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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump Speaking at Iowa Rally; Dems Demand Info on Flynn, Kushner Security Clearances; Ex-DHS Chief: Putin Orchestrated U.S. Cyberattacks. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired June 21, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:23] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, with just six months to go until the Iowa caucus, or just two years ago, the president is in Iowa for a campaign rally.
Good evening. I'm John Berman, in for Anderson.
The event is happening right now in Cedar Rapids. The president about to speak. When he does, we'll bring it to you live. He's on the road trying to extend the afterglow of a pair of Republican victories in special congressional elections.
He's not in Washington, though, where a lot is happening -- much of it, perhaps, less satisfying to the presidential soul. New questions from Democrats on the House Oversight Committee about his fired national security adviser Michael Flynn. Specifically why he continued to get classified CIA briefings for nearly three weeks after the intelligence community and acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House he might be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
Democrats also asking similar questions now about Jared Kushner.
Also, President Obama's homeland security chief testified on Capitol Hill. The Republican Senate leadership continued writing a health care bill in near total secrecy, and Democrats agonized over two big losses last night at the polls. So, as we said, a lot happening.
The president's motorcade has just arrived in Cedar Rapids.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny is there for us.
Jeff, any sense of what we expect the president to talk about tonight?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, I think there's no question, President Trump is going to talk about Georgia. Yes, he's here in Iowa. Yes, he won this state back in November by some ten percentage points. But the word on his mind, the thoughts on his mind tonight are, indeed, about the victory last night in Georgia.
We got a preview just a few moments ago when the president was across town in Cedar Rapids visiting a community college. He was supposed to be talking about jobs and agriculture, but he talked about the Georgia congressional race. He bashed the media for, you know, its commentary on the race and he said that, look, he is now undefeated in these special congressional elections.
So, I have no doubt in my mind that he will start this speech and talk ostensibly about his victory, Republicans' victory last night in Georgia.
BERMAN: Bigger question, does it come in the first 30 seconds or first 45 seconds of the address tonight?
Jeff, we're getting word in about a campaign fund-raiser scheduled for next week at a special place. What have we learned?
ZELENY: Right, on June 28th, next week, President Trump will be holding his first 2020 re-election fund-raiser, John, at the Trump International Hotel. This is extraordinarily early. But the rally we're at right now, where we can see the president will be taking the stage here. This is also a re-election campaign rally.
The president's re-election team is getting in gear. One of the reasons they're having a fund-raiser so early, John, I am told, they want to get some major Republican donors onboard. They want to ward off any potential Republican primary. They want to send a signal that the president is running again. They want to lock up donors early.
So, next week, the president not surprisingly at the Trump International Hotel holding a first fund-raiser.
As he takes the stage here, he's, you know, just drinking up this applause here, John.
ZELENY: This is a state that he turned from blue to red last fall. So, there will be no talking any bad news here tonight. All good news here in Donald Trump's mind. That's why he's here.
BERMAN: Yes, big campaign event in Iowa. Fundraiser next week. I don't know, Jeff, I'm new to this politics thing, but I say he's running again in just a few years.
All right. The president is going to the microphone. I think. Soon.
All right. We're going to talk up to the minute he speaks here, Jeff. We also did learn that the White House says we will get the tapes if they exist. Or we will learn whether tapes exist this week of conversations with James Comey. Correct?
ZELENY: That's correct. We still do not know if there are those tapes. They said they may be coming soon. Of course, the president probably will not talk about it here.
ZELENY: But we'll have to listen, John, when he begins to take the stage here. But this is something that his staff actually believes the tapes don't exist. Most administration officials I've talked to say the tapes don't exist. But we have not yet heard from the president.
So, we'll see if he addresses that tonight. But he has three more days to do it if he wants to meet that deadline of this week, John.
BERMAN: Let's listen in.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, everybody. It is great to be back in the incredible, beautiful, great state of Iowa.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
[20:05:08] Home of the greatest wrestlers in the world, including our friend, Dan Gable. Some of the great, great wrestlers of the world, right? We love those wrestlers.
It's always terrific to be able to leave that Washington swamp and spend time with the truly hardworking people, we call them American patriots. Amazing people.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I want to also extend our congratulations this evening to Karen Handel of Georgia.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
And we can't forget Ralph Norman in South Carolina. He called me and I called him.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
He said last night I felt like the forgotten man, but he won and he won really beautifully even though most people, a lot of people didn't show up because they thought he was going to win by so much. It's always dangerous to have those big leads, but he won very easily and he is a terrific guy.
And I'll tell you what, Karen is going to be really incredible. She's going to be joining some wonderful people and doing some wonderful work including major, major tax cuts and health care and lots of things. It's going to be reducing crime and we're securing that Second Amendment. I told you about that. And that looks like it's in good shape with Judge Gorsuch. That looks like it's in good shape.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I'd also like to take this moment to send our thoughts and prayers to our courageous friend, somebody that I've gotten to know very well. Steve Scalise, and everyone recovering from the assault.
Never fails. Never fails.
(BOOS) (CROWD CHANTING "USA")
Thank you. Thank you. And we love our police. We love our police.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
So, to Steve we say, and he's a great guy, was in my office the day before. Incredible. We're praying for you. We're pulling for you. You have our absolute support and our deepest admiration.
And our gratitude goes out tonight as well to the Capitol police officers who saved so many lives. You know, they ran from the outfield in. They were being hit by rifle fire. They only had handguns. And they were able to get him. It was an amazing show of talent and bravery.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
So, we want to thank all of the police officers who so bravely serve and protect us. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Hopefully, our nation emerges from this ordeal, it was an ordeal. Terrible. More unified and more determined than ever before and I can see it and we are, indeed, more unified in our own way than ever before. You just have to take a look at what's happening here, right?
If we set aside the cynics and the critics, we have a chance and it's a great chance, it lies before us to do extraordinary things for our country in the years ahead.
[20:10:03] History is written by the dreamers, not the doubters. So --
While we are here tonight to celebrate the amazing progress that we've already made, and we have made amazing progress --
We're also here to lay out the next steps in our incredible movement to make America great again.
BERMAN: All right. Time now for us to bring in our panel.
Kirsten Powers, Errol Louis, Jeffrey Lord, Paul Begala, Jason Miller, Jen Psaki -- all-star panel as we watch this event in Iowa of all places.
You know, Kirsten Powers, we were saying, it would take 30 seconds, 45 seconds, a minute, for him to mention Karen Handel, the victory in Georgia last night, maybe a minute, a minute and a half, but why not, right? The Republicans did win this race, the most expensive House race in history.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a Republican district. I think, yes, he's going to take the credit for it and crow about it. But I do have to say, I think that a lot of the response to it has been a little overblown.
This is, after all, a Republican district and usually Republicans win Republican districts. And if you look at the four special elections that we've had, Democrats actually have been outperforming their sort of base partisan level that they would normally get.
So -- and I think Cook Political Report, David Wasserman crunched the numbers. It's about eight points, they're outperforming by about eight points.
And so, in fact, Democrats are doing a little better than I think people are talking about. It doesn't mean it's not a time of reflection to think about what to do for the party moving forward. But I think, you know, Donald Trump can be reading a little too much into this.
BERMAN: I'm going to let you Trump supporters respond to that in just a moment.
I want to stay on the Trump speech for just a moment. And, Errol, we don't know where he's going with this. I'm sure he'll talk for sometime there, with that room of supporters.
But so far, he did talk about a message of unity. Yes, you know, he congratulated the Republicans for the victory last night. He talked about Steve Scalise, House majority whip who's in the hospital, prayed for Steve Scalise who is improving, and then talked about moving forward together in this country, uniting in some way.
So far, in his own way, a message of unity. However, he's really still going to places where he won.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
BERMN: He hasn't gone anywhere yet that he hasn't won to preach that message.
LOUIS: That's right. That's right. I mean, this is unity of the base, right? When he goes to give that speech in inner city Detroit, we'll know he's maybe going in a different direction. I don't expect to hear that speech any time soon.
This is a president who needs to shore up some of his sagging approval ratings, who needs to consolidate his base, who needs to push back against what he sees as fake news, which is a lot of the reporting that's being done with good reason about the Russia investigation. He wants to change the narrative.
He wants to show himself being cheered by thousands of people, and try and signal to his base that your trust in me, your vote for me was not wasted. I'm still a winner. I'm still on top. We're winning the local races. The Dems aren't going to get the Congress back -- basically trying to settle down a base that has a lot of reason, frankly, to be worried over the last month or so.
BERMAN: Though that base, Jeffrey Lord, tonight as we sit here 24 hours or not, even after, you know, Karen Handel won, and they won the race in South Carolina. The base is feeling better than they did probably two days ago.
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: John, there's a direct connection. Some of the stories we saw tonight. You got the media focusing on the Russian connection, and you've got folks out there in Georgia in this case saying, we don't care about this. This is not relevant to us. And furthermore, we don't like what's going on here.
And so, they turn out and they elected President Trump -- or Karen Handel as a way of saying, in part, you want to make this a referendum on President Trump? So, be it. So, it's a referendum, they showed up and he won, and I wouldn't be surprised if you see her in the Oval Office very soon.
BERMAN: You mean to visit?
LORD: To visit.
BERMAN: All right.
BERMAN: I think the president's in Iowa. He's running again. He's got a fund-raiser next week.
LORD: Although I know as a woman candidate, Kirsten, we'd love to see her in the Oval Office, right?
BERMAN: Paul Begala, you slam -- you responded to the hand slam.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: In point of fact, Trump was not litigated in that special election in Georgia. Perhaps he should have been. Although he had -- I talked to pollsters who were working that race. He had a 52 percent approval rating in the very Republican district as Kirsten points out.
So, they didn't debate Russia, they didn't debate Trump, they didn't really even debate the Republican health care bill, which is toxic. I mean, it's about popular as a yellow jacket in an outhouse.
But what they -- what I do -- what I do like about the speech, let me start with something good. The president, he not only won. His side won. He engaged.
This is a guy, he's got pretty low approval rating. But he tweeted. He did robocalls. I loved President Obama. He was very careful to husband his political capital, even though it was much larger at this stage in his presidency than Donald Trump's.
I give Trump a lot of credit. He didn't have very much capital, but it was pushed in front of the table and he won. He is due a victory lap.
BERMAN: Jen Psaki, I want to bring you in to this discussion right now and talk about what Democrats are feeling tonight, and maybe some of the infighting that's existing.
[20:15:04] Seth Moulton, you know, congressman from Massachusetts, he wrote last night as this was still raw, he said, Ossoff race better be a wake-up call for Democrats. Business as usual isn't working. Time to stop rehashing 2016 and talk about the future.
A lot of people now are talking about the future of the Democratic Party, including people running for Congress, even a couple members saying Nancy Pelosi shouldn't be part of that future.
JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRES. OBAMA: Well, I think a lot of what Seth Moulton had to say is right and Democrats should be listening to that. We should stop litigating 2016. We should learn the lessons and start applying them moving forward.
Look, I think Nancy Pelosi, there's no one better at getting a backroom deal done. Health care wouldn't exist without her. I do think there's a strong argument bubbling up among the Democrats you talk to on the Hill about the need for new leadership. Whether that's now or two years from now or four years from now is sort of the question they're going to have to work through.
The problem, though, John, is that nobody is emerging to run against her. And there hasn't been a member who has come up and said, I'll take her on. Tim Ryan was not really a serious candidate. So, that's a key part of really having new leadership, at least in the House in the party at this point.
BERMAN: Jason Miller, you're among the Republicans. I think facetiously you said we want Nancy Pelosi to stick around. You like running against her in those races.
I'm not even going to let you comment on that because I know that's what you would say.
BERMAN: The president, though, approval 37 percent. It is something Errol mentioned right now. You know, it is an interesting thing. He had a 52 percent rating in this district but is 32 percent around the country, and stuck there it seems by and large.
How can he get it up?
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's important to keep in mind fundamentally elections are about choices. So you have a Republican on the ballot and a Democrat on the ballot, and right now, the Democrats are putting up candidate who don't connect with the voters they're seeking to represent. There's a cultural divide as Jeffrey referenced, where Democrats seem
to be doing well in certain -- in the coast, more liberal areas but they're not connecting with middle America. We saw that I think in the Georgia race. We saw that in the South Carolina race.
I mean, heck, Michael Moore came out and said the Democratic Party has no message, no plan, no leaders. Those are very tough words.
Paul, I hope you get in there and help out Nancy Pelosi and get that political operation righted so no one can come and knock her off. I'm sorry, John, I had to.
BEGALA: Let me defend --
BERMAN: Quick defense.
BEGALA: If there was a Mt. Rushmore for speakers, Nancy Pelosi would be on it. She passed national health care. Even Franklin Roosevelt could not do that.
She is unpopular. Her negative is 50 percent. Quinnipiac poll. Excuse me, Paul Ryan's is 54 percent, OK? Democrats need to put their big boy pants on, and go after the doggone Republicans and instead of taking incoming.
General Patton said the purpose of war is not to die for your country. It's to make the other SOB die for his country. So, I want to put the Republicans on trial instead of just letting them attack Nancy Pelosi without any defense.
BERMAN: On Patton, we're going to take a break. We're going to take a break on Patton.
If you can come back with Eisenhower or Montgomery next break, we'll be fine there.
We have much more ahead tonight, including Democrats pressing the White House not just on Michael Flynn and security concerns surrounding him but now also on Jared Kushner. The question is, are the concerns they're raising getting any traction?
And later, what the White House is being told tonight about the details of the Obamacare replacement bill, the one that's kind of a secret.
[20:22:01] BERMAN: As we said, a lot happening on Capitol Hill. Much of it to do with the Russia investigation. Michael Flynn, to some extent now, Jared Kushner.
Today, leading Democrats sought to highlight what they see as concerns about his ongoing access to classified intelligence. Now, fair or not, they're trying to make him a bigger part of this story. CNN's Manu Raju joins us with more on that.
Manu, the Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee, what are they saying about former national security adviser Michael Flynn, first?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, they're saying that both Flynn and Kushner may haven't -- should not have been given security clearances, at least have been suspended as allegations over whether or not they were fit to get classified intelligence were investigated. They're pointing specifically to regulations that they say show that someone needs to be fit and in order to get this classified intelligence, particularly with these credible concerns are raised.
And as we know with Michael Flynn, according to the sworn testimony of Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general, she, of course, warned that Michael Flynn could be susceptible to Russian blackmail, John. And after that warning, on multiple occasions, the White House officials, including Don McGahn, the White House counsel, Michael Flynn continued to serve in that capacity for 18 days, even going to classified briefings, had the classified security clearance.
Democrats want to know exactly why that happened. They're asking for records from the White House about the decisions that went into that and they're saying it would have been a violation of very clear practices and regulations. And ensuring that some people who should not be getting classified information, why was he getting classified information?
BERMAN: And now, there are specific questions about the CIA Director Mike Pompeo, what did he know or not know about Mike Flynn at the time, correct?
RAJU: Yes, that's right. There's -- as we know from that 18-day period, Mike Pompeo, CIA director, did appear in some of those classified settings with Michael Flynn and according to "The New York Times", the president was not told specifically that Mike Pompeo -- from Mike Pompeo that he had any concerns about Mr. Flynn appearing with the president in the classified briefings, despite that warning from Sally Yates.
It's unclear whether or not Pompeo knew of the concerns raised by Sally Yates or if he did not share those concerns and didn't really bother him. Now, the CIA did not comment on that story to "The Times," that's one story people here on Capitol Hill still don't have the answer to, either, John.
BERMAN: No. And, Manu, in this letter also as we said, includes Jared Kushner, asks about his security clearance. This is something that some Democrats have talked about for some time, but they're putting it down on paper here.
What specifically can you tell us?
RAJU: Yes, that's right. They're saying he did not disclose his foreign contacts on his initial security clearance form as is required by law, to list really all of your contacts over the last seven years. He did not initially do that. There were at least four meetings with Russian officials that we know of during the campaign season and during the transition period between Jared Kushner and Sergey Kislyak, who's Russian ambassador, Sergey Gorkov, who's the head of the Russian-owned bank that was under U.S. sanctions.
[20:25:09] They're saying that while he did not disclose that information at that time, that should be investigated right now. He should at the very least have his security clearance suspended as this is being investigated.
But, tonight, John, no response tonight from the White House. They're declining to comment. And earlier, John, Kushner's attorney said that initial security clearance form was submitted prematurely. They're saying it would be amended in the future to list those contacts. They say there's nothing wrong with meeting with those officials because they said that he served in a capacity in which foreign dignitaries would reach out to him in a campaign.
BERMAN: Meanwhile, he's over in the Mideast trying to negotiate Mideast peace, which is interesting.
Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much for this report.
On Russia tonight, yet another reason to return something we made part of the program last night. Last night, we gave you this list of questions the White House refuses to answer or clarify. Are there tapes of the president's conversations with James Comey? Do humans contribute to global warming? Does the president believe Russia meddled in the election? Did President Obama wiretap President-elect Trump? Did voter fraud give Hillary Clinton the popular vote victory?
We promised to return to these questions when they were asked again or when they were answered or asked and not answered. Today, again, not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the president believe that Russia meddled in the presidential election?
MARC LOTTER, PRESS SECRETARY FOR VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I would tell you that the president addressed that in January, and while many people are trying to look backwards, and we've even had a number of Democratic senators and other major media outlets saying when you talk to the voters out there, this is not what they're focused on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Now, keeping them honest, the president answered yes in January after answering no in December. By the end of April on CBS "Face the Nation" he managed to answer yes, no, and maybe in a single interview.
Then by the 11th of May, on NBC, it was if, if the Russians hacked.
The new tactic is apparently simply not to answer at all. It came up in hearings today. So did testimony in the scope of Russian hacking.
More on that from CNN's Michelle Kosinski.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Special investigator Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill today meeting with senators on the Judiciary Committee who are tackling potential obstruction of justice by the president.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Everything is on the table.
KOSINSKI: And in both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees today, Russian cyber-meddling front and center.
JEH JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: In 2016, the Russian government at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself orchestrated cyber-attacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election. That is a fact, plain and simple.
BILL PRIESTAP, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE DIVISION: A well-planned, well- coordinated, multifaceted attack on our election process and democracy.
KOSINSKI: Homeland Security officials telling lawmakers the Russians were aggressive and relentless, trying to target not only entities like the Democratic National Committee, but election-related networks in 21 states.
In Illinois alone, the attackers were hitting five times per second 24 hours a day. But just yesterday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer says he doesn't even if the president even believes this meddling happened.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: The one individual in America that still seems to not accept this basic fact is the president of the United States.
KOSINSKI: U.S. intelligence agencies concluding, though, that the Russians were never able to change votes, only gather data and release it to sow distrust and uncertainty.
But there were plenty of questions, too, for former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on why the Obama administration didn't alert the American public sooner once they detected Russian activity last summer.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Why did we wait from July until October to make that statement?
JOHNSON: One of the candidates as you'll recall was predicting the election was going to be rigged in some way. And so, we were concerned that by making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the election process.
KOSINSKI: In the Senate hearing, one member asked if Donald Trump was unwittingly acting as a Russian agent by calling the election rigged. Another asked if Hillary Clinton was by, as he put it, blaming her loss on things like hacking and fake news.
BERMAN: Michelle Kosinski joins us now.
And, Michelle, as you mentioned before, we may finally at last perhaps get more information this week on whether these tapes exist or not.
KOSINSKI: Right. I mean, this has been one of the enduring mysteries, right, are there tapes or are there not tapes? And the White House hasn't wanted to answer that with a yes or no question. Even though it was the president, himself, remember, who first alluded to this, seeming to say that there could be recordings of conversations between himself and fired FBI Director James Comey. And it was Comey, remember, who said, Lordy, I hope there are tapes.
Well, since then, CNN has asked a number of government agencies if there's any evidence those recordings might exist. Several so far have said they got nothing. The House Intelligence Committee asked the White House for the tapes and said, if they exist, turn them over by this Friday.
Well, tonight, John, a White House spokesperson tells reporters, "I can tell you, there will be something this week." So now we just have to wait and see what exactly the "something" will be.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What is something is it yes or no? Which are easy words to say, I might add? Michelle Kosinski for us in Washington thanks so much.
More to talk about next, including what the why the White House let Michael Flynn sit in on classified briefings even after they will warn he was vulnerable to Russian blackmail. You will hear what a key member of Senate Intelligence Committee has to say about all that. Coming up.
BERMAN: Again, our breaking news from Capitol Hill. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are demanding answers from the White House in a strongly worded letter. They want to know why fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the President's Adviser and son-in- law Jared Kushner were given security clearances despite allegations they could be a blackmail risk by Russia. Flynn, a blackmail risk by Russia. The questions about Kushner have to do with meetings and forms he filled out.
In the Senate, there are similar questions earlier tonight. I spoke about all of this and other things Russia related with Senator Mark Warner, the Ranking Democrat, on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
BERMAN: Senator Warner, today it was reported that Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had been inside classified briefings by the Director of the CIA after CIA officials became aware that perhaps Michael Flynn had been compromised. Should the CIA be accountable for this?
SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Oh I'm very concerned. I've seen these press reports, but I think I owe it to CIA Director Pompeo and other officials of the CIA to ask them directly about the truth of those reports before I take a position.
BERMAN: Well, didn't you ask him directly when he testified in front of your committee and he would not say whether he knew about the red flags raised about Michael Flynn?
WARNER: We did ask those questions. We're going to have a chance to be talking with Director Pompeo in the next couple of days and I hope to get some more clear answers.
[20:35:02] BERMAN: If he did know, if the Director did know and we frankly at this point do not know if he knew that, but if he did know and then went on to brief the President with Michael Flynn in the room, would that cause you concern, would it shake your confidence in the CIA Director?
WARNER: Well, listen, I am -- it would cause me concern that there were seemed to be a number of individuals who brought General Flynn's challenges and to the attention of the administration. I was disappointed it took the administration so long to act. And what we seen even since that time is not only do we have the case of General Flynn in terms of not fully disclosing his contacts with the Russians, but also it appears some of his financial payments from some of the Turkish elements, as well as potentially other countries now come to light.
BERMAN: So, the Former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson testified today under no uncertain terms that the Russians hacked the election. It was overseen by President Vladamir Putin. You know that the President has had varying responses in this, saying barely, once, yeah, the Russians hacked because sometimes he says if the Russians hacked, sometimes he says yeah, but other people did too. Is this a problem for the seriousness of the investigation? Do you think the President changing varied tepid responses to this?
WARNER: Absolutely. We have a 100 percent agreement from the whole intelligence community. I don't know a single senator, Democrat or Republican, that doesn't acknowledge that the Russians hacked in and tried to interfere massively in our elections. Today before the Senate Intelligence Committee, we had Department of Homeland Security and FBI acknowledged that 21 states, that the Russians either probed or tried to attack even the electoral system.
They didn't change any of the voting totals, but they did probe voting systems and we've got a lot of questions about that since many of the secretaries of state and state election officials haven't been fully notified about those kinds of attacks. And I'm not sure we're prepared for 2017, where we have elections in my state, 2018 nationally. So the fact that the only person in effect official Washington that continues to deny this threat is the President of the United States, who continues to use terms like "witch hunt" and "fake news" is very concerning. BERMAN: There were questions how the Democrats responded and the Obama administration responded to this reports from intelligence agency questions today. I mean Jeh Johnson suggested the DNC was not responsive to offers of help from DHS. And Jeh Johnson, the Former Secretary also said something interesting he was reluctant to come forward sooner and perhaps more clearly because of political ramifications.
Donald Trump is a candidate and saying the election was rigged and he was nervous about how he would be received politically. Do you think in retrospect that was a smart move, letting politics get in the way of what you perceive in the National Security?
WARNER: I think there were -- they didn't fully connect all of the dots, even though Jeh Johnson and Former DNI Director Clapper and I believe on October 7th put out a letter saying that there was this possible Russian intervention. But I don't think the intelligence community fully connected all the dots until after the election.
BERMAN: Senator, there's a deadline on Friday that your committee, the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee is given to the President to produce whatever recordings exist from the White House, recordings perhaps of James Comey, the White House has said, or the President through his lawyer said it's possible he might give the answer this week. As you sit here today and I should note the CNN as a network has file court of request to figure out if this in fact is true if these tapes exist? Do you know, if these tapes exist?
WARNER: I don't have the slightest idea. It is, again, we sometimes think things couldn't get stranger. But the notion that the President of the United States weeks and weeks ago when in his unprecedented firing of Jim Comey, suggested that there might be tapes and were a month plus later, and we still don't know whether there's tapes. You just can't make this up.
BERMAN: Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, thank you for being with us.
WARNER: Thank you.
BERMAN: In a moment, we'll get the panel's take on what Senator Warner just said. Also more on just put the CIA Director could and should have done about Michael Flynn.
[20:42:23] BERMAN: We got our breaking news from Capitol Hill. Democrats in the House Oversight Committee demanding answers from the White House, specifically wanting to know why fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn continued to receive classified CIA briefings after the Intelligence Community and acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that he was vulnerable perhaps to Russian blackmail.
For just last month, Senator Ron Wyden Democrat of the Intelligence Committee, asked the present the CIA director directly about this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WYDEN, (D) OREGON: Did you have any indications, secondhand, any sense at all that the National Security Adviser might be vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians? That is a yes or no question.
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: It's actually not a yes or no question sir. I can't answer yes or no. I regret that I'm unable to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: It's a yes or no question, whether or not he chooses to answer maybe a separate issue.
I want get to our panel's take on this. Steve Hall is joining the conversation. Steve, I want to start with you, as someone who was in the CIA, do you assume the CIA director would have known at that point? You know, he had just been confirmed, but still would he have known whether or not there were concerns in the intelligence community about Michael Flynn?
STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA OFICER: Well, to set aside one issue right off the top, it's been asked whether or not it's possible that the CIA is an organization knew but perhaps the director did not know, that he wasn't told by his own people, I don't find that very convincing at all. It's difficult to imagine a situation where Pompeo would not have known that information had the CIA, had it.
But the problem is this, what are we talking about in terms of what do we know? There is sort of a spectrum of possibilities of factual information. There's a lot of loose language in terms of red flags and compromised.
I mean on the one side, the lighter side of it, you know, there's a meetings with Kislyak and, you know, what was that all about and what was discussed and how many of those meetings were there? That's on the lighter side.
And the darker side of what might have happened, you know, was Flynn -- is this troubling pattern that you have with Mike Flynn, going to Russia, taking money from Russia, taking money from other foreign governments perhaps, and not revealing it.
So when you talk about what makes somebody blackmailable in the world of counterintelligence, it's a pretty nuanced. It all depends on what Pompeo's specifically knew, which is probably classified.
BERMAN: And again, he won't tell us, so we don't know. But Jason Miller, if there were concerns inside the Intelligence Community that Michael Flynn might be blackmail. We know that Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, had this concern that we know she voiced those concerns.
Why would it be OK for Michael Flynn to be in the room to be part of these classified security briefings? JASON MILLER, FORMER SR. COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well being not privy to some of these inside conversations, we do know that the issue was raised with the White House general counsel from the deputy director, the acting director, at the DOJ.
[20:45:03] But what we don't know is what other folks knew, if they knew anything at all, as you just raised a moment ago, whether it be with Pompeo or whether be with Sessions or other folks throughout the government. I think we've got to be careful that we don't go and leap to the assumption that they -- these issues had been raised with them. And if all that was being brought to the White House was the fact that an Obama political appointee, which criticizing General Flynn, then I don't think that's grounds on its own to go and remove.
BERMAN: But if Don McGahn the White House Counsel was given these concerns from Sally Yates who said she was concerned that he could be black mailed and if intelligence folks knew, we don't know what they said or who they told with you, but Sally Yates at a minimum, if there were blackmail concerns, and Don McGahn, should he have stopped it -- should he have stopped this classified briefings?
MILLER: Well, I think what they were probably doing is going to and wanting their own process to trying to figure out what was real and what wasn't. Again, we have a political appointee this bringing these issues to the White House, and I think you have to go and flesh that out.
And when you talk about how everyone piled up and many members from this community were against the President and his campaign, I don't think you necessarily take that on face value. I think you have to go and figure that out and flesh it out before you can go and say hey, we're going to go and kick out the head of the NSA, a key person within the President's White House.
BERMAN: Kirsten Powers, you have a different view?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think, the thing is that while you're trying to figure it out, you shouldn't have this person listening in. I mean just out of an abundance of caution, you should say look, you just need to, you know, is going to step aside while we look into this, and we try to gather more information. That's where they casting (ph) her us, this political appointee who has some secret agenda.
I mean this wasn't her research. I mean she got this information, you know, from people who knew what was going on, and so she was reporting this to them. And I think the idea -- I mean I think you're right, you're definitely, I mean what you said, Jason just hit on it, is that Donald Trump and the people around him don't trust the people in the government, even the civil servants, set aside whether they were appointed by. They just don't trust them.
But I think that if they're going to just decide that that's going to be how they're going to handle it, then they just need to show a little more responsibility, right, of saying we don't trust this. I think that's not the right call. But step aside while we figure it out.
BERMAN: Go ahead, Jason.
MILLER: But -- no, a very important point I want to be clear, but I wasn't disparaging Ms. Yates in this instance, but I'm saying that regardless of who it is, if they're a political appointee from a previous administration, and they're from a community that has been highly critical of the President, I do think they have to do their due diligence and go through it. And they can't necessarily just take it at face value and throw somebody out.
And so I think it's more indicative as you pointed out, the fact that there are these deep state folks who have been out to get the President --
POWERS: No I did not say that.
POWERS: Don't put words in my mouth. I did not say they're deep state people. They're out to get the President. I said the President thinks that. But I think that -- I don't think that's actually necessarily accurate.
MILLER: Well, if you're a Trump supporter --
BERMAN: Yes, I want to clear up one point. We have Phil Mudd joining us right now. Unlike Pompeo, ultimately, you know, we're debating whether or not the White House should have stepped in to keep Michael Flynn out of the room at these classified briefings. The CIA director, though, if he had known there were concerns about Michael Flynn, and Michael Flynn, the President still wanted Michael Flynn in the room, should Mike Pompeo stepped in and say, hey I'm not going to do the briefing with him there. Is that his decision, Phil?
PHILIP MUDD, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL, FBI AND CIA: Hell no. What do you mean concerns, let's be clear about facts and suppositions. The Defense Department had a security clearance for General Flynn for years. He's maintained that security clearance at a top secret level when he worked for President Trump, and he had that security clearance during the briefings from Mike Pompeo who had been there for a matter of weeks.
So do you walk into the Oval Office and say your National Security Adviser still has a top secret clearance, but I'm not going to talk to him? The bottom line, John Berman is very simple. This is not a decision for the White House, it's a decision for the Defense Department that holds the clearance for General Flynn. If he maintains a clearance, he gets a briefing. If he doesn't, Mike Pompeo should say he should leave the room. He no longer has a clearance. This is not that complicated. BERMAN: All right, Errol Louis, if I could switch gears right now to how the President has responded the changing and shifting response whether or not he believes the Russians meddled in the election. Right now, I think we're at if, if the Russians meddled in it or actually the White House is refusing the answer whether or not the President thinks it right now. What's to be gained politically here?
I mean in January, he was at yes, they meddled and then he moved on.
ERROL LOUIS, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS NY1: Yes, the overwhelming concern from the Oval Office seems to be, any acknowledgment of a problem creates political and legal problems for the President and his team. It creates political problems in the sense that it casts some doubts on the legitimacy of less election. There -- you know, no matter how many times you say the contrary to Trump supporters, you know, nobody saying that he shouldn't be President, they don't quite believed that they feel that, you know, perhaps some justification that sooner or later the Democrats will start beating him up about that.
Secondly though there are legal issues now. You know, you've got this high-level probe going on. Who know what, when? And there's absolutely no reason to sort of give anything over to the other side, of a potential adversarial legal proceeding by saying that there was a problem that they knew about.
[20:50:10] I mean we're talking tonight about well, you knew something about Flynn, 18 days went by why didn't you take action? If you have to answer that question under oath, it's probably better to say nothing right now.
BERMAN: That may be a separate issue than just saying, yes, I think the Russians tried to hack in the election meddle. But I get your point there, right. Thanks, and stick around.
Just moments ago, White House staffers wrapped up a briefing on Capitol Hill to learn what is inside the as of now secretly Republican healthcare plan. While many rank and file senators still have no clue, we'll have the latest ahead.
[20:53:59] BERMAN: At short time ago, White House staffers wrapped up a briefing on Capitol Hill where they learned what is inside the Senate Republican healthcare bill. But most senators, even most rank and file Republican senators are still in the dark about the legislation that affects tens of millions of Americans. And it's that last part that could be political dynamite. Who will pay more? Who will lose coverage? Who will pay less? The Congressional Budget Office has yet to release its report on the bill.
More now on how it's being put together and what we know about what's in it from CNN'S Ryan Nobles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After weeks of meetings in secret, Republicans in the Senate are finally ready to unveil their plan to reform healthcare in America.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: A discussion draft will be made public tomorrow. Every member of the Senate will have it and it will be posted online for everyone to review.
NOBLES (voice-over): The bill has been crafted by a small group of senators. A group that does not include any women or Democrats and has had very little input from the White House. The process, done behind closed doors, has been criticized even by Republicans, but those on the working group promise all those fears will go away on Thursday.
[20:55:05] SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R) TEXAS: A working draft will be released tomorrow. I think all the concerns people have had about the process will evaporate. Because I think there'll be unlimited opportunities for people to read it and understand what's in it and then debate it.
NOBLES (voice-over): But that unlimited time for review will be brief. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised the bill will be voted on before the 4th of July recess.
MCCONNELL: And not a soul in America has seen it.
NOBLES (voice-over): Leaving, at most, 11 days for debate and possible changes. The bill, based loosely off the framework of a version rammed through the House in May, will need to accomplish a number of goals. Among them, mollifying concerns from moderates that popular provisions from Obamacare, like coverage protections for pre- existing conditions, will remain in place, while at the same time building a framework for a market-based healthcare system freed from the shackles of government regulation, a necessity to win over Conservative House Republicans. Democrats, who have not participated in the process, remain skeptical that it will happen.
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, (R) MARYLAND: This is very similar to the house bill, which President Trump, of course, celebrated in the Rose Garden. But behind closed doors, described as mean. And Republican senators have been behind closed doors. There's only one reason to try to keep this from the public, which is if this is just as mean, if not mean.
NOBLES (voice-over): Republicans need just 50 votes to get the bill passed. A task that may not be that difficult, but at this point, it is impossible to even begin counting votes, because most of the conference has yet to see the bill.
NOBLES (on camera): Are you satisfied with the process being undertaken right now?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: No. Of course not.
NOBLES: Why not? MCCAIN: For the obvious reason, that no one has been shared it. We used to complain like hell when the Democrats ran the Affordable Care Act. Now, we're doing the same thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Ryan Nobles joins us now. Ryan, any sense as we sit here tonight about what might actually be inside this bill?
NOBLES (on camera): Well, John. This is going to be a pretty complicated bill, but we are getting some details as to what Republicans are planning. Among them, some of those key Obamacare provisions that were taken out of the House bill. They will likely be back in the Senate bill. And Medicaid expansion, which was a big point of contention in the House bill, originally, their plan was to cut it off in 2020. Now, the plan will be to keep it fully in place in 2021, before beginning a gradual change.
And John, you mentioned the fact that White House staffers were up here on Capitol Hill being briefed on the plan I caught up with White House Legislative Director Marc Short as he left that meeting. I asked him directly if the President is prepared to endorse this bill. He stopped short of saying the President will, but he did say that he believes we are, as he put it, one step closer to ending the nightmare that is Obamacare. John?
BERMAN: All right. Ryan Nobles, thanks so much.
BERMAN: Up next, more on how House Democrats are demanding the White House to explain how the President's son-in-law and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner got his security clearance and now fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn kept his for so long.