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House Intel could Vote on Releasing Nunes Memo Today; Trump Prepares for First State of the Union Address; Clinton Trolls Trump, Reads "Fire and Fury" in Cameo. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 29, 2018 - 10:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone, John Berman here.

A momentous day in the Russia investigation or more specifically what seemed to be efforts to discredit said investigation. In just a few hours, the House Intelligence Committee could vote to release a memo that Republicans say outline abuses inside the special counsel's team. The president is all for releasing this, even though his own Justice Department calls the release an extraordinarily reckless development. There are new details this morning about what is inside that memo. "The New York Times" reports that it attacks Rod Rosenstein directly, the deputy attorney general, who appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel and oversees Mueller's work even now.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins has the latest developments on this from the White House. Good morning, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, good morning, John. Yes, this memo alleges serious misconduct on behalf of the Department of Justice and the FBI against the Trump campaign and according to this reporting from the New York Times, specifically names the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein saying that he approved the extension of surveillance of the former Trump campaign aide and foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

Now, this is noteworthy because Rosenstein is the person who is overseeing the Russia investigation and this -- the White House so far, a source says that the president would be for releasing this memo if they do vote to declassify it. Here's what we heard the latest from the White House this morning.


RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: It could shed light on allegations that have existed for some time. Again, nobody has seen the memo at the White House. I certainly haven't seen it. We will see what is in it if the House of Representatives votes -- about it and the president will make a decision.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Has the president seen it?

SHAH: No, the president hasn't seen it.


COLLINS: Now, releasing this memo has been a point of contention because critics say the Republicans are just cherry-picking facts to create this narrative that they want. They're worried that it could be used to undermine the special counsel's investigation.

Now, it is worth noting that the president has been venting about Rod Rosenstein for some time now saying let's fire this guy. He thinks that he is just another government official out to get him. But John, we have to note here that Rod Rosenstein was appointed by the president and is someone who has been a life-long Republican.

BERMAN: Kaitlan Collins for us at the White House. Two key facts which counter some of the things, apparently the president says about Rod Rosenstein inside the White House. As Kaitlan mentioned, this vote in the House, the House Intelligence Committee, in just a few hours, to release the memo.

CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, watching the developments from there. Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. I fact, we actually don't know 100 percent for sure if this vote is going to happen tonight. It could happen as soon as tonight. That's because the House Intelligence Committee quietly scheduled a business meeting for tonight at 5:00 p.m. to discuss and vote on committee business. They have not confirmed if in fact the vote will be to release the Nunes memo, give the president five days to decide whether or not to object to this, to allow its declassification.

I've been talking to members and aides on the committee this morning and I can tell you, they don't know for sure exactly what is going to happen tonight either. What we do know is that the Democrats are trying to push forward their own memo.

Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has drafted a memo based on the same underlying intelligence expected to come into sharply different conclusions that the Nunes memo. And Schiff will push tonight for a vote in the committee to allow the full House to review this in a classified setting. We'll see if the committee agrees to do that. We expect them to do that.

Now, this comes, John, as there is a sharp divide between House Republicans and Senate Republicans about whether or not to release this memo publicly. We reported last week that the Senate Intelligence Committee requested the Nunes staff to get a copy of the memo and they were declined access to it. Other Republicans are voicing concerns about moving forward to release it.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: On the memo, I don't know what's in the memo. But if it...

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Burr doesn't either. They won't show it to Senator Burr.

COLLINS: And I think that needs to be shared. But, also, my concern is whether it would compromise classified information.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I want somebody outside of the Republican led Congress to look at these allegations. I'm not asking that Lindsey Graham be the final arbiter of whether the DOJ and the FBI was off base. No, I don't want it released yet. I don't. I want somebody who is without a political bias to come in and look at the allegations that I've seen.


RAJU: So, John, you're seeing a sharp divide within the Republican Party. House Republican leaders have largely sided with their Republican conference on the House side agreeing, pushing for its release.

[10:05:06] Senate Republicans suggesting they put on the brakes, siding with the Justice Department. And of course, we know that the president, according to our own reporting, is inclined to allow its release. So, we'll see what they decide to do given the sharp divide within the party. But a key vote could happen as soon as tonight. We'll see if that's confirmed in just a matter of hours.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, simple yes or no here, Manu, the Senate Republicans, they have no say in this. The full House frankly has no say in this. It is just the members of the House Intelligence Committee where the Republicans have a majority and by all signs, the majority needed to pass this.

RAJU: That's right. Senate Republicans have no say whatsoever and the House Intelligence Committee can vote to send it to the president for declassification, the full House doesn't even have to vote on that. So we'll see if the House committee will decide that today.

BERMAN: And the president says he wants this release, so there's every reason to believe this will go public. Manu Raju, thank you very much.

Joining me now, CNN legal and national security analyst Asha Rangappa. Let's focus, Asha, first on what seems to be the latest reporting on what's inside this memo. Republicans very upset for some reason, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein extended the FISA warrants to surveil Carter Page, Carter Page obviously this foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, someone who have been on the FBI's radar even before the Trump campaign because of his contacts with Russia. Help me understand what would be controversial about the deputy attorney general who, again, has oversight over this investigation, extending those warrants.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, John, this is exactly an example of how this memo is inaccurate and misleading. So, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein actually doesn't have the authority to extend any kind of surveillance at all. The Department of Justice has to go into a FISA court and request an extension of any surveillance that is ongoing. Now, the deputy attorney general might sign off on allowing the attorneys to go into court to ask for it, but the ultimate decision on that would be made by a judge. And here is an important point, John, when there is surveillance on a U.S. person, the Department of Justice has to go in every 90 days and show the court that they are getting valuable intelligence information in order for that surveillance to be extended.

Now, the Carter Page surveillance began in September. Rosenstein came on board in March. That means that this FISA had already been extended before Rosenstein even came on the picture, and that means that a judge found that this surveillance was actually collecting valuable intelligence information, so it was a valid FISA. There was a reason to have it in place. So, this is the kind of thing where these details need to be explained, otherwise they completely misconstrue what was happening.

BERMAN: You know it is interesting, maybe it is not Rosenstein's role in that, that's an issue here, maybe it is Rosenstein's current role which is oversight over the special counsel's investigation. He is the one who appointed the special counsel after all. He's the one that Robert Mueller needs to go to, to make reports on this investigation and if he wants to expand the scope at all, which, by the way, Rod Rosenstein hinted that he let Mueller do, he's got to sign off on that.

RANGAPPA: That's right. So, Rosenstein is very key in Mueller's investigation. Mueller doesn't have to report to him day to day. But he does need to go to him for significant steps in the investigation as you said to expand the scope if he feels the need to do so. And by all accounts, Rosenstein has been on board with the direction and scope of the investigation so far. So if this is a pretense to get rid of Rosenstein, the president could theoretically put someone else in place who could, you know, kill this investigation with death by a thousand cuts inside that no one would ever see and say, hey, look, I haven't touched Mueller and have that kind of protection. So, I think we need to be very careful about what we understand to be Rosenstein's role and how important it is.

BERMAN: So, Asha, shifting gears if we can a little bit to go back to a time three or four days ago when the giant report was that the president tried to fire at one point the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He asked Don McGahn, his White House counsel to do it and Don McGahn said basically over my dead body, if you do that, I'm going to quit. It turns out the president lied to the American people about that. Last summer he said he had never considered firing Robert Mueller. We now learn that he did consider it, firing Robert Mueller. Lying to the American people out loud in public no matter where you are may not be illegal. Is it illegal, in fact? But no less than the former independent counsel Ken Starr say it is something that should be looked at. Listen to this.


KEN STARR, WHITEWATER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: I think lying to the American people is a serious issue that has to be explored. I take lying to the American people very, very seriously. So absolutely. What Dan was talking about was this effort to get rid of the I think lying to the American people is a serious issue that has to be explored. I take lying to the American people very, very seriously.

[10:10:04] So absolutely. I think what Dan was talking about was this effort to get rid of the investigation. You're now talking about something called lying to the American people and I think that is something that Bob Mueller should look at.


BERMAN: Now, it is interesting, Asha. We have a little bit of a feud between former independent counsels, Robert Ray who succeeded Ken Starr told me, you know what, you may not like it, but you can lie to the American people. That in and of itself isn't something that a special prosecutor should be investigating. What do you think?

RANGAPPA: No, I don't think -- it is not a crime that I think would validly be within Mueller's scope. As you said, the president can lie to the American people as unfortunate as that might be. However, I do think that that pattern of key deception, the repeated, you know, stating again and again that he had never considered firing Mueller does go to a knowledge that wanting Mueller to be fired or even ordering him to be fired was improper.

In other words, it sounds like there was knowledge within this camp that that would have been an improper move and had he gone through it, it would be illegal or potentially obstruction. And I think that is something that Mueller can use to bolster his case that, you know, Trump really wanted this Russia investigation to go away and that was what was on his mind when he fired James Comey. So, it can be relevant to the investigation. But probably not a basis for any kind of criminal violation on its own.

BERMAN: All right. Asha Rangappa for us. Asha, great to have you with us. Thank you so much.

RANGAPPA: Thank you.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He had a long time fear of being poisoned. One reason why he liked to eat at McDonald's.


BERMAN: The overnight cameo that sparked fire and fury among some. Hillary Clinton really trolling the president at the Grammys.

Plus, going for a job putting our troops at risk. Turns out that fitness apps could be a huge problem exposing key information.

And everything you ever wanted to know about the president's former campaign chair Paul Manafort, jaw dropping new insight on the central figure -- on a central figure in the Russia investigation.


[10:16:30] BERMAN: All right. In just a few hours, the House Intelligence Committee could vote to release that controversial memo written by the chair Devin Nunes that outlines alleged abuses in the Russia investigation. The Democrats want their own memo out as well.

Joining me now to talk about all of this, Democratic member of Congress Karen Bass of California. Representative, thank you so much for being with us. Have you read, by the way, the Republican memo?

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: No, no, no. I'm not on the House Intelligence Committee, I'm on the House foreign affairs, however.

BERMAN: They have made it public, available to every member of Congress to read. Should they want to read right now. Based on what you know is inside it and based on your role on judiciary, do you think that this is the type of memo that should be released?

BASS: Well, I think it would be fine to release the memo. But, you know. I do believe that the Republicans are really treading in dangerous ground when they are using this as a reason to essentially undermine the investigation and at the end of the day, it is definitely to go after Mueller. So, I don't like the direction that they're headed. I think the investigation should be allowed to move forward. And concoct the conspiracy within the FBI, I believe, is a complete distraction.

BERMAN: You say it is an effort to go after Mueller. Do you think that the special counsel -- do you think the special counsel needs legislative protections right now - which is something that has been proposed

BASS: I do. I do. I think that would be a good idea. And to me it very similar to the legislation that was done around sanctions regarding Russia and we're going to wait and see what happens with that. Because Congress did not have the confidence in the president to impose sanctions, you know, we did legislation that essentially we could override a veto. But I think that in the same way we need to have that protection because it is no telling what the president is going to do one day to the next.

BERMAN: The deadline on those sanctions, and you mentioned the House Foreign Affairs Committee also -

BASS: I know.

BERMAN: The deadline on those sanction is today, and we're waiting. We're waiting frankly to find out you know where the president, if the president places these sanctions by the end of business today.

Let's shift gears if we can to tomorrow night. The State of the Union Address is tomorrow night. Will you be attending?

BASS: You know, I haven't decided. If I don't go, it is not as an act of protest. If I choose not to go, it is really because I don't know whether or not I feel like subjecting myself to listen to the president lie, which I believe he will do. And, also, to insult everybody under the sun. I'm sure he will be insulting immigrants with the policy that he's going to put forward, and I have no doubt that he will come after African-Americans since he seems to take every opportunity to do that.

BERMAN: So let's split that into parts, right? First, let's talk about immigrants right now. Because I imagine what he will do is he will speak out in support of his plan right now on the immigration deal, which does offer a path to citizenship for more than one and a half million so-called Dreamers. A path to citizenship, a lot further than some Republicans want to go, if Democrats don't enter into this deal, how would you explain to one of those Dreamers that you walked away from it?

BASS: Well, I do think that part of his deal is fine. But I think that where we need to negotiate is over Dreamers and border security. What he has done, and I believe it is very deliberate, instead of proposing comprehensive immigration reform, he's going after legal immigration as part of it as well. So -- to put family unification and to put visa lottery on the table, that is a very intentional attempt to divide people because the visa lottery system, which clearly, he doesn't understand, the -- a large percentage of those immigrants are from Africa.

[10:20:06] And so he is dividing people. It is very deliberate. I think we need to deal with the issues, which are the Dreamers and border security, and then I think we need to address comprehensive immigration reform and that's where issues related to legal immigration should come to play.

BERMAN: All right. Let's talk about race because you brought it up directly. And let's talk about -- I think what is the most recent episode having to do with race where the president was involved. And it just happens to be about something that happened on CNN, with Jay- Z, the musician, you know hip-hop artist who is on with Van Jones over the weekend. Listen to the exchange between Van and Jay-Z over the issue of Black unemployment, which is at a historic low. Listen.


SHAWN "JAY-Z" CARTER, HIP HOP MOGUL: It is not about money at the end of the day. Money is not -- doesn't equate to happiness. It doesn't. That's not -- you're missing the whole point. You treat people like human beings. And then, you know, that's the main point. You can't treat someone like -- goes back to the whole thing. Treat me really bad and pay me well. It is not going to lead to happiness. It is going to lead to like you know, again, same thing, everyone is going to be sick.


BERMAN: So, the president's response was a statement on Twitter that reads, "Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black unemployment has just been reported to be the lowest rate ever recorded." Black unemployment is in fact low. BASS: It is. But if I believe it has absolutely little to do with his administration. We all know that the economy was doing better, it was on an upswing, Black unemployment was decreasing, and it was due to policies that were started in the Obama administration. Trump from the first day of his presidency has tried to roll back gains that the African-American population made in the civil rights movement, whether you're talking about voting rights, mass incarceration, you can go down the list, trying to dismantle the civil rights division within the Department of Justice, the notion of Black identity extremists to go after young African-Americans who are protesting around police abuse. So his administration in my opinion has been an attack on the African-American population from day one. And he doesn't let a month go by without attacking African-Americans. So I think he wants to be grateful for the fact that our unemployment rate is down, even though it is still twice as high as the unemployment rate for white Americans, and the fact that the economy is getting better, I do not believe it is due to his policies and I don't think that we have anything to be grateful for to his administration.

BERMAN: All right, Representative Karen Bass, thanks so much for being with us, appreciate it.

BASS: Thanks for having me on.

BERMAN: All right, Cameo controversy. Hillary Clinton slammed by some for really trolling the president.


[10:27:25] BERMAN: Overnight, the trolling heard around the world. Hillary Clinton at the Grammys doing a dramatic reading from the controversial book "Fire and Fury."


CLINTON: He had a long time fear of being poisoned. One reason why he liked to eat at McDonald's, nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's it. We've got it. That's the one.

CLINTON: You think so?

The Grammy's in the bag?



BERMAN: Joining me now, Ron Brownstein, CNN's senior political analyst and CNN political commentators Joe Trippi and Doug Heye. Joe, I want to start with you. You know, funny or fail here. Look, "Fire and Fury" is not without controversy. This is a book. It does quotes Steve Bannon and obviously, that had great effect. But there are also things in this book that are simply not true. JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, that's all true, but the book and its, you know, the response it has gotten, that's all over the place. He's president. She isn't. He won, she lost. I thought it was pretty funny, actually. And she's reading about that he likes to eat at McDonald's. I didn't see the -- there are a lot of things to take umbrage from, but if you were the Trump administration last night things that got said you might take, but I don't think this was one of them.

BERMAN: You know, it is interesting, Doug, because I have seen responses from Republicans and conservatives going as far as saying this is why Hillary lost. Thinking that what she said was of that magnitude. And then also what Nikki Haley said, the former governor of South Carolina, ambassador to the United Nations, who said, "I have always loved the Grammys but to have artists read the 'Fire and Fury' book killed it. Don't ruin great music with trash. Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it."

Now Nikki Haley's gripe might be the "Fire and Fury" spread you know unsubstantiated and frankly scurrilous rumors about her. What do you make of it, Doug?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm a bit two minds. One, I think this is why Hillary Clinton lost. The aura of celebrity that surrounded her campaign, meant that her campaign was often bereft of issues. I also think it shows -- last night shows, and unfortunately, I'm going to be blatantly stealing from a Ron Brownstein tweet that I retweeted last night or earlier this morning. This shows the absolute disconnect that Republicans have and the damage that Trump has caused the Republican brand. If you're a young voter, if you're a millennial, you have turned away in droves from the Republican Party, and what we saw last night is a reason why. It is not because of celebrification, it is not because of Hollywood or in this case Maddison Square Garden. It's because of what we have seen from the rhetoric from this White House and from a lot of other extremist Republicans who have turned young people away from the party.

BERMAN: We happen to have Marcia McCloughan with us, Ron Brownstein, you know right now - please, go ahead.


BERMAN: And make the point yourself here.


BERMAN: Whether or not you're arguing about Hillary Clinton.


BERMAN: You see something that will have an impact going forward.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I think -- I think it was probably an overreach to include Hillary Clinton.