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Trump Set to Defy FBI and DOJ by Approving Memo Release; FBI Still Has Grave Concerns About GOP Memo; Paychecks Rose at Fastest Pace in Years; Father Of Survivor Tries To Tackle Disgraced Doctor In Court; Trump Slams FBI, DOJ Leaders Ahead Of Memo Release. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired February 2, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:03] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good Friday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. At any moment the president could green light the release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging FBI abuses.

This despite multiple warnings from his own top law enforcement officials at the FBI and the Department of Justice. Now remember, these are Republican officials that he, the president, appointed. But instead of heeding their recommendations he is attacking them.

This morning again, here's what the president writes, quote, "The top leadership and investigators of the FBI and Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans. Something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank and file are great people."

So the big question this morning, will Wray and Rosenstein, clearly the people the president is referring to, will they survive this? Sources tell CNN the top White House aides are worried that FBI director Christopher Wray may quit if the White House decides to release this memo. The FBI still has, quote, "grave concerns" about its accuracy.

Still, the president has told some of those closest to him, he sees this memo as a way to discredit the Russia investigation.

Let's get straight to Abby Phillip, she's our reporter at the White House.

And Abby, you're the one who broke that significant news yesterday morning. What are you hearing from the White House this morning?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Poppy. Today is a big day where we are looking to see what exactly President Trump sends over his approval of this controversial Republican memo. We're told it could happen as soon as today. But what he's going to do apparently is kick it back to the House, sending it back to the House Intelligence Committee, and letting them decide how and when the memo is actually disseminated to the public.

Now this could be an effort by the White House and by the president to really push off the responsibility for this memo onto the House. They've been saying for the last couple of days that it's all a House driven process, and the White House is just playing its role. But we are also learning over the last couple of days that the president, according to "The Washington Post" had already made up his mind about whether he wanted this memo to be released even before he had read it.

We know that he read it finally on Wednesday after his State of the Union address, and the day before that, right after he delivered the speech, he said 100 percent he thought the memo was going to be released. Clearly the president had made up his mind before even seeing it.

And all this sets him up for another clash with his FBI director, this time a person he handpicked, Christopher Wray. Sources are telling CNN that Christopher Wray has told -- made it very clear to people at the White House that this might be a bridge too far, that he is unhappy with the fact that the White House seems to have disregarded his advice on this memo.

The FBI continues to say that no matter what redactions may or may not happen to this memo, it's not going to alleviate their concerns that there are some factual inaccuracies there. So how the White House deals with that and what happens with Christopher Wray is all for us to wait to see today.

Also the fate of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is also something we are looking at today. Sources told "The Washington Post" and CNN that the president has been very upset with Rosenstein. He's the man who oversees the Mueller probe and that this memo could very well have a lot to say about his role in approving the FISA application for surveillance on the Trump campaign.

So a lot to look at here today, Poppy. We'll keep you posted.

HARLOW: To say the least. Abby Phillip, don't go anywhere. We need you there at the White House. Thank you very much.

So this morning the FBI still is saying according to some reporting from our Jessica Schneider that it has grave concerns about this memo. They're also facing fresh attacks from the president. Shimon Prokupecz, from our Justice team, is in Washington with more.

And look, the FBI members have seen this. Whether or not there have been redactions is totally unclear. But they're still concerned about the accuracy here.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. Absolutely. That is the main issue here. The FBI does not want this released at all. They do not want information contained in classified reports that have been given to the Congress, to Devin Nunes at his request. They have been fighting that release now since the beginning, that this was talked about and that Nunes had said he was going to release this. 2

The issue continues to be that there are major inaccuracies in these memos. The FBI, the FBI director said so publicly. He went to the White House with Rod Rosenstein who really is becoming the center of this and the focus. As much as the FBI is, I think it's important to keep in mind that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who's overseeing the Russia investigation, is very much becoming the focus of this and in some ways perhaps could be the reason why this memo is being released, so that he can be discredited along with the Russia investigation, Poppy.

The FBI's position of redactions or no redactions is not going to change. They do not want this released.

[09:05:08] HARLOW: Shimon, also, you know, the reporting we have on Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI, his mindset right now is that he is willing, at least considering, you know, quitting if this memo is released. What are you hearing?

PROKUPECZ: Yes. So there's -- you know, there's a lot of this talk of him raising hell. And this is all comes from concerns at the White House. People at the FBI are not really concerned about their FBI director quitting right now. They've been through a pretty tumultuous time. They hope that Chris Wray doesn't quit. They do not expect him to quit, as much as the White House may be concerned about this. He right now has given no indication that he wants to quit.

I will say he is getting a lot of support, including from the former FBI director James Comey who tweeted last night, and let me go ahead and read that for you, says that, "All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart, American history shows in the long run weasels and liars never hold the field so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy."

So Christopher Wray and the FBI continue to get a lot of support, certainly from the former FBI director and the FBI's association which also tweeted yesterday and sent out a note in support, and the FBI agents, the men and women in the FBI are thrilled about what Christopher Wray has done here.

HARLOW: Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate the reporting, thank you.

Joining me now, Mike Rogers, CNN national security commentator. He's also the former Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. And our CNN legal analyst, Laura Coates.

Nice to have you both here. And Chairman Rogers, to you first. Just looking at the president's own words that we read a moment ago this morning attacking the head of the FBI and the Justice Department of justice saying they politicized this to hurt Republicans, to help Democrats. I mean, these are two Republicans that the president himself appointed. It's a very direct attack. What happens to them? What happens to Rosenstein? What happens to Wray?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know what happens to Rosenstein. But he's -- I can say that Wray -- this whole notion that Wray should resign over a disagreement with the president even if it doesn't come out the way he wants it, I think he shouldn't do that. The bureau needs consistency. The men and women are getting up every day and fighting crime and catching spies, and you know, just the cyber criminals and the whole lot.

HARLOW: Right.

ROGERS: They deserve to have some stability at the top. And I think the director -- Director Wray can provide that. So I hope we even get out of this talk about him thinking about quitting or not quitting. Unless he's told to do something illegal, that's a different standard.

HARLOW: Right.

ROGERS: But I think listen, we are in a prolonged fight here, pal, so let's -- stick to your guns, take your position. If you don't win today, get up tomorrow and make sure the bureau is the best organization ever.

HARLOW: And I should note to our viewers who might not know this, I mean, when Comey was fired last year as the head of the FBI, you were interviewed as a possible replacement. So if you were in Wray's shoes, what would you be doing right now?

ROGERS: Well, I'd be doing exactly what he's doing. You've got to push back, you've got to make your case. I would press Congress to say, before you release it, you should at least have the courtesy to have the FBI and the people who are worried about its contents being exposed in the public have their court in front of the Intelligence Committee.

HARLOW: Right.

ROGERS: I'd do the same in the Senate. I would make that case. If he loses, however, and this is exactly what I was saying, you don't just say, I'm going to take my toys and go home. You say --


ROGERS: Listen, if that one didn't come out I've got a lot of other big issues to fight for and I'm going to continue to stand up for the men and women of the FBI. I think that will be the right position for him.

HARLOW: Laura, to you legally, Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee who's on the program next hour with us, she wrote that she thinks that if this memo is released by the White House that the Department of Justice and the FBI should take legal action against the White House to prevent irreparable harm.

Now I'm going to ask her what she means. She's an attorney as well. But I mean, is there any legal recourse here for those departments against the White House?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know what the legal recourse would be for them to do just that other than to say that you're looking for injunctive relief for national security interest.

HARLOW: Right. COATES: And of course both the Supreme Court and many other courts

who are Article 3 judges are all about making sure you have this balancing act, Poppy. The idea we're always balancing our individual rights and access to freedoms against national security interests. And so if that pendulum swings in favor of national security, and of course, the court should say that this should not be released.

However, it needs not get to that. So I think that reasonable minds could agree prior to having this be in a court of law that there are national security concerns about undermining the major investigative arm of the Department of Justice for what seems to be a pre-textual reason based on the politicization of this investigation.

[09:10:01] HARLOW: Yes -- no, I was just going to ask you on that, too. Just looping into all of that, Laura, is it problematic that we still don't -- I mean, problematic for these reasons that we still don't know whether Nunes or his team worked with the -- we don't know if Nunes' team worked at the White House on this at all because he wouldn't clearly answer those questions in his committee.

COATES: It's extraordinarily problematic that you're going to have bald assertions allegedly including this Nunes memo without substantiation, without access to the evidence underlying the claims, without the opportunity for a competing interpretation to be out in the public eye for a wink and a nod to be held to be sufficient for the American people to undermine the FBI's otherwise integrity-based productions and investigations.

But here's the other thing. The irony of this, Poppy, is, if this Nunes memo, if we believe it to be, saying that, look, you've got a FISA memo or a FISA warrant that was issued without substantial information to support it, not enough evidence. You have the FISA court rubber stamping and saying listen, I believe you whatever you say, FBI, with a wink and a nod, isn't that precisely what Nunes is asking people to do? No substantiation, no evidence, nothing else, and just wink and a nod, believe me. If you knew what I knew, you'd go ahead and have this happen. It's unbelievable.

HARLOW: I have 30 seconds. Chairman Rogers, just finally to you. The FBI this morning still saying according to reporting from our Jessica Schneider it has grave concerns about the accuracy of the memo. If this is released, what does it say about the president's lack of faith and trust in the institution itself when it comes to the president with other major national security issues, terrorism concerns, et cetera? Does this change the whole dynamic, the whole balance?

ROGERS: Well, it certainly turns it upside down. And, you know, the committee of which this came out of is designed to be non-partisan or at least bipartisan. It is national security, the most sensitive things that our government does.

HARLOW: Right.

ROGERS: And it's really needed for the oversight purposes. And what they've done in all of this is bring -- I think they've reduced the credibility of this committee to do its job, number one. And it certainly raises questions about allowing the men and women to do their job in the FBI in a way they think they need to do it.

HARLOW: Look, you're echoing comments from Democratic Senator Joe Manchin to Chris Cuomo last night saying essentially the same thing. And you're the Republican, you used to chair this committee.

We appreciate having you both. Thank you.

So we have breaking news on the economy this morning. 200,000 jobs added last month. That's a big number. The bigger headline, though, is that paychecks, wage growth is way up. And it's the fastest pace we've seen in years.

Alison Kosik is here to break it down.

This is, you know, bottom line, a good news economy story in the Trump economy.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It really is. I mean, if you're somebody who is working in this American economy, you want your wages to go higher. So yes, we saw wages increase at the fastest pace we've seen since the recession, since eight years ago. Technically going from 2.5 percent growth to 2.9 percent growth.

This is a strong jobs report. 200,000 jobs created in January. That's a strong start to 2018 and an improvement since December. Unemployment holding steady at 4.1 percent. That's a 17-year low as well.

Wall Street, though, not viewing this report as good. Wall Street kind of seeing this as a good news/bad news situation because the way Wall Street sees it as, the economy is heeding up, as we see wages move up as well. And what that will do is cause the Fed possibly to be more aggressive in raising interest rates. So what that does, raising interest rates, it kind of taps the brakes on the economy because the Fed doesn't want to have runaway inflation.

So it raises interest rates to kind of get ahold of things so prices don't spike, and so those borrowing rates don't spike either. So we're seeing the economy, not just the market, but we're seeing the economy kind of change. We've kind of been lulled into this sense of security over the past year. Things are changing now -- Poppy.

HARLOW: They are. It's great to see that wage growth for so many folks.

KOSIK: Yes. Absolutely.

HARLOW: Thank you. We appreciate it, Alison.

So if the president and his team are all about transparency, we've heard it a lot from the White House this week. What about all that information the White House won't release? Tax returns anyone? Next.


HARLOW: We have breaking news in the trial of disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, convicted of sexually assaulting hundreds of women. Moments ago, one of the fathers of one of the survivors, tried to tackle Nassar in the courtroom.

Our Jean Casarez is following all the developments. Jean, what happened?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it just happened out of the blue and the court is in a momentary recess right now. But this is the father of three young women that were assaulted by Larry Nassar. We want to show you what happened just minutes ago. He asked for time alone with Nassar. The judge said no. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To grant me 5 minutes in a locked room with this demon. Would you do that?

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: That is not how our --



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you give me 1 minute?

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: You know that I can't do that. That's not how our legal system --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm going to have to --



CASAREZ: All right. So, Nassar was cleared from the room. The father was taken by sheriff's deputies and escorted out. Once again, this is the father of three young women that were assaulted by Larry Nassar. It shows you the depth of the emotions. And John and Poppy, there have been sisters that have been assaulted, but I've never in the course of this proceeding seen three daughters assaulted by Larry Nassar.

HARLOW: Jean Casarez, thank you so much for that reporting. Update us as you get more information. Again, this is the third sentencing phase of these cases against Nassar.

[09:20:01] All right. So, this morning we are waiting for President Trump to very likely approve the release of a controversial Republican memo alleging FBI surveillance abuses.

With me now is Republican Representative Jody Hice, a member of the House Oversight Committee. He is at the Republican retreat in West Virginia. It's nice to have you. Thanks for being here, sir.

REPRESENTATIVE JODY HICE (R-GA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It's my privilege. Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: So, let me get your response to what the president wrote this morning because he directly attacked the head of the Justice Department and the FBI. He writes, "The top leadership and investigators at the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of the Democrats against Republicans, something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank and file are great people."

This is a very clear attack on two Republicans he appointed to lead the FBI and DOJ, Christopher Wray, Rod Rosenstein. Do you agree with the president on this?

HICE: He brings up the whole issue of what this is all about. Was the FBI and the Department of Justice involved in using their power as weapons to come against a political opponent. The question is one that we've got to have answers to. This is an issue of transparency --

HARLOW: Congressman, let me stop you there. He's not asking that question. He's directly saying that. He's saying these men have politicized this investigation. He's attacking both of them. Do you agree with him? Is he right? Can you hear me, Congressman?

OK. We're going to take a break. The congressman hopefully will join us on the other side.



HARLOW: Republican Congressman Jody Hice is back with me. My apologies, sir, for the technical difficulty. I'm glad we got you back. Let me just re-ask you that last question. This morning the president directly attacking the Republican heads of the FBI and DOJ. He said they've politicized this investigative process to favor Republicans over Democrats. Is the president right?

HICE: We'll have to wait and see. I mean, you're going to make that determination when the memo comes out. I've made that determination personally. But the broader issue, whether Democrat or Republican, we cannot tolerate in this country agencies like the FBI and the Department of Justice coming after American citizens and using their power to do so. That is the issue. It's about the Fourth Amendment which we've got to protect. I think you will make that assessment when the memo comes out.

HARLOW: So, a FISA court makes that assessment and this is all about what information was given to the FISA court to make that assessment and what the judge was told. But let me get you on this. A source tells us at CNN very close to the FBI's thinking on this that even now, even this morning, they still have what they call, quote, "grave concerns" about the accuracy of this memo, and that is why they don't want it out. Does that give you pause at least in supporting the release of this memo, a memo you've seen?

HICE: No. Listen, I've read the memo. It is well documented. I can understand why they would have grave concerns because of content. To be very honest with you, as an American citizen, I have grave concerns. I have grave concerns about what the FBI has done, what the Department of Justice has done and the fact that this could happen to anyone is intolerable for this to go on in the United States. It needs to be transparent and people of America need to see it.

HARLOW: You just said you understand why the FBI has grave concerns.

HICE: Because of the content therein. I think --

HARLOW: You don't think there are any national security concerns, any sources of methods concerns, you don't think that's why the FBI says they have grave concerns this morning?

HICE: No, not at all.

HARLOW: What do you think it is?

HICE: I think it's the content therein. Most of the people at the FBI are great people, doing a wonderful job but there are bad apples and it's going to expose it.

HARLOW: Are you saying, sir, without releasing details on the memo which I know you can't, are you saying that you think the content of the memo makes the leadership at the FBI and DOJ look bad?

HICE: Well, there's no question it makes the department look bad. It does name some bad apples, but this is a type of thing that transparency is made of. We cannot tolerate this type of thing in America of all places. And for all of our sakes, whether Republican or Democrat, we need to rally around this. Let's get to the truth of it and even another question, has this happened in the past or is this an isolated incident.

HARLOW: Congressman, we know from our reporting that the president is telling those closest to him in his inner circle that he thinks this memo will help him by discrediting the Russia investigation. Are you comfortable with the president wanting to release this memo in any part because of how it paints him or things for him?

HICE: There again, I think that question is going to be most resolved and answered when you, yourself, read the memo. The president can say whatever he wants to say.

HARLOW: No, it's not, Congressman. I'm asking you as a member of Congress who has read the memo, we know from our reporting that part of the reason the president wants this memo out is because he thinks it looks good for him, he thinks it helps discredit the Russia investigation. Is that something you're comfortable with?

HICE: There's no question those issues are in the memo.

HARLOW: That's not what I'm asking you. I'm asking you are you -- please answer the question.