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House Intel Committee Votes To Release GOP Memo; Trump Set To Pitch Immigration Plan During State Of The Union; Taliban And ISIS On Rampage In Afghanistan; Officer Who Adopted Addict's Baby Invited To State Of The Union. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 30, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:10] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is going to make the case for his immigration policies at tonight's State of the Union address.

He has set a March five deadline for Congress to find a permanent solution to protect hundreds of thousands of Dreamers. So, will lawmakers get a deal done?

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, who has been working with members of both parties on an immigration plan. Congressman, it is good to have you.

Of course, any negotiations right now, overshadowed by this firestorm that's going on in Washington.

What is your position on the release of this memo?

REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART (R-FL), MEMBER, APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE, BUDGET COMMITTEE: Well, you know, on the release of the memo, I'm always one that believes that transparency is good. I've had the opportunity to read the memo.

As you know, there's a process that has be followed. That process is pretty clear and it looks like that's what they're doing, so I think that's always positive. And, you know, transparency's good.

CUOMO: Transparency is good but not transparency in terms of letting the Intelligence Community review this or letting people have access to the classified information that it's based on or letting the Democrat rebuttal come out at the same time. Is that transparency?

DIAZ-BALART: Chris, again, I think the American people are concerned that -- whether or not the upper echelons of the FBI are biased -- have been biased -- and, if so, can they be the ones who are responsible to investigate themselves. And so, I think anytime you can bring -- put the spotlight to these things in the proper way through the legitimate channels, I think that's a positive thing.

And so, I don't have to tell you there's been a lot of speculation, there's been a lot of accusations. Right now, there have been no smoking guns.

So again, if there's a memo that might shed some light, I think the American people should have the opportunity to see that.

And I will tell you what I'm doing is I'm focused on getting things done for the American people -- the big things that are out there, whether it's funding our troops and our federal government or trying to stop the deportation of about two million Dreamers. That's what I'm focused about and that's what I'm going to continue to focus on.

CUOMO: I hear you, it matters. We're going to talk about it.

It's just this story, it's so big and has so much implications, especially when you couple it with intense focus on trying to undermine the Russia investigation and say the FBI wasn't doing its job right.

But on the same day, the president refuses to execute the sanctions that you all voted on in a huge fashion against Russia for campaign interference. It doesn't even put out any message about one of their fighter jets coming within five feet of a U.S. Navy ship.

Why? Why such an action there? Why such quiet when it comes to Russia? Do you know?

DIAZ-BALART: You know, Chris, I just want to mentions something.

This is not the administration who did the reset with Russia. This is not the administration that went in front of Congress on multiple occasions when Russia was going ballistic -- you know, was going crazy everywhere in the world and still defending that Russian regime. This is not the administration that failed to send military equipment into the Ukraine area.

This is an administration who has signed into law sanctions and we'll see how those sanctions are going to be implemented.

I support strong sanctions against Russia but I do think kind of blaming this administration for all the Russia foes when, in fact, the previous administration did that famous reset -- remember, with the button which, by the way, didn't even say reset. They couldn't even do that right.

So I just -- I think we've got to lower the rhetoric. Let's look at how the situation is. This administration has been tougher on the Russians than the previous administration.

I will tell you, however, I hope that it's even tougher because I think the Russians -- I think -- not the Russians. I think Mr. Putin is a thug, is a gangster, and I think we need to --

CUOMO: Then why won't you push for the exercise of the sanctions?

DIAZ-BALART: What's that? I'm sorry.

CUOMO: Then why won't you push for the exercise of the sanctions --

DIAZ-BALART: I am going to push --

CUOMO: -- when you say the White House basically blew off your vote?

DIAZ-BALART: No, no. I am going to be pushing and I will continue to push for not only the sanctions that were passed in Congress, but even stronger sanctions because I think Mr. Putin is a thug.

But I'd just remind you --

CUOMO: Why would you pass stronger one if the White House won't even enact the ones you already did pass?

DIAZ-BALART: I'd just remind you that there wasn't this hoopla, this outrage when the previous administration did the reset after that -- the reset right after the Russians had invaded our ally, Georgia. There was no outrage then.

I will continue to push for stronger sanctions and you know that I've been very consistent and I will continue to be consistent.

CUOMO: All right, let's talk about immigration.

You were in the meeting. So, here's -- you're trying to make a deal. On the right, you have President Trump who used the s-hole comment about a lot of the countries that we get our people from.

DIAZ-BALART: Allegedly. Chris, I don't --

CUOMO: Well, you --

DIAZ-BALART: -- talk about what's said in private meetings. It's allegedly. You have one person --

CUOMO: Well, you can't have it both ways, Congressman. You were there. Did he say it or not?

DIAZ-BALART: I don't talk about what is said in private meetings. Here's what I do think.

CUOMO: Then why call it allegedly?

DIAS-BALART: Well, because --

CUOMO: Don't discredit it if you can't put proof to it.

[07:35:00] DIAZ-BALART: No, no, no because here's the issue. You have one person saying he said that, you have others saying that he didn't. I don't go there because I don't talk about what's said in private meetings.

But let's look at the facts. The fact is that this president has put on the table the most generous deal to not only top the deportation of the Dreamers, to get all of those Dreamers, give them legality, and make them U.S. citizens. And also, has put as part of that real border interior security. That is a good place to be.

No other president -- well, George W. Bush tried to do something that was even bigger than this, by the way, without success, so this is a tough lift.

But this president has put on the table -- forget about what somebody may say or may not say. Again, I don't -- I don't focus on those things. I focus on results.

This president has put on the table the legalization of the Dreamers and couple that with border security. By the way, in that public meeting in the White House where there was Democrats and Republicans, both Trump -- both chambers -- it was agreed to couple those two --

CUOMO: Right.

DIAZ-BALART: -- two issues.

Is this an ideal plan? Look, we've got to look at the details. But here's what I will tell you. This president has put a real proposal on the table -- the most generous proposal dealing with the Dreamers that I've ever seen.

Again, the administration -- the previous administration never did this. And it's coupled with border security.

Why do they want to do that? They say, and I think there's some logic, that what they don't want to do is legalize --

CUOMO: Right.

DIAZ-BALART: -- two million people getting citizenship and then in six months or in a year have another two million.

Is it a serious proposal? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Look, we'll have to look at the details.

But I'm ecstatic and excited that this president is willing to deal, is willing to negotiate, and not get into the finger-pointing and the -- and the accusations. I'm not going there because I want to solve -- I want to solve --

CUOMO: All right.

DIAZ-BALART: I'm looking for solutions.

CUOMO: Just to be fair, you brought up that it was an alleged comment and then you didn't want to clear it up, even though you were in the meeting. I'm not here to debate what he said or didn't say.


CUOMO: It sounds like something he would say to me but that's beside the point.

And also, talking about the previous administration, be fair. Obama had to do that executive action because it's the only thing he could get done. You guys would do nothing and this was the only protection that those people could get.

So, that's where we were. The question is where we get to.

Nancy Pelosi says yes, pathway to citizenship, that's a good thing. Security, fine, even if he wants to say it's a wall. We'll do what the border security say. Even though it's $25 billion we'll do it.

But these other things, Mario -- these other things -- stopping the lottery, stopping family unification. She calls this making America white again.

DIAZ-BALART: You know, Chris, it's ironic that Mrs. Pelosi is being critical.

Look, let's get to the facts. You mentioned some of the facts but I want to correct on something -- one little thing here.

I was part of the group that was kept quiet and confidential, starting in 2009 when President Obama said that in 100 days he would present an immigration and reform bill. There was a bipartisan reform bill in the House. The Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate, a huge majority in the House, and the president was Obama and he said he was going to do that.

Why did it not get filed, Chris? Why did it not get filed? Because President Obama and Nancy Pelosi killed it. So it's ironic that Nancy Pelosi, when she had the opportunity and President Obama -- when they had the opportunity after having told the American people that they were going to do it in 100 days not only didn't do it, they killed a bipartisan effort that was taking place in the House.

Now, that's what -- those are the facts of what happened. Today, where are we?

CUOMO: That's not what Nancy Pelosi says but go ahead.

DIAZ-BALART: Well, I know that but she was speaker when there was a bipartisan bill and -- that has been -- and the press has reported on that -- when she had the majority. There were 60 votes in the Senate and they had promised to do it, and she is one who did not come out --

CUOMO: Bipartisan bills can mean lots of different things.

You had a bipartisan bill on immigration reform with Durbin and Graham, right? What happened when they brought it to the president? Just because it's bipartisan doesn't mean it's something that's going to get passed --

DIAZ-BALART: No, but --

CUOMO: -- but please continue.

DIAZ-BALART: No, but for Nancy -- for -- but that's exactly right. You're absolutely right.

But, for Nancy Pelosi, out of all people, who was the one who killed a true bipartisan bill -- and we're talking about 20 members of the House. This is now, obviously, been made public after all those years. She killed it.

Now, she had the right to kill it because she was speaker.

CUOMO: So that means that she can't -- you want to get rid of lottery visas and that you don't want to --

DIAZ-BALART: No, what --

CUOMO: -- allow family unification? She doesn't have a right to say she --

DIAZ-BALART: No, here's --

CUOMO: -- doesn't like this?

DIAZ-BALLART: Here's what this administration is saying. This administration is saying they are willing to legalize, even with citizenship, all of those individuals who were brought here on no fault of their own. That is, obviously, something that is very positive.


DIAZ-BALART: What they want to do, however, as part of that is to make sure that we have a situation where we don't have another two million in six months or six years. Now --

CUOMO: Understood.

DIAZ-BALART: But there's also something else, Chris, in that public meeting in the White House, Democrats and Republicans. Those four issues were talked about as putting them together as part of this deal. All of a sudden those that were there -- and that was public. That was not he says, I say --

CUOMO: Right.

DIAZ-BALART: -- in public.

It was agreed to do those four issues and all of a sudden when the president puts out a proposal -- which may or may not be perfect but it's serious -- with those four issues, the same people that agreed to those four issues are now saying well, we agree with one of it --

[07:40:10] CUOMO: Right.

DIAZ-BALART: -- but not the other three.

Look, again, we've got to get this done. Here's the bottom line. We have to get this done. The country deserves it.

The folks who are here waiting for --

CUOMO: Right.

DIAZ-BALART: -- who are in limbo deserve it. And some of us are going to continue to work despite all the noise to get it done because we have to achieve this result for the American people.

CUOMO: Understood. The deadline is coming up. You're welcome here.

But just as point of fact, when Feinstein said no, we want a clean bill, the president, at first, agreed with her.

Let's see where it winds up. You're welcome back here anytime to discuss it. Thank you, Congressman - Alisyn.

DIAZ-BALART: Always a pleasure. Thank you, sir.


An incredible act of selflessness that got the first lady's attention and an invitation to the State of the Union tonight. We'll tell you about it, next.


CUOMO: Afghanistan is reeling from four attacks in Kabul that have killed at least 130 people in just the last nine days. The Taliban claiming responsibility for two of the attacks. ISIS taking credit for the two others.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh just got to Kabul and he has more. Thank you for being there. Be safe.

What do you know?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, it's startling now in the 17th year of this war how America is again bracing itself for increased involvement. Thousands more troops on their way. They're going to be on the frontlines training Afghan soldiers.

And at the same time, too, Donald Trump, after the recent carnage here in Kabul, has been clear now is not the time to talk to the Taliban. That's important because it's let the Taliban come forward and say well, that shows the warmongering side of the commander in chief.

But also at the same time, too, the Afghan government is saying that the violence here recently means the Taliban have quote, "crossed red lines" and they must have peace imposed upon them on the battlefield.

A bit of a reality check here. There was never really an imminent peace talk prospect at all in Afghanistan but the hope has always been the Taliban could be beaten on the battlefield into some sort of negotiated strategy.

But we are into a dangerous phase here where the capital has never really seemed quite so insecure. And, of course, the U.S. strategy at times reliant on not that much information getting out.

They have recently classified, at an Afghan request, a number of Afghan soldiers and police who get killed here. That was a key way of measuring success. And there's been some confusion over other bits of information, as well, more recently.

[07:45:05] So difficult times ahead here. President Trump expected, perhaps, to promote some of his new strategy in Afghanistan but a stark change. if talks are out the window it's just more violence ahead - Alisyn, Chris.

CAMEROTA: Nick, it is so good to have you there on the ground in Kabul to give us the real facts of what's happening there. Thank you for the reporting.

Here is an inspiring story that caught the eye of the White House.

We introduced you to New Mexico police officer Ryan Holets after he went beyond the call of duty. He adopted a baby born to a homeless, heroin-addicted mother.

Tonight, he'll be the special guest of the first lady at the State of the Union, along with his wife and little baby, Hope.

CNN's Ed Lavandera caught up with the Holets and has their story. What a great story. I mean, we remember seeing it here on CNN. I guess the White House saw it, as well.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, when we first did this story two months ago I joked around with the Holets family. I was like, you know what, maybe Ellen will see this show and you'll get invited to be on the "ELLEN" show.

Now, the Holets family is on their way to the State of the Union and they're almost speechless.


RYAN HOLETS, NEW MEXICO POLICE OFFICER WHO ADOPTED OPIOID ADDICT'S BABY: Well, we're not going into the White House. We're just going into the Executive Branch.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Ryan Holets and his family feel like they're walking into the twilight zone.

RYAN HOLETS: We're going to cross here.

LAVANDERA: CNN first reported the story of how his family adopted the baby of a homeless woman battling heroin addiction two months ago. Since then, life has been a whirlwind.

RYAN HOLETS: What did you see? Oh look, it's a big horse.

LAVANDERA: Now, Holets and his wife enter the biggest stage of their lives, guests of the first family at the State of the Union address.

LAVANDERA (on camera): What's it been like for you?

REBECCA HOLETS, WIFE OF OFFICER WHO ADOPTED OPIOID ADDICT'S BABY: It's been amazing to see how our story has touched other people.

RYAN HOLETS: It looks like you guys are getting ready to shoot up over here.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The journey started last September when Ryan Holets, an Albuquerque police officer, encountered this homeless couple shooting up heroin behind a convenience store.

RYAN HOLETS: How far along are you?


RYAN HOLETS: Oh, my gosh.

LAVANDERA: Crystal Champ was eight months pregnant.

RYAN HOLETS: Why are you going to be doing that stuff? It's going to ruin your baby. You're going to kill your baby.

LAVANDERA: The moment changed all their lives. The Holets family adopted Crystal's baby and baby Hope is doing well.

And because of the first story, a Florida treatment facility offered to help Crystal and her partner, Tom Key, and that's where they are today.

Crystal calls the Holets family her guardian angels.

CHAMP: I don't know where he came from but I'm really happy. I'm really happy he's here. I prayed for our situation and I kind of prayed for this to happen the way it did because you know he basically adopted us, too.

LAVANDERA: Ryan speaks with them daily and says they're taking the first steps to getting sober.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Is there a message you want people to take away from your story?

RYAN HOLETS: Everybody is redeemable. Tom and Crystal had value, Hope had value, and by following that look what it's led. It's led to wonderful things happening.

LAVANDERA: But do you feel like you have this moment and you want to make the most of it?

RYAN HOLETS: It's actually been kind of a burden for me. Like, you're kind of right. Like, what do you say when you actually have a chance to meet with the president?

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Officer Holets says the addicted need more help accessing treatment and that prescription pain meds are far too easy to find.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Do you worry or do you have any fear that it becomes a photo op or just a passing moment and nothing really changes?

REBECCA HOLETS: Our responsibility is just to do what we can on our end. It's not our responsibility to do the president's job.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): There's a new rock star in town and baby Hope is about to charm her way through Washington, D.C.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Well, she's almost four months and she's already going to her first State of the Union.

RYAN HOLETS: I don't know, you could say first.

LAVANDERA: Her first State of the Union, her first trip to the White House. This little girl's having a heck of -- having a fun life so far.

RYAN HOLETS: Yes, she's been around a little bit. She's gotten to see a lot of people and everybody loves Hope.


LAVANDERA: You can -- I know how to end a television news story.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you do.

LAVANDERA: You end on the baby now.

CAMEROTA: And the message everybody loves Hope.

But, Ed, remember when you first showed us this story, didn't the couple -- the birth parents -- didn't they refuse to go into treatment?

LAVANDERA: Right. If you remember, about a month ago we did this story and went back and there was that moment where the rehab folks had one an intervention. They were panhandling on the side of a road in Albuquerque. They'd done all that.

They got them to the airport and Crystal and Tom just melted down at the airport. It was excruciating to watch. They just didn't want to do it.

CUOMO: I've seen this story 100 times, except nobody is ever there for the baby, like this police officer was.


CUOMO: And it is amazing what you were able to capture and what you brought to the American people. You've taught people so much about addiction, but also goodness and it's nice to see the Holets family.

LAVANDERA: And that's what they're trying to figure out, you know. They have this stage, they're talking to the president. It's something that the officer and his wife care about deeply.

And everyone's been chiming in on what they should say on the stage when they're there in the White House today, so they're still trying to figure that out.

[07:50:04] CAMEROTA: Great, and we're going to find out exactly what they do decide to say tomorrow.

Ed, thank you so much for the update on that story.

CUOMO: Good job, pal.

Officer Holets is going to be here on NEW DAY tomorrow to share his story. It's going to be one to watch.

CAMEROTA: All right, fantastic.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration's war against the Russia investigation appears to be heating up. What is the future of the special counsel's probe?

Senator Mike Rounds joins us next.


CAMEROTA: There are new questions about the status of the Russia investigation this morning after the House Intelligence Committee voted to make public a controversial Republican memo about alleged FBI surveillance abuses.

That vote came just hours after embattled FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe abruptly resigned ahead of his March retirement.

So there's a lot to discuss with Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota. Senator, thanks so much for being here.


CAMEROTA: Have you see this Republican House memo?

ROUNDS: I have not.

CAMEROTA: Are you interested in this Republican House memo?

ROUNDS: When the time is right, if they release it we'll take a look at it. But our focus in the Senate is on the things that we're working on. We know that they're interested in the House on this particular memo. We'll let them do their thing and the Senate, we'll do our thing.

CAMEROTA: But just --

ROUNDS: We've got an Intelligence Committee, we've got a Judiciary Committee.


ROUNDS: We think they're keeping things under control and we'll let them work.

CAMEROTA: But don't you find it a little bit bizarre that the House Intel Committee won't share it with the Senate Intel Committee? ROUNDS: I do, and at the same time, look, if they want to put this together and they want to discuss it, fine. Let them work their processes in the House. We're not going to tell them how to do their job. But in the Senate, we've got things we've got to get done.

CAMEROTA: So, am I reading you right that you don't take the House Intel Committee's work or conclusions as seriously?

ROUNDS: Well, I think what I have to say is that they've got their role to play in the time sequence that they've laid out.

[07:55:03] At the same time, we've got a lot of things in the Senate that we're focused on right now, which includes the Dreamers, which includes immigration reform, includes the border security. Those are critical for us. We're focusing on those items.

The House has decided that they're going to focus on these intel issues. That's their role but we're not going to try to tell them not to do it. But that also is not going to influence what we're trying to get done in the Senate.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about the sanctions.


CAMEROTA: So, Congress wants sanctions on Russia for the meddling in the 2016 election, as well as the annexation of Crimea.

That has sat on the president's desk. It's sort of languished. And then he has decided not to implement them.

What are your thoughts?

ROUNDS: First of all, Russia did try to influence the elections but they didn't do it necessarily in the way that it's sometimes laid out.

We've had two reports. One of them is an open and unclassified report. The other is the classified version.

In both, there is a similarity. The only difference between the two is that the classified gives all of the sources and so forth.

The unclassified version makes it very clear. They're doing the same thing now they've done for generations and that is propaganda being delivered, trying to influence us, trying to give us misinformation.

They did a very good job of it in the last election. They have refined their skills.

CAMEROTA: And should they be punished for it?

ROUNDS: Absolutely, no question about it, but there's two parts.

CAMEROTA: Why isn't the White House sanctioning them?

ROUNDS: Look, here's part of it. There's different ways of actually making them pay for it. One way is sanctions and I have no objections with the sanctions at all, and I can't tell you why the White House hasn't proceeded with it.

CAMEROTA: But you want them to. You recommend that the White House --

ROUNDS: No question about it.

CAMEROTA: Does it concern you that they are not proceeding with the sanctions? What does it tell you?

ROUNDS: What it does tell me is that this has become such a politicized issue that now it's become a question of who wins. Do we talk about the president and go farther into the issues surrounding Russia, or do we focus on other things?

Here's my perspective on it. Russia tried to influence our election. Part of it is they tried to influence Americans' thinking and they provided lots of misinformation.

CAMEROTA: Yes, of course.

ROUNDS: We're not the only ones that they did it to.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

ROUNDS: So that's occurred.

Now, the question is if they were successful they're going to come back and do it again unless we get the American people to recognize there is misinformation being provided by Russians through multiple sources.

CAMEROTA: But don't you think that that warrants being punished?

ROUNDS: It does, and so --

CAMEROTA: But why not punish them?

ROUNDS: Well, good question. Look, in the Senate we've already said they should be punished.

CAMEROTA: I mean, what the State Department said when the president declined to implement this -- they said that they -- Russia's been put on notice. The legislation that you all passed is serving as a deterrent.

Really? You think that bad actors in Russia pay attention to U.S. legislation?

ROUNDS: Well, we think if it impacts them. And remember, there's a group of people over there that do get impacted by the sanctions that we impose.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but forget the sanctions. The legislation -- what the State Department is saying, the legislation that you guys passed, do you think that that's affecting Russian bad actors?

ROUNDS: Well, it may very well, but it would do more it was actually enacted and imposed upon them.

CAMEROTA: So what you're saying is that the politics of all of this have gotten in the way of punishing Russia. Is that OK?

ROUNDS: I think that's a fair statement and I think it's going to continue until such time as we give a clear message -- Republicans and Democrats alike, in the Senate and in the House sending a message to Russia, game's up. Time to -- time to change your style.

Russia's not going to do that as long as they are successful and as long as the penalty to be paid is not so great as to make them want to change.

CAMEROTA: Therein lies my question. I mean, the midterms are coming up. In fact, the CIA director Mike Pompeo said he's quite sure that they're going to try the same thing --


CAMEROTA: -- in the midterms.

So what's your message to the White House?

ROUNDS: The same thing we said before. We've created sanctions, we want sanctions imposed. The discussion will continue on.

We can do our part, which is to lay the sanctions out. And, by the way, I think that there may possibly be more sanctions on the way in the future.

CAMEROTA: But if you don't implement them what does it matter?

ROUNDS: The Executive Branch has their ability. We can't make them do something.

CAMEROTA: I understand --


CAMEROTA: -- but are you concerned that they're not doing anything?

ROUNDS: Let's let this play out a little bit. Look, we've laid the sanctions out. As more and more of this information continues to come out about what Russia actually does and their role in cybersecurity, and their role in terms of cyber information that's released and how they do it -- as more and more of that comes out I think there's going to be more and more of a growing demand that Russia be held accountable for it.

CAMEROTA: Senator Mike Rounds, thanks so much for being here.

ROUNDS: You bet.

CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you.

OK, we're following a lot of news this morning so let's get right to it.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: They have crossed from dangerously dealing with intelligence to a cover-up.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: When you read the memo it's going to be pretty clear why Democrats did not want it to come into the public light.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: And we had votes today to politicize the intelligence process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they're going to release that memo, then they have to release the Democratic memo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the House hasn't had a chance to look at that -- the minority report.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, "CUOMO PRIME TIME", CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": You have not seen the intelligence that it's based on?