Show: For the Record with Greta Date: March 30, 2017 Guest: Margaret Carlson, Bill Kristol, E.J. Dionne, Shane Harris, Chris Swecker, Steve Clemons, Matthew Rosenberg, Eliana Johnson, Ken Dilanian, Ed Markey
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOR THE RECORD HOST: You can`t make this stuff up, Chuck. We have another bombshell and it`s about the White House. There are new questions tonight of possible collusion between house intelligence chairman Devin Nunes and the Trump White House. The New York Times breaking the news the two White House officials helped give Nunes intelligence reports. So, who are those White House officials? According to the times, Ezra Cohen-Watnick is a senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis who works in the White House council office. But get this he used to work for Chairman Nunes on the house intelligence committee. So, is Chairman Nunes talking today finally telling us what happened at his Tuesday night rendezvous at the White House? No, silence from him. He`s not talking. His spokesperson only saying this, quote, he has stated many times Chairman Nunes will not confirm or deny speculation about his sources` identity, and he will not respond to speculation from anonymous sources. And, yes, you have heard that many times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DEVIN NUNES, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I`m not going to get into the sources. We never talk about sources and methods. We don`t talk about sources at this committee. We want more people to come forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the other alleged source, Ezra Cohen-Watnick was the subject two weeks ago of this political report about how President Trump stepped in to keep the 30-year-old aide on his staff, the president over rule a decision by his national security advisor, Lt. General H.R. McMaster. Now just minutes after the Times broke that story, White House press secretary Sean Spicer took to the podium.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNINDENTIFIED MALE: I want to ask you something you said here quoting on March 23rd when you were originally asked if the White House might have had any role in providing information to Chairman Nunes. You first said it didn`t make any sense to you. And you went on to say, and I`m quoting you here, I don`t know why he, Chairman Nunes, would brief the speaker and then come down here and brief us on something that we would have briefed him on, doesn`t seem to make a ton of sense. So I`m not aware of it, but it doesn`t really pass the smell test. You said it doesn`t pass the smell test on March 23rd. Now there`s reporting.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think -- again.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: . the White House that they were the sources of this. I`m trying to put the two things together.
SPICER: number one, the first quote that you`re reading if you actually go back, I was responding -- I was very clear that I said based on what Chairman Nunes has said, the following doesn`t make sense.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: You told us that you`re willing to look into.
SPICER: I am.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: . and ask questions about the process and provide us answers.
SPICER: No, no, please don`t put words in my mouth. I never said I would provide you answers. I said we would look into it.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Are you disputing the reports in the New York Times?
SPICER: I`m not commenting on the reports.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: He`s not commenting, but the White House is now inviting the leaders of the intelligence committees to review new information. Here is the letter that was sent to them, but top Democrat on the house intelligence committee is not satisfied.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNINDENTIFIED MALE: If in fact the National Security Council staff that discovered these materials reportedly in the ordinary course of business are the same national security staff that provided them to the chairman to be provided to the president, it raises a profound question why they were not directly provided to the White House by the national security staff, and instead were provided through a secure dis-route involving the chairman. If that was designed to hide the origin of the materials, that raises profound questions about just what the White House is doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: With me are three reporters who`ve been working this story for weeks. On the phone Matthew Rosenberg who had today`s bombshell article for the New York Times, Eliana Johnson from Politico, and Ken Dilanian from NBC News. Let me go first to you, Matthew. Tell me about these two, who are these people at the White House?
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, Mr. Cohen-Watnick is -- he`s an accolade of Michael Flynn who was the former national security advisor who was fired after only 25 days because he misled the vice president about the nature of phone calls he had before the inauguration with Russian ambassador. Mr. Ellis, the person who appears to have actually allowed Mr. Nunes to see the documents, he was until a few weeks ago working for Mr. Nunes. And Mr. Cohen-Watnick also served on the transition as well, so this very small circle of people who all do sort of know each other. And they`re in senior jobs at the White House. Mr. Ellis has been described as his boy scout, somebody who would definitely not be freelancing in the estimation from people who knows him. So we do have real questions that we not be able to answer about how far this goes, how high this went. Were they doing this without permission? Was this an organized effort by more senior people at the White House?
VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any indication that either one of these two men at the White House that before going to Nunes, and it sounds like Ellis went to Nunes as best I can figure out, before they went to Nunes they told anyone in the White House about any of the information that they subsequently told to Nunes? Or showed Nunes?
ROSENBERG: I have to be careful here because we have indications of that. We can`t nail that down. And so I want to be clear that right now we don`t know. It certainly looks that way, but we don`t know that for sure.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is there anything -- do we know anything about whether Nunes -- whether either one of these men did anything wrong?
ROSENBERG: You know, whether -- it doesn`t look like they were doing anything illegal, but they certainly look to have been using intelligence to advance a political agenda of the administration. And that is -- that kind of politicization of intelligence is what the Trump administration is basically accusing the Obama administration of doing. And there`s not much evidence the Obama administration was doing it, but there`s bounding evidence that the Trump administration is using intelligence to achieve its political ends.
VAN SUSTEREN: We go to you, Eliana, you in Politico wrote an article two weeks ago about one of these men. Who was it and what did you write?
ELIANA JOHNSON, POLITICO: We chronicled a couple of weeks ago that as a result of complaints from the CIA to national security advisor H.R. McMaster, he sought to remove Ezra Cohen-Watnick from the National Security Council and was overruled by President Trump who wanted to keep him there. I think it`s important to note that Ezra Cohen-Watnick distinguished himself as a very young but ambitious and capable behind the scenes worker on the National Security Council, and developed a relationship with Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon in his short time at the White House and was able to appeal to them to stay in his position. He is in a position typically occupied by a senior level analyst from the CIA. He had come from the defense intelligence agency. I also think it`s important to note we don`t know that either Ezra Cohen-Watnick or Michael Ellis did anything appropriate when you`re talking about the politicization of intelligence, it may be that they sought to give information to Devin Nunes, the chairman of the house intelligence committee, that would bolster the president`s case. It also appears that the intelligence that they showed him the names of American officials who were working for Donald Trump were not redacted from that information. And that`s also inappropriate and concerning I think should be a subject of concern for all Americans. It doesn`t seem to be -- that seems to be getting lost in all of this. So I think on both sides, on the Trump side and on the Obama administration side there are matters of deep concern for everybody.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Why did McMaster not want Cohen-Watnick on the team after he arrived? He of course replacing General Flynn.
JOHNSON: You know, according to our reporting he got complaints from the CIA, and he wanted to placate those complaints. He`s somebody who wanted to smooth interagency process. The National Security Council is charged with coordinating the interagency process, which means that it coordinates, it collects views of all the different agencies in the government and is charged with collecting and presenting those views to the president. And I was told that he personally had no problem with Mr. Cohen-Watnick, and he wasn`t looking to fire him but to put him in a different position and to placate the CIA`s request and put somebody from the CIA in his position and put Mr. Cohen-Watnick in a different position.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ken Dilanian, we know what`s being said publicly by Spicer and at least a spokesperson for Nunes. Do you have any sense of what`s going on inside the White House whether they think this is much ado about nothing, or whether they`re running for cover, or whether these two men will keep their jobs, whether Nunes is in trouble with his job?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS: I think running for cover might be a good way to describe it, Greta. I just want to make a couple points though. First that NBC News has not confirmed this New York Times reporting, although we have been hearing these names for days as likely suspects. And I`ve been speaking to a former National Security Council official who explained to me the process of how this intelligence would be accessed. And it`s really only a tiny number of people that would have access to signals intelligence, intercepts that has incidental collection about Americans, and one of them would be Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the head of the intelligence directorate. So that`s sort lends credence to the idea that he at least has access in this information. But the bottom line, whoever it was it`s clear it came from somebody in the White House because this official also told me that it`s not like an official from another agency can go over to the White House secure room and start hunting around in that computer for this very sensitive intelligence. So, if we accept the fact that it came from the White House, that raises a host of questions stepping back about this explosive claim that Nunes made that he had found evidence of incidental collection on the Trump transition and, you know, it threw the house intelligence investigation into disarray. Donald Trump saw it as vindication of his bogus wiretapping claim. The fact that all now seems to have emanated from the White House raises fundamental questions about it.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Incidental collection, I understand that happens. And I wouldn`t like particularly if my communications were picked up, although it would probably be like something about my husband and me talking about our pets or going to the grocery store. But is there anything in terms of what was actually collected that was in any way sensitive or important or, you know, is there any problem with it?
DILANIAN: Well, we don`t know the answer to what was collected, but actually it`s interesting. Nunes initially said that Trump and his aides had been monitored, leaving the impression that their conversations or their e-mails or some communications had actually been captured, they were one party to the conversation. But now it turns out that the vast majority if not all of this stuff officials are telling us and I think the New York Times also reported that the vast majority of this stuff was foreigner-to- foreigner surveillance about Donald Trump and his aides. And of course that would be perfectly normal. It was the transition. Foreign embassies are talking to their capitals about these guys. And I would take issue with my political colleague. The fact of it may have been unmasked is not necessarily improper at all because there are procedures to unmask the names of U.S. officials who are spoken about to better understand the intelligence, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Matthew, do you know anything about the substance of what this incidental collection? That`s my first question. And the second question is the White House distressed by this at all?
ROSENBERG: I mean, look, I think we also have to understand that there are serious significant civil liberties issues with our surveillance kind of state that we live in and the amount of surveillance that goes on. But that`s not what the Trump White House is concern here or discussing here. The incidental collection they`re discussing is something that if you`re up a foreigner under surveillance or foreigners they`re talking about you could caught up in, that includes probably Obama administration officials when they were in power, that I know I`ve been caught up, and so if anybody else who worked overseas or people overseas. And so the content of this what we understand was mostly foreign officials talking to each other about how they were trying to get to know people on the Trump team ahead of the inauguration, which is their jobs, basically. And we don`t understand, we don`t know if there`s anything really sensitive in there, but we`ve not been told that. And that`s been the entire problem with this is that Nunes came out and made these kinds of broad claims and this kind of very troubling kind of materials he`d seen, but refused to describe it what it was. It`s so classified -- can see it. There`s also the question if he`s so troubled this stuff was disseminated, it kind of suggests a lot of people saw and it a lot of people didn`t see it. The circle of people who are allowed to see it is incredibly small, we`re talking a dozen, two dozen, maybe three dozen.
VAN SUSTEREN: Eliana, if this is much ado about nothing, as of course, you know, naturally the White House is going to say that and Nunes -- you know, why has it been bungled so poorly coming out of the White House and Nunes?
JOHNSON: Well, I think the president made an explosive claim, which was that President Obama had tapped the wires of Trump Tower. And it looks as though, at least Devin Nunes, the chairman of the house intelligence committee, has bungled the objects of this such that he`s made it look as though he`s trying to come to the defense of the president and provide evidence to bolster the president`s claim. It looks as though the evidence that exists is only that routine intelligence collection that would take place in the transition from one president to another is what took place here. We don`t know yet if any intelligence collection outside the scope of that that wouldn`t have taken place, you know, in the transition of power from any administration from one to another took place yet. And I think that`s where the confusion is stemming from. Did anything outside the ordinary happen? Was intelligence collection -- was intelligence collected that wouldn`t have happened, you know, otherwise, or that wasn`t routine collected. And those are the questions that we don`t know answers to. And certainly nobody I think is going to provide evidence or it would be very difficult to muster evidence to bolster the president`s tweet which he is yet to back off of.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you all. Got to take a break. Next we go live to Capitol Hill for reaction to these explosive reports about the White House and the Republican house intel chairman who is leading the Russian investigation. Was there any collusion or improper contacts? Democratic Senator Ed Markey from the foreign relations committee will be joining us. And another bombshell revelation tonight, senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were also targeted by Russian hackers. I know what you`re thinking, where does this end? Plus, Vladimir Putin for the first time speaking out with a big denial about what he was up to during the American election, you`re going to hear directly from Putin. And a twist so bizarre that I just had to tell you about it, why the North Koreans are now threatening war because of something said right here on this TV show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Isn`t it abundantly clear that at least some White House officials had to be involved in him getting information here because they would need to help him access the complex?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I cannot get into who those individuals were.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Right, it was someone at the White House, right?
SPICER: Again, if I start going down the path of confirming and denying one thing that we`re going down a very slippery slope.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s possible.
SPICER: I`m not going to comment on it.
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would it not be smart to have an outside independent investigation?
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: White House press secretary Sean Spicer refusing to comment on the New York Times report. Meanwhile, the fire under Chairman Nunes gets even hotter. Questions are mounting over possible collusion between Devin Nunes and the White House. At the same time Spicer was feeling questions on the report the senate intelligence committee was holding its first open hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election. With me Senator Ed Markey, Democrat from the great state of Massachusetts, who serves on the foreign relations committee. Nice to see you, sir.
ED MARKEY, U.S. SENATOR: Thank you. Good evening, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, I`m trying to figure out whether this is much ado about nothing and I`m sort of blowing this up, or if this is extremely serious. And of course, Chairman Nunes` bizarre behavior makes me understandably suspicious, so tell me what you think.
MARKEY: Well, this is a jaw dropping new set of information that has been made public. Devin Nunes went down to the White House, if the New York Times is accurate, and then was briefed by a former staffer of General Flynn, who met with the Russians in December, and with his own former staffer who is now on the White House staff. If that`s the case, then it`s clear that there is an attempt to turn Devin Nunes from being the investigator of this Russian hacking into American elections and then into the Trump administration after they were elected rather than being an investigator to be a defender of the Trump administration, to be a shield against a charge that the Russians compromised the White House and our elections. So this is historic now. And it actually smells of a cover-up that is being orchestrated out of the White House that drew Devin Nunes in to become part of that cover-up.
VAN SUSTEREN: How do we get Chairman Nunes or the White House to just set the facts straight and to tell us? Because they`ve made this such a circus, and they made it so bizarre that we`re distracted from health care. We`re distracted from the underlying investigation on Russian interference. I mean, the behavior, I mean even -- assuming nothing sinister they have made it sinister. They have made it totally sinister. If there`s something sinister, well then they are covering it up. But is there any way to sort of pry this out of it so we can at least get the facts and move on?
MARKEY: Well, right now the only way that we`re going to be able to pry the information out of them in a way that has credibility with the American public is through the investigation of the senate intelligence committee led by Richard Burr and Mark Warner, because right now what Devin Nunes has done is to compromise his own investigation. I think Adam Schiff has pointed that out over and over again. That when you don`t cooperate with the Democrats on a committee investigating the executive branch, you make it very clear that you are not interested in getting to a bipartisan solution or answer to the big questions on whether or not the Russians were engaging in their own get out the vote operation, and by the way trying to compromise Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as well. And then after the election trying to compromise new White House appointees who would have a say in what our relationship was going to be with Russia, and the sanctions which the United States has imposed upon the Russians. So I just don`t think that unfortunately Devin Nunes any longer can play any kind of a credible role. He has to step out of the way. And now the senate investigation steps front and center to be the only way we`re going to have something which gives the answers to the American public.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are you at all suspicious that the president himself is involved in any of this? Or is this just people who work for him as transition team or people at the White House? Do you assign any sort of responsibility, or do you think anything`s going on with the president?
MARKEY: Well, we`re getting to a what did the president know and when did he know it, now that we know that it is his own staffers who were briefing Devin Nunes. So this is getting closer and closer to the oval office. We don`t know the answers, however. No one can say conclusively as to what in fact did happen. But we now have to be sure that those answers are given to the American public because.
VAN SUSTEREN: If you could ask one question of the president, what would it be on this?
MARKEY: It would be, what did you know about Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn and others in your campaign before the election in terms of their relationship and conversations with the Russians. And then, Mr. President, what did you know about Michael Flynn and others in your family and on your staff in their conversations with the Russians after the election in terms of what your policies would be as the president. And until we get those answers we`re not going to know how successful Vladimir Putin was in his ability to compromise our elections and then to compromise policies that could influence Russia in the years ahead.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you for joining us.
MARKEY: Glad to be here.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ahead, the top ranking Democrat on house intel responding to the White House invitation to review new information on surveillance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNINDENTIFIED MALE: If they`re ready tomorrow, I`m ready to go tomorrow. The letter I got from White House counsel certainly raises far more questions than any it answers.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: Also, did Russian president Vladimir Putin`s election meddling run even deeper than we knew? And what we are learning today about whether the presidential campaigns of senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were also hacked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNINDENTIFIED MALE: A sophisticated and capable adversary.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: There`s nothing to stop them from doing this all over again in 2018.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: We are seeking to determine if there is an actual fire, but there`s clearly a lot of smoke. For instance, an individual associated with the Trump campaign accurately predicted the release of hacked e-mails weeks before it happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Today the senate intelligence committee trying to get to the heart of the investigation had its first hearing on the Russian hacking, and at the same time White House press secretary Sean Spicer dropping this bombshell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: A letter was transmitted just recently to the ranking member and chairman of the house and senate intelligence committees that said in the ordinary course of business national security staff discovered documents that we believe are in response to your March 15, 2017 letter to intelligence community seeking, quote, documents necessary to determine whether information collected on U.S. persons was mishandled and leaked, end quote. We have and will invite the senate and house ranking members and chairman up to the White House to view that material in accordance with their schedule.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: The house intel ranking member Adam Schiff saying today that he accepts the White House`s invitation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ADAM SCHIFF, U.S. CONGRESSMAN: If they`re ready tomorrow, I`m ready to go tomorrow. The letter that I got from White House council certainly raises far more questions than any it answers. Highly concerning to me that on the same day that this New York Times story reports, and I don`t know whether the New York Times sources are accurate about whether the two people mentioned in that story, but the fact that Sean Spicer yesterday had no idea who may have been involved in that review by the chairman. Today they suddenly do.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAN SUSTEREN: With me Margaret Carlson, comes from the Daily Beast, E.J. Dionne a columnist from the Washington Post, and Bill Crystal founder and editor of the Weekly Standard. Margaret, first to you, I guess there`s a best case and worst case scenario for Nunes and the White House, is that best case scenario is that this is sort of keystone cops and really bungled this and made us all suspicious. Worst case scenario is what?
MARGARET CARLSON, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, that -- you know, Nunes sought out what Donald Trump would want him to do in order to prove (inaudible) a tweet he sent out weeks ago about being wiretapped and went about doing that business in what looks like a fairly cloak and dagger or underhanded way that where the details are dribbling out and it makes him look bumbling, you know, last night on your show Senator Graham called him Inspector Crusoe which would work except that inspector Crusoe had no nefarious notions. He was just bumbling about. And this looked like it was totally intended to ingratiate Nunes, to ingratiate himself with the administration. And in a closed loop going to the White House to get information to then approve the White House but getting laundered in some ways through Nunes. There`s no other way to look at it as to who benefits and who was doing the dirty work to achieve that benefit.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Bill this is sort of like -- part of this I`m very focused on a tweet from the president where he accuses a prior president of breaking the law, wiretapping. While we`re so consumed with that, Nunes some sort of parachutes in and makes it more bizarre. Meanwhile we`ve got this terrible situation with Russia hacking into our election. And it`s exploded all over us. How do you sort this out?
BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD FOUNDER AND EDITOR: I think it`s more serious than people are saying, honestly. I don`t buy any of this inspector Crusoe stuff. Donald Trump knew what he was doing when he made that tweet. He wanted to divert attention from the investigation into Russia to make it about whether the Obama administration had loosened the rules of masking and unmasking and that sort of thing in a way that was politically motivated. That is an issue, I think there`s a fair question about the masking rules and maybe the Obama administration had some political stuff in mind when they changed those the way that was processed in early January. But look at the White House situation. President Trump does that tweet on March 4th and then for the next two weeks we`re supposed to believe that a 30-year-old national security mid level official and a 32-year-old council also works on the national security council, they just go about looking into this on their own and then discover some stuff they think helps their case that the unmasking might have been politically motivated and don`t tell anyone or suddenly call Devin Nunes on a Monday night and he hurries over, really? And meanwhile these national security officials, (inaudible) reported H.R. McMasters in charge of the national Security Council wanted to fire him and he gets protected by someone, by whom? This goes all the way -- the question is who did they report to at the White House? I worked at the White House. I cannot conceive that these two young men just did it kind of, hey this is pretty interesting, and I`m going to spend 12 hours a day looking at this stuff. Doesn`t their boss ever say what are you doing there? McMaster doesn`t like, didn`t sound like, didn`t trust Mr. Cohen-Watnick, so maybe he talks to someone else, and is it Steve Bannon? I think this goes very quickly up the chain in the White House. Maybe goes to the oval office in the sense Trump knew what was going on, in which case the whole question of the use of Nunes becomes not just Devin Nunes stumbling into something, but Devin Nunes being a pawn of the White House in an attempt to divert attention from the Russia connection.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it has been reported at least I`ve seen in more than one place that Cohen-Watkins, Eliana was just here talking about McMasters and the president intervened after Bannon went to him on behalf of Cohen- Watkins. But EJ, what in the world were these two -- why were they burning the midnight oil these two in the White House combing through all these documents? Is that their job to go through this stuff? Think the NSA is sorting through this and if they find something they then ship it over there?
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNITS: Well, Trump totally politicized this when he did his tweet about Obama groundlessly. It doesn`t shock me at all these that two guys were probably tasked to find any shred of anything that might remotely justify an unjustifiable tweet. And I think Eliana`s reporting and the reporting in general that Trump saved this guy`s job only heightens the belief that he was somehow involved with their doing this. The problem at the other --
VAN SUSTEREN: Isn`t that sort of the serious -- one of the serious charges? If the president tweeted something that whether he did it deliberately, whether he did it for whatever motive, accidentally, pick any motive you want, but once he did that if he then tasks two people to go out and make him right and go through all these records, isn`t that a problem?
DIONNE: I think it`s a big problem. I mean, first of all he never should have sent the tweet. And the question is what were they ransacking? And they`re doing this solely for political reasons. The problem at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue is I don`t see how Paul Ryan can just let Devin Nunes keep his job after something like this happens. Because the notion that he can in any way be a fair chairman of this committee, I think that was pretty clear earlier, but they did have one good hearing. And as soon as that hearing happens and some really bad stuff emerges that hurts the administration, Nunes does everything he can to sabotage his own committee. And so Ryan really has to be accountable for what he is going to do with his chairmanship.
KRISTOL: Greta, let me just add one point. Said the president may have tasked these two young men to do this. I think that well could be the case. But I don`t think the president personally picked up the phone and called them. He probably doesn`t know who they are, so through whom? Not through H.R. McMasters, who is head of the national Security Council. So through the White House council, through Steve Bannon, there`s a real question of who was involved in this from the beginning.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. I need to cut all three of you off for one second because we`re getting breaking news into NBC. "The Wall Street Journal" is now reporting former Trump national security advisor General Michael Flynn offering to testify in exchange for immunity. Joining me Shane Harris, Wall Street Journal reporter who broke that story, Shane, tell me what you know.
SHANE HARRIS, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, Greta, what we know right now is Michael Flynn through his attorney offered to both in the Intelligence Committee investigating the Russian interference in the election as well as the FBI to be interviewed in exchange from immunity for possible prosecution. We don`t know exactly what he offered to tell them, but of course as the former national security advisor to the president and given his own interactions with the Russian government, he very well may have information that is germane to that investigation. But our sources are telling us that he was only willing to talk about it if he could be promised that nothing that he said would be used against him in a future legal action.
VAN SUSTEREN: Shane, thank you very much. Let`s go back to the panel. Margaret, if I were his lawyer, I`d make that offer too because remember old Oliver North. You testify before on Capitol Hill and you get immunity. They can then haul you before a grand jury and go after you in a criminal court if you`ve done something wrong. I mean, getting immunity the best thing that could happen to Flynn on Capitol Hill if he has got a criminal problem.
CARLSON: Yes, lawyer-to-lawyer that is exactly right. And you find these stories begin to unravel when one person is given immunity, the thread is pulled and then a lot comes out. Just to rewind for a minute in this jagged timeline. It`s general McMasters coming into the middle of this and then seeing that he has got a staffer in the green eye shade pouring over documents night and day and says let`s get this person out of here. Here`s like the guy who comes in the movie and finds that the police captain`s on the tape. Let`s get this guy out of here. And then he is overridden. And that is a huge data point in this whole jagged story.
VAN SUSTEREN: E.J., what do you think about the news that Wall Street Journal just broke that Flynn has offered to testify in exchange for immunity? I presume that means offer testify in the house or senate. He is not talking about a criminal prosecution down at the courthouse.
DIONNE: I don`t think this makes the White House very happy. And he is not entirely surprising, because after supporting Flynn, the White House sort of rapidly pulled away from Flynn and tried to pretend that a lot of things that had happened didn`t happen. So I`m not surprised d he could turn on them. But the other thing is there`s a two-week period when Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General told the White House, Flynn has been lying to you and they did nothing. I think it`s going to be fascinating what light Flynn can shed on what officials above him did let alone on what he can shed about the whole Russia connection from the very beginning.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Bill, there are also the report in "The Wall Street Journal" also saying he offered to the FBI if he`d get immunity he`d speak to them as well. But E.J. raises his own interesting point. If you go back at Flynn`s histories, you have the fact Sally Yates was acting Attorney General had said that he should at least as I understand it that Flynn should register as a foreign agent having gotten money from foreign agent. He did get money apparently from Russia. But also you`ve got the situation that former CIA Director Woolsey told "The Wall Street Journal" and taped on "The Wall Street Journal" website in which Woolsey says he walked into a meeting at the Essex house in New York and there was Flynn talking to Turkish officials about avoiding the extradition rules here in the United States or procedure and extracting that Turkish opponent of Erdogan out of Pennsylvania.
KRISTOL: Yeah. I mean, I think it`s very big this news about Flynn. He was quite -- he was high up. I mean, as you pointed out. Holly North got immunity, testified, brought down Poindexter, as I recalled, the National Security Adviser, Poindexter said you never discussed with the president and it stopped right there. Flynn was the national security advisor. I don`t think he can get immunity and say I`m not going to discuss my conversations with the president. Or at least if I were running in the investigation I would make sure he is not going to get immunity and then clam up about discussions with either Candidate Trump or President-Elect Trump or President Trump, so now you`re right at the oval office door.
VAN SUSTEREN: Stunning news "The Wall Street Journal" breaking tonight about Flynn. Anyway, thank you all. And we`ve been looking at how the story of chairman Devin Nunes has evolved over time. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEVIN NUNES, REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We will never reveal sources.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even to members of the committee?
NUNES: Nope, never.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: The house intel chair Devin Nunes still not revealing his sources, but a timeline in "The Washington Post" raising questions about coordination with the White House. Here is what we know. March 15, in the evening President Trump tells Fox News this.
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DONALD TRUMP, THE 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be submitting things before the committee very soon that hasn`t been submitted as of yet. But it`s potentially a very serious situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Five days later, March 20th, the day of the House Intel Committee hearing, the New Yorker`s Ryan Lizza reporting before the hearing starts that the White House gives him a tip about incidental collection. The White House clearly indicated to me that at noon Nunes would highlight this issue. It`s a back door surveillance where it is not just incidental, it is systemic. The White House official said watch Nunes today at 10:00 a.m., the hearing begins. Here is Nunes in his opening statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNES: The intelligence community has extremely strict procedures for handling information pertaining to any U.S. citizens who are subject even to incidental surveillance. It`s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against presidents Trump and his associates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: The following day, Tuesday March 21st, according to "The Daily Beast," Chairman Nunes gets a message on his phone and heads to the White House grounds, specifically the Eisenhower executive office building. The next day, Wednesday March 22nd, Nunes tells reporters he viewed dozens of reports.
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NUNES: On numerous occasions the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the president also part of that incidental collection, his communications?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: That same day about an hour later Nunes heads back to the White House, tells President Trump what he has learned. After meeting with the president, Nunes again speaks to reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNES: The president needs to know that these intelligence reports are out there. And I have a duty to tell him that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Moments later President Trump responds to his briefing by Nunes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I somewhat do. I must tell you, I somewhat do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Thursday, March 23rd, White House press secretary Sean Spicer is asked whether the White House tipped off congressman Nunes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don`t know why he would travel -- brief the speaker and then come down here to brief us on something that we would have briefed him on. It doesn`t really seem to make a ton of sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Four days later, Monday March 27th, Spicer says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you say factually, you know, absolutely flatly that it is not possible that Chairman Nunes came to brief the president from something that he obtained from the White House or the administration?
SPICER: Anything`s possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: With me former FBI assistant director Chris Swecker and Washington editor at large for "the Atlantic," Steve Clemons. Chris, I want to talk about the breaking news "The Wall Street Journal" just broke General Flynn says he will testify if he gets immunity. You hear immunity and of course everyone thinks guilty. Innocent people, I`m a lawyer. Innocent people need immunity often because the cards are stacked against them in the process. But what do you think tonight when you hear that General Flynn wants immunity from in order to testify?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: I mean you know he is got advice of counsel. I`m an attorney and former prosecutor as well. And you know that there are different types of immunity here. And I think out of abundance of caution he probably wants to talk but he is not about to come forward and say anything if he is exposed to prosecution. So if he is being advised by counsel, they`re going to tell him not to say anything at all unless he has some type of immunity.
VAN SUSTEREN: Steve, there`s just so much swirling around Washington right now. There`s so much going on. Can you step back and just give me sort of your reflection on how this is going to sort out?
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: Well, couple of things. First, on General Flynn, it reminds me of that Broadway show on Hamilton right now of the folks that were inside the room versus those not inside the room. General Flynn no matter whether he was culpable or not was in the room in so much of the iterations of Donald Trump`s interactions on the international and the national security front, so this is an extraordinary moment whether he is guilty or not, he was in the room.
Secondly, what`s really interesting about the Nunes side of this is I remember when the GOP went crazy when Bill Clinton kind of, you know, charmed his way onto Loretta Lynch`s airplane, former Attorney General. You know, allegedly perhaps trying to figure out how she was going to go on Hillary Clinton`s case regarding e-mails and whatnot. And that basically knocked Loretta Lynch out of action. It created a pathway for James Comey to find the microphone and comment on stuff. And what we`ve seen with Devin Nunes and this White House is really in my book a thousand times worse. Chairman Nunes should have known that when he was offered this he shouldn`t have stepped forward without Adam Schiff, without consultation with his committee, without thinking about what his responsibilities were in this. And so it`s very, very interesting when you look at just a recent case involving Clinton and Lynch in a Democratic period, a Democratic tenured president, now we`re about 70 days into Trump-land and we`ve got an extraordinary moment where potentially the White House has compromised the leading investigation right now into all sorts of issues. So I don`t know how it will come out, but I do know this is feeling like, you know, we`re speculating feeling like a very nixonian time where you imagine people sitting around with modern --
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Chris, the point that I find suspicious with Nunes is this that he went that night and he couldn`t have possibly gone -- maybe he got a phone call, come frantically to the White House, we got to show you something, he goes over there, he sees it and goes home. Then he gets up the next day. That is sort of the choke point for me. Why didn`t he call all the other Republicans on the committee? Why didn`t he call Schiff the ranking member? Why did he keep it to himself? And why did he go back to the house? He works for the people but also works as part of that committee. But he abandoned that committee and went to the White House.
SWECKER: That is right. Well, you`re talking to someone that doesn`t have a high opinion of congressional investigations to begin with. They do more testifying than the witnesses do. But in this case there is the possibility if you understand how sensitive compartmentalized information is handled, the highest levels of classification, you have to have sponsors. There are a limited number of people that can get certain types of information. And there`s a possibility that this information may have been laundered through a third party, whether it`s Nunes or some other -- someone else.
VAN SUSTEREN: But why not tell ranking member he has got the same security clearance as Nunes.
SWECKER: Well, we don`t know that. I don`t know what level of security clearance they have. And what I`m saying is someone in the White House may have access to SCI information that the chairman doesn`t have or even the other minority chair has.
CLEMONS: What Chris just said is super important, if I may. Because in that the compartmentalization of a lot of intelligence is something that the Bush-Cheney administration got challenged on quite a bit that there were some people that had access to raw intelligence that hadn`t been processed, hadn`t been filtered. We don`t know if that is the case here, but I think what Chris said was really vital. There are sources of material that haven`t yet been processed.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, gentlemen. Vladimir Putin says meddling claims are lies. The reporter who talked to Putin will join us. And how do you prove it? One expert witness had tough advice for lawmakers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Follow the trail of dead Russians. There have been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation who have assets in banks all over the world. They are dropping dead even in western countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin hits back against claims that he was meddling in our election. Those comments came in an interview with CNBC`s Geoff Cutmore, who then filed this report.
GEOFF CUTMORE, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: This Russian-organized international arctic forum is primarily about showcasing energy resources in the arctic and showing Russian plans for developing this region while taking care of the environment. But while I had the opportunity to question the Russian president, I asked him about the ongoing investigation in the United States into whether Russia interfered with the U.S. presidential election process. The president`s answer categorically, we did not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRANSLATOR: Ronald Reagan`s runs debating about taxes and said, watch my lips. No. Watch my lips, no.
The Russian president said there was growing anti-Russian sentiment for domestic reasons. He accused those criticizing Russia of telling lies. At this point relations between Moscow and Washington are at a low ebb. There may be some opportunity, though, to make progress if the two presidents are to meet. This is Jeff Cutmore in Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: The Russian president directly addressing the issue that has consumed Washington.
And in other foreign news, an interview on this show has created a bit of an international incident. Last week Senator John McCain was a guest and criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCCAIN, U.S. SENATOR: China is the one that can -- the only one that can control Kim Jong-un, this crazy fat kid that is running North Korea. And they`re the ones. They could stop North Koreans` economy in a week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Now the North Korean government is blasting the senator. Pyongyang called his comments, quote, and a grave provocation, little short of declaration of war. That is not all. The North Koreans also claimed they will deal a merciless sledgehammer blow at those daring to hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership like a puppy knowing no fear of the tiger. Senator McCain then responded North Korean a tweet saying, quote, did they want me to call him a crazy skinny kid? Now, I`ve been doing news for a long time, and I have to say that is a new one for me.
And coming up, the reason I`m not at my home studio tonight. There is a big reason. That is next.
VAN SUSTEREN: I have something to say for the record. You may have noticed that tonight I`m not in my usual haunt, Washington. I`m in Atlanta, and I came here to honor some who have made their life mission of not only saving lives but doing so at the real risk of their own lives. It all starts back in the spring of 2014 when that deadly and highly contagious Ebola virus broke out in West Africa, killing thousands and literally threatening the world. Everyone was terrified. People in three nations in West Africa were dying, and the virus was spreading. Doctors without borders and Samaritan`s purse responded, two organizations to which the world owes a debt of gratitude. It`s almost impossible to understand the magnitude of their sacrifice and what they did for others, but a new documentary that premieres tonight in Atlanta brings it very close.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ebola is the world`s most dangerous virus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The disease is out of control in West Africa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Action was needed immediately.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All together, the family member I lose, 17.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: In October, I traveled to Liberia and went to that very primitive clinic where Samaritan`s purse cared for those victims and where the staff not only put their lives on the line, but they also suffered the daily heartbreak when so many for whom they cared died right in front of them. My presence at this night is just a small way for me to show them how much I admire them, and I admire so many others who daily risk their lives to help people, and usually people they`ve never met. By the way, go to Samaritan`s purse.org and check out how you can see "facing darkness." I saw the rough cut already. It was breathtakingly moving. Thank you for watching. I will see you back tomorrow night from D.C. 6:00 p.m. eastern and if you can`t watch live, set your DVR and follow me on twitter @Greta or check out my Facebook page for the behind the scenes video and so much more. Now "Hardball" with Chris Matthews starts right now.
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