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FBI Director & Deputy A.G. Face Grilling by House Judiciary Committee; Republican Grill Wray, Rosenstein for Not Reply with Requests; Trump Gives Putin Pass on Meddling as Summit Announced. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired June 28, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] REP. TED DEUTCH, D-FLORIDA: General Rosenstein, you submitted a letter to Senator Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate -- also, a letter to Speaker Ryan -- about the resolution. You actually go -- you take great length to explain the way you've been complying with congressional oversight, working diligently and in good faith to provide an unprecedented level of congressional level of access to information that members of Congress believe may be relevant.
Since there have been so many accusations about the way you've conducted this, I -- I thought it would be helpful for you to spend just a couple of minutes explaining how it is that you have been cooperative, the volume of the documents you've been -- provided and anything else that you think would be relevant in our understanding, and that would have been relevant, had members had the chance to hear it before being rushed to the floor to vote on that resolution.
ROSENSTEIN: Congressman, I don't want to comment on the motivation of anybody who's proposing resolutions. That's within the domain of Congress to make those determinations. If anybody's voting on me, though, you would think that they would want to know the truth before they voted.
And, if you wanted to know about all of the things we're doing to comply with congressional subpoenas and document requests and all the many inquiries that we get, you wouldn't have to talk to just me. You'd have to talk to the dozens of folks who are working diligently every day to try to comply with these requests.
So I'm happy to take whatever blame you want to assess. That's one of my jobs. But, if you want a true understand of what we're doing, it would take a very long time. And, as Director Wray adverted (ph) to, when you say 880,000 documents, it's a lot, but it still sounds like just 880,000 documents.
But (ph) you're actually talking about collecting documents from throughout the organization and then reviewing them to make sure there's no grand jury information, to make sure you're not exposing any informants, to make sure you're not including any personal information that the Congress probably doesn't want.
ROSENSTEIN: And so it's a complicated process, and it's difficult to explain, even in a minute or two. But, as I said, if you actually had a full and fair review of what we're doing, I'm confident that you would recognize we're doing everything we can to comply and whether people vote or don't vote as I said we're going to do everything we can because we believe and frankly the President has made quite clear that he wants us to be as transparent as possible consistent with the restrictions that we have and we're complying with that advice.
DEUTCH: Mr. Rosenstein and Director Wray, I very much appreciate your coming. I very much appreciate your agreeing to testify under oath and I would finally just take exception, vehemently so, with the assertion made by my friend, Mr. Jordan earlier who said and I quote him, "Well now, who are we supposed to believe? The staff members who we've worked with who have never misled us or you guys who we've caught hiding information from us?"
That's a question that he asked you, Mr. Rosenstein as you were answering questions under oath. The only conclusion from a statement like that, from a question like that is the suggestion that you've appeared before us and under oath are lying to the members of this committee. It is offensive. It was inappropriate for my colleague to do that. I regret that he had and I yield back the balance of my time.
GOODLATTE: The Deputy Attorney General is allowed to respond if he chooses to do so.
ROSENSTEIN: No need, Mr. Goodlatte, thank you.
GOODLATTE: The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Issa, for five minutes.
ISSA: Rosenstein, I want to start by characterizing my questions as all related to what I perceive is a double standard, the standard that the American people live under versus the standard that you all live under. And I'm just going to give you one quick example. You -- and I think they brought you down a copy of it -- 2 U.S.C. 194 says it shall be the duty of said President or Senate or Speaker of the House in the case where they certify -- I'll get to it bottom line, even shorter, when we find somebody in contempt and refer it, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, whose duty it shall be to bring the matter to a grand jury for its action.
Now under both President Bush and under President Obama, you two and your predecessors have decided that you're just going to consider shall as a if I feel like it. If I think the case is worthy. I will consider it de novo and in both cases not do it.
So let me ask a simple question. Under 2 U.S.C. 194, if either of you are held in contempt, will you allow yourself or allow the U.S. attorney to bring that case before a grand jury pursuant to the law or will you, like your predecessors, object?
ROSENSTEIN: Congressman, I'm glad to say that I'm actually not familiar with that issue. I haven't dealt with it before...
ISSA: Well you were serving at the Department of Justice under both of these cases, the Harriet Myers Case and then the Fast and Furious with the Attorney General, himself, were held in contempt and they obstructed and did not allow the case to go to the U.S. attorney.
You will recede (ph) U.S. attorneys including the one for the District of Columbia at this point; U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia did not make that decision in a vacuum that decision was made at the highest level of the Department of Justice, simply to hold out. Now ultimately, and Obama appointee gave us much of the information that we wanted.
It was far more than the Attorney General who lied to us about how much was there said there was and ultimately it uncovered obstruction by the Attorney General. So the question is would you allow the statue to go forward that says shall present to a grand jury or do you believe that you have the ability to be above the law, something the American people do not.
ROSENSTEIN: No Sir, I do not have the ability to be above the law.
ISSA: Good, since you do not believe that, I will take that as if you're held in contempt it will go forward.
ROSENSTEIN: Well, I haven't answered the question.
ISSA: You said no, and yes or no was fine that you don't believe you're above the law.
ISSA: The former director of the FBI came before, he was exactly where Mr. Wray is sitting, he was that far away and he told us that nowhere in the FBI did you have the capability of -- of cracking open an iPhone and as a result you needed to go to court, you needed to order and get an order to force Apple to create a backdoor that you could remotely get into it. Now that turned out to be untrue. Mr. Wray, do you have the ability, do you have a great organization, or do you have the inept group that was unable to do it until shortly after his false statement here when it was uncovered that for about 250 bucks it could be done and has been done.
WRAY: Well Congressman, certainly I think we have the premier law enforcement and national security organization in the world.
ISSA: The real question is, when he came here and said he'd exhausted all capabilities, he was not telling the truth because shortly afterwards, very simple assets allowed that and, of course, Apple never had to produce it.
So the question is -- no, let me -- let me go on because I have limited time. Recently, Mr. Comey was given an advanced copy of the Inspector General's report in return for which he signed a nondisclosure agreement. He violated that nondisclosure agreement in that he contacted a news source more than four hours beforehand because it was published four hours before it was released, probably 24 to 48 hours in advance.
Will you agree to look into whether or not he violated that NDA since the -- there is no authority, obviously by the Inspector General. Will you agree to investigate Former Director Comey, not (inaudible) law or double standard for his violation of that nondisclosure agreement?
WRAY: Well Congressman, I'm -- I'm certainly not going to be commenting here on whether not we're going to open or not an investigation into someone. I will say that I haven't...
ISSA: So you're not going to say (ph) whether he's above the law or not for what he did?
WRAY: I'm sorry?
ISSA: You're not going to say whether he's above the law or not?
WRAY: I do not think there's anyone on this planet who is above the law.
ISSA: Well, we'll see whether or not you actually open an investigation. That will tell me that. Now yesterday, Mr. Strzok managed to have your attorney obstruct us from getting the answers we wanted by claiming that, in fact, he wasn't going to answer questions even if they were tangentially related to an ongoing investigation.
So you stand by that today that in fact behind closed doors in a classified setting, we are not entitled to those questions answered?
GOODLATTE: The time of the gentleman has expired but the witness may answer the question.
WRAY: I would like to answer that, yes. So Congressman, I -- I was not present as you know for the interview. And I understand you all talked to him for 11 or 12 hours and I don't know the specifics of what questions were asked, which questions were objected to and what the context is, and in my experience as a prosecutor and as a lawyer on the other side of it, those kind of details matter. So I really can't speak to whether or not any particular objection made sense and I would need to know a lot more about that. I will say -- I will say that it is a long-standing principle recognized by the Inspector General in this report that we don't discuss ongoing criminal investigations, not just publicly but with Congress.
ISSA: Mr. Chairman, for the record, the 800,000 or so records that earlier the Deputy Attorney General was talking about how difficult and how long it took to produce them, is it my understanding that they're being looked at in a camera and as such, if there were any information of the type that they said they wanted to protect, those would -- those could be objected to before their release. Isn't that true?
GOODLATTE: That's correct.
ISSA: So the fact is, all of the objections that we've heard about the delay really don't apply when it's in camera do they?
GOODLATTE: I -- I can't answer that question but...
ISSA: Perhaps one of the individuals can.
GOODLATTE: Would the Director or the Attorney General would like to respond? You're welcome to it.
WRAY: I'm happy to respond in part. Which ism that even information that's provided in camera has to be reviewed first, for example, for grand jury secrecy, which we are prohibited from disclosing. So there are some things that we have to review for even to put it in the in- camera room, legally we're required to. There are many more things that based on discussion with the chairman and his staff that would then be relevant to any subsequent production.
So you're partially right but there are some things -- some significant things that have to get reviewed for even before it goes in the -- the reading room legally.
ROSENSTEIN: Mr. Chairman, may I respond?
ROSENSTEIN: The issue of contempt. As I said, I'm not familiar with that particular statute or what the department's policy has been but I would like -- I have the advantage of having been a lawyer for 38 years and prosecutor for almost 30 years, just to explain. I made an effort in this letter to explain I recognize that not every member of Congress is -- is a lawyer let alone a prosecutor.
But I set forth in my letter an explanation of the history of the accommodation process between the executive and legislative branches. I think it's important to understand, Mr. Chairman, that the fact that the department receives a subpoena and is unable to comply immediately because of volume or they need to make redactions, that doesn't mean that we're in contempt.
And there sometimes may be legitimate differences of opinion as to whether or not certain information is subject to being produced. It doesn't mean you're in contempt. There are mechanisms to resolve this without threatening to hold people in contempt; which is in fact a crime. So my recommendation, Mr. Chairman, is if there are differences of opinion, you know, read the letter, understand how this has been done historically.
We'll resolve it. If it needs to be resolved by a judge, you can seek enforcement of your subpoena civilly in court. But I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, I'm working with a really superb team. Some of the best lawyers in the country, Republicans, Democrats, career, political appointees. We are not in contempt of this Congress and we are not going to be in contempt of this Congress. Thank you.
GOODLATTE: Thank you. Chair recognizes the gentleman from California, Ms. Bass for five minutes. Oh, OK. If -- if you're -- the ranking member advises me that Mr. Cicilline has a pressing, need to go first. So he's recognized for five minutes.
CICILLINE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank the gentlelady from California. Thank you to our witnesses for being here. And we're -- we're here today because the FBI violated a longstanding policy of not commenting on anything related to an ongoing criminal or counter intelligence investigation in the summer and fall of 2016. This violation resulted in a year and a half I.G. investigation, a 500 page exhaustive I.G. report and it's the genesis of three concurrent investigations in the House alone.
Last week, we -- I attended along with my colleagues a six-hour hearing with the I.G. on the FBI's violation of this policy. Yesterday our Republican colleagues spent 11 hours trying to get the FBI to violate the same policy. And today the deputy attorney general and the FBI director have been brought before us in an attempt by our friends on the other side of the aisle to force the FBI in this open forum to violate this policy all over again.
All this is an attempt to discredit the Department of Justice, to undermine Special Counsel and to protect President Trump. And I'll say at the outset, it is my hope and prayer and I know the prayer of the American people for the sake of our country that you both remain strong and faithful to the oath that you've taken no matter how much bullying you endure in an effort to persuade you to violate this sacred responsibility, whether it be by way of letter, by way of contempt threats, by way of resolutions or public hearings such as this.
I was particularly disturbed to hear the chairman of the committee say the FBI and the DOJ are not in the Constitution but the president and the Congress are and you must yield to us. I remind the chairman respectfully and I remind both of you gentlemen you must not yield to us to the extent that doing so would require you to violate your oath to defend the Constitution and laws of the United States.
And I hope that is the sentiment of everyone on this committee. Of course we're having an emergency hearing about the Clinton e-mails.
We're not having an emergency hearing on the corruption in this administration, the conflicts of interest and violations of the emoluments clause, the election security which is so essential for our upcoming election, the family separation policy which is ripping children from their parents, the failure to pass the DREAM Act or address the scourge of gun violence in America, but we're having another hearing about the Clinton e-mail server.
And you know, I spent many years as a criminal defense lawyer. It would've been a really clever and very useful thing if I had the ability to demand information about an ongoing investigation during the course of the investigation. I never thought to do that because of course it's so obvious you are not entitled to that.
And so this notion of making these demands in the hopes that you will continue to honor your oath and deny them and they will use that as a pretext, as Mr. Gutierrez said, to take some action against you as something we should all guard against very closely. There've been out -- 18 -- there remain 18 outstanding indictments, five guilty pleas from the president's deputy campaign manager, the president's former top national security advisor among others.
You have already said our country was attacked in order to influence the outcome of our election. My first question is, are foreign adversaries including Russia continuing to attempt to interfere with our next election?
WRAY: Congressman, it is I think the consensus of the intelligence community, that Russia among other foreign powers will continue to look for ways to influence our populace. Whether or not they would try to interfere with the election in the sense that a lot of laypeople think of it is more of an open question.
But certainly there is plenty of information to show that they continue to look for ways to try to divide us and sow discord to undermine the faith of the American people in the democracy that we hold so dear.
CICILLINE: And do you recall, director or deputy attorney general, in all of the subpoenas and letters and demands for information, have our colleagues on the other side of the aisle written to you and asked you to comment and provide information about the efforts that are being made to protect the 2018 election from any foreign interference?
WRAY: Well the FBI, I know, has provided numerous briefings on our efforts. As the deputy attorney general mentioned, I created a foreign influence task force dedicated to this topic and while I can't speak specifically to -- just because I don't remember exactly which committee they've done what with, I know we've provided a lot of briefings.
[13:46:35] We also -- I personally addressed the full House of Representatives, along with the secretary of Homeland Security and the director of National Intelligence on this subject.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, we'll continue to monitor this hearing. Pretty explosive.
Once again, Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee going after Christopher Wray, the FBI director, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, for not complying with what they want, specific documents, specific information about what happened during the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.
Tony Blinken is with us, our global affairs analyst, former deputy of secretary of state, former deputy national adviser during the Obama administration, Carrie Cordero, is with us as well, our legal analyst, former counsel to the U.S. assistant attorney general for national security.
The president is weighing in on this investigation as well. Let me read a tweet that he wrote earlier this morning. Peter Strzok -- he's the FBI agent who has now been accused of interfering on Hillary Clinton's behalf against Donald Trump during the investigation. "Peter Strzok worked as a leader in the illegal witch hunt for a long period of time. He got it started. Was only fired because the gig was up. But remember, he took his orders from Comey and McCabe" -- who was the FBI director and deputy FBI director -- "and they took their orders from you know who. Mueller and Comey, best friends."
The president is really smearing this entire investigation. CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He is. And there's so many different things that are untrue in that. If we start in the back with, "Comey and Mueller are friends," that's just made up. They worked together for many years together in the Justice Department, but there's no reason to think they're friends. The inspector general of the Justice Department conducted an investigation of the Strzok e- mails, of the interactions he had with colleagues that came out in these text messages, and the inspector general concluded that there was no indication that the personal views of these individuals, including Peter Strzok, had influenced decision making in the investigation.
So despite the fact the president and his political allies in Congress continue to try to find something, some document, some statement somewhere that supports their theory that Peter Strzok's personal views affected the investigation, the inspector general says otherwise.
BLITZER: Listen to Trey Gowdy, one of the Republicans who is really going after these Justice Department and FBI officials, listen to him complain about the length of the Mueller investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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)
BLITZER: Rod Rosenstein, he responded by saying, "I don't think as these sorts of investigations go that it's actually been going on for a long time. I can assure you that Director Mueller understands I want him to conclude it as expeditiously as possible, consistent with his responsibility to do it right."
Those of us who covered Whitewater, an independent counsel was involved in that. It went on for six or seven years. Iran-Contra, during the Reagan administration, that went on for at least two and a half years. This has been going on for one year.
[13:50:18] TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Wolf, that's right. The irony of Mr. Gowdy making that accusation when he himself pursued the Benghazi investigation well beyond the sell-by date speaks for itself.
BLITZER: Let me correct myself, two and a half years for the Benghazi investigation, as you correctly point out. Iran-Contra went on for six or seven years, like the Whitewater investigation during the Clinton administration. What's your bottom line assessment of what's going on now in the House
BLINKEN: I think it's clear, it's very clear that this is an effort to discredit the FBI, to discredit the Justice Department and, ultimately, to discredit the Mueller investigation. No matter what Mr. Mueller brings forward, he and anyone involved in the investigation are somehow delegitimized. As a result, whatever they find is delegitimatized. It's been clear it's been going on for a long time. Today is just another chapter in that long-standing effort.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
CORDERO: Wolf, the investigation has already produced results. We've had the campaign chairman indicted. We had the former national security adviser plead guilty to making false statements. We've had numerous other pleas in terms of people making false statements. In the short time, for a long counterintelligence and criminal enterprise investigation that this investigation has taken place, it is already producing results. And we know there's going to be more coming from the Mueller investigation.
BLITZER: Here's something I thought was interesting. At 8:00 a.m. Eastern time here in Washington, the White House together with the kremlin released the joint announcement that there would be a summit meeting between President Trump, President Putin, in Helsinki on July 16th. That's an historic, important meeting to be sure.
About a half hour, though, before the official announcement, the president tweeted this: "Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with meddling in our election."
Once again, the president casting doubt on the suspicion, concluded during the Obama administration, continued by the Trump administration that Russia was interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
I'll ask you what I asked Congressman Schiff earlier, why is the president seemingly alone on this issue?
BLINKEN: Wolf, I wish I knew. And all I can say is hearing him say this once again is like believing the Fox who insists he's never set foot in the hen house when his mouth is full of feathers as he says it. Believing Mr. Putin on this when we know, across the board, from every intelligence agency and law enforcement agency, that the Russians melded in the election is hard to fathom. Whether it's simply because the president thinks that playing into that undermines his ability to develop a better relationship with Mr. Putin or whether it undermines the credibility of the election that brought him into office or if there's something else going on, I don't know. I hope we'll find out.
But it also reinforces deep concerns among the allies that the president is going off, first, to a NATO summit and then to the summit with Mr. Putin, and it's going to be a repeat of what we saw a couple of weeks ago when he went to the G-7 and bashed our allies and went to the summit with Kim Jong-Un and embraced a dictator. They're worried about a repeat of exactly that.
BLITZER: What he tweeted this morning, "Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with meddling in our election," we went back -- I don't know if we have the exchange, the clips of what the president has said over the past year, two years, about this allegation. If we do, let's play that.
We don't have that.
This isn't the first time the president has made the assertion.
CORDERO: This is repeated all he says, that he accepts Vladimir Putin's statement that it didn't occur. But January 2017, the Intelligence Community says Russia did this. Earlier this year, the joint bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee issued an interim report that they did this. Earlier this month, Donald Trump's appointee confirmed by the Senate, DNI Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, gave a speech in Normandy that said that Russia did this and are continuing on a long-term basis.
Not just related to the midterm elections, but they have a long-term strategic intent to influence democracies in Western Europe, the United States, and continue to affect elections. This is a fact. And the fact that the president continues to deny it only raises questions about whether the steps that he takes in national security are in America's interests, or whether there's something else out there that is influencing his behavior.
[13:54:46] BLITZER: We heard Christopher Wray, the FBI director, whom President Trump also nominated, was confirmed, say that the Russians are trying to sow dissent and discord in the United States through these activities.
We're continuing to follow the breaking news. Much more right after this.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go. I'm Ana Cabrera. Thank you for being here with me.
Fireworks today on Capitol Hill. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers have been grilling these two men on an array of topics, ranging from media leaks to the Russia investigation. It has been extremely heated between Republican lawmakers and Rosenstein.
Let's continue to listen in.
GOHMERT: -- documents so Congress couldn't see that he was friends with Peter Strzok, that was someone else. But you have added pointedly to Mr. Jordan that I am the deputy attorney general, and you certainly are. But the actions of your subordinates which are all employees of the Department of Justice, aren't you vouching for those? Don't those people respond to you?
[14:00:04] ROSENSTEIN: Those people all ultimately report to me. Yes, sir.
GOHMERT: And that would include when Bruce Ohr's office was directly next to yours, I believe, isn't that correct?