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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
GOP Votes To Release Partisan Memo Alleging FBI Misconduct; FBI Deputy Director Abruptly Resigns. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 29, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:13] ERIN BURNETT: OutFront next, breaking news. House Republicans vote to release a highly controversial and partisan memo charging FBI misconduct at the highest level. Part of an effort to discredit Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Democrats furious (ph) saying a deeply flawed President Trump is infecting the entire U.S. government.
And the clock is ticking on the president. Will he release the Nunes memo to the public as the White House said he will?
Plus the deputy director of the FBI gone. A stunning and sudden move after months of attack by the president. Is there more go Andrew McCabe's sudden departure? Let gees let's go OutFront.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, House Republicans voting to release that controversial classified memo to the public. It is a highly partisan document done by Republicans alleging the highest levels of the FBI misused the FISA program, a surveillance program when it comes to the Trump campaign.
The Nunes memo charges that the FBI abuse surveillance law using the Trump-Russia dossier. You know that dossier, the highly controversial dossier that came from the former MI6 agent. They used that dossier as a basis to get a warrant from a FISA judge to monitor (ph) a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser. That advisor is Carter Page.
Democrats say that the memo really and deeply misrepresents the intelligence that it is based on which is highly classified intelligence which by the way, we're not going to be able to see. So we're only getting to see the Republican interpretation of what they want to cherry pick out of that highly classified evidence. This is part of an effort to of course discredit the Russia investigation and Robert Mueller's probe.
Just moments ago the top Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff held the press conference slamming the president. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Sadly, we can fully expect that the president of the 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 interest above the national interests and denying themselves even the ability to hear from the department and the FBI.
And that is, I think, a deeply regrettable state of affairs. But it does show how, in my view, when you have a deeply flawed person in the Oval Office that flaw can infect the whole of government and today tragically in infected our committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Schiff wrote a memo representing the Democrats on the committee which was their view of how to interpret this highly classified source data. It's basically a counter to the Republican memo and Schiff then called for release to -- a vote to release that memo. Basically they did put out your partisan view, will put out our partisan view. But there's more Republicans in the committee obviously and they voted it down. So they only are going to put out their partisan view and not the other side.
So, now that the committee has voted to release the GOP memo, President Trump has five days to decide whether to formally allow or blockage release. Now, a top White House aide has said this is going to be a yes that the president believes the memo should be released.
If he does ahead and does that, it will of course draw the battle lines between the White House and the Justice Department. Keep in mind that the assistant attorney general, Stephen Boyd, a Trump nominee fired off a letter to Nunes when he first heard of the memo. This is this letter, OK.
In it, he says the justice department was unaware of any "wrong doing" as alleged and then he added, and this is the crucial, the operative line in here, "We believe it would be extraordinary reckless for the Committee to disclose such information publicly without giving the department," that's the justice department, "And the FBI the opportunity to review the memorandum. You well understand the damaging impact the release of classified matter could have on national security."
OK, so that's the memo. And we have learned that President Trump, when he was traveling on Air Force 1 to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, we saw this memo was apparently furious about Boyd's charge of recklessness. And then Trump warned Boyd's boss, the Attorney General Jeff Session and others that they need to excel (ph) it their jobs or go down as the worst in history. Now that's according to Bloomberg news which it's a pretty shocking thing, right, because what's really saying there, do your jobs well or tow the party line.
Well, because here's the thing. When it comes to releasing the classified information that all this is based on, Republicans have serious qualms. I asked the Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy who has read the memo and read all of the background highly classified information and I asked him about the danger of releasing the memo publicly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Let's be clear about this, Erin. The memo was derived distilled (ph) from information that the Department gave us. So it's not like there's new information.
[19:05:06] Everything in the memo they already have.
GOWDY: What they don't know specifically is what are their complaints. And I'm fine to share them with them but you can't possibly say a memo is reckless if you haven't read it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Right. But they're not allowing them to read it, right? They're not allowing them to review it. So they're saying you can't call it reckless because you haven't read it but they're not letting them read it. So obviously that's pretty circular logic.
Gowdy, by the way, doesn't think the public should actually see the information this is based on. And the justice department which doesn't have a chance to review the memo doesn't know what's spin or take on all that information, that real source data the Republicans actually took. And Democratic New York Congressman Jerry Nadler told me that the memo is simply this. A list of Republican talking points designed to discredit the FBI and the Russia investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This is a profoundly misleading and dishonest memo of conclusions and it's a political document, fair and simply.
NADLER: Designed for one purpose and that is to discredit, disable the FBI and the justice department and any -- it's part of a long term campaign by the Republicans, by the administration and some Republicans in Congress to disable, discredit and any agency that is involved in the investigation of the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, all of this today coming as the deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe suddenly stepped down. He was gone by noon today. Now Trump has attacked McCabe for months railing about his involvement in the Clinton e-mail investigation and his wife's run as a Democrat for statewide office in Virginia. McCabe is a registered Republican who voted in the Republican primary for president.
Tonight, though, we are learning much more about what may have forced McCabe out. And we're going to have a lot more on that because it's a crucial part of the story. I want to begin though right now with Manu Raju. He is on Capitol Hill. And Manu, this press conference by Congressman Schiff was a very crucial moment here. Because you're taking an investigation that's -- of immense national significance, a national security significance and it is now been completely turned into a war between Democrats and Republicans on House Intelligence Committee.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is been going this way for some time. This really the culmination of weeks and months of fighting between Democrats and Republicans over the direction of the Russia investigation and a real sign that the Russia investigation could be winding down.
Now, in this closed door meeting we are told that there been -- there were number of motions that were put forward by Democrats that were blocked along party lines after Adam Schiff said that he proposed about that the justice department and the FBI briefed the full house about the memo before actually agreeing to its public releasing. Schiff said that was denied.
He also said that they denied public release of the Democratic memo that provides an alternative view of exactly what this classified intelligence says. Now, Schiff contended that the Republican announced a new investigation instead into the justice department and the FBI even as this committee is still trying to figure out its way forward on this Russia investigation. Now, that's the Democrat said.
The Republicans had a different view. Mike Conaway, the top Republican in the committee said the reason why they did not allow the Democratic memo to be released was because they're following the same procedure as the Nunes memo. First the full house will not get a chance to review the Schiff memo and then will decide later about whether or not (INAUDIBLE) is public release. And he did say that there is new investigation into the justice department and the FBI. He said it's just part of the same regular oversight.
Now the one thing that two did agree on is that Steve Bannon, the president's former chief strategist expected to come back to the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday after Bannon of course did not answer a range of questions earlier this month --
RAJU: -- when asked about any matters after the campaign season but after that, Erin, really breaking down along party lines as both are warning about the other's actions and Democrats contending this is a dangerous action and reckless and could be a cause, it could be a concern for national security and Republicans of course pushing back tonight, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much Manu. And I want to go now to a member of the House Intelligence Committee who was there for this entire meeting and vote today, the Democratic Congressman Denny Heck.
Congressman, thanks for your time. Obviously, you were there and you were there with Congressman Schiff during that press conference. So what happened inside that meeting today? Obviously, it appears that it was extremely contentious.
REP. DENNY HECK (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well we reached a new low, Erin. In fact, I think we've crossed a line that cannot be taken back now. And one (INAUDIBLE), we've completely politicized both the law enforcement institutions that keep us safe in this country and completely politicized the release of classified information. This is not just first time precedent. This is terrible precedent frankly going forward.
Although I want to say something else about what the minority memo which is not yet to be release to the public contains. It is more of a counter argument to all of the errors and inaccuracies in the majority memo which the end of the day is frankly just one great big propaganda piece.
[19:10:09] BURNETT: All right. So are you going to go ahead and release your memo any way? I mean, obviously the DOJ and the FBI asked to be able to review any memo before it was release. So I would presume you could show yours to them once they release the Republican one, they'll let you release yours, right?
HECK: Well, we are going to release ours too, both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice. We actually had a motion to subject both of the memos to that review process.
HECK: And the majority turned it down. But we will do that under any circumstance because we think that's the appropriate thing to do.
BURNETT: When do you think that will happen? Obviously, the president has five days to make his formal decision which the White House has indicated is going to be an easy yes. But we'll see on the GOP memo. When will the Democratic response, the Democratic memo come out. How soon?
HECK: To be determined, Erin. I strongly suspect that the president is going to not take his entire five days because he's going to want to feed the beast of this propaganda machine, right? I'll say something that I've said to you in your program before. I think this speaks a complete misunderstanding part of the administration that what this entire process is about especially with respect to Director Mueller's investigation is a P.R. battle and it's not a P.R. battle. This is about protecting America against Russian interference in our elections in the past and going forward. And at the end of the day Director Mueller may very welcome forward with criminal charges. And the prosecutors and Director Mueller and the judges, and the juries aren't going to care about this P.R. battle that the administration is waging.
BURNETT: Now, I want to ask you about a point that Congressman Gowdy made to me. He's obviously reviewed both the memo itself, the Republican memo and the underlying intelligence which originally came from the FBI. And he made the point, I know if you just heard him but he told me this memo was derived and distilled from information that the department gave us. So basically saying they are already have all the information it's based on. Why do they need to review it? The implication is, you know, unless they want to able to do damage control because they did something wrong with the warrant that they had to obtain information on Carter Page? Could he be right?
HECK: So the alternative point of view there is that they already have all this information then what would be the harm in having them review it? That is traditional, long standing tradition. And Erin, let's be very clear about this. There are actually only two people on the intelligence committee that have read the more -- the deeper, the underlying classified intelligence and that's --
HECK: -- Trey Gowdy and Adam Schiff.
BURNETT: That's right.
HECK: So for the members of the Committee to make this public is a little bit like writing a book review without having read the book.
BURNETT: Right. But I'm saying that's Trey Gowdy who did see both the memo and the source information, right? To your point, he's one of the two. So he's the one, one of two people who presumably have the credibility to make that point he's making it.
HECK: Well, he knows better. See, this is part of the game. Since the deeper underlying classified material is an likelihood never be released then they can't be proven specifically explicitly on the basis of that information to be wrong in all of their distortions. But many of their inaccuracy and distortions are just that. And they are that prima facie.
BURNETT: Is your committee investigation essentially over at this point? I mean I don't know how you --
HECK: Not at all. Not at all.
BURNETT: How can it not be when you're saying you crossed a new low, a line you can't go back on, and you're going to work with the Republicans on your Committee to do a real investigation?
HECK: Well, because there's some elements here that I think desperately need to be brought forward, and that is what can we do to protect ourselves against interference in the future. Most of the Republicans on the Committee are no longer denying even though the president does on occasion that Russia actually interfered in our elections. So the question then becomes what we can do to protect ourselves and its part of this investigation's responsibility and mission to develop proposals to protect ourselves and I'm hopeful fingers crossed, my fingers are getting white. They're squeezed so tightly that we'll be able at least to do that. But you're right, this is a new low. We've crossed the line and frankly, it's sad day for America.
BURNETT: If there was something wrong, you know, inappropriate, whatever, what a word it may end up being with the warrant used to obtain surveillance on Carter Page, the former Trump foreign policy adviser. Does that, in your view congressman, called anything about the broader Russia investigation into collusion between Trump campaign and the Russians into question?
HECK: I don't believe there was anything wrong to begin, Erin, based on what it is I know. Never even having read that underlying document. We've been exposed to plenty of others and plenty of other information. And trust me, the Republican memo is a memorandum of propaganda. Nothing more.
BURNETT: All right, Congressman Heck, I appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.
HECK: You're welcome.
BURNETT: Next, breaking news. Trump now has a very big decision. Is he going to go ahead and do what the White House has been saying he's going to do release the Nunes memo or not?
Plus more breaking news. We have new details just coming in about what may have forced that surprise resignation today. Forced the second in command at the FBI, McCabe out today by lunch.
[19:15:11] And the White House says President Trump had nothing to do with McCabe sudden departure from the FBI. The problem is as usual this president left a highly public record of trying to do just that.
BURNETT: Breaking news, the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have voted yes. They will release a secret memo alleging FBI overreach of surveillance on a former Trump campaign staffer, Carter Page. President Trump is just five days to review the memo and decide whether to allow to be released or not. Now keep in mind, the White House has indicated they want it out there. So, if he doesn't, that it be a whole of explaining to do. This comes as the Committee is also opening formal investigations against the DOJ and FBI. All of this I want to emphasize completely on party lines which should be a grave disappointment to everyone. He was hoping for a bipartisan investigation into the utmost serious issue of Russia interference in the U.S. election.
Jeff Zeleny is OutFront at the White House. And Jeff, let's talk about that GOP memo. It is now being courier to the President right now. It had been living in that classified room or only a few people had been able to see it and now it is out and in route.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Erin. I am told by a White House official that is being sent over here to the White House or it may already be here now because of course the vote happened a short time ago.
[19:20:19] And the key thing here is the president does as you said have five days to review it. Now we now some of his mood on this. We are told that when the president was flying from Washington to Davos and then back to Washington last week, he was angry at his own justice department for saying it would be the wrong thing to do to release this memo here. So that is one data point that we have that the president was not pleased with his own justice department on one more matter here.
We also know that people at the White House have believed that this memo should be released. But I am caution tonight by a official saying that there is going to be a full five-day review here of this memo. There's no hurry in the review to release it. I'm told by one other official that do not expect this obviously before the state of the union address tomorrow evening that this will not be a fully explored likely until Wednesday.
But again this is entirely up to the president. What he would like to do. One other point here, Erin, the director of the FBI and the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, were here at the White House earlier today having a meeting with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. We do not believe that met with the president. We do not know exactly what they talked about it. But it would make sense of course that was among those agenda items. So this is a fluid situation here the president said he would release it but of course he still has to make that decision once he sees the memo and he is not yet seen the memo. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much Jeff. And now former advisor to the four president, David Gergen. CNN presidential historian, former director of the Nixon Library, Jim Naftali. OK, thanks very much to both of you.
I mean, look, this is a pretty stunning moment that we are here and now the president of course sounding like he's going to play this to full, you know, television impact, right? He doesn't want to release it before the state of the union. If he's got a good reception at the state of the union, might want to way another day and drive (ph) that out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
BURNETT: And then put this out. But they already indicated he's going to do it. So he's going to play out this whole five-day drama.
JIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, let me tell you, a bit of context. The -- everybody -- you might remember Senate torture report. The Senate did a report about the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. The Senate then controlled by Democrats voted to release the report, the summary which was 600 pages, and it took two years for it to be declassified and it came out with lots of black spots that are redactions.
NAFTALI: So the issue for the president is what (INAUDIBLE) that of course this memo is going to come out, but will there be little black spots with where are things that refer directly to evidence which is either from a FISA court which is very high level classification.
BURNETT: Right. NAFTALI: Or human intelligence or signals intelligence.
BURNETT: Which raises a huge question here because if what we're talking about is the surveillance of Carter Page which was obtained through a FISA warrant which means it was signed off by a judge based on evidence. That evidence was the dossier, who knows. But any of that information one would presume would be on a possible redaction list. And Republicans and the President don't want that redacted because that's the whole point.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Very complicated but I think it boils down to this. So basically, Erin, I think we're seeing a breakdown of democracy here. But we've never had a situation in which the Congress has moved into a criminal investigation and turned it into a political circus. And that's exactly what's going on here.
And there is no credibility to this memo unless there's an answering memo released at the same time. I mean how are we supposed to take, you know, Republican talking points and not see the Democrat talking points. And Congress is historically (INAUDIBLE) but the minority is always, you know, has a chance to issue, I mean argue reports so you -- so everybody can judge. But let me go back -- let me go -- know all about this. When Nixon was under investigation over the Watergate tapes, he offered to special counsel, I'll give you summaries of what's in the tape and that will be good enough. And the special counsel said absolutely not. We're not running, you know, (INAUDIBLE) investigation. And that's what this is turn into.
BURNETT: And in the letter of course written by the Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, Trump appointee, who said it would be extremely to release this. He points out that Devin Nunes who extensively (ph) his staff of the author (ph) --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BURNETT: -- of this memo. Devin Nunes himself has not actually seen the classified information which underpins his own memo.
NAFTALI: Well then his staff wrote it then.
BURNETT: Right. But I mean this is the absurdity of what we're talking about.
NAFTALI: And let's move this to the higher -- even higher level of absurdity. One of the big differences between the Watergate era and now is that there isn't a bipartisan Senate investigation of the problem, of the crime. In '73, the public got to watch a real Senate investigation and got to make up its own mind about abuse of power, about dirty tricks that this -- that administration, the Nixon administration had conducted.
[19:25:02] As David points out, we have -- Congress is doing the opposite. It's trying to create noise and cloud, the cloud the issue and make it hard for people to actually get at the underlying problem which is possible collusion or money laundering. So we have a Senate that's doing absolute and House is doing absolutely opposite of what they were doing in the Watergate era which is undermining our (INAUDIBLE) and all the truth.
BURNETT: And to your point, a memo is out there. With the man who signed it, OK, maybe a staff had reviewed it. The man who signed it hasn't even seen the information it was based on. He's putting his name -- his whole credibility on that.
BURNETT: Even though he never saw it. So he doesn't know if he himself -- I mean I find that shocking actually. I don't know anyone who should be comfortable doing such a thing. But then also not allowing the Democrats to put out there. By the way, I'm sure equally as partisan, view of things. But to your point, if you're going to see someone say things are pink or black, you should get someone to see things are white.
GERGEN: Yes, and unless and until that happens, the memo deserves no credibility. Yes, because it's only --
BURNETT: But it's going to have credibility when it's released to a certain part of the population. It's going to go see I told you so or it's going to verify everything they think.
GERGEN: That's right. But it is prejudging everything rather than allowing a thorough investigation to conclude under Mueller.
NAFTALI: I would just say the test is whether it affects Mueller's investigation. I don't see how this memo is released will effect Mueller's investigation. The only way it could is if it emboldens Republicans to shut the investigation down.
BURNETT: And one key question for you. If there is an issue with how the FISA warrant has obtained, OK, forget who is at fault whether if the FBI or whatever, just state or issue by then. If there was a lot of information obtained from that surveillance warrant and it's real information and it's bad and it's actionable and it leads you to collusion, what do you do then?
GERGEN: I don't know. Because that's -- in a court of law if the police screw up the investigation the material they gathered is not allowed into evidence.
BURNETT: Right. But in this case let's just -- I mean we don't know it's all hypothetical, we don't know what was wrong, we don't know what --
GERGEN: If they mess up the FISA on Carter Page, we deserve to know that.
GERGEN: That ought to be out there in the public record and we all have a chance to do this. I can't tell you how important it was during the Nixon period that the Republicans played a responsible role. They saw their duty to the country. And Howard Baker and others performed admiralablely. Why has the Republican Party wandered from that standard?
BURNETT: That is a crucial question. And thanks to both of you. Our breaking news covered to continues as we are learning more by the moment about the FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe sudden departure today. All fo the sudden a few minutes before he's going to be by lunch. It was past lunch he left the building. Why?
And the ball is now in the president's court. What is he going to do with the Nunes memo? The spokesman is out front.
[19:31:41] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: The breaking news: the FBI Director Andrew McCabe gone, a sudden departure today, little to no warning and it came as a shock.
McCabe was supposed to retire in March and under intense pressure from the president, frankly. But this move was effective immediately he was out of FBI headquarters by lunch.
Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The abrupt departure of Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI comes, as his boss, Director Chris Wray hints at a memo to his staff that is soon to be released inspector general investigation about the FBI's 2016 handling of the Hillary Clinton email and Russia probes was a factor, according to people who have seen the memo. "The New York Times" reported Monday that after Wray talked to McCabe about the report and suggested he moved to another job, McCabe decided to step down rather than take what would have been a demotion.
Sources also say the director told McCabe he was bringing in his own team and the McCabe was not going to be on it. The White House denies the President Trump who has spent months trying to undermine McCabe had anything to do with his departure.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you none of this decision was made by that of the White House and any specifics I would refer you to the FBI.
BROWN: President Trump blasted McCabe because his wife Jill ran as a Democrat in the Virginia Senate race in 2015, and took money from a group affiliated with then Governor Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of Hillary Clinton.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: McCabe got more than $500,000 from essentially Hillary Clinton and is he investigating Hillary Clinton? The man who was more or less in charge of her got -- the wife got $500,000 from Terry. Now Terry is Hillary.
BROWN: Jill McCabe lost three months before her husband was given the number two job at the FBI. The announcement today surprised even those who had been expecting McCabe's retirement in March. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Andrew McCabe told senior executives during a morning meeting about him leaving, saying that it was his choice. Now, sources had previously told CNN that the attorney general had pressured FBI Director Wray to change his top leadership and at that time, Wray had threatened to resign but sources say something had changed very recently, and it appears the upcoming inspector general report played a role in what played out today -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Pamela.
And OUTFRONT now, the reporter for "The New York Times", Adam Goldman, and former FBI special agent, Asha Rangappa.
Thanks very much to both of you.
Adam, let me just get to what Adam Schiff said tonight, right? He was asked if the inspector general's memo would show that cave himself specifically did something wrong obviously that's a crucial part of the story. Here's how Schiff replied.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think Mr. McCabe has been deeply and unfairly maligned I think that this committee, and others have done a tremendous disservice to Mr. McCabe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, when you're reporting right now, Adam, what is in this inspector general memo about McCabe, or is Congressman Schiff right?
ADAM GOLDMAN, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, the inspector general has been looking in the events of 2016, and how the FBI handled the Hillary Clinton investigation. They're looking at Andy McCabe's and his wife's election and whether he should have recused himself at certain points.
[19:35:02] And I think what the I.G. is going to find and what and frankly many people have said is they're going to be critical of the bureau's decisions to hold that news conference right where Comey -- were Comey criticized Hillary Clinton and potentially critical of them sending that letter just days before the election that really -- that really upended it. So, I think that's where that's heading and also as part of that review, they're going to be looking at Lisa Page and Pete Strzok, the two FBI officials who did the text messages.
BURNETT: So, obviously, Asha, that's all going to be important. You know, when we talk about the donations I just always feel it's important to mention, obviously, McCabe's wife was getting that money from Democratic donors and running as a Democrat. He, of course, voted in the Republican primary in Virginia. So, that's just something important to note. I mean, Asha, let's just say there's an issue somehow with the FISA
warrant that McCabe was part of a team that got to monitor Carter Page communications. Republicans are obviously going to try to use that to call the entire Russia investigation into question. Is that fair?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That would be a stretch, Erin. The FISA process is incredibly involved. Ii involves multiple people from the FBI, from the Department of Justice. It goes through a very lengthy vetting process and ultimately it's approved by a federal judge, an independent judge who literally has no skin in the game and is really looking at whether the executive branch has shown enough probable cause to obtain a warrant.
Having said that, it definitely gives fuel to the fire. But one thing I'll note, Erin, is that what this shows is that the office of the inspector general is an independent entity that is there to investigate misconduct within the Department of Justice. That to the extent that the OIG is finding evidence of any kind of behavior that doesn't meet its standards, people are taking action whether it's the FBI director or Mueller who took Peter Strzok off of the investigation --
RANGAPPA: -- which shows that both the FBI generally the Mueller investigation is also acting independently. And I think that we need to ask the question if we're trusting the OIG to do this investigation and they are being independent in the results, you know to go back to this Nunes memo, which is calling into question the FISA, why hasn't that been given to the OIG for further inspection and betting as well.
BURNETT: Those are crucial questions. And, Adam, the White House, you know, is saying President Trump wasn't involved in McCain's departure. The problem is, of course, Trump is publicly impugned McCabe.
I mean, just a couple of tweets. Last month, he said: The FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits 90 days to go? Question mark, exclamation point.
And last July, why didn't A.G. Sessions replace acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives.
The inspector general report is obviously important here, Adam, but was this Trump's doing at all do you think?
GOLDMAN: I mean, I think -- I think Trump's pressure certainly sped up the timeline.
Look, Wray got to the FBI. He wanted to get the lay of the land. He wanted to figure out the building. It's normal for FBI directors to eventually put their own staff in place, right? Whether that's a general council, a chief -- you know -- a chief of staff, a deputy director, eventually that happens. Wray wanted to do it according to his timeline because if he did it
according to Sessions or according to Trump's timeline, that would make him overtly political and that's what Wray was trying to avoid. But what happened today was Wray found something in the I.G. report that concerned him. Just like -- just like Wray, just like Wray found something that was concerning involving Pete Strzok and Lisa Page. And what he effectively did is he sidelined them, right? And that's effectively what he was going to do to McCabe until the clock ran out on March 18th.
My reporting doesn't tell me that Trump's fingerprints are on this per se. But certainly you can make the argument, you know, this -- it's the -- we've reached the same conclusion that Trump wanted.
BURNETT: Right, Trump wanted.
And, Asha, in a sense, the president will be able to say, well, maybe I was right. This I.G. report is showing something and I was -- I was sensing and feeling that it was coming ages ago. I mean, won't that be his spin?
GOLDMAN: You know, possibly, possibly. Could I can I make a comment about the FISA?
GOLDMAN: Listen, the Republicans quibble is the FBI went out to Rome on October 1st and interview Chris Steele, OK? Chris Steele wasn't working for the FBI, OK, and Chris Steele provided them information ultimately that the FBI didn't pay for, OK?
He had been a proven confidential informant who had worked with them on the FIFA investigation. They took some of that information and they used it in the FISA application, OK?
[19:40:03] What the Republicans are quibbling about is that -- is that they didn't tell that Steele didn't tell the FBI that he was working for the Democrats. But what Steele did tell the FBI is he was working for anti-Trump forces. It's a distinction without a difference. But the FBI is trying -- the Republicans and Nunes in particular are trying to blow up the whole application -- based on this one -- the based on this one thread.
And what's a little disingenuous is we have not seen the whole entire FISA application.
GOLDMAN: These things are lengthy. There could be 30, 45 pages. This stuff about Steele could, in fact, be immaterial to the FISA application and we don't know this.
BURNETT: Right, and, of course, we're not going to know it because we're only going to see their summary.
Asha, we're not going to see the underlying information, right? So, we're going to see the one cherry-pick point and if it's -- he didn't say Democrats paid for it, but then it leaves out, but he did say opposition researched it and then it leaves out the other 39 pages of information that they used to obtain the warrant, then that would make the GOP memo worthless, right, Asha?
RANGAPPA: Let me be clear, Erin, there is simply no way that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant based on just the dossier, to the extent that any things that are alleged in the dossier were included in the application, it means that they were independently corroborated by other investigative activity, other intelligence, other human source reporting or other facts. So, this is really a short-lived victory, if you will, for the Republicans I think because what is essentially going to show is that if these -- if the dossier was corroborated, if that was believed by a federal judge -- if a federal judge then extended the FISA because it was obtaining positive foreign intelligence information, this means that there was a there there.
And I don't know that this is really what they want to prove. They're trying to prove the opposite and so they're putting focus on something that I think will end up having the exact opposite effect of what they're intending.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. A lot a lot of information there and much appreciated.
And our breaking news coverage continues when will we see the Nunes memo? The White House spokesman is OUTFRONT next.
And politics taken to an extreme. Do Republicans still have credibility on the Russian investigation?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: It's not Republicans who created the theory of a secret society.
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: The secret society --
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: What secret society are you talking about?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:45:38] BURNETT: Welcome back to OUTFRONT.
We are following the breaking news and there's a live picture from Capitol Hill. The House Intelligence Committee has voted to release a controversial memo from the Republican Committee Chairman Devin Nunes about alleged wrongdoing by the FBI and Justice Department during the 2016 presidential election.
Keep in mind, Chairman Nunes actually did not read the underlying classified information that ostensibly his staff must have seen before he put his own name on this memo. An administration official says the memo is being couriered over to the White House to be reviewed.
And OUTFRONT now is the White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley.
Hogan, welcome back. So, we have reported it was being couriered over? Do you have it now at the White House, the Nunes memo?
HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I believe it is here. Yes, ma'am.
BURNETT: So, has anyone seen it yet? Has it been given to the president?
GIDLEY: I don't know if it's been given directly to the president. What I do know is there's a five-day process that the president will adhere to and, obviously, the president is going to meet with his national security team, also with White House counsel, and determine the best course to move forward.
BURNETT: So, what we do know is the White House legislative affairs director, your colleague Marc Short has said just yesterday, the president believes in transparency and believes the memo should be put out. So, obviously, if he doesn't put it out, that would appear to be a real change from the public position the White House has taken thus far. And if that's been the view, that it should be put out, why take the full five days? Why not just put it out?
GIDLEY: Well, he wants to see what's in it and obviously, there are national security concerns. It is a classified document. And, of course, the president will ultimately be the one to make that call. He absolutely wants transparency. He wants the people to see just what they are dealing with with their government, but at the same time, the president would never risk putting American lives at risk over a classified document.
When he take a look at it, seeks proper counsel from his team, he'll make that decision.
BURNETT: So, Congressman Schiff, as you know, the Democratic ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, is extremely frustrated because the Democrats, he -- have a -- he's actually seen the underlying classified material and written his own memo. Devin Nunes, of course, did not see that information. Ostensibly, his staff wrote the memo and Nunes put his name on it.
Congressman Schiff, though, with some very strong words for the president tonight about really saying the opposite of what you just said. I want to play Congressman Schiff for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Sadly, we can fully expect that the president of the United States will not put the national interest over his own personal interest. This committee voted to put the president's personal interest, perhaps their own political interest above the national interests, in denying themselves the ability to hear from the department and the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Your response, Hogan?
GIDLEY: Yes, I'm shocked that Congressman Schiff has bad things to say about the president.
But, look, this is a congressional matter. This has nothing to do with the executive branch other than the fact the president can stop the release of the memo. But after five days, the president doesn't have to take action at all. It just becomes declassified.
So, this is over at Congress. This is their issue and we'll act accordingly.
BURNETT: So, what you're saying is after five days, they can just release it any way and he can say he didn't tell them to do it?
GIDLEY: It's my understanding that the president because of the vote in the committee and the House, the president does not have to do anything to it. He can stop it between now and five days, but after five days, it's my understanding it becomes public, regardless.
BURNETT: So, obviously, you know the memo from Stephen Boyd (ph), the assistant attorney general, the president's nominee for that position. They say it would be extraordinarily reckless for the committee to release the memo without giving the Department of Justice or the FBI a chance to review the memo. Now, would the president allow the Department of Justice and the FBI to review the memo in the next five days before he makes a decision?
GIDLEY: Again, I haven't spoken with him about that, but it's my understanding it doesn't have anything to do with the DOJ. It has to do with Congress and the president makes the ultimate decision to stop the memo but that's after a consultation with his national security team and also White House counsel. That has nothing to do with DOJ whatsoever.
BURNETT: Right. But, obviously, the allegations in the memo or -- are of some sort of mistake, wrongdoing, who knows what it might be because I haven't seen it, and I presume you haven't seen it either at this point, unless you just saw it when it was couriered over. But the DOJ and the FBI, that those things happen at the DOJ or the FBI. So, they are saying they deserve the right to review it.
[19:50:02] GIDLEY: Well, look, that's for them to work out. This president has been focused all weekend, as you guys have reported on the first State of the Union he's about to give. We're not going to let this take us off message. We're focused on providing a speech to the American people tomorrow night and talk about what the president has been able to accomplish in his first year in office. That's where we want to two with this.
GIDLEY: The president will review all of -- take the necessary steps and review with his team but I have no announcement on that.
BURNETT: So Trey Gowdy, obviously, who is the Republican who reviewed the memo and the underlying intelligence on the Intelligence Committee, when I interviewed him, he obviously was for the memo being released but he was not for the actual information underlying it for being released and here's how he put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The president can declassify it. My counsel to him is don't do it. Do nothing to jeopardize sources and methods, do nothing to jeopardize the men and women in the intelligence community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: How can anybody want a release of the memo written by -- it's partisan, OK? You got to admit that. It's only by Republicans. So, a Democratic one is equally partisan.
But how could you allow the release of a memo of such importance base on classified information if you're not going to allow people to actually see what it's based on themselves?
GIDLEY: First of all, I want to commend you on having two South Carolinians on you show tonight. That's always impressive to me.
But, look, I think Congressman Gowdy is a smart man and he has his opinions. But again, this ultimately comes down to the folks who voted on the release of the memo and then again, as I mentioned, to the president. He's got five days to make this decision. As I said, he can't stop it, but if he doesn't do anything, it becomes public, but that's up to Congress and not the executive branch.
BURNETT: Although I would have to say, that seems to me to be a bit of a cop out, if he does nothing, he is allowing it to be released. There is no other way to put it.
GIDLEY: Well, that's the way it works. I mean, that's the law. He doesn't have to do that. This is separation of powers. I can't do anything about that.
BURNETT: All right. Hogan, thank you very much. I appreciate your time as always.
GIDLEY: Thanks so much.
BURNETT: And next, what started out as an investigation into Russia and the election has turned into something else entirely. How does toeing the party line eclipsed everything?
BURNETT: Braking news, the Russian investigation breaking down into partisan warfare tonight. The House Intelligence Committee strictly on party lines to release the controversial memo written by the Republican 2majority, alleging abuses of a surveillance program by the FBI. The GOP memo now is in the hands of President Trump. We've just confirmed, you heard the spokesman say, the courier has arrived. That memo is now at the White House.
And the president has in the next five days, he can say yes, release it, publicly or he could block it.
OUTFRONT now, national affairs correspondent for "The Nation", Joan Walsh, and former Trump campaign adviser, Steve Cortes.
[19:55:02] Thanks very much to both of you.
Joan, have you ever seen a congressional investigation get this ugly and I think it's worth reminding people, one thing we should all be able to agree on, Russians interfering in our election is very serious important thing that we need to deal with and now this is completely broken down to partisan lines.
JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: No, I think this is really dangerous. I think this is the most dangerous day for our democracy since Trump fired Jim Comey in May, and I think we need to jump up and take it and take the higher view.
We saw the departure of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe under pressure, let's leave it at that. We see Devin Nunes saying we're going to release this memo, we're not going to let the FBI or the Justice Department look at the memo before we release it. You have him saying we are not going to release the Democratic rejoinder, the Democratic now.
And then at the end of the day, the Trump administration announces that it's not going to extend the same the Russian sanctions, that it was expected to extend today because the sanctions are working well enough. So, you've got to put all those things together.
BURNETT: And, Stephen, yes, the thing I don't know why I just have a problem with this, but I would assume that both of you would a nonpartisan way. Devin Nunes signed this memo, but he didn't actually read the underlying intelligence. He was not, the Republicans did, Trey Gowdy.
It was hard to imagine, right, putting your name on something if you didn't actually review sources?
STEVE CORTES, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: If you trust his deputy to do that job, though, I think that's reasonable, it is. But look --
BURNETT: But this is a great national importance.
CORTES: I think the much more important point here is, as you stipulated, the Russians meddle of our elections, so it looks like they did, among many nations, who met of our election and I think that that's consequential and worrisome.
BURNETT: OK. But when you say that, some people say that it's like you're minimizing. CORTES: No, I'm not minimizing it, but I'm saying many nations -- Ukraine for certain in collusion with the Democratic Party which we don't have to guess about, we know that.
CORTES: So, many nations meddled in our election and that's of concern. But what's a far greater concern is that some of the highest levels of our own national security apparatus may have been interfering in our own election and why what do I mean by that? Primarily, James Comey investigating Hillary Clinton and her missing emails determining months before the investigation was over and writing an exoneration memo, which Peter Strzok who we now know is a totally corrupted FBI official, allowing him to edit that very memo later.
So, we have corruption --
WALSH: I think they're heavily corrupted --
BURNETT: Let's just say, OK, let's give you for a second, Jim Comey blew it on that, fine. Let's just put that on there as a hypothetical, I'm not going to get a better whether (ph) he did, say he did.
Then, right before the election, he comes out and reopens the investigation publicly into Hillary Clinton and I don't think anyone could dispute that that was very important. You might go so far as to say to people it was very important in helping Donald Trump. So, if Jim Comey blew it and had favors, he blew it on both sides.
CORTES: Look, he was competent but here's an important thing, too --
BURNETT: OK. But my point is, but it would go to show it was it was incompetent --
CORTES: The whole genesis of investigation, this Mueller investigation was poisoned from the very beginning. How did it start? And we don't have to guess about this because Comey told us this. It started because he leaked, probably illegally, he leaked to a law professor buddy to tell the press to trigger a special counsel --
WALSH: There was already an investigation that the president was trying to shut down by firing Comey and Comey in real time did do the lawyerly thing and recorded --
BURNETT: Steve, what does it have to do with Bob Mueller? And how he is running his investigation?
CORTES: What he was going to do, Mueller then assembled a team that is as conflicted as any could possibly be, particularly --
BURNETT: He puts Peter Strzok from a team, says he thinks there's no there there. So, he puts a guy on his predisposed to thank everything about Russian collusion with Trump campaigns B.S., finds out the guy is biased and takes --
WALSH: No one ever talks about that.
BURNETT: What's wrong about that conduct?
CORTES: Peter Strzok who also talked about --
BURNETT: But he removed him.
CORTES: OK, fine, but I'm saying that he was at any way predisposed to finding Trump's favor. Quite the opposite, he and his paramour we're talking about an insurance policy and we still know what that means. And about meeting with Andy who was --
BURNETT: But you have him in a text saying there's no there there.
CORTES: -- presumed is McCabe.
BURNETT: I don't think there's anything there --
CORTES: Look at the end of the day, Russia did not --
BURNETT: Do you want a guy on the Russia investigation --
WALSH: He's supposed to be biased against Hillary.
CORTES: The Russia government did not elect the Donald Trump president. The American people did, middle-class workers.
And I think this is the last gasp of the swamp quite frankly because they're desperate, because we have so much momentum particularly in the economy right now, things are going great. Middle America is surging. Optimism reigns in the country and they need really want to try to find some way, a desperately way, a Hail Mary pass, to stymie that.
WALSH: I say thanks Obama. Thanks Obama.
And your president would do well to get out of the way of his own administration's messaging on that and stop tweeting and obstructing justice with his tweets.
CORTES: Obama didn't cut taxes and didn't get millions of workers bonuses, millions or workers bonuses just in the last --
WALSH: We don't have any evidence that there's millions of workers.
CORTES: We certainly do.
WALSH: No, we don't. We absolutely don't.
CORTES: I can give you the count, we certainly do. We have companies like Apple, yes, there are millions of people getting involved this.
WALSH: And we have no idea whether they're --
BURNETT: Wage increases would be a lot more important.
CORTES: We do know because they told us --
WALSH: One time bonuses --
CORTES: No, not one time, also wage increases, not one time bonuses.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much and thanks very much to all of you for joining us for our breaking news coverage.
"AC360" with Anderson Cooper begins right now.