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The Nunes Memo is Out; Interview with Brad Wenstrup. Aired 11a- 12n ET
Aired February 3, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:59:52] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to you both.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello -- Fred.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All yours.
WHITFIELD: You had a very busy -- you seem very anxious to hand that over. You've had a very busy morning.
WHITFIELD: All right. Now you can decompress.
BLACKWELL: Thank you very much.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much. Good to see you guys.
PAUL: Thanks -- Fred, you too.
WHITFIELD: All right. It's the 11:00 Eastern hour. Hello everyone -- I'm Fredricka Whitfield. NEWSROOM starts right now.
Ok, the memo is out. The assessments are under way. And what does this tee up? What divisions might have been sowed between the White House, Congress, and top law enforcement?
The President now at his Mar-a-Lago, Florida home claiming today the memo proves his innocence. Tweeting, "This memo totally vindicates Trump in probe, but the Russian witch hunt goes on and on. There was no collusion and there was no obstruction. The word now used because after one year of looking endlessly and finding nothing, collusion is dead. This is an American disgrace." This, from the President this morning via tweet.
The White House declassified the controversial three-and-a half-page document allowing the memo to go public despite strong objections from the FBI and Justice Department calling the memo misleading. The Republican document alleges leaders of the FBI and DOJ, Department of Justice, abused surveillance laws to spy on former Trump campaign official Carter Page.
Democrats claim the memo is incomplete and partisan. Critics of the memo are worrying now the White House will use this to discredit the Russia investigation and potentially use it as an excuse to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. CNN White House correspondent Abby Philip is at the White House for us right now. So Abby -- what is the White House saying about whether this memo justifies any changes at the FBI or DOJ?
ABBY PHILIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi -- Fred.
The White House is pushing back on the notion that somehow there will be changes to the Department of Justice as a result of this memo. But the reason that they're doing that is because there has been a lot of talk in recent days that what the President believes this memo does is give him a rationale for firing the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Now, White House aides are saying officially that that's not on the table. Listen to principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah on CNN last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I'm saying it on behalf of the White House, and that's that, you know, no changes are going to be made at the Department of Justice. We fully expect Rod Rosenstein to continue on as the deputy attorney general.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILIP: So now all eyes are on President Trump and what he thinks about this memo and what it really means. And you saw in that tweet that you just read that the President believes that this memo has a lot of bearing on the Russia investigation into his campaign and into potential obstruction of justice.
The President is reportedly, according to sources who spoke to CNN this week, is pretty upset with Rod Rosenstein because he is the person overseeing the Mueller probe. And a lot of conservatives are whispering in his ear this week that Rosenstein has responsibility to step in and rein Mueller in.
Now, the President this morning is down in Florida in Mar-a-Lago and he's tweeting also about his approval ratings overall at this stage in his presidency. Going into year two, he says that "Rasmussen just announced that my approval rating jumped to 49 percent, a far better number than I had in winning the election, and higher than certain, quote, 'sacred cows'. Other Trump polls are also way up, so why does the media refuse to write this? Oh, well, some day."
Now, Fred -- I have to say, I don't know what he means by sacred cows in that tweet, but the President is somewhat correct in that his poll numbers have gone up in the last month or so. Perhaps because of the tax bill that Republicans have finally been able to get through Congress. The President seems to want a lot more credit for that than he is receiving.
That being said, CNN polls don't have him quite at 49 percent, but his numbers have improved from the mid to low 30s where he has been for a lot of his presidency -- Fred. WHITFIELD: He's now broadcast his sentiments via Twitter. Abby
Philip -- thank you so much.
All right. So back to the memo and the investigation and reaction. The FBI director was early on adamant against the release of the memo. And now, Christopher Wray is telling his staff to stay focused and not be swayed by the political fallout.
CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider is following all of this for us. So Jessica -- what exactly is the director saying now? He had things to say before the memo was released and he continues to be rather, you know, talkative about it.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: He does. You know, Fredricka -- the FBI director really speaking up and standing up for the rank and file. He put out a video message to the 35,000 members of the FBI just after this memo was released. It was really his way of showing support for the bureau that has come under this constant attack from the President.
[11:04:59] His words were largely symbolic. He said this. He said "The American people read the newspapers and watch TV, but your work is all that matters. Actions speak louder than words." So implying there that it is the actions of the FBI agents all across the world, all across the country that matter more than the President's words or tweets.
Wray did continue in that video, saying that he knows it's been a tough, unsettling time. But that he is inspired by the men and women of the FBI and all the work they do. And no doubt, it has been a turbulent time for the bureau.
Amid the President's fiery words, the deputy director Andrew McCabe, he abruptly stepped down earlier this week, a month before he was set to retire. And of course, we have reported earlier this week that the White House aides, some of them, have grown concerned that all of these attacks and with the release of that memo that possibly Director Wray could quit. But of course, his address, that video address to thousands of members of the FBI yesterday, it did seem to indicate, Fred, that he is staying on the job and continuing to lead this bureau.
So strong words as he stands behind the rank and file and large amount of agents all over the country and really all over the world -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: And now clearly, you know, pitting, I guess, disputes between, you know, the FBI, certain parts of the Department of Justice, and now even the White House.
Jessica Schneider -- thanks so much.
We're going to talk more about all this.
So the release of that controversial memo may also be causing a bit of division within the Trump administration, as you'll see here especially when it comes to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does it make you more likely to fire Rosenstein? Do you still have confidence in him?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You figure that one out.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Rod's had 27 years in the department. Rachel's had a number of years in the department previously. And so they both represent the kind of quality and leadership that we want in the department.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So on confidence on Rosenstein, Sessions is backing him. The President says you figure it out. Let's talk about all of this now it now. Michael Zeldin, CNN legal analyst and former special assistant to Robert Mueller at the Department of Justice. Patrick Healy, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" editor, and David Swerdlick, CNN political commentator and assistant editor at the "Washington Post", and Tom Fuentes, CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director. Good to see you all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. So good morning.
Michael, to you first -- President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions having contradictory messages here on Rod Rosenstein. So what does this signal to you that Sessions would try to essentially get the last word here on Rosenstein?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think that Jeff Sessions is trying to protect Donald Trump from Donald Trump. Because were Rod Rosenstein to be fired without cause, and there is no cause based on the Nunes memo, all Rosenstein did according to the Nunes memo is what he was supposed to do, which was sign a reauthorization of the wire tap on Carter Page. Were he to fire him, I think that Christopher Wray would be in a very difficult position to stay himself.
I think that we saw back in 2004, when they were trying to get Ashcroft, Attorney General Ashcroft to sign the Warrantless Reauthorization Bill, and Comey and Mueller said they would quit if they did it that way. Remember, Gonzalez goes to the hospital where Ashcroft is recovering from surgery, and Wray says if you guys leave, I'll quit too.
And so I think we have an indication that if Rosenstein is fired, Wray may follow. And if those two quit over an unwarranted firing, then I think the President has his own little Saturday night massacre on his hands. And I think Jeff Sessions is trying in his very polite Alabaman way to say to the President, please don't do that. It's not going to help you.
WHITFIELD: Right. And what the memo -- the memo doesn't say, but it is the case that reauthorizing the FISA warrant simply means that there is new evidence or there remains evidence sufficient that that warrant is still there. The memo makes it sound like, you know, maybe Rod Rosenstein just signed off but not because it was supported by material. So --
ZELDIN: That's right.
WHITFIELD: So Patrick, the build-up of this memo's release, it indeed lasted for days. But many GOP lawmakers including Congressman Trey Gowdy and Senator Lindsey Graham say the memo will not undermine Mueller's investigation.
The President this morning, of course, boasting vindication, so what really was the goal of this memo being released and was it mission accomplished? Was the goal met?
PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the goal is what it often is with President Trump, which is to stir up and frankly inflame the troops, the rank and file of the Republican Party, his base, to be behind him.
[11:10:01] And frankly, the kind of the release the memo narrative that's been going on for days, I think was more the goal than the sense that the memo would have any kind of smoking gun that would get President Trump out of the cross hairs of Robert Mueller.
But it's a very strange situation -- Fred. I mean in America, a person isn't usually allowed to help kind of, let's say, manufacture a memo to sort of get him off the hook or in the clear. And then release the memo and then say I'm vindicated.
I mean, this was coming very much from Congress, from Devin Nunes, but President Trump knew exactly what was in this memo and he knew what he was trying to -- basically, what the signal was that he was trying to send to his rank and file which was, you know, essentially that somehow the FBI and by extension people around Robert Mueller, had essentially sort of muddied the waters of this investigation, that it couldn't be believed. But it really is -- it seems like days of smoke and then the release of this, not real fire.
WHITFIELD: Right. Even James Comey said, you know, that's it? I mean there was a conclusion, but it's not all inclusive, and perhaps there were some inference that the memo would be all inclusive, but it's not that. I think most people agree on that.
So let's examine for a minute the former Trump campaign aide Carter Page who was central to all of this, you know, the one that Trump and his team didn't really seem to value not long ago. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President-elect does not know.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: He's not part of our national security or foreign policy briefings that we do now at all.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: To the best of my recollection, I don't know Carter Page. To the best of my knowledge, Carter Page never had a DonaldTrump.com e-mail address, had no former role in the campaign that I'm aware of.
TRUMP: I don't think I have ever spoken to him. I don't think I have ever met him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, so now, David, you know, Carter Page is so important. He's the nucleus of, you know, why this memo had to be released. The memo, you know, is very critical of the FISA application process on Carter Page, this former adviser. So David -- what's really going on here?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, I think Carter Page is significant but not as significant as the administration or Chairman Nunes in this case maybe wants him to be. He sort of slid in and slid out of the campaign. My understanding from reading the memo and other reporting is that the surveillance of him based on the FISA warrants started taking place after he had left the campaign.
I think what is more significant in the Nunes memo, Fred, is this idea that Democrats -- excuse me, not Democrats -- but the FBI and the Justice Department when presenting a case to the FISA court, asking for a warrant to surveil Carter Page may not have made it clear or didn't make it clear that they were basing this, at least in part, on the dossier from Christopher Steele, the former MI6 guy.
WHITFIELD: But that's the inference -- but that's the inference, but likely the four judges needed a whole lot of detail. And this memo kind of pares it all down.
WHITFIELD: And that's why there are critics who say it's really partisan because, you know, Nunes, you know just kind of -- the chairman of the House Intelligence, you know, Devin Nunes, just kind of cherry picked certainly details and presented this memo and then everyone is to see it and, you know, extrapolate.
SWERDLICK: Right. Fred -- I just wanted to say quickly, yes, you're absolutely right. If that bears out, when the Democratic memo is released, if it is ever released, then I think Democrats on the committee and the Justice Department will have to answer some questions about that.
If it turns out as Democrats on the committee are suggesting now, that this memo, the Nunes memo was cherry-picked and that there is an explanation and that the FISA warrant was based on more than the Steele memo and the detail about whether, where the Steele memo came from was more incidental, then I think the onus goes back on Nunes and the White House to explain why they were so worked up about this memo and why they threw this out to sort of chum the waters and get us away from the bigger issue which is the investigation about why members in President Trump's orbit were meeting at various points in time with people connected to the Russian government.
WHITFIELD: Ok, and Michael, I can tell you have something to say on that. I wonder if, you know, full transcripts, the whole thing, would ever really be released anyway.
ZELDIN: No, and that's the problem with these memos, whether it's just the Republican memo or the Republican memo followed by the Democratic memo. No memo should have ever been released or should be ever released in this manner because we'll never get to the underlying classified information that these memos are predicated on.
So we'll never really get to see the facts for ourselves. And so it would have been a much better process if they didn't do this.
[11:14:56] And if there are problems in the FISA warrant application process, then there are procedures to follow there. Inspector generals and there are classified hearings before the full committee, which Christopher Wray actually asked the committee to allow him to do, and the committee denied him that right.
ZELDIN: So this is so much political nonsense that it's really sad to watch from a law enforcement perspective.
WHITFIELD: So the President feels like he's been vindicated. He said that via tweet this morning. Vice President Mike Pence is pointing the finger at the decisions made at the top of the Justice Department. This is Mike Pence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me say that I have had a chance to see the memo. And our administration believes the memo raises serious concerns about the integrity of decisions that were made at the highest level of the Department of Justice and the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, so Tom -- as a former FBI assistant director, what does this do in your view to your former colleagues and still, you know, many of your friends who remain in the FBI, to hear this kind of messaging coming from the Vice President, the President, this entire process?
TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, Fredricka, how they investigate or how diligently they work and all of the cases that they're assigned will not change. They'll keep doing that whether they're happy about what's being put out in the media or put out by the President or anyone else is irrelevant to what they're going to do day in, day out. That's the first part.
But the other part of this is that, you know, people can say, and the Vice President can say I have seen the memo. And I have seen the memo. The memo's bad. However, we don't know how accurate it really is.
And now the Democrats are going to come up with one that argues the first memo, and they're going to go back and forth, back and forth. And the issue here is that the FBI is not in a position to give up the classified information it would take to be able to refute the allegation of misconduct.
Now, if misconduct was done and if false information was provided to a FISA court judge -- a crime. And anybody involved in that -- the agents, the analysts, the assistant U.S. Attorney could be prosecuted --
WHITFIELD: But it doesn't even -- the memo doesn't support that notion.
FUENTES: Pardon me?
WHITFIELD: The memo doesn't support that notion.
FUENTES: Well, it doesn't get to it. That's the point. But it's saying various things. Well, it's saying that the FISA affidavit, you know, was only based on the dossier.
WHITFIELD: The dossier and then some reporting at Fusion.
FUENTES: We don't know, one way or the other -- we don't know if that's true or not. What we do know is Carter Page was -- the investigation into what his activities were went back to 2013 and that had nothing to do with the Trump campaign.
The actual initiation or the submission of the affidavit for FISA was done in late October 2016. That would be a secret. It would go on for the first 90 days. That would be a secret. So there's no way would that be designed to influence the election itself.
WHITFIELD: Right. It was just too close to election day to do any influencing so -- which leaves the big question marks for a lot of people, which is what was the whole goal and what was really done? And why is it that now the President feels like this was vindication?
ZELDIN: And Fredricka --
ZELDIN: -- the President sort of answered that question. He said, in telephone calls that CNN is reporting, to his friends that he was going to release the memo to interfere with the Mueller investigation. Those are the words out of the President's mouth that CNN has reported and other sources as well. WHITFIELD: But has it?
ZELDIN: So we know what the intention was of the President.
WHITFIELD: Will it? Right.
ZELDIN: Well, it won't. And it's sort of an admission of obstruction of justice as well. So it's very confounding from a legal standpoint.
SWERDLICK: Fred -- can I just chime in with one more thing?
SWERDLICK: I agree with Michael that the President is getting what he wants out of this from a political and messaging standpoint. I also certainly would defer to Michael on how the Justice Department would have approached this whole thing since he knows, and I have not been at the Justice Department.
But I would just say that even though from a law enforcement perspective you're looking at this and saying ok, look, there is certain classified information that can't come out, there's a problem with having memos that just boil down things to a few cherry picked facts. With the stakes this high, I do think that we're at a point now where certainly as a journalist, but I think the average citizen does want to know, ok, what is really at the heart of all this? There shouldn't be a memo cherry picked just from the Republicans without a Democratic response or without countervailing facts.
But we're getting to a point now when we're talking about the President of the United States where it is hard for the average person to look at this and say, oh, well there's just stuff that we can't know. Even though, yes, it's classified, and yes, that's the reason why it can't be disclosed without a committee vote and without the White House declassifying it.
ZELDIN: And of course, David, you're absolutely correct about the American people's right to know. And Congress could have helped that quite easily by holding public hearings for most of these witnesses.
SWERDLICK: I agree.
ZELDIN: And the fact that they chose to hold witnesses in camera versus in public leads to this lack of information.
[11:20:03] Watergate was exactly the opposite. All the hearings were public. We got to hear the witnesses and assess their credibility. And Congress could have done that, except for the classified stuff, just as easily.
ZELDIN: I agree.
SWERDLICK: I agree with Michael.
HEALY: Just to look forward -- just to look forward briefly at where all this is going, too, is the President and the White House is now in these talks with Robert Mueller and with his investigation about what questions, if any, President Trump is willing to answer, whether he's willing to do it in person.
And the memo and sort of this both the build-up to it and now coming out of it just looking forward, is -- to say that it vindicates him is one point of view. The President can certainly say that, but what they're using this for is basically to strengthen their argument, their case that the President should say little to nothing to Robert Mueller and his team because this is, again, a witch hunt. He's vindicated.
WHITFIELD: Right. Yes. So maybe so much for the 100 percent, you know, he wants to testify, but now, this memo may justify in his view why he doesn't need to be questioned by Mueller.
Oh, my gosh. Ok. Well, we're going to keep watching all of this. So fascinating to talk to all of you at once -- thank you so much. We'll talk some more because it is very complicated but so vital and important.
> All right, still ahead, Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup from the House Intelligence Committee joining me. We'll talk to him about the timing of the Nunes memo and the political implications. And potentially what's next.
[11:21:35] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
The intelligence committee that released the controversial memo voted along party lines in the House with Republicans agreeing to release and Democrats opposing it.
Congressman Brad Wenstrup is a Republican from Ohio and a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman -- good to see you.
REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-OH), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good to be with you. Thanks for having me.
WHITFIELD: So your Republican colleague in the Senate, John McCain said this in a statement yesterday about the release of this memo, saying quote, "The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests, no party's, no president's, only Putin's" -- that from John McCain. This is your fellow Republican in the Senate raising these concerns.
Do you agree that this memo release, the sowing of division assists Russia in undermining American democracy?
WENSTRUP: Well, let me just say throughout this whole process since President Trump was elected President, I think for Russia it's been "heads, I win; tails, you lose" because throughout the process they're trying to -- the Russians would like to damage a President Clinton and or damage a President Trump. WHITFIELD: Ok. But the Intelligence Committee established that
already. But now we're talking about the memo and John McCain himself, and there are others in Republican leadership who were saying the release of this memo actually assists in sowing divisions which is exactly what Russia wants and that Russia might be enjoying this show right now.
WENSTRUP: Well, you know, first of all, the memo deals with the process within the FISA court. And I don't think it has to be that way. First of all, as members of Congress on the Intelligence Committee, it is in our mission statement that we're to have oversight.
WHITFIELD: Ok. But what do you mean? What do you believe the memo achieves? What does it display about the process?
WENSTRUP: Well, interestingly, the memo is one of the few things that wasn't leaked. But what it does is reveal the process that took place and sheds some light and what we want to get to is transparency.
Frankly, I feel Mr. Rosenstein and Christopher Wray have an opportunity to come out shining. This is not about degrading the FBI or DOJ. I can tell you, we spend a lot of time with members of the FBI and with the Department of Justice. And I have the highest and utmost respect for them.
But when you're sitting at the top, you may have the opportunity to say, you know what, we're going to make sure the American people have trust in what we do and we will go down this road and take a look at everything.
WHITFIELD: Ok. Well except that --
WENSTRUP: Look, I think one of our --
WHITFIELD: -- except when you talk about transparency and you're saying this memo, the release of the memo underscores there needs to be some sort of transparency, whether it be in the FBI or the FISA court. I mean, the way in which it operates in a clandestine way is to help protect investigations, right?
So this memo only underscores or underlines a portion of the process of this FISA application and warrant, but it doesn't tell the whole story whereby it leads to a lot more confusion.
So how do you see the release of this memo actually clarifying a process or offering, you know, a real impetus for more investigation about the FISA process?
WENSTRUP: I think it very much clarifies the process.
WENSTRUP: How many of the American people do you think had any understanding of the process before this? They have a keen understanding --
WHITFIELD: I don't know if anybody has a clearer understanding as a result of this memo released because it only has a few elements of the entire investigation, the process. But there are accusations that it really just cherry picks.
WENSTRUP: Ok. Here's a couple of things in this entire process. One, let's be clear that how we went about this, we developed this memo on the information that we were allowed to see, and not all of us were allowed to see, but we were allowed to see. And keep in mind, we have been stonewalled for over a year. So the trust from the American people is getting diminished and diminished --
WHITFIELD: But it's an investigation. So is that being stonewalled?
WENSTRUP: Let me -- yes it is.
WHITFIELD: I mean there is an investigation under way. So until there are findings, should the public really know, right, about where the investigation is going once it's complete? But if you're going to, you know, if you're going to leak information about the investigation along the way, then it can't be a solid investigation in the end.
WENSTRUP: This memo is findings. And it's specific to a process and that's what we have put forward. There's no denying that. And we've had it vetted by the FBI that said it was factual, including by an attorney who was involved with the FISA application.
[11:30:07] And it was also there for some of the interviews, the pertinent interviews that was able to say these things are factual. So, we put that forward --
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: But it's not complete. The information is not complete.
WENSTRUP: Let me take you through the process.
WHITFIELD: Listen to what one of your colleagues, Congressman David Cicilline, who is on the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committee said about the memo, Republicans, obstruction, and portions of the information released in the memo. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Are you actually accusing Republicans of being accessories to a crime or do you mean that more hyperbolically in a political sense?
REPRESENTATIVE DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: No, I think they're being accessories to this ongoing effort to obstruct justice and interfere with this investigation.
TAPPER: That's a crime.
CICILLINE: There's no other way -- TAPPER: That's a crime, sir.
CICILLINE: Look, there's no other way to explain the creation of this memorandum which is misleading, which has gross omissions, which is false in many ways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So, in other words, what's the goal other than to obstruction the ongoing investigation into what happened and what parties were involved?
WENSTRUP: Fredricka, I would appreciate a few minutes to talk if you don't mind. This has nothing to do with the Mueller investigation. Absolutely nothing. Let me finish my point here. We put this forward. We had it vetted. We decided -- we voted to release it to our colleagues, which the Democrats did not want to do.
Then we had it scrubbed and we voted to release it to the public, and it went through the process. We followed every rule. The Democrats wanted their memo immediately released after saying that it should be vetted and scrubbed.
WHITFIELD: Many Democrats have said they wanted it released simultaneous.
WENSTRUP: They wanted it released simultaneous without having it vetted or scrubbed which is what they told us needed to be done. So, it's very hypocritical. When people talk about us blocking it, I'm for putting it out, but go through the same process. That's only fair. I think you're leading people the wrong way.
WHITFIELD: You say this has nothing to do with the Mueller investigation. What is the goal? What does this have to do with?
WENSTRUP: The goal is to bring transparency to the American people about how a court is being operated. It's for the protection of the American citizens. Keep in mind what happens in this type of court. The accused has no presence there. The accused does not get to have a statement. So, it's very important that everything be put on the table in front of that judge. I would be curious to know --
WHITFIELD: The accused you're talking about, Carter Page. I'm trying to understand what you're saying. You're talking about Carter Page. You're saying if an American or if an individual is talking with or perhaps has dealings with an adversarial country, you're saying then that the FBI or any other law enforcement agency should not have the right to look into what that person is doing by way of going to a judge, panel, with FISA court, is that what you're saying?
WENSTRUP: It's your show. You can talk as much as you want but let me finish.
WHITFIELD: I'm asking you a question.
WENSTRUP: I'm answering your question. I'm not talking about Carter Page. I'm talking about the very premise. You go before a court. The accused has no say in this. I get that. I get that process. But I think it's important that everything be put on the table.
I would be curious to know if the judges in every one of these attempts to seek the warrant understood that the dossier was paid for by the Democrat national committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign and if --
WHITFIELD: Isn't the only thing that the judges --
WENSTRUP: You have not let me finish.
WHITFIELD: I'm letting you finish. I'm also interjecting with questions because some of what you're saying needs to be challenged, but there are other people who are watching who need clarity from what you're saying.
WENSTRUP: I might answer your question if you let me finish.
WHITFIELD: You have plenty of time.
WENSTRUP: What I'm saying, I would be curious to know what the judges knew, and would it have changed their opinion in this case. This is about having oversight and doing what's right. I will tell you, I would be doing the same thing if the political roles were switched because it's about bringing transparency of a process that our taxpayers pay their salaries. Let's make sure we're doing it right and doing it fair. That's what this memo is about.
WHITFIELD: OK, then, would transparency mean releasing all of the material instead of just portions of it? Is that what you're advocating?
WENSTRUP: As it is vetted, yes, I am saying that.
WHITFIELD: Is that ever possible that all of this classified material, the entire process before a FISA court, transcriptions and everything, would be released in its entirety?
WENSTRUP: Things that risk national security would not be put forward, of course, but let me tell you, we have been stalled ourselves with top secret clearances, from seeing things. We have oversight over DOJ and FBI. They were ignoring subpoenas. That's not right.
[11:35:04] This is what the American people are grossly concerned about, and I think you should be too. I'm deadly serious when I tell you if the political roles were reversed I would be saying the same thing.
WHITFIELD: Congressman Brad Wenstrup, thanks for your time.
WENSTRUP: Thank you.
All right. We'll get the view from the other side of the aisle and ask Democratic Congress John Sarbanes why he believes the release of this memo is a direct threat to the Russia investigation. Stay with us.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Less than 24 hours after the highly disputed GOP memo's release, President Trump declares himself vindicated in the Russia probe. But House Speaker Paul Ryan has insisted the release of that memo is really all about transparency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: The more transparency, the better. So that the people of this country can see that their civil liberties are being protected, that the constitution is being followed. That's why we think sunshine, transparency and accountability is the correct antidote for this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now to discuss, Congressman John Sarbanes, a Democrat from Maryland. Good to see you. So, Congressman, I can't hear you. Can we check that audio one more time? Let me hear you speak again.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN SARBANES (D), MARYLAND: Yes. Can you hear me?
WHITFIELD: There you go. I got you now. All right. So, Congressman, you chair the House Democracy Reform Task Force, and you saw the Nunes memo before it was released. I understand you have called it misleading and distorted. But of course, the House speaker says it's about transparency. Which is it in your view? What does it establish in your view?
SARBANES: Well, it's anything but transparent. You don't release a memo that has material inaccuracies, that's misleading, that has cherry picked information in it, and it's not just me saying that. Christopher Wray, head of the FBI, expressed those concerns.
Dan Coats, the president's director of National Intelligence, expressed those concerns. And obviously, Rod Rosenstein on behalf of the Justice Department, was very concerned about the potential for this memo to be misleading.
So, if you want transparency, you have to provide full context. If you're going to release information like this. And I think there's real questions as to whether that was appropriate in the first place, but there's not transparency here.
What's going on is an attempt, it's part of an orchestrated campaign to discredit the Mueller investigation, to stop Bob Mueller from doing his job, to distract from the Russian inquiry. That's all this is. It's nothing more than that.
WHITFIELD: So, Congressman, I just spoke with your colleague, Brad Wenstrup, just before the break, and he argues that it is about transparency. This is not about disrupting the Mueller investigation, but he says the American people need to know about what he calls a flawed process.
That people need to know about the process of the FISA court, how it works, what may potentially influence the four judges, and he was very critical of some of the elements of evidence that were presented from the Steele dossier to Yahoo publications, et cetera.
So, what's your response to him when he says it is about transparency, it's about letting everybody know about how this process works?
SARBANES: Well, if you're going to let people know about how the process works, then you have to give them a complete picture of how the process works, and this memo does not do that. Now, I have seen the Democratic rebuttal memo, and I hope the public is going to be able to see that.
I hope the committee will allow that memo to come forward. That will give broader context. I think it will make it clear that this was misleading, that there was information cherry picked, and it was not transparent.
So, you can call for transparency, but if you present an incomplete picture, that's not transparent. That's part of an overall attempt to try to discredit the investigation, to attack the FBI's credibility, to attack the intelligence community, to go after your own Justice Department.
That's what this is all about. And it's all because they want to knock the investigation off track, and they want to stop Mueller from doing his job. And the public needs to be very concerned about that, because Bob Mueller is their representative in the justice system to get to the bottom of what's happened with this Russia attack on our democracy.
WHITFIELD: For the sake of transparency, would you ever be an advocate of all of the information of the process as it pertained to Carter Page or anyone else who, you know, the FISA court wins approval on surveillance, do you believe that everything including transcriptions should all be released for the public?
SARBANES: Well, look, you have to be careful about what you provide in a public setting in terms of classified information and so forth because you don't want to jeopardize sources and methods. You don't want people to be reluctant to provide information or go through this process as part of our intelligence system.
But if you're going to release one memo that presents a misleading picture of what's happened, you better release some additional information that gives context to that. Why did they release the majority memo without offering the broader picture?
I mean, release the majority memo if you feel that's important for the public interest, but then provide the Democratic minority memo at the same time so you get a complete picture, but they staggered this thing. [11:45:13] WHITFIELD: On that Democratic memo, as it is -- we have been told, being scrubbed, it may be released sometime next week or somewhere in the near future, Congressman Wenstrup said that the Democrats did not want to release the Democratic memo simultaneous but afterwards. Is that the case?
SARBANES: No, no. That's the reverse of what happened. The Democrats said if you're going to be releasing this majority memo, which doesn't have context, which is misleading, which cherry picks information, then you ought to be releasing the Democratic memo at the same time to provide a complete picture.
And they didn't want to do that. They wanted to stagger it because they wanted to grab the news cycle and put their version of events out there. And that's all part of this effort, this drum beat to discredit Mueller, to discredit the FBI, and by the way, is that the new Republican brand?
That they go after law enforcement, that they go after the justice system, that they go after the FBI? Is that who the Republican Party is right now? These are folks that are doing their job, they're trying to protect the democracy.
Bob Mueller is trying to get to the bottom of this Russian investigation because we know the Russians are coming for us again. They're going to attack our elections. They're going to attack our democracy.
We need a president and Republicans in Congress who are actually trying to protect the democracy instead of going after the Democratic institutions that are doing their job. That's what should be so concerning to Americans out there.
WHITFIELD: Do you believe that the Mueller investigation has been undermined? Do you believe the president tweeted out today he's been vindicated?
SARBANES: Look, he's been going -- he's been targeting this investigation from the beginning. He's been trying to discredit the investigators. Now, I think that because Bob Mueller is doing his job in a very deliberate way, and Rod Rosenstein is playing this by the book, these are straight arrows.
They play it straight. They're doing their job. They're professionals. I think the strength of their investigation can build over time and their credibility, in spite of these attacks that are coming from their own president and are coming from Republicans in Congress.
But it's important that Americans support them in this effort. What I say to people is, when they're going after Mueller, they're going after you because Mueller is your representative in the justice system. It's your justice system. It belongs to the American people. Let Mueller do the job. Let him finish the assignment.
WHITFIELD: We're going to leave it there. Congressman John Sarbanes, thanks so much. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. We have so many more weeks of the flu epidemic before the worst is over. That's according to new information released by the CDC this week. More than 126,000 people have been officially diagnosed with the infection, but that doesn't count the thousands of others who don't see their doctors. A dozen states have reported school closures because of outbreaks and 53 children have died from the flu this season.
I want to bring in Dr. Anthony Fauci, he's the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci, always good to see you. Unfortunately, we know it always is under such horrible circumstances. So, what is it about the flu virus this year that makes the season so bad?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, there are a couple of reasons. The first is that the dominant virus is what we categorize as H3N2, which is a virus that's an influenza A virus that historically is always a bad actor. It has more possibility of their being complications, more severe disease.
You have complications among vulnerable people, for example, the elderly and others who have underlying conditions such as heart disease and lung disease, et cetera. But also, unfortunately, this year the vaccine that you try to match to the virus that's circulating is not a particularly good match.
So, we're not anticipating that the vaccine is going to be particularly effective. You know, having said that, I want to say it's still better to get vaccinated than not, to at least get some protection, but we don't anticipate we're going to get a high degree of efficacy of the vaccine this year. Superimposed upon a bad active virus to begin with.
WHITFIELD: Does it seem as though that has been kind of a recurring problem in the past few season, that the vaccine that's administered doesn't always match the strain of the flu that is most virulent and seems to be getting to people?
FAUCI: That's an excellent point. That's the real challenge we're facing. There's a time-honored way of approaching seasonal flu every year, but it's somewhat antiquated. We really have to be and we're putting a lot of effort into graduating into the next phase of what we call gradually getting towards a universal influenza vaccine, namely a vaccine that protects against that part of the virus that doesn't change from season to season.
So instead of having to chase after all those drifts that you get from season to season, to be able to vaccinate with a vaccine that essentially protects you against all those modifications. We're certainly not there yet, but that really is the goal instead of each year having to play the game of chasing after what the next season is going to bring us.
WHITFIELD: And part of the big fight is really helping people to be a little more educated about, you know, those identifying symptoms. And then what do they do? When do they know they need to go to the hospital or go see a doctor? What are the answers there?
FAUCI: Well, for example, most people confuse a classic upper respiratory infection that's not the flu with the flu. When you get the flu and you're going to have a problem, it is really a systemic disease. You get aches and pains and fever, and you really know you're sick.
[11:55:07] If you see that your fever -- have what looks like a serious involvement, there's always the possibility and the advisability of going to the physician to get an anti-viral drug like Tamiflu.
This is particularly relevant for people who fall into the category of being high-risk for complications, the elderly, those with chronic diseases, pregnant women, the very young. If those individuals get the flu, you should not hesitate to get them on an anti-viral like Tamiflu.
WHITFIELD: One of the questions you need to ask for little people because your little ones are just telling you, I don't feel if but, you know, you need some real specificity to figure out whether they need Tamiflu or addressed for flu.
FAUCI: There are several things that are red flags. For example, high fever that doesn't relent, listlessness, shortness of breath, not breathing well, or looking like you're doing well and then all of a sudden you wind up with what looks like a relapse which can be an indication of a secondary bacterial infection such as pneumonia. So, those are the things you have to keep on your radar screen so you don't miss them.
WHITFIELD: All right, vital information, thank you so much, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Appreciate it.
FAUCI: Good to be with you.
WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right, tomorrow is Super Bowl LII and while the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots prepare for kickoff in some rather frigid temperatures, below zero is what many fans will feel outside, luckily for the fans who have tickets to the game, the game will be played inside of the U.S. Bank Stadium.
Here's CNN's Coy Wire and Dave Briggs.
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, here in Minneapolis, Eagles and Pats fans will be treated to a great game on Sunday, but they're also going to be treated to some great grub inside of U.S. Bank Stadium.
They're going to have some locally inspired dishes from the twin cities but also dishes inspired by each team. For New England, you have the New England clam roll and of course, the New England clam chowder. How can you beat that?
DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: It looks pretty good, but this looks legendary. This is a South Philly roast pork sandwich and chick peas and crab fries. Legendary pieces of food grub from the Philly area.
WIRE: Taste buds on fleek ready to rock. Also 3,200 bratwursts and hotdogs, 2,600 pounds of cheese kurds. No one is going to go hungry. Also, first we need to talk a lot of football. Hines Ward, two-times Super Bowl champ, on kickoff in Minnesota. CNN "Bleacher Report" special hosted by none other than this man right here.