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Senate Intel Committee Holds Hearing in Wake of Comey Firing. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired May 11, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go back now to the hearing. We have Senator Martin Heinrich asking a question here.
SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH, (D), NEW MEXICO: When did you last meet with the president, Director McCabe?
ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: I don't think I'm in a position to comment on that.
HEINRICH: Was it earlier this week?
MCCABE: I have met with the president this week, but I don't want to go into details on that.
HEINRICH: But Russia did not come up?
MCCABE: That's correct, it did not.
HEINRICH: Thank you.
We've heard in the news that -- claims that Director Comey had lost the confidence of rank-and-file FBI employees. You've been there for 21 years. In your opinion, is it accurate that the rank-and-file no longer supported Director Comey?
MCCABE: No, sir. That is not accurate. I can tell you, sir, that I worked very, very closely with Director Comey. From the moment he started at the FBI. I was his executive assistant director of National Security at that time, then worked for him running the Washington field office and, of course, I've served as deputy for the last year. I can tell you that I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard. I have the highest respect for his considerable abilities and his integrity. And it has been the greatest privilege and honor of my professional life to work with him. I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI, and still does to this day. We are a large organization. We are 36,500 people across this country, across this globe. We have a diversity of opinions about many things, but I can confidently tell you that the majority, the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.
HEINRICH: Thank you for your candor.
Do you feel like you have the adequate resources for the existing investigations that the bureau is invested in right now to follow them wherever they may lead?
MCCABE: Sir, if you're referring to the Russia investigation, I do. I believe we have the adequate resources to do it. And I know that we have resourced that investigation adequately. If you're referring to the many constantly multiplying counterintelligence threats that we face across the spectrum, they get bigger and more challenging every day, and resources become an issue over time. But in terms of that investigation, sir, I can assure you, we are covered.
HEINRICH: Thank you.
Director Coats, welcome back.
Would you agree that it is a national security risk to provide classified information to an individual who has been compromised by a foreign government, as a broad matter?
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: As a broad matter, yes.
HEINRICH: If the attorney general came to you and said one of your employees was compromised, what sort of action would you take?
COATS: I would take the action as prescribed in our procedures relative to how we report this and how it is processed. I mean, it is a serious issue. I'd be consulting with our legal counsel and consulting with our inspector general and others as to how best to proceed with - this, but obviously, we would take action.
HEINRICH: Would one of the options be dismissal, obviously?
COATS: That very potentially could be dismissal, yes.
HEINRICH: OK. Thank you, Director.
RICHARD BURR, (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Senator Collins?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R), MAINE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Vice chairman.
Mr. McCabe, is the agent who is in charge of this very important investigation into Russian attempts to influence our elections last fall still in charge?
KEILAR: You're watching Trump administration officials in hot seats on Capitol Hill testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Let's listen back into the hearing now.
COLLINS: -- agent overseeing the investigation?
MCCABE: Certainly, almost -- all of the agents involved in the investigation are still in their positions.
COLLINS: So, has there been any curtailment of the FBI's activities in this important investigation since Director Comey was fired? MCCABE: Ma'am, we don't curtail our activities. As you know, are
people experiencing questions and are reacting to the developments this week? Absolutely. Does that get in the way of our ability to pursue this or any other investigation? No, ma'am. We continue to focus on our mission and get that job done.
[11:35:13] COLLINS: I want to follow up on a question of resources that Senator Heinrich's asked your opinion on. Press reports yesterday indicated that Director Comey requested additional resources from the Justice Department for the bureau's ongoing investigation into Russian active measures. Are you aware of that request? Can you confirm that that request was, in fact, made?
MCCABE: I cannot confirm that request was made. As you know, ma'am, when we need resources, we make those requests here, so I don't -- I'm not aware of that request. And it's not consistent with my understanding of how we request additional resources. That said, we don't typically request resources for an individual case. And as I mentioned, I strongly believe that the Russia investigation is adequately resourced.
COLLINS: You've also been asked a question about target letters. Now, it's my understanding that when an individual is the target of an investigation, at some point, a letter is sent out notifying the individual that he is a target. Is that correct?
MCCABE: No, ma'am, I don't believe that's correct.
COLLINS: OK. So, before there is going to be an indictment, there is not a target letter sent out by the Justice Department?
MCCABE: Not that I'm aware of.
COLLINS: OK. That's contrary to my understanding, but let me ask you the reverse.
MCCABE: Again, I'm looking at it from the perspective of the investigators. So that's not part of our normal case investigative practice.
COLLINS: That would be the Justice Department, though, the Justice Department --
MCCABE: I see. I see.
COLLINS: I'm asking you, isn't it standard practice when someone is the target of an investigation and is perhaps on the verge of being indicted that the Justice Department sends that individual what is known as a target letter?
MCCABE: Ma'am, I'm going to have to defer that question to the Department of Justice.
COLLINS: Well, let me ask you the flip side of that, and perhaps you don't know the answer to this question, but is it standard practice for the FBI to inform someone that they are not a target of an investigation?
MCCABE: It is not.
COLLINS: So, it would be unusual and not standard practice for there to have been a notification from the FBI director to President Trump or anyone else involved in this investigation, informing him or her that that individual is not a target, is that correct?
MCCABE: Again, ma'am, I'm not going to comment on what Director Comey may or may not have done.
COLLINS: I'm not asking you to comment on the facts of the case. I'm just trying to find out what's standard practice --
MCCABE: Yes, ma'am.
COLLINS: -- and what's not.
MCCABE: I'm not aware of that being a standard practice.
COLLINS: Admiral Rogers, I want to follow up on Senator Warner's question to you about the attempted interference in the French election. Some researchers, including the cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint claimed that APT-28 is the group that was behind the stealing and the leaking of the information about the president-elect of France. The FBI and DHS have publicly tied APT-28 to Russian intelligence services in the joint analysis report last year after the group's involvement in stealing data that was leaked in the run-up to the U.S. elections in November. Is the I.C. in a position to attribute the stealing and the leaking that took place prior to the French election to be the result of activities by this group, which is linked to Russian cyber activity?
ADM. MICHAEL ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: Again, ma'am, right now I don't think I have a complete picture of all of the activity associated with France. But as I have said today, both today and previously, we are aware of Russian activity directed towards the French election cycle in the course particularly of the last three weeks, to the point where we thought it was important enough to actually reach out to our French counterparts to inform them and make sure they --
[11:40:00] KEILAR: You are watching a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing coming in the wake -- previously scheduled, but obviously very significant, here in the wake of Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Joined now by David Chalian.
We just heard something pretty interesting, which was, according to the acting FBI director, he was asked, has the rank-and-file at the FBI lost confidence -- had they lost confidence in Comey, something the White House has alleged. Andrew McCabe said no.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Complete different story coming from McCabe, said there is broad support for Comey within the FBI. That directly contradicts what we heard from the White House from the podium yesterday, about what the White House said was part of the justification was that he had lost some support within the FBI of the rank and fil file, which was immediately questioned how the White House could know that. McCabe says differently. He says he has broad support.
There is also a difference in the question of resources and whether or not McCabe was aware of a request for more resources for the Russia investigation.
KEILAR: He wasn't.
CHALIAN: And he claims he was not aware. He says, we go to Congress if we need resources and we don't ask for resources for a specific investigation. So he did speak more broadly about ever-growing threats in counterintelligence and the need for resources.
KEILAR: And he reiterated that he thought the Russia investigation was adequately resourced. He said that a couple of times.
It seems that McCabe is coming -- we're seeing him being an honest broker, right? He doesn't seem to be as political as we perhaps see some of the other members. And what I mean by that is he seems to be saying, no, that's not true, as far as I know, about the resources. And yet, he's also saying it's untrue that confidence had been lost.
CHALIAN: And this is what you would expect from an FBI director or an acting FBI director, to be a straight shooter. That's the whole reason that you try to remove that position from partisan politics.
KEILAR: And we're back now to the hearing. We have Senator Angus King, an Independent, who often joins Democrats on issues, asking the question now.
SEN. ANGUS KING, (I), MAINE: The allegation of Russian involvement in our electoral systems, is that an issue that is of concern? And what do we know about that? And is that being followed up on by this investigation?
Mr. McCabe, is that part of your investigation? Now, I'm not talking about the presidential election. I'm talking about state-level election infrastructure.
MCCABE: Yes, sir. So, obviously, not discussing any specific investigation in detail, but the issue of Russian interference in the U.S. democratic process is one that causes us great concern. And quite frankly, it's something that we've spent a lot of time working on over the past several months. And to reflect comments that were made in response to an earlier question that director coats handled, I think part of that process is to understand the inclinations of our foreign adversaries to interfere in those areas. So, we've seen this once. We are better positioned to see it the next time. We're able to improve not only our coordination with primarily through the Department of homeland, through DHS, their expansive network into the state and local election infrastructure, but to interact with those folks to put them in a better position to defend against whether it's cyberattacks or any sort of influence-driven interaction.
KING: Thank you. I think that's a very important part of this issue.
Admiral Rogers, yesterday, a camera crew from TASS was allowed into the Oval Office. There was no American press allowed. Was there any consultation with you with regard to that action in terms of the risk of some kind of cyber penetration or communications in that incident?
KING: You weren't -- your agency wasn't consulted in any way?
ROGERS: Not that I'm aware of. I wouldn't expect that to automatically be the case, but, no, not that I'm aware of.
KING: Did it raise any concerns when you saw those pictures that those cameramen and crew were in the Oval Office with that --
ROGERS: I'll be honest, I wasn't aware of where the images came from.
KING: Thank you.
Mr. Coats, Director Coats, you lead the intelligence community. Were you consulted at all with regard to the firing of Director Comey?
COATS: I was not.
KING: So you had no -- there were no discussions with you, even though the FBI's an important part of the intelligence community?
COATS: There were no discussions.
KING: Thank you.
Mr. Chairman. thank you.
BURR: Senator Lankford?
SENATOR JAMES LANKFORD, (R), OKLAHOMA: Thank you.
Let me just run through some quick questions on this.
Director McCabe, thank you for being here as well.
Let me hit some high points of things I've heard already just to be able to confirm. You have the resources you need for the Russia investigation, is that correct?
MCCABE: Yes, sir, we believe it's adequately resources.
LANKFORD: OK. So, there's not limitations of resources. You have what you need. The actions about Jim Comey and his release has not curtailed the investigation from the FBI, it's still moving forward?
[11:45:12] MCCABE: The investigation will move forward, absolutely.
LANKFORD: No agents have been removed that are the ongoing career folks that are doing the investigation?
MCCABE: No, sir.
LANKFORD: Is it your impression at this point that the FBI is unable to complete the investigation in a fair and expeditious way because of the removal of Jim Comey?
MCCABE: It is my opinion and belief that the FBI will continue to pursue this investigation vigorously and completely.
LANKFORD: Do you need somebody to take this away from you and somebody else to do it?
MCCABE: No, sir.
Let me ask you a separate question. As I go through the report in tracking through the worldwide threats that was put out, that director Coats put out, there's a section on it on narcotics and the movement of illegal drugs. And there's a section on it about tens of thousands of illegal pharmacies online at this point distributing narcotics. And 18 of 20 of those go online a day, still. Can you help me understand more what the FBI is doing to be able to interdict, to be able to engage, how many of those are American, how many of those are international and what we can do --
KEILAR: You are watching CNN's special coverage of this Senate Intelligence hearing on capitol following the firing of the FBI director by President Trump.
We'll be right back in a moment.
[11:50:41] KEILAR: You're watching CNN special coverage of the Senate hearing following the firing by Donald Trump of FBI Director James Comey.
David Chalian back with me as we do monitor this hearing.
There have been a few different headlines here. We talked about the -- basically, the endorsement of rank-and-file FBI members of the FBI of Jim Comey running counter to what the White House had said.
CHALIAN: Right. Through the voice of McCabe, the new acting director. What we see going on in this hearing is that every Democrat that gets up wants to ask question s about this week's news of the firing of Jim Comey, how that went down, why it went down when it went down, which is not the topic of this hearing, but because McCabe is in front of them, they're making use of the opportunity.
KEILAR: Democrat Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia now asking a question.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D), WEST VIRGINA: -- July 7th, October 28th and November 6th and Election Day. Did you all ever think you'd be embroiled in an election process such as this? And what did it do to the morale?
MCCABE: Well, I don't know that anyone envisioned exactly the way these things would develop. As I said earlier, Senator, we are a large organization. We have a lot of diversity of opinions and viewpoints on things. We are also a fiercely independent group.
MANCHIN: I'm just saying basically before July 5th, before the first testimony that basically Director Comey got involved in, prior to that, did you see a change in the morale? Just yes or no? Yes, a change or more anxious, more concerned?
MCCABE: I think morale has always been good. However, we had -- there were folks within our agency who were frustrated with the outcome of the Hillary Clinton case, and some of those folks were very vocal about that, those concerns.
MANCHIN: I'm sure we'll hear more questions in closed hearings, sir.
But let me say to the rest of you all, we talked about this person, the KL lab. Has it risen to your level, being the head of all our intelligence agencies, and mostly being concerned about the security of our country, of having a Russian connection at a lab as far out reaching at KL Labs. Has it come with your I.T. people coming to you or have you gone to them, making sure you have no interaction with K.L. or any of the contractors you do business with?
Just down the line there.
Mr. Cardell (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we count on the expertise of Admiral Rogers and the FBI to protect our systems and so I value --
MANCHIN: But you have I.T. people, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
MANCHIN: Has it come to your concern that there might be a problem?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm aware of the challenge or more of a threat.
MANCHIN: Let me tell you, it's not a challenge. It's not a challenge. I hope -- down the line, I hope all of you -- we are very much concerned about this, very much concerned about the security of our country --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We share that.
MANCHIN: General? UNIDENTIFIED GENERAL: We are tracking them and their software. There is, as well as I know -- and I've checked this recently, there's no software on our networks.
MANCHIN: Any contractor?
UNIDENTIFIED GENERAL: Now, the contractor piece might be a little bit harder to define, but, at this point, we see no connection to --
MANCHIN: Admiral Rogers?
ROGERS: I'm personally aware and involved as the director of the national security issues on the lab issue.
MANCHIN: You are?
ROGERS: Yes, sir.
COATS: It wasn't that long ago I was sitting up there raising issues about them and their position. That continues in this new job.
MCCABE: It has risen to the director of the CIA as well, Senator Manchin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very concern about it, sir, and we are focused on it closely.
MANCHIN: Only thing I would ask all of you, if you can, give us a report back if you have swept all of your contractors and they understand the concern that you have about this in making sure that they can verify to you all that they're not involved whatsoever with any of the hardware.
I'm going to switch to a couple different things because of national security. But the violent gangs that we have in the United States, we don't talk about them much. When you talk about and you have MS-13, the Crips, Hell's Angels, Aryan Brotherhood, it goes on and on and on. There's quite a few. What is -- what are we doing, and what is it to your level -- has it been brought to your level the concern we have with these gangs within our country, really, every part of our country? Anybody on the gang line?
[11:55:09] MCCABE: Yeah, sir, we spend a lot of time talking about that at the FBI. It's one of our highest priorities --
MANCHIN: Do you have the resources to go after each one of these?
MCCABE: We do, sir. We've been focused on the gang threat for many years. Just like the online policy threat, it continues to change and develop. We think it is likely having an impact on some of the aggravated violent crime rates we see across the country, so we're doing -- spend a lot of time focused on that.
MANCHIN: One last question, real quick. My time is running out. Basically, on rare earth elements. I'm understanding ever since the closure of the California Mountain Pass Mine, which was the last mine that we had that. It was giving us a domestic source of rare earth elements, that's been closed. Now we're 100 percent dependent on foreign, on basically foreign purchases of rare earth elements for what we need every day to run this country. We don't do any of it in this country anymore. Most of it comes from China.
Do any of you have a concern about that?
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: Sir, I'll speak to that. Yes, we're concerned. We do a lot of work to figure out where they are and help the policy community shape policies surrounding how we ought to treat this issue, but it's a very real concern and obviously depends on the element. But we use them for personal technologies to keep us all safe. Those very rare earth elements.
MANCHIN: Let me just say that it's been told to me that the Department of Defense needs about 800 tons of rare elements per year and I want to make sure you that know, West Virginia has the opportunity to provide this country with a rare-earth element it has because of our mining process and all of that that we've extracted in the mining process. We are happy to come aid, sir.
POMPEO: Thank you, Senator.
BURR: Thank you, Senator Manchin?
Before I turn to Senator Cotton, can I say, before members, the vice chair and I have to step out for a meeting that we can't push off. I would ask Senator Harris, Senator Cotton to complete their first round of questions. Any member that seeks additional questions will be recognized by the chair. I would ask you to limit those questions, if you can, but the chair will ask -- will say we're not going to over five minutes for the second round of questions. It is my hope that we will give sufficient time to these six gentlemen to have some nutrition before we reconvene at 1:30 and 2:19. It's my understanding there will be a vote at 2:00. We'll decide exactly how we handle that. But the closed hearings, we like to make sure that nobody misses anything. We might slightly adjust what we're doing.
UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: Mr. Chairman, just inquiry, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness. In your departure as we work through it it's still acceptable to get another five-minute round?
BURR: Up to five-minute round.
UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: Thank you.
BURR: Senator Cotton?
SEN. TOM COTTON, (R), ARKANSAS: Inmates are running the asylum.
(LAUGHTER) So I think everyone here in this room and most Americans have come to appreciate the aggressiveness with which Russia uses active measures or covert influence operations, propaganda, call them whatever you will, as your agencies assess what they did in 2016 and hacking into those e-mails and releasing them as news reports suggests they did in the French election last week. That's one reason why I sought to revive the Russian Active Measures Working Group in the FY '17 Intelligence Authorization Act. These activities that go far beyond elections, as most of our witnesses know. Former director of the CIA, Bob Gates, in his memoir, "From the Shadows," detailed Soviet covert influence campaigns designed to slow or thwart the U.S. development of nuclear delivery systems, warheads, missile defense systems, and deployment of intermediate-range nuclear forces systems to Europe. Specifically, on page 260 of his memoirs, he writes, "During the period, the Soviets mounted a missive covert action operation aimed at thwarting INF deployments by NATO. We at CIA devoted tremendous resources to an effort at the time to uncovering this Soviet covert campaign. Director Casey summarized this effort in a paper he sent to Bush, Schultz, Weinberger and Clark, on January 18th, 1983. We later published it and circulated it widely within the government and to the allies and, finally, provided an unclassified version for the public to use," end quote.
I'd like to thank CIA for digging up this unclassified version of the document and providing it to the committee. "Soviet Strategy to Derail U.S. INF Deployment," specifically undermining NATO solidarity in those deployments.
I would ask unanimous consent that it be included as part of the hearing transcript.
And since the inmates are running the asylum, hearing no objection, we'll include it in the transcript.
Director Pompeo, earlier, this year, Doctor Roy Godson (ph) testified --