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House Intel Committee to vote on Democrats rebuttal on Nunes memo; Another impending government shutdown on faces Congress; Super Bowl 52, Eagles versus the Patriots. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 4, 2018 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Breaking news this hour on that deadly Amtrak crash in South Carolina. Any moment, the National Transportation Safety Board will brief the public on details of the investigation.

Here is what we know right now. The Amtrak train collided with the CSX freight train overnight killing the engineer and conductor. More than a hundred people were sent to the hospital. Officials say the signal system along this portion of the track was down and being manually controlled. Amtrak's CEO says CSX was directing the trains at the time.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins me now from the scene.

So, Kaylee, this appears to be mounting to human error.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, that will be a question that the chairman of the NTSB will be asked when he comes to a podium in the building just behind me here in the county's emergency management building.

What we do know at this point is that as you said, CSX was controlling the switching, signaling, and dispatching of that Amtrak train that plowed into a freight train with no one onboard it. This happening because this signaling system on this stretch of track was down. I'm told there was scheduled routine maintenance, something that's not all that uncommon. But the dispatch was then manual to tell the Amtrak train where it would be moved, from track to track. That communication being done between the CSX dispatch center and the engineer on the locomotive, as well as the conductor by nothing more than telephone communication. A device onboard the train there. So the Amtrak CEO explaining to us that it was CSX who was responsible for putting that Amtrak train on the track that it ultimately derailed from.

Though the Amtrak CEO, Richard Anderson, wasn't willing to share explanation for what caused this derailment, specifically what led to it, he was deferring all of those questions to the NTSB chairman. But he was comfortable explaining to us the procedures in place when CSX is the company owning and operating and maintaining that stretch of track where this crash occurred, called the Columbia subdivision. The CSX, one of the many host railroads that Amtrak has contracts, across this country. But in this case, it was CSX manually dispatches trains while signals were down on this stretch of track. WHITFIELD: All right Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much. Let's go

straight to the press conference now with the NTSB.

ROBERT SUMWALT, NTSB CHAIRMAN: -- Columbia this morning around 10:30 this morning to begin our investigation of the tragedy involving an Amtrak passenger train and a CSX freight train. We have brought in a full investigative go team.

Now, the NTSB we are an independent federal agency, charged by Congress to investigate transportation accidents, to determine the probable cause, and then to issue safety recommendations to keep those accidents from happening again.

Before I go any further, I would like to offer our sincere condolences to those who have been affected by this tragedy. I have got with us today Mr. Jim Southworth and Mr. Mike Hiller. They are part of the investigative team. They have got years and years of investigative experience. Dick Hipskin is leading the investigation. He has got over 30 years of rail experience, including over 20 years with the NTSB. He will be with us tomorrow, but, of course, he is occupied today. Dick will be leading a multi-disciplinary investigative team of experts.

Our team will be looking at the operations of both trains. We will be looking at the crew training and employment records. We will be looking at company procedures. They will be looking at the -they will be examining the medical condition -- excuse me, the mechanical condition of each train.

In addition, we will be looking at the survival factors and the crash- worthiness aspects of this collision. We have our chief medical officer here from Washington, who will be looking at the medical factors, including making sure that the DOT required drug and alcohol testing is completed properly. That's standard for any commercial transportation accident. It's required. We will be looking at the work/rest periods of the crews of each train as well as the cell phone records of the operators of each train. And that's standard for any transportation accident that we look at.

We have a signal specialist that will be looking at the signals that govern train operations. Those wayside signals that red lights, green lights, yellow lights, whatever they happen to be, we will be looking at the signal systems. Each of those signals have an event recorder that records data, so we can download and see what those signals were saying. We will also be looking at the rail switches and I will talk about rail switches in just a moment.

As far as recorders, there are really two types of recorders that we are interested in. There's the traditional black box, if you will, which is the event data recorder, and there are video recordings. Now, most train operators these days have at least forward-facing video cameras so they can look out and see what's ahead of the train in case there's a grade crossing collision or something. So we have -- and some operators on some of Amtrak trains, they even have inward facing video -- inward-facing video cameras. The forward-facing video camera from the -- the forward-facing video

from the Amtrak train, that recorder has already been recovered and it was shipped back to Washington on the same government jet that brought our go team in here. So our team in Washington in our recorder's lab is poring through that and will be looking at that tonight. And tomorrow, when we have a press briefing, a media briefing, I think we will be able to update you on what we are finding from that. Oftentimes, it has the speed printed out, superimposed on the video. Now, the event data recorder in each train, in both the locomotive for the Amtrak and the CSX, frankly, we are still looking for those.

In addition to our investigators, we have representatives from the NTSB's office of transportation disaster assistance. They will be working closely with the families of the victims. Now, we are just literally in the very beginning stages of this investigation, but here is some preliminary factual information that we have right now.

[16:07:37] WHITFIELD: You're listening to the NTSB chairman, Robert Sumwalt there, talking about the things that they will be looking into as they try to determine why and how an Amtrak train collided with a freight train there in Cayce, South Carolina.

With us now, Mary Schiavo. She is a former inspector general for the department of transportation. Kaylee Hartung is also been with us on the ground there.

So Mary, to you first, listening to Mr. Sumwalt, he says, you know, there are number of things they are going to look into, which is, you know, company procedure, from the mechanical condition of each of the trains to the medical factors of the people involved, we know there were two who died in this, the conductor and an engineer, the work/rest periods of the employees involved, even looking at all the cell records and examining all of the recordings. This is still very early. This happened overnight. Are there any things that can be answered thus far in your view?

Yes, a couple really important things that we learned. One is that they already have recovered the forward-facing video cameras, which literally is like having an eye at the front of the train. And that's going to be very important to show them what happened.

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: But the second thing that we learned is, of course, that the automated signaling was down. And that they were doing a lot of this by hand, they were communicating with phone calls, et cetera. So, they will be really needing to get the recorders, the other recorders from the train that they are still looking for, because it will be an issue of, who told what to be where. Did you get the instruction on the track? Did you get the wrong instruction? Did you get the right instruction? You know, did you react in time? Did you fail to react? So it really is going to come down to the human responses to what was going on here. And that's all going to be answered, I think, in the event data recorder and on the videos. On the recording --

WHITFIELD: Yes, our Kaylee Hartung was reporting there that -- what was manually being controlled was the switching, the signaling and the dispatches. And if that were the case, is this a condition -- a situation in which perhaps the tracks should not have been used altogether, because everything would have to be done manually, or is that customary, when things go down electronically, that this is -- the next best thing?

[16:10:04] SCHIAVO: Well, unfortunately, a lot of work on the rails and the railroads in this country occur while the trains are moving. Because, of course, the trains have to keep going and moving on. That's one of the reasons why more automation is requested. Because one of the things that additional automation like positive train control would do, is give real-time information when there is work going on the tracks. When there's work going on in the signaling, et cetera. So we have real-time information, delivered to you by automation. And if the train doesn't respond, if the engineer doesn't respond, then the computer takes over.

So yes, unfortunately in the U.S., being a work in progress is pretty much, you know, a way of life for the rail. You are constantly fixing, constantly repairing, constantly checking to see if the tracks are in alignment, the signals are working, et cetera. So there's always somebody working on the rails.

WHITFIELD: All right. Mary Schiavo, thank you so much. Of course, we are going to continue to monitor the comments coming from the chairman at the NTSB.

Meantime, we will be right back.


[16:15:16] WHITFIELD: All right. Now to Capitol Hill and new details about the fallout from that controversial GOP memo alleging FBI surveillance abuses.

CNN is learning that Democrats on the House intel committee will likely push for a vote tomorrow to release their rebuttal to the memo. President Trump, who is spending the day golfing at his Florida golf course sent out a tweet this weekend claiming the memo vindicated him in the Russia probe. The memo alleges the FBI and justice department abused their surveillance authority to target a Trump campaign adviser. Now many Democrats and some Republicans are disputing the claim that the memo vindicates the President. Democrats are warning of dire consequences if the president uses the memo as an excuse to fire leaders of the Russia investigation.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: But to say that that's the end of the investigation, that this is all that Donald Trump needs to fire Rosenstein or to fire Bob Mueller, I will just tell you, this could precipitate a constitutional crisis, if the house Republicans believe they have set the stage for this President to end this investigation, they are basically saying that in America, one man is above the law. And that's not a fact. We have got to make sure that we explore all the possibilities and all the evidence.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Boris Sanchez is live for us in West Palm Beach near the President's Mar-a-Lago estate.

So Boris, you know, what are other Republicans saying about this probe?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, some Republicans are outright contradicting the President's take on the Nunes memo. As you noted, the president has been tweeting about the Russia investigation and this memo over the weekend.

Here's that tweet in which he says, this memo totally vindicates Trump in probe, but the Russia witch hunt goes on and on. There was no collusion and there was no obstruction, the word now used, because one year after looking endlessly and finding nothing, collusion is dead. This is an American disgrace.

The President's son, Donald Trump Jr., was also on FOX News last night, backing up his father saying that the release of this memo is sweet revenge for the Trump family. Despite that, a number of Republicans have come forward and drawn the line far short of where the president is on this, saying that the president doesn't have anything to do with the Russia investigation. Some of the strongest language we have heard so far comes from representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. Listen to what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The memo has no impact on the Russia probe?

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Not to me, it doesn't, and I was pretty intricately involved in the drafting of it. There is a Russia investigation without a dossier. So to the extent dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump tower. The dossier has nothing to do with an email sent by Cambridge Analytica. The dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopoulos' meeting in Great Britain. And it also has nothing to do with obstruction of justice. So there's going to be a Russia probe even without a dossier.


SANCHEZ: Now, those words from Trey Gowdy, especially significant. Because even according to Devin Nunes, Trey Gowdy is the only Republican on the House intelligence committee who has seen the underlying raw intelligence that led a judge to grant those FISA warrants to surveil carter page. So if anyone knows the meaning and significance, not only of the Nunes memo, but ultimately its implications for the Russia investigation, it is Trey Gowdy.

You mentioned, Fred, the possibility that there may be a vote tomorrow to determine whether Congress is going to declassify the so-called Schiff memo, that is the Democrats' answer to the Nunes memo, one that Democrats say is much more complete and provides more context than the one provided by the representative from California. We got a chance to ask deputy press secretary Raj Shah if he allows

that President Trump will allow for the declassification of the Democrat's memo as he did for the Republican version of that memo. He told us that he believes that the President is inclined to do so despite the fact that there is no obvious political gain for a president who believes that this Nunes memo vindicates him and clears him of any wrongdoing in the Russia investigation, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thanks so much.

All right, I want to bring in congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. She is Democrat from California, a member of the House judiciary committee.

Good to see you, congresswoman.

So don't you expect that if the Democrats do vote on releasing this memo and if the President were to sign off on its release, won't there be equal criticism that perhaps it is politicizing the Russia probe?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Adam Schiff has asked that the intelligence agencies review this and that it only be released if they have cleared as not compromising their process. But here's the problem. I mean, the Republicans on the intel committee wrote this secretly. They sprung it on the Democrats. They had a party line vote to release it. It's inaccurate and misleading in certain ways. And so it was necessary to correct the record.

What's being lost here, I think, is that the FISA court found that carter page, they had probable cause to believe that he was an agent of a foreign power. That's the standard in the FISA act. And they found that not once, but four times. This guy was an agent of a foreign power. And the information they got from the warrant apparently confirmed that. So, that's a problem. That's a problem for our country and potentially even a problem for our President.

[16:20:55] WHITFIELD: So your Republican colleague, you know, Trey Gowdy says the memo, the GOP memo, does not undermine the Russia probe. Does this point of view from Trey Gowdy --

LOFGREN: Well, Gowdy is right.

WHITFIELD: Does it represent kind of the visual or distancing of Republicans from the White House or the President's point of view on the importance of the GOP memo?

LOFGREN: Gowdy is right. This memo really has almost nothing to do with the Russia probe. Now, I am going to see on Tuesday the underlying documents we have now been given permission for members, just two members of the Judiciary Committee to review the underlying documents. So I'll know more after Tuesday than I do now.

But I was briefed almost a year ago about this matter and I will say that the Republican is inconsistent with the classified briefing I have received prior on this very same matter. They have been following Carter Page for quite some time. WHITFIELD: So this GOP memo and how the President is emphatic that it

demonstrates that the FBI, the FISA court are not, you know, operating fairly, and that it is, you know, politically skewed. What are your worries about whether there is a real breakdown, you know, in -- in the honor and respect of a separation of powers, if this at all exemplifies that?

LOFGREN: Well, the President has repeatedly attacked the judiciary, starting in the campaign and many times since then. He has attacked prosecutors. He has attacked the FBI. He has attacked the judicial branch. That's not what the President should do. And I think, really, this is the first President to do that.

WHITFIELD: Is your worry that he is gaining support in so doing?

LOFGREN: Well, I mean, he -- I don't know what the Russia probe is going to find. I mean, that's something Mueller will find out. He has been playing this very close to the vest, no leaks. But, you know, would an innocent man be doing what the President is doing? It looks so strange to me that he would be trying to divert attention and prevent this investigation. It just doesn't seem what someone with nothing to hide would be doing.

WHITFIELD: Senator John McCain from Arizona said, you know, this discord and this mistrust that seems to be bubbling is exactly what Russia was hoping to promote. Has Russia been winning in this?

LOFGREN: Of course. I think they have. I mean, they, you know, it was reported in the press that even the release of the memo twitter hashtag promoted was being promoted by Russian bots. What does that tell us? I think it ought to be a concern to all of us. We ought to step back and say, wait a minute. What's in the best interests of the cohesion of our country? How do we make sure that our system of government is maintained successfully?

And to do that, we need to have confidence, not blind faith, but confidence in the structures of our government, in the elements of our government. And you know, no one is perfect. Not the Congress, not the President, not the judiciary. But you don't deal with corrections through this partisan sniping and this drive to try to politicize this entire matter. That's very troubling and not good for the country, I don't think.

WHITFIELD: So what are your concerns about the integrity of the judiciary, the justice department, the FBI, law enforcement agencies like it while the President continues to criticize it and potentially undermine it?

[16:25:05] LOFGREN: Well, you know, the inspector general is doing a review at the request of the Republicans, fine. The inspector general system has been set in place to review all agencies, including the department of justice to make sure that everything is working well. Whenever they do, they find ways to improve. There's nothing wrong with that.

But to viciously attack the integrity of, you know, the FBI, are you kidding me? I mean, you know, I have been a critic sometimes f the FISA process. I have led a bipartisan effort, both during the Bush administration, the Obama administration, and the Trump administration to bring warrant requirements into surveillance. But here we have a warrant requirement. And to try to conflate the two issues is very troubling.

You know, I do think that, you know, here at home, I have been home for several days, my constituents have come up and said, you know, they are worried about our democracy. They are worried about whether our system of government is going to survive the attacks that the President is making on it.

You know, at the end of the constitutional convention, we -- it was asked by one of the founders what kind of government did we have? And he said, a republic, have you can keep it. It depends on each one of us in our various roles to put partisanship aside, if we possibly can, and keep our eye on the ball, which is to support our system of democracy and to make sure that what we want politically doesn't interfere with what's best for the country.

WHITFIELD: And other critics of your message have actually been saying that this is about protecting civil liberties and that's why it's important to further examine law enforcement, FISA court, the FBI, and the manner in which these investigations have been carried out.

LOFGREN: You know what's so ironic, when we have had a recent vote to require warrants for the FBI or the NSA, for that matter, to query or search the database, when they are looking for information about Americans. Devin Nunes led the fight against that. And now to say that this is about civil liberties, the two do not add up. I'm sorry, the two do not add up.

WHITFIELD: We will leave it there.

Congressman Zoe Lofgren, thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

LOFGREN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, President Trump says the memo vindicates him, but other Republicans are not willing to go that far. I'll talk to Republican congressman Robert Pittenger about what this memo means for the White House and the Mueller investigation going forward, next.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back. More reaction to that controversial GOP memo alleging FISA abuses by the FBI. Earlier, I had a chance to speak to Republican congressman Robert Pittenger of North Carolina and I asked him if he agreed with President Trump's claim that he -- that the memo vindicated him in the Russia probe and if he felt the investigation should continue.


REP. ROBERT PITTENGER (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, I do think the investigation will continue and it will be -- we'll get a final word on that. I think the underlying thought of the president seems to me to be the duplicitous nature and a malicious intent of the political operatives that were committed to Hillary Clinton in taking down Mr. Trump. So I think that is where his scorn may lay and how they have sought to politicize this process.

And I think the concern, frankly, from the Democrats is that the narrative is going to change. The focus for the last year has been on Russia and him and collusion and there's been no evidence of that. Even Senator Feinstein said that. So, now the tables could turn because you have some real communication that is linked to their commitment and their interests to try to take down this president.

You know, there have been great protests out of the Democrats about this release. It does remind me of Queen Gertrude in Shakespeare's "Hamlet," me thinks the he protest too much, and then I think of --

WHITFIELD: So tomorrow -- sorry to interrupt. Go ahead.

PITTINGER: Well, we need to look at the facts. I am for everything coming out in the open. I went to see the "Post" movie this weekend with my wife. There was great tribute paid to Catherine Graham for her tenacity and perseverance in making sure that the public heard the truth and I think why not all the truth come out now?

WHITFIELD: All right, so tomorrow some Democrats will be voting --

PITTINGER: -- some that want those facts to come out.

WHITFIELD: -- so then Democrats tomorrow will be voting on the release of its memo. How do you believe this might complete the picture or perhaps make it more complicated?

PITTINGER: I'm all for the release of the minority report. I do think it's the prudent thing to do. I also would like to see the application that was made to the FISA court and the underlying statements that they had. I think that's warranted.

[16:35:00] Anything that we can do to get to the facts and to the truth is --

WHITFIELD: Would you have an opportunity to see the application in its entirety?

PITTINGER: I would like to.

WHITFIELD: But would you --

PITINGER: I think that would be --

WHITFIELD: You would like to, but does that mean that the chances are probable that you could?

PITTINGER: No, I think we're going to push for that. We pushed for the release of this memo. We got that. I think this is warranted. You know, the truth is it hurts sometimes. As Jack Nicholson said, the truth, you can't handle the truth, but the truth is what we need to find out. And I think there's a lot of evidence right now pointing to the duplicitous nature of the political operatives supporting Hillary Clinton.

WHITFIELD: Do you believe the investigation, the Mueller investigation should continue uninterrupted or do you have any strong feelings about whether the potential removal of a deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, would interrupt those matters?

PITTINGER: Well, I think the investigation should continue. I think it will be consummated here soon. I hope it will be. By this time, it seems to me if they had found any connection with the president, that that would have come forth already. So, it appears to me that they should be winding down the next month or so.


WHITFIELD: All right. That was Republican Congressman Robert Pittenger of North Carolina.

All right, coming up. As Republicans and Democrats battle it out over the GOP memo, another deadline to keep the U.S. government open is quickly approaching. Can they somehow hammer out a deal by this Thursday to avoid another government shutdown?


WHITFIELD: All right, another week, another threat of a government shutdown? Congress has until this Thursday to pass a spending plan, but with the deadline fast approaching, guess what, still no deal yet. I'm joined now by CNN political analyst and senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, Margaret Talev. Also CNN political reporter Lauren Fox and NPR justice correspondent, Carrie Johnson. Good to see you all. All right Margaret, you first. Any closer to some sort of budget deal?

MARGART TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the conventional wisdom on both sides of the aisle right now is that nobody wants to have a government shutdown this week, so the talk is centered around how to kick it another several weeks, believe it or not, into late March. There are a couple of things to keep your eye on, though.

And maybe the most important one of those is that debt ceiling, which is not the same thing, but is going to run out around mid-March. And so once again, it sounds like a familiar story. We've seen it before. These things are becoming coupled and could lead to a showdown, if not this week then in mid-March.

WHITFIELD: So Lauren, prior to the last shut down, just about three weeks ago, you know, DACA was a major sticking point or a major sticking point. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell assured Democrats that he would bring a bill to the floor. Perhaps by this deadline of February 8th. So, any movement on that?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think what we have to remember about immigration is that the majority leader said he would bring a debate to the floor if the government remains open. So, of course, that's what a lot of Republicans and Democrats are saying. Let's not have a shutdown this time around. We can move on to an immigration debate, and then get to a spending bill.

But we should note that it's not clear if Democrats are going to go for this spending bill that is going to go to March 22nd. They may try to push for something a bit shorter. That's something to keep your eye on this week as well.

WHITFIELD: OK. Republican Representative Trey Gowdy really got a lot of people's attention by saying, you know, that GOP memo has no impact on the Russia investigation contrary to what the president seems to believe. So Carrie, is that becoming kind of conventional wisdom or is he by himself?

CARRIE JOHNSON, NPR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Trey Gowdy, of course, is the only member of that committee to actually review the underlying still-classified document. And of course, he's announced he's retiring so, it's not clear that his colleagues staying in the Congress are going to adopt his posture. One thing about the shutdown is that if it happens, special counsel Robert Mueller will continue to be on the job.

The source of his funding comes from something else other than the funds at issue in the shutdown. Also, most of the Justice Department, most of the FBI will keep working as essential personnel even if the government shuts down.

WHITFIELD: Margaret, are there other Republicans who have the same kind of point of view as Gowdy on this?

TALEV: Well there are but the Republicans --

WHITFIELD: Willing to speak out loud about it?

TALEV: Yes, the Republicans that matter the most of course is the Republican leadership and I just can't over empathize what a shift this is in terms of traditional Republican thinking and Republican behavior in terms of whether to voice your concerns about law enforcement publicly or in private.

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell very much coming to the side of supporting both President Trump and Devin Nunes now and this does mark absolutely a major shift in terms of how we have come to understand the way Republican lawmakers interact with what is traditionally and still is a sort of Republican but non-ideological-based law enforcement community.

WHITFIELD: And listen to what Congressman Adam Schiff had to say about this situation this morning.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I want to, you know, comment on this claim by my Republican colleagues that this is oversight. They're just doing this as a matter of oversight in asking these questions about why wasn't this included. If this was oversight, the committee members would want to read the underlying documents. I made a motion to allow them to read the documents. They voted it down.

I made a motion to bring the FBI in and ask the FBI these questions, you know, why was this included, why was that not included? That's what oversight looks like. That's oversight we've done for 10 years (ph).

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: You've read the underlying documents.

SCHIFF: I have and they voted that down. They voted against hearing from the FBI. When you do oversight, you haul them in, under oath. You say, why was this included, why wasn't that included? The interest wasn't oversight. The interest was a political hit job on the FBI in the service of the president.


WHITFIELD: So, Lauren, you know, what kind of lasting effects can this kind of partisanship have, particularly on the relationship with the DOJ?

[16:50:01] FOX: Well this was a conversation that I had with one moderate Republican during the Republican retreat last week. Charlie Dent told me that he was concerned about what sort of long-term impact this would have. He said, I think that our party has always been on the side of law enforcement and this is obviously problematic moving forward.

And we have to remember that the House Intelligence Committee has long had problems over partisanship when it came to this Russia investigation. The Senate committee it seems to have a much easier job sort of working together. Senator Warner and Senator Burr seem to be having a much more collegial environment when it comes to their Russia investigation so this seems to be something that the house probe is particularly having problems with.

WHITFIELD: And Carrie, your take? Because the president has been leading that criticism against the intel community, law enforcement.

JOHNSON: Yes. It's a very unusual situation in fact, unprecedented, as Margaret said. And it's going to be very interesting to see the extent to which Attorney General Jeff Sessions, of course, a close ally of President Trump, and FBI director Chris Wray, who was hand- picked by President Trump to lead the FBI, how they respond to these ongoing attacks by the president and by allies of this White House on their departments moving forward.

WHITFIELD: Well, both of them this weekend, leading into this weekend, were very supportive, trying to send a message to be very supportive, you know, of their subordinates.

JOHNSON: They are. They both had sent messages and in fact, the attorney general spoke out on behalf of his deputy attorney general, who we understand the president has been threatening to fire or at least being very disgruntled about in public. So we'll see where things go with those two major personnel issues on the president's plate.

The White House, of course, says there's no idea contemplated now of letting go the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, but he's a key player, obviously. He supervises the special counsel.

WHITFIELD: And Margaret, it is Super Bowl Sunday in all of this. And, you know, the president has been very vocal about the NFL. And apparently he just came out with this statement ahead of the Super Bowl, honoring armed forces and saying in part, we hold them in our hearts and thank them for our freedom as we proudly stand for the national anthem.

So kickoff is just an hour away. You know, it's Sunday, Super Bowl. The president had to say something about this, I guess, and this is the message. What do you think?

TALEV: Yes, he got in his own -- his own early kickoff a little bit early. Of course, there are different ways you can honor the military, but that statement is just as much directed at the NFL and the sort of ongoing dispute that the president wants to have with the players, compelling them to show their patriotism by standing for the national anthem. I think that's what that statement ahead of kickoff was about.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it there. Margaret Talev, Carrie Johnson, Lauren Fox, good to see you all. Thanks so much.


WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: All right, David meets Goliath tonight at Super Bowl 52. The big game kicks off in less than two hours. The New England Patriots are going for the sixth league title. A win for the Philadelphia Eagles would mean it would be their first Super Bowl crown. It's the most anticipated game in the franchise's history, but it's also, at least today, one of the coldest on record.

Our Coy Wire joins me live from Minneapolis, still bundled up. Thank goodness. I know your mom is happy to see that. So, Coy, let's talk about the anticipation, very high there. And gloves, yay.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, mom. I have my gloves on. The anticipation is really picking up here, Dred. And you know, there is that big question. Can the Eagles do what no other Philadelphia team has done? And that's win a Super Bowl. This is the third one they've ever been to.

They're going against the Goliath, right? The Patriots have won six and if they win this sixth one, that would tie an NFL record for the most ever. It's a daunting task, but I tell you what, there's a whole bunch of people from Philly and who are on their way here who feel they can get it done. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE/FEMALE (singing): Eagles fly on the road to victory. Fly, Eagles, fly --


WIRE: Look at that. That is Philadelphia nation, really eating this entire experience up, really embracing it. We'll see if Nick Foles, the backup quarterback can rally his troops and get the job done against Tom Brady and the Patriots. A lot of interesting things here to think about as far as prop bets, too. There's a lot of things you can bet on like what the coin toss will be, the national anthem will be over two minutes, under two minutes, a lot of fun surrounding it.

But it's all about what's going to happen on the field. I had to ask some former and current players what they think about this big game. Here's some predictions from around the league.


KAREEM HUNT, RUNNING BACK, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: I'm going to have to lean toward the Patriots on this one. You know, you can't go against Tom.

LARY FITZGERALD, WIDE RECEIVER, ARIZONA CARDINALS: I never really go against Tom Brady. I've seen this story, you know, a lot of times.

HUNT: Time and time again.

JIM KELLY, HALL OF FAME QUARTERBACK: Frank Reich who is the quarterback coach for the Philadelphia Eagles was my teammate here in Buffalo. I want to see him get a Super Bowl ring. So, I'm pulling for Philadelphia. And if they win, I think it we'll be an upset in his heart and I will never bet against Tom Brady, but hey, anything's possible.


WIRE: Anything is possible, Fred. That's for sure. One interesting thing about Tom Brady to watch in this game, in his eight Super Bowls, he has never scored a touchdown nor the Patriots in the first quarter. So they can't get off to a slow start against this Eagles team. We'll see if they can get out to a good start.

WHITFIELD: Oh man, who can forget that surprise ending last year. And oh my gosh, so great seeing Jim Kelly there too. Very good. Thanks for brining all that to us. Coy Wire, have fun. Stay warm. All right, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thank you so much for being with me this Sunday. The next hour of the "Newsroom" starts right after this.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera. Thank you for being with me. You're live in the "CNN Newsroom." And this afternoon, the president is forced to make a decision soon to decide whether you and the rest of America gets to see the Democrat rebuttal to the controversial Nunes memo. The House Intelligence Committee is expected to vote as early as tomorrow on whether to release the Democrats' version. It directly rebuts alleged abuses of the FBI and the Justice Department.