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GOP Memo Doesn't Undermine Mueller Probe; Democrats Push to Release Rebuttal; Trump Wants to Bolster Nuclear Arsenal; Nassar Faces Third Sentencing; Trump Accuses Schiff of Lying. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired February 5, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman Trey Gowdy said yesterday on one of the Sunday shows, that this investigation is not connected to the dossier, that there are all sorts of threads that are not connected to the dossier and that therefore the president is not vindicated.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY, D-ILL.: Yes, it's -- he's certainly not vindicated and I do agree with Mr. Gowdy that this investigation did not start because of the dossier. I think there's a huge time difference there. This investigation began independently of the dossier and the fact is the dossier is largely accurate. If there's a few minor errors, so be it, but it was raw intelligence data to be begin with.

I welcome my Democratic and Republican friends to put their guards down and look at this investigation from a clear point of view. Mike Morell, the former CIA director, said that the Russian attack on our democratic process was the political equivalent of 9/11. And I think he's right. Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, this was an assault on our democracy. You could just as easily have seen this happening the other way, where the Republicans would attack -- I mean where the Russians would attack a Republican candidate. And let's remember, they hacked into state boards of election to attack our democratic process. We should all be equally concerned, find out what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again.

CAMEROTA: I have one more question about the dossier because it seems to be one of the headlines of the Nunes memo that was released on Friday. So what Nunes and the memo claim, his staff, is that the FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe, told your committee behind closed doors that, in fact, it was the dossier, if not for the Steele dossier, no surveillance warrant would have been sought for Carter Page. True or false, did that happen?

QUIGLEY: It is false. We're not his exact words. Remember, that was classified. That the setting that we're talking about. So I have to be mindful of it. Until our memo comes out, it's hard to contradict exactly what they're saying.

So those were not his exact words. They're cherry picked. They're out of context. As Mr. Dent said, that's true for the entire two and a half page memo. I don't think either memo should have been put out because they release information that shouldn't be out there protecting sources and methods, but now that their report is out there, our memo has to go out there just to correct what they've stated in their short memo.

CAMEROTA: So will the Republicans on your committee vote to release that Democratic rebuttal?

QUIGLEY: Oh, I believe they will. My concern isn't with what the Republicans will do at a business meeting that I'll be part of this afternoon. It's what the president will do. This is a president that we have seen would do anything to obtain power. I can't imagine why anyone would imagine that he won't do anything to retain that power.

CAMEROTA: So, meaning, you don't think that he'll sign off on your --

QUIGLEY: I'm concerned that he won't -- yes, I'm concerned he won't sign off. I'm concerned that he will try to redact or change the memo. I believe that this White House worked with Chairman Nunes to concoct this idea and put it together.

CAMEROTA: And why do you believe that? Why do you think there was coordination?

QUIGLEY: Well, they certainly did it once before at the start of the investigation with the chairman's midnight ride to the White House to obtain information, get it to the president, and we learned later that they had concocted the entire plan and he got that information from the White House in the first place. And, obviously, for those who read the transcript of our business meeting last week, the chairman refused to answer that question that I asked of whether or not they worked on this memo or his staff worked on this memo with the White House. So, unfortunately the president has a few co-conspirators in this charade and I'm hoping we get to the truth.

CAMEROTA: So, very quickly, is your committee compromised beyond repair?

QUIGLEY: No. Look, this investigation is too important for us to let anything hinder it, right? I think we've made a lot of progress. I think we know a lot more about what has taken place, but we have a long way to go.

Look, Steve Bannon, in his -- in that book said, this is all about money laundering and Jared Kushner. I think there's a lot of truth to that and we've barely scratched the surface as to what took place with money laundering. It's just one example of the kinds of things that we have to investigate because they're extraordinarily important.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Mike Quigley, thank you very much for being here.

QUIGLEY: Thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, it was on President's Trump wish list for Congress in the State of the Union Address. Now we're learning more about his interest in bolstering the nuclear arsenal. We'll discuss, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:38:56] BERMAN: There was not much talk of Russia or the Russia threat in the president's State of the Union Address. However, his review of the nation's nuclear policy signals what could be a very important shift in attitudes towards the nuclear arsenal.

CAMEROTA: Joining us now is David Sanger, who wrote about this in "The New York Times" this morning. He's a CNN political and national security analyst.

David, great to see you.

Your headline is, "to counter Russia, U.S. signals nuclear arms are back in a big way."

What does that ominous wording mean?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Alisyn, you may remember that early in the Obama administration, President Obama gave a big speech in Prague in which he said the United States would begin to de-emphasize the use of nuclear weapons as a central part of our defense strategy. And over the years he did a bit of that. His critics would say not enough in order to get the new start treaty, which was the last arms control treaty that the United States signed with Russia, he had to agree to about a $70 billion improvements, many of them much needed in the U.S. weapons labs.

[08:40:00] So now President Trump has come in and if you read this new nuclear strategy, which came out on Friday, just as the Nunes memo came out, so you can imagine it didn't get a huge amount of attention at the time, what you discover is nuclear weapons are going back to the center of our defense strategy. And not only that, they're going there because of the rational that Russia is forcing us to go do that.

Now, if you listen to the State of the Union, the president mentioned increasing nuclear capability. He said nothing about Russia or Putin's drive to build new weapons.

BERMAN: In other words, David, are you suggesting that Russia is pulling the United States into a new arms race?

SANGER: I'm not suggesting it. Defense Secretary Mattis is saying so quite explicitly in this document and said so in a speech that he gave when he turned out a new national defense strategy about two weeks ago where he said that super power competition, not terrorism, would now be the central focus of American defense strategy. That's a huge change since 9/11 and one that's really not reflected in the political rhetoric where people, of course, respond right away to any call to defeat is, al Qaeda, all very important missions, but Mattis is now saying, not the most important mission.

CAMEROTA: But, David, how does this work with this new treaty that's supposed to go into effect today?

SANGER: Well, the way the treaty was negotiated eight years ago, went into effect seven years ago, but today is the day when both Russia and the United States have to hit the limit of no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear weapons. Sounds like a lot, but, remember, there were well more than 10,000 at the height of the Cold War.

Now, initially, the thought, Alisyn, was, that would sort of be a floor and that President Obama wanted to drive it even lower. Now the idea is, when this treaty expires in just three years, it may not be renewed and both countries could be off building far more. In the meantime, the U.S. says it's going to build a series of new, low yield nuclear weapons that some people are afraid could be easier for a president to make use of.

BERMAN: That's right. That's the thing is he's talking about less powerful nuclear weapons, which in a way might make things even more dangerous, David.

SANGER: That's part of the argument, John, that if you've got something that blurs the distinction between a very powerful non- nuclear weapon and a nuclear weapon, have something that's sort of in between with a low nuclear yield, might be easier for a president to reach for.

Now, the president's defenders say, no, that's not true, we've had low yield weapons before. Nobody's ever gone over that line and, in fact, this could make things safer by keeping the Russians from starting with a low yield weapon and they have a lot of them. But clearly what this means is, we're back in an arms race where we're matching their designs.

BERMAN: Fascinating times. David Sanger, thank you so much. Terrific report in today's "New York Times." Appreciate it.

SANGER: Thank you.

BERMAN: Convicted sex abuser and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar will be sentenced for a final time for sexually assaulting hundreds of young girls and women.

CNN's Jean Casarez live in Charlotte, Michigan, with more.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That sentencing will take place in about 15 minutes right in the courthouse behind me. There were 59 victims that walked up and gave their victim impact statements herein Eaton County. There were 156 in Ingham County. We know there are 265 identified victims at this point going forward.

Now, Larry Nassar can speak to the court here before he's sentenced. He can beg for mercy. He can apologize or he can say nothing. And many times you don't know until right before a defendant stands up if he's going to or not.

We also do know some reporting from "The New York Times" this morning that they knew for one year about Larry Nassar and did not act on the report. "The Times" is saying that in spring of 2015, athletes and a mother went to the USA Gymnastics telling them what Larry Nassar was doing. USA Gymnastics called in an investigator, a female specializing in sexual assault. She spoke with the athletes, many of them Olympians, along with the mother. She told USA Gymnastics, go to law enforcement. They did in July, 2015. And it was 11 months before anything was done on that report.

We also have learned that over 40 young women were assaulted in that year. We have reached out to the FBI for a comment. They have not responded.

And back here in Michigan, Larry Nassar is facing in this court up to 125 years in prison.

Alisyn. John.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Jean. All of the numbers of this case throughout all of it have been staggering. Just the amount of young women that he was able to abuse and the fact that 40 happened during that year. Obviously, we're going to need more answers to that.

Jean, thank you very much for all the reporting.

[08:45:01] OK, so now to this. It wasn't -- you're not just devastated because of your loss yesterday with the Patriots, but there was the Super Bowl ad that is drawing backlash today. It used Martin Luther King Jr.'s voice to sell Dodge pickup trucks. Watch this.


MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant (ph). That's a new definition of greatness. By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve (ph). You don't have to know the theory of relativity to serve (ph). You don't have to know the second (ph) theory of thermal dynamics in physics to serve (ph). You only need a heart full of grace so generated by love.


BERMAN: The manager of Dr. King's estate issued a statement defending the decision to be part of this ad saying, quote, we found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King's philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others, thus we decided to be a part of "Rams Built to Serve" Super Bowl program.

There's a lot here. I think some that people don't know about and some that I think people (INAUDIBLE).

This was not some public service announcement. This was a pretty direct appeal to buy trucks.

CAMEROTA: That's the problem. I mean because it's great to hear those words.

BERMAN: Right.

CAMEROTA: They're so stirring. And you wouldn't have heard them last night if not for this commercial. So I understand the instinct of the estate, Dr. King's estate, wanting to get those words out there. But the selling of trucks is -- feels so tone deaf.

BERMAN: And the other thing that's really fascinating, in this very speech that Dr. King gave, he talked about actually buying vehicles. I think it's strange, right, but he basically was telling people, don't go buy vehicle that you can't afford. It's not all about that.

CAMEROTA: Is that right?

BERMAN: The whole thing is really fascinating. There was a message of greed and purchasing and all that. But, again, I think the thing that bothered people the most as they were watching was the fact that it's buy trucks. The message isn't about service, it's about truck purchase (ph).

CAMEROTA: Right, but it does remind us that we should hear his words more often. We do need to somehow fit those into the dialogue right now.

BERMAN: All right, about a quarter till the hour.

Now that the Republican memo is out, what are the consequences? How can trust between law enforcement and Congress be restored? We'll get "The Bottom Line," next.


[08:51:40] BERMAN: So Democrats now pushing for release of their rebuttal to the controversial Republican memo which alleges FBI surveillance abuses. Is the partisanship straining the trust between Congress and law enforcement?

Let's get "The Bottom Line" now. Joining us is Jane Harmon, former congressman, once a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. She's now the president and CEO at the Woodrow Wilson Center, where David Sanger, we just spoke to, is working at now.


CAMEROTA: All the cool kids work there.

HARMON: I'm glad you got the plug in, writing a book on cyber.

BERMAN: Look, we just asked the question here, is it straining the relationship between politics and law enforcement and has it rendered this committee, which you sat on and you loved your work there essentially forever damaged?

HARMON: Well, I don't know about forever, but for now, irreparably damaged. The intel committees are leadership committees. That means that the appointments go through the leadership of the House and the Senate. They don't go through the regular process, which is a committee that's also appointed by the leadership but it has more democratic with a (INAUDIBLE) process to elect people to committees.

In this case, the House Intel Committee has become -- has been becoming more politicized over recent years and the storied past where there was true bipartisanship has been vaporized. I mean I served on there and --

CAMEROTA: You were Adam Schiff.

HARMON: I -- I was --

CAMEROTA: I mean, basically.

HARMON: I wasn't a little Adam Schiff. And he's not little either. But I served on there when Porter Goss (ph) was the chairman first. He later became CIA director. And then a guy named Pete Huxtra (ph) was the chairman. And I used to say about Pete, we -- that was the longer relationship -- that we were like an old married couple. We would get along for three weeks, then we'd have a terrible fight and we wouldn't speak for a week and then we'd make up.

But on our watch, intelligence reform passed. In 2004, to correct the abuses that led to a massive intelligence failure on 9/11 and a massive intelligence failure around weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And now we have the director of National Intelligence and -- who was the joint commander across the intelligence community, and intel, last time I looked, was getting much better.

CAMEROTA: And so from where you sit now and you watch what's going on in the House Intelligence Committee and you watch Devin Nunes putting out this memo, I mean what -- look, as I understand it, correct me if I'm wrong, the reason that the intelligence committees were created was so that a select group of lawmakers could see the intelligence and be non-political about it.

HARMON: A little history here. I was a young lawyer on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Saturday Night Massacre. I was there. And on Sunday, the Democrats on the committee -- there were no intelligence committees -- convened each senator could bring one staffer. I was the only woman. I had a one week old son. And we thought the country might -- or our democratic rule of law might disappear.

It didn't, but that led to, among other things, the church committee, the storied church committee, which led to the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the standing up of intel committees in both houses. And they were truly bipartisan, truly bipartisan, until the last decade or so. And I -- the short-term future is horrible.

Mike Rogers was on the House Intelligence Committee. We overlapped by two years. He was not yet chairman. I saw him Friday and hopefully we will write a piece together about the sad demise of the House Intelligence Committee.

[08:55:03] BERMAN: What does it do when the president this morning attacks the ranking member, Adam Schiff, of that committee, as you were saying, calling him little Adam Schiff and says, along with James Comey, you know, Mark Warner, who's the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, you know, Brennan, who was CIA director, and James Clapper DNI, he calls them all leakers and law breakers basically.

HARMON: Well, I -- yes, the damage -- they're big boys and they will handle it. If you're in politics, and even Brennan, if you're at that level, you're in a glass house. But what about the people who work for them? What about someone who is deciding whether or not to join the FBI or the CIA and what about our foreign liaison partners in intel agencies and criminal investigative agencies who have tipped us off over the years to a lot of the plots that will harm -- that could harm our country. And those plots have been foiled.

The intelligence community is the tip of the spear. And you think about ISIS -- I give Trump some credit -- being pushed out of, as we say, squished out of -- out of Syria, where's it going to go next?

By the way, a positive thing. The Trump administration has just put additional sanctions on Hezbollah, which is one of the maligned proxy agencies of Iran. But the problem is, our partners, who need to do that with us to make those sanctions effective, don't want to cooperate with us because they think Trump might try to ditch the Iran nuclear deal, which at least reduces that particular threat in the neighborhood and was a, I think, a big -- was and is a big success.

CAMEROTA: Well, former Congressman Jane Harmon, it is great to get your perspective on all of this. You know it better than anybody. And it is troubling to hear you think that they are tainted beyond repair at the moment.

Thanks so much for being here.

HARMON: Thank you, Alisyn. Thank you, John.

CAMEROTA: All right, CNN "NEWSROOM" with Erica Hill today takes up after this very quick break. Thanks for being with me.

BERMAN: Thanks for walking me through this morning, helping me get through this.

CAMEROTA: I've got you. I've got you on this.

We'll see you tomorrow.