Show: For the Record with Greta Date: March 28, 2017 Guest: Eric Swalwell, Jeremey Bash, Michael Isikoff, Ned Price, Jason Chaffetz, Annie Linskey, Lynn Sweet, Tom Cardamone, Bill Pascrell
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, Chuck. And tonight, well, he`s digging in he`s heels. He is not backing down. I`m talking about Devin Nunes the chairman of the house intelligence committee. He is under intense pressure to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian ties to the Trump campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not recuse yourself in the investigation?
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: I still don`t know why. You guys give me a reason to recuse myself, I might consider it.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you share your source, reveal your source?
NUNES: We will never reveal sources?
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even to member of the committee?
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: And here`s what Democrats in the house intelligence committee are saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Chairman Nunes needs to recuse himself.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: It`s time for Devin Nunes to leave this investigation. This is what a cover up to a crime looks like.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m asking for him to step down. I don`t trust him.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: I really think it would be best if he were to step aside. Let someone else handle this investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: And it`s not just the Democrats. Late this afternoon, the first Republican came out publicly to say Chairman Nunes should recuse himself. Now that was Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina, who does not serve on the intelligence committee, but several Republicans on the intelligence committee now jumping in the fray defending Chairman Nunes and they are not the only ones, so is House Speaker Paul Ryan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should Devin Nunes recuse himself from the Russian investigation? And two, do you know the source of his information?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: No, I don`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: Also today, a forceful pushback from the White House on this story. The Washington Post reporting that the Trump administration tried to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying on Capitol Hill about Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The White House did not respond and took no action that prevented Ms. Yates from testifying. That`s the story. That`s what the documents show. The view here was great. Go share what you know. So, no, and that`s why the Washington Post should be ashamed of how it handled this story. It was 100 percent false.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: We`re taking what you`re saying as assurances that Chairman Nunes` decision to call off that hearing did not have anything to do with any pressure from the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: With me, Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat from the great state of California, who serves on the house intelligence committee, and he is calling for Chairman Devin Nunes to leave the investigation. Nice to see you, sir.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: You, too, Greta. And I was hoping that right now I`d be reporting to you what we heard earlier today from Sally Yates, directors Clapper and Brennan. Unfortunately, those hearings and any future hearings on Russia interference in our elections have been canceled.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why? What did Chairman Nunes tell you as the reason to why that`s been cancelled?
SWALWELL: No reason, and that`s what is so frustrating. And that`s why I believe our committee has lost its independence, its credibility, and its ability to make progress. And for the sake of the committee and the sake of his future duties on other non-Russia matter, I think he`d serve us all well if he recused himself from the Russia issue.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, did you receive a phone call from Chairman Nunes himself, or did your staffer tell you? How did you learn that these hearings were canceled?
SWALWELL: We were told by our staff.
VAN SUSTEREN: And so could you pick the phone and call Nunes and say what`s up?
SWALWELL: I actually spoke with him earlier today and asked if he would be willing to sit down with Democrats and Republicans and just talk about what he learned, who gave it to him, and just so we could kind of let the steam out of the pot here a little bit. I hope he considers doing that. But, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what he said? When you said to him, will you sit down -- tell us our source, tell us your source, tell us what you know because everybody in that committee has a security clearance, right?
SWALWELL: He didn`t seem open to it. We all have the same security clearance that he does. And our constituents are counting on us to do this. You know, an independent commission is becoming more and more necessary if we can`t do our job, and our job to conduct this investigation.
VAN SUSTEREN: Have you gone to any Republicans in the house intel committee and said, look, the chairman won`t tell us who his source is, what he knows, why he cancelled this, so will you tell us?
SWALWELL: I have spoken privately with other Republicans on the committee. Mostly just about how can we work together because at the end of the day, we have to get to the bottom of what happened, what U.S. persons if any were involved? And again, how can we avoid being in this mess again. And so, if those conversations continue, Democrats are going to continue to pursue this investigation. I just don`t want it to have an asterisk around it because it lost its credibility.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Here`s what I don`t get though, if you`re in the committee and you`re all supposed to be investigating this together, and you`re in the room with the chairman, what is your theory as to why the chairman won`t give you this very basic information about what information he has and who his source is?
SWALWELL: I can`t speak for the chairman`s motives. I can only say, Greta, the White House is too involved in this by trying to block what Sally Yates was going to say. By allowing the chairman to go to the White House and receive classified information that wouldn`t be shared with Democrats, by having Michael Flynn lie to the vice president about his prior contacts with Russia, by the attorney general misleading the senate. All of this is a pattern of an attempt to cover up what serious questions we have about Russia.
VAN SUSTEREN: But what I don`t get is that when you confront the chairman, I mean, he must say something. Whether he shrugs his shoulders or says I`ll tell you later. Or this is just too serious.
SWALWELL: He said he`ll send us a letter.
VAN SUSTEREN: I don`t trust you. What?
SWALWELL: He said he`ll send us a letter. He told me that a letter has been sent to the committee. I`m waiting to see what the letter is.
VAN SUSTEREN: Can you go pick it up?
SWALWELL: Well, there`s nothing there that I -- I went there as soon as he said it. And again, Greta, I like this chairman. We`ve worked with him on cybersecurity issues. We reauthorized our intelligence programs. We have other important duties coming before us, and so that we can work together on those other duties. I think he should step aside because it`s jeopardizing the ability of the committee to function and be cohesive.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, you understand like when he says he sent a letter, I mean, you all work in the same building. I mean, work in the capitol together.
SWALWELL: We do.
VAN SUSTEREN: I don`t know if you`re in the same house building, but you can walk over to his office and get a copy. I mean, or has he offered to have it hand delivered? What did he do? Put it in a mail?
SWALWELL: I haven`t seen it, Greta. And again, this is more important than one person. And what we need to do is regain the credibility that we`re supposed to have as the intelligence committee. That is always worked together in the past.
VAN SUSTEREN: But you`re never going to gain credibility if there`s so much weirdness swirling around it, if there`s so much mystery.
SWALWELL: It is weird.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, you`re not going to -- you know, if he says I sent you a letter, I`m not going to tell you why the hearing has been canceled, but you`ll get it in the mail.
SWALWELL: Again, this is a departure from the chairman that all of us have worked with over the past few years. And that really happened once he joined the transition team. And I think you can only wear one uniform at a time. Either he`s on our independent search for the truth or he`s helping the White House. He can`t do both. And I hope that he`ll just steps aside, Greta. Allows another Republican to lead this, and that we can just get back to work.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the way you say it, the fact you want to step aside and say you can`t wear two team jerseys, it sounds to me that you think he`s on team White House and not team house intel committee.
SWALWELL: He won`t tell us what he learned over at the White House. We`ve canceled today`s hearing. We don`t have any further hearings this week. And there`s no sense of when the next public hearings will be. And so, all the progress we made with last week`s open hearing is now stalled.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, I hope you come back, especially when you get that letter. I hope you get that letter and you come back and share it with us.
SWALWELL: I do, too.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, there is so much mystery. What exactly do we know about former acting attorney general Sally Yates and her testimony that we were expecting today? Well, here`s a look at what went down leading up to those now canceled hearings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SPICER: I hope she testifies. I look forward to it. The report in the Washington Post is 100 percent false. We didn`t respond. We encouraged them to go ahead. But to suggest in any way shape or form that we stood in the way, that is 100 percent false.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: The White House denying claims it tried to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying on Russia. The Washington Post publishing letters between Yates` lawyer and the justice department, on March 24th, the DOJ writing Yates would be limited on what she could say because of presidential communication privilege. DOJ also saying Yates needs to consult with the White House, Yates` lawyer responding to DOJ that it would be untenable not to talk about information. And that same day, this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll postpone the previously scheduled March 28th hearing.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: We strongly object to the cancellation of this hearing. I think this is a serious mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: Chairman Nunes denies he talked to the White House about Yates. That committee hearing was supposed to be today with a red hot spot light on Sally Yates. Back in January, Yates` refused to defend the president`s travel ban. It led to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: A major breaking news this evening. Acting attorney general of the United States has just been fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: After Yates was fired, we learned she had told White House counsel she was concerned about then national security adviser, Michael Flynn`s contact with the Russian ambassador. Yates also believed Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail. Today, Yates would have broken her silence. What does she know? With me, Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the CIA and Department of Defense. Nice to see you, Jeremy.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Thank you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: First, there`s a reference to this Washington Post article. I don`t know if you`ve seen that. But looking at the documents underlying the Washington Post article, it said Yates` lawyer sent a letter to the White House and said she`s going to testify unless you object, and by a certain date the White House didn`t object, which in other words the White House has green light it. So it sounds like the Washington Post article is dead wrong.
BASH: That`s incorrect, Greta, because the nonresponse from the justice department from the White House came on Monday. Nunes had already arranged for the hearing to be canceled last week, so there was nothing for them to cancel. It`s already been cancelled.
VAN SUSTEREN: Because the hearing was already canceled, you think that this was just the White House playing the Yates.
BASH: Well, if they hadn`t canceled that she would have testified today. As they say in the law, res ipsa loquitor, the thing speaks for itself. If she were testifying today, they wouldn`t have canceled it. The fact that she didn`t testified today, means they did canceled.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK, all right, I buy that. That`s persuasive. All right, what is it that they want from Sally Yates?
BASH: It`s about 17 days, Greta. It`s about the days between the time that she warned White House counsel, Don McGahn, and who then turned around and told the president that Mike Flynn had been talking to the Russian ambassador about sanctions, the time between that date and February 13th, the date that Flynn resigned. What happened -- or was actually fired I should say. What happened during those 17 days? It doesn`t take 17 days for the White House to figure out this guy`s either off the reservation, he`s lying to the vice president, or he`s doing something worse undermining national security.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. What`s to stop Sally Yates tonight, coming on this show or any other show and say, OK, well, Nunes canceled me, but here`s what I would have said.
BASH: Well, of course, nothing is stopping her. However, she`s a public servant. She actually started her career in a Republican administration as a career prosecutor. She`s not a partisan person. She just doesn`t want to just come off.
VAN SUSTEREN: But in the partisan thing is being done to her.
BASH: But here`s the point. She wants to be told to testify. Ask question by a dually authorized congressional committee. That gives here the cover to tell her story. She`s not looking for fame. She`s not looking for attention. She will answer questions if she`s asked by a committee that`s investigating this. But here`s the point, the chairman has shut down the investigation. He has slammed the brake, not just on this hearing, he`s canceled two hearings. He`s cancelled two briefings.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why?
BASH: Why? Because last Monday`s hearing was a huge setback for the White House. The FBI director confirmed that the Trump inner circle is under counter intelligence investigation and maybe criminal investigation for their connections to Russians. And second, they flatly repudiated the president`s claims that Obama had wiretap him. That hearing last Monday was such a setback for the White House, they certainly said to the chairman and their allies, what are you guys doing? Why you`re holding the hearings? Stop holding hearings.
VAN SUSTEREN: If that`s true, I mean, if he`s bought by the White House, I mean, he has just thrown his career away. I mean his credibility.
BASH: He could clearly explain if there were another rationale, but he`s.
VAN SUSTEREN: What could it be? Give me a hypothetical. What could be an innocent explanation for cancelling these hearings?
BASH: He said he didn`t have enough time, but he`s been on O`Reilly, he`s been on other shows.
VAN SUSTEREN: He`s got a staff. And he actually -- he`s the one who set the dates to begin with. He laid out.
BASH: I can`t credit it, Greta, because it makes no sense.
VAN SUSTEREN: Can you come up with any hypothetical, any explanation for why canceling those hearings that there was a reason to it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that`s the problem.
BASH: I agree.
VAN SUSTEREN: Because I`m seriously thinking like why in the world would he have canceled those? Why would he have done that?
BASH: It`s really clear and all you have to do is listen to the concerns raised by other committee members. There are three federal investigations, one`s by the FBI, one`s by the Republican-led senate committee, one`s by the Republicans-led house committee. These are not inventions of Democrats. These are career professionals, and Republicans who are investigating ties between Trump and Russia.
VAN SUSTEREN: You say, look, let the senate Republicans investigate it. It`s just overlap. That would probably be the best excuse you`ll come up with.
BASH: That is an abdication of duty. The house selecting on intelligence.
VAN SUSTEREN: How you say it`s the best you can come up with.
BASH: Yes, I agree. Any port in a storm, but he shouldn`t put the committee and the congress and the people`s representative in that position. They should conduct an impartial, non-partisan investigation of a serious national security issue.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. There was one report that before he went to the White House, he spoke with Speaker Ryan. Speaker Ryan today was asked that he did not think that Chairman Nunes should step down -- recuse himself from this particular investigation. All right, that was Jeremy`s phone, not mine. All right, why do you think the speaker is standing by him?
BASH: I think the speaker is reluctant to weight into this. When he answered the two questions from the reporter today, no and no, he answered in about as quick a kind of fashion as one can answer a question in a press conference. Usually, he likes to give long answers. He does not want to dwell on this.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, he may not want to dwell, but he is unfortunately, for better or for worse, he`s speaker of the house, and he`s got a situation where a very influential committee is now having a very difficult problem.
BASH: This is a crisis of confidence not just in this committee`s oversight, but in oversight in general. And if there`s one thing we`ve learn is that in a system of checks and balances, there needs to be strong oversight. And if congress is not going to conduct the oversight, then other agencies, the FBI, and even the courts will have to do that.
VAN SUSTEREN: I want to think that is actually being done. Anyway, chairman, nice to see you.
BASH: Thanks, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Some more breaking news. NBC News is now reporting that DNC chairman, Tom Perez, has asked for resignations from all current staffers by next month. It is part of a major overhaul after last year`s loss and accusation that the DNC favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. We`ll talk about that and more of former DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz tomorrow night, right here at 6:00 PM Eastern. And still ahead, the intrigue, who is the source? There`s new mystery about the identity of the intelligence source for Chairman Nunes. And who did he meet with late at the evening at the White House, and how did he access the White House grounds? Who cleared him for entry? And now this, should congress investigate him? I`ll talk to the powerful head of the house oversight committee, GOP chairman Jason Chaffetz. And also today, another problem where it head for the Trump White House, a new demand for President Trump`s tax returns. We`ve learned today that issue is far from over, and Democrats say those tax returns could shed some light on the Russia controversy. I`ll talk to that lawmaker, one who`s spearheading this new battle. And a new report tonight on former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort. NBC`s Richard Engel went to Cyprus to get am exclusive look at the secret finances of the former Trump campaign chairman.
VAN SUSTEREN: And we are back with breaking news. Moments ago, NBC News catching up to house intel chair, Devin Nunes, pressing him on his investigation to Russia election meddling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just wondering like on camera, so you`re not going to tell the committee who your source is.
NUNES: We never talk about sources and methods.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
NUNES: I wouldn`t expect you to do that either. You guys are so infatuated with sources.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you`re waiting to hear back from Comey before you schedule Yates?
NUNES: Yes. I mean, look, we have a lot of -- I mean, we have the witnesses that we want and -- but we don`t know who the Democrats want to bring in.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
NUNES: So, you know, we`re still waiting on them to.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve spoke to Congressman Chip a little while ago, and he indicated that you trying to bring in Comey, basically, was a cover to cancel Yates.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: No reaction?
NUNES: No, I`m not going to react to anything like that. It`s not like -- you remember I said the same thing. This is no new information.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you did not tell the president.
NUNES: I think it was pretty obvious after there was a hundred questions that we`re answered that we need to get.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not schedule it at the end of that hearing on Monday?
NUNES: Look, there`s a lot of questions that they`ve got.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. And so you have not heard back from him about.
NUNES: We have a lot of concerns with the questions that were unanswered at that hearing.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: And any idea.
NUNES: And that is a consensus amongst our members. And it was our members, Republican side, who really wanted to make sure that of those questions were answered before we get to the rest of our witnesses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. And can you tell us who signed you in at the White House?
NUNES: We`re not going to ever talk about any of that.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
NUNES: Good luck though.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Did you tell Mr. President.
NUNES: I never ask you your sources.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Did you tell President Trump your sources?
NUNES: You`re going to drop that, man. We`ve answered all the questions many times to you guys.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: That one specifically?
NUNES: Yes, we have. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: With me, Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News chief investigator correspondent. Michael is an author of a new report focusing on Michael Ellis, a lawyer who worked for Chairman Nunes. Also with me, Ned Price, former senior director for President Obama`s National Security Council, former spokesperson and analyst at the CIA. He resigned from the CIA because of President Trump. Gentlemen, nice to see you. Before we get to it, at least, Michael, let me ask you this, Michael, is -- what Chairman Nunes says is that we don`t discuss sources and methods, that all the questions have been answered, but there`s one sort of gaping hole in this is that he hasn`t answered to his own committee, to Republicans and Democrats. We just had a congressman on who knows nothing. Who`s supposed to get a letter in the mail sometime with this? So he hasn`t told us, but more importantly, hasn`t told his own committee.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, YAHOO NEWS: Right. Look, Chairman Nunes may or may not have a legitimate point to make about the incidental collection. We don`t know because nobody has seen the documents that he is referring to. But we know that he`s clearly compromised the perception of any kind of bipartisanship or independence about this investigation. First of all, by going down there and examining the documents without informing any of the Democrats. He could have taken Adam Schiff down with him to see the material.
VAN SUSTEREN: Or briefed him later.
ISIKOFF: You know, I think Schiff probably would have wanted to see the material himself. But, I mean, the fact is that if they`re supposed to be working on this together, that`s the way cooperative investigation work. And then you add on that, he`s going to the White House and at least in part, this investigation is about what did the White House know and when did it know it, what did it know about Mike Flynn`s actions, were there any links between the campaign and the Russian government? So, it feeds the perception that Nunes is basically working with the White House instead of investigating the White House.
VAN SUSTEREN: Two questions, Ned. Ned, first, what do you have to do against the White House, explain how do get cleared, you can`t just sort of walk in, so we know who it is. That is the first thing. And second is he`s talks about some numbers on some documents.
NED PRICE, FORMER CIA SPOKESPERSON: Yeah. You absolutely cannot just walk in. And so, I think, what this boil down to, is the fact the White House either was the source or played match maker between Nunes and the source. And we know that because you need access by a White House staff member to gain access to the White House compound. Nunes then said.
VAN SUSTEREN: It`s not easy to get into the White House.
PRICE: It is absolutely not easy.
VAN SUSTEREN: And someone`s got to clear you. Someone`s got too vouched for you.
PRICE: Someone has to clear you into the White House compound. Someone then had to clear him in to the so-called skip, the secure facility where he viewed these documents. And then he said he accessed computer where he saw these electronic records. Clearly, you need login credentials from a White House staffer in order to view this. So, if the White House was not the direct source of this information, the White House was intimately involved in putting this together and playing match maker between Nunes and whoever his source was.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Michael, but you know it`s so weird that there`s nothing wrong with him looking at documents. I mean, he has made this incredible mystery. He`s the chairman of the intelligence committee, so there`s nothing wrong.
ISIKOFF: He has the right to see it.
VAN SUSTEREN: So why is he creating this cloak and dagger?
ISIKOFF: And I should say, who signed him into the White House and how he came to be there is not revealing sources and methods. The source presumably is somebody in the intelligence community who wanted him to see this.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who`s Michael Ellis because he`s written about him?
ISIKOFF: Michael Ellis was the chief counsel for the house intelligence committee under Chairman Nunes. And then, just about a month ago, went to the White House -- in the White House counsel`s office doing national security and intelligence matters. So it naturally has led to a lot of speculation. If somebody was going to help facilitate this, that he would have been a likely suspect.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Ned, what`s your sort of thought and I realize it`s a guess, but what`s your thought are these documents. I mean, piecing everything together in this puzzle. What do you think that we`re looking at?
PRICE: Well, Nunes has said a few things and his account had shifted over time. But what he has said that has been consistent is that these documents describe legal surveillance that was court authorized, that may involve incidental collection. He then went on to say subsequent to all of this that he wasn`t even sure if the documents actually contain intercepts of people within Trump`s inner orbit. So what this would boil down to, what certainly could boil down to, if it is legal incidental collection, it could be two foreigners mentioning the name of someone in Donald Trump`s orbit. That`s it.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. So if that`s it, why do we have this explosive secret stuff and what I consider odd behavior? I`ve been here 20 something years.
PRICE: We have explosive secret stuff because this is what they want us to be talking about. They do not want us to be talking about the ongoing Russia inquiry. Last Monday, as Jeremy said, was such an unmitigated disaster for the Trump administration. They are looking for anything. Chairman Nunes is their pawn.
VAN SUSTEREN: So you think they`re being clever in diverting this. It just makes me more interested.
ISIKOFF: Yeah, look, this clearly hasn`t like damped down interest in this whole investigation.
PRICE: The thing is we`re talking about this and not Russia.
VAN SUSTEREN: But we`re going to get -- oh, no, but we`re now -- more committees are going to get involved, more of the American people will be calling their members of congress.
ISIKOFF: And it`s led to calls by the Democrats on the committee for Nunes to recuse himself and that`s not good for the White House. Because, you know, it casts a big, gray cloud over him and his conduct of this.
PRICE: Well, it`s not good for the White House because right now they have defender who is the chairman of the house committee investigating this.
VAN SUSTEREN: But not a guy -- what he`s done though is made himself look unusual to be polite, and so that`s not a great defender. You want someone who looks like you know, Mother Teresa.
PRICE: He could well be the sacrificial lamb, the sacrificial lamb that this White House is looking for to distract attention away from what they don`t want everyone to look at.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I just think that it`s become so unusual and so mysterious. You know, I don`t know. Anyway, gentlemen, thank you. The plot thickens. Remember these photos? They created an uproar for how President Trump handles classified information, his Mar-a-Lago dining room. The house oversight committee demanded answers. And tonight, fresh out from a White House meeting, the committee chair, Congressman Jason Chaffetz, will break the news on what he has learned. That`s next.
VAN SUSTEREN: Back with some news about President Trump and Mar-a-Lago. Today, the government accountability office announced its reviewing security protocols at the so-called winter White House. The GAO laws will review the costs associate with the president`s trip to Florida. This comes after a month after questions were raised about President Trump handling of a North Korea missile launch while in public view at Mar-a- Lago. Congressman Jason Chaffetz Republican from Utah is chairman of the house oversight committee just back from the White House where he got briefed on this issue, nice to see you Mr. Chairman.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me. Good to see you.
VAN SUSTEREN: First of all, we always want to protect our president, our first family, where ever they travel. You went to the White House. What did you learn?
CHAFFETZ: The Democrats were there, by the way. Let`s make sure that we got that on the record.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did you invite them?
CHAFFETZ: Yes, of course.
VAN SUSTEREN: As a chairman, you invited the Democrats.
CHAFFETZ: Yes. It was a good briefing from secret service to the communications team to the military. It is a very difficult job. They have to at a moment`s notice, no matter where the president and vice president are. They have to be able to be in a secure communication facility. They have a mobile one that can do that. And they walk this through. We look at these photos and they`re up on social media, which is a new phenomenon. The president having dinner with a world leader a crisis is happening across the globe, but they assured us --
VAN SUSTEREN: Secret service that assured you.
CHAFFETZ: Secret service and a variety of others, I don`t have their titles in front of me that they had done an investigation and there was no classified information they were looking at that time. That if the president had moved slightly, they could have gone to a classified setting. He could have been in classified communications, but they told us the pictures they were looking at were of the Prime Minister`s father who was golfing at some point and so, they walked us through that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Everyone looking at social pictures?
CHAFFETZ: They said there was nothing they were looking at or discussing that was classified.
VAN SUSTEREN: What does that mean? How do you define that?
CHAFFETZ: Well if there was something, you know, one of the accusations was that there was video of a North Korea missile launch and that is what they were discussing and that is what they are looking at. Now, that would step over the line. I would think and be classified information. But they assure us and told us Democrats were asking questions, too, that that simply did not happen.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So you`re satisfied.
CHAFFETZ: I am. Now, how to secure the president, whether he is in New Jersey or the White House or in Mar-a-Lago, down in Florida, which he tends to go to regularly, they are able to do that. And whether in Hawaii or whatever they do, they`re used to doing this and do it on a daily basis.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ok. Elijah Cummings a ranking member of your committee is calling for an investigation into Chairman Devin Nunes of the house intelligence committee.
CHAFFETZ: That is ridiculous. That is a silly season. It doesn`t even pass the basic sniff test. He may not like the way chairman Nunes is doing this or that, he may say that he made a mistake on this or that, but never Nunes is a man of high integrity. He is done a great job chairing a very difficult committee. He has the full confidence of the Republican conference, leadership, myself and Trey Gowdy and a host of others.
VAN SUSTEREN: So, you don`t have any -- I mean like, from the outside, this looks odd. Even the whole thing about sending a letter to inform Democrats what`s going on? His source of information. I guess it`s supposed to be classified, too. I don`t know why he put it in a letter. You don`t find that unusual?
CHAFFETZ: No, I don`t. You`re dealing with a committee that deals with highly sensitive and classified information.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why put it in the mail?
CHAFFETZ: Well because they have to deal with documents there in a very secure setting. They`re not going down to the post office, but to put something in black and white so they`re on the same page, I could see, based on what Nunes has been through recently, why he would want to do that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Wouldn`t you rather go into a closed hearing with your committee and tell them --
CHAFFETZ: And they have had those and are going to have them in the future.
VAN SUSTEREN: So this Democrats congressman, he hasn`t been told, is he making it up that he hasn`t been told?
CHAFFETZ: I`m shocked Democrats want to challenge Republicans. That is not breaking news.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you believe that Nunes has done everything he can to brief the members of the house intelligence committee as to what transpired?
CHAFFETZ: I believe, I have not seen every transcript, but he said he made a mistake and he did apologize for it, but he is moving forward.
VAN SUSTEREN: He said he saw something.
VAN SUSTEREN: And he won`t say who showed it to him or what it is.
CHAFFETZ: Not yet.
VAN SUSTEREN: I assume that is in that letter, that is somehow classified so the rest of us can`t hear, that gets put in the U.S. mail or something.
CHAFFETZ: I think you`re extrapolating and others are extrapolating.
VAN SUSTEREN: He didn`t tell us.
CHAFFETZ: Well he could, but they`re in the middle of an investigation. I`d love to tell you the sum of every conclusion that I can come to on certain things that we`ve been investigating, when you`re u in a middle of an investigation, you`re still learning things.
VAN SUSTEREN: What documents do you want to do with Flynn? You`ve asked the FBI for --
CHAFFETZ: We did. We asked the White House, we have asked the FBI, under the statute -- even though he was not in Trump administration, but he was a former military officer, he is supposed to, if he is going to take money directly from a foreign state, he has to get permission, not just ask, he has to actually get authorization from both the State Department and the Department of Defense. So we`re asking did they grant that approval, because as a former military officer, you can`t take that money. That goes for any officer.
VAN SUSTEREN: Apparently, there`s a question at least in my mind, whether you got money from Russia, in which case you have to notify permission and Turkey, right?
CHAFFETZ: Any foreign nation.
VAN SUSTEREN: Any other nations where we think --
CHAFFETZ: Anybody who is a military officer in any branch of government or any branch of the military as a former officer, they cannot take direct payment from a foreign patient.
VAN SUSTEREN: If the defense department says no, we have no record. Then we have no documents or anything.
CHAFFETZ: That is what we`re checking. That is why we sent a letter, to get their side.
VAN SUSTEREN: We need some admission to actually count that money, right?
CHAFFETZ: We believe that we do understand there was money exchanged.
VAN SUSTEREN: From Russia and Turkey.
CHAFFETZ: Part where we`re at and Elijah Cummings and I both signed these letters. We`re going back to the administration asking for their view point. Did the general ask for permission and was he granted that permission. They`re still under the clock and then we`ll deal with that once they respond.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are you going to ask General Flynn to testify?
CHAFFETZ: I don`t know we necessarily need to do a hearing about this.
VAN SUSTEREN: Good source. Right from the -- from the horse`s mouth.
CHAFFETZ: I`m sure you`d love it.
VAN SUSTEREN: I`d cover it.
CHAFFETZ: Yes, you would.
VAN SUSTEREN: Wouldn`t you like to hear from him?
CHAFFETZ: I`m not cutting that off, but I`m saying we`re going to do a full investigation. We`ve gone to the next stage where Elijah Cumming and I, a ranking Democrats have sent a letter to the administration, several departments, asking for their feedback and documentation. It takes a little while to gather that.
VAN SUSTEREN: When do you expect to hear from them?
CHAFFETZ: In the next two weeks, it is less than that by the time we get it, digest it and if there`s a follow up question.
VAN SUSTEREN: If you find out that he got money and didn`t get permission, then what?
CHAFFETZ: Then you`ve got to figure out where you might refer that.
VAN SUSTEREN: DOJ at that point?
CHAFFETZ: Potentially, but it could be another department and agency. It`s not necessary criminal what he did in taking that money. That may not be a criminal offense.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Chairman, nice to see you, always nice to see you.
CHAFFETZ: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ahead, NBC News exclusive, new details on former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort`s business dealings and Cypress. NBC Richard Engel on that tonight.
VAN SUSTEREN: We know now at least seven Trump associates met with the Russian ambassador, the president`s son-in-law, close advisor Jared Kushner. In December, Kushner met with a Russian banker who has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now, Kushner has volunteered to answer questions from the senate intel committee and today, the committee chair said a date has not yet been set. With me Annie Linskey, reporter from the Boston Globe and Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun- Times." Annie, Jared Kushner says he will go down and speak freely with the committee.
ANNIE LINSKEY, BOSTON GLOBE: That is the definitely the right answer for him, because this is an issue that is not going away. I mean, you know, I`ve talked to a number of not only Republican operatives, but ethics people who say that the only thing that this White House can do to just washes itself clean of this Russia cloud is to just open the books and show everything and say hey, look, we have nothing to hide. We did nothing wrong. We`ll march in and answer every single question that you give us and so, I think that is the approach they`re taking and definitely the right one.
VAN SUSTEREN: Lynn provided there`s no funny business that would be expected that a transition team member would meet with Russian representatives, I don`t know if a Russian banker, if there`s anything there. It`s not unusual to be on a transition team to be speaking to other nation`s representatives.
LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: This is a town full of people who work for other governments. What is unusual is the circumstance and the reticence to tell the whole story, put it in context, to explain, to if there`s, if there`s more to be said to volunteer the information and that is where we`re in this situation now, because of the chairman new our should have known that he had to conduct himself in a way that would be beyond reproach.
VAN SUSTEREN: How about the chairman.
SWEET: Nunes, just to pick one person out of it all, got a lot of chairman`s going on here. If you talk about Kushner, you`re not just anyone 4 -- you are not just anyone, your people who have positions of power, official or unofficial as Kushner.
VAN SUSTEREN: I guess I give a little latitude to someone as a business man from New York. He has not been involved in politics. I`m sure he knows all this stuff right now. He is gotten an intense education, but I know assuming that there`s nothing funny about the conversations that you know, have at it.
LICHTMAN: The thing is, we have to assume that and we assume that whole -- White House spokeswoman coming out saying nothing unusual. Nothing of consequence was discussed in this meeting and the problem that I have at least that this is a White House who, it`s already eroded its own credibility in the first 60 some odd days. We`d love to believe what the White House has to say, but time and time again, they say things that are not true. I think it is in couple bent on Jared to be under oath and show us exactly what was said.
SWEET: During the campaign, there was a celebrated situation where Bill Clinton went on the plane of Loretta Lynch and talked about their grandchildren. Maybe that is what they have had if they were under oath but the Trump team did not give them the benefit of the doubt. This is something that is come up that could be cleared up. After all of all picks statement, I want to know what they said and let --
VAN SUSTEREN: Whatever the facts are.
SWEET: As opposed to somebody summarizing don`t worry, it`s ok.
VAN SUSTEREN: I agree. We just need the facts. Anyway, ahead, NBC News exclusive former Trump campaign Chairperson Paul Manafort, a Russian billionaire and following the money.
VAN SUSTEREN: We are back with live pictures of the White House where the president and our first lady will host a reception for senators and their spouses, this will be the first time President Trump has invited all current senators, Republicans and Democrats to the White House and this is the first time, since the agenda the Supreme Court and maybe health care will come up.
Now to a NBC news exclusive investigation, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is the focus of the FBI congressional investigation to do possible ties between the Trump campaign team and Russia. NBC`s Richard Engel is following the money.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: He is a central figure in the investigations into Donald Trump`s inner circle and possible ties to Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was Manafort.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paul Manafort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ENGEL: Long before he was President Trump`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort was paid millions by a Russian billionaire with close ties to Vladimir Putin. According to one report, secretly promising to greatly benefit the Putin government by influencing politics and media coverage, now, NBC news has learned that U.S. Treasury officials are following the money trail Manafort left behind. It led them and us to a small island in the Mediterranean. To find out more, we came here to Cypress to this city of Limassol which has a reputation for its beaches and as a hub for money laundering. These city has attracted so many Russians, it`s been dubbed Limassol ground -- this is where some of the money Manafort got from the Russian tycoon went, banking sources with direct knowledge of the transactions tell NBC news at least 15 accounts were opened here for more than ten companies, all linked to Manafort. The sources say that in one case, a million dollars landed in one of these accounts and left it on the same day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM CARDAMONE, GLOBAL FINANCIAL INTEGRITY MANAGING: Movements of large amounts of money very quickly in and out of an account is very similar to what money launders do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ENGEL: And there was a lot of money involved, including $18.9 million to buy a Ukrainian media company for Oleg Deripaska who according to WikiLeaks state department officials described as one of two to three Oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis. Documents from a legal actions show that some of that money from Deripaska went to a Manafort-linked company in Cypress. Today, Deripaska took out an ad in national newspapers denying the associated press report that he hired Manafort to help the Putin government, calling it fake news.
But eventually even in Cypress, Manafort`s accounts raised suspicions. In 2012, the internal auditing system at Laiki bank flagged some of the accounts for possible money laundering according to the banking sources, who also said that when the bank asked for more information, Manafort chose to close the accounts without answering the questions.
Late today, a spokesman for Paul Manafort sent us a statement saying all Manafort`s companies were legitimate entities and established for lawful ends, adding Mr. Manafort has no specific personal recollection of the shutdown of his Cypress accounts, which he says took place during a banking crisis on the island. He is repeatedly denied working for the Russian government.
VAN SUSTEREN: And Democrats say making a new push to get their hands on President Trump`s tax returns. The lawmaker leading that charge will be with me. This one`s getting hot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE CROWLEY (D-NY), DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIR: He also said that once the election was over, he didn`t have to give over his taxes anymore because he won. That is right, he is president today, and we`re not. We get that. But he made a pledge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Breaking news. Just moments ago a house committee voting down a measure pushed by Democrats seeking ten years of the president`s tax returns. Before the vote, the debate got fiery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re asking for the disclosure, because it`s relevant to the discussion about the Russian connection.
REP. JIM RENACCI (R), OHIO: What you`re asking for is not on a tax return. That is why I know it`s just a political push.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Pascrell has singled out this issue for political reasons.
CROWLEY: The American citizens request that the president do what he pledged to do in the election. He made that pledge. I would remind the gentle lady from south Dakota.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: The president said he has no business deals in Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we`ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: With me, Congressman Bill Pascrell, Democrat from the great state of New Jersey, who filed that resolution demanding President Trump`s tax returns, nice to see you, sir?
REP. BILL PASCRELL (D), NEW JERSEY: Greta, how are you this evening?
VAN SUSTEREN: Now, tell me, sir, looking at a tax return in general, what would you expect or define in someone`s tax returns -- let`s take President Trump`s -- that might be helpful to this Russia investigation? What are you looking for?
PASCRELL: Very little. We need the supplemental. We need all the information that goes with tax reforms. Then there are all kinds of schedules, particularly if you have debts, if you have investments in other countries. The rules become very, very interesting. So an ordinary person really could not decide or discern what he would have to do if he owned all of this like Mr. Trump has 560 investments in all countries in this world. We have a right to know this, I believe -- the people to know about their president in order to investigate conflicts of interest. He is talking about tax reforms. The tax reforms need to be for everybody, not just for him.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So that is on the issue of conflicts of interest. What gives you the specific authority to get those tax returns? How do you get around sort of the privacy interests of a citizen?
PASCRELL: Well, we certainly want to -- we don`t want to violate anyone`s privacy. But the rule and the law of 1924 right after the Teapot Dome incident, which was scandalous to say the least, the code was changed. So there are three committees in the congress of the United States that have the right to ask in executive session to get the materials if they feel it merits public consumption. Then they have the right to bring that the public`s attention.
VAN SUSTEREN: So is your --
PASCRELL: That is what we`re asking for. If there`s nothing to hide, why don`t we have this?
VAN SUSTEREN: As you request -- and I realize you`re a minority party in a Republican-dominated house. But is your request, then, to the Treasury Department who I guess would have sort of custody of the returns, or is your request to President Trump under that law?
PASCRELL: It goes to the Treasury Department through the chairman of the three committees, either ways and means, the senate finance committee, or the joint committee on taxation. Then they would decide in executive session if that -- if those tax returns should be made public. That is what the law says. The law is on our side. Plus we need to look at article I, section 9 of the constitution of the United States, of gifts to the president of the United States or anybody in the executive branch of government.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you very much. We`ll be watching. Thank you for joining us, sir.
PASCRELL: This is going to be a long fight.
VAN SUSTEREN: And viewers thank you for watching. I`ll see you back here tomorrow night 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We have a big show tomorrow tonight. Among my guests, the always fascinating Senator Lindsey Graham, and he doesn`t take prisoners. And before then, follow me on twitter @Greta. Be sure to check out my Facebook page.
"HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now. See you tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on MSNBC.
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