COOPER: Breaking news tonight (3/31/17) from the White House, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, is speaking out about his visit here today, which included a meeting with President Trump and a look at the intelligence that the embattled committee Chairman Devin Nunes says he saw.
Here’s Sunlen Serfaty who’s standing by. Sunlen, what are you — what are you reporting on?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Adam Schiff tonight, Anderson, spent about three hours on the White House complex reviewing these documents that the White House offered up. And afterwards, he did confirm that indeed the documents he saw today, the information he reviewed today, were the same information that Devin Nunes reviewed himself over a week ago.
Now, he would not speak about the contents of that information, but in a statement afterwards, he really blasted the White House, saying in part, quote, “Nothing I could see today warranted a departure from the normal review produces. And these materials should now be provided to the full membership of both committees. The White House has yet to explain why senior White House staff apparently shared these materials with, but one member of either committee only for their contents to be briefed back at the White House.”
So, Schiff, there making it perfectly clear that he’s unhappy with the way the White House has handled this, unhappy with the way this has all gone down, the fact that Nunes saw these documents a week ago and saying that the White House really should have shared the information with the full committee in the first place.
[20:15:06] COOPER: And how is House Intelligence Committee Nunes responding today? Did he respond to this?
SERFATY: Well, he and his staff continue to push back on these reports. Of course, first reported yesterday in “The New York Times” and confirmed today by CNN that two White House staffers were indeed involved in some way in these intelligence disclosures. His staff today issuing a very curt paper statement saying, quote, “Chairman Nunes will not confirm or deny speculation about his sources’ identity and he will not respond to speculation from anonymous sources.”
And later tonight, this evening, he was asked in an affiliate interview when he was out in California, his home state, about these reports and he called them in his words mostly wrong. But notably, Anderson, he did not offer any specifics or any details as to why it’s wrong — Anderson.
COOPER: Lots to discuss. Joining me is Peter Seidenberg (ph), Ryan Lizza, Kayleigh McEnany, Alice Stewart and Steve Israel.
Ryan, how significant is it that Schiff has now not only seen whatever Nunes saw, but also met with President Trump face to face?
RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Well, loved to have been a fly on the wall of that meeting. You know, I don’t think we have a whole lot of information tonight. Schiff in a statement, he obviously, as you pointed out, Anderson, he said he saw the same materials or at least they were represented to him as being the same materials. He made an argument about the process that the intelligence committee and the White House used this kind of, you know, wild process of getting this stuff out. But he didn’t — I think the most important thing is he did not make any comment whatsoever on the content of these materials. And you had some extremely serious accusations from the podium at the White House today from Sean Spicer about what these documents allegedly show. Frankly, Sean Spicer went further than even Nunes has gone, and you now have Nunes, the White House, making some pretty serious allegations about Obama officials, unmasking American citizens for political purposes, and, frankly, we still don’t have any proof of that.
Even though Schiff has looked at these, he hasn’t commented one way or the other about those allegations.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, Congressman Israel, you saw the statement from Schiff saying nothing he saw today warranted a departure from the normal review procedures. Is there any explanation you can come up with why Chairman Nunes was shown these materials by himself last week other than what Ryan has reported that the White House and Nunes appear to be colluding on a political predicate to benefit the president?
STEVE ISRAEL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that would be the explanation. You know, I spoke briefly with Congressman Schiff. He told me he’s not going beyond the statement he put out, which is quite straightforward.
But if you read his statement carefully, you know, there are two important items in it. Number one, he makes it clear that it was represented to him that the materials that he was reading were the same materials that were shared with Chairman Nunes. And, number two, he asks the question, the very important question. Since this material didn’t appear to be out of the ordinary, why in fact was it shared — why did it require that Devin Nunes get in an Uber, divert to the White House, meet with two senior White House staffers, take a look at the information, then brief the president of the United States on what the staff briefed Nunes on?
This was a complete departure from the process of the committee. It raises even more questions tonight than there were yesterday, and it clearly suggests that we need an independent commission.
LIZZA: I was just going to say, look, we’ve had two weeks of charade and a PR offensive about talking about incidental collection and allegations that these documents show something earth-shattering. Nunes has now seen them. Schiff has now seen. The White House has now seen.
So, we’re finally sort of getting to the bottom of whether there’s any there there, but after basically two weeks of PR stunts. So, maybe by the end of next week, we’ll have some actual information about this.
COOPER: Peter from a legal perspective, what incentives or disincentives would the FBI have for accepting a request for immunity from General Flynn and how do you expect this to play out?
PETER ZEIDENBERG, FORMER ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Well, I don’t think the FBI has a big incentive right now to give him immunity, the incentive would be on the part of the intel committee. They’re the ones who want to find out what happened. You know, the prosecution side, the DOJ, the FBI side, they have slightly different goals than the intelligence side, the committee side.
Their goal is to the prosecutors, want to prosecute a case, they want to get a conviction, they want to find out where this leads, and make a case, the committee on the other hand, is trying to make, just find out the facts and make them available. So they’re overlapping, but they’re not identical. And —
COOPER: So they all don’t have to be on the same page?
ZEIDENBERG: No, and they’re often not. And in the past, the committee’s decision, the Congress’s decision to grant immunity, has made prosecution ultimately impossible, that’s what —
COOPER: Right, the Oliver North Case.
ZEIDENBERG: Exactly. So, you know, there are different interests here and, you know, my guess is that perhaps sooner rather than later they’ll make a decision about this and frankly, I’m hoping that they explore this immunity opportunity, you know, it’s — from my perspective, seeing general Flynn prosecuted for whatever he’s done is not the highest priority. The highest priority from my perspective is to find out what’s going on and to find out what the degree and extent is if any of the Russian involvement in the election.
COOPER: Peter, just from our experience, I mean, when somebody is asking for immunity, is it usually the case that it’s given because that person can point them to an even bigger fish or to somebody else who has actually done something wrong? I mean if General Flynn, if the story in the words of his attorney has a story to tell, the story he told is nothing inappropriate happened, nothing illegal happened, everything I do is above board. Would there be any reason to grant him immunity, or is it usual that person, General Flynn in this case can direct them to somebody else who may have done something wrong or in fact does have a story of some sort of wrong doing to tell?
ZEIDENBERG: Yes, that’s correct. So the way it would usually happen, the way it almost always happens is there will be what’s called an attorney proffer. And the counsel for the person who’s seeking immunity in this case General Flynn will go to the government or to the committee and say look, if you grant my client immunity, this is what he’ll tell you. And he’ll lay it out in great detail. And it will be a back and back and forth and then a decision will be made and by whomever is going to be granting the immunity and saying, look, this is information that’s extremely valuable, this is where it could lead. And this is something that’s worth doing.
And then of course they also want to vet that information to see how it fits in with the other information that’s been accumulated. So that’s why you couldn’t be giving immunity to a witness/target like General Flynn this early in the process, you would want to find out what all the other witnesses say, look at the documents and see if this proffer that he’s telling you sounds like it come ports with the other information you’ve already gotten.
COOPER: The story of Russia’s meddling in the election has more and more subplots every day. One of the latest fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn wants immunity we talked about his exchange for his testimony. Another President Trump’s own aides assisted the top Republican in the House Intelligence Committee in obtaining classified information and effort to bulls with the president claims that he was wiretapped.
Today that committee’s top Democrat was at the White House to review documents and Representative Schiff said in a statement, “Nothing I could see today warranted a departure from the normal review procedures and these materials should now be provided to the full membership of both committees.” The White House is set to explain why senior White House staff have not only shared this materials with both one member of either committee only for their contents to be brief back to the White House.
Joining me is another member of the House Intelligence Committee Congressman Jim Himes. Congressman, so you have Michael Flynn offering a talked to your committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the FBI, if he’s granted immunity, the Senate has already said they — excuse me won’t do that right now, do you think the House Committee should give him immunity?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I’m skeptical, look, I think you need to know two things before you grant immunity whether you’re law enforcement or Congress, which of course does have the power to grant immunity against any prosecution, in those two things are, one, we need to know what that information is, you know, is it valuable? Is it in the public interest are interested to know it.
And, you know, without knowing that, it’s hard to say. And the other thing we need to know of course is that that Congress granting immunity wouldn’t scotch a potential law enforcement investigation. I mean I don’t want to over speculate here, but one approach would be if Michael Flynn felt he was in any form of legal jeopardy for any of the activities he’s undertaken in the last couple of months, he might say, hey I’ll tell my whole story to the Congress, but I want them to give me immunity, because that way I know FBI or law enforcement is going to have to drop whatever case they might have.
COOPER: Right, which what happened to Oliver North. I know in the past that Flynn himself had said that anyone who have been given immunity probably committed a crime. But I mean innocent people who are speaking to federal authorities, their attorney’s request immunity all the time, out of fear they say something that may be used against them. It not uncommon, right?
HIMES: Yes — no that’s right. That’s one of this misconception that is out there, it’s like if you played the theft and he must have something to hide and you’re guilty. That’s not necessarily true of course, that’s a long line of things that Trump campaign and Michael Flynn said that was not true. But no just saying that he’s looking for immunity is not a clear admission of guilt of any kind.
COOPER: Does, you know, now that Adam Schiff from your committee has seen the same documents as Devin Nunes, I mean does that whole bizarre experience, does it make anymore sense to you now? I mean, now that there’s been some time on it, you know, does it seem — is there any other conclusion then the White House and Representative Nunes, Chairman Nunes were colluding to try to give the president cover?
HIMES: Well, you know, what happened today with Congressman Schiff being able to review the materials is I think the first step to getting to the bottom of this just crazy escapade that has so consumed the committee and quite frankly the country for the last week and a half. Now, I haven’t had a chance to talk to Congressman Schiff, I wasn’t present in the meetings, I do suspect that if there had been something extraordinary, I mean something in those intelligence intercepts that would warrant the kind of unusual behavior that the chairman showed, I suspect that the Congressman Schiff’s statement would have been different.
You know, I believed all along and I don’t want to speculate just to add on things like cover-ups, I mean there’s an awful a lot of question, there’s an awful lot of suspicion to go around here. But, you know, my own suspicion is that these are intercepts that picked up references to the president’s people. And that’s — that and of itself is nothing weird. I mean as you know, our intelligence services monitor people, drug dealers, potential terrorists all over the world and it’s hardly shocking to imagine that somebody — and by the way we have — you know, foreign government officials, we monitor them too.
And it’s hardly weird to imagine that anyone of that group of people might have been speculating or talking about one of the president’s people. And ordinarily that of course would be masked and there’s lever procedures to keep that information from becoming public and — but that’s the ordinary course of business and I sure didn’t see anything in Adam statement that suggested that there was something so extraordinary in this material as to weren’t, you know, this crazy midnight run and not telling anybody else on the committee and everything we’ve been talking about.
COOPER: So — I mean where the things stand right now with your committee. I mean is there are things still stalled, I know Schiff and Nunes met I think it was yesterday to try to figure out a schedule and witness list. Is — I mean is your committee going to continue the investigation?
HIMES: We are. I certainly hope we are. You know the Democrats all back together and one of the weird things about last week was that the committee didn’t have any of its regular meetings, they were all canceled. But on Friday, we all got together and said, hey we got to — I should say Thursday we all got together and we all agreed unanimously that we want this investigation to continue, we’d like to get back doing the oversight that is so important for us to do and of course the way we get there is by just all of Democrats and Republicans alike getting an explanation for what happened.
And I think Congressman Schiff reviewing the material today and hopefully as you said, the rest of the committee saying this material and then hearing from our chairman why he chose to do what he did. That — those things will, I think, put us on track to be a functioning committee again and hopefully get the investigation restarted.
COOPER: More breaking news tonight. $741 million worth, that is the value of the business empire that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner still the beneficiaries of despite their new White House responsibilities and that is the bottom line the mass of Friday night document for the White House. On Kushner, the first daughter nearly 200 others.
The story broke the “New York Times” just a short time ago. One key takeaway although Kushner is no longer in any managerial capacity in his own family’s business, he is still benefitting from it. Another revelation that don’t miss, that Ivanka Trump will retain a stake in the Trump International Hotel just down the street from the White House.
Joining us now is Trump biographer Tim O’Brien and on the phone Jesse Drucker from “The Times” who was one of the people wrote the story, as well as Richard Painter who served as White House ethics and attorney in the George W. Bush administration So Jesse what have you been able to find out about the finances of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner that they’re still benefiting from?
JESSE DERUNKER, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think the thing that is of most interest is that for the most part nothing has really changed as far as the economics of the Kushner business for Jared Kushner other words he has given up his role as a manager and CEO of Kushner companies, but economically he has still benefiting from the profits or anybody’s companies as if he was a couple of months ago before he joined the White House.
COOPER: So he has not divorced himself from making money from his companies just as President Trump has not divorced himself from making money from the Trump Organization?
DERUNKER: Correct, he invested some stakes in some companies for instance he invested states that he own Venture Capital with his brother. And some real estate stakes including any involvement in the 666 Fifth Avenue, which is the Kushner company headquarters which has been some controversial because of conversations they were had with a big Chinese company on bank for what was looking like a significant multi-billion dollar bailout. But for the most part, Jared Kushner’s economic position based of the — his real estate company is basically the same as it was before he joined the White House.
COOPER: Richard, I mean you have been sounding the alarm about President Trump, his family, the massive potential for business conflicts since the day after the election. Do we know more through these filings about the business holdings of the president’s daughter and son-in-law?
RICHARD PAINTER, WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, we know — I think what we’ve known all along, which is they have substantial stake in real estate, particularly Jared Kushner does, and that means that both of them have a conflict of interest on any government matter that would affect the real estate business, including the regulation of real estate lenders, because a lot of what goes on in real estate and on the regulation of banks and whether banks are willing to provide the cheap money to real estate developers, and we also know that that booms in the real estate sector tend to come hand in hand with booms in the financial sector, and that often those both end up and bought (ph). So we need to keep them both away from Dodd-Frank appeal, anything have to do with financial services that would be so closely tied to the real estate business. And of course, anything happen to do with that hotel. They should not get involved in any government matters that have to do with the Trump International Hotel if Ivanka Trump is going to maintain to have an interest in that. But otherwise there’s a conflict that is probably manageable, but they better be very, very careful.
COOPER: Tim, the White House has made a big deal about the steps that both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump took with their business holdings to ensure that they wouldn’t have potential business conflicts, essentially saying they have gone above and beyond. Do you think they really have?
TIMOTHY O’BRIEN, AUTHOR: No, no Anderson, I don’t think it’s not even a matter of them going above and beyond, they haven’t even gone to adequate and acceptable. We’re now at yet another revelation about how little distance there is between the Trump family and the Kushner family’s private dealings as business people and their policy-making as public servants.
And it the largest question it begs is what’s motivating them? Are they here to use the offices they inhabit to make money, or are they here to inhabit the offices they have to serve the public? And there’s been all of these uncomfortable collisions, 666 Fifth Avenue, the skyscraper that Jared Kushner owns is troubled, it needs money, it’s clear last fall he was talking to both Chinese and Russian financiers.
And certainly in the Chinese case about getting fresh lending to rescue that building. In the case of the hotel in Washington even before these disclosures tonight we knew from the general services administration over a week ago they disclosed that Ivanka Trump was still an owner in that hotel. And they thought it was proper for the Trumps to own it, even though the hotel itself has become a nexus for lobbyists, politicians, members of the White House staff and local competitors in Washington field —
O’BRIEN: — the hotel beggars them, because of its proximity to the president.
COOPER: And Jesse, your actually learning that the finances from both Jared and Ivanka through the financial disclosures, but how much is really known about who is loaning money to the Kushner corporation? Who they’re in business with and what foreign entities? Is that all clear?
DERUNKER: Well, no, that’s an excellent question, it’s not clear at all. I mean that’s kind of the biggest issue here right, which is Kushner companies is highly reliant on outside investors, many of whom are from overseas, and big lenders, and there is no disclosure of that even in these filings. We know about mortgages from public filings, none of which are referred to here. But we don’t know anything about who the other equity investors are of the various projects or who potentially the non-bank and non-mortgage lenders are to his businesses. That is not addressed at all these filings
You know, for instance, we know that separately that they have the Kushner company has four significant loans from bank Hapoalim the biggest bank in Israel. Well Bank Hapoalim is the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and to whether the Americans of the taxes with undeclared offshore bank accounts, and Jared Kushner is tasked with doing peace in the Middle East.
So it seems like a very clear potential for a conflict of interest to have a White House official doing negotiations in the Middle East and in Israel when the business that is benefiting him has very clear and significant financial relationships with the biggest financial institution or the biggest bank in that country, which at the same time is the subject of a very serious investigation about the Department of Justice, and none of this, you would not know any of this from the forms that were disclosed tonight.