Trump stands by wiretap claim as lawmakers voice doubt
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Russia’s role in last year’s election, alleged contacts between the Trump team and Moscow, and President Trump’s allegation that he was wiretapped by his predecessor, all these were front and center on Capitol Hill today.
John Yang reports.
REP. DEVIN NUNES, R-Calif.: I don’t think that there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.
JOHN YANG: Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee cast fresh doubt today on President Trump’s claim that then-President Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower.
Committee Chairman Devin Nunes:
REP. DEVIN NUNES: President Obama wouldn’t physically go over and wiretap Trump Tower.
So now you have to decide, as I mentioned to last week, are you going to take the tweets literally? And if you are, then clearly the president was wrong.
But if you’re not going to take the tweets literally, and if there’s a concern that the president has about other people, other surveillance activities looking at him or his associates, either appropriately or inappropriately, we want to find that out.
JOHN YANG: The committee gave the Justice Department until last night to produce any evidence to support the president’s claim. Instead, the department got an extension until next Monday, when FBI Director James Comey is to testify before the panel.
Adam Schiff is the committee’s top Democrat.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-Calif.: I do think it’s incumbent that, if we get to March 20 and we have the testimony I think we all expect from the director that there was no substance to the accusation that Barack Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower, that the president explain himself.
I think this — you can’t level an accusation of that type without either retracting it or explaining just why it was done.
JOHN YANG: Senator Lindsey Graham wants to know if there’s a warrant for a wiretap.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Congress is going to flex its muscle here. We will issue a subpoena to get the information.
JOHN YANG: FBI Director Comey was on Capitol Hill this afternoon to brief leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Chairman Chuck Grassley and top Democrat Dianne Feinstein want to know about former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials.
Flynn is one of several Trump associates under scrutiny for dealings with Russians during the campaign. One-time Trump adviser Roger Stone said today he thinks a special surveillance warrant uncovered his contacts with a Russian-linked hacker who claimed credit for the cyber-attack on the Democratic National Committee.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And late today came word that, in an interview to air tonight on FOX News, the president was asked again about his wiretapping accusation, and he said: “Wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”
Back on Capitol Hill, lawmakers from both parties expressed frustration with FBI Director James Comey, and what they say is an unwillingness to provide them with critical information.
Joining us now, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Senator, thank you for being with us.
Are you getting the cooperation you need from the intelligence community?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN, D-W.Va.: Well, Judy, first of all, it’s good to be with you.
And we are going to be able to get that. We have been speaking to them. We have been out to the CIA. We’re looking at all the documents, and they’re providing those to us.
The Intel Committee is able to get in-depth, if you will, with all of our different intelligence agencies. I have great confidence in them, and we have got to get to the bottom. There’s an awful lot that’s going on here.
There’s two different paths. You have one with the Russians involved in our election process. To what extent — we know they made an attempt. They made more of an attempt this time than ever before. We know that the outcome of the election, they were not able to intervene or interfere with that or disrupt that whatsoever, but their desire was there. We must prevent that from ever happening again and also to help our allies.
Then you have the other Russian intervention, if you will. How much of an association is there? Is there any type of with the associates from President Trump during the campaign, his people, himself, his family, whatsoever? And is there any intertwinement?
So, I think the American people want to know. And we need to get through this and get — come to the conclusion, and do the business of this great country. And, right now, that’s our — that’s the hot topic.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, at this point, do you think you’re any closer to knowing whether there was any, as you call it, intertwinement or collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I can only say what we have seen to date.
Now, I don’t see any evidence of that whatsoever. But we’re just in the start of this. So it would be premature for me to say anything, a definite yes or no. But we’re going to look at everything. We’re going to turn over every stone that we possibly can. We’re going to make sure we interview and bring people in that have — names have been mentioned that you have mentioned on your NewsHour, and we’re going to make sure that we get the facts.
And intelligence is to provide the facts to us. The facts will usually take you to the truth. And then, when we get the truth, we have got to make the decisions and do what’s best for this country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Senator, let me just stop you there and ask you about this other strand of the story today.
And that is President Trump saying in that interview that we just mentioned that we’re going to see more, in his words, in the next few weeks come to the forefront about the wiretap that he accused President Obama of being behind.
What do you know at this point about that?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well, the only thing I can discuss and what I know about that is what you all have been reporting on and what has been reported in the news today.
Jeff Sessions said he didn’t advise or didn’t say a thing about a wiretap and knows of no wiretap. And there’s no evidence of showing any wiretap to date. If there’s other evidence to come forth, we will be happy to look at that and evaluate it and investigate it, but, as of right now, that has not come forth.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the end — well, let me just rephrase that.
Is it up to the White House, for the president to provide whatever evidence he has?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well, I would think that, if he has evidence that the intelligence community doesn’t have, and it’s not being brought forth, and he wants to make sure that that’s considered into this whole process, then I would hope that they would.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me turn you, Senator, to the other issue that we’re covering right now on the Hill, and that is, of course, health care reform, the Republican relationship legislation that seems to be running into more opposition from Republican members of the House and the Senate.
Where do you think that stands right now?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Well, it’s over in the House, and I guess, if they put the push on, they can push that out and send it over to the Senate.
I don’t see a receptive audience. I don’t know of one Democrat that would vote for the process they’re sending over for the piece of legislation. I’m not voting to repeal, Judy. I have been very clear. I told President Trump this many weeks ago. There’s no way I can vote to repeal and throw people off, when I know the political toxic atmosphere that we have in Washington, thinking that we can come back and repair it.
They can get rid of it with 51 votes. They don’t need a Democrat. But they can’t fix it unless they have eight of me, eight Democrats who are willing to sit down and work and fix some of the market conditions that we have that make it so really costly and very hard, very much a hardship on a lot of people that didn’t get the expansion or the subsidies or any of that.
So, I understand where the problems are. But no one seems to want to fix it. So, I said this. I said, why don’t we vote and sit down, have a working group voting on the market repairs that we could do, and see if you can get 60 votes, before you throw the baby out with the bath water?
JUDY WOODRUFF: And have they responded affirmatively to any — to your suggestion or anything like it?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I have only had one — one of my colleagues — Republican Senator Bill Cassidy come over. And we have sat down twice to see if there was a pathway forward. He had a piece of legislation.
We looked at it. We told him our concerns with it, but we had a dialogue going. And then, basically, the House has gone off on their own, and the things that we, Bill and I, were talking about didn’t materialize. So, nobody seems to want to do anything.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m sorry to interrupt you.
But just quickly, so, at this point, where do you see this legislation headed?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I don’t see it moving on this side. I really don’t, on the Senate side right now, unless there are some tremendous changes made.
Judy, let me just tell you, the state of West Virginia, 172,000 people got the expansion. That means the people that were not on Medicaid, but within the 139 percentile — 172,000. Another 36,000, 38,000 got some, basically, subsidies.
That means, because of their income, they were subsidized about $388. And then we had the donut hole filled for our seniors. We have a poorer population. All of a sudden now, all of a sudden, they’re going to give the wealthiest of the wealthiest in the country $575 billion tax credits, $575 billion.
And that’s going to be on the backs of the poor, the elderly, and those who have been addicted and are getting in treatment centers or being able to get treated for addiction, which is a horrible problem in my state.
So, I get hit three ways. The poor get hit harder, the elderly pay more, and the people that are addicted are not going to get treatment that’s needed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, we thank you.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: Thank you, Judy.