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FBI and Justice to Be Investigated; Investigation into Comey; Farewell to Joe Biden; Trump Nominees Talk about Russia. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired January 12, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:13] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, here we go. Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.
What a week in Washington. You know, we've been watching Donald Trump's cabinet picks face hearings on Capitol Hill. But before we get to tall of that, I want to bring you some breaking news we're following for you here on CNN. This is from the Department of Justice.
Their internal watchdog has just launched this investigation into exactly how the FBI and the Justice Department handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server.
So let's begin with Pamela Brown. She's our justice correspondent.
You know, starting from scratch here, tell me about this investigation.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, bottom line, Brooke, the Department of Justice's internal watchdog announced today that it is launching this probe, looking at how the FBI and Department of Justice handled the Hillary Clinton probe before the election, the actions that were taken, some of these allegations surrounding them, particularly when it comes to how the FBI handled the public disclosure of the investigation. And the statement from the watchdog goes and lists all of these allegations and it focuses - one of the first ones on the list is James Comey with his July press conference when he came out and said that the investigation was closed, that there was not probable cause to prosecute Hillary Clinton, but that she was extremely careless and irresponsible with how she handled the classified information.
This was unprecedented at the time. Normally if the FBI closes an investigation, doesn't find any wrongdoing to prosecute, it doesn't go out and talk about that person, that individual publicly. Clearly, this was different.
And then, as you recall, the letter that was sent right before the election notifying Congress that new information had surfaced and that the FBI would, in essence, be reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server, that is something else the inspector general is going to look into and the circumstances surrounding that decision and whether it was proper at the time. James Comey broke with precedent because the Department of Justice warned against it, says that normally this close to an election you don't come out and publically talk about politically sensitive issues, but James Comey felt it was important because he had already testified to Congress saying he would keep them apprised of developments.
Also the inspector general saying that he will look into allegations that the FBI deputy director, Andy McCabe, should have been recused from participating in the investigation. Andy McCabe's wife was running for state senate and it become public that there had been Clinton supporters who donated to her campaign and so there was criticism that he didn't recuse himself. The FBI said at the time he became part of the investigation after she lost her race.
Also, he wants to look into allegations involving the department's assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, Peter Kadzik, and his communications with John Podesta before the election. We know that these communications came to light through the WikiLeaks dump of John Podesta's e-mails where, on one occasion he informed Podesta that there was a hearing involving the Hillary Clinton e-mail server and so forth. That is something else they're going to look at, including allegations that department and FBI employees improperly disclose non- public information about the investigation before this election.
So, Brooke, I should mention, this isn't exactly a surprise because Republican and Democratic lawmakers have been calling on the inspector general to launch an investigation into these allegations that have been made on both sides of the aisle and now today the announcement has been made that that will happen, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Wow, slow news week. I'm being entirely facetious.
BROWN: Yes. (INAUDIBLE).
BALDWIN: We're going to pick through all of this here with my panel, but let me follow-up with this one question.
BALDWIN: We know, you know, Democrats - Democrats have accused the FBI of being unfair with Clinton because they were also looking into people involved with Trump's campaign and didn't discuss that publicly. Pamela, is there any indication that the inspector general will look into that piece as well?
BROWN: So, in this statement that was released today, the inspector general did not explicitly mention anything about the Trump campaign. What he said was - the last sentence in the statement says that they'll include other matters that may arise as part of that probe. And that could be, Brooke, a signal that the inspector general could expand this probe to include matters relating to the Donald Trump campaign and the fact that the FBI had been looking into the campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, and his ties to people in the Ukraine but yet did not talk about that publicly. As you just pointed out, that criticism from Democratic leaders saying, why didn't you talk about that investigation, but yet you were so public about the Hillary Clinton investigation.
BROWN: So that is also something that could - that could pop up as part of this probe, though it's not explicit in this statement, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Ys. Yes. Pamela, thank you so much for setting this all up.
Let me just bring in my panel now. I have Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst, Jim Sciutto is there, CNN chief national security correspondent, Bakari Sellers, CNN commentator, and also Kayleigh McEnany, CNN political commentator and conservative contributor for "The Hill." Also with us Page Pate, constitutional attorney. So lots and lots of voices here to walk us through all of this.
[14:05:03] Gloria, I was hanging on your every word earlier in your conversation with Dana on all of this and her - her, you know, metaphor of how this is sort of like a scab. You know, just when it was trying to heal politically, it's like continues to be pick, pick, picked at. You know, with this IG investigation, is this the case of the FBI just trying to get its reputation back?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think so. I think what the IG decided, having gotten all these complaints, and I'm sure there are a huge number of internal complaints, as well as external complaints. But people who work at the FBI who are career attorneys who work at the FBI don't like to see the FBI in the middle of a political cauldron, as it was, during the campaign. So when you look back from the very beginning last July at James Comey's decision not to prosecute but yet comment on Hillary Clinton's behavior as reckless to his letter later on, I think that there are people internally who believe that he overstepped. At the time I remember saying that it was like Comey lit the house on fire and then walked out the back door -
BORGER: Which is kind of what he did. And so I think that the FBI has to be scrupulously non-partisan and I believe that it is the role of the inspector general to do exactly what the inspector general is doing, which is, to be the internal watchdog, to get everything that occurred, to establish a timeline and to investigate it piece by piece. And as we were talking earlier, I think from the FBI's point of view, they would rather have this done internally by an internal watchdog than have it play out publicly sort of ad nauseam and very partisan congressional hearings, one way or another. There are partisans on both sides.
BALDWIN: Yes, I want to age Page about precisely that point here, you know, talk about being scrupulously non-partisan. Page, that it is the IG office, right, it's this internal watchdog, perhaps, you know, functioning without thinking of partisan politics instead of a, you know, a congressional committee, which, ultimately we know, you know, it's a - it's a Republican majority Congress.
PAGE PATE, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: That's right. I mean, Brooke, this is exactly what the OIG, the Office of Inspector General and the Justice Department is set up to do. They have career prosecutors and agents who work within that department. They are supposed to investigate allegations of misconduct, of violation of protocol, violation of rules within the Department of Justice an then make recommendations based on their investigation. So as much as a group can be nonpartisan, this group should be nonpartisan.
And we know from the beginning of this, this has not been a normal investigation. It's been played out in the public, both the announcement not to charge and then later the announcement that it was being reopened, and the fact that the final decision about charging or not charging was left to the FBI director. So we know going into this investigation, it was unusual to begin with, perhaps a violation of internal procedures and protocols. But the question now is, was there anything illegal? And I think that's what they're going to look into.
BALDWIN: And, Bakari Sellers, we've talked about this. I mean this - precisely, right, the nut of the whole thing, the crux of this investigation. This is why the Hillary camp feels that they lost the election.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that if we look back with just the refreshing look and clear eyes at the election, you understand that, yes, Hillary Clinton was a flawed (ph) candidate -
BALDWIN: Are we - are we that far removed from it to be able to do that yet, Bakari?
SELLERS: Well, I hope so. Some of us - some of us that are trying to prepare to deal with the next four years. But if you look back, you understand that, yes, Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate, but there also were external factors that led to the outcome in this election. And one of those external factors, I mean we can talk about Russia, we can talk about WikiLeaks, but Comey's letter, we understand that there were a lot of late deciders in this race and Comey's letter reinforced a lot of those negatives that were built in about mistrust and distrust of Hillary Clinton. And it came out an inopportune time and the media ran with it. And what we do know is that Comey had no justification to release that letter. We also know that there was nothing there. It was a big nothing (INAUDIBLE).
And so for an FBI director, as Gloria said earlier, the FBI has to be just nonpartisan as possible. For the FBI director to come out and put his hand on the scale of a presidential election was unheard of and this is why the FBI has to be independent and the OIG is doing its job. So kudos to them for doing something that the Clinton campaign and Clinton supporters always knew was an issue.
BALDWIN: Kayleigh, what do you think?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I - to say that there was not a justification for the letter is simply untrue. Jim Comey testified under sworn testimony, under oath, that this investigation was closed. When the pattern of facts changed, when the Anthony Weiner laptop was discovered and he started looking into this matter again, he then - his testimony that he gave, under oath in front of Congress, was wrong and was inaccurate and he had a duty to update that.
[14:10:04] So Jim Comey was in this unenviable position, do I update Congress, as I have to do, and meanwhile you think the IRS chief was under impeachment hearings for not updating his testimony, or do I not and interfere with this election. He had two duties. It was a very hard position. And I go back to when the Clinton people were praising Jim Comey, saying he was of unimpeachable character after the July announcement of no prosecution. They said that this guy, both on the left and the right, people were saying, this is someone we can trust. Then this happened and their opinion of Jim Comey changed.
I think this investigation will show nothing on either side. I think this is a good man and it's unfortunate he's become a victim of partisanship.
BALDWIN: Well, I think Jim Comey has been screamed at from both sides, clearly, through the course of this election.
Jim Sciutto, add to this whole layer. You know, I look at you and I think of Russia, right, a question of Russian interference in the presidential election.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) I understand, yes.
BALDWIN: No offense, by the way. No offense. I look at you, I think Russia - Russia China, don't ask me why, you know, and the intelligence community's judgement on all of this, right? This entire layer.
SCIUTTO: No question. I mean, listen, let me speak purely from the way the public consumes this.
SCIUTTO: The two issues that Democrats say unduly influenced the election are Russian interference and the FBI, right? I mean let's look at what - and now you have two ongoing investigations along those paths, right? They're going to keep this topic in the news and the emotions boiling over on both sides about that.
SCIUTTO: But, you know, the intelligence community, on Russia, made no judgment, did not attempt to make a judgment as to whether what Russian interference influenced the election. They did make a judgement with high confidence that Russia did interfere with the intention of messing things up. And, in fact, it's their assessment that Russia interfered with the intention of helping Donald Trump. That issue is going to stay in the news, in part because you have Democrats and Republicans on The Hill who want to pursue even tougher sanctions against Russia in response to that. You can have hearings, et cetera. That's going to keep that topic going. At the same time, you have this parallel path of when will the
president acknowledge that in stronger terms. Yesterday he did say, well, I think it was Russia who did it. Will he take the next step of saying, and we have to do something about it, right?
SCIUTTO: That's going to keep that topic going. Now you have this parallel investigation of the FBI, the Department of Justice, did they interfere unduly in effect. And I should note, it's not just about what Comey did with the investigation of Hillary Clinton's servers. This investigation also looks about what - what perceived partisans inside the DOJ, what information they might have shared with the Hillary Clinton. So you have that path. And then you have this third path just of the DOJ investigation, which Pamela Brown described there, they leave an open door at the end saying, and we can look at other things, our guidance - the FBI's guidance to our - my colleagues who cover the FBI is this includes Trump campaign contacts with Russia, specifically Paul Manafort. That's a lot of stuff about this election that's going to be continued in the investigation here with unanswered questions.
BALDWIN: All right, I hope everyone's heads are spinning. Yes. Yes.
SCIUTTO: Yes, mine is.
BALDWIN: Yes, I think mine is a little bit too.
Before I let all of you go, Gloria, I'm also just left wondering, what about James Comey? You know, looking ahead, how does this affect him? Will he have to recuse himself, you know, as he's under investigation by the IG? How does that work?
BORGER: Well, what's even more interesting about this development today is the fact that Jeff Sessions yesterday, at his confirmation hearing, said that - was that yesterday? I believe it was.
BALDWIN: I think it was yesterday.
BORGER: Said that he would - said that he would have to recuse himself if he's confirmed as attorney general, that he would have to recuse himself on anything having to do with Hillary Clinton's e-mails because he spoke very politically about that issue during the campaign and he said, quite thoughtfully I believe, that he thought a lot about this and that he thought he ought to recuse himself. So if you have the attorney general who can't do anything about Hillary Clinton's e- mails, then potentially now you have James Comey who might potentially have to recuse himself on the question of anything that comes up with Hillary Clinton's e-mails. And he is the head of the FBI. Then what happens? So, you know, this is kind of unchartered waters right here, like a lot of things happening in Washington right now. So I - I don't know how this - how this is going to play out, quite frankly.
BALDWIN: I'd like a nickel for every time we say we're in unchartered territory.
Gloria Borger, as always, glad I have -
BORGER: It's the new cliche.
BALDWIN: It is. It is.
Gloria and Jim and Kayleigh and Page and Bakari, thank you all so very much here. So much happening.
Coming up here on CNN, national security on stage at the capital as Trump's picks for the CIA and defense secretary take the hot seat, what they said that clearly contradicts their future president, what he has said on the campaign trail.
Also ahead, Republican holdout. Could Senator Marco Rubio's decision derail Rex Tillerson's path to become the next secretary of state. What he just told our man on The Hill, Capitol Hill, Manu Raju.
[14:15:06] And later, President-elect Donald Trump says he has a plan to separate himself from his businesses, but the director of Office of Government Ethics says that just won't do. We'll tell you why he's blasting Trump's plan. Not a dull moment this week.
You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
BALDWIN: We'll come up on some live pictures here of the White House just to tell you that they will be hosting a farewell event for Vice President Joe Biden in just a little while. We know, of course, that the vice president and the president of the United States has built an undeniable friendship over the past eight years. This will not be an easy farewell for either. CNN's Michelle Kosinski is at the White House with a preview of what's to come.
[14:20:07] Who will be there, Michelle.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think this will be interesting to see how they handle this. I mean, obviously, the president and first lady will be there with his vice president, Joe Biden, Jill Biden, and we expect a room full of people. It seems like this was probably planned out for some time. Something that President Obama likely really wanted to do, but we didn't know about it until now because it is a surprise for the vice president, at least something of a surprise. It is now reportable. Don't worry, we're not spoiling that surprise.
BALDWIN: The cat's out of the bag now.
KOSINSKI: But lately, you know, as they're getting a little more sentimental and talking about the last eight years, talking about their real relationship as friends that they've built over that time, it gets a little emotional. I - we expect this to be the same. In fact, just two days ago, when President Obama delivered his farewell speech in Chicago, there was a lot of emotion at the end, including when he was talking about Biden.
KOSINSKI: He said, in fact, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware's favorite son. You were the first decision I made as a nominee and it was the best. I mean we've heard President Obama say that before, that that was the best political decision he's made to choose Joe Biden as his vice president. He went on to say, that's not just because you've been a great vice president, but because in the bargain I gained a brother. And we love you and Jill like family and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our lives. And we saw Biden shed a little bit of a tear there during that time.
So this is likely to be an emotional event. I think they want to probably keep it upbeat and celebratory. And I think the president will mention Biden's decades of public service in the Senate, his reputation on both sides of the aisle as a deal-maker, the great respect that he has in this town and in America, and also that relationship that they have, that they've become really close and, you know, really confidants for each other.
BALDWIN: All these farewells this week. The Obama farewell in Chicago and now the Biden farewell at the White House. We'll take it live. We'll talk then.
Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much.
To now the Trump transition. Two of the men expected to help lead the nation's national security are being put to the test. President-elect Donald Trump's nominees for CIA director and secretary of defense face confirmation hearings today. And both Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, here on the left, and on the right, Retired General James Mattis, showed they do not follow Trump's line on torture. Plus, they were clear that Russia indeed authorized the hack of the 2016 presidential election. That is an assertion the president-elect finally acknowledged himself just 24 hours ago. You'll hear at length from both of these nominees.
First to Trump's pick to lead the CIA, Congressman Pompeo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: If you were ordered by the president to restart the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques that fall outside of the army field manual, would you comply?
REP. MIKE POMPEO (R), CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: Senator, absolutely not. Moreover, I can't imagine that I would be asked that of the president- elect or then president. But it's - I'm very clear, I voted for the change that put the army field manual in place as a member of Congress. I understand that law very, very quickly and I'm also deeply aware that any changes to that will come through Congress and the president. FEINSTEIN: And regular order.
POMPEO: And regular order, yes, ma'am, absolutely.
POMPEO: With respect to the outlines of what's in the army field manual, there's no doubt in my mind about the limitations it places not only on the DOD, but on the Central Intelligence Agency and I'll always comply with the law.
It's pretty clear about what took place here, about Russian involvement in efforts to hack information and to have an impact on American democracy. I - I'm very clear-eyed about what that intelligence report says and I have every expectation as we continue to develop the facts, I will relay those not only to the president, but the team around him and to you all so that we all can have a robust discussion about how to take on what is an enormous threat from cyber.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Congressman Pompeo there.
Also, as I mentioned, in the hot seat on Capitol Hill, Retired Marine General James Mattis. He is President's-elect Trump's choice for one of the most important jobs in the new administration, secretary of defense. And he just cleared one hurdle toward getting the job. General Mattis is the former head of U.S. Central Command and former NATO supreme allied commander. And while he is well-respected from both parties in Washington, he will need a special waiver to serve since he's only been off active duty for three and a half years. The law actually requires one to be out of uniform for at least seven for this position. The Senate committee who questioned him just granted General Mattis that waiver and now he needs the approval of the full Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JAMES MATTIS (RET.), DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: Russia, to quote the chairman's opening statement, has chosen to be a strategic competitor. They're an adversary in key areas. And while we should always engage and look for areas of cooperation and even in the worst years of the Cold War, President Reagan, Secretary Schultz were able to work with Russia, the Soviet Union at that time, and reduce the nuclear weapons. So I'm all for engagement, but also have to recognize reality and what Russia is up to. And there's a decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively and an increasing number of areas where we're going to have to confront Russia.
[14:25:35] We have to deliver a very hard blow against ISIS in the Middle East so that there's no sense of invulnerability or invincibility there. There's got to be a military defeat of them there, but it must, as you point out, be a much broader approach. This requires an integrated strategy so you don't squeeze them in one place and then they develop in another and we really are right back to square one. We've got to have an integrated strategy on this and it's got to be one that goes after the recruiting and their fundraising, as well as delivering a military blow against them in the Middle East.
I would see us maintaining the strongest possible relationship with NATO.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Thank you.
And are you concerned about some of the statements that President- elect Trump has made with respect to our historic European allies and to NATO and how - have you had a chance to have discussions with him an how confident are you that he recognizes what you have just said about the importance of those relationships?
MATTIS: Senator, I have had discussions with him on this issue. He has shown himself open even to the point of asking more questions, going deeper into the issue about why I feel so strongly and he understands where I stand.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you plan to oppose women serving in these combat roles?
MATTIS: I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military. Because the U.S. military is devoted to be in the top in its game in a competition where second place is last place, we should not simply be turning to the military because it's a very capable military, because it's well led. It's now a national treasure. I'm the first to admit this. But it doesn't mean we should be turning to the military to answer all of our concerns in our relations with the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: All right, so let's start there with some of these nominees. I have back with me Jim Sciutto, CNN chief national security correspondent, and CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.
So, guys, good to see both of you.
And, Jim, just out of the gate, you know, you heard in some of the questioning and you look at issues from torture, to Iran, to Russia, to the border wall, these, you know, Trump nominees have been contradicting so much of the rhetoric we heard on the campaign trail from candidate Trump. What do you make of that?
SCIUTTO: Listen, there are not just rhetorical differences, right, they're substantive differences on the key national security issues of our time. Again, not tangential issues, the central ones.
SCIUTTO: Russia, the Iran deal, a whole host of issues. And the question becomes, what happens when those advisors surround the president and advise him to go one way. I mean his public comments, we're not just talking about during the campaign, since he was elected, contradict many of these positions. Does the president dig his heels in?
Just a short time ago we had the former defense secretary, William Cohen, here, who has advised presidents before. He made the point, at the end of the day, it's the president who makes the decision. And there are a number of decision points coming up on these issues. New, tougher sanctions against Russia for election related hacking. Does the president go along with that? I mean many Republicans want to and many of his advisers want to. Does he listen to that?
On the wall, his nominee for homeland security secretary has said the wall wouldn't be necessary, doesn't work, but this is something just this week that the president-elect said that he was going to pursue. So we're going to have tests coming up very soon, the ones we know about and then we'll have ones we don't know about because the news surprises you, what happens then when the decisions are actually made?
BALDWIN: General, I mean Jim's right, ultimately the buck stops with the commander in chief. But, you know, you have been openly critical of President-elect Trump. Do you feel a tad more optimistic hearing some of these confirmation hearings and some of these nominees don't necessarily - aren't lock step with what we heard from candidate Trump?
LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: What we've heard so far, Brooke, in most of the nominees is a pragmatic and informed approach to America's and the world's problems and the challenges that the United -
BALDWIN: So you feel good about that?
[12:29:45] HERTLING: I do, but it's contrary to what we heard through the campaign, which was an irrational, emotional and uninformed approach to some of the world's problems an concerns. So, yes, there's a sigh of relief hearing these kind of things. There's going to be a great deal of emphasis on people like General Mattis and Congressman Pompeo to, as we say, lead up significantly, to insure their boss understands and gets the pragmatic and informed approach when they start dealing with problems. So all of those things are critically important.