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GOP Votes to Release Partisan Secret Memo Alleging FBI Misconduct; Interview with Congressman Schiff of California; Interview with Congressman Rick Crawford of Arkansas.; Official: GOP Memo on FBI at White House For Review; Comey Tweets on McCabe Departure. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired January 28, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:08] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening from Washington.

Extraordinarily reckless -- those were the words used by the Department of Justice warning Republican lawmakers against voting to release a classified memo, a memo written by Republicans alleging misconduct by the FBI in the Russia probe. Extraordinarily reckless.

Well, just a short time ago, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee ignored that warning and ignored a request by the director of the FBI to appear personally and explain why releasing the memo is not a good idea. They ignore that as well and voted along party lines to release the memo.

Keeping them honest, they also voted not to release a memo written by Democrats which Democrats say point out the falsehoods in the Republican memo. The top ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee spoke out a short time ago.


ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We had votes today to politicize the intelligence process, to prohibit the FBI and the Department of Justice from expressing their concerns to our committee and to the House, and to selectively release to the public only the majority's distorted memo without the full facts. A very sad day I think in the history of this committee.

As I said to my committee colleagues during this hearing, sadly, we can fully expect that the president United States will not put the national interest over his own personal interest. But it is a sad day indeed when that is also true of our own committee, because today, this committee voted to put the president's personal interest, perhaps their own political interests above the national interest, in denying themselves even the ability to hear from the department and the FBI.

And that is I think a deeply regrettable state of affairs.


COOPER: So in the name of transparency, the Nunes memo will come out, only the Nunes memo. Democrats say this is clearly an attempt to derail the Russia investigation, delegitimize the law enforcement personnel taking part in it.

I want to give you some context here. The Republican memo was written for the chairman of the committee, Devin Nunes, the same Devin Nunes who temporarily shrank from the spotlight months ago after he rushed the White House to brief the president on the allegedly shocking facts he had just allegedly uncovered about the Russia investigation. Facts we later found out he had just gotten from the White House, the very White House he claimed he had to rush to in order to brief them on facts they already had, facts that were surprisingly similar to White House talking points.

It amounted to a smoke screen, as well as an attack on the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Democrats say that is what today's memo is really about as well, a smokescreen, an attack on the intelligence and law enforcement communities involved in the Russia investigation.

And that brings us to tonight's other big breaking story. The number two man at the FBI, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, is out. Now, you probably have heard his name before because the president has repeatedly singled him out for criticism. If you notice who the president criticizes in law enforcement these days, it does tend to be a certain kind of career public servant, the kind of public servant he targets, the ones investigating him, his team and his campaign for possible collusion with Russia and/or possible obstruction of justice.

Why did Andrew McCabe abruptly leave his job as deputy director of the FBI today? Well, our sources offer mixed accounts with some describing it as a mutual decision and others saying he was forced out. McCabe, though just 49, had already announced plans to retire, it becomes eligible for full retirement benefits on the 18th of March and may have already had enough unused vacation days to leave now.

So, in some ways, although the precise timing apparently took official Washington by surprise, the fact that it happened was hardly a shock, given the president's vilification campaign against him, which makes what White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said at the briefing today so hard to believe.


REPORTER: You say definitively the president did not play a role in Andrew McCain stepping out?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, I didn't say the president wasn't part of this decision-making process.


COOPER: If she means this decision-making process about leaving today, perhaps that's true. There's no evidence that the president ordered Andrew McCabe out today. But he's been abundantly clear what the president wanted, and wanted him gone.

It began last July, the president tweeting, the problem is that the acting head of the FBI and the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from Hillary for wife. The president is talking about Mr. McCabe's wife, a Democrat who ran from Virginia statewide office in with the financial support of then- Governor Terry McAuliffe's PAC. McAuliffe, obviously, an old Clinton friend.

Now, this happened before her husband was involved in the Russia probe, but the president believes it influenced him to go easy on Hillary Clinton and presumably to be biased against the president. The FBI inspector general is looking into it. Late today, in a staff email, Bureau Director Christopher Wray hinted that the inspector general's upcoming report played a role in McCabe's departure.

For now, though, the only thing out in the open is the president's antipathy to the man and open suspicion of him. There are the tweets, including one mentioning how many days until McCabe's benefits vest which read like a veiled threat.

There's "The Washington Post" report the days after firing FBI Director James Comey, the president met with McCabe at the White House and asked him who he voted for in the last election.

[20:05:08] The president denies doing that.

The president has also taken aim publicly and in private at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and has considered firing him as well. He's publicly attacked special counsel Mueller, of course, and actually ordered him fired then back down after White House counsel Don McGahn refused to do it.

The president has loudly and publicly spoken out against his own attorney general for recusing himself from the Russia probe.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office and I would have quite simply picked somebody else.


COOPER: Bear in mind, the attorney general is one of the president's original supporters and goes without saying he's a Republican as are Andrew McCabe, Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller, as is Jim Comey, the FBI director he fired, as is Christopher Wray, the replacement he himself picked, as our large number of FBI special agents and top brass and an agency he's described as being quote in tatters.


TRUMP: Well, it's a shame what's happened with the FBI, but we're going to rebuild the FBI. It will be bigger and better than ever, but it is very sad when you look at those documents and how they've done that is really, really disgraceful, and you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, bear in mind, the president isn't slamming the Interior Department here. He's not publicly attacking, say, a deputy undersecretary of state or assistant energy secretary. He's not accusing staffers at the USDA of political bias. The president United States is attacking the public servants, even cabinet members, who have roles -- have had roles, or by the president's way of thinking should have bigger and friendlier roles in the various investigations of Donald J. Trump.

More on the McCabe part of the news a little bit later in the broadcast. But right now, let's focus first on the House Intelligence Committee irruption (ph). Congressman Adam Schiff joins us in a moment.

CNN's Jessica Schneider joins us now.

What is the status of this memo at this hour?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we know from an administration official that this memo voted out of the committee by the House Intelligence Committee just a little while ago, it's been couriered over to the White House. And that begins a crucial period a five-day review period here where the president will decide whether or not to declassify this memo and to release it publicly.

We've reported earlier that the president is inclined to declassify and release this memo, but again this is a crucial five-day window here, Anderson. We know that the president will be advised during this window. It will also undergo a national security review of sorts.

And we're also told that because the State of the Union is tomorrow night, not to expect anything before then, so we understand that this could be a several day process, no exact word when the exact memo will be released. If at all, of course, that's all up to the president -- Anderson.

COOPER: What do we know about this memo?

You know, it it's kind of shrouded in secrecy here. This is a classified document that we know that was spearheaded by Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. It was written by Republican staffers. And because it's classified, members have to be very, very discreet about what they actually release here. They're not allowed to talk about this.

So, but we what we understand from sources is that this is a four-page memo. Of course, it is heavily partisan, drafted by Republicans, and it basically gets to the notion, their contention that the FBI abused its power in putting forth this surveillance warrant, putting forth a surveillance warrant application for Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page. And we understand from a source that this Steele dossier was used in

part to get this surveillance warrant, and one of the sources is telling us that that it was not disclosed -- properly disclosed to the FISA judge that this dossier was funded in part by Democrats. That's something we've reported before.

So, of course, this is a Republican cry that this investigation was potentially politically motivated and all the right channels weren't checked off -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.

Joining us right now, we heard from him a bit at the top, California Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman Schiff, thanks for being with us.

Can you just explain why Republicans voted to release their memo and not the Democratic response which according to Democrats kind of point -- poked holes or pointed out things which were incorrect or factually untrue?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, it's very question. When Mr. King made the motion to release the Republican memo, I offered a couple of secondary motions, one to allow the FBI and the Department of Justice to read it. And --

COOPER: The FBI and the Department of Justice has not read this memo?

SCHIFF: No. The director has. But he is the only one I think who has been able to see it along with an intelligence analyst. But no, we haven't gotten feedback from the department about what impact it could have on sources and methods, on the pending investigation.

[20:10:02] And the FBI director wanted to come before our committee or have the bureau come before our committee and express concerns about it or answers questions. They voted that down. They weren't willing to entertain a briefing for the members of either the committee or of the House. So, why did they release one and not the other? I mean, after all, these were the people pushing the "release the memo" campaign.

It's political. It's just -- this is a continuation of the effort to protect the president's hide, push out a misleading narrative, selectively declassify information. It's a really disgraceful act in my view to make partisan and political the declassification process. And I think it is what you see when you have a flawed president infecting the whole of government.

COOPER: You have no doubt this is a smokescreen, essentially, that this is about trying to stop the Russia probe or slow it down, or raise questions about the FBI, the Department of Justice, that then allow maybe Rod Rosenstein to be removed?

SCHIFF: This is exactly what they were doing. I used to be a prosecutor and tried and true defense tactic when the facts are really bad for the defendant, you try to put the government on trial. So, from the very beginning of this investigation, rather than keeping a focus on what did Russia do? What do we know about the secret context they have with the Trump campaign? What do we do to protect ourselves in the future?

The chairman and those who are aligned with him in the White House, their whole goal has been no, no, put the government on trial. Don't pay attention to what Russia did, don't pay attention to what we need to do to protect ourselves, put the government on trial. That's the best way of protecting the president.

COOPER: Who -- can you say who wrote this memo? I mean, what is --

SCHIFF: The memo was written by Republican staff and here is the thing that the Department of Justice acknowledged, they reached an agreement with the speaker's office with the chairman, this would only -- these underlying materials would only made available to the chairman, myself or one of our designates, instead of us, and two of our staff each. So, the chairman never bothered to go read these underlying materials after months and months of making this argument that the FBI and DOJ are engaged in some conspiracy. He didn't even bother to read the materials himself. But instead --

COOPER: So, Devin Nunes has not read the underlying classified information that forms the basis for this memo?

SCHIFF: Correct, correct.

COOPER: The notion that -- so, the Department of Justice gave this information, they say the Republicans are saying, well, look, there is a process for releasing something like this and they've gone through the process. That they said the reason they want transparency but the reason they are not releasing the Democrats' response is it hasn't gone through the same multiday process of being available for everybody in the House to read?

SCHIFF: There's no multiday process. That's a fiction. The House rules simply say, with the majority vote, you can publish to the entire country subject to a presidential essentially a veto any classified information. It doesn't say you have to wait a few days, you have to wait five days, you have to show it to the full house, first, that's all nonsense.

No, what they wanted to do is they knew they were on very thin ice. I mean, how do you credibly go before the country and say in the interest of full transparency, we want the country to have this full information but we don't really want them to see the rebuttal. They know that's unsustainable.

So, the best they can hope for I guess is give us a week. Let's see if we can concoct the reason why we need a week just to have our narrative out there to set in before the Democrats shows just how much holes it has.

COOPER: The -- are you saying that essentially Republicans have cherry-picked facts from the classified information that they were given?

SCHIFF: Absolutely.

COOPER: To form a narrative that is in your opinion not correct.

SCHIFF: Not only not correct, but deeply misleading.

COOPER: Intentionally misleading?

SCHIFF: Intentionally misleading, absolutely intentionally misleading. Why else would they not want the FBI and the Department of Justice to come in and be able to tell the members, OK, here is where there is a problem with the memo, here is where there is a problem of this memo. They don't want their own members to hear that. They just want this out in the public to help shape the narrative.

COOPER: And they -- so they voted against that?

SCHIFF: They voted against that.

COOPER: Rod -- is it possible, I mean, there are reports that Rod Rosenstein comes under criticism in this memo. Is this -- do you believe an effort or part of an effort to sort of pave the way for the removal of Rod Rosenstein, the number two of the Department of Justice?

SCHIFF: You know, it certainly could be part of an effort to either justify or mitigate the blow back from the president firing anybody from Rosenstein to Bob Mueller or anybody else. This is designed to undermine the FBI, undermine the Department of Justice, create uncertainty and doubt about the professionalism of the people of the bureau, so that if Mueller produces something really incriminating, they can somehow discredit it, or if the president does what he tried to do earlier and fire Mueller or fire Rosenstein, that this will cloud the issue enough to protect the president.

[20:15:15] COOPER: But, you know, to Republicans who says -- who believe there has been some malfeasance or bias against the president, what's wrong with investigating the FBI, investigating the Department of Justice?

SCHIFF: There's absolutely nothing wrong with doing oversight. And we have been doing that every day for the 10 years I've been on the committee. We have never voted to make something public before we've even given the agencies we're overseeing a chance to come in and say, OK, here's where you're right, here's where you're wrong, by the way, you don't know about these other facts.

And the fact that they're not interested in that, they don't want to hear that, they don't want their own members to learn that, I think tells you all you need to know about the true motivation.

COOPER: And in your opinion, they are pushing this release of classified information solely to benefit the president of the United Stats against the national security interest. SCHIFF: To benefit the president of the United States, but also to

protect themselves. I think they fear if this president goes down either in credibility or otherwise, that their majority goes with him. And so, this is not only protecting the president's hide but they think protecting their own positions.

COOPER: You said earlier at that press conference we play part of that, the committee is investigating the Department of Justice and the FBI. Some on the committee Republicans pushed back at that and said, look, there's no -- we didn't announce, we're not launching some investigation.

SCHIFF: Well, one of the nice things about this being done in an open session is a transcript will be made publicly available. I asked for that to be available tomorrow, and you will see the president or -- the chairman directly assert we are investigating the FBI and we are investigating the Department of Justice.

COOPER: Is this something that began prior to today?

SCHIFF: Well, presumably, yes. Now, they are required to have consulted with us prior to initiating an investigation, but they did not do that.

COOPER: Was that the first you had heard of it?

SCHIFF: That was the first I heard of it, yes.

COOPER: Wait a minute. So, you are the ranking Democrat on this committee. You're an incredibly important position. This is the first time you heard that there is an ongoing -- there is an investigation of the FBI and the Department of the Justice.

SCHIFF: There were public reports that there was a group within the majority that was doing an investigation of DOJ or FBI. But in terms of a formal announcement, this -- we are doing an investigation of them, we're not investigating issues at these places or investigating in our oversight capacity or requesting documents as part of our Russian investigation. This is the first time we have heard directly. We are investigating the FBI and the DOJ.

COOPER: Congressman Schiff, appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: The Republican committee member joins us next. I want to get their perspective.

And later, Andrew McCabe sudden departure from the FBI, what we know about it. The possible reasons for the timing of it. The investigation he's been facing all those attacks from the president. More ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:21:06] COOPER: Well, before the break, you heard from the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Chairman Devin Nunes is not talking, period. He said tonight that he does not discuss committee business outside the committee.

Joining us instead, Republican committee member, Congressman Rick Crawford of Arkansas.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.


COOPER: The FBI Director Christopher Wray, a man President Trump obviously appointed, a Republican, said he asked for the opportunity to come before the committee or send some FBI people before the committee to share their concerns about the memo was turned down. I'm wondering how could Republicans say they're for transparency but not want to hear from him? Why would what do you think it was not necessary?

CRAWFORD: Well, I'm not sure that's entirely correct. It's my understanding that the director did view the memo in question, along with two of his senior FISA advisors, a legal counsel, and there was no changes of any factual information. And so, they've had eyes on that memo.

COOPER: So, it's not -- you're saying its point-blank not true that the FBI wanted to come and address the committee?

CRAWFORD: No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that that the director did have an opportunity to view the memo. It's my understanding that he did. They were given the opportunity to edit and --

COOPER: Right.

CRAWFORD: -- there was no factual errors that they felt needed corrected or anything of that nature. So, the memo that you're going to see has been viewed by the FBI director and two of his top five staff.

COOPER: Right. But that doesn't necessarily mean that Christopher a wanted her release. Again, I understand you're saying Chris Wray saw it. But if the FBI wanted to come and brief your committee, why not have -- allow them the opportunity to do that?

CRAWFORD: Well, look, I don't make that decision. I would be OK with them coming and briefing us. They've briefed us on a number of items. But that's really not the issue here. The issue is that there's an assertion that director did not see it, in fact, he did and also that two of his top advisors with a high degree of FISA expertise reviewed it as well and while they were given the opportunity to make some edits, but there was no factual material edited or changed in any way.

COOPER: The Democrats also asked for both memos to be vetted by the FBI and the Department of Justice. They said that too was turned down by Republicans.

CRAWFORD: Well, I'm not -- I don't think that's necessarily accurate either. I think there's that there's a process by which this memo would be shared with the general membership of Congress and before it would be released to public, it would certainly be vetted. Ours has been viewed by as I said Director Wray, and two of his top FISA staff.

And I don't have a problem with. In fact, I would encourage that the Democrat memo also be vetted as well because we don't want to see potential national security breaches as a result of material that might be released.

COOPER: Right. The Department of Justice though, I mean, they did warn Republicans not to release this moment was saying it would be, quote, extremely reckless to release it without review.

CRAWFORD: Well, I would think that you know you can understand why they'd have a problem with the memo being released, because probably there's some information in there that doesn't reflect positively on them. That's the whole point of the memo. And so, in general, what we have in Congress is a responsibility to exercise oversight over federal agencies and DOJ and FBI are not exempt from that.

COOPER: Congressman Schiff says that it was disclosed the Democrats today for the first time or at least in to his knowledge, the Republicans in an open investigation of the FBI and the Department of Justice.


COOPER: Have you known about this? I mean, has this been going on for a long time?

CRAWFORD: There's been some ongoing back and forth with the FBI and DOJ investigation oversight -- to say that you didn't know that was going on, I kind of questioned that. But, you know, we've had some problems with DOJ being forthcoming with information that's been requested, even subpoenas that have been ignored.

And so, yes, you could probably understand why DOJ would have a problem with this memo being released to the public.

[20:25:00] COOPER: So, you're saying they don't believe it would be extremely reckless. They're just trying to cover their own hide?

CRAWFORD: I'm not saying that they don't believe it'd be extremely reckless and I'm not suggesting anybody's trying to cover their own hide. What I am saying is that we have a mandate, a constitutional mandate, a responsibility of the American people to exercise oversight and particularly where there may be constitutional concerns and potentially due process being denied U.S. persons.

And so if, in fact, that that's the case, it's our responsibility to make sure that we take corrective action and doesn't happen again.

COOPER: But wouldn't if the Department of Justice wrote a letter saying, it's extremely reckless and that -- I mean, a part of the concern is, it gives away sources and methods, why not allow the Department of Justice, you know, the ability to review it? I know you say Christopher Wray has taken a look at it, but clearly --


COOPER: -- the Department of Justice wrote this letter, they're not happy about this.

CRAWFORD: Well, sources and methods, you're absolutely right. We don't want to reveal sources and methods. That's why we gave Director Wray and two of his staff the opportunity to review that. So, I think it's at an adequate review. It's only four pages in contrast --

COOPER: So, the Department of Justice is wrong when they said it's extremely reckless, they're just flat-out mistaken?

CRAWFORD: That's their opinion. And so, our opinion as a body is that we need to share this information because we have a responsibility to exercise oversight over federal agencies. And as I said before, it may not appeal to DOJ, but if there's wrongdoing in any federal agency, we have a responsibility to expose that and take the appropriate action.

COOPER: How many Republicans on the committee have actually seen the underlying classified information that formed the basis for this memo?

CRAWFORD: I'm not really sure about that. I know that an agreement was reached to allow that. But that's just been fairly recently --

COOPER: But Congressman Schiff says three. He said Trey Gowdy and two other staffers who wrote it.

CRAWFORD: Well, I'm not sure how many members have seen it. So I couldn't -- I couldn't give you an accurate count there.

COOPER: But is it appropriate though for members to be voting on a memo saying it's OK to release it, that it doesn't give up sources and methods if they themselves have not seen the underlying classified information upon which the memo is based?

CRAWFORD: In the context of the information that we have seen, this memo is factual, accurate. Director Wray and his staff had an opportunity to review it and take issue if they had concerns with the factual accuracy of the memo. And so, there were no edits made and, look, we have -- we have a responsibility that we have to not only do we have to protect as you as you mentioned sources and methods, it's very important, making sure that all of our equities are protected from the standpoint of intelligence community, and things like that.

But at the same time balancing the constitutional rights of the American people. And even if we find a particular U.S. person somewhat repugnant, whether we like that individual or not, there's still a U.S. citizen and entitled to due process and constitutional protection. COOPER: I know you said Chris Wray had no changes to this. Democrats

certainly have a lot of problems -- the Democrats on the committee certainly had a lot of problems with some of the facts that allegedly are in this memo, and they say they wanted to release their own memo which point out what they believe is factually incorrect.

In the spirit of bipartisanship and transparency, which, you know, clearly, Republicans are saying they want, why not allow the Democrats to release their memo at the same time?

CRAWFORD: Well, we're given the Democrats the opportunity to do exactly what we did. In fact, it was Devin Nunes, the chairman of the committee that introduced the motion to allow for the release of their memo to the membership of the House.

COOPER: Right, that's next week. That's a week after this memo --

CRAWFOPRD: Well, no, no, no, no. He made the motion for that to be released immediately. They can -- the members of the House can go in and view those documents as early as tomorrow as I understand it.

But what we have is a procedural path to follow here in that they'll review it, we had probably a week to 10 days of members being given the opportunity to review our four-page memo, a very small memo. And they can read it come back and reread it if they wanted to and digest that information.

We're given the Democrats the same opportunities well. In fact, we all voted to support that.

COOPER: Right.

CRAWFORD: This was a unanimous vote and it's on record. It was an open session, so you can -- you can see how everybody voted. In fact, we all did vote to give them the opportunity to present the minority memo to counter ours.

COOPER: As you know, the Congressman Schiff is saying is that essentially you want to get your memo out have that be the narrative for a week and then maybe the Democrats memo comes out, and he says that actually, there's really not a procedure where it has to be five days and the whole house has to see it. There just has to be a majority vote on the committee.

CRAWFORD: Well, I'm not saying that it has to take five days for that to sit and allow members to come down and view it over a five-day period. There's no prescribed period for which that memo is open to the members and then we go through the process. We didn't do that in the majority memo.

What I am saying is that if we vote as a as a committee to release the memo to the public insert it into the congressional record, it has to go to the president and then we have a five-day waiting period before it can be inserted in the next session day. In the Congressional record, that's really the only timeline.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So why not go to -- allow the Democratic to go tonight to the President just like their Republican one did?

CRAWFORD: Well, because that requires a separate vote. And what we did tonight was to allow for the Democrats to release their memo to the members. And we think it's only fair that the members get ample opportunity to review it on both sides Republicans and Democrats, just as they did with the majority report.

COOPER: So you could have taken a separate vote and allow the Democrats to have the same -- to send their report to the President at this hour, if you take the second.

CRAWFORD: What we could have, but they also indicated they wanted to have FBI and DOJ look at their report and that's fine, but --

COOPER: They want to look at Republican report as well as the Democratic one.

CRAWFORD: Right. And in fact as I said before the FBI directors has seen our memo and it was only four pages so he could read that fairly readily and come up with an opinion along with his two top five advisors and legal counsel. And as I said, there were no issues factually raised with the content or sympathically (ph) with our memo.

COOPER: Congressman Crawford, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

CRAWFORD: Yes, sir, thank you.

COOPER: Our panel joins us next with more tonight's breaking news. A lot going on including a new tweet from James Comey, just now this is coming out on former FBI Director Andrew McCabe find out what Comey has said about him. Next.


COOPER: Yes, we have more breaking news on a very busy night in Washington. Fired FBI Director James Comey has just tweeted about the sudden departure of his former senior colleague, saying, "Special agent Andrew McCabe stood tall over the last eight months when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on. He serve with distinction for two decades, I wish Andy well. I also wish continued strength for the rest of the FBI, America needs you".

The tweet comes as we have been discussing shortly after the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to release a memo win by Republicans alleging this convict by the FBI and the Russia investigation. I want to bring the panel, Mike Rogers, himself a former Intel Committee chairman, also our two legal experts Carrie Cordero, Michael Zeldin, Phil Mudd former senior FBI official joins us as well.

Chairman Rogers, you heard the Republican congressman saying well, look they couldn't release the memo, you know, it's going to through this procedure, the whole House has to see it. Is that true? I mean toward the end he said, well they could have just voted a second time and released it on the Democratic member. MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Yes, and there's no requirement for the House to see anything in that regard. I mean they could -- the House Committee that controls the classified information which is the intelligence committee in this particular case decided they wanted it released, they would vote on it at the same time.

COOPER: And when the congressman says, well Chris Wray the FBI director, he looked at it and he didn't have any changes does that mean the FBI reviewed it?

ROGERS: No. What actually what happened was, the director came in and reviewed it and said, hey I'm going to have to take this back to the folks who do this every day to look at it. Which is why you don't want to restrict access to. You want to give the people who do the classified restrictions on all of this type of material, you want to bring them in and have an opportunity to look at it.

[20:35:13] And again what frustrates me most about this and I think Republicans are making a serious mistake here, getting a FISA order is a very complicated process and it involves a lot of people. So you have the agents working their sources and their sources of information, it could be signals collection, it could be a human source that brings this together. They may or may not have used some of that dossier. That certainly is a factor, but there's lots of corroborating information in there. Then it goes to an FBI senior, then another senior, then it goes to DOJ, before even goes to the judge and then there are rewrites before it goes to the judge.

So unless they interviewed all of those people unless they found out all of the corroborating information unless they looked at all the files containing that source information, I argue this memo is probably not reflective and that will come out at some point. And so I think this is a big mistake for them to rush to this, to try to kind of control the narrative on what they want to have happen. If they believed that the FBI did this which I argue as a criminal offense if you purposely misled the judge in a FISA court, somebody needs to go to jail, releasing a memo is almost farcical. You need a full professional investigation into that if that's what you believe, then you launch a full investigation, you get all the facts before you release something.

COOPER: Phil Mudd, you were saying that if FBI director Christopher Wray had actually put pen to paper and made a change, that would have been a ridiculous move on his part?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERRORISM ANALYST: That would have been in my view a profound mistake for a simple reason, as soon as you start editing a one word here, one sentence there, you add legitimacy to the document. Let me give you a simple parallel. Let's say you Anderson or any of yours is accused of a crime by the FBI or by state local police officials and they write out the one page or four page report of it. You look at the report and say this is 180 degrees off, nothing this ever happened. Would you ever consider editing that report? Or would you say, I going to look at this, I think this is completely wrong. As soon as you put pen to paper on that, you allow members of the committee could took about and say, hey the FBI edited this, they change and they must believe the substance of it is right, because they're the ones who helped change the language in the document.

COOPER: What do you think is going? Is this all just partisan politics?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, I mean this is a -- actually a really low mark for this House Intelligence Committee. I mean this is a low water mark for them. This is -- they did not have to do it in this way. The way that normally if either in the House Intelligence or the Senate Intelligence Side, if there's intelligence information that they received in their over psych capacity, that they either question the legality, they question the factual accuracy, they question the ethics and which was obtained, any of that.

Normally, what they would do, is they would go back to the intelligence community, they would go back to the FBI, and thought was there information, they should be going back to director of national intelligence and having that person review this memo if in fact they want it to be released publicly and then actual serious review of what of this memo is classified information should be reviewed for classification purpose so that there's no harm to national security. And there is a whole process.

The House Intelligence Committee did not have to invoke this historical procedure that they've never used. They did this specifically to bypass the FBI, the Justice Department and the director of National Intelligence. And the only reason to do that is if the product that they're trying to get out to the public is a politicized product and not something that accurately reflects the investigation.

COOPER: So Michael is this about obstructing the investigation or delaying it or just putting big question marks on the FBI, on the Department of Justice?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's an effort to put an alternative narrative out into the public domain. And hope through the delay of the release of the Democratic narrative, that they can somehow gain the advantage if you will. But they, I think as Chairman Rogers says, are going to lose on this, because a FISA warrant is approved by two of the three branches of government who has done extensive reviews of this information have gone forward with it. Now you have a congressman who didn't read the material, sending two state (INAUDIBLE) who write a summary of it. And somehow that's going to trump the two other branches of government, it's wrong and the executive branch actually should say, you know, what, you have nothing to do with classification. That is the executive branch's prerogative, stay out of the way, because down the line, the President has said that Congress gets declassifies things and then endeavors to release it is not going to be anybody's best interest.

COOPER: So I'm wondering what your reaction is to the fact that that according to Ranking Member Schiff, Republicans are not willing to meet with the FBI director or anyone from the FBI to hear the bureau's concerns about the Nunes memo. [20:40:02] MUDD: Well, I going to take this personal for just a moment. You may recollect that the Senate put at highly contentious, lengthy document on how the CIA treated al-Qaeda prisoners they call it torture. We also had the Democrat, the Republican side putting out a different memo saying, they disagreed with the Democrats, by the way, they did that simultaneously in contrast with this event, they never spoke to any of us. Never spoke to a CIA official, never approach any of us to speak. Do you know what it's like to be attacked by the member of Congress in a written document, that goes the American people, and a member of Congress has never bothered to say, you're named in this document, what exactly did you mean by this e-mail. What did you mean by this text message? What did you mean by this memo? How can you investigate someone if you never actually speak to them about what they meant when they wrote a memo, wrote the e-mail. It doesn't make any sense to me, Anderson.

ZELDIN: I thought that the torture memo, Chairman Rogers can correct me if I'm wrong, I thought it took about two years before that was released from the time that they initiated the effort to release it and then final release, because it did go through exhausted review.


COOPER: That the chairman of this committee, Nunes has not actually seen the underlying intelligence, that he left it up to two staffers and apparently one other member of the committee.

CORDERO: So it would be extraordinary really, I mean normally if there are investigations that are either on going or current surveillances or very weak in surveillances, normally the intelligence committees don't review actual fight to applications. I used to handle these cases before I (INAUDIBLE). They don't review those.

Now in an extraordinary circumstances that the chairman, and the ranking, if they need to see them, then there can be circumstances where they would let them see it. But if according to Congressman Schiff earlier, Chairman Nunes didn't even bother to go over and review the underlying materials, then how does he even know whether the information in his memo is accurate.

COOPER: I mean to Democrats, this looks like it's laying the foundation for I mean just a -- just continue chipping away and hammering away the legitimacy of the FBI, the Department of Justice, possible laying the foundation for the removal of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy director -- the deputy attorney general. I'm wondering -- I mean as Republican as former chairman of the committee, what -- is that the strategy?

ROGERS: I'm a little bit at lost here. I don't understand what they're trying to accomplish by a memo. Again, and they make some great points. They say hey, you know, McCabe had these biases going in, OK, that's -- if you want to investigate that, that's fair. I do believe, you know, I'm always worried about the FBI overreaching but I'm also worried about Congress overreaching as well. And we ought to be equally concerned about the facts in something like this. And what this does, is it picks some facts that they like, it puts them in a memo and puts them out there. And that's for a political there. If now, candidly having the vice chairman seating in right here in this chair, doing the same thing isn't any better. And so what happens is they're destroying the credibility of that one committee that gets access to information that no other committee on the capital gets. And I worry about that. So what they're doing is, these aren't investigations anymore, these are campaigns, extensions of campaign. If I can give you the five facts to make you think that the guy is a rotten dog or good dog, I win. That's a dangerous model when you have the government interfering peoples lives. And when you starting attack an institution like the FBI, listen there may be a few bad apples in the FBI. I don't think anybody denies that. But it is important, and really important incredible institution of the United States for the work that they do.

COOPER: Go ahead.

ZELDIN: And there are -- I'm sorry. There are inspectors general whose job it is to investigate these types --

COOPER: Within, yes.

ZELDIN: -- things within the Department of Justice and FBI.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody in the panel. Up next, we're going to talk with Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee about the implications then you release to the House -- that House Republican memo and whether Robert Mueller needs Congressional protection.


[20:45:56] COOPER: Breaking news tonight a bit of partisan confrontation. Which Republican and Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, Republicans voting to publicly releasing own written by their own staff members that may accuse the FBI, abusing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. During the 2016 election campaign, I say May, because aside from a few members of Congress and the FBI director no one has seen that memo. And as you heard a few moments ago, Democrats are outraged that Republicans plan to make that memo public despite receiving warnings against it by the Department of Justice. With me now is Republican senator James Lankford a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Thanks so much for being with us.


COOPER: When you see what is going on with the House Intelligence Committee, I mean is this just partisan politics?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, (R) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Let them working out, I haven't seen the memo either. And they'll be able to work to the process. We've tried to focus in on the Senate Intel side, to say we've going to be able to do this together, it's very important for the American people at the end of it. To see us all working together, we've got to put out a common set of facts and we've got to agree on those set of facts.

COOPER: Is it important -- do you think it's important for the FBI, for the Department of Justice to have time to actually review something like this memo of course --

LANKFORD: Sure it is. Any time any information comes out that any point and look and say, there are sources or methods there that going to protect long term, very important that everyone has a chance to look at it and say we need to delete this, because just an individual reading it may look at it and say I don't see your problem with that. But someone in the FBI is going to merely say, I know how that information was gathered and the person that it was gathered from will know how that is. And certainly let's -- information we don't want out.

COOPER: Who do -- one of the Republican Congressman on the committee was saying, anyway Chris Wray had it -- Director Wray of the FBI had a chance to look over the memo and didn't have any factual changes. You know, former Chairman Rogers saying, well look that's not the way it works, he would say look I going to take this back to my people.

LANKFORD: Sure, yes anyone out lawyers look over, you want to have -- loss people analyze again them. The amount of being challenged on the facts of it, that they maybe challenge on how those facts are derived and you want to be able check sources and methods at the end of the day.

COOPER: Just in terms of Andrew McCabe leaving, I'm wondering how much of a surprise was it to you, given the president scrum beat against him and what do you think went on there?

LANKFORD: It's hard to tell what went on. Obviously we'll all know in a few months once he leaves. I've always said one of the most beneficial people to us in any conversation or folks once they leave the administration, because they can really say the things they always want to say are little restrain from it. At that point, and its both Republican and Democrat, but we'll know the facts on it.

But it doesn't surprise me. Quite frankly he was approaching times for retirement, he's trying to make a decision, that are really want to be in the spot, there's been all kind of rumors and things that have coming out, the text messages throughout that is the Andy that's mentioned in some of the text messages that were extremely partisan, Andrew McCabe, where this partisan meetings were happening during the Clinton investigation, no one really knows. So this gives the opportunity to be able to solve it.

COOPER: Do you worry about the chipping away at the legitimacy of the FBI.

LANKFORD: Oh absolutely. I would say, 35,000 folks that work for the FBI are some fantastic folks, and there's people that are in leadership and whether it's in D.C. or in any field office. If they're distracting for the work that's happening, it's the very important work internationally and nationally from what the FBI is doing. That's a problem to us. We want to continue recruit great people in the FBI, keep great people in the FBI but they got to stay non-partisan with us.

COOPER: I want to ask you in down to you were recently in Mexico in Central America. Some of the figures you were giving me about -- what's going on Mexico very alarming.

LANKFORD: Yes, it is alarming right now. And I think a lot of people just haven't paid attention to what's really happening in the counter narcotics fight in Central America and in Mexico. They're broad (INAUDIBLE) of Mexico 40 to 45% of that area in Mexico is run by the cartels.

COOPER: Right.

LANKFORD: I mean we -- we're all familiar, we see in the map of Syria and saying this whole section half of Syria is run by ISIS. We don't realize we that have that same experience on the southern border right now, where counter narcotics continues to accelerate. Their growing poppies, they're producing heroin, they're cutting (INAUDIBLE), now they're producing fentanyl, they're transitioning cocaine from South American up through Mexico.

COOPER: Because the introduction of the Mexican military was supposed to make a big impact on stopping that.

LANKFORD: And they have made a big impact in areas but they're still very large areas that are still unresolved and become a very big issue, in those local areas, the local police departments and judges and others are not getting the job done and they're terrified for their own lives and their families lives. This is happening our southern borders, when the area is we're going to have to pay attention to Mexico is a long-term ally, great trade partner, we've had very good engagement with them, we have no beef for the Mexican people. But those cartels partially taking over that area.

[20:50:08] COOPER: I want to ask you late tonight, the Trump administration from Congress they would not enact new sanctions against Russia. It was obviously bipartisan bill passing the law in '98, to two vote in the Senate, four or 19 to three vote in the House. I'm wondering your reaction to that?

LANKFORD: Yes, I continue to believe the Russia is very actively engaged and try to not only undermine our democracy, but they're doing that around the world. It's one of the reason myself and others have done a bipartisan bill on election security. We need to assume what they did in 2016 was a learning experience for them. They're going to accelerate that in 2018 and 2019.

COOPER: So why not impose sanctions?

LANKFORD: From the administration? We'll get all the final details, hopefully the President speak about its modern say, the units (ph), we need to get the full details of why he would not impose sanctions on that, and we'll find out. COOPER: You voted for sanctions?

LANKFORD: I did, and I would again because I think Russia has been a bad actor for us, I mean continues to be.

COOPER: Senator Lankfrod, appreciate your time.

LANKFORD: Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you very much always.

Here to discuss tonight's eruption between on Capitol Hill, between Republicans and Democrats over the memo, a very distinguish group, CNN's Gloria Borger, former Republican Congressman Jack Kingston and Bakari Sellers.

Gloria, what's happening on -- with this committee?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's kind of stunning. I think it's sort of devolved into partisan wrangling, and I think you have a President right now who is taking on his own Department of Justice, including the FBI. I spoke with a friend of the President's today, who said to me -- and maybe you can confirm this -- said that the President believes that his FBI is corrupt, period. Flat out, that's it. And I think what you saw going on today was Devin Nunes and many of the people on that committee were basically saying the same thing.

And that even though the head of the FBI said, please don't do this right now. Can I come up and talk to you? They said they want it released. And my next question is, what is Chris Wray, who runs the FBI, do next?

COOPER: Well, that's what's -- Congressman Kingston, that's what so interesting. You know, we had a congressman on the committee who was saying, well Chris Wray looked at it and didn't have any changes, but everyone else that we talked to including former Chairman Rogers says said, that's not how it works. Of course Chris Wray is not going to take out a pen and starts making changes. He wants his own people to review it. Is it appropriate to release this kind of information without having the Department of Justice, without having the FBI actually review it?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, they've had an opportunity to review it, and they've had an opportunity to help supply this information.

COOPER: Well -- but they say they haven't. they said it's extremely wrack (ph) the Department of Justice wrote a letter saying it's extremely reckless. That was there in the term.

KINGSTON: I can't react to that letter because I just heard about it tonight. But I do know talking to members that it's been available to members of the Congress. 200 members of the Congress have read this, and it's interesting that if there's anybody who has let it become a partisan issue, it's the Democrats because they should have been there reading the memo and saying, look, this is not right. But I can say --

COOPER: Well, they did. They wrote their own memo pointing out what is inaccurate in that memo.


KINGSTON: They did not read it. They did not come out with what's wrong with it.

COOPER: They did. And it's in their memos.

KINGSTON: I'm talking about rank and file members could have done that. I think that the Democrats on the committee felt like there was a line in the sand. But --

COOPER: Wait -- but wait --

KINGSTON: Let me finish.

COOPER: But factually what you're saying doesn't make -- because you just said they didn't point out inaccuracies, but they did point out inaccuracies, and now you're saying well rank and file people --


KINGSTON: General group, the Democrat members, the rank and file members have had the opportunity to read the memo and come back and push back about it and they haven't done that.

BORGER: How about the intelligence committee? Of course --

KINGSTON: And I think it's going to be an interesting debate because, you know, we haven't read the memo yet.

COOPER: Right.

KINGSTON: When we read the memo and when we have an opportunity to say, OK, are the Democrats right, or are the Republicans right --


COOPER: But wait a minute. You're just doing double talk. What you're saying makes no actual, logical sense. We won't know what the Democrats say because the Democrats who did write a memo, despite your saying that the rank and file didn't push back --

KINGSTON: Well once this memo is released in public --


KINGSTON: -- the topic's on the table for people to say, this is wrong and here's why. So I think the Democrat memo in its --

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I really don't want to jump in because Representative Kingston, Congressman Kingston is actually showing why this is nothing more than a partisan football and the conundrum that the Republican Party --


SELLERS: But I do believe what we're starting to see is, one, we're seeing Chairman Nunes completely in over his head. But even more disappointingly, the person who does not show any courage or valor during this moment when he needs to stand up is Paul Ryan. I mean the fact of the matter is if Richard Nixon was President and Paul Ryan was the speaker of the House, then he probably would nominate Richard Nixon for a Nobel Peace Prize. He has done absolutely nothing to stand up for the foundation and the tenets of our democracy.

The big news today, though, and you spoke about it just briefly to Senator Lankford, is the fact that the President of the United States will not implement sanctions on Russia, who we know is a bad actor. That is the news of the day, with all due respect to Senator Lankford, if we're waiting on a response to why the President chose not to take this act tomorrow in the State of the Union Address, then that is just wishful thinking. I am so distraught not as a Democrat, not as a South Carolinian, but just as an American today because the Republican Party has let the tenets of our democracy just fall at the wayside.

[20:55:07] And right now people are saying that Donald Trump is above the rule of law, and that simply is not the case. And if somebody wants to stand up and fight back and fight for what our democracy means, then so be it. But Republicans right now are just cowards.

KINGSTON: Well, look --

BORGER: You know, you just look at how this occurred, though. You see the President, who's been griping about Andrew McCabe. He's been tweeting about him for months. Then you see that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, says to Chris Wray, the head of the FBI, get rid of this guy. Chris Wray doesn't want to do it. He goes to the White House counsel, Don McGhan, and says, please don't make me do it. And now suddenly he's gone.

COOPER: I got to jump in --

SELLERS: We would get more --


COOPER: Very quickly.

KINGSTON: Let me just say. (INAUDIBLE) the chief of staff with the first one is saying, McCabe had a conflict, eventually so you'd think you can read those, pay to -- at least to pay Gmails and say there's not a problem of --


KINGSTON: -- then you know that absolutely --

COOPER: I want to thank everybody on the panel. Chris Cuomo is going to pick up the coverage with "Cuomo Prime Time" right after a quick break.