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Controversial Nunes Memo; 15-Year-Old Opens Fire at School; Trump Asked McCabe About Vote. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 24, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:31:29] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: There is a Republican push to release a memo from House Intel Chair Devan Nunes that alleges FBI abuses of FISA surveillance laws. Sources say President Trump is inclined to allow that memo to be made public. But what is in it?

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

Good morning, congressman?

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Good morning, Alisyn. Great to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you.

Do you know about this Devin Nunes memo and what's in it?

DENT: I know the memo. It was a memo prepared by I believe Republican staff of the Intelligence Committee. I have not yet read it. So -- but, I mean, there's a lot in there that has been discussed. It's unclear just whether or not it will be released.

CAMEROTA: Such as? I mean can you share -- I know some of it's classified, but in broad brush strokes, can you tell us if this is a bombshell memo or if this -- if these are Chairman Nunes' sort of cliff notes on something that he's seen with FISA?

DENT: I -- since I've not read it, I can't comment on the contents. Even if I did read it, I couldn't comment on the contents because it's classified. But as I read in public reports, there's some suggestion that FISA rules or laws may have been violated in the context of this investigation. I think that's what the allegation is. Again, that's -- having said that, just based on news reports, and without having read the memo.

CAMEROTA: Here's the point. Some of your Republican colleagues seem to be in overdrive at the moment trying to discredit in different ways the FBI. Let me just play for you what Senator Ron Johnson said about the FBI last night on Fox.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: More than biased. The corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, and that secret society -- we have an informant that's talking about a group that were holding secret meetings off-site. There's so much smoke here, there's so much suspicion.

BRET BAIER, FOX ANCHOR: Boy, let's stop there. A secret society. Secret meetings off-site of the Justice Department?

JOHNSON: Correct.

BAIER: And you have an informant saying that?



CAMEROTA: Let me repeat Bret Baier's questions, a secret society, secret meetings off-site. Do you know what Senator Johnson is talking about?

DENT: I have no idea. I do believe that the men and women of the FBI are good, honorable, professional people. Sure there are -- I'm sure there are some bad apples, but we have a process to deal with that. I think it's important that we not undermine the American public's confidence in the Justice Department and the FBI. And I have not -- I have not --

CAMEROTA: And do you think some of your colleagues are undermining the FBI?

DENT: Well, I am not prone to conspiracy theories. I really am not. I wish some of my colleagues would temper their rhetoric.

We Republicans have often sold ourselves as the party of law enforcement, not just at the state and local level, but the federal level as well. And we have to remember that these people at the FBI are very much involved with counterterrorism operations, very sensitive to criminal investigations and they're going out, they're putting their lives at risk every day and we shouldn't lose sight of that over the politics of this particular Russia investigation.

I have confidence in Director Mueller, that he is going to run a thorough, fair, and professional investigation. When there were problems with two of those individuals involved, he either removed them or demoted them. And so I do have confidence in this. And we should not do anything to undermine this investigation.

CAMEROTA: And, congressman, help us understand why some of your Republican colleagues seem more focused on bringing down the -- you know, talking about the FBI and their perceived issues with the FBI, rather than getting to the bottom of the Russia investigation.

[08:35:09] DENT: Well, I'll tell you, I think what's disappointing to me is, you know, I served as chairman of the House Ethics Committee during the last Congress. And I was involved with sensitive investigations. And we did them in a very bipartisan manner. And I didn't do a thing without talking to my ranking member, Linda Sanchez. We always, you know, moved together. We had -- you know, nothing was agreed to until everything was agreed to. And it seems to me that whatever issues there are with the FBI -- and there may be some legitimate issues to look at here. I'm not questioning that. But if you do this on a -- if we try to do this on a purely partisan basis, I don't think that serves anyone's interest, or the American public's interest. They have to find a way to do this in a bipartisan basis in that committee. That's the Intelligence Committee. It's a secretive committee. It's much easier, in my view, to do these things behind closed doors in a bipartisan manner sometimes than it is out in the open. So really they have to get that back on track.

CAMEROTA: Do you think it's possible that some members in the FBI have formed a secret skull and bones-esque society?

DENT: Well, look, I guess anything's possible, but I can't imagine there's some grand conspiracy here or that there's this -- I -- call me -- call me skeptical, all right?

CAMEROTA: Do you think that some of your Republican colleagues are following the president's lead? The president is the person who started saying that the FBI was in tatters.

DENT: Well, you know, the president, you know, I think, has to be very careful. I mean I just saw yesterday -- and I guess in "The Washington Post" story, that, you know, Director Mueller is, you know, a -- you know, very interested in, you know, the president's role in the firing of Director Comey and also Mr. Flynn, General Flynn. And, you know, the allegation is that, you know, why did the president interfere? And does that rise to the level of obstruction?

So if I were the president, you know, less is more. I simply don't understand why he would want to interfere in any way. It's clear to me that I -- that at this point I'm not aware that the president directly was involved in any kind of meddling with the campaign. Now there are others who had some entanglements, but not the president. So if he has nothing to fear, if he says there's nothing to worry about, why, you know, why continue to attack his Justice Department?

I mean it's his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. It's his FBI director, Christopher Wray. So these are the people who report to him. It's a Republican administration. It's a Trump administration. These are his people. And so I find it odd that he's attacking his own -- his own government.

CAMEROTA: But you think that the American public can trust the FBI?

DENT: Yes, I do. I do. I mean I believe that the -- again, I have agents in my own community who are involved in all sorts of, you know, sensitive matters. And I have a lot of confidence in the men and women. I think they're all very professional.

Do they have political opinions? Do all people in government have political opinions? Of course they do. We like them to keep it to themselves but they have a right to vote, they have a right to make a campaign contribution. We know that. And -- but when they're on the job, whatever time that is, we expect them to be thorough, fair and professional and not let whatever political views they have interfere with their work. And I believe that's true with virtually most everybody in the FBI. There might be some exceptions, but I think that's just the way it is.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Charlie Dent, we appreciate talking to you. Thanks for being here.

DENT: Hey, thank you, Alisyn. Great to be with you.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so police in Kentucky are trying to figure out why a teenager opened fire at a high school killing two classmates, injuring 18 others. The latest in a live report, next.


[08:42:32] CAMEROTA: An investigation is underway into why a 15-year- old student reportedly opened fire inside a Kentucky high school killing two other students and injuring 18 more.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Benton, Kentucky, with the latest developments.

What have you learned, Nick?


What eyewitness describe happened here yesterday morning is absolutely haunting. A 15-year-old male student is alleged to have walked into a school, just as it was getting underway, and gunning down his classmates. We know that at least 20 victims were -- suffered from this tragedy, 16 gunshot victims, five of those victims still in critical condition this morning battling for their lives.

Benton, Kentucky, is a very small town. A very small knit community. So small, in fact, that some of these first responders have kids who go to this school. In fact, one of the first state troopers who arrived at the scene thought that the 15-year-old girl who died here was his own daughter. The identities of those two students who were killed, they were released yesterday during a very somber press conference, identified as Preston Cope, 15 years old. He's said to have died at a nearby hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, and Bailey Holt, 15 years old. She died at the scene.

One of the outstanding questions this morning is why. Why would this 15-year-old do this? Gun down his own classmates. That is a question that investigators are looking at. This 15-year-old is in custody. We're also waiting to hear on whether or not this teenager will be charged as a juvenile or adult. That all is part of the investigation.

Chris. Alisyn.

CUOMO: All right, Nick, thank you very much. Appreciate you staying on this.

"The Washington Post" reporting President Trump asked the acting FBI director whom he voted for in 2016. Is this evidence of overreach or just inappropriate? But, first -- pregnant pause --

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for that drama.

CUOMO: I bought you time.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

A U.S. Army vet and a Purple Heart recipient is on a mission for more gold in the upcoming para Olympics. His story now in "Turning Points."

CUOMO: I should have just read it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not in a million years did I ever think growing up I'd be a hockey player. But I think the physical parts of the game really intrigue me.

I'm Rico Roman, a U.S. Army retired staff sergeant, and Purple Heart recipient.

I joined the military back in 2001. I served in Kosovo in a peacekeeping tour and three tours to Iraq. My last tour, I was running a vehicle checkpoint and my vehicle stuck the IED. They managed to save my leg, but it was stuck straight out, so like I had plates and bolts, and I had to use a cane. And so I decided -- weighed the option of doing an amputation, and amputated my leg above the knee.

[08:45:10] It was tough. I remember some of the guys asking me, well, why are you here working so hard. And it's because I don't want to be in the hospital. I want to get out of here.

They asked me to come and try sled hockey. And I had no interest. But the guys kept asking me, just come and try it. And I was hooked. It was so fast. It's just like stand-up hockey but you're on sleds. And it requires a lot more core strength because you're balancing on those blades.

I'm a U.S. sled hockey player and 2014 gold medalist.

I'm really fortunate because I've been able to go out and serve my country again and hopefully bring back another gold medal.



[08:49:58] CUOMO: "The Washington Post" reports President Trump asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe whom he voted for in the 2016 election and berated him about donations that his wife had received in her run for office. That all happened in the Oval Office when he was the acting FBI director.

Overreach by the president? Well, let's bring in CNN national security commentator and former House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers. It's been a while, Mike. Happy New Year. Good to see you, pal.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Happy New Year to you. I thought you guys just didn't love me anymore.

CUOMO: Oh, I love you. Don't kid yourself. It would be uncomfortable if I actually told the truth about that on television.

So, let me ask you, what is right, what is appropriate and what is of concern in this conversation as reported between the president of the United States and the acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe?

ROGERS: Yes, I don't think that there was any ill intent. I think this was the president -- it's not a federal crime. It was definitely inappropriate. The understanding that the FBI needs to operate as an independent agency and that, yes, members of the FBI have political opinions, like every American. And if that's the sole standard, we're in a lot of trouble.

It's -- the standard needs to be for those FBI agents not to act on their political biases in any investigation. And, you know, most agents, that's just engrained with them. So having the president ask that question, knowing all that is surrounding, it was inappropriate at the very, very least.

CUOMO: Interesting to Mueller?

ROGERS: You know, probably, because if he's trying to show a pattern of behavior, if he's looking to do an obstruction of justice charge, which, by the way, I think is really hard to get to. But if that's what he's looking to do, he needs to show a pattern of behavior that would lead you to -- any jury to conclude, yes, that person was clearly trying to obstruct justice in this case.

So, yes, I think that's probably likely going to be a question. Sounds like, according to reporting, that McCabe may have already been interviewed about that very topic about the nature of that conversation.

CUOMO: If nothing else, it's just another reminder of where the president's mind tends to be, on him and his interests.

But, you know, you're talking about the FBI as if we could trust them. To listen to many of your Republican brothers and sisters, including the president, it's the worst it's ever been, Mike, worst reputation ever, totally toxic, top rungs of it, secret societies, all kinds of nefarious behavior. Can't trust them.

ROGERS: Boy, I worry about this a lot. And so what you're seeing is, in the court of public opinion, impeaching the witness. So what happens in every courtroom across America every single day, a defense attorney, or the prosecutor, gets up and tries to impeach the character or the integrity of a witness in t heir crime to say -- you know, to taint their testimony. And what you're seeing happen publicly now is that with the institution that is charged with protecting the United States, I worry about this a lot. I know the men and women of the FBI. I know the oaths that they take. And I know how serious they take it. And they take those -- every single case that they do, they understand that they have the ability to take away someone's freedom. That is a huge responsibility. And in some cases can be a burden. But they accept it and they are very professional in the execution of those duties to make sure America is kept safe.

I worry this constant barrage on the institution of the FBI is bad.

CUOMO: You know, and, look --

ROGERS: And can I just add one thing, Chris?

CUOMO: Go ahead, please, Mike.

ROGERS: The optics of what happened with the bureau is bad. I admit, I mean, if you ask the average American, they go, what, I don't get that. I don't understand why was, you know, why was McCabe's wife taking money and he visited the governor -- I don't like -- there was an internal investigation, to my understanding, that said he didn't violate any rules, but it just looked bad. And so the FBI does need to be concerned about the optics, not the politics, but the optics of what they're doing.

CUOMO: Right.

ROGERS: So they have a little responsibility here.

But this constant barrage about their character and integrity, I worry about that. They're doing cases all over the country --

CUOMO: Right.

ROGERS: Including counterterrorism cases in New York City, in Chicago, in Miami, and all over the country trying to catch spies, like the Chinese spy that just penetrated the CIA here recently. That's important work and we should not detract them from that.

CUOMO: Perception is reality. But, you know, as you said, you can impeach a witness, but there's a standard of proof, Mike.


CUOMO: You've got Senator Ron Johnson saying there's a secret society because some informant told him. It just reeks of politics because you flip the R and the D under Johnson's name and you flip him talking about a secret society with -- talking about Russian collusion, and you've got completely opposite points of view from Republicans and Democrats, you know, where Johnson would say, oh, one informant, Christopher Steele, this former U.K. guy that everybody says they trust? Not me. Not enough. There's nothing there. And now we're seeing it play the other side. It's why people don't trust the politicians.

Also, a very interesting point, the reason we know about these texts, and the texts that are allegedly missing or lost or whatever between two agents who were involved at one time in the investigation is because, not of Republicans, of the inspector general. They did their own in-house check. There was accountability. And Mueller moved on Strzok and took him off the probe. Doesn't that matter?

[08:55:14] ROGERS: Well, I think it matters. And I think the very fact that there was an allegation somewhere in the bureau -- and I don't think it was anything about the taint of the investigation, candidly. It was about inappropriate behavior by two employees of the FBI. And that's what got him into trouble. And then I think they discovered all of these -- this other material.

And when Mueller found out about it, he took action right away to do it. I don't know what else you would ask him to do candidly in that case.

CUOMO: Right.

ROGERS: He got the information. I mean the agent had a great reputation for all the casework that he had done. Remember, these were private conversations about political beliefs. Guess what? FBI agents have private conversations about their political beliefs.

CUOMO: Right.

ROGERS: Their goal here is not -- never, ever, ever bring it into the office. Never bring it into an investigation. Mueller decided the optics of it were not good, we're moving along and we're going to correct that. That's, to me, the right standard. And so before we go out and start beating people, you know, you have to understand that he saw a problem, he fixed the problem, (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: A lifelong Republican and a decorated veteran in Bob Mueller, who was picked by the acting head of the -- the acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was Trump's choice.

All right, Mike, thank you very much. Good to have you with us, as always.

ROGERS: Thanks. Always good to see you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, that's it for us. Time for CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: So soon?

CUOMO: It just flies by, doesn't it?

CAMEROTA: Can't we do another three hours?

CUOMO: Yes. Yes, we can.

CAMEROTA: Alert the media.

CUOMO: Come with me tonight.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my God.

CUOMO: See you there. Alisyn and Chris, 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my God.

CUOMO: Whoo!

CAMEROTA: You're a machine.

CUOMO: I'll give you the stick.

CAMEROTA: I'll be watching.

CUOMO: You will not.