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  CNN Newsroom With Poppy Harlow and John Berman  CNN  February 15, 2017 7:22am-7:27am PST

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it and also look at trump's business ties to russia. >> joining us now, senator angus king, an independent from the great state of maine and a member of the senate intelligence committee. it's nice to have you on, sir, thank you for being with us. senator lindsey graham also said congress is not fake, and he said there are democrats and republicans who love our country and want to make sure checks and balances are in place. do you believe that republicans, your republican colleagues there, are serious about getting answers and serious about potentially having a select committee do this, that would have broader subpoena power and investigative power and be more available to the public in that way? >> you've asked a lot of questions, poppy. let me take them one at a time. i have detected and realized and heard over the last few days, i think the republicans are really taking this quite seriously. and i think they realize, as lindsey graham mentioned, i think he used the term "big league bad," and this is a serious question. as far as the committee, we already have a select committee.
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it's called the senate select committee on intelligence. i'm a member of that committee. we've begun an investigation into this. part of that investigation explicitly is going to include contacts between the campaign and the russians as well as what the russians did, why they did it, how they did it. and we have subpoena power. so that's in place. it's a bipartisan committee. we've been working together very well. and we're already beginning our work. we had about a two-hour meeting on this subject yesterday afternoon. so i think we're in a position to move forward on this. i'm not sure we need to appoint another committee, because the intelligence community is the job of the intelligence committee that's already on the case. >> senator, after that two-hour meeting you had yesterday, you came out and told your local paper, "the portland press-herald," that you also wanted to look into wider
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communications between trump campaign officials and the russians. that was before the cnn that came out that said there were constant frequent contacts between the trump campaign and russian officials. how significant do you believe that contact to be? i know you can't tell us what you hear in your classified briefings, but, you know, the frequency of these contacts, the senior people involved, the timing of it in the heart of campaign season, how important do you think that is? >> it's extremely important. and all of those are questions that i do not have the answer to now. but those are exactly the questions we're going to be asking. when we were beginning the discussions of doing this work back in january with the leadership of the committee, we expressly said, mark warner and i insisted that part of the charge to the committee was looking into whether or not there were contacts between either of the campaigns and the russians during the period leading up to the election. we didn't have any intelligence or data at that time that indicated that that was the
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case, although there were some signals, for example the relationship of mr. manafort, who was the campaign manager for a time, we know had relationships to the ukrainians and then suddenly at the republican convention, the provision about arm ting the ukrainians disappeared from the platform. that's public knowledge that raised the suggestion that there could have been some connection. it's part of our charge and absolutely something we have to look into. >> in our reporting, cnn did speak to paul manafort, the former campaign chairman of trump's campaign, and he wrote all of this off as being nonsense, saying he didn't have that communication and that his government in ukraine had nothing to do with this. what do you make of the president tweeting multiple times that this is really just a problem of leaking intelligence and that the russian reporting is nonsense? given the fact that the main
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story is these talks with russia, do you give some credence to his argument? >> absolutely. i think the leaks is a significant question. but it should not be used as a smokescreen to obscure the underlying grave issue of russian interference with our election process. and by the way, nobody knows where these leaks -- or somebody knows, but we don't know where the leaks are coming from. we know over the last month or so we've had information that's been in the intelligence community but it was relayed to the justice department and relayed to the trump white house. they had this information for 2 1/2 weeks. as you know, this white house hasn't exactly been hermetically sealed when it comes to leaks. i think the leaks are an important issue. but that's shooting the messenger. that's an issue that needs to be dealt with. the fbi should deal with it. it's against the law.
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but that shouldn't divert us from the fact that the information that's come forward, if it's credible, if it's based upon solid information, is very disturbing, and we've got to follow it up. i mean, the question is would michael flynn still be national security adviser but for the leaks, which led us, everyone, to realize he wasn't telling the truth when he said he didn't discuss sanctions with the russians. >> are you confident that the white house is leveling with us now about the nature of the contacts that the campaign had with the russians? >> no. no, i'm not. >> senator angus king of maine, thank yo