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Sources: Pres. Trump Released Memo To Undermine Russia Probe; Pres. Trump Calls Allegations in Memo "A Disgrace"; Source: Trump Unlikely To Ever Get Beyond Anger at Rosenstein; Nunes: Dems Are Not Being "Honest Actors"; McCain Slams Pres. Trump Republican on Memo "We Are Doing Putin's Job For Him". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 2, 2018 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:13] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Topping this hour of 360, take a memo, please. The long awaited, hotly disputed Nunes memo is out. President Trump wanted the public to see it even before he himself saw it. And now that he has seen it, well, listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I think it's terrible. You want to know the truth, I think it's a disgrace what's going on in this country. I think it's a disgrace.


BERMAN: As you know, the president okayed the release of it despite, "grave concerns" from the FBI and objections from a senior member of his own Justice Department and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. As you also know, we've reported that he's been boasting to friends about how the memo would discredit the Russia investigation, and according to the "Washington Post," he wanted it out from almost the very first moment he learned about it, even before reading it.

We'll talk at length about all this ahead, including the action the President could have taken having read the memo. First what's in it, and for that we turn to CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. Jim, lay out for us what the main points of this memo are.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John I'd say these are the two headline allegations in this. The first one is that the warrants that were sought for Carter Page, to surveil Carter Page, at the time, a former adviser to the Trump campaign, Nunes argues that those warrants were based largely or principally on this dossier of evidence about President Trump that was compiled by the former British agent Christopher Steele, which was funded by Fusion GPS, which was paid for by the Democratic Party.

So in effect saying that he was surveilled by something that was pushed by Democrats. The other argument that Nunes makes in this memo is that the judge who approved the applications, in fact multiple applications, renewals for this warrant, was not told of the origin of the money behind Fusion GPS, which paid for that dossier. So making a claim that really that warrant, in effect, was based on Democratic money and that the judge was not aware of it.

BERMAN: So, Jim, there are parts of this memo that some in Congress are disputing and actually other parts which undermine sort of one of the conservatives time line here. Can you explain in seconds?

SCIUTTO: So let's start on facts in dispute, and they go right to those two issues that I just mentioned. On the issue that the warrant was based principally or mostly or it even says in there that Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI said to the House Intelligence Committee the warrant would not have been issued without the dossier. On that issue, my colleague, Manu Raju, and I have spoken to three Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee who were in the room for McCabe's testimony who said, no, that's not what he said. And then in addition to that, Lindsey Graham has released a statement tonight saying that, in fact, this warrant and this investigation was based on more than just the dossier.

So disputes on that not just from Democrats but also from Republicans and same disputes on that question as to whether the judge knew about this. We've heard this even on air from a member of the House Intelligence Committee Eric Swalwell. So there's that.

But dig deeper in the dossier, because it's interesting. Later in the dossier, it says that the counterintelligence investigation by the FBI of Russian ties to the campaign began months before this application for a warrant to monitor Carter Page and was in fact based on information provided by George Papadopoulos, another campaign adviser who you may remember told an Australian diplomat that he was told months earlier that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton, which would seem to undermine Nunes' central argument that this was all about the dossier, and the judge knew nothing about it. In fact, there was other intelligence, and that that came months before.

BERMAN: All right Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BERMAN: More now on the president who has been spending the weekend or will be spending the weekend at Mar-a-Lago. CNN's Boris Sanchez joins us now with more. Boris, what are we hearing from the White House?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there John. Yes, today the President told reporters that it is a disgrace what's going on with the Nunes memo, also saying that a lot of people should be ashamed of the themselves, though the President didn't get into any specifics about what he objected to in the memo, what upset him about the memo, or who it is that should be ashamed of themselves. Reporters asked the President if he had confidence in his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who is mentioned in the memo by name. But the President told reporters, "you figure that one out".

The speculation, of course, being that based on circumstances surrounding the release of this memo and other comments that have been made by the President that this could potentially lead to the firing of Rod Rosenstein, John. BERMAN: Yes, and has the White House tried to clear that up at all, the fate of Rod Rosenstein?

[21:05:03] SANCHEZ: Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah kind of walked back the President's comments this evening. He was on CNN saying that the President had full confidence in the Deputy Attorney General and that there would be no changes at the Department of Justice. Sources close to the President have confirmed that to CNN saying that right now the President is not considering firing Rod Rosenstein, though we should point out, John, officials in this administration have been told they have the full confidence of the President before, only for them to be shown the door shortly after that. Beyond that, the sources familiar with the President's thinking tell CNN that part of the reason he's hesitant to fire rod Rosenstein is because he believes that firing the Deputy Attorney General could prolong the Russia investigation.

And as we've seen with the President's actions previously, whether it's the firing of James Comey, reports that he's upset with Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, or reports last week that the President wanted to fire Robert Mueller only to relent at the advice of his attorneys, this President is frustrated at his lack of influence over the Russia investigation, and he wants it to be over immediately, John.

BERMAN: All right. Boris Sanchez for us down in Florida where the President is this weekend. You will keep watch down there to hear if any announcements come. As we said, Democrats both on and off the intelligence committee hotly dispute this memo and as you know, have a rebuttal to it that they hope to release at some point in the near future.

Joining us now is Democratic Committee Member, Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us. In the lead-up to the release of this memo, there was a lot of noise around how it would do tremendous damage to the intelligence community. Now that we all know what's in it, now that we have seen it, it doesn't seem to be a lot that wasn't out there already. So were some Democrats over hyping their concern here?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA, INTELLIGENCE COMMITEE: Good evening, John. No, a lot of the concern was that you would be -- during an ongoing investigation, in realtime revealing to the public evidence that exists in the case. Just because the public knew, it's never been the practice to acknowledge the evidence that's out there.

Another concern is that the White House had to sign off on this memo. So you're giving subjects of this investigation, including the President and White House Counsel Don McGahn, a look into the evidence that exists against them. Never would you allow a suspect before they're questioned by the police to look at all the evidence the police have. That's just not the practice. You want to keep that evidence as a close hold.

But the larger issue here is the rule of law, the idea that political leaders in a democracy do not go after the police when they're being investigated or use the police to investigate their opponents. So that's what's happening here. We should release our memo immediately and do all we can to protect Bob Mueller and Rosenstein because I believe the intent here is to try and undermine them and see them gone.

BERMAN: And so the only evidence released there is again the FISA process on Carter Page which CNN had reported a year ago, April of 2017.

SWALWELL: Well, also Papadopoulos.

BERMAN: Well, and again, that may help the Democratic argument there because it says that the Russia investigation, the counterintelligence investigation began months before this FISA warrant was even pursued. Earlier, you claim that as part of the application for the FISA court, it was disclosed that part of it came from a politically motivated source.

Chairman Nunes reacted to that and said that was not true, and let me give you the quote here. "These guys tell so many lies. You can't keep track of them." Do you stand by your previous statement, and what do you make of what Chairman Nunes said?

SWALWELL: I do stand by it. I believe that the public will have further clarity if our memo is released, and Chairman Nunes has acknowledged that he has not even read the FISA application. And so I'm concerned that, you know, he is putting all of this out there without, you know, understanding fully what's going on. In that same interview, he even said casually I've only read the Democratic memo once. This is serious stuff, and he should be well versed in all the testimony and all facts. He also, John, has not sat in on any of the Russia interviews, so he doesn't know what the testimony has been.

BERMAN: You haven't read the underlying intelligence either, correct? Only Adam Schiff has, only the ranking member of the committee, correct?

SWALWELL: I've been briefed on the FISA application, the top secret aspects by our staff. But we do have access to the actual application --


SWALWELL: -- which is part of the problem.

BERMAN: The memo says that the FISA court was not told that the funding came from the Clinton campaign and the DNC. You, I think, are saying they were told it came from some kind of political connections. There's a distinction there, isn't there?

SWALWELL: What I can tell you in our memo I think will provide greater clarity on this is that the court was told and given evidence that demonstrated the political -- the underlying political motivations.

And again, John, I can't say more because they've kind of muzzled us because they voted to not allow our memo to come forward. But if our memo comes forward, that will be cleared up.

BERMAN: Sure, the court had been told that the funding came from the Clinton campaign and Democratic sources.

[21:10:02] SWALWELL: Again, John, I can't go into what the court was told.


BERMAN: I'm talking about in a perfect world. I mean, do you think that a court should be told that a memo like this, if it's being used or a dossier like this, if it's being used as evidence, was paid for by a certain group. Should she be told the identity of that group?

SWALWELL: The court should be aware of, you know, potential biases that witnesses have. But also remember, John, that in these affidavits, whether it's this investigation or others, you mask the identities of individuals because you want to protect those individuals. So for the Republicans to have all these concerns about unmasking, it looks like a lot of individuals were actually masked so that the court, you know, didn't know any more than they needed to know for the protection of the individuals.

BERMAN: Were you in the room when Deputy Director Andy McCabe testified before your committee?

SWALWELL: Yes, I was. And I found him credible, and how they have characterized his testimony is wrong. And, again, that would come to light if our memo were released.

BERMAN: Did he tell your committee that no warrant would have been sought without the Steele dossier information?

SWALWELL: He did not say that. And I can't say more without our memo being released. And also, John, what's telling again, they did not quote Andy McCabe. In their possession they have Andy McCabe's testimony from his transcript. So why didn't they quote him word for word? I think that also is very telling about what they're trying to do here.

BERMAN: You can't tell me word for word what he said, but you're saying that McCabe did not say it was the only thing used?

SWALWELL: He did not say that. That's patently false. I wish I could, John. They voted to muzzle me and to prevent the public from seeing it.

BERMAN: Do you think it would be illegal in any way to use a dossier to not tell a court where a dossier comes from? Do you think there are any legal questions there? Are they legally required, do you think, to identify the source of this information?

SWALWELL: They are supposed to allow the judge, who is, you know, the independent branch of government, to have all the facts available so they can make in an unbiased way a determination as to whether probable cause has been met. Again, this is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt in front of a jury trial. This is to start an investigation, you know, through surveillance. So it's a very low standard, and you just want the judge to have enough information. And there were other independent pieces of information than just the Steele dossier, which our memo would show the public if the Republicans allowed it to be released.

BERMAN: All right, Congressman Eric Swalwell, thanks so much for being with us. We will speak to Republican --

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

BERMAN: -- we're going to talk to Republican Chris Stewart very shortly.

In the meantime, I want to bring an all-star panel and embarrassment of panel (INAUDIBLE), David Axelrod, Dana Bash, Kirsten Powers, Rich Lowry, Michael Zeldin and James Gagliano.

Dana, I want to start with you here. It's been a few hours now. You were on T.V. You were anchoring the big show when this memo came out. It's been several hours now. What's the political fallout? Where are we?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We are kind of where we were before this in that Republicans who want to believe that they -- that there's absolutely no real reason for the Russia investigation, that this was all political bias, that this was a hoax as the President says. They will believe this memo tells them that.

Democrats, as we have seen, are saying, well, just you wait. We're going to show you our memo and it doesn't come anywhere close to what this says. Having said that, there are more Republicans than maybe one would think in the polarized environment where we are who have come out and said, you know what, guys? Just give me a break. This memo is not even close to the whole story. It doesn't even tell what -- there's contradictions inside it and that you mentioned some of this when you were interviewing the Republican and Democratic congressmen on the committee.

Just for example, they insist that this, what they call is, you know, discredited dossier was the crux of the FISA warrant. And at the very end, they say, oh, no, no, the whole Russia investigation was begun before the dossier was even compiled.

So, look, at the end of the day this is a big political drama. And the big question, I think tonight is whether or not the people around the President who are begging him not to fire Rod Rosenstein are going to succeed, because he wanted to use this political document as an excuse to do just that.

BERMAN: Well I think we just talked to Hogan Gidley, Deputy Press Secretary last time, it was clear they're sending the message he's not firing them. It's clear that the people around him want that message out tonight. Whether or not that message is designed for us or the President is a vastly different story. BASH: Exactly.

[21:14:59] DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, but the thing that is hard to square is how does a President go out and say, this is a disgrace and use the language that he's used and then -- and essentially embrace the notion that there was this high- level conspiracy and say but, I leave Rosenstein there. I'm fine with him. You can't square the two.

The fact is the memo was designed to try and discredit the whole probe to put pressure on all those involved in the probe. And then so to throw it out there and then back away from it is hard to -- it's hard to square as I said. And I suspect his lawyers are telling him this would be a disaster. The Comey thing got you into big trouble. You can't do this. But he clearly would like to.

And you have to wonder if he decides that this thing is headed to a bad place, the Mueller investigation. Would he not go ahead and do this on the theory that I'd rather take the hit than see this thing come to its conclusion?

BERMAN: All right guys, hang on one just one second. We're going to pick up this conversation when we come back.

And later, reaction from other lawmakers in both parties to the Nunes memo, what's in it, and what might have been left out?


BERMAN: We're back talking about the Nunes memo and the uproar surrounding it. Rich Lowry, you know, it's interesting. I've seen a lot of people commenting on social media, trying to explain exactly where this falls in the spectrum. And people are saying, well, not a nothing burger, but also not all that. Where does it fall on those extremes?

RICHARD LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think if it's true that a garbage dossier that even former FBI Director James Comey says is salacious and unverified in important respects was truly used to initiate an important element of this investigation, that's something important for the public to know. Now, we have factual disputes, right, because Democrats are saying, no, it's not true. It's just a dossier. No, it's not true. It wasn't revealed, the partisan funding behind that research.

So let's find out. And I think what's happened today in part, John, is the seal has been broken on information around this investigation, and now we'll see more. We'll see the McCabe interview notes. We might see the application itself. We certainly should see the Schiff report. And I think all that is good for the public.

[21:20:08] BERMAN: Go ahead, Kirsten.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Well, I just think even what you just, you know, this -- he said that certain part of it were salacious and unverified. BERMAN: Right.

POWERS: And that the president had reacted badly to it. So the facts that they sort of misrepresent that straight out of the gate is problematic. They leave out the fact that the "Washington Free Beacon" was of course was the initial funder. It's true they didn't fund the dossier, but they were funding Fusion GPS. And so when they're complaining about not all the information being given to the court, well then when they make their case, they're not giving all the information. And then I think I heard Chris Himes said with you earlier that Andrew McCabe actually didn't say what they say he's saying. So --

BERMAN: So Jim Himes and Eric Swalwell.

POWERS: Yes, yes, they do.

BERMAN: Then all Democrats say that he did not say that the dossier was the only reason they sought the warrant. Republicans are saying Devin Nunes on another network said, well, he didn't use those words, but essentially that's what he said. That's got summation.

LOWRY: He also said he'd be happy for the quotes to come out. So, let's see the interview.

BERMAN: The Democrat didn't (INAUDIBLE).

BASH: Can I just add one thing?


BASH: I talked to a Republican tonight who said that they couldn't divulge what the information was because it's classified but that there is other information that pre-dated this dossier, not what's in this memo, not this Papadopoulos meeting in the beginning of 2016, but something else that we don't know about. So even Republicans are acknowledging they have access to that Intel.

BERMAN: Go ahead Michael.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The other thing about the dossier, so here's the dossier. This is it. It's 17 memos, two of which relate to Carter Page, and they relate specifically to his meeting with this guy Sechin, who's the head of Rosneft, the state oil company, and the conversations about Page that are reported in the Steele dossier is that Page and Sechin talked about the relief of sanctions against Ukraine and Russia if Trump were to win. That's the dossier as it relates to Carter Page.

So if that's presented, if that's what's presented with respect to getting a warrant with respect to Carter Page, they're going to have to verify that, which they probably do because these are probably conversations that have been listened in on. To Dana's point, I don't think this is the first time the FBI is learning that Carter Page, a person they've been following since 2013 and who they have warned to stop essentially dealing with the Russians, and he goes over to Moscow and has a meeting that that wasn't known to the FBI or to the National Intelligence Agencies. So it's two memos specifically relating to sanctions relief if Trump is weigh (ph).

So all these salacious stuff, has nothing to do with Carter Page and the pursuit of a warrant on the FISA court, which is why this is really very disingenuous, this Nunes memo is very disingenuous with respect to how this may have been used before the FISA court to obtain a warrant.

BERMAN: Jim, you want to jump in?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. John, is it possible that you could have positions on two ends here? Can you say suggest that you believe that the Russian collusion investigation should precede? We trust Robert Mueller, let it run its course.

BERMAN: Trey Gowdy?

GAGLIANO: Absolutely. Can you also say that there are some troubling things that happened on the seventh floor in my beloved FBI that need to be investigated? I'm an army veteran. I understand even though I bristle at it sometimes that the commander-in-chief has to be a civilian. You can't have a military junta. And the same thing in federal law enforcement. We have to have rules. We have to be governed by Congress. We have to have oversight. You'll remember back when the torture memo was a big deal back under Senator Dianne Feinstein. Republicans bristled at this report that came out that was partisan. And now the Democrats are doing the same. We've heard this song. Let it play out. Let me say, I'm underwhelmed by this, but I'm

troubled by what happened at my agency.

BERMAN: If you're looking for --


BERMAN: If you're looking for political consistency, that train left the station a long time ago.

AXELROD: Yes. There are procedures, there is an inspector general in the Justice Department.

GAGLIANO: Absolutely.

AXELROD: These committees have faced these kinds of issues before and they've worked on a bipartisan basis. They've called witnesses. They've asked questions. It is the way this was approached that has made this so peculiar and frankly suspect. But --

ZELDIN: And indeed to that exact point, Christopher Wray, it has been reported, when this memo first surfaced as a possible to be released to the public issue, said please don't do it. I'll come before the committee. I'll testify, closed door, open door, provide answers to all the questions you have, and the committee said, no, thank you. We'd rather --


LOWRY: Many Republicans in fairness have a very fraught relationship with the DOJ and FBI because they've been stonewalled for months in their constant attempts to keep them from getting at this raw intelligence. And then you had this ridiculous story that releasing this memo would somehow compromise our national security, which seems absurd on the face of it. So, that's why there's been suspicion between those two sides.

[21:25:03] BERMAN: Can I just say --


LOWRY: And the idea that there's not partisanship on the two sides, by the way, the idea that Adam Schiff is just disinterested pursuer of the truth and has no political agenda is other way.


BERMAN: Can I say one thing (INAUDIBLE)? That the Wray's statement, the FBI official statement that came out saying that this shouldn't be released actually didn't talk about sources and the national security. What it said essentially was that the memo is inaccurate. The FBI was never approaching this, at least publicly, as the sky is going to fall in and sources and methods are all going to be revealed and compromised here. Were they by the way in your reading of this or any source you met (INAUDIBLE) Jim?

GAGLIANO: Well, in the 3.5 pages that I digested, the answer to that, John, is an unequivocal no. I didn't see -- now John the argument is, but you identified Steele as a cooperator, somebody that gave you information.

BERMAN: We identified Steele. We identified Steele in April of 2017. That was when out there --


GAGLIANO: That's what some people have argued, that by doing that, that is unprecedented. You should never admit, even if it's known, you should never admit that somebody else from you.

POWERS: Isn't also one of the problems though that it's very hard to respond to this without potentially revealing sources and methods? I mean, so, you know, it's so much about what hasn't been said, I think, that a lot of people are concerned about.

AXELROD: Which was, I mean (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: David, hang on one second.


BERMAN: I think they're telling me -- do we have time for one more question? OK. Dana Bash, to you, I just want to get this because we were talking as we came out of break here, you know, David Axelrod was pointing out it's inconsistent to say this reveals things that are horrible and gross acts and then say, you know what, Rod Rosenstein, you can say on the job right now. As we've been talking about, all these White House aides are coming out saying, no, no, he's fine, he's fine. The president has confidence in him. But as Rich Lowry was suggesting, it only takes, you know, one time or 10 minutes for the President to change his mind and go James Comey on him.

BASH: Right.

BERMAN: Is there concern that might happen?

BASH: Absolutely. Of course there's concern that might happen. Because, look, at the end of the day, let's be honest here, if the president were to wake up tomorrow morning and fire Rod Rosenstein, it is not because he read this memo and said, I'm worried about the institution of the FBI and that he really didn't do the job right to get this FISA warrant. It's not. We have reported that he has been calling his friends and his allies saying that his hope was that this was going to allow him to undermine -- or it would in and of itself undermine the Mueller investigation. Who is in charge of the Mueller investigation? Rod Rosenstein. If he were gone, things could change, and there's already talk about how that could change among people close to the president.

BERMAN: All right, guys. Thank you very, very much.

Much more to talk about tonight. We're going to be joined by a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee about why he thinks the Nunes memo is just fine.


[21:31:11] BERMAN: All right. More breaking news. Joining us tonight, Utah Republican Congressman Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. The ranking Democrat on your committee, Adam Schiff, spoke earlier today with Wolf Blitzer. This is part of what he had to say.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What it end up delivering is criticism of a single FISA application involving Carter Page and its renewals that cherry picks information that doesn't tell the reader the whole of the application and is, as the DOJ and FBI have said, deeply misleading and factually inaccurate. You could cherry-pick any search warrant application or FISA court application and do the same thing.


BERMAN: All right, Congressman Stewart, your response?

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes. It's just simply not true, and time will show that it's not true. We look forward to the Democratic response to this memo. We look forward to the FBIs response. I hope the FBI does respond. I hope that we can declassify and show more and more of this information, and when we do, just like a couple days ago, John, when you and I talked, we said let's let the memo be judged on its own merits. Let's let this memo and the Democratic response to be judged on its own merits because everything in this memo is accurate and true.

BERMAN: So one of the things that Democrats are saying is that this statement is misleading, that deputy director Andy McCabe testified before your committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISA court without the Steele dossier information. Is that what he said?

STEWART: Yes I've heard -- yes, I've heard people say that, and I'm telling you it is not true. Their accusations or their supposition that that's not what he said. I'm telling you it's not true. I was there for his testimony. I helped to question him. I asked him that specific question, and I can assure you to the response was, this FISA application would not have been submitted were it not for the dossier and the other supporting material, which was by the way --

BERMAN: Well hang on, hang on, the other support --


STEWART: -- a Yahoo News report which was another news report based on the dossier. Those were the two foundational elements --

BERMAN: Was there anything else?

STEWART: -- for the --

BERMAN: Were there anything else besides those two documents submitted to the FISA court?

STEWART: Not really.

BERMAN: Not really or not at all?

STEWART: That was --

BERMAN: Not really or not at all?

STEWART: Nothing. Well, look, I mean, there were other sentences. There were some other things, but there was no other evidence presented other than those two things.

BERMAN: Was the evidence about the past investigations of Carter Page, was that part of the submission?

STEWART: No. You know, I don't know if I can answer that. I'm going to go out on a limb, though, and say that, no, it was not.

BERMAN: All right. Then --

STEWART: And it wouldn't be.

BERMAN: OK. STEWART: And it wouldn't be. Here's the reason why. Here's the reason why.


STEWART: Because Carter Page had never been charged with a crime.

BERMAN: OK. But one thing that was included, which is more than just a couple other sentences apparently, according to the memo here, was that there was a counterintelligence investigation of George Papadopoulos, another Trump campaign adviser in July. So there are two parts to this. The first part, let's stay on the Carter Page discussion here. So there was clearly more evidence submitted than just the dossier and the Yahoo news article. There was also the fact that another Trump foreign policy campaign adviser was under investigation. That seems important.

STEWART: Hey, listen, you could say there were other people under investigation for other crimes that doesn't in any way reflect on this question about Carter Page. Whether he was under investigation or not, George Papadopoulos, the reality is he had absolutely nothing to do with Carter Page. They drew no lines between them at all.

BERMAN: That may be --


STEWART: So even if they were said about --

BERMAN: They were both Trump campaign foreign policy advisers, which maybe significant, yes?

[21:35:09] STEWART: Well, I suppose you could maybe draw that conclusion, but I'm telling I don't think in a court a lie you could. This person is under investigation. Therefore, we can investigate this person when there's no relation between them.

BERMAN: All right. The memo goes to great end to point out that the FISA court was never told that it was Clinton campaign funding and Democratic Party funding behind the dossier.


BERMAN: We've had Democrats say that it was pointed out that there were political connections to the funding. Do you agree with that?

STEWART: Yes, they do say that, and it shows their deception. It shows they were trying to hide the fact that Hillary Clinton paid for this. Look, they knew that.

BERMAN: Do you have evidence -- hang on one second.

STEWART: I'm going to say example, Hillary Clinton --

BERMAN: Hang on a second. Do you have evidence that they tried to hide it, or do you have evidence that they just omitted it? STEWART: Well, I'm saying the fact that they said that there was political person behind this clearly shows they were trying to obfuscate. They were trying to clear it.

BERMAN: How? How is that evidence of intent?

STEWART: Why would --

BERMAN: How is that evidence of intent?

STEWART: Because they didn't tell them. They knew that Hillary Clinton, instead of saying Hillary Clinton paid for this, the DNC paid for this, they just said, well, a political person paid for that. They clearly were trying to hide that fact.

BERMAN: Do you know -- look, and I think there is something that the public can discuss here, whether or not they should have been told. Why not tell them everything you know about this and submitting the application but do you know whether it's legally required that they do? I've looked at some of the case law here and it's murky on this. It actually isn't clear that when you're dealing with an informant, which is essentially what this is, that you need to say everything about the informant.

STEWART: Oh, I can promise you they had an obligation to do this, a legal and a moral and a logical obligation. Look, I've talked to prosecutors who have worked before the FISA courts, and they are shocked by the fact that they would eliminate something so obviously relevant to this. If you were a judge and you'd been presented with this, wouldn't you want to know that Hillary Clinton paid for it? Wouldn't you want to know that the DNC paid for that? Surely those judges wanted to know that.

BERMAN: Four judges all said that the warrant could go forward. And, again, not me, it's just a fact. I understand what you're saying. Congressman Stewart, thank you very much for being with us. Appreciate it.

STEWART: Thank you, John. OK. Good night.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up, some Republicans and especially some certainly cable news hosts presented this memo really in apocalyptic terms before it came promising it would be bigger than Watergate. Did it live up to that hype? James Gagliano already says no, we'll ask the rest of the panel next.


[21:40:50] BERMAN: So if you've been paying attention to all the drama over this memo before it even came out today, you know there are some Republicans and some cable hosts who were not exactly subtle when they described its supposed contents and the potential impact. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) REP. STEVE KING, (R) IOWA: This is bigger than Watergate. That's why Watergate is like stealing a Snickers bar from a candy store, a drugstore in comparison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think about is this happening in America, or is this the KGN? That's how alarming it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is earth-shaking and it does go deeper than Watergate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will not end just with firings. I believe there are people who will go to jail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our government spying on political adversaries. This is federal law enforcement officials obstructing justice.

KING: If this isn't Watergate on steroids and every single person involved not investigated and not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, we have shredded our constitution.


BERMAN: Watergate on steroids and Snickers, apparently.

I'm back now with the panel. You know, David Axelrod, politically speaking, are these folks well served now by that pre game hyperbole?

AXELROD: I don't think they care particularly because I think the goal is to politicize the entire discussion so that it looks like a political tug-of-war and not a legitimate investigation.

I think that there is an attempt to try and make it look as if this is just politics as usual and not a probe into potential criminal activity or collusion or obstruction of justice.

BERMAN: The means is the end in this case. You know, like it's great in the politics is the end.

BASH: I don't know. I think that they are wrapping the farce of this being an actual national security and sort of institutional memo instead of a political document up into the politics that they're trying to push. I mean, you're right that they don't really care about the ramifications because the people who they're trying to reach, I think at their core, are going to believe what they're saying.

But I do think that this whole exercise by getting it out through the House intelligence committee is aimed at trying to give it credence and credibility. And at the end of the day it isn't, and it doesn't have credibility.

LOWRY: Except for the people who they're talking to.

BERMAN: Kirsten? POWERS: Well, the thing is based on some of the people I've talked to today who are Trump supporters, who are also, I mean, professionals in Washington, they actually think it is a bombshell report. They actually believe what they believed before. They say that President Obama weaponize the FBI. This is evidence of this, and I've, you know, gone back and forth on different things.

And so, I think that, to a certain extent, maybe it's not as bad as Watergate, but they definitely think that this, you know, rises to the level of a major scandal and really proves things that I just -- I don't think it proves.

AXELROD: We've read that. He -- the President was consulting Sean Hannity on what he should do.

BASH: Sean Hannity is the one who --


AXELROD: He overruled his own FBI director, director of National Intelligence and the Justice Department and took the advice of Director Hannity on this. So, you know, I mean I think that they are pushing a narrative to kind of -- to polarize this debate and set the terms of how they're going to deal with the Mueller investigation going forward.

BASH: Can I just -- go ahead.

LOWRY: Devin Nunes and those other Republicans on the committee for months have been sincerely and genuinely alarmed about this information. I think they're quite sincere. And then a point just from 30,000 feet, it is not unusual, and in fact it's the norm. When you have an investigation into the President of the United States, it becomes heavily politicized with each side seeing it totally differently and folks seeing on different things.

In the 1990s, Ken Starr started his investigations of Bill Clinton, a well respected legal professional. He ended them of sex obsessed perv according to the Clinton defenders.

BERMAN: Can I ask you guys afterwards, you know, on the question of worse than Watergate and makes it look like Snickers bars, just yes or no?

[21:45:06] LOWRY: It did not do this memo any favor that the allies of the President were out there making it sound like it was going to be a combination of Watergate and the Lindbergh baby Kit Kat, right. It's just that it was never going to be able to live up to that bill. I still think it's important, and it's starting a public important public debate. And let's get more information rather than less.

BERMAN: Sorry, Dana, I cut you off.

BASH: No, no, I was just going to say --

LOWRY: And let's get Snickers bars. BASH: There's a lot of free advertising going on here tonight. You are so right. I mean, there is no question that when you start to look into anything that is even remotely political, people on both sides, even on the most bipartisan of committees go to their corners. Having said that, this is an area where if the goal was, as this memo and as all of the Republicans who have come on have said, to really get to an important question of the FBI and the DOJ and whether they are appropriately using the tools that they have to infringe on American civil liberties, if they're doing it well and they're doing it right, then the fact that it is so partisan is such a shame.

And if they should have -- I mean they should have worked harder on both sides.

BERMAN: Michael Zeldin.

ZELDIN: There are a couple things I want to remark on. To that last point, we talked about this yesterday, I think, that they just had a reauthorization hearing on FISA, on the most controversial part of it, the warrant less acquisition of information. Some wanted there to be a warrant requirement. The Democrats and the libertarians, most of the Republicans didn't. And they all vouched for the efficacy of this court, and the judges on this court, and the process before this court.

So it's sort of ironic at this point to say, well, well, well, now that doesn't apply. If they really had serious concerns, if they were sincerely interested in addressing problems on the court, they had ample opportunity to do it in that hearing. And they had ample opportunity to do it in oversight hearings which they did not undertake.

BERMAN: Quick word from Jim.

GAGLIANO: OK. So just a couple quick fun facts about FISA's is this, number one, they almost never don't get approved. They always get through. And to put this into context and perspective in the year of 2016, President Obama's last year in office, it was the highest number of FISAs that were sent back, meaning to be modified or rejected.

Now, we can certainly argue about the pieces of this and whether or not that information about the opposition research being the basis, the genesis for this should have been disclosed for the judge. I say, heck, yes, it should have been. Other people could -- Michael will say it's immaterial.

BERMAN: All right. Taking a quick break, we'll be back to discuss what Republican Senator John McCain had to say about today's developments. Stick around.


[21:51:34] BERMAN: Senator John McCain of Arizona weighed in on the memo in his statement frankly stating, the latest attacks against the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interest, he says, no parties, no presidents, only Putin's. He added, the American people deserve to know all the facts surrounding Russia's ongoing effort to subvert our democracy which is why Special Counsel Mueller's investigation must proceed unimpeded. McCain concluded with this, our nation's elected officials, including the President, must stop looking at this investigation through the lens of politics and manufacturing political side shows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin's job for him.

You know, back now with our panel. Interesting words from John McCain. And you could see Republican, even like Speaker Ryan, who let these all happen and approved of it.

And by the way, start to realize by the anti we had distinguished between this memo and the Mueller investigation.

AXELROD: Yes. And I just wanted to comment on something. In this context that Rich said before, you were absolutely right. There was a campaign against the special counsel during the Clint -- to color that investigation.

What's different here is the attack is the attack on the FBI, the attack on the whole Department of Justice, the overruling of his own appointees, the estrangement of other Republicans over this. There is -- This is an assault on the entire institution of law enforcement intelligence, and there are ancillary impacts of that, they're really, really negative.

BERMAN: Rich, quick statement?

LOWRY: I don't see it as an attack on the entirety of law enforcement. I think there are four or five officials that they think are biased that mishandled both the Clinton e-mail case and this. And they're focused on that.

But, look, I agree with the end of McCain's statement. He should not fire Rod Rosenstein. He should not try to fire Bob Mueller. I believe what enrages the President, is he thinks he is genuinely innocent and might be right and thinks it's a witch hunt. And his instincts are so naturally combative. He wants to lash out the way he did with Comey. And he got a longer investigation and a bigger mess. That would happen times two if he --

BERMAN: I want to take one last look at a little bit of the timing here which is so interesting. And every once in a while you will hear this from Clinton supporters who are having this big argument about whether or not the FBI was out to get -- or a few officials, right, were out to get Donald Trump prior to the election. But then Clinton people say, "Well, wait a second, this FISA warrant was in October and no one heard anything about it." What we did hear about, Dana, was James Comey reopening the e-mail investigation into Hillary Clinton.

BASH: That's a very good point. I mean, again, when you look at the Republicans' memo that they put out today, the investigation was prompted in July of 2016, before the conventions. And we did not know about this at all until after the election. We didn't know officially, formally that this investigation was going on until James Comey, when he was FBI director, publically testified to it. So, you're exactly right.

ZELDIN: I'm sorry go on. I thought you finished. Please go ahead.

BASH: Please.

BERMAN: Michael, go.

ZELDIN: If the effort here with respect to this memo was to sully in some way Mueller, I think they swung and missed. I think this has got nothing really to do with the integrity of the Mueller investigation. Maybe there's something to do with the way FISA warrants are proceeded on in the FISA court and maybe they'll have a conversation about that. But I think Mueller walks away from this free and clear of any taint.

[21:55:19] BERMAN: 30 seconds left for Kirsten and James.

POWERS: Oh, I was going to say, but I think their argument is what that this -- it's a poisonous fruit that started the entire investigation. So, it does still sort of inadvertently. But I can't say this all in 30 seconds. But, basically, I just think a lot of the complaints aren't really valid, including the one about Yahoo being used. I mean, we saw a Clinton investigation be opened over a Clinton cash book written by a Breitbart reporter. So, that isn't actually that unusual in representing.

BERMAN: If they're saying the dossier was poisoned for the prominens, Papadapalous was, you know, available to be eaten in the fruit table low court.


BERMAN: Fifteen seconds.

GAGLIANO: And remember what predicated the Clinton investigation being public was a fact it started in the Benghazi select committee hearings. The investigation into the Trump campaign, that didn't start, it didn't get generated in Congress. It was an FBI investigation that got opened, a national security investigation and proceed the way it should have. That was the distinction.

BERMAN: All right guys, thank you all very much. A quick reminder, watch the "Axe Files" this weekend. David's guest Whoopi Goldberg tomorrow night, 7:00 eastern time. We'll be right back.