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Nunes Dismisses FBI's Spurious Objections Over Memo; GOP's Trey Gowdy Not Running For Re-election; Clinton Drops New Statement As State Of The Union Began. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 31, 2018 - 15:30   ET



[15:31:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Right now, the president of the United States is weighing whether to release a memo that the FBI says is not accurate. The memo by Republican Devin Nunes, he's the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. It'll -- it alleges the FBI of used its surveillance power to watch specific members of the Trump campaign, to surveil them. The FBI issues this rare public statement writing quote, in part, "We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."

So with me, CNN chief national correspondent Jim Sciutto and our White House reporter Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan just first to you, I understand we got a statement from Devin Nunes. What's he saying?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Brooke. We have a statement from him seemingly in response to that stunning FBI statement issued earlier that really buff the White House his position on this memo. And in this statement Devin Nunes says, "Having stonewalled the Congress and demands for information for nearly a year it's no surprise to see the FBI and DOJ issue spurious objections to allowing the American people to see information related to surveillance abuses at these agencies."

The FBI's intimately familiar with material omissions with respect to their presentations to both Congress and the courts and they're welcome to make public to the greatest extent possible all the information they have on these abuses regardless, it's clear, that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counterintelligence investigation during an American political campaign. Once the truth gets out, Devin Nunes writes, "We can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies in courts are never misused like this again."

And so, Brooke, that statement a direct respond to the FBI statement where they said that they were worried about the release of this memo because they said they did not feel like it included the full picture to give an accurate picture to the American people.

We know those are concern that they FBI Director Christopher Wray, who have handpicked by the president voiced to the president but clearly they did not feel like those concerns were being heeded by the White House and that's why they felt the need to put out that statement in the first place. But now we have Devin Nunes response.

BALDWIN: So now you have, Jim Sciutto, the likes of the president of the United States, Chairman Nunes and then on the other side of the line, you know, FBI Chris Wray, Rod Rosenstein, Deputy attorney general. It's becoming like a standoff on this -- the all out war between them.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is, but, you know, let us be clear. The typical standoff in Washington right to these days is Democrat and Republican, and that's everyone. You surely have Democrats on the opposite side of this criticizing Devin Nunes.

But let's filter out Democrat and Republican go right to the agencies involved here. You have the FBI run by Christopher Wray, who was appointed by this president, this Republican president to run the FBI, saying that this is a fundamentally inaccurate document. You have the Department of Justice run by President Trump's appointee, Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week issued a letter to Devin Nunes saying, one, not only is it extraordinarily reckless I believe was the phrasing to release this but that the DOJ is unaware of any abuse of the FISA program.

In addition to that, I've spoken to current and former intelligence officials in the intelligence community who say that this document in addition to being misleading, because it doesn't show all the intelligence involved in this decision also runs the risk of exposing details of how the U.S. gathers intelligence so on surveillance targets.

So, separating out the partisanship of party, you have these institutions run by Trump appointees who are defying the president of this, and that's fairly remarkable. I think folks should be aware of that as they watch this story, that this is not your typical kind of he said, she said kind of Republican/Democrat, you know, conflict here. It pits the agencies that are currently run by presidential appointees against the White House and the president and the Republican leadership.

BALDWIN: Do we even know, Kaitlan, if the president has read the memo that we're hearing he's planning on releasing and what's happening behind the scenes where you are?

COLLINS: So that's the thing. We don't even know if it the president has laid eyes on this memo. But Brooke, what has been clear since last week is that the president wants this memo released which is stunning, since he hasn't read it yet, especially as of last night according to White House officials.

[15:35:15] And we know that he erupted on Air Force 1 when that some officials when he learned that some justice department officials were trying to block the release of this memo.

So the president has been very clear all along, he wants this memo released. And it doesn't seem like no matter what he is advised to do regardless of whether this they believe this could be damaging or reckless, if it is released, that doesn't seem to be a big concern for this president --


COLLINS: -- because we also know, Brooke, that aides in the White House told the president he has five days to make a decision about releasing this memo.

BALDWIN: Right, clock ticking.

COLLINS: We're told that aides in the White House told the president maybe we should wait a little bit before we release it -- instead of releasing it right after that. So it seemed like they were giving due weight to the justice department's concerns over releasing this memo. So it just go to show you that they were planning on releasing this memo regardless but they wanted to make it seem as if they were taking their warnings into consideration here.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, I was just going to say, I mean the president made his feeling clear about this before, apparently, that process was completed when he said yesterday, yes, 100%, I want this released. And we heard that from other -- from others, including reporter like Kaitlan, covering the White House that this is something that the president wants to be done and before that process has been completed. So it raises questions about how serious that review process is and how much it weighs into the decision there.

And I think when you look at Devin Nunes' statement is that last line that I really draw your attention to because that gets to the core of what the Republican argument is here and that is that the FBI they allege used unverified information during a campaign. What they're referring to here is they're saying it appears and I haven't seen this memo either because it's classified. But we -- I've spoken to people who have reviewed it.

And what it appears to contain is some mentioned that the application for a FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page who was a campaign adviser to President Trump included some mention of the dossier, which compiled by this former British agent which at the time was paid -- originally paid for about by Republican money, but later by Democratic money that that was somehow made mention in the application.

I should make clear and I've been told this by several senior intelligence officials who have read applications for FISA warrants. You would never submit an application based on outside information alone and a judge who'd never approve an application based on outside information alone. It would need to have underlying intelligence and information gathered by U.S. law enforcement, the FBI and intelligence agencies, intercepted communications, et cetera. Otherwise it's just not going to get approved.

And that may explain why you've heard from the Department of Justice, for instance or the FBI that what's in this memo doesn't show the full picture, it doesn't show the full picture of intelligence that was used to make this decision. And again, that doesn't come from Democrats. It comes from folks inside the intelligence agencies.

BALDWIN: Yes. Jim and Kaitlan, thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Breaking news about this. The law makers again, national attention for grilling Hillary Clinton over her e-mails announcing he is leaving Congress. Trey Gowdy and now and a dozen of Republicans leaving Washington we'll take in a while.


[15:40:31] BALDWIN: I want to take a moment just to honor an American woman. It's a serious that I'm really passionate about is an idea I had after covering this 2016 presidential election and listening to so many women that who showed up that wanted to be involved. I had something significant was about to happen is women we're speaking up that it showing up in record numbers and then standing on stage of the women's march.

Like so many of you I would if the collective strength of those who traveled far and wide to be seen and heard was overwhelming. And I wanted to dedicate the next chapter of my career to focus on women Ava DuVernay, Sheryl Crow, Ashley Graham, Diane von Furstenberg, Tracy Reese, Pat Benatar, Betty White.

These are women who've all shattered glass ceilings whether in music, fashion, or film. These are trailblazing women who shared with me very personal stories with success and failure, who are not afraid to talk politics, frustration, and hope. And they want to help other women realize their dreams as well. So here's a clip from my interview with American woman Issa Rae.


ISSA RAE, CREATOR & STAR OF HBO "INSECURE": I'm Issa Rae and I'm American woman because I can do anything.

BALDWIN: So much of Issa's story early on is about identity, and not always fitting in.

Do people made fun of you?

RAE: Sure. I mean they made fun of me --


RAE: It's not an acceptance. Like black kids would make the fun of the way that I talked, white kids would just be like, you're not white. When white kids tell you you're not black is like, what do you know. And it made me just asks this questions was about, what it meant she's black.


RAE: And ultimately just realizing I'm like that I'm just black by being me.

BALDWIN: All those questions came from her youth. She moved around from Africa, where her father was from, to Maryland, where she was one of a handful of black girls in class. It wasn't until high school in Los Angeles where she discovered her love for film writing.

RAE: I'd loved you since I was 11 and it just won't go away.

BALDWIN: Specifically, Love and Basketball.

RAE: I'll play you.

I write about me loving basketball.

BALDWIN: Yes. What was it about that character that was an, aha, moment for you?

RAE: We were both tomboy like I play basketball. I stuck (ph) at basketball. But it was cool to see -- around the way black girl it was just like a simple story during a time where I didn't see many stories like that.

BALDWIN: Issa wanted to change that. While in college at Stanford she produced her first video series called "Dorm Diaries" where every actor was black.

RAE: I was like, wouldn't it be cool if I created like a mockumentary and it spread to other schools and people at Duke were like, oh, my gosh, being black at Stanford is exactly like being black at Duke. For me that's something I always resonated with me, like having people watch and be able to identify with specific characters.

BALDWIN: Did you feel like you faced sexism in the industry, like as a woman saying -- as much as you do.

RAE: Yes. And being, you know, vulgar when I feel like want to vulgar when they especially talking about sex, like I thought like there've been so many times that I've more heavily criticized for doing so, because I'm a woman and --

BALDWIN: By men?

RAE: -- because I'm a black woman -- by men, yes. There's so many legendary male comedians who talk the same way or even more vulgar and who appraise. It's so insulting and so condescending when you hear like, sis, like why you got to use the N word?

Why do you got to bring this down? I was like I'm not bringing you down. This is what I think is funny and it's fucking funny to me. So, shut up.


BALDWIN: We've watched the entire interview. Go to And what's been so cool about this whole project it's just been hearing from you. So upload a video to your Instagram, tell me your name, I'm an American woman because -- just tell me what defines you as an American woman. So many of you have been so inspired by this series and I'm in turn inspired by you. Don't forget the hashtag americanwoman.

Let's talk now about this. The timing of Hillary Clinton's latest statement, dropping moments before President Trump started his state of the union address. You have Hillary Clinton, this long Facebook post saying that she should have fired a senior adviser accused of sexual harassment during her first presidential campaign.

Her faith adviser, a man by the name of Burns Strider, was accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a young female campaign staffer. Clinton says that Strider's pay was docked, sent him to counseling, moved the young woman to another job. And she now admits in this Facebook post her decision was wrong.

She wrote as to why I let an employee on my 2008 campaign keep his job despite his inappropriate workplace behavior, the short answer is this. If I had to do it again I wouldn't.

[15:45:10] Let's talk about it S.E. Cupp is with me. Host of HLN S.E. Cupp Unfiltered Richard Socarides former senior adviser, the President Bill Clinton now a writer for Good to see both of you.


BALDWIN: To you, sir, first. I mean this is like almost night and day from her, eh, kind of statements from three days ago.


BALDWIN: She didn't say I screwed up.

SOCARIDES: Well, here's why I think --

BALDWIN: What changed?

SOCARIDES: Here is why I think this is an -- why her Facebook post was important. I think that what she's trying to say is that, first of all that we all acknowledge now that this is a moment where we're recognizing that this kind of behavior went -- has gone on for far too long in America.

BALDWIN: Why didn't she do that two or three days ago?

SOCARIDES: And that we're in the process of re-evaluating how we responded as employers and as people and that even she -- I think she's saying even she who's put women at the forefront of an entire career, fighting for women's rights, that even she can make a mistake. And that as we evaluate how we handled this in the past and even how we handle it today, we have to be willing to admit that we made mistakes. And I think it took a lot of courage, I though it was a very thoughtful statement and I think she is, in fact, admitting that she made a mistake, and she would not -- she would have done it differently today.

BALDWIN: So the timing, the fact --

CUPP: Is the opposite of courage.

BALDWIN: -- that the fact that this came out minutes before 9:00 p.m. what happened at 9:00 p.m., President Trump's very first State of the Union of course knowing this would get a lot of coverage. People saying totally buried this on purpose that she did this, you know. And also Clinton critics saying this just furthers their thesis that the Clintons very shady. Thoughts?

SOCARIDES: Shady timing.

CUPP: Yes. This what --

BALDWIN: Did you agree. Yes?

SOCARIDES: No, I don't agree. But I'm going to let SE speak.

CUPP: Thanks. It was not courageous timing. And she did this to answer your initial question, because that first statement was wildly insufficient and tone deaf.

I would not say that this is much of an improvement. It's longer. But there's no I'm sorry. There's no I apologize. She said if I had to do it again I wouldn't. That's the equivalent of mistakes were made.

BALDWIN: Not owning it.

CUPP: It's not a very brave thing to say. She had lots of excuses as to why she didn't fire this person. She said I like to give second chances. Well, when it comes to sexual predators giving a sexual predator a second chances, is giving him a second opportunity. An opportunity that by the way that he took because he did it again that while working for her super pac.

SOCARIDES: This is why --

CUPP: She said this is an opportunity for "The New York Times" to look inward at itself. I mean there were a lot of --

SOCARIDES: That's not exactly what she said.

CUPP: And deflections throughout this statement.

SOCARIDES: Listen. I --

CUPP: Didn't get the (INAUDIBLE).

SOCARIDES: On the timing, let me just say that, you know, if she was looking for an advantage on the timing, I don't know what the advantage was. I happen to know that from talking to them that they were working on this a couple of days, they want it got it out, they got it out. When, you know, when it was done and after the young woman who she referenced had a chance to look at it. I don't think there's no logical reason to put it out 15 minutes before the president of the United States starts his state of the union. So I don't know what the perceived advantage possibly could have been for them.

And, listen, on the substance, I think that it took a lot of courage to admit that she made a mistake and that she would have done differently now. You can argue about --

BALDWIN: We came to understand and they keep asking, you know, as a woman who was courageous, why not do it two or three days ago?

SOCARIDES: Well, listen. I understand you. She -- and I think she answered that. She said that I wanted to think about this and I wanted to get it right and I think that its -- listen, this happened 10 years ago. This woman is no longer running for office. We're not talking about the president of the United States, who has admitted to committing sexual assault and it has been charged with rape that recently paid off --

BALDWIN: But that was 10 years ago, but he was part of the Super PAC involved in the 2016 campaign.

SOCARIDES: I think it really want to be talking about the person who is in office right now. However, on this, I think, around the edges you can say maybe it was a little slow. But in fact, she said she made a mistake and it was a very thoughtful statement.

CUPP: On my show, all the time I know Brooke on your show, all the time we've talk about Donald Trump and his transgressions, I believe in calling balls and strikes here. And when it comes to Hillary Clinton she is simply not a credible champion for women. It is not because of just this incident it's because of a pattern of behavior, of discrediting her own husband's --

SOCARIDES: This is so -- S.E., this is so turning upside down. But what you're doing is you're turning --

CUPP: That's not.

SOCARIDES: -- so upside down the -- her -- an entire career. I mean you can say you don't like the statement. You can say that you don't -- that you think it came too slowly.

CUPP: It did.

SOCARIDES: You can say you don't think it's a full-throttled apology. But to say that Hillary Clinton hasn't stood up and fought for women for an entire lifetime and has been a trailblazer, that is just like not make negative sense to anybody.

CUPP: Well aware of what I can and can't say. And I can say that she is not a credible champion for women after discrediting Monica Lewinsky, name your Bill Clinton accuser for years discrediting them as bimbos. Saying out right I want to destroy their stories. She has not yet reconciled with that big problem in her past. [15:50:18] One line she says we can't go back. We can certainly look back informed by the present. I think a lot of women would like her to look back and own some of the things that she and other feminist did in service of protecting Bill Clinton, a very powerful man.

BALDWIN: OK. We got the last word. We've got to go. We can keep going at this.


BALDWIN: I'm going to wrap it up. Richard Socarides and S.E. Cupp thank you so much for watching. It was all with tonight on HLN.


BALDWIN: Coming up next we have more breaking news here on CNN on the president and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein back with our special coverage in just a moment.


BALDWIN: Another congressional seat will now be up for grabs. This fall Republican Trey Gowdy says he will not be seeking re-election. Gowdy who had the House Oversight Committee is now being 36th, count them, 36 Republicans who announced he is leaving. The South Carolina lawmaker says, "Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system."

Gowdy is a former federal prosecutor who made a name for himself running that whole Benghazi the House Benghazi investigation. Remember this?


REP. TREY GOWDY, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Madam Secretary, I understand there are people frankly in both parties who have suggested this investigation is about you. Let me assure you, it is not. Madam Secretary, not a single member of this committee signed up to investigate you or your e-mail.

[15:55:11] We signed up to investigate and therefore honor the lives of four people that we set into a dangerous country. My question is, how did you decide when to invoke a people and process and who just got to come straight to you? Because it looked like certain things got straight to your inbox, and the requests for more security did not.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes. Personal e-mail came to my personal account. Work-related e-mail did as well.


BALDWIN: Let's talk to Republican strategist Kristen Soltis Andersona columnist for "The Washington Examiner." Kristen, good to see you again. On this Gowdy South Carolina seat, should Republicans be worried about keeping a strong grip on it?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND POLLSTER: Well, typically if you're thinking about a seat like the, this is a pretty ruby red type of district. In and of itself is not the type of seat that I think Republicans need to be terribly worried about. But when you've got this many retirements happening, it means you're playing a lot of defense in a lot of places. Incumbents have a lot of advantage. It's easier to get reelected if you got your name as a known quantity in a district.

And so just having to play defense even in some of these ruby red areas just drains resources from what the party could be using to defend the most vulnerable seats. And bear in mind, even we had the Alabama Senate race. Alabama is not the type of place Republicans should be losing elections. But 2018 could be that time of year.

BALDWIN: I know, I know. And then when you look at numbers that the new Monmouth poll on the President and his approval rating it has climbed, Kristen, it has climbed 42% from 32%, this is his best mark in this poll since March of last year, what do you chock this up to?

ANDERSON: So I had this philosophy. I think in politics, everyone loves a winner. If you get a win, there are people that will flock to you, rally to you. And I think passing that tax bill was a win. Even though there are some polls that show its popularity is mixed there are some folks that are skeptical they will benefit from it.

I think by just getting something passed, it shows that Congress was able to function, that they were able to do something big, and especially if people really do see an increase in their paychecks over the next month or two, once this really begins to take effect. It wouldn't surprise me if those numbers go another point or two higher. That is, if the President can keep himself from tweeting something crazy and derailing all of that progress.

BALDWIN: Well, the economy hasn't looking good. Maybe the President had a little wind in his sails as he stood up there giving his first state of the union last night. And we went to so many different issues. I want to hone in on infrastructure specifically.

I mean, obviously there were some the standing ovations. I lost count, you know, on one half of the room and then the shade right and the demure looks from the Democrats. On infrastructure specifically, the Democrats withheld their applause. The Republicans, standing up, there they were.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight I'm calling on Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment modern infrastructure that our economy needs and our people deserve.


BALDWIN: But let's be fair and go back to President Obama's, one of his State of the Unions. I this was 2013 where it is the same but in reverse.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight, I propose a fix-it first program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.


BALDWIN: I mean I've got you for one more minute. A, is that just Washington being Washington, and B, how do you explain Republicans, you know, of all parties saying yes to, you know, $1.5 trillion on infrastructure.

ANDERSON: We are living in strange times, Brooke, where all of the sudden things that Republicans would not have accepted coming from a Democratic president that are kind of complicated if you're thinking about their conservative views, get more play when President Trump, who is very popular within his own party, provides that cover.

Now, roads and bridges are as bipartisan generally and as popular as things like apple pie, baseball, mom and pop shops, you know, saying I want to fix roads and bridges. It's pretty safe thing to say, but putting out $1.5 trillion price tag, that's the sort of thing that I think only a President Trump will get Republican to the possibly get on board with.

BALDWIN: Kristen, thank you so much. Good to see you.

[16:00:01] ANDERSON: Thank you.

BALDWIN: I'm Brooke Baldwin, thanks for being me. Let's go to Washington "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts now.