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Why Americans want answers on Trump’s wiretap claims

March 15, 2017 at 6:40 PM EDT
How important is it to get to the bottom of President Trump’s allegation that his predecessor wiretapped Trump Tower? Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union and Democratic strategist Karine Jean-Pierre join Judy Woodruff to discuss the state of investigations related to Russia, as well as political friction for the Republican health care bill and Mr. Trump’s 2005 tax return revealed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on questions about the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia, the battle over health care, and the president’s newly leaked tax return, we turn to Matt Schlapp. He is chair of the American Conservative Union. And Karine Jean-Pierre, she was a senior adviser to during the 2016 elections.

And we welcome both of you to the program.

Matt, I’m going to start with you. It’s been more than 10 days, I think, since President Trump tweeted that President Obama had wiretapped him …

MATT SCHLAPP, Former White House Director of Political Affairs: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … during the campaign. So far, no evidence of this, investigations under way. Where does this stand?

MATT SCHLAPP: Well, first of all, this term wiretap is kind of an old-fashioned term.

What we have been reading about in most of the respected newspapers across the country, back before the election, through the inauguration, and afterwards, was that there were people in the Trump team, on the Trump team who were under investigation for inappropriate ties with Russia, that there were phone calls that had been intercepted.

So, all of this was reported. The question is, was something done inappropriately? And I think that’s what — I think that’s what the president wants to know, and I think a lot of other people want to know as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How much urgency is there around this question, Karine?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, Democratic Strategist: I think there should be a lot more urgency than we’re currently seeing.

I think at this point up to the FBI to really step in and let us know, what is really happening? I think one of the issues that we’re seeing here is Donald Trump is not being presidential. He tweets without understanding the consequences of his tweet. There’s no measurement of what he’s saying.

And it’s incredibly dangerous to accuse your predecessor of potentially breaking the law. And I think, at the end of the day, we have to — we have to really look and ask the question, what happens if there is a true, actual national security crisis? Are we going to believe Donald Trump?

JUDY WOODRUFF: How much does it matter, Matt, that we get to the bottom of this?

MATT SCHLAPP: It matters to me a lot, because I actually think that if the Obama administration was investigating the Trump campaign, that is something we have not seen before. That is historic.

And I want to know why. If that did happen, I want to know why it happened. And I think there’s some explaining to do to the American voter.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And if it didn’t happen, then the question goes to, why did President Trump make this allegation?

MATT SCHLAPP: Of course. I think it’s fair to say that people want to hear from the FBI. But this might shock of two of you. There’s a lot of us who have lost a little confidence in Jim Comey over the years. We probably want to hear from more people than just Jim Comey.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that calls to mind, Karine, there is this wider investigation going on into connections that Matt alluded to a moment ago between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

We don’t know where that stands.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Right, and we need to have a full, thorough investigation on that.

Clearly, there is circumstantial evidence that shows the Trump organization has had some sort of contact with Russia, and we really need to get to the bottom of it. Yes, there should be a special prosecutor, but I also think there should be an independent, bipartisan commission to really get down to the bottom of it, so we know that that commission has jurisdiction, that they could have subpoena power, and also that it’s public, so that we know, the American people know what’s going on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But right now, you have got all these investigations under way.

MATT SCHLAPP: Step by step.

We haven’t even filled the Senate-confirmed positions at the Department of Justice. Both the House committees with jurisdiction need to do a full investigation, and then we can draw conclusions of what needs to do done after that.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I think we could do all three. I don’t think we have to do one or the other.


MATT SCHLAPP: Don’t we just want the answers? What does it matter what way you get the answers?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think why not give it to the public? Why not show the public what’s going on?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me — I want to turn you both to something else that we’re watching very closely, and that is health care repeal and replace, the American Health Care Act.

Matt, we are now seeing more and more Republicans …


JUDY WOODRUFF: … saying they can’t support the Republican leadership bill which the White House signed on to. Where is this headed?

MATT SCHLAPP: What they decided to do was just roll this out and jam it through.

And in 21st century American politics, that is a very difficult path to take. They would be smarter to bring people in. Nothing, it seems, Judy, gets people more passionate than the idea of their health care and their very life, and they want to make sure we get it right.

And I think jamming through a piece of legislation was the wrong way to start. They’re now bringing people in. The president is bringing people in. I think that’s going to give it a better chance of passage, but it’s not there yet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: If this is truly in trouble, Karine, where do you see this going next?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, what they have presented, the Republicans, with Trumpcare, is, it seems to be a plan that’s more of the survival of the fittest.

And like you were saying, alluding to, health care is incredibly personal. And the Republicans had seven years, seven years to come up with something that would work for everyone. And they jammed this thing through, as you mentioned. They introduced it on March 7. They want to have a vote on it on April 7.

And of course Republicans are very upset about it, because this is an assault on seniors. You have costs going up, premiums going up for people who really need it, as they’re getting older.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if this version doesn’t work, we’re going to look at some changes coming.

MATT SCHLAPP: If Republicans don’t pass a replacement for Obamacare this year, they are going to be in a world of hurt.

Now, maybe I could expand it and say by the midterm election. But there has to be a plan that’s put on place and that passes, so they have to figure out a way to go forward.

I think they started off in the wrong way. But I think much of what’s included in this plan does represent what needs to be done to fix the incredible mess Obamacare left us in.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quick.

Two pages of Donald Trump’s, President Trump’s tax returns from the year 2005. He paid a quarter of his income in taxes. How much have we really learned here?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I think it brings up more questions than answers.

It’s unfortunate that we have to play this cat-and-mouse game just to get the president’s tax returns. We still don’t know, who does he do business with? Who does he owe money to? We know he’s in debt. Which foreign banks does he owe money to?

And I think all of these things are important to know, because he’s putting forth foreign policy and domestic policy, and we just don’t have those answers yet.


MATT SCHLAPP: He has complied with the law. He had to give thorough financial disclosure documents to the FEC. Those are all public documents.

People can go on right now online and get all those documents. I think what we learned on this rather ridiculous television show the other day with this leaked tax return is that this ridiculous concept that he didn’t pay taxes for the last 10 or 20 years was wrong, and, actually, when you look at this year, he paid a higher percentage of his taxes — or his tax rate was higher than President Obama, than Bernie Sanders, than Mitt Romney, than a lot of the people who have been criticizing him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We are going to have to leave it there, obviously a lot more to talk about.

Matt Schlapp, Karine Jean-Pierre, thank you both.


MATT SCHLAPP: Great to be with you.