This is a rush transcript from "Sunday Morning Futures," March 4, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARIA BARTIROMO, HOST: Good morning.
Will the noise from the left change the president's timeline as he tries to make good on promises to voters?
Good morning, everyone. I'm Maria Bartiromo. Welcome to "Sunday Morning Futures.
One week from tomorrow, President Trump hands over his spending plan to lawmakers in his new budget. He is calling for a $51 billion increase in defense spending. Is that enough?
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney joins us live momentarily.
Then, the president accuses former President Obama of tapping his phones before the election, comparing it to Watergate, demanding lawmakers investigate. We will talk to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as well as a member of the House Intel Committee here, coming up.
House lawmakers this week preparing to consider legislation on repealing and replacing ObamaCare. But where is the plan? Congressman Mark Sanford on complaints from some conservatives.
We are looking ahead right now on "Sunday Morning Futures."
BARTIROMO: And a major battle over the budget could be in the works one week from tomorrow. President Trump will submit his budget plan to Congress. Lawmakers are already gearing up for a fight. Among the biggest issues, the president calling for a $54 billion increase in military spending. Some critics are already saying it's not enough and others worried about the $20 trillion debt.
Mick Mulvaney is the director of the Office of Management and Budget and he joins me right now.
Good to see you, sir. Thanks so much for joining us.
MICK MULVANEY, OMB DIRECTOR: Good morning, Maria.
BARTIROMO: So, obviously, we invited you on the program so that we can talk about the budget and what to expect a week from tomorrow. But before I get to that, let me get your reaction on the story of the moment. Do we have evidence that the Obama administration made those requests to, in fact, tap the president?
MULVANEY: Maria, I may be wrong person to ask that question to. We've been literally knee deep in numbers here at the OMB for the last couple of days. The office was full all day yesterday on Saturday. It's just here behind us. It's full today on Sunday.
We're crunching numbers. I have no information and no comment about anything other than the budget.
BARTIROMO: So, all of these noise from the left, whether it's Russia, whether it's wiretapping, Senator Schumer calling the president's cabinet a swamp, has that slowed you down in terms of the timeline in getting legislative priorities done? That is ObamaCare, repeal and replace, tax reform, et cetera.
MULVANEY: Yes, not even Maxine Waters calling me a scumbag slowed us down. No, we are actually working. We are here putting the president's policy into action every single day, folks can pay attention to whatever they want to, but across the street at the Office of Management and Budget, we are working.
BARTIROMO: Wow, that's tough to swallow there.
So, let's talk about this, Mick. We want to get your priorities down and have an understanding of what those priorities are. We know the defense spending is a priority. What can you tell us in terms of your priorities in that budget that we will hear about in a week?
MULVANEY: Sure, that's easy. The priorities are exactly what the priorities -- the president set out during the campaign. He said he we wanted to spend more money on defense. He said he we wanted to spend more money on immigration enforcement -- excuse me, it's really cold this morning. I apologize for being tongue-tied.
BARTIROMO: Not at all.
MULVANEY: He said he we wanted to spend more money on enforcing the laws that are already on the books. He said he wanted to spend more money on school choice and he said he wanted to do that without adding any additional money to the deficit this year and that's what we have been spending our time on and that's what we will be delivering next week.
BARTIROMO: All right. So, $54 billion boost to defense spending is being talked about and debated on the left and on the right, Mick. And I want to get your take on this because I spoke with General Jack Keane, four-star general, just last week on "Mornings with Maria" on the Fox Business Network, and he had stunning things to say about the readiness of our aircraft in the Navy, as well as the Army, where the fleet is the oldest it's been in decades, and he questions whether or not $54 billion is actually enough.
Listen to General Jack Keane with me last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JACK KEANE, INSTITTUE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: To give you a sense of how dramatic it is, 50 to 75 percent of our aircraft are not able to fly because of maintenance problems.
KEANE: Number two --
BARTIROMO: Fifty to 75 percent?
KEANE: Fifty to 75 -- depending on the service. The United States Army's ground forces, only one third of the combat units are ready to fight today. That's the seriousness of the problem and all the services are too small.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARTIROMO: So, Mick Mulvaney, walk us through $54 billion in defense spending. Is that enough and what do you say about the readiness of our military?
MULVANEY: Sure, and I have seen the same data and heard the same things that the general mentioned. It does make one wonder what the Obama administration did with all the money that we spent on defense over the course of the last eight years.
But I will tell you this, Maria, in arriving at that $54 billion, there's a couple of different things that got us to that number. First, it was the number that the president promised during the campaign. It is the number that would be for the military, $603 billion if there were no military sequester. That was very specific, the president set out to undo the military sequester. That's exactly what this does.
We sat down with the Defense Department, with the Pentagon to go over how much money they actually needed to start solving some of these problems. We are not going to undo the damage that has been done in just one year, this is the first step of several years of additional defense spending that this president wants to see, but, again, we worked in close lock step with the DOD to arrive at this number.
BARTIROMO: Yes. So, continue here.
MULVANEY: I'm just saying, and we managed to do so and I don't want to minimize this at all. It would be easy to take any number out of the air, but it would inevitably add to the deficit this year. What I don't want to get lost in all of this the president's commitment to move money within our current budget to prioritize defense. He's doing it, this $54 billion of additional spending for the military without adding to the already large 2018 budget. That's exactly what he said he would do and that's what he's delivering now.
BARTIROMO: So, how important is it to you and your colleagues in terms of becoming revenue neutral, how important is it for you to raise revenue at a time when you aren't going to be cutting other things? For example, the cuts for domestic spending, where are they specifically?
MULVANEY: Exactly where the president said they would be when he ran for office, we are taking -- moving money away from foreign aid. We're moving money away from duplicative programs, wasteful programs. We've identified a long list of programs that the OMB that we think don't work and that creates that source of funds that we could then move over to defense, to border enforcement, to educational choice and, again accomplish what the president said he would do when he campaigned.
BARTIROMO: I want to read you a statement from Committee for a Responsible Budget and this, of course, is Maya MacGuineas' group. And she says, "Domestic discretionary spending, what the administration proposes to cut to pay for increase in defense, only accounts for 15 percent of spending and less than five percent of spending growth over the next decade. It's really Social Security and health spending on the other hand accounting for half of total spending and almost two-thirds of spending growth over the next decade."
This is not different than what you've been saying that we need to take an ax to the entitlement programs. Any opportunity to do that in this budget?
MULVANEY: Sure, I have a lot of respect for that organization. I think what Ms. MacGuineas misses is that this is a budget blueprint not a full budget. The full budget won't be here until May, that's where we deal with things like policy changes, revenue streams, we'll look at entitlement spending. That's what most people think is the larger budget.
But what we'll be introducing on March 16th is simply the discretionary spending budget. We are not balancing the budget on the backs of the State Department. It's fiscally impossible to do. What we have done is move foreign aid to defense so that we can prioritize that spending without adding to the deficit. When we get to the larger budget in May, that's when we get a chance to talk about those larger issues.
BARTIROMO: I see.
All right. So, talk to us about what we should expect then, because in terms of revenue and raising revenue, while also cutting spending, you're cutting some domestic programs, you're cutting taxes, we had Steven Mnuchin on this program, the treasury secretary, last weekend and basically he walked through ideas with us about raising revenue while also cutting taxes. We know that you want to cut taxes for most Americans.
So, do you want to see a border adjustment tax?
Here is what Steven Mnuchin told us in terms of a border adjustment tax or a so-called reciprocal tax and raising $1.1 trillion in revenue over a ten- year period. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: An idea that he's looking at calling a reciprocal tax which is basically saying we want to create a level-playing field so that other countries treat us the way we are treating them. We are not going to get into trade wars. But what we are going to do is the president believes in free trade but he believes in fair trade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARTIROMO: What about that Mick Mulvaney in terms of the revenue rates? Are you to also revenue while cutting taxes?
MULVANEY: I think Mr. Mnuchin is spot on. I think what you heard him say, if you dig down deeper into the details, the House likes a border adjustment tax, the Senate doesn't. We're looking at a couple of different ways to raise revenue but also level the playing field.
That will come as part of larger tax reform discussion that will take place in the next couple of weeks. Keep in mind, the batting order here, Maria. We think we'll see, we'll have to see a discussion and a vote on ObamaCare replacement first, then you'll have a tax discussion, tax reform proposal a few weeks after that.
BARTIROMO: So, just to be clear, we are looking at priorities in this upcoming budget of defense spending, of infrastructure spending, correct? What are the other spending priorities?
MULVANEY: Actually, infrastructure will come as large -- part of larger package later on in the summer time. The priorities in this budget are defense, homeland security, law enforcement. You'll see increase to the proposed budget for the Department of Justice to enforce laws that are already on the books, and then also things like school choice within the Department of Education.
Those were the priorities for the president during the campaign. They'll be priorities for the president in this budget.
BARTIROMO: And you're comfortable with an increase of $54 billion in defense. Despite what we heard from General Jack Keane, you believe that America is safe with those kinds of numbers, in the face of a potential attack or anything else?
MULVANEY: I do. I believe that takes the important first steps to undo the damage that was done during the sequester and puts the military in a solid footing to be able to do what we needed to do.
BARTIROMO: And priorities are that you'd like to get tax reform by August? Is that correct?
MULVANEY: I actually think tax reform is before that. The order, as I understand it Maria, given the rules on Capitol Hill are that ObamaCare repeal and replace has to go first, then we will move into a discussion about tax reform, then we will have a discussion about infrastructure package.
BARTIROMO: In terms of that budget, defense spending -- is that the biggest allocator in terms of increases in spending?
MULVANEY: Well, sure, it usually is. The defense budget takes about half of the discretionary budget. Remember, we can probably do an hour on the arcane nature of federal budgeting, but we actually only budget a quarter of what we spend. We spend about $4 trillion, but three quarters of that is what we called mandatory spending on the big entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare, et cetera.
The discretionary budget, about $1 trillion or a quarter of what we spend, is what we actually budget through out of the White House through the House and the Senate.
BARTIROMO: Mick Mulvaney, thanks so much for walking it through with us. We will watching for the budget on March 16th. Thanks, sir.
MULVANEY: Maria, next time, let's we do in a studio, can we?
BARTIROMO: I love that.
BARTIROMO: You'll come in. It will be face to face. That would be great.
Mick Mulvaney, good to see you, sir.
MULVANEY: Thank you.
BARTIROMO: Have a good Sunday. We'll be watching.
The White House now demanding action meanwhile after President Trump's explosive claims former President Obama bugged Trump Tower before the election. I will be talking to former House Speaker Newt Gringrich about that, as well as Peter Jing on the Intel Committee.
Follow us on Twitter @MariaBartiromo, @SundayFutures. Let us know what you would like to hear from our upcoming guests.
And stay with us. We are looking ahead right now on "Sunday Morning Futures." We'll be right back.
BARTIROMO: Welcome back.
The White House now demanding action after President Trump accused former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower before the election. A White House statement says this, quote, "Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling. President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of investigation into Russian activity, the Congressional Intelligence Committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch, investigative powers were abused in 2016."
Joining me right now Fox News contributor and former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich.
Mr. Speaker, always a pleasure. Good to see you.
NEWT GINGRICH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be with you.
BARTIROMO: What do you make of the situation this morning, developing as we speak?
GINGRICH: Well, I would say to everybody that if you want a sophisticated analysis, go to Andy McCarthy's new column on this very topic. McCarthy was the prosecutor in 1993 who convicted the terrorist who bombed the original World Trade Center bombing back in '93. He's had a 20-year experience looking at these things, does so as having been a professional Justice Department prosecutor.
He thinks there's a lot here. He thinks that there are some very troubling things about how the executive branch under President Obama behaved. And he thinks it's absolutely worth digging out and understanding what went on, and he points out that it's very unlikely that the FBI happened to go in October to ask for wiretap and got it from the FISA court with nobody in the Obama White House knowing they were doing it.
I mean, to get a wiretap that included a presidential campaign in the last weeks of the campaign is a pretty extraordinary request and that's McCarthy's point. To think this happened to be done by some bureaucrats with no supervision when you know, for example, that the attorney general spent an hour in secret with Bill Clinton just before they dropped charges against his wife. All of this stuff smells to high heavens despite the best efforts of the elite media to cover it up.
BARTIROMO: Well, I mean, what about that? You just heard Mark Levin's commentary on this. Mark Levin was on "Fox & Friends", going through points of evidence that show that the Obama administration did, in fact, make two requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, FISA, and the first one was denied, but then the second one was accepted.
It sure looks like maybe the -- I mean, look, the White House -- the Obama White House, rather has put out a statement basically saying, trying to distance themselves from the entire story, that they did not order any of the surveillance. But we know that there were requests to put in a wiretap at Trump Tower.
GINGRICH: Right. So, so, when you look at it, this is the point that McCarthy makes this morning. You look at all the stuff, and you notice how carefully they word it, they didn't order it, OK? Did they know about it? Did they approve it? Did they allow the FBI to do it?
And you have to ask yourself the question, what do they think -- you know, remember the only person that has ever been in the Trump official campaign who has ever been in any way evolved about this was Paul Manafort, and that was because of his Ukrainian ties, not Russia. And Paul had been gone for months, and Paul is a good guy, I'm not alleging anything with Paul. But he had been gone for months.
So, what's their case? What the devil are they trying to do in this circumstance?
BARTIROMO: Right, right. But we still don't know exactly what they're suggesting. I mean, in any event, I mean, people have meetings with ambassadors and senators all of the time, but we still don't understand what they're trying to charge in terms of these Russian meetings.
But look at what John Favreau, who was the speech writer for President Obama, points out and he basically says, "I would be careful to -- you know, about reporting that Obama said that there was no wiretapping. The statement that the White House, the Obama White House released was that neither he nor the White House actually ordered it."
So, we are parsing words a bit here, aren't we?
GINGRICH: Well, it's very funny if you think about it because you have this circumstance, you know, if The New York Times had hope of being neutral, one thing is they can do is simply print all the pictures with Democrats meeting with Russian ambassador, because you have this whole series of people who were shocked that Senator Sessions as a senator met with the Russian ambassador.
And then you begun to get -- you know, Nancy Pelosi was meeting with the Russian ambassador. Claire McCaskill, senator from Missouri, was meeting with the Russian ambassador.
GINGRICH: I mean, all these things begin to come out, and you realize, this is an absurdity.
GINGRICH: And I think one of the things we have to recognize and I keep trying, frankly to say this to the Trump team over and over again, they have a group of people who are their mortal enemies, The New York Times is one of them.
GINGRICH: The Post is one of them.
These folks are going to be against them every day, they are going to attack them every day and they have towns that they're living in a hostile environment.
BARTIROMO: Yes. Well, we are just trying to figure out if there was actually illegality done.
I mean, you know, Corey Lewandowski told Judge Janine last night that then- Senator Jeff Sessions was also wiretapped and they were bugging his conversation as well.
GINGRICH: Well, let me just say --
BARTIROMO: Real quick.
GINGRICH: If they were actually wiretapping the United States senator, that is a very serious problem.
GINGRICH: Whether it's legal or illegal, it is so dangerous to our freedoms no matter who the senator is.
GINGRICH: That we have to understand it.
BARTIROMO: All right. We will leave it there. Great to see you, Newt. Thanks so much.
GINGRICH: Thank you.
BARTIROMO: Newt Gingrich.
We'll be right back. Stay with us.
BARTIROMO: Welcome back.
GOP lawmakers are saying that House committees will start considering a plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare this upcoming week. Republicans are hoping to have legislation on the president's desk by Easter.
Congressman Mark Sanford is a member of the House Oversight and House Budget Committees. He's also a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
And, sir, it's good to have you back on the program. Welcome.
REP. MARK SANFORD, R-S.C.: My pleasure. Thank you.
BARTIROMO: What is your expectation in terms of the rollout of the repeal and replace, on timeline?
SANFORD: I think what you just described is it. I mean, I think that this is coming. We are going mark up this week I think at the Ways and Means Committee level, and Energy, Commerce, and then, again, I think the Easter time line holds. The more delicate part will be the replace and there's still a bit of a tug of war going on as to exactly what that's going to look like.
BARTIROMO: Yes. And, unfortunately, the tug of war seems to be happening within the GOP. So, you've got Rand Paul's plan, Susan Collins' plan. Whose -- which plan is most of the membership getting behind?
SANFORD: Well, you're mentioning the Senate version to the plan. We have House companion plans, I have companion plan to what Senator Paul has proposed in the Senate side. And, you know, we won't go through all the plans, but there are a bunch of -- much of them -- you RSC, you have Phil Roe. I mean, you have leadership.
BARTIROMO: But that's the point, sir. There's so many plans, how are you going to come to a decision on -- on what is the most viable, what are you arguing about in terms of the differences in the plan?
SANFORD: I would say the biggest pivot point at this point is on the notion refundable tax credits versus not. The leadership plan, what we know about it at this point includes refundable tax credits. The plan for instance I've introduced with Senator Paul does not. And I think that that's a pretty big divide.
If you look at for instance, the earned income tax credit, there are about 25 million people that basically get a check. If you did this with health care, we are looking at maybe between 40 million and 50 million people getting a check, given what we have seen with the earned income tax credit, the amount of fraud, waste and abuse, if you want to call it that, that exists with that program. I think it's problematic in this case that people object.
BARTIROMO: And people are looking at that and saying, that's ObamaCare light. That's the same thing that ObamaCare has although you are calling it tax credits.
SANFORD: Yes, it's a different version, different side of the same coin, and that's why I think there's a big divide between -- in essence, the conservative camp within the caucus saying we feel uncomfortable at this point with the idea of refundable tax credit and other folks saying, wait a minute, this is a way of funding a HHA, a health savings account, that would be applicable to everybody regardless of whether or not you have a tax liability.
BARTIROMO: People are wondering, if in fact, there's enough transparency on this whole process. Of course, we saw Senator Rand Paul last week carrying around a copy machine around the Capitol, basically making the point that how come the plan is not being discussed in terms of the specifics.
Nancy Pelosi told us a long time ago, just -- you know, let's get the plan out and then we can read it later. He wants to make sure Americans understand what it is before it becoming law.
Listen to what Rand Paul said last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: I'm part of the legislature. Shouldn't I be part of the process? I was elected to represent my state and I'm not allowed to read the working progress so I comment on it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARTIROMO: Why not put it all out there?
SANFORD: I think it will be put out there. And I don't think there's a great conspiracy here. I mean, typically, we get a bill to review as it's about a couple of days from what they call mark-up, which is the committee level.
You generally are not going get a bill before that. So, I think that this is consistent with what we've seen with other bills. I think the difference here is given what Nancy Pelosi said in the past, given people feel burn about this notion of vote on it and then you can read it, what the speaker has said is, I promise full transparency in this process, we are going to have it out there. It's going to be a bottom-up process.
In fairness to leadership, we had four meetings alone on health care just this last week and that's the full Republican caucus level. But what you hear -- what I've heard, folks saying, wait, a minute I want the more full, more robust version of transparency. But this is a meeting in the middle. This is what typically happens with a bill that's about to mark up. If we don't get it after mark-up, then we've got a problem.
I think we are getting a little bit ahead of ourselves in terms of pushing for a full drop of a bill that hadn't been created at the committee level yet.
BARTIROMO: All right. Congressman, we'll be watching for that mark-up next couple of weeks. Thanks very much for joining us this morning.
SANFORD: My pleasure.
BARTIROMO: We'll see you soon.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions meanwhile already refocusing himself from investigation into alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. But that's not enough for the left. Some calling for an independent counsel. Up next, why one former special prosecutor says that will never happen.
We are looking ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures." Talking with Peter King, coming up next.
Stay with us.
BARTIROMO: Welcome back.
The White House now asking Congress to investigate the Obama administration for allegedly wiretapping Trump Tower right before the election.
Congressman Peter King of New York sits on the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.
And, Congressman, it is wonderful to see you. Thanks for joining us this morning.
REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y.: Thank you, Maria.
BARTIROMO: Should there be an investigation?
KING: Yes, and right now, the Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating this entire matter as far as Russian influence. I know the Chairman David Nunes has asked to meet with FBI Director Comey and then, as he goes along with all the people involved in the intelligence community to find out what happened here, to find out, again, the extent of many investigation, what the basis of it was.
But, one thing, Maria, I really want to emphasize at the start before I get side-tracked at all, is that everything we know is that all of the investigations that have gone on, there's not one piece of evidence connecting anyone in the Trump campaign with any collusion or collaboration with Russian intelligence or the Russian government or any criminal action whatsoever, and that is really important to get out there.
Despite the headlines in "The New York Times", buried in those stories, you always find something saying that so far there's no evidence. There is no evidence. Now, there may end up being evidence but as of now, there's none.
And there's a real question of who is leaking out the secret investigations to The New York Times, who is leaking out information from the intelligence community, all of which has a grain of truth but then you get to the bottom line, it's totally exaggerated and so "The Times" will go in headlines about connections between intelligence agents and the Trump campaign, and then you see the number two person in the FBI going to the White House saying this is all B.S.
BARTIROMO: Right. Yes, you're absolutely right. And I remember when this Russian narrative started. It was at the Democratic National Convention back last summer when Debbie Wasserman Schultz was pushed out because of all her emails trying to take down Bernie Sanders. We were only talking about Debbie Wasserman Schultz for like 15 minutes and all of a sudden, the conversation changes to Russia and they've just been riding the wave and the media is very happy to go along with it, even though there's no evidence of any of this.
But let me ask you this, Congressman, because we now understand that the Obama did make requests to the foreign intelligence courts, FISA, to actually bug Trump Tower. What can you tell us about that?
KING: Well, again, I can't comment on that being on the Intelligence Committee. I will say, I have tremendous faith on Director Comey. What happened with the Justice Department and why this was sudden, all this has to be looked into very carefully. And if, if for some reason there was a purpose, which would not necessarily involved Donald Trump, but for some reason a tap had to be put on, why that investigation had to be launched, then that should have been kept in upmost secrecy and never to see the light of day unless something came of it.
Obviously, nothing has come of it and now it's being leaked out. And that to me is absolutely disgraceful.
BARTIROMO: In fact, it's more than just the president. Corey Lewandowski told Judge Janine last night that in fact then-Senator Jeff Sessions was also being tapped.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: What we have seen from the previous administration is that they did spend time listening to conversations between then-Senator Jeff Sessions and the ambassador to Russia while he was in his U.S. Senate office. If that were to take place which supposedly did take place, what other conversations did they listen in on?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARTIROMO: Do you expect that this investigation will include the Obama administration tapping the Trump administration?
KING: I think it has to include the whole spectrum here how much was legitimate and how much was political, and if any? And also, how this information was maintained and protected, because if you're going to be involved in any investigation of a candidate for president and nothing comes from that, that has to be -- no one should ever, ever see that.
KING: And that is -- the fact it's being leaked out, it's almost like there's an alternative government. These people starting back in December when somebody in the intelligence community started leaking out about Russia, then the thing about dossier, with only four people in the room. That's leaked.
This leak after leak, this is in many cases criminal. General Flynn, the conversation with the Russian ambassador.
KING: That was a crime whoever leaked that. That's a serious crime.
BARTIROMO: Congressman, before we go, real quick. I want to switch conversations on you, given you are a member of the Homeland Security Committee.
We are expecting the president to come out with a new executive order as early as Tuesday this week in terms of that travel ban, how would it look different?
KING: I think it's going more specific, more refined. It's probably going to allow for people with visas and green cards to come in to the U.S. There's some talk, I'm not sure whether or not Iraq was still be on the list, and it's probably not going to target Syria but basically apply to all refugees not just Syria.
Listen, I was fine with the first executive order but if this what it takes to get it done because I think it's important.
BARTIROMO: All right. We'll leave it there. Congressman Peter King, always a pleasure to speak with you. Thanks so much, sir.
KING: Thank you, Maria.
BARTIROMO: All right. We'll see you soon.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from any investigations of alleged ties between the Russians and the Trump campaign after meetings between Sessions and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. were revealed. Some Democrats, though, want to go even further and get an independent counsel.
Joining me right now to explain why in this "Sunday Morning Futures'" exclusive, Robert Ray is with me, former Whitewater independent counsel and former federal prosecutor.
And it is good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.
ROBERT RAY, FORMER WHITEWATER IND COUNSEL: Thanks, Maria.
BARTIROMO: Is that what we need here, an independent counsel?
RAY: I don't think so. I mean, it sounds like this is a political issue and I think the first question is, unless there were evidence of collusion or promising made during the campaign or in the transition with regard to Russian officials, what is exactly would you -- would a prosecutor be investigating?
Now, there are intelligence matters that need to be addressed. That should be handled by the political branches that ought to be handled by Congress, but not by special counsel.
BARTIROMO: You know, it's really interesting, because here we are talking about the potential for President Obama to have tapped President Trump's phones. And, you know, the media wants all these questions about it and they want, you know, more specific evidence about it.
And, yet, when referring to the Russian story, we don't have any evidence that, in fact, there was any collusion or there was any interaction whatsoever between the Trump administration and -- and Russian operatives. And yet as if it's common place the way you see it on television and in the papers.
RAY: Well, prosecutors aren't fact gatherers. They gather facts and investigate in order to decide whether or not crimes have been committed. And that's why while an investigation is appropriate, that's something appropriately handled by Congress in the first instance. You don't talk about special counsel or appointing, you know, extraordinary measures.
And certainly in this instance, there's no reason to think that the Justice Department can't adequately address this if questions regarding the commission of crime are raised. But only in the exception or extraordinary case would you be calling for a special counsel. The Department of Justice is perfectly capable of handling this even though the attorney general has rescued.
BARTIROMO: Well, this is serious stuff. I mean, the president came out yesterday, and said, "Wow, just learned that President Obama was actually tapping my phones at Trump tower." What did you make of that tweet?
RAY: I take that seriously. The president is the chief executive. He is the executive branch. If anybody is in a position to know, President Trump would know.
BARTIROMO: So, in other words, he said -- then Sean Spicer said, we have nothing else to say about this, we are not going to comment further until we actually see investigation that includes looking at this potential tapping.
RAY: Because it's an intelligence matter and as Congressman King explained. I mean, it's a rather extraordinary thing for that to be dump intoed the public domain.
BARTIROMO: What would you like to see happen now in terms of getting to the bottom of the claims?
RAY: I think it's for Congress to decide. That's where the people's representatives are. They should investigate. The calls for special counsel, frankly, are overstated and this all got wrapped around the axle with regard to the recusal of the attorney general.
And as, you know, lead in pointed out, who cares whether they were meetings with Russian officials, that's not the issue. We get to the question of whether crimes were committed only if there's evidence to suggest that there was collusion, complicity or promise made during the campaign or the transition. Absent such evidence, while there are legitimate intelligence questions to be addressed and the Congress can address them, there's no need for calling a special counsel under these circumstances.
BARTIROMO: And what did you think of President Obama's answer, his spokesperson say, we didn't order it.
RAY: Well, he doesn't order it, the court orders it.
BARTIROMO: Right. So, there's parsing words.
RAY: But the court doesn't order stuff in a vacuum. The court only orders stuff because the executive branch goes and applies for a warrant.
BARTIROMO: Right, there you go.
Thank you very much for that. We appreciate your time this morning, Robert.
RAY: Thanks, Maria.
BARTIROMO: Thank you very much. Robert Ray joining us there.
President Trump getting ready to roll out immigration executive order meanwhile, a version 2.0. We will have a fair and balance debate on what it could look like with our panel. We are taking a look at what's to come this upcoming week. It should be a busy one, as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures." We'll be right back.
BARTIROMO: Welcome back.
President Trump expected to sign a brand-new executive order this upcoming week on immigration. We are expecting this by Tuesday. The new measure following an earlier order Mr. Trump signed in late January. An appeals court, of course, later blocked that one.
I want to bring our panel right now. Tony Sayegh is a Republican political analyst, the executive vice president of Jamestown Associate and a Fox News contributor. Stephen Sigmund is the senior vice president of Global Strategy Group and a Democratic strategist. And Lee Carter is president and a partner at Maslansky and Partners.
Good to see, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us.
LEE CARTER, MASLANSKY AND PARTNERS: Good to be here.
BARTIROMO: Let's talk about the executive order for a moment. We're expecting it this upcoming week. What do we need to see to feel like it's not going to get blocked again, Tony?
TONY SAYEGH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: The reality is, Maria, I get the sense that the opposition to this, even partly in the courts is so political. When you look at the Ninth Circuit, for example, they went well outside the usual criteria for making the ruling and they cited to rule against this order things that Donald Trump said on the campaign trail, things Rudy Giuliani as surrogate said on the campaign trail.
BARTIROMO: That's right.
SAYEGH: They didn't base it on actual legal precedent and statute. And we know both through Supreme Court cases in the past and the U.S. Code, the president has the authority when it comes to immigration, when it comes to national security and he will make, I have no doubt, an executive order that will ultimately sustain the judicial requirements. But the political one I don't know how quickly that --
BARTIROMO: Yes. Steven, we are expecting that Iraq is not on that list of seven countries and in this new executive order, and we are expecting that the refugee point is going to be much broader than just from Syria.
STEPHEN SIGMUND, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, I think the problem with the order in the first place was that it was a mess, right, it was a political mess. I don't know about the constitutionality of it. I'm not a lawyer although it has been blocked constitutionally so far.
But the reason that it backfired on them politically is because of the stories behind it, right? The stories of actually people who this affected.
I happened to have dinner last night with Syrian refugees and others, one of whom who told me that, he spoke English, that he had built a business 150 people over 25 years and he had to flee Syria, spent 25 days on the streets in New York City and spent two years getting his family here because they are vetted and now he's washing dishes. I mean, those are the kind of stories that you're talking about. Those are --
BARTIROMO: Is he legal right now?
SIGMUND: Yes, and he --
BARTIROMO: Is he American citizen now?
SIGMUND: No, no, no. He's here on political asylum. He's a Syrian refugee. He would be the kind of person who would be blocked. If you're talking about you're poor who are yearning and you're tired or yearning to be free, these are those people and that's what we saw during the ban and that's why it backfired politically.
BARTIROMO: I just want to make sure that we are not confusing legal versus illegal because that's what's been happening lately. It feels like there's a lot of confusion about what's legal and what's illegal.
SIGMUND: I get it. But he is exactly who would be blocked under this ban.
CARTER: I think we have to be real clear here. To me this has been a complete failure of communication because what's happened is that the ban went out and it became a Muslim ban, it became a travel ban. It became nothing that it was intended to do.
It was 90 day that is we were going to reevaluate how we're going to vet people coming into this country and we're going to make sure that we're going to be doing so in such -- in a right way.
And what Donald Trump even said himself, he said this is a communication failure more than a political failure and what he needed to do this time is really get the communication set up right so he could see these are principles that we can all agree on. We want people to come here legally. We want people to be able to come here safely.
SAYEGH: You know what has been grossly missing from the conversation is the idea that the American people do support the macro effort of President Trump in what he's trying to accomplish with this immigration executive order, which to Lee's point is a temporary period where we enhance our vetting and tracking of people who come from failed states in which we have no strong bilateral or intelligence relationship with.
SIGMUND: That's true, but that's not what the ban did, right? Because the ban unfairly targeted just seven countries and maybe just six in this case and didn't target the countries that actually have had experience sending people here who have committed terrorist acts.
BARTIROMO: Well, the list came from the Obama administration, though, right?
SAYEGH: The seven came from the Obama administration. But we have relationships with the Saudis, we have relationships with the Pakistanis, that allow us to work with their intelligence agencies and their governments to improve the vetting process. We don't have with the Sudan, we don't have with Iran, and Somalia and the others that were on this list to.
But your point, Maria, was established during Obama administration.
SIGMUND: But I think it's true that American support the notion of having a better vetting and -- safety.
BARTIROMO: For sure.
SIGMUND: The problem is you have a fairness problem here, right? They support doing this across the board, not targeting specific places and specific people.
SAYEGH: But what we know is that ISIS has made very strong claims that they're going to infiltrate the Syrian refugee program to the point where they want to import their terrorism.
BARTIROMO: They said they've got a passport machine. They have a passport-making machine.
Let's take a short break. When we come back, we want to get back to also President Trump demanding Congress investigate alleged wiretapping at Trump Tower by the Obama administration. Where does that go from here? Our panel is going to weigh in on that.
We are looking at that on "Sunday Morning Futures." Back in a moment.
BARTIROMO: Welcome back.
We go back to our top story right now, the White House alleging that President Obama bugged Trump Tower right before the election. We're back with our panel.
This is an incredibly explosive charge. And we know that the Obama administration, Tony Sayegh, did request wiretapping but the first request was denied?
SAYEGH: Correct, Maria. I think the response to this charge from the Obama camp tells a very important story that we need to pursue a little bit deeper here. While they deny that the president himself or a White House official --
BARTIROMO: Ordered it.
SAYEGH: -- ordered this, it's abundantly clear and substantiated and media publications since that there was a FISA application in June that was denied. It was retailored in October. It was granted. It dealt with Trump associates, potentially, other campaign operatives as well during course of the campaign and it likely came from the Justice Department which is under the jurisdiction of the president, the executive branch.
SAYEGH: So, you have a very precarious situation where I think the president does not want to make a categorical denial, because the truth is the deeper you investigate this, the more likely it does become that there was some sort of approved surveillance of the Trump campaign.
BARTIROMO: The first request, the FISA, that's the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Stephen, that was denied, the first one. But the second one was approved, that they could wiretap him.
SIGMUND: I believe so. But, look, that's the point. It would have had to been approved by a court and it would have a warrant for it. It's not the president saying, go wiretap Donald Trump. It's something very different and there had to have been some reason for it, right?
BARTIROMO: Very different meaning, it's just go wiretap his people.
SIGMUND: Correct. It's not the president of the United States in a Nixonian way saying put bugs in Trump Tower. It's a court of law approving a wiretapping if in fact that happened.
SAYEGH: But the application has to be requested and made from his Department of Justice.
SIGMUND: Sure it does, but it's still a court has to approve it.
You know what? The question of whether or not all of this, whether it's this Russia narrative that's been going on since the Democratic National Convention or anything else, is this going to slow down the Trump administration priorities, the legislative agenda? Repeal and replace, tax reform?
CARTER: Clearly, it's a distraction, right? I mean, we are all talking about this, and we're not talking about tax reform, is it happening in August? Is it not? Now, we're talking about a lot --
BARTIROMO: Well, Steven Mnuchin is talking about tax reform and Mick Mulvaney.
CARTER: There's a lot of people now focused on this nefarious Russia, that most people don't know what they're talking about. When I talked to voters out there and you're talking about Trump is in Russia -- you know, Russia influenced the election, Trump, Russia, all of this, nobody knows what they're talking about. It's a bad negative halo the people are feeling.
BARTIROMO: And the media is riding with it.
CARTER: I got to say before -- is that Donald Trump has a very clear stage here. He says, everybody is saying this is nefarious, I am going the fight back. You call, I'm calling your bluff and I'm putting it right back there.
BARTIROMO: Yes, that is what he does.
SIGMUND: The president steps on the message that is you're talking about. He gave -- this is the third time in a row he's given a good message-driven speech and kind of set it on fire for tweeting on something completely.
SAYEGH: The liberals have weaponized this unsubstantiated Russian claim as an obstructionist tool --
SAYEGH: -- and it could work potentially but it hasn't worked --
BARTIROMO: The one thing to watch next. Back in a moment.
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