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FBI Director & Deputy A.G. Face Grilling by House Judiciary Committee; Protests Erupt Across U.S. Over Family Separations at Border. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired June 28, 2018 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] SEN. ANDY BIGGS, (R), ARIZONA: I don't want to cut you off. But we'll get back to that maybe off line or something like that.
ROSENSTEIN: Yes, sir.
BIGGS: But, so I've got ten seconds left. I -- this is important. September 20 -- 2, 2016, Lisa Page write -- wrote a letter to -- to Mr. Strzok saying that she had talking points for Director Comey because POTUS wants to know everything we're doing. Please identify POTUS, and what you think she meant when she said (inaudible)
ROSENSTEIN: I don't want to speculate on what Ms. Page meant. I -- I do want to say, if I may, I'm just going to -- I think it's important for you to understand that I completely understand the president's frustration with what's reflected in this report. I mean, nobody would be happy to know that people were sending those sort of text messages, and they had those kind of views. And so I completely understand his frustration.
My commitment is to make sure that everything that we do accords with the facts and the law, and we do not allow any bias to influence what happens on our watch.
GOODLATTE: The gentleman's time is expired. The chair recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Lieu, for five minutes.
LIEU: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Let me start by saying it is ridiculous and stupid we're having an emergency hearing into an investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails in 2016. It is now June, 2018, and thousands of kids have been ripped away from their parents by the Trump administration's child separation policy. They have not yet been reunited, and the kids not knowing if they are ever going to see their parents again, or where they are is a trauma and horror we can only imagine.
But since Republicans control the agenda, let's at least try to have this stupid hearing be based on the facts. And the central fact from this I.G. investigation is that no personal views of any FBI or DOJ employees affected their integrity of their investigation.
So Director Wray, I'm going to read to you some of the findings from this I.G. investigation; ask if you agree with it. The I.G. found or reviewed; did not find evidence to connect the political views expressed in the text messages to the specific investigative decisions. Do you agree with that?
WRAY: We accept the finding, yes.
LIEU: All right. It further found that the investigative decisions were the result of discretionary judgments made during the course of investigation by agents and prosecutors, and that these judgment calls were not unreasonable. Do you accept that finding?
WRAY: We accept that finding.
LIEU: I.G. report further found, in fact, that Agent Strzok advocated for more aggressive investigative measures against Hillary Clinton, including the use of grand jury subpoenas and search warrants to obtain evidence. Do you accept that finding?
WRAY: We accept that finding.
LIEU: And the reason Agent Strzok did that is because in America, we let people have personal views, but we expect that when they go do their job, when they enter the FBI building, they check their views at the door. That's what we expect of our agents.
And in your case, Director Wray, you're a Republican, nominated by a Republican president, confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate. You have made over $39,000 exclusively in donations, Republican candidates. I still trust you, because you check your beliefs at the door, and you're doing your job. And in fact, when you interview agents to hire, you can't ask them if they are a Democrat or Republican, and whether you should hire them. Isn't that right?
WRAY: That is correct. I will say, Congressman, that I take very seriously our obligation to do our jobs apolitically, independently and objectively, no matter who likes it, either side. I will also say that we don't subject our agents to political litmus tests. I will also say that we expect our agents to check their opinions, as you said, at the door, not unlike -- not unlike, in this system, judges all around the country, who have their own political views that range across the spectrum, and sometimes hold them very deeply, or juries that have all kinds of views, or doctors that hold all kinds of views. All of them are entitled to have those views. But -- but -- we need them to check those views at the door and honor their oaths, and that's what I expect of every agent, analyst and professional staff person in the FBI.
LIEU: Thank you. I deeply appreciate that.
I was at the closed hearing of Peter Strzok yesterday, and I just have to say, my Republican colleagues have mischaracterized his testimony. A number of his text messages have been misconstrued and mischaracterized. It is deeply ironic that my Republican colleagues are yelling and screaming about document production when they refuse to release his unredacted transcript from yesterday's closed hearing. They need to release it to the American people. We need to see Peter Strzok's testimony, and he needs to be at an open hearing. I hope my Republican colleagues will do that.
Now, let me move to something that the president said in an official statement on Twitter. He said a number of times that we've got a deep state. So I asked in another hearing, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was there a deep state at the State Department? He laughed, and he basically said, "No, there was not."
So Director Wray, I'm going to ask you, is there a deep state at the FBI?
WRAY: Congressman, I've never completely understood the term deep state. What I can tell you is that we have 37,000 men and women working in field offices all over the country, and in legat offices all over the world, and they are people of character, of courage, of principle, of selflessness and of patriotism, and that's the FBI that I see.
LIEU: Thank you. I appreciate that, and I hope the president stops attacking the FBI.
And then, let me conclude my comments to you, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. You have shown immense courage in the face of unfair criticism and overreaching requests. Stand your ground. You took an oath to the Constitution, not to any particular administration or political party, or even this Judiciary Committee. Do not produce documents that would jeopardize people's lives. Do not produce documents that can threaten sources and methods. Do not produce documents that will affect an ongoing investigation. Stand your ground. Play it straight. Do it by the book, as you have been doing, and history will judge you kindly for that.
I yield back.
GOODLATTE: The chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Rothfuss, for five minutes.
[14:35:59] ROTHFUS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, gentlemen, for being here.
Let me echo my thanks to the department and the FBI for the tremendous work that's been done in Western Pennsylvania --
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: OK. We're going to pull away from the hearing. We will continue to monitor it. And we will bring you back there as soon as there's news to discuss, to listen in on.
I want to discuss a little bit with our panelists now what we've been listening to. Joining us, a couple of experts who have trained ears and eyes and experience who can help us decipher exactly what we're learning today. Jamil Jaffer, a former associate White House counsel for George W. Bush, and Chris Swecker, former FBI assistant director of the Criminal Investigative Division.
Gentlemen, I want to get your takes. What stood out to you?
I'll start with you, Chris.
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CID: Frankly, you're talking to somebody who has almost zero faith in investigations because they do predetermine the investigations. They are incapable of holding a nonpartisan hearing. So I -- what I see is Chris Wray standing up for the FBI as an institution. And -- and I think if he could go further, he'd make the point that the bad things that were done were done by Jim Comey's inner circle. He's not going to point that out, but I know that's running in the background. I see both of them playing it close to the vest. You're not going to get any meaningful information out of them except pledges to do things by the rules.
CABRERA: Jamil, the hearing has been going on since 9:30 this morning. They've had a couple of recesses and have continued. Again, looking at the scope of this hearing since then, not sure how much you actually listen to, but what stands out to you?
JAMIL JAFFER, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL FOR GEORGE W. BUSH: Look, I mean, what's obviously clear here is that both Wray and Rosenstein are committed to changing the situation that they face at the FBI. They're concerned about the findings of the report, and they share the concerns that lawmakers have. At the same time, they recognize that they are in a political fist fight and that their job is to preserve the institutions of the Justice Department and FBI against attacks from all sides and make sure that these institutions are able to do their job. And they're doing the right thing in that regard.
CABRERA: The last few back and forths that we've heard have been less contentious than the issues we heard when we heard Rep. Jordan and Rep. Gowdy speaking with these gentlemen. Did you get a sense that Rod Rosenstein was pushing back today? Was this him kind of digging in?
JAFFER: Look, Rod is defending the institution, as he should. He's the chief operating officer of the Justice Department. In that role, it's not just to carry out what the politicians or president wants, but what's in the best interests of the institution itself. That's to be seen to be doing the right thing. That's the way it should be in this institution.
CABRERA: Chris, you mentioned the politics at play here. Did you feel like Republicans had a specific objective in mind today as they were questioning these two gentlemen?
SWECKER: Yes. I think they would like to get some information about the genesis of the Russia investigation. They'd like for someone to say, gee, that whole thing was tainted from the beginning, and it was based on dubious information, that sort of thing. You don't have to get that out of Rosenstein or Chris Wray. They've left that completely up to the inspector general. Frankly, I would encourage the public to read the I.G. report. That's where you'll get the facts. It was a credible investigation. I'm not so sure about some of the conclusions. I think the investigation was extremely thorough. That's where you can go to get some facts. CABRERA: Remember that I.G. report was specifically dealing with how
the FBI and DOJ handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. Didn't really touch the Russia investigation. In fact, the I.G. made a point to say we didn't draw conclusions about how the particular investigation has been handled.
However, the Russia investigation did come up today. Let's listen to Congressman Trey Gowdy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[14:39:56] REP. TREY GOWDY, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We've seen the bias. We need to see the evidence. If you have evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the Trump campaign, present it to the damn grand jury. If you have evidence that this president acted inappropriately, present it to the American people.
There's an old saying that justice delayed is justice denied. I think right now all of us are being denied. Whatever you got, finish it the hell up because this country is being torn apart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's remind our viewers that Trey Gowdy, he was the head of the House Select Committee looking into Benghazi. That was an investigation that lasted 28 months. We know Mueller's probe isn't anywhere close to that.
Jamil, is this hypocrisy?
JAFFER: Look, Trey Gowdy's the former federal prosecutor. He knows how long it takes to build a case and the like. At the same time, he's expressing a reasonable frustration, which is not a frustration about just that the American people or the president wants it to end, but that the overall politicization are making it easier for the Russians trying to cause chaos in our political system. He's right saying this is playing into the Russians' hands. At the same time, he knows investigations take a while, and it should be allowed to run its course in the time frame necessary to get the job done as quickly as possible.
CABRERA: Chris, your thoughts?
SWECKER: Same thing. He is a former prosecutor. He knows how these investigations run. Twenty 703 orders, orders to get emails, they take a while. The types of process that they're using, get their hands on all this information, collating the information, they have to do this perfectly. And the type of case that they're going to be bringing forward, for example, Manafort right now, takes a lot of preparation. There will be another indictment in that case, I can almost guarantee you. It's -- these are the types of investigations where you have to look at absolutely everything, and you have to do everything absolutely perfectly. And that takes time.
I do think, however, that the -- that Robert Mueller, who I serve directly, under is conscious of the time factor. And I do believe that he'll be bringing something forward here in the next month or two.
CABRERA: Let's remember what has come forward already. We have 28 indictments plus at least five guilty pleas so far. That investigation again continuing into the question of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, which Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein was also asked about today.
We'll continue our conversation.
Jamil, Chris, thank you.
We'll dip back into this hearing as we continue to follow what's happening on Capitol Hill.
We will also take you live to Brownsville, Texas, where protests are erupting over the Trump administration's separation of families at the border. Stand by. That's next.
[14:47:12] CABRERA: Welcome back. Many news stories, a hearing on Capitol Hill, including Christopher Wray and Rod Rosenstein,.
Also protests happening across the country, from Wisconsin to Washington to Brownsville, Texas. Hundreds of people protesting President Trump's zero-tolerance policy when it comes to immigration and the family detentions and separations at the border.
Let's got to Miguel Marquez on the ground in Brownsville.
Miguel, tell us what's happening there.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're at a federal courthouse in Brownsville. Want to show what is happening at the moment. Protesters were in the park across the streets. And then en masse moved toward the courthouse. They are lining up, trying to get into the courthouse. I have to say, the security here has been incredibly forgiving and open to them in, allowing them in in small groups now. The temperature has sort of come down in the last 10, 15 minutes or so as most of the people were here in front of the courthouse. They've moved back across the street. It looks like for the most part people are going to stay lined up here, waiting, hoping to get into immigration court, which starts in 15 minutes here in Brownsville. They say they want to get into court, they want to sit there, not disrupt, but they want to represent, let people know in the court that they support them.
The crux of this are the 2,047 children that remain detained and that a federal judge's order telling the Trump administration to reverse the zero-tolerance policy and reunite those families. Everybody we speak to at the immigration community here, there's no indication that that's happening. They hope in the next 15 days, kids under 5 will be reunited, in the next 30 days, all kids will be reunited with their families. They are waiting for the Trump administration to indicate how it will reunite those families. For now, the protests, upset and anger in places like Brownsville. As
you say, across the country, not just today. We are going to see this in the days ahead -- Ana?
CABRERA: We talked about multiple protests. Miguel, who are those people who are protesting in Brownsville today?
MARQUEZ: These are people from across Texas, as far as I can tell. People from the Rio Grande valley, Houston, Dallas, several hours away. They've bussed in -- people who have never taken part in the rallies, today upset by what they see on their televisions and read about in the newspapers about children being taken from their families. They're coming out here, taking this in.
This is also very political. We saw Tom Perez, head of the Democratic National Committee, out here. Clearly, this is something that Democrats see as an issue for the midterm elections, and they hope to capitalize on it. It is a broad mix of people here in Brownsville today -- Ana?
[14:50:04] CABRERA: OK, Miguel Marquez, in Brownsville, Texas, thank you.
I want to remind viewers that, at last check, this administration had only reunited six children with their parents. Out of the more than 2,000 children who had been separated from their parents prior to the president's executive order.
I want to take you now to Capitol Hill where protesters are also demanding action.
Sunlen Serfaty is there.
Sunlen, who are the people you're there with and what is their message?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell you, I'm here in the hart Senate office building. This is a building within the capitol complex that Houses a lot of the Senators' offices, personal offices. You see this rather large crowd behind me now. They are chanting, if you cannot hear them, "we care, we care," an obviously rolling of Melania Trump's jacket from when she traveled to the border to see one of these centers last week. They have unfurled banners here saying, "We demand end zero-tolerance policy." And a lot of protesters have been marching for hours. They started on the other side of Washington, D.C., at Freedom Plaza, they went by the Department of Justice, up Constitution Avenue where they ended here on Capitol Hill. I've talked to some, and they say simply they want to know what is going on with these children that have been separated from their families, when will they see re-unifications take place, and they want the administration to end the zero-tolerance policy. Many after they have speeches and chants here will sit here in the atrium of the hart Senate office building, and they say they don't intend to leave unless they are taken away by the police. Certainly a large scene in the Senate office building unfolding this hour -- Ana? CABRERA: Sunlen, if you can hear me, because I realize how loud it is
there, we can hear them. They're obviously trying to make their case to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Not necessarily the president and his administration. But we know lawmakers are not moving on immigration any time soon. We saw this bill defeated in the House yesterday. A crushing defeat really. What is the end game? Why aren't the lawmakers willing to just take up the one issue of the family separations?
SERFATY: That's right. I think that's why a lot of people here want to know -- this protest comes on a day where the House and Senate is largely wrapping up work for the week. The House is largely done with their work for the week now. And they're unlikely to go home for recess, for a week-long recess, during the Fourth of July. That's not lost on a lot of protesters here. They say they want to go before they go home for recess, they should handle the family separation issue. And as you know, they have yet -- it did not get addressed this week because the House failed to pass the immigration plan that included to fix or address the problem of family separations. People saying it's not enough. We want to give you a sense of the crowd now. The camera is pan, and we have police officers on the scene. We spoke with them before this happened. They were anticipating a large crowd. They're anticipating people sitting in, and they say they anticipate if people continue sitting in that they will carry them away. They hope for a very "civilized disobedience," in the words of the protest organizers. We'll see what ends up happening here. Again, the very large crowd. People chanting, "We care." Certainly trying to send a strong message to lawmakers up here on Capitol Hill. Many of whom in the next day will go home for a week-long recess without having to address this problem.
[14:54:00] CABRERA: What stands out to me, Sunlen, are all the women behind you. They're billing this as the women's march in civil disobedience to end separation.
Sunlen Serfaty, we'll check back with you. She's reporting live in Washington where protesters appealing to members there about the immigration situation, asking them, urging them, begging them to do something, to press the administration to reunite these families.
Our special coverage of that event, plus the contentious hearing between Republicans and the deputy attorney general on Capitol Hill continues in a moment.
CABRERA: Back with our breaking news. We'll go straight back to Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill where the protests are happening with Congress.
I see police have arrived, Sunlen.
SERFATY: That's right. Police just arrived. They've announced to the large group that this is an unwelcome protest, and they will be arrested if they do not move out. You see you have a whole fleet of Capitol Hill police officers waiting. On the other side here, we're going to swivel the camera here, the protesters --
UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: This is the final warning. If you do not cease and desist, we will place you under arrest.
UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: If you do not wish to be arrested, move beyond the police line. This is your third and final warning.
SERFATY: I want to show you the view here. As you see, many women in this crowd chanting. Many wearing shirts that say, "No camp." They do not want the detention camps. They are holding up their hands. Certainly it is a tense scene down here.
And I should note that this is the working office building within the capitol complex. This is the building where a lot of U.S. Senators have their offices. We look up in here in the building, you see a lot of Capitol Hill staffers overlooking this protest that's taking place in their building now. You have people lined up. And here we have now what we anticipated. These protesters are going to sit down. They say they are going -- let the scene play out now.
UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: You need to leave or you're going to be arrested. You need to leave or you're going to be arrested.
CABRERA: We hear them saying, you need to leave unless you want to be arrested. You need to leave.
SERFATY: You need to leave. A lot of women -- a woman said they would be OK being arrested and that they anticipated that.
CABRERA: Are they kicking you out, as well, Sunlen?
SERFATY: They are kicking press out right now.
As you see behind me, the protesters have unfurled cellophane blankets on the floor, a reference to the kids, the images we've seen in custody, trying to make that dynamic play out.
We are being kicked out now.
We will continue to report what we can here.
CABRERA: Sunlen, I know you're trying to get your bearings. You mentioned this is inside the Hart Senate building. A lot of Senators' offices are there. Technically, is that considered public or private space?
SERFATY: This is public space. You can get in without a Capitol Hill pass. You have to go through magnetometers to get in and, certainly, be watched as one by one these protesters did come in through the magnetometers. This is public space where people can go and walk in to the lobby and, certainly, go to the Senator's office and talk -- Senators' office and talk to members of the staff.
I want to show a wide shot of the building. It's an atrium. The image you have, many protesters sitting down on the floor, sitting down. And then you have members of offices, Capitol Hill staff, looking out of their windows, stopping work, looking at this moment that's playing out. And I can tell you, from my vantage point here, I see some arrests starting to take place. You see one woman here, she is being escorted out by the Capitol Hill police. We see probably about 50 Capitol Hill police lined --