public, also including three police officers. The car then crashed near to Parliament.
ROBERTSON: A large SUV crumpled against the landmark's perimeter fence. Officials say the armed attacker ran from the scene and through the gates. Nearby, on Westminster Bridge, another crime scene, multiple victims with catastrophic injuries were left lying on the pavement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bodies literally, must have been about 10 bodies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ten to 10 bodies.
ROBERTSON: At least one female victim was pulled injured, but alive from the Thames River. Former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski captured the immediate aftermath of the attack on his cell phone.
RADOSLAW SIKORSKI, FORMER POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER: I saw in all five people down, mowed down by a car, including one person bleeding heavily from the head.
ROBERTSON: Many questions still unanswered as authorities begin searching through clues. The injured and affected still trying to make sense of it all.
ROBERTSON: Well, the police are saying they are following a number of lines of investigation. They also issued a reassuring message to the people of London. You can expect to see more police armed and unarmed on the streets in the coming days -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Nic Robertson in London, thank you so much.
We will have more on the London attack.
But we also have some more breaking news in our politics lead today. The chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Devin Nunes, Republican of California, confirmed a short while ago that President Trump's personal communications may have been picked up by investigators through -- quote -- "incidental collection."
Let's find out what this exactly means and the significance of it first with CNN senior congressional reporter Manu Raju after which we're going to speak with Chairman Nunes himself.
Manu, chairman Nunes says this does not back up President Trump's evidence-free claim that former President Obama had wiretapped him. He seemed most upset, it seemed to me, that Trump team members were picked up in what he called legal incidental surveillance of others and that they were unmasked, meaning that their names were included in intelligence reports, instead of, say, individual A.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake.
And actually I have just spoken to some members on the committee who are aware of exactly what is what are in those reports. And what they are saying is Trump transition officials were discussing, talking about president-elect Trump at that time, president-elect Trump, his plans for the new administration.
And those were disseminated widely within the intelligence community. Also, some of those discussions were about President Trump's family, discussions that Chairman Nunes believes should not have been disclosed widely within the intelligence community.
Of course, some of these communications also appearing in the press, including over Michael Flynn's discussions with the ambassador to Russia, Jeff Sessions as well, those communications as well.
But nothing in here suggests what Donald Trump was saying earlier, that he was wiretapped under the orders of President Barack Obama, even though, Jake, President Trump said this today earlier today, that he feels vindicated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I somewhat do. I must tell you, I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found. But I somewhat do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Nunes made very clear that nothing that -- said there is nothing in these reports that he's looked at back up the claims that he had -- that President Trump had been wiretapped.
And I asked Chairman Nunes directly, anything in these communications that you have seen so far, does anything -- actually, have they picked up President Trump's communications itself? This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: And was the president also part of that incidental collection, his communications?
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: Yes, they were.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: But then I clarified with him afterwards. He seemed to back off that comment. And I asked him, was he definitely picked up or was it possible that it was picked up? And he said it's possible. So, that's where things stand right now, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.
Let's try to get some more clarity from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.
Chairman Nunes, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
NUNES: Great. It's great to be back on, Jake. Thank you.
TAPPER: So, first of all, I guess just a direct question. Was President Trump picked up himself in this incidental collection, or was he not?
NUNES: In the reports that I reviewed, it does appear like, incidentally, he could have been picked up, OK?
So, until we actually get those reports and get an explanation from the appropriate agencies, we won't know the answer to that. But, clearly, there is a lot of information in the reports that I have seen, which were dozens, that would lead me to believe that the last administration and numerous agencies had a pretty good idea of what president-elect Trump was up to and what his transition team was up to and who they were meeting with.
And, you know, some of this is, I think, legitimate collection, but some of it, I think it bothered me enough that I went over to the White House, because I think the president needs to see these reports for himself.
I'm afraid -- so, I still don't understand. He was picked up or he wasn't? You said he could have been, but I don't know what that means.
NUNES: So, what -- all I can tell you is what I read in the reports. In the reports, it was quite clear that he was in there and other people associated with the Trump transition team.
And that's what I can tell you. Now, look, I don't know if that meets -- that doesn't mean that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, but it clearly is a concern to me, because I'm not sure that this should be put together like this.
I just -- I have a problem with it, but, look, we gave them -- two weeks ago, we sent a letter asking for them to tell us who was unmasked. The NSA is cooperating very well. We expect to get more information from the NSA.
But, look, additional unmaskings occurred, and we have to get to the bottom of, why were these names unmasked?
TAPPER: All right. So, that's a big, important issue. And I want to focus on that.
But let me just dispense with one thing. President Trump said that he felt somewhat vindicated by what you told him today.
Just to be clear, there is still no evidence that President Trump himself was wiretapped?
NUNES: That is correct. That is correct.
TAPPER: What would you say to Democrats out there on Capitol Hill who say it looks like maybe you're trying to give President Trump and the White House cover for this falsehood that he told a couple weeks ago?
Well, look, I said the day after or two days later to all of you that I was quite confident that President Obama did not order a wiretap on Trump Tower.
However, I have said for a long time that I was worried about incidental collection, because we knew that was already an issue of possible incidental collection and unmasking of a name. I have been very clear with the press on this, and I was provided several intelligence documents that clearly show that President Trump and the transition team were included in these reports that were disseminated widely in the last administration.
TAPPER: So, am I wrong in assessing that what seems most important to you is not the incidental collection, which you know happens all the time.
For whatever reason, American intelligence, U.S. intelligence will be conducting surveillance on an ambassador from another country, and they pick up somebody else who is an American citizen that was not a target of the surveillance.
What bothers you is that, within the intelligence reports, the names of Trump officials, including perhaps then candidate, then president- elect Trump himself, were cited, instead of just saying, individual A, individual B?
Is that right, that that's what bothers you the most about this?
NUNES: I think a couple things.
First of all, to make sure you understand everything that I saw occurred after the election.
TAPPER: After the election, OK.
NUNES: It had to deal with the transition.
And then the unmasking really bothers me, because there has to be a reason for an unmasking. So, we need to know who ordered the unmasking, where did that -- how did that come about? And then, at that point, then, was additional information put into these intelligence reports that clearly -- I think the president -- what I want to tell the president today is, he needs to see those reports.
He needs to see what's out there on him, and it's up to him to decide whether or not it was proper collection or not or if it met a threshold. That will be for him and his administration to understand.
But he needed to see this. And he has every right to get hold of these reports, just like the last administration clearly was able to read them.
TAPPER: And just to be clear for our viewers, unmasking means that, instead of an intelligence report where they're conducting surveillance on, just to make it up, the Russian ambassador, instead of saying the Russian ambassador was talking to American A, it says the Russian ambassador was talking to Michael Flynn?
That's an example of unmasking.
NUNES: Right. Yes, that's a good example of it.
TAPPER: That's a pretty good example of it.
Well, let me ask you a question. Do you doubt that there was any legitimate reason for the unmasking? For example, in the situation I just told you about that you and I have discussed at length before, perhaps, I have no idea, but perhaps somebody in the Justice Department heard that Michael Flynn was not being honest with the public and was not being honest with the Trump administration about his phone call.
And maybe they felt like unmasking,such as when acting Attorney General Sally Yates went to the White House and said, Michael Flynn was talking about punishments of Russians, et cetera, et cetera, he's not telling the truth.
Is that not a legitimate reason for unmasking?
NUNES: Yes. So, this is not that.
It appears that additional names were unmasked, and there doesn't appear to be a reason for it. Perhaps there is. But, like I said, we need to find out who requested the unmasking and why was it done? So, this has nothing to do with General Flynn. This is additional people who were unmasked.
TAPPER: But this information that you brought to President Trump today, this was new?
NUNES: Yes, I have never seen this until recent days.
TAPPER: You are obviously leading the investigation on the House side into what may or may not have happened when it came to the Russian interference in the U.S. election, what role officials, advisers with the Trump team may or may not have played.
Would you understand why somebody who is a Democrat might look at you going to the White House and delivering this information to President Trump and question your impartiality on this issue?
NUNES: Yes. Yes. Look, I'm not worried about that.
I'm the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. It concerned me enough to have to notify the president, because he was -- it was him and his transition team that were involved in this. And he needs to be able to see those reports. These are intelligence reports that were widely disseminated. It's not fair for him not to know what's in these reports, while the past administration and many agencies do know.
And, so, look, I think you know I'm a fair guy. And I will continue to conduct this investigation as I see fit. And I will try to make it as fair as possible. But I can't make everybody happy, but we will continue to try to make people happy. And I try to do this by briefing the press on a regular basis.
I had two press availabilities today. And, in fact, I'm coming on your show here to explain what I have in as much of a timely manner as I can possibly get it to the public.
TAPPER: I'm not impugning your integrity, sir. And I think you know that.
NUNES: Oh, I know that. I absolutely know that.
TAPPER: My question is just because there are obviously Democrats who are criticizing what you have done, and I want to give you an opportunity to respond to the criticism.
The ranking Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff, Democrat from California, you and he have seemed from the outside to have had a great working relationship. But you went to the White House and spoke to President Trump before talking to Congressman Schiff.
NUNES: Yes, so, look, this is -- I did it as quickly as I could. I spoke to Mr. Schiff now.
And, look, I like Mr. Schiff a lot. And clearly, look, we have had an investigation on Russia going for a very long time.
[16:15:03] And Mr. Schiff and myself are both very concerned about Russian activities. And we remain that way.
And, so, look, there will be areas where we agree, there will be areas where we disagree. But the bottom line is I'm trying to, by coming out and talking and holding press availabilities, I don't see how I can be any more transparent than that where I take all of your questions whenever I have new information. And I'll continue to do that as information comes available.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let me ask you a question about the stuff, the material you say that alarmed you. First of all, you said these were not Russians that were being surveilled, right? You said it was other individuals.
TAPPER: But they would be foreign because they were under the FISA court.
NUNES: Right, it looks like it was gathered legally and I have no reason to think it wasn't gathered legally. The only -- and I said very clearly, this has nothing to do with Russia. It has nothing to do -- there was no ties to Russia whatsoever in the reports that I read.
TAPPER: Well, let me ask you a question, because it seems as though the United States government conducts surveillance on foreign ambassadors, foreign businessmen, individuals in this country as long as they get a FISA warrant to do so and have been cleared through the courts to do so as a matter of course. Were these individuals who were being surveilled in the manner of just ambassador A, ambassador B, or were these operatives, agents, people that the U.S. government is suspicious of?
NUNES: Well, look, this is a slippery slope when we start talking about who is under a FISA warrant or not, and I don't want -- I don't want to get into that. But I do have -- moving forward, I do have concerns about the current status of FISA and whether or not we need to make some changes to this because I want to ensure that Americans are not being picked up in any -- whether it's in a legal manner or even if it's just for any other purpose, we have to make sure that we protect American citizens.
And we really should make sure that we protect an incoming administration no matter who that is. I mean, you can imagine if there was -- like what I saw, what was shown to me, dozens of reports, if something similar existed on President Obama in 2008 before he was coming into office, if I was in President Obama's shoes and saw that, I don't think I would be very happy about it.
TAPPER: So, you're suggesting that U.S. intelligence and the use of the FISA courts, you said it was legal and you said it was incidental, picking up the names of Americans, perhaps even then President-elect Trump, but definitively you're saying people on the Trump team.
NUNES: Yes, President-elect Trump and his team were put into intelligence reports which -- TAPPER: OK.
NUNES: -- may or may not -- it's probably fine, but we have to make sure that the president himself needs to see this because, clearly, you know, there was surveillance that was conducted. And I don't know if it was -- I'm sure it was used legally, but he should know this just like the other administration knew what was in those intelligence reports.
TAPPER: You are obviously an important man on the Capitol Hill. You're the chairman of the house intelligence committee. Doesn't President Trump already have access to all that information?
NUNES: He was not aware, from what I could tell today. And so, hopefully, he's going to be able to get his hands on those so he can review them himself.
TAPPER: Is there any intelligence value of the information you saw of the intelligence reports that you saw in which President Trump and members of his team were caught up in incidental surveillance?
NUNES: Now, there's no -- I think the question on this will become whether or not there was anything that was outside of the scope of what would normally -- were all the procedures followed, right? So, if you pickup incidental collection of Americans, those names should be minimized.
And you know, there's -- I think there's very few times where you should be able to tell who an American is if they end up in some intelligence report. And clearly, that's not the case with this.
TAPPER: But there was intelligence value or there was not intelligence value?
NUNES: In some of it, yes, a lot of it was good intelligence value. But some of it I think is questionable, at best. And, look, until we get these reports in our hands and I can share them with all the members, both Republicans and Democrats, we'll have to comb through that to see whether or not it was the right thing or not.
But, look, I think the bottom line here is that President Trump, to some degree, is right that he did end up in some intelligence reports and I don't think he knew about it.
TAPPER: But how is he right if he said he was -- President Obama wiretapped him in Trump Tower?
NUNES: No, he's not right about that, Jake. As you know, I've told you that I think many times that he wasn't --
TAPPER: Right. But you just said he was right. What was he right about?
NUNES: Well, in terms of -- it does appear his name and people, others ended up into intelligence reports.
[16:20:04] So, I mean, look, you can make what you want of it, but most people would say that is surveillance.
TAPPER: You said that some of the intelligence was valuable and some of it you questioned. Are you saying there was no reason for President Trump to have been in the intelligence reports?
NUNES: That's -- yes, that's what I'm saying. And other Americans that were in there.
I mean, look, this is all going to be a judgment call at some point. Congress will then have to look at whether or not we need to change these procedures. But, look, the main thing is we have to protect this country.
Now, we need FISA to work, but our job is to provide oversight over these programs, and I want to make sure that whoever was requesting the unmasking of names, we know who that is and if it was done properly because as you know, there's a whole bunch of press stories out there about signals intelligence that was picked up on Mr. Trump and his advisors that ended up in many newspapers around this country.
So, clearly, either the newspapers are lying or actually they were being surveilled, and that was leaked to the newspapers.
TAPPER: We live in a very divided country as you know, sir. I just want to make sure you have the opportunity to respond to any Democrats, any skeptics out there who say, hey, Devin Nunes was on the Trump transition team. This is all political. Your response?
NUNES: Yes, look, there's no good way to do this. The bottom line is that we are all elected and I serve at the pleasure of the Republicans in my conference as a chairman of the Intelligence Committee. And it's my job to run these investigations and provide oversight over the intelligence agencies and that's what I'm doing.
And, so, at the end of the day, people can makeup their own mind when we come up with a product that will come out with at the end of this and will share as much as we can with the public. And I'm trying my best any time I have new information to come out and talk to all of you.
TAPPER: House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, Republican of California, we appreciate your time. We appreciate your coming and taking all these questions. Thank you so much.
NUNES: All right, sir. Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: A busy afternoon. We're following the terror attack in London where three were killed and at least 20 innocent people injured.
Plus, we're keeping an eye, of course, on the Hill where Republican leadership is running out of time to get enough yes votes to pass the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
We're going to take a very quick break. We'll be right back.
[16:26:19] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
We are following breaking news in the world lead. Police in London investigating who might have been behind today's terrorist attack that killed three innocent people. For years now, of course, ISIS has called for exactly this style of attack. In 2014, the terrorist group told followers to kill what they call disbelievers in any manner or way, including running them over with a car.
And since then, we have seen exactly that around the world. Last year, of course, 86 people killed when a large truck plowed through a Bastille Day crowd in France. Then, last November, right here in U.S., an Ohio State University student originally from Somalia rammed his car into a crowd on campus. He then got out and charged the group with a knife. Eleven people were hurt before an OSU officer killed the attacker. Thankfully, no one else died in that incident.
But just a few weeks later, in December, a driver plowed a tractor- trailer truck into a crowd in a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 in Germany. And this past January, a Palestinian man drove a truck into a group of soldiers getting off a bus in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attacker was an ISIS supporter.
Since 2015, there have been at least 12 similar vehicle attacks around the world with connections to ISIS. Five alone were in Iraq.
Let's talk about this and more with my expert panel we have with us. CNN counterterror analyst Phil Mudd, CNN terror analyst Paul Cruickshank, former congressman and chair of the House intelligence committee, Mike Rogers, CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward, and Robin Simcox of the Heritage Foundation.
Thanks one and all for being here.
Phil, this does bear a lot of hallmarks of the ISIS-inspired or instructed attacks that we've seen in the past year or so.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It does. We've got to take a couple steps here. First, they are talking about this as a counterterrorism investigation. I want to see facts.
The reason you refer to that phrase is you want to assume first that it's not just an individual. Maybe there is a network. You've got to stop that network. It doesn't mean that the Metropolitan Police in London believe it's terrorism yet.
Let's assume that it is, that we determine this over the next hour or two, it shouldn't take that long. I think we ought to step back and say, if you look at the ISIS core in Iraq and Syria under tremendous pressure, there is continuing pressure even this week in Raqqah, this would be an indication to me that the core does not have the capability to inspire people to conduct attacks like al Qaeda.
It has the capability to get somebody, maybe somebody mentally deranged, to kill a few people at the parliament. I wouldn't misinterpret this one yet or over-interpret it. Let's see what we've got here.
TAPPER: Robin, it does seem to suggest terrorists with very little, just a car and a knife, can really get the world's attention.
ROBIN SIMCOX, MARGARET THATCHER FELLOW, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Yes, absolutely. This is the main problem for security services, not just in the U.K., but across the West. How do you begin to stop every terrorist who has a desire to kill, an ideology that inspires him to do so if all he needs is a knife and a car? This is virtually mission impossible for security services stopping that kind of attack on a regular basis.
TAPPER: And, Paul Cruickshank, what are you hearing in terms of the latest that you're getting from your sources about where the investigation is going and whether or not they're afraid of any similar terrorists out there?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, that will be the number one concern, Jake, that there might be others linked to this individual who may move forward to launch attacks or there may be copycat attacks by people inspired by what they've seen play out. But as many of us have noted, this has all the hallmarks of an ISIS-linked or ISIS-inspired attack given all that track record of those kind of attacks involving vehicles and trucks.
But no claim or responsibility yet from ISIS or any other terrorist group, but I think that may change soon if there is any link back to one of these groups. ISIS have been telling the people they're in touch with in the West, the people they've been trying to inspire in the West to get a message out over social media, even during launching these kind of truck attacks.
So, we're looking out for that. We haven't seen it yet, Jake.