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Democrats Release Rebuttal Memo With Redactions. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired February 24, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ryan Nobles in for Ana Cabrera in New York. The breaking news this hour. The House Intelligence Committee just released the Democratic rebuttal memo, a bullet by bullet retort to what the president has called his vindication in the Russia probe.
Reporters have anticipated this for weeks. The memo written by Adam Schiff and his staff tries to dismantle the narrative built by the Republican majority that the Obama administration improperly surveilled the Trump campaign.
Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, has read through the document, and CNN White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez is at the White House. Evan, let's start with you. What does this memo say?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this memo contradicts and tries to rebut the argument that was made by Devin Nunes and the Republicans. They said that the Christopher Steele dossier, the dossier put together by a former British spy and paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign, they say that that played a crucial role in the decision to open a very intrusive surveillance of Carter Page, who was a former national security adviser to the Trump campaign.
And according to this memo that's been released by the Democrats, they say that's not exactly the case. They say that the Steele dossier was cited in a couple of places in the initial application in October of 2016 that was made to the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but they say that the FBI had tons of other information.
They say that it goes back to 2013 that the FBI had been looking into Carter Page and his associations with Russians. Something that obviously we had known in previous stories we had reported that there were these interactions and the FBI had even talked with him and visited him and said, look, we know the Russians are trying to target you perhaps trying to turn you into a spy, just so you know.
This was an interaction that happened years before he comes into the picture in the Trump campaign. According to this memo, brand-new information in this memo, Carter Page was interviewed by the FBI in March of 2016. It doesn't say what exactly the FBI said to him, what the purpose of that interview was, and anything that Carter Page said.
But it's important to note that that is the same month that Donald Trump mentions Carter Page's name as an adviser or a national security adviser when he meets with "The Washington Post." At the time, Donald Trump was getting a lot of criticism for not having anybody of substance on his national security team.
So, he was trying to rebut that, and he mentioned Carter Page's name as one name that was on his side. It's very important, interesting in this memo, by the way, Ryan, that they seem to suggest that they believe Carter Page perjured himself, at least when he talked to the House Intelligence Committee.
They say that there's information that the FBI possesses that contradicts some of the things that Carter Page has told Congress. So, perhaps we're going to have to talk to Carter Page and see what perhaps this is about. This memo does not say exactly what that is.
It's also important to mention here that according to the Democrats, by the time, in October of 2016, when the Justice Department and the FBI go to the secret court to get this surveillance warrant, they have additional information.
They say that by the time there are three more renewals of that surveillance of Carter Page, they say that the FBI had been able to corroborate important pieces of information in the dossier that was put together by Christopher Steele.
Another important point here that Devin Nunes said, which was that the court was never advised that the Steele dossier was paid for by Democrats. According to the Democratic memo that was released today, they say that the court was aware.
And they cite one particular portion of the memo in which they say that the FBI speculates, again, this is a part of the application that was made to the court, it says the FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person, this is the person who had paid for the dossier, was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit candidate number one's campaign.
That's a reference to Donald Trump. Again, the president and the Republicans have said that this is not information that was sufficient to show the court that this was a dossier that was paid for by Democratic -- by Democratic donors, by the Hillary Clinton campaign. The Democrats say not so much.
[17:05:07] NOBLES: All right, Evan Perez, thank you for unpacking all of that. And to the point you were making, Evan, let's go to Boris Sanchez now at the White House. And despite what Evan is telling us about what is in this memo, we got a statement from the White House that contradicts a bit of that. Boris, what did the White House have to say?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ryan. The White House putting out a statement saying this is a political document that aims to undercut the president. Really reiterating some of the claims that we saw in the Nunes memo, that the Schiff memo attempts to dispel.
The idea that salacious dossier was the basis of the Russia investigation, and that a FISA judge wasn't informed about who funded the dossier and he should have been. Essentially, this boils down to the idea that is the basis for the Nunes memo, that there's a deep state conspiracy that is out to delegitimize President Trump and his agenda.
If we take a step back, we have to accept that President Trump, for the extent of his presidency, has long gone after anyone who claims that there was any form of meddling by Russia in the election. He's also long stated that there's no collusion between his campaign and Russia.
It is not a surprise, though, that the White House was less than enthusiastic about the release of the Schiff memo. The president at one point saying he would leave it to the FBI to determine whether this document should be released. Something he did not do for the Nunes memo.
You'll recall that he was caught on a hot mic after the state of the union telling lawmakers that he was 100 percent behind the release of the Nunes memo without ever having read a word of it.
It took about two weeks for it to be released with some heavy redactions. And again, the White House pushing back, saying that it is not essentially the truth, and they reiterate some of the points made in the Nunes memo -- Ryan.
NOBLES: All right. Boris Sanchez with the White House reaction. Boris, thank you for that and Evan Perez, thank you for your reporting as well.
Let's bring in our panel to get analysis on this issue. Joining us, Paul Callan, our CNN legal analyst, Samantha Vinograd, a CNN national security analyst, also CNN political commentators, Ana Navarro and Doug Heye.
Let's get the initial impressions of the memo. We'll start with the team we have here in New York. Paul, are you surprised by what this memo reveals?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm really not surprised because the Democrats have been talking about this for a long time. That the Republican so-called Nunes memo was unbalanced and an unfair look at the process that led to the warrant allowing the surveillance of Carter Page.
In looking through this document, what the document does is, it shows that there were a lot of things that were omitted in the Nunes memo that provided a different view to the FISA judges.
And by the way, what I also find to be very, very important is that the document reveals that there were four separate FISA judges that approved the warrants in question. And that they were provided with really a balanced amount of information. NOBLES: Right, and all four appointed by Republican presidents as well.
CALLAN: Republican presidents, correct.
NOBLES: Sam, to you now. I think the timeline seems to be one of the big points that the Democrats make in this memo. They point out that it was a full seven weeks after the investigation started that this Steele dossier became an important part of that investigation. But the Nunes memo basically claimed it was the foundation of the investigation, right?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. It rewrote history falsely, but the other point here, I think, that we learn from this memo, which is obvious to a lot of us tracking this investigation is it really lays out the counterintelligence investigation didn't start with Carter Page.
It started with Papadopoulos. And the memo also lays out the fact that many of us know just as a fact, you can Google it and see it on the internet, Carter Page had a long-standing relationship with Russia.
Carter Page's relationship did not start in July 2016 or August 2016. It goes back for a long time. So, I think this memo really points to the fact that several members of the Trump campaign had long-standing relationships with Russia. Flynn had a relationship with Turkey, and that's very concerning.
I can tell you, I have been in touch with House Democrats and Senate Democrats. They're glad the memo is out to correct the record, but they all agree. It's time to get back to work.
NOBLES: Right. We're going to go back to Evan Perez, who is our CNN justice correspondent. We'll be back to our panel in a second. Evan has some new information he wants to share -- Evan.
PEREZ: Ryan, I just wanted to add a lilt bit to that conversation because, again, I think part of the whole purpose of this exercise, the reason why we're even here, is that the Republicans have been making a number of claims over the past few months.
Not just in the Nunes memo, but before the Nunes memo. They said that the FBI illegally spied on the Trump campaign. According to this document, Carter Page was no longer associated with the Trump campaign.
As a matter of fact, for the last few months, we have heard repeatedly from the White House that Carter Page was nobody. He was not involved at all. He wouldn't be able to -- the president wouldn't be able to pick him out of a room, right?
[17:10:05] So, according to this document that the Democrats have released here, and according to the Nunes memo, the surveillance does not begin until October of 2016, which is well past the time Carter Page is involved with the campaign. That's important to remember. A second thing, Republicans have been making the claim, and in conservative media, you heard the FBI paid Christopher Steele for this dossier. That is not true. The Democrats' memo makes that clear. This information we have known for some time.
But now, in black and white, the Democrats are saying the FBI never paid him. And that they had cut off their relationship with him because he had spoken to the media, which was a violation of their agreement.
And according to the Democratic memo, they say that the court, the secret surveillance court, was informed that Steele had been cut off. Again, that's something that the Nunes memo didn't really get into.
I think it's very important for us to address here because these are claims that have been sort of bandied about over the last year or so of this investigation to try to discredit it. I think it's very important for people to understand that.
NOBLES: Very good. Thank you for pointing that out, Evan. Let's bring Ana and Doug back into the conversation. I believe control room, we have the sound bite ready to go. Ana, I want to get your reaction.
Devin Nunes -- we don't have the sound, but Devin Nunes just happened to be speaking at the CPAC conference when this memo was released. And he suggested at one point, when asked to respond to the fact that the memo had been released, we actually do have the sound now. Listen to what Devin Nunes had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We actually wanted this out, so this has been held up for over two weeks. The FBI and DOJ had right away had told the Democrats what was wrong with their memo or their response to our memo.
And they waited for two weeks before they actually did the redactions that were necessary to get this out. We wanted it out. We want it out because we think it is clear evidence that the Democrats are not only trying to cover this up, but they're also colluding with parts of the government to help cover this up.
And I think as you read it, you will see personal attacks on myself, personal attacks on Chairman Gowdy, with a lot of really interesting things that sound really bad, like a lot that has been happening with this Russia investigation over the course of the last year, but what you're not going to see is anything that actually rejects what was in our memo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Ana, that is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee suggesting that Democrats are colluding with parts of the United States government to cover this up. Is that a responsible position by Devin Nunes? ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's not only not a responsible position, it's not a conservative position. It's amazing to me that this is going on at CPAC, which I think this year stands for crazy PAC.
And we have already seen that at that convention, John McCain, a national hero dealing with brain cancer, was booed. The guy who said that America is a nation of immigrants was booed. A conservative woman who went on and said Roy Moore and Donald Trump were sexual harassers, was booed and had to be escorted out by security.
And you get folks that are applauded like Devin Nunes. I think what it tells you is kind of what the base has become, what the Trump base has become. They're going to believe anything that Donald Trump or Devin Nunes says.
There's not that much that is surprising in this memo. I think there's the legitimacy of seeing it on paper, of seeing it come out. But I think that it doesn't change many minds. The folks who want to believe Nunes do.
The folks who want to believe the Democrats do. I feel this investigation is just so partisan, so politicized, so irresponsible, so off the rails. It's like the American people are being asked to be mediators in the midst of a divorce.
Where you have one version and another version, and it is a stark difference with how the Senate investigation is being conducted. That one is being conducted by adults. Devin Nunes here is being, you know, behaving like a toddler in diapers.
NOBLES: Well, Doug, this is an opportunity to bring you in. Your experience of how the Congress works. I mean, how difficult does this make the job of the House Intelligence Committee to come up with some sort of credible conclusion about the role that Russia played in the United States election?
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure, well, Ryan, let me say first and foremost, I used to work for Senator Richard Burr, who is the Senate Intel chair. Have nothing but great things to say about him and the job he does on every issue.
Let me put that on the table, but I spoke to somebody with the Senate Intel Committee about two weeks ago, who said to me, and I think this is what we're all seeing today, this investigation on the House side was blown up months ago.
It was blown up on the Republicans side, it was blown up on the Democratic side. We have seen for weeks and months now every day, Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier on television attacking Devin Nunes and his investigation.
[17:15:11] This is political. The Senate has done a much better job. That's where we'll see a lot more of the focus go. They're working together. You know, ultimately, we'll see the end product they put out there. But clearly, Senator Burr and Senator Warner are working together and have a good relationship. All things being political, we'll see how it ends, but that's where the focus is going to go as far as what the actual resolution is going to be on Capitol Hill.
NOBLES: All right. Doug, Ana, Sam, Paul, thank you all for your analysis in quick order on the release of this Democratic memo. And we're continuing to unpack the details from the Democratic intelligence memo that was just released. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. There's much more after this.
NOBLES: Breaking news, the Democratic rebuttal to the Nunes memo is now public with redactions. It's ten pages long.
[17:20:03] CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez has been reading through it all. Evan, just pull out some highlights for us. What do you think is important from this very explosive document?
PEREZ: Look, I think one of the most important parts of this document is it gives us a little bit of a timeline of how the FBI and the Justice Department were able to go to the secret surveillance court to get a warrant to do this very intrusive surveillance of Carter Page, who was the former national security adviser for the Trump campaign.
It tells us that the Steele memo, the memo put together by Christopher Steele, a former British spy, played a small role, according to the Democrats, in getting the authorization to do this surveillance of Carter Page.
But it's important to sort of understand the timeline. In July, late July, we now learn, is when the FBI begins its counterintelligence investigation of people associated with the Trump campaign.
And it's in September that the Steele dossier or pieces of information from Christopher Steele gets into the hands of the investigators who are doing this investigation of Russian meddling and its association with the Trump campaign.
So, the investigation is open in July. It's not until seven weeks later or so in September that they get their hands on the first iteration of what's now known as the Steele dossier.
And then in October is when they go to the surveillance court to get permission to be able to do this surveillance of Carter Page. We now know that there are three separate renewals of that surveillance. It goes for 90 days.
And we also now know that, again, it began in October of 2016, and according to this memo, goes right through until September of 2017. In order for the FBI to be able to continue doing the surveillance, they have to go back every 90 days and get renewals.
And they have to show during the previous 90 days, they were getting intelligence, valuable intelligence, that merits and warrants them continuing to do this again. This very invasive surveillance of Carter Page. It's very important for us to sort of understand that timeline.
Because we now know that what Nunes and what some of the Republicans have been saying and what the president had suggested, which was that the FBI was spying on his campaign, that's not true according to this memo.
This memo says that Carter Page was gone from the campaign, from the Trump campaign by the time this surveillance begins in October of 2016. It's also interesting here to remind people, because there's been a lot of focus on this Steele dossier.
And there's some salacious details in there, according to the Democratic memo, there's very limited parts of Steele's information that are used to support the application to do the surveillance of Carter Page. None of the salacious details, we're not going to get into them.
We're going to invite people to go to Google if they want to read some of that stuff, but the information that they use is very, very limited, according to the Democratic memo that's been released today.
It says here that the Justice Department cited multiple sources to support the case for surveilling Page, and only made narrow use of information from Steele's sources about Page's specific activities in 2016, chiefly his suspected July 2016 meetings in Moscow.
Ryan, it's also interesting to note here, sort of reading between the lines. There's a lot of redactions. I'll show you one page where there's a lot of stuff that is simply blacked out, and we're not able to see what exactly it says.
But according to this memo, the FBI has information that indicates that essentially the Russians promised compromising information on Hillary Clinton when they met with Carter Page in 2016.
So even after the FBI had interviewed him in March of 2016, he continues to have interactions, repeated interactions with an unidentified Russian. We don't know who it is that he was in touch with, but from the source of this, it indicates that it should be somebody who is of interest, a Russian person of interest to the FBI.
So, he continues to have this interaction, and that is what's driving the FBI's interest in him and why they continue to believe that perhaps he was up to something and needed to be surveilled.
NOBLES: Evan, before we break from you, it's interesting to see Adam Schiff's response to this release up until this point. He hasn't spoken about it, but he's put out a statement and a tweet. He seems very disappointed by what was left out of this memo.
Obviously, we don't know what was left out, but it seems from your reading of it that there are quite a few substantive rebuttals to the Nunes memo. Do you think at the end of the day this is just going to be viewed as a political document, or is there enough here to get to the substance of these key issues?
[17:25:02] PEREZ: Look, I think I'll unpack this in two ways. For those of us who have been sort of living this investigation, covering this thing for more than a year, I think it's very important and interesting information.
It certainly corroborates reporting that we have made, and we have done over the last year or so, including the fact that there were important parts of the Steele dossier that have been corroborated, according to the Democratic memo.
But look, we should not lose sight of this. The FBI was opposed to the release of the Nunes memo, and they were opposed to the release of this memo because they believe it damages national security.
We're seeing some of the damage being done in courts right now because it's never been done before that an arm of the U.S. government has released this kind of information. So, it's a very important thing for us to remember.
Look, it will become part of the partisan fight that we're having here in this country over whether or not this is a legitimate investigation, in the end, when Robert Mueller releases his findings, when that investigation is wrapped up is when we will finally be able to answer the question of whether or not this was all worth it, whether this was a witch hunt that the president says it is, or whether this was a real legitimate national security concern that the FBI had good reason to investigate.
NOBLES: OK, Evan, and on days like this, we wonder if that end is ever in sight. We appreciate your excellent reporting, as always. Evan Perez.
My panel is standing by. They're reading through all ten pages of this memo as well. We'll have their takeaways after this quick break. Thank you so much for joining us. Stay here.
[17:31:04] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: And breaking news this hour. The Democrat rebuttal to the Nunes memo is now public with some redactions. And we do have a response from the White House today. And it reads, quote, "While the Democrats' memorandum attempts to undercut the president politically, the president supported its release in the interest of transparency. Nonetheless, this politically driven document fails to answer serious concerns by the majority's memorandum about the use of partisan opposition research from one candidate loaded with uncorroborated allegations as a basis to ask a court to approve surveillance of a former associate of another candidate at the height of a presidential campaign.
"As the majority's memorandum stated, a FISA judge was never informed that Hillary Clinton and the DNC funded the dossier. That was a basis for the Department of Justice's FISA application. In addition, the minority's memo fails to even address the fact that the deputy FBI director told the committee that if it had not been for the dossier, no surveillance would have ever been sought. As the president has long stated, neither he nor his campaign ever colluded with a foreign power in the 2016 election, and nothing in today's memo counters that fact."
My panel is with me now. Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst, Samantha Vinograd, the CNN national security analyst, and we have our political commentators Ana Navarro and Doug Heye, they are in Washington.
Samantha, that was a lengthy statement but I think it was worth reading for a number of reasons because there are quite a few things that if you read the memo, even a little bit, you might be scratching your head as to the White House response because a lot of these things that the White House claims are not in this memo are.
But I want to point out the fact that in this response by the White House, they never mentioned the word Russia. Do you think that's significant?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: That seems like a pretty big gap to me. When I saw the statement, you can imagine this actually coming out of the Kremlin rather than the White House because it's so full of misinformation and doesn't mention Russia.
You literally have to look at the first page of this document and contrast it to the White House statement and see that the White House apparently either didn't get past reading the first page or is purposefully misrepresenting information.
This document addresses in detail the multi-pronged rationale for the surveillance warrant on Carter Page in October 2016. It wasn't just the dossier. And the White House and Devin Nunes in all of their statements have not once talked about Russia. Again, in this document, there's a line that says the DOJ's warrant request was based on compelling evidence that Page was knowingly assisting clandestine Russian intelligence.
If I were the White House, I'd be pretty concerned that Russia was targeting Carter Page, was targeting Papadopoulos, and who knows who else.
NOBLES: Right. Right. And Paul, why wouldn't the White House instead attempt to rebut claims in this memo as opposed to making statements that seem to be completely contrary to what is in the document?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think the whole process that's being used here is just really objectionable because, you know, let's step back for a second. We're talking about looking at FISA, which is a secret court that only under extraordinary circumstances issues surveillance warrants involving U.S. citizens. And of course, we're all worried, are they doing this properly?
The only way you can find out if they're doing it properly is by having all of the information. And now we get a second memo released by the Democrats and it's been edited by the president to eliminate a full picture of what goes on. But what is revealed in this document -- now I have sought warrants myself as a prosecutor. Warrants are always based on problematic witnesses. I mean, if you're investigating a murder case, guess who might be on the street at the time of a murder?
It might be somebody with a criminal record. It might be somebody with problems, but he still might have good information that would support a search warrant.
CALLAN: And that's what a judge's job is.
[17:35:03] And when you see the attack on Steele that's articulated in this memo and by the White House, what I found to be interesting is they don't go to any core Steele credibility.
CALLAN: They just say he leaked information to the press.
NOBLES: Other than his political -- the political --
CALLAN: Yes. But he had been a British intelligence agent.
CALLAN: Was considered highly reliable by the British, and what this memo reveals is that there was a lot of other independent corroboration other than Steele that the FISA judge depended upon.
CALLAN: So I think the White House is presenting at best an incomplete explanation here.
NOBLES: I mean, it's just interesting that in the statement they say they don't address the fact that the political affiliation of the people who funded this Steele dossier, and I'm looking at four paragraphs right here. I mean, you can dispute whether or not the substance of the memo is right or wrong, but to say they didn't address it is just factually incorrect.
CALLAN: No, they call it opposition research.
CALLAN: They tell the judge that this is the product of opposition research.
NOBLES: Right. Right.
CALLAN: They don't maybe say Hillary Clinton funded it, but they do say that it came from a source that would be adverse to the president.
NOBLES: All right. So what do Republicans think about the Democratic rebuttal? Ana Navarro and Doug Heye are still with us. We promise we'll get
their reactions after this short break. Stay with us.
[17:40:19] NOBLES: Breaking news this hour. The Democrats' rebuttal to the Nunes memo is now public with some redactions. You'll recall that Republicans originally blocked this memo from being released. The White House fought for the redactions but it is now out. It is 10 pages long. We've been reading through it over the last hour.
And I want to bring in a political perspective on this. Our CNN commentators Ana Navarro and Doug Heye.
Doug, reading through this memo, I mean, can you understand why Democrats were so upset about only releasing the Nunes memo first?
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Absolutely. I thought, one, I didn't want either memo to be released, but if we were going to release one, then I thought the only fair thing to do would be to release them both.
But your panel earlier brought up the redactions. I think that's going to be a very important thing over the coming days. One thing that at least Capitol Hill Republicans but I know even some Democrats talk about is that a lot of the leaks and almost every leak that has come from Capitol Hill on this hasn't come from the Senate side but has come from the House side. And by and large, they say from the Democratic side.
Given that Democrats are worried about the redactions that have been made in this memo, and there may be substantive reasons for that, if we see any of this material leaking, it's going to really put the Democrats, especially the committee ranking member, Adam Schiff, in a tough place. They've got more information they want to put out there, but they're going to have to be careful about how they do so given the White House has redacted it.
NOBLES: Ana, I want to bring you in now about what this means on kind of a bigger scale for the White House. And we noted the fact that in the statement that the White House put out in response to this memo, that the president conveniently leaves out anything having to do with Russia. And it seems as though at each stage of these investigations, on all levels, in the Senate, in the House, and the Mueller investigation, he keeps trying to tamp down any thoughts about even Russia's involvement at all.
Would it not be to the president's benefit to acknowledge Russia's involvement, say that he still had nothing to do with it, but allow these investigations to move forward, and at least give him the opportunity to be cleared of any wrongdoing?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it would be to his benefit if he has nothing to fear and nothing to hide. Look, I think accuracy from the White House, frankly accuracy from this House investigation, is no longer an issue, is no longer a relevant question. To me, this entire House investigation has become a joke. A political joke. It lacks credibility, and it is just a lot of background noise, and you can say even more so about the White House's response to this war of the memos.
I think it's a lot of noise trying to preemptively discredit the Mueller investigation. It no longer matters what comes out of this House investigation. It's become partisan. You have seen the Republicans, the Republican leadership, the chairman act in a very partisan way for months now. It's not about CYA. It's about CTA. Cover Trump's angle. Remember, we have seen him now for months. It was months ago that he was having those secret meetings at the White House in the middle of the night and trying to espouse the Trump agenda.
In turn, the Democrats have become political and have gone out and, you know, talked a lot. There's been a lot of noise and a lot of reaction coming out of this investigation. In the meantime, you've got Robert Mueller coming out with more indictments. More guilty pleas. Flipping more people. And doing his job. So all of this cacophony going on in the House investigation committee is really not affecting the Mueller investigation.
What the White House, what the White House and its allies are trying to do is create an atmosphere so that people don't believe what comes out of the Mueller investigation.
NOBLES: Right. And to Ana's point, Doug, from a political communications perspective, if you think about what we were talking about yesterday.
NOBLES: The president, you know, facing some tough questions about what he was going to do about gun control, the future of his son-in- law in his administration and whether or not he was going to get a full security clearance, and whether or not he was going to be able to continue on in that job. A number of big issues that the White House was dealing with. They conveniently decide to allow this memo to come out on a Saturday afternoon where it may not get as much attention.
Was this a smart strategy on their part? Do you think that it was done purposely to wait to release the memo or allow its release on a weekend?
HEYE: Yes, absolutely so. If we know one thing about this White House, it's that the firings happen on Friday typically so that that goes into the weekend and kind of muffles some of the talk, and this memo coming out on a -- you know, at 5:00 or 4:45 on a Saturday, I think does that same thing. And you know, if we're disappointed that the statement doesn't make a point-by-point refutation from the White House this afternoon, we know that's not necessarily their strong suit.
[17:45:03] What they are good at is essentially saying politically, these are not the droids you're looking for, and so we know that whatever we're talking about tonight, we may be talking about something else tomorrow morning. Certainly by tweet time Monday morning, we'll be on an entirely different topic.
NAVARRO: It's absolutely no coincidence that it came out at precisely the moment that Devin Nunes was addressing CPAC.
NAVARRO: Where Donald Trump just got 90-plus percentile approval rating from the crowd there.
NOBLES: Right. A very, very good point.
Ana Navarro and Doug Heye, thank you so much for both of your perspectives.
HEYE: Thank you.
NOBLES: Obviously, a lot more to unpack with the release of this Democratic rebuttal memo to the Devin Nunes memo. We'll have much more coming up after this break.
You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
[17:50:15] NOBLES: Breaking news this hour, the Democrats' rebuttal to the Nunes memo is now public with some redactions. And you'll recall the Republicans originally blocked this memo from being released. The White House fought for redactions and now it is out. It is 10 pages long. We've been reading through it over the past hour.
And I want to bring in our CNN national security analyst Sam Vinograd to talk more about it.
Sam, I'm interested in your perspective as a national security analyst on this. I have to imagine that the Kremlin is watching this all play out. Is this part of what they were hoping for when they attempted to get involved in the U.S. election last year?
VINOGRAD: I think that Vladimir Putin is probably doing cartwheels right now. I think that there has been so much politicization of this process for one which feeds directly into his mission which is again open source information to sow divisions in the United States and it's very clear from reading this document that Vladimir Putin's successfully targeted members of the Trump campaign and that's not surprising.
The Russians want to target people who have access and influence so that they can spread their agenda. So again, it shows that he infiltrated the campaign. And then we have this whole process play out that further cements the fact that the president himself is cementing divisions with his statement today when he talked about this being a political -- political operation. So all in all, this works in Vladimir Putin's favor.
And we have not heard President Trump in his statement, the chairman of the House Intel Committee or anybody else for that matter mention Russia once in the two hours or so since this news broke.
NOBLES: Right. And I wonder, you know, we heard Evan Perez talk about how the Justice Department was firmly against the release of either memo, Republican or Democrat.
VINOGRAD: Of course.
NOBLES: The FBI uncomfortable with it. And specifically because they were concerned about its potential threat to national security. Explain for our viewers how could the release of these memos impact our national security.
VINOGRAD: I think that there is a scenario right now where everyone throws around the world transparency.
VINOGRAD: And uses that to say we all need access to more information. But let's keep in mind why information is classified in the first place or why people had security clearances. It's because professionals decide that the release could have an impact on national security. What that means is you could reveal sensitive sources and methods and you could reveal information that Americans don't know how to handle and don't know how to use. And so there's a danger here when we say let's be more transparent about the FISA process.
Well, guess what? There's oversight of the FISA process. People like Devin Nunes have an oversight function of the Intelligence Committee, and if they have concerns with the FISA process let's go through the inspector general of the Department of Justice which was by the way what was recommended to President Trump for the last memo and he chose to ignore that.
NOBLES: Right. Right. And I wondered your thoughts, too, on the strategy of all of this. And I remember when the Nunes memo came out, I spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill, I remember Democrats kind of quietly having debates in the halls of Congress as to whether or not it was worth it for them to put up some of a rebuttal memo. To just, you know, offer up their condemnation for the initial memo and just move on. But they decided to plow ahead with this.
Does this in some respect maybe hurt the arguments that they are making because again all these things that we're talking about, the lack of clarity as to how this whole process went forward, the potential risk that it provides us from the national security perspective? Was this in any way potentially a political miscalculation by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee?
VINOGRAD: I don't think so. But I think we'll have to see how the week plays out.
VINOGRAD: I think this memo is out there to correct the record because there was such a gross misrepresentation of just basic facts in the original memo. This has now come out, we have 10 pages to digest over the coming days.
VINOGRAD: But the House Intel Committee can easily get back to work on Monday, and start looking at the core national security issue which is Russia's ongoing attack on the United States. It hasn't stopped just because we took time to read this memo.
VINOGRAD: It's still happening which the Intel chiefs briefed to the Senate just a week or two ago.
NOBLES: Right. Right. And I know you probably haven't been able to read this as in depth as you'd like, but is there something that after reading the Republican memo that you wanted more information about, that you feel has been left out of this Democratic memo in your initial read of it?
VINOGRAD: I don't think much has been left out. I think that this memo very carefully walks through what was left out of the Republican memo. But look, there's a lot that we don't know and that's OK. I don't think that in my personal -- in my private capacity I should have every insight into the FISA process or every FISA warrant that was granted against Carter Page or other people that are being investigated. I think we need to let the FISA court and that process go forward in a classified way and just get back to work.
NOBLES: Right. Are you wondering at all about why Adam Schiff seems to be so disappointed by the final product, that what was left out of this document that has him so concerned?
[17:55:04] VINOGRAD: I don't know. We'll hear tomorrow.
VINOGRAD: We'll hear if he's really concerned about what the redactions are. I think that in his role on the Intelligence Committee, much as we'd hope other members would do the same, his focus is on oversight of the Intelligence Committee and on this investigation. So let's hear what he has to say. I think his focus probably is on getting back to work and not allowing this, all 10 pages of it, distract anybody for another day or another week from doing their jobs.
NOBLES: OK. Right. Samantha Vinograd, our CNN national security analyst. We appreciate it, Sam.
And we are going to have more on the release of this memo when we come back. Stay here.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
NOBLES: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ryan Nobles in for Ana Cabrera in New York.
And the breaking news tonight, the latest chapter in memo wars. Democrats in the House Intelligence Committee publishing their rebuttal to a document prepared by the Republican majority. You'll remember the president said the memo released weeks ago by Devin Nunes vindicated him in the Russia probe.