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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
White House Changing Stance on Human Rights?; Congress Continues Trump-Russia Probe. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired April 3, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Would the Russians on their own have that level of sophisticated knowledge about the American political system if they didn't at least get some advice from someone in America?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That question of collusion is, of course, what the FBI is currently investigating.
But beyond active collusion, one expert testified, President Trump is wittingly or unwittingly one of the strongest and loudest purveyors of this misinformation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINT WATTS, FOREIGN POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTE: He claimed that the election could be rigged. That was the number one theme pushed by R.T., Sputnik News, white outlets all the way up until the election.
He has made claims of voter fraud, that President Obama is not a citizen, that Congressman Cruz is not a citizen.
Part of the reason active measure works -- and it does today in terms of Trump Tower being wiretapped -- is because they parrot the same lines.
I can tell you right now today gray outlets that are Soviet-pushing account tweet at President Trump during high volumes when they know he's online and they push conspiracy theories.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Not only is President Trump not a reliable arbiter of what is fake news and what is real, according to that expert, the president is a target of the Russians to get him to spread fake news.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees investigating Russia's meddling into U.S. politics are meeting today. The Senate panel is starting private interviews with people who might shed light on this issue, while the House Intel Committee will come together in the next hour to discuss how to move forward. Its top Republican and Democrat have of course made several trips to
White House grounds to see documents that could or could not relate to Russia.
Let's bring in CNN's Jim Sciutto.
Jim, is there any hope of a successful bipartisan investigation here?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: In the House, there's always been more of a challenge, because you have a 13-9 Republican majority there. It makes it a bit more difficult. In the Senate, it's just a one-vote majority.
But now with this perceived closeness between the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, and the White House, apparently sharing information back and forth exclusive to the Republicans on that committee, it has raised real questions, questions coming not just from Democrats now, but also from Republican lawmakers as well.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, members of the House Intelligence Committee meet to try to find a way forward in the committee's Russia investigation.
Even GOP Senator John McCain says any hope of a bipartisan effort under the committee's Republican chairman, Devin Nunes, is now lost.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If we are really going to get into the bottom of these things, it's got to be done in a bipartisan fashion. And, as far as I could tell, Congressman Nunes killed that.
SCIUTTO: On Friday, the top Democrat on the committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, examined classified intelligence reports of intercepted communications referencing Trump campaign officials, this several days after his GOP counterpart, Nunes, first viewed them and claimed they showed evidence of possible surveillance of Trump advisers.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: How does the White House know that these are the same materials that were shown to the chairman, if the White House wasn't aware what the chairman was being shown?
These materials were produced in the ordinary course of business.
Well, the question for the White House and for Mr. Spicer is the ordinary course of whose business? Because, if these were produced either for or by the White House, then why all of the subterfuge?
SCIUTTO: That is raising questions among Senate Republicans as well.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the whole question is bizarre, that if he did in fact receive intel from White House staffers to then go brief the president, it's a bit odd. Why can't they just show the president what they have got? So, that whole episode was kind of strange. SCIUTTO: Meanwhile, new revelations about dismissed National Security
Adviser Michael Flynn. White House disclosures show that Flynn failed to support thousands of dollars in speaking fees from Russian companies before joining the administration.
Flynn has requested immunity to testify in the House investigation, but the Intelligence Committee is so far not interested. President Trump backed Flynn's request in a tweet.
Congressman Adam Schiff told CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" that move has a clear political purpose.
SCHIFF: The president is pretty transparent in his tweets. I think he wanted to get across a message that he's not afraid of what General Flynn has to say and basically daring the Congress to give him immunity.
And then, if we make a judgment that, no, we shouldn't be giving him immunity, the president can say we don't want his story to come out. So, I think it was a strategic move by the president, and a pretty transparent one.
SCIUTTO: A key question regarding Flynn is what he would testify to the committee and would that testimony include information that relates to senior Trump administration officials or perhaps the president himself?
TAPPER: Let's turn to senior Obama administration officials, Jim, because I want to ask you about these reports that the Obama administration might have been behind the -- quote -- "unmasking" of Trump officials caught up in surveillance of others.
Unmasking is revealing the names within the intelligence community, not leaking to the outside world, but within the intelligence community.
President Trump tweeted this morning -- quote -- "Such amazing reporting on unmasking and the crooked scheme against us by 'FOX and Friends.' Spied on before nomination. The real story."
FOX News and Bloomberg have named alleged Obama administration officials, specifically the former national security adviser for President Obama, Dr. Susan Rice, they say unmasked individuals quite a bit.
And, obviously, the Trump White House is saying this is the real story. Tell us the significance of this.
SCIUTTO: First of all, there is a difference between spying on and unmasking certainly.
What's clear, the implication from these stories is that President Obama, Susan Rice specifically targeted Trump administration advisers during the campaign to surveil them, in effect.
What in fact happened is that these were Russian officials that were gathered up in routine intelligence collection. And they were either talking about at times Trump administration officials. And even when you are talking someone in these...
TAPPER: Trump campaign officials.
SCIUTTO: Trump campaign or transition officials.
Even if you are talking about them, that name is masked in intelligence reports, or possibly Trump campaign officials might have been on the other end of the line. And those would be unmasked as well.
To be clear, I have spoken to several formal intelligence officials who worked -- and I should note this -- for both Democratic and Republican administrations. And they say, based on what they know, this unmasking, if it happened, would not be out of bounds.
A few points here. One, unmasking is not leaking. The information is revealed only to the senior national security official. And a limited number of them are able to do this. Limited only to that person requesting it.
Two, I am told that the intelligence community, specifically the NSA, which oversees this, must grant each request made by administration officials. And one former senior intelligence official told me that the NSA is "notoriously conservative" in granting those unmasking requests.
Three, unmasking is legal. There is a process since 9/11. There is a routine for unmasking the identities of Americans incidentally collected during surveillance. And this would happen, just as a matter of example, for instance, if you are a senior U.S. intelligence official, you get an intelligent report.
In here, it has some U.S. persons. And to get a sense of how significant that overall report is, you might say, well, who are these persons that they are talking about or talking to?
TAPPER: You don't necessarily know who they are even.
SCIUTTO: Well, you wouldn't unless you did unmask them.
SCIUTTO: You would make it. Again, to unmask doesn't mean you tweet that information out, right? It means that you with that clearance are able to see it yourself.
We should point out there has been a longstanding concern by the civil liberties groups that too much unmasking goes on under Obama and under Bush, et cetera, et cetera.
SCIUTTO: No question. Are those protocols, which are perfectly legal, are they strict enough? That's a fair question.
TAPPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.
Is the White House now signaling a change in U.S. policy towards countries with human rights violations? More on that story.
Plus, people bought and sold as sex slaves right here in the United States, why Pope Francis says this problem is not being stopped.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
We are sticking with politics now.
And we have a lot to cover with our political panel.
Chris Cillizza, first of all, welcome to CNN. Thank you so much for being here.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Thank you, sir.
TAPPER: Let's start with the Senate rules about to be blown up, so that you only have to have 51 votes to vote on a Supreme Court nominee to have him confirmed.
What does this mean? Is this something that people at home should care about?
CILLIZZA: Yes, because the Senate was created as a body that was supposed to not be a direct channeling of the people's will, which was how the founders saw the House.
When you get rid of the filibuster -- we saw it on federal appointments, we saw it on the Cabinet and now we are seeing it -- we're likely to see it later this week on the Supreme Court. It becomes a majority rule body on certain things, on certain things, not everything, not on health care, not on a tax reform package, but on certain things.
That is not how the founders intended it. Now, you could say, things change. The filibuster has changed. There is a lot more filibustering and movements for cloture, trying to end debate, than there ever were 10 years ago, certainly 40 or 50 years ago.
But I think what you see here is, this is the classic good for the goose, good for the gander. This has been going on for a long time. But when Harry Reid changed the rules...
TAPPER: In 2013, yes.
CILLIZZA: This was the inevitable result of it.
The question is, does it ever get to the point where the filibuster is removed for anything?
TAPPER: It is not in the Constitution.
CILLIZZA: It is not.
Right now, we are dealing with the idea of, OK, this is nominees for courts. It's Cabinets. If you want a real world impact, just quickly, the reason that Donald Trump's Cabinet is the most conservative that we can recall is because of the changes Harry Reid made in 2013, because you needed a simple majority. Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate. They got it virtually on everybody.
TAPPER: And, Susan, going back in time to figure out where this all started to descend into the muck, is it fair to say that it was 16 years or so when Republicans really started to obstructs the appointment of justices?
Because we remember -- we are old enough to remember, believe it or not, Scalia was confirmed with 98 votes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg with 96. This used to be done in a very different way.
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": And Clarence Thomas was confirmed with 52 and no filibuster against his confirmation.
This has been a long process, a long, corrosive erosion of some of the norms that used to govern the business with the Senate. And it's one more thing that kind of tears apart things that used to be a given, that you would have a Supreme Court nominee, you would have an expectation, number one, that they would get more support than 51, and also there would be bipartisanship behind it. That's changed.
It's in contrast to what we see happening with the Senate Intelligence Committee now. The Senate Intelligence Committee is going back to I think old norms, where they are trying very hard to behave in a bipartisan way on an important issue. But we are not seeing that with the Supreme Court now.
TAPPER: Something that doesn't need Supreme Court -- something that doesn't need Senate confirmation is people who work at the White House, and, among them, Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, who's been dispatched to Iraq, where he met earlier today with the Iraqi prime minister, al-Abadi.
He is also in charge of brokering Mideast peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. No big deal. No big deal, that shouldn't take long at all. He's also expected to have a major role in meetings with the Chinese's President, also very simple, shouldn't be complicated. He's also reinventing the entire U.S. government -
MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Government, yes.
TAPPER: - and the office of American innovation. So -
TALEV: Don't forget Canada and Mexico and -
TAPPER: So, Jared Kushner is in charge of the world apparently.
TALEV: Yes, that's right.
TAPPER: But there are people saying what happened to the Secretary of State?
TALEV: So Jared Kushner is 36-year-old, he has no formal diplomatic training or government experience. And he's been handed like every major portfolio in the world, right?
TAPPER: Handed or is he grabbing them? I mean -
TALEV: Well, no, look, President - look, nobody grabs anything without President Trump being OK and signing off on it. And he is OK with this. And so, there are couple of questions, if you're Rex Tillerson, how do you feel about this? Is this a deliberate kind of dual-track diplomacy which gives Trump some negotiating room or is Rex Tillerson kind of getting shut it off to the side. And I'll say this by way of Precedent, whenever when Obama was President and he had Joe Biden go snatch up all role in cool portfolios that Hilary Clinton would have wanted to do it. And she was like doing women's issues and stuff in Africa. So there's a - it's not like it's never happened before but it's quite dramatic how many areas. It is not just diplomacy, it's like diplomacy plus kind of economics, slash bureaucratic.
TAPPER: It is tough to imagine thought in a universe, Chelsea Clinton having the portfolio, Marc Mezvinsky, her husband, having this portfolio, and it does - and I do feel like there would be a lot of people, lot of republicans yelling about it.
TALEV: Yes, it only works in the other - it only works in the same party that controls the congress.
CHRIS CILLIZZA; CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: And the thing that is amazing to me though is feel like a month ago we were - you could have subbed in - not those specific issues but like the Steve - is Steve Bannon running everything in the White House? I mean, I think this is the situation that Trump has created, I don't know if he's managing it or not, but he create it. When you put these four people, you know, of which Kushner and Bannon and Kellyanne Conway and Reince Priebus, that quartet, all of with different titles but diffuse responsibilities and not clear lines of who does what. It feels like whoever is ascended in Trump's mind, whatever comes up is like, yes, ok, put that in this. I mean, that's what you get. There's just aren't lanes that these people really in truth of the money.
HAYES: And that seems to be how Trump runs things.
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Oh yes. And I think he was comfortable about running that way when was a business leader, when he was dealing with real estate. There is no history of this working when it comes to the modern American government. When it comes to presidents who have succeed, they have tended to have clear line of authority. Not that they don't entertain different powers, and there's Reagan did and Clinton did. But to have the situation you have in the White House, now compounded by the failure to get his appointees in an agency. You know, a lot of these cabinets are lone figures at huge agencies.
TAPPER: Right. The Secretary of State still doesn't have a deputy.
TAPPER The Secretary of Defense still does not have deputy.
PAGE: That leaves a void that creates a possibility of Jared Kushner taking over all of the big parts of the government.
TAPPER: And why don't they have deputies? Why don't these cabinet officials have the deputies they want.
TALEV: This is a complicated question because to some extent it depends on which agency we're talking about. And to some extent, it's still a function of effect that they were surprised by their win and have a slower startup time. But there's also another element, it has to do -
TAPPER: I think it is April.
TALEV: That's true. There's another - there are two elements. One has to do with them wanting to shrink the size of government and other has to do with how many people have roads back to the Clintons which has been for many potential deputies and undersecretaries -
TAPPER: The black mark on their page. Fascinating. Chris Cillizza, Margaret Talev, Susan Page, thanks one and all. Appreciate you all being here.
It is not just the crime happening on the other side of the world or across the border. Right here in the United States, thousands of people, many of them children are bought and sold into sex slavery. What one state is now doing to stop human trafficking, that story's next.
[16:53:05] TAPPER: In our "WORLD LEAD" now, in Columbia, the death toll is now 254 after devastating mudslides has buried a small town. 43 children reportedly are among those killed. Torrential rain started Friday night in the city of Mocoa, (INAUDIBLE) three rivers to overflow, water and debris then rushed down the mountains wiping out homes and neighborhoods in the middle of the night while many were sleeping. Some families were trapped until rescuers could maneuver through mud cake streets. In one night, Mocoa got a third of what usually falls in a month in rainfall according to the Columbian President. He's now pledging to rebuild destroyed homes in a safer place. Time for our "BURIED LEAD" now to recall stories we don't think are getting enough coverage. Today Pope Francis pleaded for action in the fight against human trafficking. He says the problem is getting worse because some important players will not commit to ending it. Human trafficking is broadly defined as abducting people and forcing them into modern day slavery, often prostitution. It is a big problem all over the world including right here in the United States.
TAPPER: Human trafficking is believed to be the third largest criminal enterprise on earth with the kinds of customers you would never suspect. Ordering sex online is easily as they might order a meal. New legislation and state initiatives are starting to take shape however with an aim to end modern day slavery.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're going to do a great deal to help prevent some of the horrific, really horrific crimes.
TAPPER: Human trafficking in this country is almost, always sex slaves. And it's been reported in every state making headlines in California, Tennessee, and Missouri just this weekend.
According to the center for missing and exploited children, some 3,000 kids reported as runaway for likely traffic last year. 3,000. And that's just a fraction.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost my virginity and I was raped.
[16:55:01] TAPPER: The new documentary, I Am Jane Doe highlights young women such as J.S.
J.S.: Hi guys! I like to be a doctor.
TAPPER: She was first victimized at age 15.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: we will never be the family we were.
TAPPER: Many of the websites, motels and store fronts that act as covers for these crimes go unchecked until it's too late.
Today, Missouri attack the issue head on. Republican congresswoman Anne Wagner introduced bipartisan legislation to make it easier for victims to sue websites that post illegal ads related to human trafficking. And Missouri's Attorney General Josh Hawley made good on a campaign promise.
JOSH HAWLEY, MISSOURI ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm going to do everything in my power to it
TAPPER: Missouri will now have first in the nation regulations using consumer protection laws to combat human trafficking. One of many new initiatives focused on ending the problem for good.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: And joining me now is Missouri's Attorney General Josh Hawley. Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
HAWLEY: Thanks for having me.
TAPPER: So, what prompted your office to take this action today. Why did this become an issue that you cared about on the campaign?
HAWLEY: Well, it's an epidemic all over our country, Jake. And it's an epidemic that touches us here in Missouri. Missouri families, Missouri young women, and Missouri children that potentially thousands are at risk. And I promise my office would do something about it. We would take decisive action and today we have begun to do just that.
TAPPER: So your new action uses consumer protection laws to go after traffickers. How does that differ from the more traditional methods?
HAWLEY: You know, this is the first of its kind. These regulations that I introduced today and I propagated today. And what it says is business that are used as fronts for trafficking rings, it makes the use of those front businesses illegal. And we hope that using consumer protection will add more tools to the toolbox for law enforcement. Traditional criminal enterprise - traditional criminal tools are great, Jake, but often they are difficult for law enforcement to use. So what we are doing is targeting the deceptive and commercial aspect of trafficking and making those illegal in our states.
TAPPER: Like such as what? Such as advertising, such as hotels, give us an example of how this might work hypothetically.
HAWLEY: Sure, for example, so, a lot of times traffickers use businesses like nail salon or massage parlors or bars as front. And so they run will look like a legitimate business but in fact, there is a trafficking ring going on behind the scenes. Well, today's regulation that I issued make using the business as a front like that illegal. So we can go after the business that is actually fronting for the trafficking ring. I also made illegal on this state what's known as death bondage. That's when traffickers say, you know, I'm going to give you something of value, but then I'm going to make you work to pay off my gift. That is now illegal under Missouri's consumer protection statutes under the regulations I issued today.
TAPPER: And how will this impact how criminals are charged when they're charged with trafficking, will punishments be more severe? Or would you have to get the legislate to involve for that?
HAWLEY: Well actually, our consumer protection statutes allow us to leave both criminal and civil penalties. And so traffickers who violate the regulations I issued today will be on the hook and not only for all of the traditional criminal statutes that already exists but for fines under the consumer protection statutes and criminal penalties, felonies under the consumer statutes as well. So these regulations are powerful. And we hope that they will open a new front in the fight on trafficking. TAPPER: And as you know, a lot of these laws would be more effective when victims are able to speak up and bring attention to it that's hard to do in a lot of these cases. Is that a focus at all of what you're doing?
HAWLEY: Yes, indeed. And in fact, Jake, one of the empathizes for the regulations that I issue today is to make it easier for victims to come forward and cooperate. We hope that these new regulations will allowing law enforcement including my office who were devoting new resources to this issue, allow law enforcement to prove these cases without having to rely so heavily on victims. It is an incredibly arduous task for victims to come forward, many times, of course, they're endangered for their lives. We're sensitive to that, and we are trying to develop a new approach that is easier on victims but tough on traffickers.
TAPPER: And have you spoken to any of these victims, survivors of sex trafficking? What did they tell you?
HAWLEY: I sure have. I've had the privilege to speak to folks who have overcome trafficking, who have survived it and now are thriving. And what they say is, we don't realize how common the problem is. Just how widespread it is. It happens in every community in my state. It happens in every community around this country. Victims often times they're kept in the shadows, sometimes they're shunned publicly because of these association with prostitution. We need to end all of that. We need to welcome victims with open arms, help them back into society to make a future in their lives. And we need to go after trafficker in tough new ways and that's what today's regulation do.
TAPPER: All right. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, thank you and good luck. That is it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper, I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer who is right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM". Thanks for watching.