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House Intel Committee Votes to Release GOP Memo Alleging FBI Bias. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 30, 2018 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for being with us.

[07:00:05] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. And our thanks to you, our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, this is a big day. Let's get after it.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Today this committee voted to put the president's personal interests above the national interest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Intelligence Committee wanted to ensure that we've got the most credible product for the American people to review.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the latest chapter in Devin Nunes's now nine-month campaign to back up the president's wildest charges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it will speak for itself, and I think it will answer a lot of questions.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's first State of the Union being overshadowed by the escalating campaign against the Russia probe.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It may be a surprise that Andrew McCabe left today. I don't think there's any surprise. This administration had no desire for Andrew McCabe to be working within it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House denies that President Trump had anything to do with his departure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can disagree with his tactics. You can think they're shameful. You can think they're disgusting, but they're working in his favor.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Beautiful the capital looks despite all the chaos within. Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We're here in Washington. because the president is going to deliver his first State of the Union address tonight. He's expected to tout tax cuts, the strength of the U.S. economy and calling on lawmakers to strike a deal on immigration and infrastructure.

But, in the midst of all of this, there is a political storm consuming this capital. President Trump and his allies are escalating their campaign against the Russia investigation.

CAMEROTA: The House Intel Committee voting to release that controversial classified memo written by Republicans about alleged surveillance abuses at the FBI. The president is now a showdown with his own Justice Department over whether to publicly release that memo.

Meanwhile, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe abruptly stepping down after repeated personal attacks by President Trump. The FBI director hinted that the departure may be connected to an inspector general report about FBI actions during the 2016 campaign.

We have all of this covered for you, so let's start with CNN's Abby Phillip. She is live at the White House.

Good morning, Abby.


Well, the president's State of the Union, as you mentioned, already overshadowed by this escalating campaign against the Russia investigation by the president and his allies. And also grabbing headlines is that memo written by Republicans that alleges surveillance abuses by the FBI. That's now in the White House's hands, and the president has five days to determine whether or not it should be released to the public.


PHILLIP (voice-over): The House Intelligence Committee voting along party lines to publicly release a secret partisan memo spearheaded by Trump ally Devin Nunes, accusing the nation's top law enforcement agency of abusing its surveillance authority. Committee Republicans ignoring the Justice Department's stern warning that releasing the memo without agency review could be extraordinarily reckless. Criticism that CNN has learned enraged President Trump aboard Air Force One last week.

The four-page memo is based on classified intelligence from the Justice Department that Nunes and the majority of the committee have reportedly not even seen.

CUOMO: You've seen the memo.

JORDAN: I have.

CUOMO: You have not seen the intelligence that it's based on?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: No, we're not permitted to see that. CUOMO: But doesn't that concern you that something with so heady,

that is so provocative and you don't get a chance to see where this...?

JORDAN: That's why I say it should be footnoted inside it, but that's not the choice the committee made. I do think the memo will speak for itself.

PHILLIP: The House Intelligence Committee also voting against releasing a Democratic memo rebutting the allegations, insisting they are following protocol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not release them both at the same time?

REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R-TX), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, the House hasn't had a chance to look at the minority report, nor have we. We voted to send it to the House, and we need to read it, as well.

PHILLIP: The decision prompting scathing criticism from Democrats.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: They have crossed from dangerously and recklessly dealing with intelligence to a coverup of an investigation that they don't want the American people to see come to fruition.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This is a continuation of the effort to protect the president's hide, push out a misleading narrative, selectively declassify information.

PHILLIP: Ranking Member Adam Schiff telling reporters that Republicans refused an invitation from the FBI director, Christopher Wray to brief the committee and express his concerns about the memo.

The extraordinary move coming after hours after the abrupt resignation of FBI Director [SIC] Andrew McCabe. It comes after months of withering criticism from the president and his allies over McCabe's handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and political donations his wife received from a super PAC associated with a Clinton ally.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, McCabe got more than $500,000 from, essentially, Hillary Clinton, and is he investigating Hillary Clinton?

PHILLIP: Last week, CNN learned that Attorney General Jeff Sessions pressured Director Wray to fire McCabe at the president's urging, a charge Mr. Trump denies. A source tells CNN that Wray recently told McCabe he's bringing in his own team that McCabe would not be a part of, prompting McCabe to leave ahead of his expected retirement in March. Wray suggesting in an e-mail to FBI staff that an upcoming inspector general report played a role in McCabe's decision.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president wasn't part of this decision-making process, and we would refer you to the FBI.


PHILLIP: Well, Alisyn and Chris, all of this is happening as the White House has actually declined to impose sanctions on Russia that were mandated by Congress last year. They say instead that they are putting Russia, quote, "on notice."

The president in his State of the Union address tonight is also not expected to address the Russia investigation, that according to a senior administration official -- Alisyn and Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Abby. Appreciate it.

Let's discuss. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory and Dana Bash. David Gregory, he's going into his big speech tonight, the first State of the Union. A big unifying message is expected and in the context of the ugliest politics that I think we've seen in a very long time going on with this memo, which is really just a frontal assault on the FBI.

GREGORY: Right. And on this investigation. And it's the president who has been at the tip of the spear in attacking the investigation and the investigators, trying to undermine the public's confidence in whatever is found, either by Congress or by the special prosecutor.

And we should point out that he alone has made this so much worse by his actions, by firing Jim Comey, by the self-destructive way in which he has led this charge. And so now we have this back and forth in a political process that can't be inspiring confidence in anyone. And I say all of that believing as well that the FBI, the investigation ought to be able to with stand accountability and criticism even Mueller in terms of how these things were going about.

And the legacy of Jim Comey has a lot of layers to it, and he injected a lot of politics into the 2016 race, which was completely inappropriate. And the Trump folks are using that to their benefit, but there's still a legacy of what he did to politicize all this that his successor is now dealing with, as well.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Even in the most political of times -- you know this -- we covered the Congress and the kind of back and forth between Congress and the White House for many years, the Intelligence Committees and the House and the Senate have been an oasis of bipartisanship. I would even say in many ways nonpartisanship, because they understood the people, even if they were the most sort of conservative and liberal of member, they would walk into that room, and they would learn the nation's biggest secrets and understand that their oversight job of the people who have these secrets is of the utmost importance.

Now it sounds quaint and almost corny, but it's real.

CAMEROTA: Times have changed.

BASH: And the fact that that has so dissolved in this committee is really disheartening. And I -- and I think that what is most telling isn't just that the Republicans voted to release their own memo. It's that they voted down the Democrat's ability to get their side of the story out.

Never mind that there are sides of the story, that this isn't being done together, but that to me is the biggest tell of how blatantly partisan this is and all about the year we're in, 2018, and consolidating and keeping the Republican base happy and behind this president.

CAMEROTA: I find the memo really fascinating, because as you know Republicans are so exercised about any perceived bias in the Russia investigation. So that's why they are sort of celebrating Andrew McCabe's departure, but not bias from Devin Nunes, who is the person who crafted this memo, who is clearly a President Trump supporter, who went to the White House, you know, in a sort of inappropriate -- such an inappropriate way and shared such sensitive information that he had to recuse himself, but here he is in the heart, still, of this memo. So this just is confounding.

GREGORY: Well, it's also reckless. I mean, the problem with it is that, as I said before, this is the hysteria and the intellectual rigor with which Americans went after with Benghazi. And what did they find? Right?

Or Republicans went after immigration and said al Qaeda is going to be coming up through the southern border in 2006 and 2007, when Dana and I were at the White House, covering that incarnation of the Bush attempt to get big immigration reform. It's reckless. And it's -- especially in this era when there is this ongoing debate about what is truth. It's making it a lot harder.

But there is a special prosecutor at work. There is a job that is being done. If this political process of investigating Russia breaks down, that says something about the failure of our institution of Congress.

[07:10:10] BASH: Yes. No, exactly right. And there is a special counsel who, you know, most Republicans say is doing this with integrity, is not political, despite what the president has said publicly and privately.

But beyond that, let's just look at what this memo is supposed to be, which is all of the breakdowns inside the Justice Department and the FBI of the Clinton investigation. There is a process for that, too. And that is the inspector general of the Department of Justice, which apparently has either completed or is close to completing its report, which is probably the most equipped to do a real look at the problems that we had because of Comey.

CUOMO: And they have been doing it.

BASH: And so, you know, Congress has an oversight role, but not when it's so ridiculously...

GREGORY: Can I make another point? Which is, you know, if you want to follow the logic, it's contradictory.

If the president believes that Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, is a stooge who should be fired. So let's just play this out, because he got a bad rap, Rosenstein did, for partaking in writing a memo that was the basis of firing Comey. But oh, the president thought that he was his guy then, and he went to him and he used him and he manipulated him because he had a sterling reputation for independence.

But now, now because he's holding forth against the president and the independence of the Justice Department, now he's a guy that we've got to get rid of him.

So that's straight up contradiction that people need to keep their eye on, whether you like the press, whether you like Trump or don't like Trump. You've got to keep your eye on that because these institutions matter. That's why Chris Wray at the FBI. That's why Rosenstein at the Justice Department, they are -- if there's an attempted purge here, they're the ones who are standing in the way.

CUOMO: Look, they have every right to change the leadership up at the top. And, you know, it's their administration. But you have three big dynamics here. The first is what you were just talking about.

The Republicans are acting as if they're discovering all of these secrets. The inspector general has given them everything they know. Those texts between the two FBI agents, they all came from the I.G. The missing texts was something that the Republicans projected significance on till it wound up being B.S.

BASH: Yes.

CUOMO: That's the first thing. The thing that pops my eyes about this is I was trying to do research on how this is getting released. And I could find almost none. We have not seen Congress...

BASH: No. It's not precedented.

CUOMO: ... go around the intelligence community to release intelligence before. And you would think if they were going to do it, they would be so paranoid and freaked out about it, because they're going around the only people who know how to vet it.

Devin Nunes is reported to have not read the classified information that his own memo is based on. How crazy is that? I literally asked Dave Urban last night, "Please call Nunes and ask if this is true. If it isn't, he should get in front of it. If it is true, I don't know how he has any credibility.

BASH: Well, I think that train might have left the station a little while ago, when he almost a year ago ran to the White House, saying that he had new information that it turned out came from the White House. I mean, that's a whole different story. Look, I think that that speaks to the biggest tell of what we're talking about. How ridiculously political this is. And the good news is that other members have read it. Other

Republican members have read it. I've talked to a few who have. But the fact that the chairman hasn't is very weird.

I have to say, you know, when you're looking at all of the characters in this drama, Devin Nunes is the one that surprises me the most, because I remember like it was yesterday standing outside of then- Speaker John Boehner's office when the government shut down because of Ted Cruz and Obamacare, and him going after his fellow Republicans for being like lemmings, because they were following the conservatives. And he's like a different person.

CUOMO: Nancy Pelosi calls him Ryan's stooge.

BASH: Well, I don't know. It could be somewhere in the reversal at this point. I mean, I think Paul Ryan understands the importance of everything you were talking about, the importance of sources and methods and intelligence. He gets the highest-level briefings as the speaker of the House. And that's the other thing that is very mind- boggling to me, is why he is letting Devin Nunes run wild with this.

CUOMO: We've got a running theme on this show where I say -- you hear that? That's Paul Ryan speaking up to a situation that needs his attention. Once again he's quiet. Once again McConnell quiet.

GREGORY: But there is -- look, this is a political process that is messy. If it were impeachment, that's a political process, too, which is incredibly messy. There is an independent counsel of high caliber and reputation who is going to get to the bottom of it, whatever that is.

[06:15:05] But we know, and it's not a new playbook, that the administration -- and they're doing it harder than most -- are going to seek to invalidate whatever they find by how they did it and what the findings are.

But we're being forced into a corner as if this has to be one thing or another. This may be much more complicated and layered than that. The outcome of this investigation.

CAMEROTA: David Gregory, Dana Bash, thank you very much for all the insight.

BASH: Nice to see you in D.C.

CAMEROTA: Great to be here.

I don't know why there's a tease for CNN -- thought it was my show. It was like, "I don't have a show tonight." CNN's primetime coverage of the State of the Union. You're going to see this one here, Dana Bash, there for sure, 5 p.m. Eastern tonight. That's a no-miss.

CAMEROTA: That promo we will allow.

CUOMO: Yes. CAMEROTA: The Russian investigation putting bipartisanship to the test, of course. Can members of Congress serving on the Intelligence Committees still work together? We have a member of the Senate Intel Committee, Angus King, who's going to join us next to answer that.


[07:19:55] CAMEROTA: The White House is reviewing that controversial memo written by Republicans that alleges surveillance abuses by the FBI. Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee voting to make that memo public. However, they are blocking the Democratic rebuttal from being made public.

Joining us now to help us try to understand this is independent Senator Angus King. He serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator, thanks so much for being here with us.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Sure. Absolutely.

The House Intel Committee won't even show it to the Senate Intel Committee.

KING: That's my understanding. The chairman for a Republican, asked to see it, and it wasn't forthcoming.

CAMEROTA: Why won't your House colleagues share whatever is so important in this memo, that they want to release it to the American public? Why won't they share it with the Senate?

KING: You're asking the wrong guy. You need to ask them. I don't understand it. There's a great contrast in this situation between the famous torture memo -- it wasn't a memo. It was a report that was done by the Senate Intelligence Committee five years ago where number one it was first given the lengthy document, 6,000 pages, 500 page summary was given to the CIA in advance so they could respond to it.

CAMEROTA: Because the information was so sensitive.

KING: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: And classified they needed to sign off on it.

KING: And we wanted to get their point of view on the conclusions. So we had -- I remember having meetings with individual CIA -- with groups of people from the CIA saying, "We disagree with this conclusion, and here's a fact that's off. So that went through about a six-month period.

CAMEROTA: OK. The fact that the House Intel Committee is not doing that and not showing to the FBI though the FBI asked and not showing to the DOJ Though they asked, what does that tell you?

KING: Well, it's just -- it's not a responsible process. I mean, and let me finish the story about the other. After we voted to release the report, it went to the White House where it's another six months to redact it to be sure we weren't compromising national security. Here's the problem. You can have something that may look innocent to

you and I in a report that's based on intelligence data, and our adversaries can reverse engineer that data and figure out how we got it. And that's why the intelligence agencies are so upset about this. That's why the FBI said this would be reckless to release it. Because it could tip off people. It could expose sources, people who may be embedded in another country.

CAMEROTA: So now it's up to the president. He has have five days to decide whether he should release it. Do you think that he should?

KING: I don't. Well, based on what I know. I mean, I haven't seen it. I don't know what's in it. I don't know the background of it. But my sense is that this should be very, very carefully gone through in terms of how it might compromise national security. That doesn't mean it ultimately shouldn't be released.

The other thing that bothers me is that, apparently, No. 1, this is a Republican staff report. It's not the entire committee. Secondly, my understanding is there's a Democratic staff report.

CAMEROTA: A rebuttal.

KING: A rebuttal. Clearly, that should be released at the same time.

CAMEROTA: They're voting not to.

KING: I don't understand it.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, doesn't this just say what we were talking about in our last segment, that these Intel Committees, you tell me, you're on one. Have they devolved into total partisanship to the point where they're almost not effective?

KING: Ours hasn't. I can say that categorially. The Senate committee is working on a bipartisan basis. It doesn't mean we're always going to be able to maintain that. There are going to be differences; there have been differences.

But I feel and I think the other members feel, Republican and Democratic members, feel it's important to maintain the integrity of the process so the ultimate product is understandable and acceptable to the American people.

CAMEROTA: I want to quickly ask you about the ultimate product. Because one of your colleagues on Senate Intel, your vice chair, in fact, Mark Warner, says that you've all received, quote, "extraordinarily important new documents in the investigation." Do you know what he's talking about?

KING: I do, but I'm going to let him do the talking.

CAMEROTA: But do you think that -- can you say -- can you back this up enough to say that there are new documents that the Senate Intel Committee received that have changed the course of the investigation? KING: I wouldn't go that far. Any investigation always ends up going

in directions you don't expect when you find new information. And this is something that we're going to have to follow up. But that's -- I really don't feel comfortable talking about where we're going or what we're finding.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the sanctions. Congress passed legislation that believed Russia should be sanctioned to the, I guess, strongest order. And the president signed it.

KING: Signed it. Reluctantly last summer.

CAMEROTA: And then hasn't -- decided not to implement it.

KING: Right. It's -- it's very disturbing. We -- I've been to -- I don't know -- 20, 30 hearings at Armed Services and Intelligence over the past three or four years about cyberattacks on our country, including what happened during the 2016 election.

And one of the biggest things that's come through is that right now we're a cheap date in the sense that there are no consequences. There are no results for when you do something to us; we don't do anything back. And this is an example.

There's an old joke. I won't tell the whole long joke, but you know, a guy burns down your house, kills your family, shoots your dog and you chase him for ten years. And at the end you find him and you say, "You've got to cut that stuff out."

You know, I mean, there have to be -- if the Russians aren't paying a price for what they're doing, they're going to keep doing it. And by the way, they're doing it right now. You ready for this?


KING: There's a Russian troll farm. There's a group in the United States that tracks what they do. And you know what their leading hashtag is this week out of the Russian troll farm?


KING: Release the memo.

CAMEROTA: Oh, yes, yes, yes. We have heard that. And so when the State Department says, "Well, it's already working. We don't need additional sanctions. It's already working. They've gotten the message."

KING: All they've got to do is go to Hamilton 68 and see that they're trolling us right today.

CAMEROTA: Senator Angus King, thank you very much. Always great to have you.

KING: Pleasure. Nice to see you. CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here.

All right. Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Big question here: can lawmakers on both sides of the aisle strike a deal on immigration, specifically to help the DREAMers before the shutdown deadline next week? We will ask a Republican congressman at the center of negotiations, next.