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Ex-Clinton Campaign Adviser Accused of Sexual Harassment; President Trump Feuding With Jay-Z; Deputy FBI Director Leaving Job Early. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 29, 2018 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We continue on. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

The White House just responded to the major breaking news today involving the FBI. Andrew McCabe has already left the building. The FBI's second in charge is stepping down, effective today. Deputy Director McCabe was expected to retire in just a couple weeks, in mid- March.

In his 20-plus years with the agency, McCabe was there for the Clinton e-mail investigation, for the current Russia investigation, and has been a frequent target of President Trump's.

The president even seized on the fact that McCabe's wife was a Democrat, ran for a state office in Virginia. Here is just one of the myriad tweets attacking McCabe from the president of the United States.

Let me just quote one. "How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin' James Comey, of the phony Hillary Clinton investigation, be given $700,000 for wife's campaign by Clinton puppets during investigation?"

So, moments ago, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, saying that the president was not at all part of McCabe's decision to step down or any part of that process over at the FBI.

And here is what Sarah Sanders said when our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, asked about concerns over the pressuring top officials at DOJ, at the FBI? Here she was.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would say what I have said probably 100 times before and continue will say I'm sure 100 times today, that the White House has been fully cooperative and going to continue to be fully cooperative.

In fact, we have gone above and beyond many times and certainly done everything that we could. The White House has provided over 20 witnesses and tens of thousands of pages of documents to the special counsel. We have done everything we can to be fully transparent, and we're going to continue to do that throughout the process.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What about this notion that the president has been applying pressure for months?


HUCKABEE SANDERS: The only thing that the president has applied pressure to is to make sure we get this resolved, so that you guys and everyone else can focus on the things that Americans actually care about.

And that is making sure everybody gets the Russia fever out of their system once and for all, that you are all reminded once again there was no collusion, and that we can move forward to focus on things like national security, the economy, and solving the immigration crisis that we have here in our country.

ACOSTA: So, no obstruction of justice, nothing improper, nothing inappropriate here at all whatsoever from the president since he came into office when it comes to this investigation?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: No, and I think we have been pretty clear on that.


BALDWIN: So let's go to Shimon Prokupecz. He's our CNN crime and justice reporter.

And so, Shimon, why the surprise departure?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a good question. We really have various stories. Some saying that he was forced out, while others are saying this was his own decision.

So just to give you a little color of what went on today, it was this morning at the executive meeting where Andrew McCabe came in and basically told the executive staff that he was leaving, and that today would be his last day.

And as of noon, he left, he turned off his computer and he walked out of the building. We don't know exactly what led to this happening today. One person I spoke to said perhaps he was just fed up with everything that was going on and something triggered it. And so, therefore, he decided that today would be the day.

This came as a surprise to many. I don't think many people expected this would happen today. They did expect Andrew McCabe to leave the FBI. He was supposed to leave in about a month -- in about two months, I should say, on March 18, when he was going to retire.

So, certainly doing it today, doing it the way he did it, early this morning, certainly surprising to all. It surprised the FBI agents and FBI staffers all across the country. They all learned of this through media reports.

And what's going on right now at the FBI is that the FBI director, Christopher Wray, is actually on a secure conference call with the field offices, with the different leadership of the FBI, and explaining to them what went on today and perhaps giving them some insight into why the deputy director is no longer the deputy director.

BALDWIN: All right, so, maybe Wray can help connect some dots. In the meantime, Shimon, thank you so much for setting up what we do know.

Let's discuss.

Joining me, CNN Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor who used to be Robert Mueller's special assistant at DOJ, CNN political Director David Chalian, CNN law enforcement James Gagliano, also retired FBI supervisory special agent, And CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem.


And, so, welcome to all of you.

And, David, let's just rewind for a second back to the White House and to the briefing, where essentially you had Sarah Sanders saying, we had nothing to do with this move, this decision here at the FBI. We weren't directly pulling any levers.

But, at the same time, it's like, hello? Have you read your president's Twitter -- your boss' Twitter feed?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. She said the president was not involved in the decision-making at all today.


CHALIAN: But you're exactly right, Brooke. While today, it may be a surprise, that Andrew McCabe left today, I don't think there's any surprise for anybody that this administration had no desire for Andrew McCabe to be working within it and Andrew McCabe had made clear he was going to leave, because he was not going to stay on.

So I don't think that part was terribly surprising. It will be interesting to find out what triggered this moment today that nobody expected on Friday would be happening today. That will be important for us to learn.

But, you know, we just heard last week Donald Trump bragging to reporters when he went into John Kelly's office and chatted with reporters how McCabe was the star of his campaign trail speeches. He loved to bring up his wife's connection to Terry McAuliffe, the governor of Virginia's PAC and getting all that money, $500,000, to help her and then questioning whether or not McCabe could be doing his job in some kind of honest and up-and-up fashion at the FBI.

And he would get big applause on the campaign trail for that. So you are right. Donald Trump has made no bones about how he feels about Andy McCabe.


James, to you, just pulling from all of your years at the FBI, is it possible he was just fed up, he had some extra days off, and he said, I'm out today?


And I think what I'm going to try to do is allay the fears on both ends of the political continuum, because exactly seven minutes ago, Director Wray convened an SVTC, which is a secure video teleconference, with the 56 division heads for the FBI.

And it was discussed in part this matter. Now, there are folks on the right that are saying that it's awfully curious that a day after Director Wray is on the Hill taking a look at the #releasethememo, the next day, Deputy Director McCabe steps down.

And then there's folks on the left that are screaming that the despot, the autocrat that they see Donald Trump as has once again put his finger on the scale and weighed in where he shouldn't have.

Let's meet in the middle on this. First of all, Andy McCabe was eligible to retire on March 18. He was 49 years old. He worked for me as a young SWAT agent. He had to get to March 18 to have a full 20 years on the job and be age 50, whichever comes later.

What happens is, you build up vacation days. When you're the deputy director, you're never, ever going to be able to use those days. He probably had a month, or two months, maybe three months that he had accrued.

And, listen, in light of everything that's been happening, whether you agreed with what McCabe agree or you didn't, who would want to stick around and deal with this kind of just daily badgering? So the new FBI director was going to pick a new deputy director. The deputy director had no place to go. There's no lateral transfer.

He was never going to be the FBI director. He's probably got a nice offer from a private sector company and probably decided, I'm going to go ahead and go out on terminal leave and I'm going to leave today.

BALDWIN: Juliette Kayyem, that kind of makes sense.


And I would align myself with that. I think we have to view this sort of -- maybe there are different narratives simultaneously. You can believe, as I do, that the White House got what it wanted to today, but I also believe that the FBI got what it needed.

In other words, with McCabe gone, there is no reason to believe at this stage that Wray is ready to let Trump be the autocrat that people fear. In fact, Wray has been relatively good in this regard in terms of protecting the FBI.

He has also threatened to resign over McCabe. And so it may be that the narrative may be short-term beneficial for the White House, but, from someone who was also in an agency, sort of long-term beneficial for the FBI not to be sort of the focus of the White House's, I mean, I guess you would call it immaturity at best, but totalitarian tendencies to undermine law enforcement at worst.

And then finally, I want to say maybe the public is getting what it deserves at this stage. Remember, McCabe will now be free to talk. And who knows what he has to say.

BALDWIN: I wondered about that.


BALDWIN: I wondered about that. And he will be a private citizen.

KAYYEM: So, all narratives can exist at the same time.

BALDWIN: Let's just jump ahead to that.

Michael Zeldin, once he becomes a free man, so to speak, can he speak up, speak out?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he can speak out, to the extent that he doesn't have restraints about classified information and the like.

And so he will have some governors on what he can say and he will have to make a decision about what he wants to say.

But can I just add something with respect to the termination?

BALDWIN: Please.

ZELDIN: Because, as a lawyer, I sort of view this in employment law determines in some respects.


And this, in my estimation, is what we would call in the employment field a constructive dismissal, which is where the employer makes the situation, the work situation, so untenable that the employee has no choice but to leave.

And I think that's what we saw here. And I think there's no good in that at all. This is a 20-year veteran of the FBI who is being forcibly removed from his position by hostile work environment.

And that can't be good for the rank and file of the FBI, nor can it be good for democracy. These purges of people who are hostile to the president have to be seen as that, Comey, now McCabe, now soon on the horizon, I fear, Rosenstein, the June story about Mueller.

All of this adds up to a cumulative negative impact on the workings of our democracy and the workings of law enforcement generally. So we will see what Andy McCabe wants to say about that. BALDWIN: Which leads, David Chalian, just quickly back to you, to a

question you brought up this morning. What does the president have to hide?

CHALIAN: Well, I did bring that up, because, to Michael's point, at a certain point, you just have to step back here and say, why is Donald Trump picking a fight, firing, threatening to fire, making life miserable for anybody who has oversight responsibility of this investigation into him?

If there was absolutely no concern whatsoever about what investigators may find, you just have to sort of beg that basic question, why? Why wouldn't he just let it play out without going after people who have oversight over the investigation?

GAGLIANO: Brooke, can I add something here?


BALDWIN: James first. James first.

Go ahead.

GAGLIANO: Just really quickly.

And I understand we cannot look at this in a vacuum and pretend that there aren't political implications. I'm not trying to do that. But my job obviously here is to call law enforcement balls and strikes.

In the 110-year history of the FBI, there have only been eight full- time appointed directors. Every one of them had their own deputy directors. The average tenure of those deputy directors is typically between three and six months.

We know that Director Wray, the eighth appointed director and confirmed by Congress, came on board in August. So without all the hysteria and the noise on the outside, this is a normal processes and protocol.

And if Andy McCabe had been 50 years old when Director Wray took over, in my estimation and many former FBI agents who know the process and how it works, he would have stayed a couple of months out of courtesy to the new incoming director, until he could have selected his own person.


BALDWIN: So, then why are so many people, why are so many field offices and people who are getting the news from us, when they're not getting it up the chain at the FBI -- you have to understand why they're surprised. Therein lies the question, why does this seem sudden? Do you feel me?


ZELDIN: Because they realize that this was -- they realize that he was pressured out, because James is right.

KAYYEM: But isn't it possible...


ZELDIN: I'm sorry.

He would have under ordinary circumstances, in deference to Chris Wray and the institution, he would have stayed until March, and then transitioned when Wray picked his new deputy.

But when he precipitously leaves now, to me, it's a forced resignation, and that's not acceptable. And I think that's what's got the SACs and others around the country in arms, because they don't know whether, if they open up an investigation that implicates the White House in any way, they are going to face the same onslaught from the White House, and that has a very chilling effect on people in the field.


BALDWIN: It's a fair point.

Juliette, close us out.

KAYYEM: But can I just say one thing? It is possible...


KAYYEM: Just very quickly.

It is possible this is horrible, this is an attack on law enforcement. But just like everything that the White House does, they're doing this horribly. In other words, there's another way to look at it, in the sense of the cover-up is so bad. We know why it's so bad, in the sense that you ask the question, why is Trump trying so hard to get rid of all these people?

It can only be because whatever is underlying the investigation is worse than all of this fumbling. But just taking it forward two or three weeks, this may actually come to the detriment of the White House, because then Wray has brought in people who are long-term FBI agents.

He has a deputy director who's not under the Twitter attacks. And you may -- you may actually see this be something that is, like other things the White House has done, for example, firing Comey, that this may actually in the end get us closer to the truth, which many of us believe has got to be worse than whatever this cover-up is that they're trying to do.

BALDWIN: We will see if you're right. We will be watching closely.

Juliette, James, Michael, David, thank you all. Great conversation. Thank you so much.


We do have more for you ahead on this breaking news over at the FBI, but also Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager speaks out for the first time today about her old boss protecting a staffer accused of sexual harassment -- why she told CNN she is disappointed with Clinton's response.

And, later, President Trump picks a Twitter fight with Jay-Z over black unemployment -- what the White House has to say about that today coming up.


BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Hillary Clinton under fire for protecting a man accused of sexual harassment.

Clinton's faith adviser, this guy by the name of Burns Strider, was accused of repeatedly harassing this one young woman with whom he had shared an office. This woman complained of inappropriate kisses and suggestive e-mails during Clinton's 2008 presidential bid, but instead of being fired, Strider was sent to counseling. His accuser was reassigned.

And now Hillary Clinton's campaign manager from '08, Patti Solis Doyle, who urged Clinton to fire Strider, is speaking out.



PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The incident was brought to my attention. And, you know, I did my due diligence. I interviewed all the parties involved. I looked at the evidence.

I looked at some e-mails he had sent. I had looked at other documents, and came to the conclusion that there was sexual harassment involved, that the young woman was very credible.

You know, there were a few people involved in the investigation, so to speak, but the people involved in it believed that he should not be working in our campaign.


SOLIS DOYLE: I was overruled, yes.


BALDWIN: Now, Hillary Clinton has addressed the reports via Twitter, writing that she was -- quote -- "dismayed" when the harassment occurred, but offered no apology.

With me now, Catherine Rampell, columnist for "The Washington Post," and Ruby Cramer, political reporter for BuzzFeed News.

Ladies, thanks for coming by.

Ruby, just starting with you here.

Just all of this detail that you got from this complaint dating back to the '08 campaign, you laid out the timeline of events on BuzzFeed, including this e-mail -- let me just read it -- from Burns Strider.

Quote -- he wrote -- and keep in mind this is a man married with kids at the time -- "I haven't met anyone as amazing as you are in a very long time." This is to this young staffer. "The whole package. You have an internal and external poise and beauty that is so compelling. Look, I can't type as much as I would like on this BlackBerry and you don't want to hear it all. I hope you understand what I'm saying. You're filling my mind tonight, so I need to share."

And those unwanted advances just kept coming to this young woman.


BALDWIN: Tell me more about that.

CRAMER: So, that e-mail was one in a cache of internal documents that we obtained about this complaint.

And another one was the summary of all the things this woman complained of with regard to her -- with Burns Strider, who was her direct superior. This was the man that she was reporting to every day on a high-paced, fast-paced campaign.

And other details were five kisses on the head, one -- on one occasion inside an elevator, on another occasion inside a closed office door, touchiness in general, just general controlling-ness. He always would want to know her whereabouts, would track her, wanted to leave every event with her, really controlling, and just made for a very untenable work environment.

And I think, by the time that e-mail arrived, and it's dated November 15, that same day, she went to the campaign to complain and file a formal complaint about this. That was one incident.

And then what we know from our reporting is that when he was later hired six years later at the...

BALDWIN: This Hillary Clinton PAC.

CRAMER: ... Hillary Clinton -- pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC, the super PAC that was essentially laying the groundwork for her next presidential campaign, this exact same kind of behavior continued.

BALDWIN: With other young female staffers.

CRAMER: With at least two young female staffers who were working directly for him.

BALDWIN: And that is when he was fired.

CRAMER: And he was fired three years later.

BALDWIN: And it's incredible. When you watch the interview with Patti Solis Doyle, where Brianna is saying asking, do you think those other victims would have fallen victim to him, and she essentially says no had Hillary Clinton listened to the Patti Solis Doyle's advice in firing him, she believes not.

And just lastly to you, and then, Catherine, I will come over to you.

You know, the Strider defense, according to him, was what? I'm Southern. I kiss on the forehead.


BALDWIN: I have had for years on Capitol Hill. How did he explain that?

CRAMER: I was on the phone with him for about 45 minutes.

And we went through every single complaint that was going to be detailed in this article. It was an e-mail that I sent him with 16 bullet points on it. He went through every single one.

And I will say, on some points, he was apologetic. On others, he said, as you mentioned, that a kiss on the head was part of doing daily devotional. It was a religious thing. It was something intended to make these people feel better or feel good about the day that they were about to have.

So there were some things clearly where, as Patti said in the interview this morning with your colleague, he didn't get it. He didn't understand why this would make for an untenable work environment and why these are -- these are young women. I think we have to remember Hillary Clinton is involved in the story, but the important thing to remember is that these are young women who are just starting to get into politics.

They want to work for a cause that they believe in. And this should not be an experience that should drive them out of politics. And in the case of at least one woman that talked to us, that was what happened. She's no longer in the political field. So I think we can all agree that that should never happen.

BALDWIN: It's sad.

I want to ask you about Hillary at the Grammys, but just your thoughts on this story.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It's very disappointing, right? It doesn't matter if the employer is a man or a woman. This should not be tolerable behavior in the workplace.

And the problem is that when you set workplace expectations where this behavior is allowed or it's insufficiently punished, predators continue to prey. That's why this guy went on to make other women at the very least feel uncomfortable, let alone possibly unwelcome in their workplaces.



RAMPELL: So it's very disappointing. I would love to hear from Hillary Clinton about, in retrospect, in hindsight, if she thinks this was handled correctly.

Maybe she has evolved. Societally, we are having this conversation right now, where we are reevaluating how we consider these institutional problems. If you want to give Hillary the benefit of the doubt, maybe she can say, I have changed my mind.

But she has chosen -- she has not given any indication at this point that she's willing to at least think about herself critically.

BALDWIN: Right. She said she had reached out to the young woman in question from the '08 campaign and had a conversation with her and thanked her, I think, for speaking out, but still no full-throated "I screwed up."


BALDWIN: I think that's what a lot of people are still waiting for.

Speaking of Hillary Clinton, Catherine, just staying with you, surprise, it was Hillary Clinton at the Grammys, little cameo last night, in which now you have conservatives saying she's trolling the president.

Here's the clip.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: "He had a long-time fear of being poisoned."


CLINTON: 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 have got it. That's the one.


CLINTON: You think so?


CLINTON: The Grammys in the bag?


BALDWIN: Funny, not so funny?

RAMPELL: Eh. It's -- I don't think it's that funny.

I mean, I don't think it's so objectionable, but I don't think it's particularly funny. And I'm guessing you're going to ask about Nikki Haley's response.

BALDWIN: Yes, let's talk about Nikki Haley. Thank you for reading my mind.

RAMPELL: Yes. Sure.

BALDWIN: Let me just set it up for everyone, if you don't know.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. -- listen, we have all talked about this Michael Wolff "Fire and Fury" book. There are all kinds of holes and inaccuracies in this whole thing. And, yes, that was a fun clip about brushing his teeth, the president, depending on how you feel about the president.

But, at the same time, Ambassador Haley said Hillary Clinton ruined the Grammys, called the book trash, and that music and politics should be separate, which I think, on that last point, like, when have music and politics ever been separate, Mrs. Ambassador?

But, still, go ahead.

RAMPELL: This fundamentally understands the role of politics in music, which goes back decades, centuries, millennia, if you want to be generous here.


RAMPELL: So, yes, this fundamentally misunderstands the fact that politics and music are inextricably linked.

That said, I get why Nikki Haley would be particularly set off by the Michael Wolff reference there. It's not just that politics were infusing the Grammys, which you could have predicted, but Michael Wolff has insinuated that Haley...


BALDWIN: ... her way into her job with the president, which is insane.


RAMPELL: Which is insane. And lots of people who are successful, including myself, get this accusation unjustifiably levied at them.

BALDWIN: So annoying. RAMPELL: So I get why she would be ticked about the Michael Wolff appearance, remotely anyway, in that ceremony in the Golden Globes -- excuse me -- in the Grammys, but, that said, to say that we should extract politics generally from music is just...


RAMPELL: ... ridiculous.

BALDWIN: But great point.

Ladies, to both of you. Thank you so much for your reporting, Ruby and Catholic. Thank you so much. Come back.


BALDWIN: Coming up next: The White House weighs in on President Trump's claims about the black unemployment rate and his tweets about Jay-Z's interview on CNN and Van Jones' show.

We are going to talk to the man, Van, coming up.