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Trump Set to Defy FBI & DOJ By Approving Memo Release; Interview With Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 2, 2018 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: This is a new tweet. Because they are the ones politicizing this investigative process, rather than the partisan politicians in Congress who are doing so.

[07:00:12] The president is set to approve the release of that controversial GOP memo alleging surveillance abuses despite the strong objections from the FBI and the Justice Department. Sources tell CNN that President Trump wants the memo to discredit the Russia investigation.

BERMAN: A new report in the "Washington Post" says President Trump was convinced that the memo needed to go public even before he read it for the first time, which happened just two days ago.

A source tells CNN the FBI still has grave concerns, grave concerns about this memo being released. White House aides are now worried that the new FBI director, Christopher Wray, could resign over this. And the even bigger question might be what it means for the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. Could this be used as a justification to fire him?

We have this all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN Abby Phillip, live at the White House. Good morning, Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, on the day we are expected to see perhaps this memo, the president is already tweeting about it. And really not backing down of his criticism of his own FBI and DOJ leadership.

He wrote in this tweet just a few minutes ago, "The top leadership and investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigation 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. Now, that last line echoes something we heard from the president yesterday. But clearly, he and his own FBI leadership are at odds over this memo.


PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump expected to ignore the warnings of his FBI chief and Justice Department officials, approving the release of the GOP memo alleging FBI surveillance abuses today.

CNN has learned that President Trump has told friends in recent phone conversations that the memo may help him discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. House Speaker Paul Ryan insisting otherwise.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-MI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The more transparency the better. This memo is not an indictment of the FBI, of the Department of Justice. It does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general.

PHILLIP: "The Washington Post" reporting that Mr. Trump never had any hesitation about releasing the memo and made the decision before even reading the document on Wednesday after two conservative congressmen brought the memo to his attention just two weeks ago.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I have concerns about the process, about representations that may be made in court pleadings.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I think it's up to the American people to judge for themselves.

PHILLIP: "The Post" also reporting that President Trump thinks releasing the memo will help him build a public argument against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's handling of the case.

CNN has reported that President Trump has recently vented about wanting to fire Rosenstein. A senior administration official tells CNN the memo is likely to be returned to Congress today with no redactions. But the House Intelligence Committee may still make changes to accommodate intelligence concerns before releasing the memo to the public.

Despite this, a source familiar with the FBI's stance says the bureau continues to have grave concerns, remarking that edits will not change the overall false narrative of the memo.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: This memo is of such low quality that when it is out there, people will very rapidly see that this is just the latest installment of second-rate efforts to -- to impugn the FBI.

PHILLIP: CNN has learned the top White House aides are worried that FBI Director Christopher Wray could quit in protest if the memo is released. Others downplaying the memo's significance, wondering if it is worth the showdown between the president and his hand-picked FBI chief.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you worried the FBI director may quit over this decision?

PHILLIP: Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by the president last May, tweeting that he appreciates the FBI speaking up, noting "American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field so long as good people stand up."


PHILLIP: Now, John and Alisyn, despite what Republican leaders say about this memo having nothing to do with Mueller, the president's own tweet seemed to imply that he believes that this has to do with this so-called dossier that he's been talking about for many, many months.

And despite all of this swirling around him, the president plans to do a little bit of travel nearby to Virginia. And then he's going to go off to Mar-a-Lago in Florida as -- as Washington still reels from the controversy surrounding this memo.

CAMEROTA: OK, Abby, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

Joining us now is CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.

BERMAN: Also star of late night, we should add also.


CAMEROTA: What were you on?

HABERMAN: Seth Meyers.

CAMEROTA: Can't wait to watch it. OK, but enough of the lollygagging.

HABERMAN: Let's move along.

CAMEROTA: Let's get on. So what's your reporting about this memo and why it's so important to the White House and what they hope to gain?

HABERMAN: So it's funny. It's not actually that important to the White House. It is important to the president and some members of Congress and then some of the president's outside advisers.

There is a divide internally in the White House, both about whether this should be put out in the first place, whether this should be such a focus of interest for them and something they spent days now on. Remember the State of the Union? That feels like it was days ago. It's totally obscured by this talk about the memo.

The president is focused on it, although I'm told by a couple of advisers that he actually is not, you know, fuming about it constantly in private. But he has made clear what he wants. He wants it out. He had his opinion formed, basically, by her watching cable segments about what it might say.

And hearing from, you know, people in Congress, hearing from friends who he talks to late at night. That this is actually really crucial. This needs to get out. People who have been briefed on it have told me that it's not going to show, you know, some great mystery. It is not going to be the thing that cracks the code on proving...

CAMEROTA: It might be underwhelming.

HABERMAN: Right. I mean, this is essentially, remember, this is a politically based memo. And again, I'm not saying that because it's Republicans. I would say the same thing of Adam Schiff's memos also, politically motivated. But this is essentially talking points about underlying data that I think Devin Nunes has not seen. BERMAN: He hasn't. Trey Gowdy is the one Republican to see it. Adam

Schiff. What do you make of how the president is framing this this morning? Because the statement seems to be the first salvo will be a daylong effort to paint this as, look, it's the FBI and the Justice Department that's politicized, not Republican Devin Nunes and the committee in main.

HABERMAN: Sure. But I mean, I think this is what we've seen him do repeatedly. And I don't think it's a surprise. It is always constantly that he's being accused of. He turns around, and he accuses somebody else of doing it, and turns the spotlight on to them. This is also -- I think it's really important to note that this is the latest in what we have seen from Donald Trump over many years of sort of the hidden hand conspiracy that something is going on. So there's something you're not seeing that they don't want you to know. He stoked interest in it, and that keeps it going.

This is pitting him against his own appointees at the Justice Department and at the FBI. And that's not insignificant. So he talks about this in politicized terms. It's always what we saw with that tweet. You know, they are favoring Democrats against Republicans. Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, is a lifelong Republican.

BERMAN: And a Trump appointee.

HABERMAN: And a Trump appointee. Chris Wray, Republican, Trump appointee. This should not be a surprise.

CAMEROTA: Is there any reporting that you have that the president could try to use this to get rid of Rod Rosenstein? This memo would be the predicate?

HABERMAN: Theoretically, he could. My understanding is that's not something he's agitating that hard about in private. He has had this cyclical anger at Rod Rosenstein. And it usually starts with Sessions, and then it moves on to Rosenstein.

And this is, I think, just the latest chapter in it. Several people who are in contact with the president have told me that they made it very clear to him, you know, firing Rosenstein would be a disaster.

BERMAN: What's your latest reporting on the mind-set of the president and his attorneys on whether he will testify to Robert Mueller? Because it seems to me this is all part and parcel of the same thing here. If the Mueller investigation is tainted from the start, the look at this memo. It shows it's tainted. Why should I sit down?

HABERMAN: Well, A, I think you're making a very good point. B, I think if you look at what was said to us in the White House shortly before he went to Davos and we were all in John Kelly's office. It sounded as if he was saying, "I can't wait to go do this. I'm looking forward to it." And the important caveat was, you know, "Depending on what my lawyers say and all of that."

So I think that you are seeing a dual strategy, which is that he publicly talks about, yes, yes, he's not dissing Mueller at all. He's very eager to, you know, show that he has nothing to hide. In reality, most of his lawyers believe that this would not be a good idea and are trying to limit the scope as much as possible, if not get it off entirely.

CAMEROTA: Intel House Chairman Devin Nunes has been very coy about whether or not there was any coordination with the White House in terms of releasing this memo. He says peculiar things like, "No, not that I know of."

BERMAN: "I would just answer, as far as I know, no."

CAMEROTA: Do you have any reporting that Devin Nunes has been coordinating with the White House?

HABERMAN: Nothing new from what I have said previously, which is that "I had no specific knowledge of anything." It is always worth remembering that there was that moment with Devin Nunes and the report of unmasking that he had to go rush and brief the president on, which he had just been told by other administration officials about. And there was some assumption that there was a pipeline there.

CAMEROTA: That's what makes all this suspicious. Because if he's in contact with other White House aides and he's trying to get a message without fingerprints on it, somehow, to the president, then he doesn't know if his staff is coordinating or if he's coordinating with White House staffers? It makes it seem sort of...

HABERMAN: The same way that we often say to White House staff when they say, "I don't know. I can ask and get back to you." He could ask and get back to us.

BERMAN: It's an easy -- it's an easy question to answer. Let me read to you "The Washington Post" editorial board today. Competing paper, I know. Obviously, they have their own political view on this. But it does raise a question that a lot of people are asking now, which is about whither Paul Ryan?

They say, "Mr. Ryan bears full responsibility for the deterioration of congressional oversight of intelligence operation, once a bipartisan responsibility that lawmakers treated soberly, as they do -- still do in the Senate." Yada, yada, yada. Goes on to attack Devin Nunes here.

The bottom line here, though, is "The Post" just pointing out this is only happening because Paul Ryan is letting it happen. Which is true.

[07:10:34] HABERMAN: Well, it is true. And I think it is also important to remember that any speaker's control over the caucus at this point, and this is true prior to Paul Ryan, on the Republican side, has not been great.

But it is true that what -- you are seeing Ryan, I think, doing some kind of a careful high-wire act in his public commentary. What you are not seeing is him full-throatedly saying this is potentially dangerous. Intelligence community officials are urging us not to go through with this. They see a danger in it. And that is usually, in the past, where you have seen attention paid

as to what the top appointees are saying at Justice, at the FBI. There is a weird moment right now where you have this sort of -- it's not the entire Republican Party, obviously, but segments of the Republican Party and the president, the leader of the party, attacking the FBI. It is -- and attacking things like the FISA process. I just feel like we have gone a bit through the looking glass here.

CAMEROTA: That's an understatement. But also, I mean, the idea that Paul Ryan is doing some sort of calculation, that he doesn't want to alienate Trump's base. The Trump base doesn't like Paul Ryan.

HABERMAN: I don't think it's just -- I don't think it's alienating the Trump base. I think it is keeping members of his caucus in line. And some of it is about their base. A lot of it is also making sure that, you know, he -- every time he pushes in a certain direction, there's a pull in this way. And And I think he is trying to choose his moments. And he does not seem to think this is one.

BERMAN: And one of the big questions today is, you know, whither Christopher Wray. The FBI says "whither Paul Ryan." I'm using that phrase a lot.

CAMEROTA: Not withering.

BERMAN: I apologize. I apologize for that. What does Christopher Wray do that people inside the White House are concerned he could quit over this? There are plenty of other reports saying that Wray has left bread crumbs, that this is not a quitting issue.

HABERMAN: Yes. I mean, I've heard both of those things. And I think that -- and I think previously, I know that there was a report that Wray had threatened to quit. And my understanding is it was a little dialed down from that.

But he would not be the first person in this administration who has threatened to quit as a way to manage how the president is behaving. And this would certainly be an example.

But no, people within the White House have been very worried about it. It's part of why there have been these ongoing negotiations about redactions and exactly what redactions would take place from the memo.

One of the big concerns is, you know, a lot of people are saying release it in full. And it's interesting. You've seen this criticism from some of the president's supporters that, you know, the media doesn't want you to see this. They're arguing against-- I don't know any member of the media that does not love a document dump. So I -- you know, I think most people would like to see it in full. And if it's going to get out, people don't prefer redactions.

But that is part of what the White House is looking at, as a way to sort of minimize potential fallout with people like Christopher Wray.

BERMAN: And we don't know. We actually don't know what the final version will be. We don't know if Wray will wink at Sessions there. We don't know how he'll play it. That is still legitimately an open question.

BERMAN: There is actually a process taking place. It's just that it's always a sort of dual track. There's what the president is saying publicly and then there's what his aides are working on to make this happen.

CAMEROTA: Today will be very interesting. Well, Maggie, thank you for sharing your reporting with us and being here.

All right. President Trump is accusing the leaders at the FBI and the Justice Department this morning of once again favoring Democrats, he said, ahead of that controversial GOP memo release. So we will speak to the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and get his reaction on all of this, next.


[07:17:27] CAMEROTA: We have some breaking news. President Trump is again accusing top law enforcement leaders of being biased. This comes in a new tweet just this hour. He claims they are the ones politicizing the investigative process, not the partisans in Congress.

Sources tell CNN that President Trump thinks this memo could help discredit Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler. He is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. He has read the memo and the underlying intelligence behind it.

You are the perfect guest to have here, Congressman. Thanks for being here.


CAMEROTA: You have -- we'll get to the underlying information in a second. But I want to get to the most recent -- you just sent a letter to your chairman, Bob Goodlatte. You're calling for an emergency meeting with the FBI director, Chris Wray. Why? What are you hoping to get out of him?

NADLER: Well, we have called for Wray to come before our committee for the committee to hold hearings and so forth, and they rebuffed it every time.

Well, he had a rather extraordinary statement. I read the underlying documents. I read the memo. And I said last week that the memo was grossly misleading based on the underlying documents.

One expects -- I'm not surprised that the FBI comes out and says that this is dangerous, that declassifying this information is dangerous. It endangers national security. But what is shopping is that the FBI chief would come out and say that the memo is deeply misleading, which is what he -- it's misleading.

CAMEROTA: And you agree?

NADLER: I agree. But for the FBI to say that shows how -- how grossly misleading and dangerous they regard it.

CAMEROTA: Because you've read the underlying intel and not many members have, do you think that this affects national security?

NADLER: Oh, absolutely.

CAMEROTA: So the memo coming out, you think, threatens national security?

NADLER: Well, I'm not qualified to judge in terms of the classification. But the FBI judges that the memo coming out endangers national security in terms of the classification.

Remember that it's very interesting. The Republicans pilloried Hillary Clinton last year for her e-mails. What was the problem with e-mails? She allegedly was careless in the use of classified information. Here, they are giving out classified information.

CAMEROTA: How does it make sense?

NADLER: It doesn't make sense. Except what this is is obviously a very direct -- part of a very direct campaign to discredit and to distract attention and to discredit the investigation of the Russian interference in our election.

[07:20:04] Remember, the Russians interfered in our election. We are told by Attorney General Sessions that they're going to interfere again. The president is doing nothing to protect our next elections. And -- and we're investigating this, and he's doing everything he can to distract from the investigation, because he's worried about his personal political effect.

And now the importance of this now is that the Republicans in Congress, for the first time, have crossed the Rubicon and become accomplices in obstruction of justice, in trying...

CAMEROTA: Like who? Who are you talking about?

NADLER: Devin Nunes and anybody who participates in releasing that memo.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that the memo can be used as a basis to fire Rod Rosenstein?

NADLER: Well, I can't comment on what I saw in the memo. But I'm afraid they will try to use it for that, yes. That aside, I don't think anybody is going to be terribly shocked by what's in the memo.

CAMEROTA: So tell us about that. Just tell us, do you think that it's been overhyped?

NADLER: I think except for the fact that it might be used as the -- as the spurious basis for trying to dismiss Rosenstein, yes, I think it's been overhyped.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that there has been some coordination between the House Intel chair Devin Nunes and the White House with this memo?

NADLER: I don't know that, but I certainly suspect it. I suspect it because, obviously, of the prior history of Nunes working together with the White House and that phony revelation last spring. And because, when asked whether his staff had coordinated with the White House, he wouldn't answer the question.

CAMEROTA: That's right. He was quite coy about it.

NADLER: He wouldn't answer the question. So I suspect, yes, that the White House had a hand in preparing this, and the whole thing is a charade.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, it's worse than a charade. If the White House had some hand in preparing it, and Devin Nunes is the conduit to getting it out, then the president can say, "Well, look, Congress wants us to get rid of Rod Rosenstein."

NADLER: That's right. And what you have is the president and these members of Congress being complicit in overturning considerations of national security by revealing information that the FBI says shouldn't be revealed in terms of classification. And -- and, again, trying to discredit and -- and disable an ongoing investigation of a very serious crime against this country.

CAMEROTA: Look, you've read the memo, and you've read the underlying information that went into it. Are you sure -- can you tell us this morning that there is no wrongdoing that you saw in either of those?

NADLER: I saw no evidence of -- well, I can't say that. I'm not supposed to talk about what's in the memo.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, you feel confident -- I understand that. And I'm not trying to get you in trouble. But you feel confident that there will be no revelation of bias or wrongdoing from the FBI or the...

NADLER: I don't think there will be any major revelations of wrongdoing or bias or anything.

CAMEROTA: What do you want to see Speaker Paul Ryan do about this?

NADLER: Well, Ryan should halt the release of this and call in the FBI and see whether -- if they made certain changes the FBI would be OK with releasing it.

And he should also do the same thing with regard to the Democratic memo. Remember, the Democratic memo was written by people with the access to the same documents to say that the Nunes memo is misleading. And in the interest of accuracy, you ought to be able to read both.

And the committee, by voting on a party line basis to release the one, which they shouldn't do, but not release the Democratic is showing its own bias. Now again, it may be that, based on underlying intelligence and underlying information, neither can be released. I don't know.

CAMEROTA: That's what you -- your preference is to have neither released?

NADLER: It would be better if both were released, if the FBI will say that that doesn't -- that they can he edit it in such a way before the release so it doesn't endanger the classified information.

CAMEROTA: If it were redacted, you'd be comfortable?

NADLER: If it were redacted, yes. Provided both were and provided the FBI either assured us that it isn't compromising -- compromising the secret information that endangers the national security of the country.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, did Bob Goodlatte, your chairman, agree to this meeting with Chris Wray? Are you going to...

NADLER: No. Bob Goodlatte has -- but we only sent the letter yesterday, in fairness. But over the last few months, he has stonewalled all attempts by the Democrats on the committee to do anything in this regard.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Jerry Nadler, thank you very much for coming in. It will be an interesting day.

NADLER: Yes, indeed.


BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Alisyn.

There is now


[07:28:31] BERMAN: So new this morning, changing the terms of the debate, literally. A word that the president will no longer be using in the immigration discussion, DREAMers. Those are the people brought to this country illegally, through no fault of their own. This is what the president told Republicans.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some people call it DREAMers. It's not DREAMers. Don't fall into that trap.

And I said the other night, "We have dreamers, too. We have dreamers in this country, too. You can't forget our dreamers. I have a lot of dreamers here."


BERMAN: He now wants to call them DACA people.

Joining us now, CNN political commentator Ana Navarro and chairman of the American Conservative Union Matt Schlapp.

Ana, first to you. What do you make of the president throwing out the term "DREAMers"? No longer going to use that in the immigration discussion.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, you know, he hit upon these lines which some people in the base like and embrace. And then he goes on them over and over and over again. I think this is something he introduced during the State of the Union. And you're going to see him obsess about this, like he does about everything. Right? He's a broken record on everything.

Look, they are called DREAMers. That's what the bill that was introduced decades ago for them was called. DACA and DREAM are actually different things. They're a different set of people. DACA is a subset of the people covered by the DREAM Act which was introduced. DACA was created by Obama. DACA is an executive order. DREAM was a bill that was introduced. So they're really different things. But I think what he's doing here is blatant -- you know, blatantly obvious. He's playing to his base.

BERMAN: He won approval, Matt, from at least two people on how he is defining the DREAMers discussion. Let me read you a couple of tweets here. The first is from David Duke: "Thank you, President Trump. Americans are dreamers too."

Richard Spencer, "Americans are dreamers, too."