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Intelligence Chairman Met Source at White House Complex; Trump Willing to Work with Dems on Health Care; North Korea Suspected of Huge Cyber Theft. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 27, 2017 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: secret meeting. The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee reveals he met with a source inside the White House complex just a day before briefing the president on intelligence he says points to surveillance of the Trump transition team.

[17:00:19] Did anyone on President Trump's staff know what was going on just steps from the Oval Office? What classified information was disclosed? We're standing by to talk to Chairman Devin Nunes who will be joining us live.

Kushner to testify. The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee now say President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, one of the president's closest advisers, will testify about newly-disclosed meetings he had with a Russian diplomat and a controversial Russian banker. He'll answer questions as part of the Senate investigation into Senate [SIC] meddling in the presidential election. Tonight, new questions about why these meetings were not revealed until now.

Changing the subject. Still smarting from his defeat on health care, President Trump gets busy with bill signings, business roundtables and promises of tax reform, but after his stinging loss, who is he willing to work with in Washington and what can he really accomplish?

And tests and thefts. North Korea tests a rocket engine, once again raising the possibility Kim Jong-in is making progress on a ballistic missile that could hit the United States. We also have new details pointing to North Korea's involvement in a multi-million-dollar cyber theft breaking into banks' computers and draining money from the accounts. Is the North Korean leader becoming more brazen?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news, new revelations from the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Devin Nunes, about a secret nighttime meeting with a source at, at of all places, the White House complex. A government official tells CNN Nunes was seen Tuesday night at the National Security Council offices at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building right next door to the West Wing and the Oval Office.

While Nunes won't say what he learned, the following day he went before reporters and went to the president, saying he had new information about possible surveillance of then-President-elect Trump and his top aides during the transition.

This afternoon press secretary Sean Spicer refused to rule out the possibility Nunes -- Nunes' source came from inside the White House. I'll ask Chairman Nunes about all of this when he joins me live. That's coming up.

Also breaking, word from the Senate Intelligence Committee that President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, just volunteered to answer questions for the committee's investigations into the Russian activities surrounding the 2016 election. This comes as the White House is now revealing Kushner had more undisclosed meetings with Russian contacts during the transition than were previously known.

We're going to get reaction from Democratic Senator Ben Cardin. He's the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, all of them will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with our senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju. He's joining us live from Capitol Hill. Manu, what are you learning from this nighttime meeting over at the White House complex involving the House Intelligence Committee chairman?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight we are learning that Devin Nunes did, in fact, meet with a source on White House grounds where he obtained that information suggesting that some Trump team communications may have been picked up by U.S. surveillance on issues unrelated to Russia.

Now this causing an uproar among Democrats who wondered why he had to brief the president of the United States on this, even as they're investigating the issue of Russia and his ties to the Trump campaign.

Now, Nunes also coming under fire for cancelling a Tuesday hearing on the issue of Russia and instead deciding to have a private briefing with James Comey and Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, but today, Wolf, those two officials say they're no longer going to brief the committee in a private session.


RAJU (voice-over): Tonight a strange twist in the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign. Chairman Devin Nunes facing new questions about whether he compromised the investigation by briefing President Trump last week on intelligence he says he obtained through a secret source.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The administration I don't think is aware of this. So I want to make sure that I go over there and tell them what I know.

RAJU: Today Nunes revealed that he met with the source last week on White House grounds to review the information. A government official said Nunes was seen Tuesday night at the National Security Council offices of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where classified information can be viewed securely.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We have been kept totally out of the loop. It's just bizarre.

RAJU: The revelation put the White House on the defensive after spokesman Sean Spicer said this last week when asked if the information came from the White House.

[17:05:04] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It doesn't really pass the smell test.

RAJU: Today Spicer could not rule out that someone on the White House staff may have authorized Nunes to review the information in a classified facility.

SPICER: I don't know that members of Congress need to be cleared.

RAJU: The swirling controversy raised the stakes for the Senate Intelligence Committee, which now plans to question Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law, over his repeated contacts with Russian officials.

SPICER: You're asking as though there's something nefarious about doing what he was actually tasked to do. I'm just saying to you that, based on the media frenzy that existed around this, he volunteered to make sure that they -- he said, "Hey, we've made some contacts. I'd be glad to explain them. Let me know if you'd like to talk."

RAJU: But the House investigation is starting to break down along partisan lines, with Democrats criticizing Nunes.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Without further ado, Speaker Ryan should replace Chairman Nunes.

RAJU: Despite briefing the president Nunes, still has yet to present the committee with intelligence showing that some Trump team communications had been picked up incidentally and that some individuals had their identities unmasked by the intelligence community.

Nunes has given shifting explanations about what the information he has reviewed actually reveals.

(on camera): Was the president also part of that incidental collection, his communications?


RAJU: They were?


RAJU: You said that the president's communications were incidentally collected, but then you said it's also possible. So was it collected or is it possible that it was collected?

NUNES: I just don't know the answer to that.

RAJU: So you don't know if the president's communications...

NUNES: I know -- look, I know there was incidental collection regarding the president-elect and his team.

RAJU (voice-over): Then later in the week, Nunes was asked if Trump officials were monitored or simply mentioned in the intelligence reports.

NUNES: We don't know until -- we won't know that until we actually receive all of the documentation.

RAJU: And he refused to rule out the information came from the White House.

(on camera): Can you just categorically say that the White House was not the source?

NUNES: You've asked this question many, many times, and I will continue to say the same thing. You can ask me every single name that exists on the planet, and I'm still not going to tell you who our sources are.


RAJU: Now Wolf, Nunes trying to down -- to tamp down this controversy. Earlier today telling a reporter with Bloomberg that, actually, the information came from an intelligence source, not a White House source.

And Speaker Paul Ryan expressing, quote, "full confidence" behind Chairman Nunes as leading this information, this coming from his spokesperson, but Republicans on the Senate sides are distancing himself from Nunes. John Cornyn, the top -- the No. 2 who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, would not comment about Nunes when asked by our colleague, Ted Barrett, but said the Senate will do the investigation the right way -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I'm going to be speaking live with Chairman Nunes. That's coming up later right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Also at the White House today, conflicting signals as President Trump tries to move on from his stinging defeat on repealing Obamacare.

Let's gets to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, is the president still committed to repealing Obamacare, or is he open to simply trying to fix it, improve it?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that is the question, Wolf. Still bruised from his defeat on health care, the White House is signaling all of a sudden that it's willing to work with Democrats on the issue. That may come as a surprise to Democrats, as aides to the president said today repealing Obamacare is still on the table. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's the smallest desk I've ever seen.

ACOSTA (voice-over): This was not the bill signing President Trump was hoping for.

(on camera): Do you still want to repeal Obamacare, Mr. President?

(voice-over): Licking their wounds after failing to repeal Obamacare, top White House officials are talking about lessons learned and perhaps a change in strategy for the administration, possibly away from House conservatives who didn't back the president.

SPICER: We learned a lot through this process, and the president's willing to listen to these individuals and, if they can come to a resolution on a way forward, obviously, we're willing to listen.

ACOSTA: With the president tweeting that Democrats are smiling in D.C. after conservative groups like the House Freedom Caucus and the Club for Growth helped save Obamacare, the White House is now offering to work with Democrats.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I also think, though, that Democrats can come to the table, as well. And if you look at what the president said in the Oval just after that comment, he said, you know, perhaps it's time for us to start talking to some moderate Democrats, as well, and come up with, you know, a bipartisan solution.

ACOSTA: That's a major course correction after the president blamed Democrats for his own defeat.

TRUMP: I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, because now they own Obamacare. They own it, 100 percent own it.

ACOSTA: Even today the House still wasn't ruling out an Obamacare repeal fight in the future.

(on camera): Is repeal Obamacare repeal dead?

SPICER: I don't think it's dead in the Senate.

ACOSTA: But it would have to be dead to have Democrats working with you.

SPICER: Why? I don't know that that's true, because I think...

ACOSTA: Why would they -- why would they work with you?

SPICER: Because it's dying.

ACOSTA: You're still trying repeal it.

SPICER: Because I think part of it is that there's a recognition that it is failing. It's dying on its own. It will be dead soon. [17:10:04] ACOSTA (voice-over): That's a non-starter for Democrats.

SCHUMER: For the president to say that he'll destroy it or undermine it, that's not presidential. That's petulance, being petulant, not a president; and it's not going to work.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

ACOSTA: It's no surprise that the president is interested in reaching out to Democrats considering his approval rating in a Gallup poll just dropped to 36 percent, below where president Obamas and Clinton were at their all-time lows.

But the White House is also mending fences with Republicans after the president tweeted that his supporters should watch Judge Jeanine on FOX Saturday night, when the host opened her show with this attack on House Speaker Paul Ryan.

JUDGE JEANINE PIRRO, HOST, FOX NEWS: My opening statement. Paul Ryan needs to step down as speaker of the House.

ACOSTA: The White House said that was just a coincidence.

SPICER: He's a fan of the show. He and Speaker Ryan talked extensively over the weekend. I mean, he's a....

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did they talk today?

SPICER: I don't know if they talked today. I think they talked both Saturday and Sunday at length, but, again, he's a fan of the show. He tweeted out support of it. That's it, plain and simple.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people...

SPICER: I know what a lot of people say.


ACOSTA: Now White House press secretary Sean Spicer described the president's decision to drop health care as walking away from a bad deal, a quote, "bad deal." Just a sign as to how frustrating this was getting for President Trump.

And as for the prospect of cutting deals with more bipartisan support in the future, that's only becoming more complicated as more Democrats are announcing they won't support the president's pick for the Supreme Court.

And, Wolf, in just the last few minutes, we should point out we received word from a spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan that he was, again, over at the White House today, meeting with vice president Pence, the Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price and also chatted briefly with the president. That means he spoke with the president on Saturday, Sunday and today, all three days since health care was dropped on Friday, Wolf. That's just an indication as to how delicate the relationship is between the president and the House speaker, considering just how bad that defeat was on Friday when they had to finally drop Trumpcare up on Capitol Hill, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. What a setback that was for the president and for the speaker. I'd love to know what they discussed. All right. Thanks very much for that, Jim Acosta over at the White House.

Let's get reaction to all of this from the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland joining us live from Capitol Hill.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: Wolf, it's a pleasure to be with you. Thank you.

BLITZER: So the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Devin Nunes, is supposed to be leading the investigation on the House side into possible collusion -- possible collusion -- between the Trump campaign, at least Trump associates, and Russia. Did -- do you believe he compromised that investigation with this secret meeting he had over at the White House complex?

CARDIN: Clearly, he's compromised his position as chairman. He's shown that he's more concerned with sharing information with the president than investigating what Russia was doing in the elections.

As I've pointed out, it's very difficult to see how Congress can conduct an independent investigation here. That's why we need an independent commission, special commission investigating what Russia was doing in the United States and all the contacts it made with officials here in America. We already know about five contacts with the Trump campaign.

BLITZER: Do you think Chairman Nunes should step down as chairman of the committee?

CARDIN: I think he -- clearly if the committee continues its investigation, he should step down. I would urge the committee to recommend an independent commission to do this work so that we can have the confidence of the American people. But clearly, the chairman can no longer have the confidence he's doing an independent review.

BLITZER: What about on your side, in the Senate, the Senate Intelligence Committee? Do you have confidence Chairman Richard Burr and the ranking Democrat that -- Senator Warner, Mark Warner of Virginia, are they doing a better job? Do you have confidence in their investigation?

CARDIN: I think the Senate Intelligence Committee needs to do an investigation. They need to take a look at what the intelligence community is telling them about Russia's attack. And I do have confidence. Senator Warner is keeping us informed, and I trust his judgment on this from the Democratic point of view.

But I still underscore the point. You need an independent special commission to do a broad investigation here of all the aspects, not just the intelligence community but what happened, what Russia is doing in Europe, what their intents here are in the United States, what contact did they have with the Trump people? All that needs to be independently investigated.

BLITZER: Do you believe a White House staffer provided Chairman Nunes with the information he spoke about last week?

CARDIN: Wolf, every time, I'm hearing something new. Now, of course, he got the information in a skiff (ph) under the White House control. That raises very serious questions as to who had the information and from what purpose did they make it available to the House Intelligence Committee? And of course, then the chairman releasing that and briefing the president before talking to his committee is outrageous.

BLITZER: It's been reported that you received a cache of documents, classified documents. Were there any unmasked names in those reports? Did you see anything, for example, in those documents that raised alarm bells for you?

CARDIN: That was from the State Department, that information. It was obtained because we knew Russia was engaged in our elections. I wanted to make sure we had that record in our committee, was made available to the Democrats and the Republicans. It was marked classified, so therefore, I can't go into any of the specifics. But I've said before the information I've received is consistent with what had been reported openly about Russia's engagement here in the United States.

BLITZER: Because you're obviously privy to classified information. Who might have been surveilled, for example, for there to be what's called incidental collection on the president, his family or senior staffers during the transition?

CARDIN: Well, of course, that would have been under the jurisdiction of the intelligence communities as to -- it would have to involve people in other countries. I don't want to speculate, because I just don't know. But it would have been targets of our countries that are legitimate to be looked upon by the U.S. intelligence community.

BLITZER: According to the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, President Trump still doesn't accept the conclusion of the FBI director, the House and Senate Intelligence Committee chairs, of the leaders of the House and Senate, the director of the National Security Agency that President Obama did not wiretap Trump Tower during the campaign.

How concerned are you that Devin Nunes is apparently providing the president with what his critics say could be cover without offering specific details on the sourcing, the content of these reports?

CARDIN: Wolf, this is very troubling. That's why I said the chairman can no longer function in that position. I agree with Senator Schumer.

Look, what happened here is impossible for the president, Obama, to have wiretapped the president-elect, Trump's life. It couldn't have happened. We know that. It's been verified by every source. And yet, the president still holds out this as a possibility when it does not exist. Could not exist.

So for the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to now be involved in giving information to the White House that they're using to try to cover for that statement just shows that the intent of the chairman of the Intelligence Committee could be to help the president of the United States rather than get to the bottom of what Russia was doing in the United States.

BLITZER: And we heard the president say last week, after receiving that information from the chairman, Devin Nunes, he feels somewhat indicated...

CARDIN: Right.

BLITZER: ... by it. Senator, there's more -- there are more developments unfolding right now. I want you to stay with us. We'll continue this conversation right after a quick break.


[17:22:17] BLITZER: We're back with Senator Ben Cardin. He's the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, the White House has now revealed that Jared Kushner, a top adviser to the president, the president's son-in-law, had a previously undisclosed meeting with the head of a major Russian bank. The banker in charge there has deep ties to, according to U.S. officials, to the FSB, the Russian intelligence service. The bank has also been sanctioned by the U.S. in connection with the Russian annexation of Crimea. And the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, whose corruption launched huge protests over the weekend in Russia, sits on the board.

You're the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. Did you know about this meeting?

CARDIN: Wolf, no, I did not know about this meeting, and it seems like every day we're finding out about more contacts that were made between Russia and the Trump team.

Certainly, Mr. Kushner, that's a major contact with a person who has the ear of the president. That is certainly information that is very interesting, and it seems there's a pattern here.

What we want to know is what was the purpose of that meeting. And I know he's planning to come before the committee, but I still point out there are just too many contacts here, too many episodes, that the American people deserve an independent review, an independent investigation that doesn't have any of the restrictions of a jurisdiction of any of our committees, that can have full-time people that are not partisan that are expert on the subject that can take a look at.

Because it might have been an innocent meeting from Mr. Kushner's point of view. It may have been an intentional opportunity that Russia saw to carry out their strategies here in the United States BLITZER: But you know what the White House says, Senator, that Jared

Kushner's -- one of his jobs during the transition was to reach out to various international officials, reach out to international governments, be a sort of liaison, if you will. And he has now voluntarily decided to go before the Senate Intelligence Committee and testify. Isn't that encouraging to you?

CARDIN: Well, it's encouraging, but that may have very well been Mr. Trump's objective for such a meeting. It may not have been Russia's objective in such a meeting.

We've got to the protect the security of America. We need to know what techniques Russia is using, and that's why you need to take a look at all these issues. It may have been very innocent from Mr. Kushner's point of view. It may not have been. We don't know that. But we know that Russia will use every opportunity they can to carry out their mission, and their mission -- their mission is to bring down our democratic system of government. They tried to compromise our free elections. They're interested in their system being expanded in Europe; and also they have little respect for the way we have our democracy here in the United States.

BLITZER: Should the Foreign Relations Committee -- and you're the ranking Democrat -- hold hearings and investigate all of this?

[17:25:05] CARDIN: Oh, yes. I have called on our committee to have more hearings. I know that we will be having additional hearings in our committee. Chairman Corker has already indicated that. The two of us work very closely together. We do not work in a partisan way. We work together, and we've already had a hearing on Russia, and we intend to have additional hearings.

BLITZER: Senator Cardin, thanks for joining us.

CARDIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, have Kim Jong-in's computer hackers figured out how to break into bank accounts? We have alarming new evidence that a North Korean cyber-attack is behind the theft of tens of billions of dollars.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Devin Nunes, says he met with a source inside the White House complex just one day before he briefed President Trump on possible incidental surveillance of Trump and his top aides during the transition.

[17:30:3] Chairman Nunes, by the way, will be joining me live for an interview. That's coming up later here in the THE SITUATION ROOM.

But, first, let's turn to our experts for some analysis. What do you make of the reaction, Nia, from the White House, from the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer? He didn't rule out the possibility that Nunes got this information from someone inside the White House. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's

right, and he's been faced with this question over the last couple of days. Nunes also faced with this question on a number of occasions.

Nunes has said he's not going to give up any names or name on this. He's basically said it's been one source. And today we heard Spicer say essentially anything is possible, so the questions continue.

The idea that Nunes was on the White House complex getting briefed on this information and then had to make a big show of going back to the White House the next day to brief President Trump on this information, it's very odd, right, and it raises more questions.

Other questions that it raises: who let him in? Are there records of who let him in? And Spicer today didn't seem very curious about the answers to those questions, even though, apparently, there are questions that he can get pretty easily.


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You say it raises all these questions. That's what really struck me about Sean Spicer today is it was clear that the White House has no interest in the answers...


CHALIAN: ... to all the questions that are raised. They -- they clearly have zero interest in trying to expose this in some way or look into it or even to try to clear their own involvement in any way. That doesn't seem to be an imperative either.

They'd rather just let it hang out there with these questions unanswered rather than dealing with what...

BLITZER: They're not even suggesting that the perception looks bad. They're refusing to even suggest that.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think, you know, suggest or not. They know it looks bad quite frankly. We're just a week into this. It's a week ago tomorrow evening that he met over there at the White House grounds. This is all moving pretty quickly here, and we are going to find out. That's how these things work in Washington. We're almost certain to find out.

And they can say who cleared him in. How it works at the White House, if you have a scheduled appointment, if you're the intel chair or anyone else, you have to be in the system and cleared in by someone and escorted by someone. So they know who allowed him in.

Now the -- it seems to me that he has damaged the credibility of himself, first and foremost, and he's not really a long Washington insider. He's been in Congress since 2003 or so. But he, you know, certainly has not done himself any favors here. So whoever is helping him behind the scenes, you know, I don't think is doing a very good job of it. BLITZER: You heard the Democratic leader, the minority leader in the

Senate, Chuck Schumer, suggest very strongly to the speaker that Nunes should no longer be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The speaker is expressing strong support for Chairman Nunes. Where's this going?

HENDERSON: Well, we'll see. I mean, John McCain, obviously, saying maybe there needs to be some sort of independent investigation into this. Darrell -- Darrell Issa has said the same thing, and, of course, you're going to hear them say that.

But listen, I mean, Paul Ryan has said that he has confidence in Nunes. So you imagine, as long as Paul Ryan has that confidence, that he'll stay in that position. But, I mean, he couldn't do a better job. If his effort is trying to sort of undermine the credibility of this House Intelligence Committee, then he's doing a pretty good job at that.

CHALIAN: And we should really separate out, Wolf, the two different components of what's going on here. This -- all the questions about him going to the White House complex, getting this information, and then going back to the White House and briefing the president, this was all to give the president a talking point when Jeff was in the cabinet room that day and asked him about feeling somewhat vindicated about those tweets that were totally discredited and remain so today.

So there's all of this angst and questioning of the White House. All everyone is twisting themselves in a pretzel over there, because they want to be able to provide the president the opportunity to the stick to the fact that he feels somewhat vindicated. That is separate and apart from what I think the White House is far more concerned about, and rightly so, the entire investigation into Russia contacts, and that as someone who is heading the investigation is what he is completely undermining. And, remember, that's about Russia interfering with the U.S. election in 2016. It doesn't get much more serious than that.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

ZELENY: And the FBI is still looking into that. I mean, as we're watching all these shiny objects about who let him in, who briefed him, the FBI is still going headlong into this, as is the Senate, as well.

But I think it's interesting to remember the president himself, in an interview on FOX, he said some new information will be coming out by the committees. So is this part of a big conspiracy, a big sort of plan to roll this out, or is this happening sort of separately? We don't know the answer to that. But I still have that stuck in my mind. I believe that it was an interview done in Michigan when the president was out going to Nashville later that evening. It will be two weeks ago this week, saying some more information will be coming out. Is this what he's talking about? Is he not? We don't know, but certainly something to keep in mind.

BLITZER: He said it would be coming out. I remember that interview, as well.

And if, in fact, someone inside the White House, in the Eisenhower old Executive Office Building right next door to the West Wing, if that official worked in the White House, clearly that person did work in the White House, had this information, why did it have to be provided to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee? Why not release it to other White House officials? They could make it public if they want?

ZELENY: It's a great question. That's what the White House counsel's office is for. That's what staff is for on both sides. I think that the fact that it was -- that he went over there.

But then the drama of the next day, as David was saying earlier. There was no need for that. And Sean Spicer, remember, in the moment said "We're just learning about this." And perhaps he was. It's -- I mean, we don't know if the president knew about this or the people in the West Wing knew about it. But someone knew about it in the White House national security office, because that's where these skiffs are. So someone allowed him in.

CHALIAN: We do know in the "TIME" magazine interview that when Devin Nunes came down to the White House to brief him and reveal the information to the White House, the president was right on that and made sure to note it to his "TIME" magazine interviewer, to make sure that that was part of what the story was.

HENDERSON: And Nunes certainly wanted to make a public display of it, which is really odd. He could have briefed the president privately. He didn't have to go before the cameras to announce that he was going over there or when he came out of White House, he certainly didn't have to have a press conference there either. But that's something that he wanted to do.

BLITZER: We've got lots of questions for the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes. He's going to be joining me live here in the THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up a little bit later.

Let's take a quick break. Much more when we come back.


[17:41:13] BLITZER: President Trump is scrambling to refocus, to move forward with the rest of his agenda after that stinging defeat of his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Republicans want to turn their efforts to tax reform or tax cuts, but divisions within the party could make that also very, very difficult. How about -- how big of a problem, Nia, is this, given the failure to repeal and replace Obamacare? Now it's a huge issue, tax reform, major tax cuts. That's not easy.

HENDERSON: It's not easy, and it's made more difficult by the fact that they're not going to get any of this revenue from -- from repealing and replacing Obamacare, something like $1 trillion in revenue to make up some of the offsets that are going to happen with the tax cuts, if the tax cuts happen.

Also this idea of the -- the House is much more open to the border adjustment tax. This is going to be very boring for most viewers, I'm sure, but the idea of taxing imports and not taxing exports. That's something that people like Paul Ryan are open to, people like Steve Bannon are open to. But people on the Senate side -- John McCain, Heidi Heitkamp -- these folks aren't necessarily open to it.

So how they're going to put -- piece this thing together to pass the House and then pass the Senate without a coalition, and they're talking about all sorts of different types of coalitions now. Can they bring Democrats along? It's unclear. It's going to be hard. It's a reason that this hasn't happened.

BLITZER: It's going to make shopping at Wal-Mart a lot more expensive...

HENDERSON: Exactly. Exactly.

BLITZER: ... for the average American.

CHALIAN: The retailers are going to...

HENDERSON: The retailers are going to...

CHALIAN: ... freak out about that. There's no doubt.

Donald Trump has also been all over the map on the border adjustment tax. I mean, he was opposed to it. Then he was warming up to the idea. And it's not everyone in the House, which to me -- in the House Republican conference, which to me then begs the question, again, if the party is going to be divided on this in some way, how do you cobble together the coalition? It may not be exactly along the same lines that we saw on health care.

But, again, if the Republican Party is divided and Democrats are remaining convinced that opposing Trump is the way to go, Donald Trump is going to have a very hard time, even in something that is a little bit more politically palatable, like cutting people's taxes. Very hard time piecing together a winning coalition.

BLITZER: Have you heard from within the White House -- Jeff, you're well-plugged-in. Has the president moved beyond the blame game for that huge loss on Friday?

ZELENY: I'm not sure he'll ever move entirely beyond the blame game. But he did speak to Speaker Ryan again today. He was over at the White House. This is the third time they've had a conversation. They talked for an hour on Saturday, for about half that on Sunday, I'm told.

And he was over there for a meeting today. So they are still talking about the way forward, yes.

I think the blame is something that is always going to be in his mind because this is such a huge defeat, but they are apparently trying to learn lessons from it and suggesting that there will be a course correction. I'll sort of believe that when I see it, because I'm not sure it's in the DNA of this president to necessarily do it or his advisers. So we'll see.

But it is so long ago, since early January when we said, "Oh, you know, the president and Senator Schumer are going to do all these deals and things." I mean, the Democratic liberal base will not allow the Democratic Senate or House members, for that matter, to do this here. So it's -- it's an interesting sort of thing going forward, but on tax reform it also got so much more expensive now...


ZELENY: ... because health care is out of it.

So it's a -- I think this week is a back-to-the-drawing-board week in every respect for this president, and they're figuring out what to do.

BLITZER: So the course correction, does it really suggest, potentially, there could be some cooperation with Democrats?

HENDERSON: I mean, we all covered Obama and his overtures to Republicans, his notion that, at some point, the Republican fever, the anti-Obama fever would break. That never really happened. I think one of the big liabilities for Trump is that his approval rating is at something like 36 percent.

ZELENY: Right.

HENDERSON: So what's in it for Democrats?

ZELENY: What's in it for Democrats? Why should they?

HENDERSON: With such a weak president to cooperate with them. And as you said, their base certainly is bound together by this anti-Trump fervor, so the idea that they're going to work with him, I don't think he has -- he has necessarily a lot of leverage with them.

CHALIAN: And to add to that, they just saw that not working with him led to a political success for them...


CHALIAN: ... in the sense that it wounded Trump politically. And so not -- they just got reinforcement for the strategy, in addition to where the base is at, in addition to the fact that Trump is at a low number and therefore, not even sort of red-state Dems feel compelled to come on. They just had a political success.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. But the politics aside, the substance of this, something does need to be done with health care. Without question, it's a bipartisan issue across the country. It affects individual people. So I don't think health care is dead, but I don't think it's next. It is still sort of looming out. But if this President could somehow thread the needle on that, he would be have a successful presidency. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. There is no doubt this was a stinging

defeat --


ZELENY: Right.

BLITZER: -- for the President, for the Speaker, for the Republican leadership.

We're standing by to hear, by the way, from the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. I'll be interviewing him live. That's coming up.

Also, investigators are probing the brazen cyber theft of more than $80 million from an American bank, and authorities strongly suspect North Korea was behind it. Does Kim Jong-un have a new tool for funding his very ambitious missile program?


[17:50:31] BLITZER: New tonight, U.S. officials say a recent North Korean weapons test could mean the regime is making steady progress toward its goal of building a weapon capable of striking the United States.

Also new tonight, investigators strongly suspect North Korean involvement in the cyber theft of more than $80 million from an American bank, money which could be funneled into Kim Jong-un's missile program. Brian Todd is looking into all of these important developments for us.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Disturbing news tonight on both of those fronts. U.S. officials telling CNN's Barbara Starr, Kim Jong-un's regime conducted another missile engine test on Friday. This is the third engine test they've done in recent weeks. The U.S. is now trying to determine whether the engine that was just tested would be capable of carrying an intercontinental ballistic missile that might someday be table to hit the United States.

Now, this new provocation using a conventional weapon comes as we're getting new details tonight about allegations of another type of weapon being used by Kim Jong-un, which led to a brazen cyber heist of nearly $100 million.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, it appears Kim Jong-un, a man obsessed with building up his military arsenal, may have now weaponized greed, allegedly using computer technology to secretly fleece other country's bank accounts to the tune of tens of millions of the dollars.

DR. DAVID ASHER, ADJUNCT SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: It's the largest case of financial bank robbery on the internet that I'm aware of in history, and it's one of the most serious examples of the type of capability that North Korea has at its disposal.

TODD (voice-over): Last year, hackers possibly working for North Korea placed bogus wire transfers totaling about $1 billion from the Central Bank of Bangladesh, money the Bangladeshi government kept in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

ANTHONY RUGGIERO, SENIOR FELLOW, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: It sounds like they used their access to SWIFT, which is a secure financial messaging service, to provide some kind of payment messages that then allowed the money to be transferred out of these accounts.

TODD (voice-over): $81 million of those transfers went through to phony accounts in the Philippines.

RUGGIERO: It looks like some of that money was then transferred to casinos. And then at some point, that money either needs to go back to North Korea or it needs to be help in North Korea's name and accounts, likely in Chinese banks.

TODD (voice-over): Federal prosecutors wouldn't comment when contacted by CNN. But tonight, "The Wall Street Journal" reports prosecutors are investigating North Korea's possible role in the heist.

Officials at the cybersecurity firm Symantec, which researched this case, tell CNN, the malware code used in this bank hack is similar to the code used in the Sony Pictures hack back in 2014, which the FBI blamed on North Korea. And a top NSA official says the agency is aware of the reported Sony similarities.

RICHARD LEDGETT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: If that attribution is true, if that linkage from Sony actors to the Bangladeshi bank actors is accurate, that means a nation state is robbing banks.

TODD (voice-over): Kim has an army of hackers, said to number as many as 6,000, working for North Korea's notorious Reconnaissance General Bureau, including an elite unit called Bureau 121. Sources say this type of cyber heist would be an understandable next step for Kim Jong- un's regime. North Korean hackers have been blamed for attacks on South Korea broadcasters, banks, and even nuclear plants.

ASHER: North Korea has been engaged in criminal activities for profits for decades. It used to be called the Soprano State when I was in the Bush administration because they were so in bed with Asian organized crime.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, experts tell CNN, Kim Jong-un, who's been isolated from the world by crushing financial sanctions, needs the money, not just for weapons, but also to buy loyalty to the regime.

RUGGIERO: He needs this for his strategic programs, and he needs it for the elites. He needs the elites to support him. He needs to be able to create the ski resort that they, you know, trumpeted. They need to import Mercedes-Benz and all these different luxury items to keep the elites happy.


TODD: And experts say it's not likely that Kim's regime is going to stop this kind of activity anytime soon. One analyst says Kim is just getting started. In fact, researchers at Symantec tell us tonight the hackers who used the same malware code that was used in the Bangladesh bank and the Sony hacks have not stopped operating since those attacks, indicating Kim's hackers are still being very aggressive.

We reached out to North Korea's mission at the U.N. They didn't comment on any of this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, could these hackers target Americans' bank accounts?

[17:55:02] TODD: They could, Wolf. Symantec tells us the same group of hackers has a hit list of other banks to be targeted, including some in the United States.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thank you.

Just ahead, we'll have more on the breaking news. The House Intelligence Committee's Chairman, he has a secret visit to the White House, just one day before dropping a bombshell claim about possible surveillance of the Trump team during the transition.

Coming up, I'll ask Chairman Nunes about the controversy and what he makes of calls for him to step away from this entire Russia investigation.


[18:00:00] BLITZER: Happening now. Breaking news. Nunes under fire. The House Intelligence Committee Chairman reveals a secret meeting over at the White House complex the day before his bombshell statement about possible surveillance of the Trump team.