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Report: Contentious Hearing Between GOP Lawmakers and Rosenstein And Wray. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired June 28, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] REP. LOUIE GOHMERT, (R), TEXAS: Subordinates which are all employees of the department of justice, aren't you vouching for those? Don't those people respond to you?
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Those people ultimately report to me. Yes, sir.
GOHMERT: And that would include when Bruce Orr's office was directly next to yours I believe, is not correct and he worked for you?
ROSENSTEIN: He worked in the deputy attorney general's office, a couple of doors down, yes.
GOHMERT: A couple of doors down. We're aware of some of the events that took place before your confirmation as the deputy attorney general. However, some of your team members certainly were involved. I want to ask was your deputy, I'm sorry, Trisha Anderson involved in any stage of drafting, editing, or approving the four FISA applications to spy on Carter Page?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I wasn't sure if you were directing that question to me. Congressman, sitting here now, I don't know who was involved in drafting what FISA application.
GOHMERT: So just to be clear, apparently Director Wray, you have to answer for the deputy attorney general about FISA applications he signed?
WRAY: No. You were asking about --
GOHMERT: The four applications to spy on Carter Page. I think you've been vague on whether you signed --
ROSENSTEIN: No, no, sir. Let me try to clarify if I may --
GOHMERT: Did you sign the fourth FISA application?
ROSENSTEIN: I approved the filing --
GOHMERT: You say you approved that application --
GOHMERT: Now, that's going --
ROSENSTEIN: Before -- that's my job, sir.
GOHMERT: That's your job, OK. You approved it. When you approve a FISA application, in your mind, does that mean you should read it and understand what's part of it?
ROSENSTEIN: You should certainly understand what's part of it, sir, as I said --
GOHMERT: You're parsing words. It doesn't mean you need to read it in your opinion. Is that correct?
ROSENSTEIN: It depends on the circumstances.
GOHMERT: Being a former felony state judge --
ROSENSTEIN: Yes --
GOHMERT: If I had somebody like you come before me and now it was --
ROSENSTEIN: I'm not the --
GOHMERT: -- and find later the guy that signed and approved an application for a warrant had not even read the application that would allow spying on somebody --
ROSENSTEIN: That would be atrocious --
GOHMERT: I would look at everything he signed from then on with a jaundiced eye. I'm telling you, I was concerned --
ROSENSTEIN: If you give me a chance to explain, sir --
GOHMERT: You have. You've said --
ROSENSTEIN: No, I have not.
GOHMERT: -- you would approve it --
ROSENSTEIN: I did approve it.
GOHMERT: I didn't ask that question because you've said you approved it, but you took out the words that you read.
REP. TREY GOWDY, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The gentleman from Texas will suspend. The gentleman from Texas will suspend. I want to make it clear to the deputy attorney general you will be afforded a full opportunity to respond once his time has expired. If he wants to yield --
GOHMERT: My time continued to run while the chairman took up some of my time.
GOWDY: You'll have that, too.
GOHMERT: And actually, I was being interrupted. I did not have a question. I was taking the words that the deputy attorney general said. Let me ask you about this -- you said earlier Bruce Orr was not working on the Russia investigation. Let me ask you --
ROSENSTEIN: Not to my knowledge.
GOHMERT: To your knowledge. Did you not know that Bruce Orr was meeting with Christopher Steele, getting the information about the dossier, and supplying information to the FBI at the same time at the same time his wife was working for Fusion GPS that was helping Hillary Clinton -- did you not know he was doing that for the FBI?
GOHMERT: You did not know that?
GOHMERT: So, he officed a couple of doors down, but you had no idea that he was the go between to get the information. When did you find out about that?
ROSENSTEIN: As I said, sir, the inspector general's reviewing the FISAs. I hope I have the opportunity to explain --
GOHMERT: Let me --
ROSENSTEIN: I understand --
GOHMERT: You look at the deputy -- look at the summary, the -- Mr. Horowitz said we did not have confidence that Strzok's decision to prioritize Russia investigation while we're following up on the mid- year related investigations led -- discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias. Pretty clear to most of us. His bias did -- his bias did affect that decision --
GOWDY: The time of the gentleman has expired. The deputy attorney general may respond.
ROSENSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize. I thought you were asking me questions, sir. I completely understand your concern. And this FISA process is being reviewed by the inspector general.
[14:05:00] If he finds some problem with that, we'll respect that. We don't talk about FISAs. It's illegal for us to talk about FISAs. In this particular result, the intelligence community information was declassified, so I'm uncomfortable talking about that. You have to understand in context, sir, that the department had made the decision to disclose the FISA to the house and senate before I got there. Before I got there. What I signed was a renewal application, approved three different times by a federal judge. It was signed under oath by an FBI agent who attested it was true and correct. If he was wrong, we'll hold him accountable. Let's allow the process to conclude before we jump to conclusions about that. I assure you, sir, I'll be just as offended as you if I find there was incorrect information in the application.
GOHMERT: Mr. Chairman, since we're learned that he relies heavily on people in his team to do these applications, I don't think we can get to the truth until we question Tasheen Gaahar and Trisha Anderson, and that would include why she slow walks the notices of NSC meetings to the attorney general when she's working for the DAG just to make him look bad. We need to get those two people in here --
GOWDY: The gentleman's time has expired --
ROSENSTEIN: If there's any evidence of wrongdoing, sir, by anyone on my staff or anyone in the department, I would expect you to give them fair process bringing the information to my attention or the inspector general's attention. Let's hear both sides and then reach the conclusion. I think what's important to understand -- I understand the FISA process is very obscure to most people. But these are essentially search warrant affidavits. A federal agent has to swear under oath that everything in the application is true. And then there are review processes within the FBI and department, and ultimately the decision is made by a federal judge. And there can be mistakes, and we'll find out if there are mistakes in this one. It's not a matter of just slapping a document and signing it. It's a very thorough process, and in a particular case, four different federal judges found probable cause. The inspector general will review it, and I'll await those conclusions, sir. I would encourage you not to jump to conclusion that's I or anybody else did anything wrong until we have all the information.
GOWDY: The gentleman from New York seeks recognition.
REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Earlier, I referenced a January 27th, 2000, letter to John Lynder, then the chairman of the rules committee -- of the subcommittee on rules and organization of the House committee on rules from the then- deputy assistant attorney general Robert Rayburn. I'd like unanimous consent to insert this into the record?
GOWDY: Without objection, it will be made part of the record.
NADLER: I thank you, sir.
GOWDY: The chair recognizes the gentleman from California for five minutes.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Wray, thank you for your service. I hope you pass along my thanks to the men and women who serve the Department of Justice and the bureau. This morning Donald Trump, our president, tweeted -- when is Bob Mueller going to list his conflicts of interest. Mr. Rosenstein, does Mr. Mueller have any conflicts of interest?
ROSENSTEIN: Mr. Chairman, if there were any conflicts of interest that were brought to our attention, I would discuss it with Mr. Mueller, and there could be review in the department if there were credible allegation of a conflict of interest. So, I'm not aware of any disqualifying conflict of interest.
SWALWELL: In your experience at the department, are you aware ever in your experience with the department's history of an unindicted subject of investigation being given evidence that exists in the case where that person's a subject?
ROSENSTEIN: I wouldn't want to comment on what's ever happened, but generally that would not be our practice.
SWALWELL: And do you intend to change that with the request that Rudy Giuliani, the president's counsel, has made that unindicted information would be given over to the president as it relates to the Russia investigation?
ROSENSTEIN: I'm not aware of any request that Mr. Giuliani's made to me.
SWALWELL: Mr. Wray, you agree that the FBI's responsibility is to prevent attacks on America.
WRAY: That's one of many of our responsibilities, yes.
SWALWELL: Would you agree that in 2016 Russia electronically through weaponizing social media and hacking emails attacked our democracy?
WRAY: I think that's a shorthand for what was in the intelligence community assessment which I have every reason to accept.
SWALWELL: This morning, Mr. Wray, the president tweeted, "Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with meddling." Do you believe that Russia had something to do with the meddling that occurred in the last election?
[14:10:00] WRAY: As I indicated, I think the intelligence community's assessment which I agree with is that Russia attempted to sow discord in our country in an effort to influence the last election. As the deputy attorney general mentioned, there's also now an indictment through the special counsel's office that speaks to much the same subject.
SWALWELL: And Mr. Wray, has President Trump personally told you to use your resources at the FBI to counter future election meddling by the Russians?
WRAY: We did, as I think the White House has reported and disclosed, we did have a meeting not just with the FBI but with deputy attorney general, with the Homeland Security secretary, I think Director Coates may have been there, the attorney general maybe also, where the whole focus was on making sure that we are doing what we should be doing --
SWALWELL: Was the president --
WRAY: Collectively. The president chaired the meeting, so yes.
SWALWELL: OK. Did he personally, though, express if he wanted the FBI to devote resources to counter Russian meddling?
WRAY: I don't remember the exact words in the meeting, but the gist was to make sure that we're doing, all of us, not just the FBI, but all parts of the government that have responsibility for protecting our country against foreign influence that we're all doing what we should be doing. If there's more we could be doing, that we're doing that.
SWALWELL: Has Mr. Trump contacted you either personally, by phone or in writing, with respect to the Russia investigation?
ROSENSTEIN: Sir, in my capacity as deputy attorney general, I do have meetings with the president. I don't discuss my conversations with the president other than to say I have not received any improper order from the president to do something that I believe was wrong.
SWALWELL: What would you do if the president did give you an improper order?
ROSENSTEIN: I wouldn't follow an improper order, sir.
SWALWELL: I've read the inspector general's report about Mr. Strzok, and I've heard how he's been characterized today. And I, too, share your belief that he acted inappropriately, and we shouldn't allow opinions to get in the way of law enforcement duties. And the inspector general found that he had opinions that were distasteful, especially toward our president, candidate Trump, but there was no finding that that influenced the investigation. I want to ask, are you aware of Mr. Strzok setting up a June 9th meeting at Trump Tower where the president's son, son-in-law, and campaign chairman, met with individuals seeking to offer dirt from the Russians on Hillary Clinton? Did he set that up, or was he involved in that in any way?
ROSENSTEIN: I have no personal knowledge about that.
SWALWELL: And did Mr. Strzok ask candidate Trump or write a speech for candidate Trump in the summer of 2016 to invite the Russians to do further hacking? Was that part of any finding that you had?
ROSENSTEIN: Not to my knowledge.
SWALWELL: Do you find it, Director Wray, unhelpful that the president would tweet in the manner that he did this morning and the public comments he's made where he doesn't acknowledge that Russia interfered in our election, yet you are tasked with trying to counter Russian interference in our election?
WRAY: Congressman, there are a lot of opinions out there about a lot of things including on Twitter. I'm not really a Twitter guy. Our folks really aren't either. We're more focused on trying to make sure we get our work done.
SWALWELL: Thank you. The country's counting you as we go into the midterms. I yield back.
GOWDY: The gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Collins, is recognized for five minutes.
REP. DOUG COLLINS, (R), GEORGIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just a few -- I think one of the interesting things, this is amazing how this, the last few minutes, we went from making crap up. But it's an interesting process here. And one of the problems goes back, though, before you got there. And this is the problem that this committee saw in the previous attorney general, the previous FBI director, and the previous, you know, previous two attorney generals to be honest in this, in which things were done out of order, out of sequence. Meeting with the former president on the tarmac, not disclosing it -- these were things that led to distrust as we go forward. I just have a few questions, specific questions. These can be without commenting on an ongoing investigation at all of any kind. Is there in your opinion a constitutional standard that guides your department in investigating any president? A president or any president?
ROSENSTEIN: Is there a constitutional standard?
COLLINS: Yes. Do you think there is or is not?
ROSENSTEIN: I'm not aware of any provision in the constitution that addresses that.
COLLINS: OK. Is there -- an office of legal counsel opinion that informs the department in this area, and if so, are you directing Special Counsel Mueller to follow it?
ROSENSTEIN: You're referring to the issue of whether the president can be indicted?
COLLINS: In the sense of how these investigations are handled. That's been a lot of conversations we've had.
ROSENSTEIN: I know there are two historical opinions. But I have not read them.
ROSENSTEIN: I haven't read them recently. I probably have seen them at some point. I'm not in position to comment on the details, and I don't recall whether it's a constitutional issue or not.
[14:15:00] COLLINS: It goes to the indictment, as well. It does go to that issue, as well. Has there been discussion about that? A possibility of indictment or not indictment of that, of the president?
ROSENSTEIN: I have not, congressman, commented on anything about who may or may not be indicted. All the speculation that you read has nothing to do with me.
COLLINS: That's fine and that's why you're here answering questions. I appreciate that with the both. You and I had a conversation about this a few months ago, this was Mr. Strzok's issue, I asked at the time did he have his security clearance. You said you would check, it appears that he had it. It appears the security clearance has been revoked. The concern I have is process inside the Department of Justice when you have someone of his counterintelligence level, this is not a new recruit. This is somebody who's been around, who's had sensitive information. On January 13th, 2016, an individual from the FBI's Washington field office e-mailed Mr. Strzok and other employees that their polygraphs were out of -- I think it was out of scope. I asked you about that. And I asked if he had been polygraphed, you didn't know at the time. It said the polygraph raised flags. Now, my question about this would be -- you didn't know about the polygraph at the time, we'll assume now that it is out there, you do. Would the topic of the extramarital affair have come up in the polygraph, or possibility come up in the polygraph with Mr. Strzok that could have put it out of scope?
ROSENSTEIN: I do not know the answer --
WRAY: I have no idea what would have been raised in any specific's polygraph at this moment.
COLLINS: Could he have passed the polygraph -- in the context of the text we see now, before and continuing in sensitive areas such as the investigation, the Mueller investigation, again, the Hillary Clinton -- but knowing the things we've commented on today, if those texts taken into could were on this polygraph and it -- would he or could he have passed a polygraph if he'd, you know, of his own ability denying an affair with Lisa Page?
WRAY: Congressman, I'm not going to --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I didn't speak to him about it, but he'll be in particular happy about one of those victories, do you know which one we're talking about? I think you do. I want to thank Paul Ryan, I want to thank our great congressman, Glenn Grothman -- where's Glenn? Thank you very much. Great job, Glenn. [applause] And we have so many other officials. But I have to thank a man who I gave it to. Like handing the football off. He ran for 2,000 yards that game. Most people couldn't have done it. Terry and I have had a great relationship. Terry was thinking about doing this --
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Clearly a busy news hour here in the CNN newsroom. You're watching some live comments now from the president speaking in Wisconsin as he visits the new Foxconn manufacturing plant that's going to be developed there. Meantime before that, we were just listening in to that hearing that has been a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill today involving the FBI Director Christopher Wray, you see, as well as Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, grilled by Republicans on all things from media leaks to the Russia investigation to the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. We're going to continue to follow both of these live events and continue our special coverage when we come back.
[14:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KEILAR: Welcome back to the CNN newsroom. We're continuing to follow the hearing on capitol hill now. A hearing involving the FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifying before the House judiciary committee. Let's listen in.
WRAY: Doing a number of things to brief committees and members of Congress on all the things we're doing. I guess the second thing I would say you referenced the attorney general's earlier testimony on the subject. I think it was a question to me when I testified in front of the committee in December.
As I said, there are a lot of things that we're doing. And that's on me for not having at the time, he has now gotten more extensively briefed. It's on me for not having briefed the attorney general on all the great new things the FBI is doing on that subject.
REP. BRAD SCHNEIDER, (D), ILLINOIS: I appreciate that. I've had the chance to meet with the clerks of the two counties I represent to understand what they're doing. There's a report that there was a meeting last month in Silicon Valley between eight tech companies and the representatives of the DOJ and FBI. Are you aware of the meeting?
WRAY: There have been a number of meetings with companies in Silicon Valley. We're working closely with them in appropriate ways to try to list in ways that are appropriate their assistance in trying to better protect the country from improper maligned influence.
SCHNEIDER: SI want to correct the record, between DHS and the FBI. Some of the reports that came from that meeting is that there was a sense of an unwillingness to cooperate, collaborate with tech companies to make sure they are aware of efforts undertaken by foreign entities or to otherwise interfere in elections. Has your agency provided to these companies what they need to make sure they are able to put up the defenses and respond to any threats?
[14:25:00] WRAY: I will say, congressman, this is the first time I've heard any complaints about what information we're providing again under the efforts we're providing. We've worked to make them more effective. From our perspective, we're looking to see what they come back to us with as again in a joint, coordinated effort to protect -- they have to protect their own platform. We're providing them information to help them do that. My own experience including going to Silicon Valley and meeting with the companies, we're doing things that were not done before the 2016 election.
SCHNEIDER: I appreciate it. These were reports, so I don't want to make any claims. I want to make the request that we work in partnership with the tech companies to do everything we can to ensure that every American's vote is counted fairly, and every American has confidence in their vote and the ultimate election. The American people are counting on you both. With that, I yield back.
GOWDY: Thank you. The chair recognizes the gentleman from Arizona, Mr. Biggs for five minutes.
ANDY BIGGS, (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, thank you very much for being here today. The inspector general testified that Peter Strzok led the investigations both for the e-mail investigation and the initial Russian investigation. Would you agree with his characterization of that?
WRAY: Again. I wasn't there. I think it's fair to say that Mr. Strzok played a lead role in both investigations. Exactly how it was structured and who supervised whom, that probably subject to more context and explanation by others. I don't think that's far off. BIGGS: Fair enough. So, what's been characterized today is that the finding of the inspector general is that there was none of the bias that has brought Mr. Strzok into such -- under a microscope so closely, affected the decisions made in the Hillary Rodham Clinton investigation. That's a mischaracterization because under questioning -- let's go there -- you probably have the book there. If you go to page 211 I think it is, let's see. No. Page 149, what you'll find -- and this is one thing the inspector general testified, as well, is that the -- he did not find documentary testimony evidence that improper considerations including political bias directly affected the specific investigative decisions. When we explored it, he admitted that those biases that Mr. Strzok had -- not just Mr. Strzok but the others listed that have been referred for discipline, probably indirectly affected not only the information the decision-makers had, but the decisions that were made. Would that be accurate? I know neither of you were there, but do you think that might be accurate?
WRAY: Congressman, I think I'm going to let the inspector general's report speak for itself.
BIGGS: The testimony, not his --
WRAY: I wasn't here when he testified.
BIGGS: It was -- I didn't expect you to be watching. As riveting as it was. So that leads me to a series of questions related to what's going on here. And we move into the last investigation, ongoing investigation. Mr. Rosenstein, the scope letter, who wrote the scope letter for Mr. Mueller's -- the scope of his duties would be?
ROSENSTEIN: I don't know exactly who wrote it, but I'm responsible for it.
BIGGS: You signed off on it probably?
BIGGS: And have you turned an unredacted copy over to any congressional committee?
ROSENSTEIN: Not as far as I know.
BIGGS: OK. And why is that?
ROSENSTEIN: Congressman, I appreciate that question because I understand why there's confusion about this. And we only have two minutes and seven seconds. But I wrote in my letter dated yesterday the history and the explanation of why it is wrong for the department of justice to publicly identify people who are subjects of investigations. I certainly completely understand why you asked the question. But I hope that the letter will speak for itself and explain why it is our policy not to do that. People have deviated from that in the past. And my commitment is to follow the rules. That's the commitment I made to the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, when I took the job. And I recognized it's confusing because people have departed from the rules in the past. We're following -- BIGGS: Talking specifically the scope letter.
ROSENSTEIN: Yes, sir.
ROSENSTEIN: We do not identify persons as is disclosed in the portion that's made public. We don't identify persons publicly unless they're charged. And we explain that in the letter.
BIGGS: OK. So, let's go to -- I sent you a letter -- I don't know if you got it because it's just a couple of days old. June 25th, asking if you were going to provide us with the names. Everyone who served past and present on Mr. Mueller's special counsel investigation. We're curious what vetting has gone in, the inspector general found -- inspector general found there was one person on the investigative team that he found to have untoward bias. And so, are you inclined to release that, or is this something you and I need to talk about offline?
ROSENSTEIN: Sir, when I took this job, I committed that I was going to read every letter personally.
BIGGS: Good luck.
ROSENSTEIN: To avoid -- it's not practical. I haven't been able to do that. I completely understand that question. We'll review it obviously. Our administration is very committed to backing the blue and protecting law enforcement officers from any kind of abuse or retaliation. I'd be reluctant to publicly name people who aren't on the front lines just because of what that might invite. Not by you, obviously, but by people who are ill motivated. But I think you raised an important question. I have talked with Mr. Mueller on several occasions about the importance of making sure the people on his team --
BIGGS: I don't want to cut you off. But we'll get back to that maybe off line or something like that. I have ten seconds. September 2, 2016, Lisa Page wrote a letter to Mr. Strzok saying that she had talking points for Director Comey because POTUS wants to know everything were doing --