Joining the conversation (for Hour 2 of Anderson Cooper’s 360 on CNN):
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So what is worth, Nunes did tell to Eli Lake, Bloomberg News, that his source was an intelligence official, not a White House official.
HAM: Just to put that out there. Look, I think it was a far better way to handle this because he’s in the situation — I think it actually is part of his job to investigate wrongdoing if he thinks it’s there in the Intel community as the House Intelligence had. But, because you’re doing this other investigation, you do it in the cleanest way possible, and you bring forth this information and you got it in a very serious way and it does not appear to be what happened here.
But I will say, I have no chill about the idea, the incidental information on any American citizen that sort of passed around like candy in a fun way within any administration. I do think that we give tremendous power to these entities and as a libertarian, I just want to say that that can be a problem. The Russian investigation is also an issue.
ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Mary Katharine, speaking of no chill, I don’t have any either, because we’re talking about Donald Trump once again throwing a story line, instead of us talking about missing D.C. girl, instead of us talking about a white supremacist that killed a black man and had plans to kill more black people just because of who they were, instead of us talking about the health care debacle, we’re talking about something that didn’t happen that your president can’t even spell, tap.
RYE: So, I think that the bigger issue that I have, speaking of having no chill, is that if this would have been under the Obama administration, there would be no end to this. Barack Obama had to be the next best thing to Jesus and here we are just two months in and isn’t change and there is issue after issue. Maybe it’s not Russian collusion, maybe it’s collusion with the Intel committee chair, but it’s highly problematic. There are skiffs on the hill that this chairman could have went to, to get the classified information that he needed to be briefed on.
MILLER: But not to contain that information, he said that today.
RYE: I think that the bigger issue that we have here is the Intel committee chairman all of a sudden has forgotten what procedures he needs to undergo, to study and learn and/or brief someone on classified information.
COOPER: But it’s also interesting, I mean, there was at the beginning of last week, this bombshell of a hearing where Director Comey makes the statement and there was a certain amount of momentum to that and then Chairman Nunes has made several unilateral decisions basically to cancel the public hearing, which was supposed to take place tomorrow, which was essentially going advance this investigation, said it was going to be a closed door hearing with bringing back Comey and Rogers. That’s now been canceled.
LIZZA: And, you know, what it looks like to me is Schiff and Nunes negotiated a very wide scope for a serious investigation and after Monday’s hearing Nunes said, “Wait a second, maybe I made a mistake here. These guys just killed us, killed Republicans that talking about a criminal investigation of Trump. Maybe I need to put the genie back in the bottle, because everything he has done since Monday has been to dismiss, put up a smoke screen about what happened that hearing and shut down the public about the hearing.”
COOPER: Well, breaking news tonight, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has joined the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff in calling on the committee’s Republican chairman, Congressman Devin Nunes, to recuse himself from the investigation of Russia’s meddling the U.S. election in any possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Congressman Nunes is standing by his decision to go directly to President Trump with the information he say suggest that communications of then President-elect Trump and his advisers may have been swept up in surveillance about their foreign nationals. Phil Mattingly spoke with Congressman Schiff just before he went on air tonight. He joins me now. So what did Ranking Member Schiff tell you?
SCHIFF: Well, I believe that, you know, much like the attorney general recused himself from overseeing the Russian investigation at this point, it would be wise for the chairman to do the same thing, not just the Russian investigation, but if he is making claims about minimization of procedures of whether they were followed with respect to the transition team.
The chairman was a member of that transition team, so I don’t think he can properly oversee that element as well. So, I would hope that he would recuse himself from those two facets of our oversight work, because I think it would enhance the public trust that we’re doing our investigation creditably in a nonpartisan way insulated from any interference from the White House.
MATTINGLY: Anderson, just some context to underscore how big a deal this actually is. This committee is traditionally a bipartisan committee. On this committee, the chairman and the ranking member, which ever party they come from, tend to work together very, very closely. They try and mimic what happens on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is a major break with major ramifications going forward, not just for the Russia investigation, but really the committee’s work all about, Anderson.
COOPER: So, if I’m hearing correctly, it’s what Congressman Nunes actually discovered that Ranking Member Schiff believes disqualifies him?
MATTINGLY: Yeah, that’s exactly right. It was not necessarily the ideas that perhaps he was too tight at the Trump administration related to the Russian investigation. It was specifically the chairman’s own relationship over the course of the transition and how that actually ties in with what he saw.
MATTINGLY: It’s not a secret that he was on the transition team and up to this point you’ve been OK with him leading this investigation what — it wasn’t just his visit to the White House that changed everything in your view?
SCHIFF: Well, its two things. First, it was the — sort of dead of night meeting at the White House and then later returning to the White House with whatever information he got at the White House. But more than that, to the degree that was his claiming now goes to whether there was incidental collection on members of the transition team, that’s a different issue than we were looking at before, particularly if he says this doesn’t involve the Russian investigation.
If we are going to look at whether proper organization procedures were followed vis-a-vis the transition team, we can’t have a member of that transition team, I think, doing the oversight. So in those two areas, I think it makes sense for the chairman to recuse himself.
MATTINGLY: Anderson, Chairman Nunes’ defense has been once, again, as you heard Ranking Membership Schiff say, what he was looking at, what he has seem, which, again, nobody else has seen up to this point had nothing to do with the Russian investigation. And because of that, he should be able to maintain his role and continued pressing forward with that investigation.
What ranking membership is saying specifically right now is, because he was on the transition team, because that was the transition team that Chairman Nunes is now saying was surveilled and, perhaps, some of those individuals were also unmasked. He is now conflicted, and that is the exact reason why he needs to step away not just from the Russian investigation, but from anything that has to do with everything that he’s looking into right now, Anderson.
COOPER: So, where does the investigation go? I mean, they were have — supposed to have public meeting tomorrow, and then that was cancelled, and then there was supposed to have a private meeting behind closed doors, classified meeting, that’s cancelled. Is there another meeting scheduled?
MATTINGLY: As of now, there isn’t. And I think, look, this has been a divisive last nine or 10 days for the Republicans and Democrats on this committee, and clearly, that reach ahead in which in kind of an implosion of sorts.
I think it’s worth noting, Chairman Nunes has said he plans on pressing forward. I asked Ranking Member Schiff if at this point that their relationship was essentially broken? He said, no. He still plan on working with Chairman Nunes on the other issues that the committee has to deal with, but when it comes to the Russian investigation, and then when it comes to what Chairman Nunes specifically found, the ranking member now feels it’s time for him to step away.
As you noted, Anderson, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also called for the same thing, a number of Democrats on the committee have as well. Senator Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat has called for the same thing. The question now becomes, is anything going to happen on this? As we’ve seen up to this point, Chairman Nunes’ declined to comment specifically on what Ranking Member Schiff has said, but he said repeatedly, he plans to press forward. And it’s important to note, Speaker Paul Ryan has said repeatedly throughout the day, I talked to his spokes people, other people from CNN have spoken to this spokes people, that the speaker himself remains fully confident not just in his ability to run this Russian investigation, but also in his role as chair.
So right now, we are at kind of a tipping point here. There’s no real idea as to what’s going to happen going forward. The question becomes now, not only does these investigations continue to move forward, but how does this committee actually continue to operate, Anderson.
COOPER: Phil Mattingly, thanks very much. Back now with the panel.
Kirsten, I mean, if — for the American people who are watching this and, you know, if those who care about the possibility of — well, the fact that Russia’s meddling in the election and want a bipartisan fact-finding commission, they want to get to the bottom of this, should this House Committee continue?
POWERS: Well, I think there are a lot of reasons to be concerned. I mean, just listening to all the different things that have been laid out, I think it just raises some questions about whether Congressman Nunes can move forward in a way that, I think makes people feel that he can be unbiased. I mean, if he has these conflicts.
And I think even absent what Phil Mattingly was just talking about, I think the fact that he has already sort of raised these questions about how he got this information, did he possibly get it through the White House, did he possibly do this to help Donald Trump, he has said in an interview that, you know, Donald Trump was getting a lot of heat in the media. It’s just raises a lot of questions about whether this is a person that’s really an unbiased arbiter overseeing an investigation.
COOPER: And it would seem — I mean, that both sides would want whatever investigations are done to be as transparent as possible and also to be credible so that whatever the resolution is, people will actually believe it.
BORGER: Of course. And this is the time you say thank goodness there is the Senate as well as the House, because the House Committee has basically collapsed. And I think what we saw Schiff do very deftly, just in his interview with Phil, is to call Nunes’ bluff.
And he said, “OK, you’re interested in investigating all this incidental collection, which unmasked people you shouldn’t have unmasked, well, that was on the transition team and by the way, you were a member of that transition team, so you can’t do it because you’re conflicted out of that.” So, you know, it — he sort of said to him, “Well, you just dug your own grave here.”
LIZZA: He was a very smart prosecutor. It sounds like a conflict to me. It just sounds like everything Nunes has done in the last week has — I don’t know if this was his plan, but it’s essentially blown up this committee’s investigation.
As you pointed out, Anderson, they were supposed to have a big public hearing tomorrow with Sally Yates.
COOPER: Right. Sally Yates, Clapper.
LIZZA: Yeah. And that’s done and then they said, “OK, well, instead of that, we want this private hearing because we wanted to bring Comey and Rogers back in.” Now, that’s apparently —
LIZZA: There’s nothing left for them to do.
MILLER: Not exactly Switzerland in this process. I mean, you look at his blind allegiance to Loretta Lynch last year. You look at his support for Hillary Clinton. It’s not that he’s this truly this neutral arbiter in the entire situation.
COOPER: Well, which also then raises a question — I mean, again, is this — I mean, we saw the divide in the first hearing when all the questions, most of the questions from Republicans were about leaks, most of the questions from Democrats who are trying to point a picture of collusion. So, is this really bipartisan? Is this really a fair commission?
MILLER: I think this is the way it plays out. You have Republicans and Democrats both up there and have their opportunity. But, again, I still think the fact that we’re getting much more into the intrigue and process. In fact, you saw Ranking Member Schiff say that the supposed dead of the night —
COOPER: Right. But if Republicans already think Schiff isn’t legit or isn’t, you know, that Schiff clearly is not neutral, Democrats clearly think Republicans aren’t —
HAM: I say, look ye not to the House to straighten this out.
HAM: Because, I do think this is extremely partisan, at this point and the intrigue is taking over because there’s intrigue and, you know, Trump surrounding circles tend to create intrigue. So the Senate and FBI seem to have healthy investigations going on, which is good because I am interested in finding out about secret of collusion within the government, whether it’s Obama doing secret deals with Iran or the possibility of Trump colluding with Russia.
RYE: So, you know, I’m glad Jason brought up Loretta Lynch, because if we’re going to say that that is the desired outcome, she recused herself from an ongoing investigation. So if that is the standard, and let’s be very clear that Loretta Lynch was not part of a transition team. She was an appointee from — back in a day with Bill Clinton. Yes, he had a meeting that appeared sloppy, appearances terrible, him tap toeing, dropping down in the dead of night —
RYE: — and I guess what I’m telling you is she recused herself. So I’m eager to see him. I’m eager to see him not only recuse himself from this investigation, I would like to see him step aside as Intel committee chair.
MILLER: That’s not what Schiff wanted.
RYE: Well, I’m telling you what I want. Now, I’m glad you brought —
BORGER: The House is going to be irrelevant. Now, it wouldn’t be the first time honestly, but they are going to be irrelevant. And the Senate could take over and you could have an independent investigation, which I believe also Republicans don’t want, because those things tend to grow and grow and grow. And I think that wouldn’t — I don’t think the White House would want it. I don’t think Republicans would want it. But they could be backing into that right now.
COOPER: There’s more breaking news tonight as we continue to report on the calls for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to step aside. Just minutes ago, President Trump tweeted, “Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill and Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech money to Bill, the Hillary Russian reset, praise of Russia by Hillary or Podesta Russian Company. Trump Russia story is a hoax.”
President Trump is coming off a bad week. Last Monday at the House Intel Committee’s first public hearing, FBI Director James Comey testified that the agency is investigating possible collusion between Russia, or connections between Russia and the Trump campaign. Last week ended with Mr. Trump’s signature promise to repeal and replace Obamacare obviously going down in defeat.
Now, from past experience we know that — before he was president, Mr. Trump often tried to change the story line when it was casting him in unfavorable light, which may explain his latest tweets.
Joining us to talk about that, two men who know a lot about Donald Trump, Timothy O’Brien, the author of “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald,” the book that prompted a lawsuit from Donald Trump, and Michael D’Antonio, a CNN Contributor and the author of “The Truth About Trump.”
Tim, so, I mean, it is a tactic the president used a lot of his career. Don’t accept responsibility for failures, assign blame elsewhere. Is he essentially using the same play book as a politician that he used as a businessman?
TIMOTHY O’BRIEN, AUTHOR, “TRUMPNATION: THE ART OF BEING THE DONALD”: I don’t even think it’s a play book, Anderson. I don’t think he can help himself. I think he’s somebody who throughout his whole life he’s been insulated. I think in part because of wealth, but also in part because of his own bravado from the consequences of his own mistakes. And there’s been these repeated examples since he was in his mid 20s where when anything went wrong he would simply turn the radar in a different direction and blame it on everyone around him.
You know, he went into the USFL and essentially blew the league up and blamed it on the other teams, blamed it on everyone else’s mistakes, blamed it on the NFL. It wasn’t his fault.
He goes to Atlantic City. He blows up a robust casino business and ends up saying that it was because Atlantic City was a tough place to do business, which is a little bit similar to the automobile companies saying they had problems because they were headquartered in Detroit.
And now last week, you see all of these same shortcomings haunt the process around health care legislation, his impatience, his inability to form teams, prioritizing charisma ahead of coalition building. And when it all comes home to roost and they have to pull the bill, he first blames the entire Democratic Party, then he blames Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and then the next day, it’s the conservative wing of the Republican Party, and the next night it’s Paul Ryan and on and on.
COOPER: You know, Michael, I mean, it’s so interesting because really one of the main selling points for Donald Trump as a candidate was this whole idea besides, you know, his communication abilities and his positions that many people supported, was the idea that he was this successful businessman who could get deals done, who would get people in a room, Democrats, Republicans and just make stuff happen that he could bring the business world to the world of government and clearly that was a massive defeat that he got on Friday.
MICHAEL D’ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well it was a massive defeat.
And I think one thing we didn’t really appreciate about Donald Trump was that when he talks about making great deals, he was really just talking about making great deals for Donald Trump. These were never business arrangements where you heard lots of people come out of the room and say, “We did really well. We’re really glad to have been in partnership with Mr. Trump. We’re all going to make a ton of money.”
This was a guy who was an entrepreneur, but also the head of a family business where he could call the shots himself and take the gain himself or walk away. And it’s much different to try to influence 247 Republicans in Congress, to move men and women, many of whom he’s insulted along the way, toward his position.
And I think the last thing that we need to appreciate is that his heart may not have been in this at all, because he didn’t take the time to learn the details of the bill and that was a complaint that came out of the Republican caucus . . .
D’ANTONIO: — were finished meeting was he didn’t know what he was talking about.
COOPER: But, you know, Tim, it’s so interesting this whole idea of running a family business is different than even running, you know, a company with shareholders who you are responsible for with, you know, public accounting. I mean, it’s a much more insular world, it’s a small grouping that Donald Trump has always had around him. And in some ways, it seems like that’s kind of how the White House is organized, which is unlike any White House we’ve seen in recent memory.
O’BRIEN: Right. I mean, he’s come out of this mom and pop shop essentially where all the outcomes were essentially binary. He had one person across the table. They more-or-less were bargaining over the same thing.
He comes to Washington and he’s dealing with a population of politicians who have constituents back home, they have their own set of values and they have their own reputations to think about. And none of that necessarily corresponds with the interests of a president who has a very out-sized ego.
COOPER: And by blaming, Michael, the Freedom Caucus encouraging people to watch Judge Jeanine Pirro slam Speaker Paul Ryan on Fox News, which — I mean, maybe he knew she was going to or maybe he didn’t, although it seems odd that he would recommend people watch the show and that’s what she does off the top of a show.
I mean, it does show kind of inexperience, because it’s a different world when you’re president unable to fire someone who didn’t perform as expected. I mean, he said publicly supports Paul Ryan and then tells people to watch a show where they’re going after him.
D’ANTONIO: Well, right. And as soon as that happened it seemed to me that he was going to pivot toward the Democrats. And what’s interesting about Trump and people have said this is that he is a New Yorker. He is not —
D’ANTONIO: — really a small government kind of guy. I think he’d be comfortable working out a deal with Chuck Schumer. If Schumer will talk to him, he’ll do the deal.
COOPER: This weekend, President Trump visited the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. It was his 13th visit to one of his courses since he took office in January.
Now, playing golf is something candidate Trump sharply criticized President Obama for a while on the campaign trail.
COOPER: But, President Trump does leave. In fact, he spent the last eight weekends visiting properties bearing his name. It is raising new questions about potential conflicts of interest. Tom Foreman tonight has more.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A key question of the transition was how far would President Trump step away from all his business interests?
LARRY NOBLE, GENERAL COUNSEL FOR CAMPAIGN LEGAL CENTER: He’s really making his business part of the government, or the government part of his business.
FOREMAN: And candidate Trump insisted if he won the election, he might never see his own golf courses again.
(video of) TRUMP : And I love golf. But if I were in the White House, I don’t think I’d ever see Turnberry again. I don’t think I’d ever see Doral again. I just want to stay in the White House and work my ass off, make great deals, right? Who’s going to leave?
FOREMAN: But while President Obama did not hit the links until April after his first inauguration, and he provided a list of his playing partners, President Trump has visited golf courses 13 times already. And while he does not reveal if he’s playing or with whom, it’s clearly happening enough to shred his campaign claim.