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Senate Holds Hearing In Wake Of Comey Firing; McCabe "Can't Comment" On Comey's Talks With Trump. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 11, 2017 - 11:00 ET
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MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: -- Cubans have deep ties. It is in their deepest tradition to take American visitors and do their best to influence them in a way that is adverse to U.S. interests.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, fully agree and we share your concerns about that issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And my final question is, with all this focus on Russia and what's happened in the past, is it the opinion of all of you, or those of you -- certainly you all have insight on this -- that even as we focus on 2016 and the efforts leading up to that election, efforts to influence policy making here in the united states, vis-a- vis the Russian interests, are ongoing.
That the Russians continue to use active measures, even at this moment, even on this day, to try through the use of multiple different ways to influence the political debate and the decisions made in American politics, particularly as they pertain to Russia's interests around the world? In essence, these active measures is an ongoing threat, not simply something that happened in the past.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, that's right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, it's right. In some sense, though, we have to put it in context. This has been going on for a long time. There's nothing new, only the cost has been lessened, the cost of doing it.
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I would just add that the use of cyber and social media significantly increased the impact and the capabilities of Russia. Obviously, this has been done for years and years, even decades, but the ability they have to use the interconnectedness and all that that provides that didn't provide before, it literally upped the game to the point where it's having a significant impact.
ADMIRAL MIKE ROGERS (RETIRED), NSA DIRECTOR: Like cyber's enabling them to access information in massive quantities that weren't quite attainable to the same level previously, and that's just another tool in their attempt to acquire information, misuse of that information, manipulation, outright lies, inaccuracies at times. But in other times, actually dumping raw data, which is as we also saw during this last presidential election cycle for us. SENATOR RICHARD BURR, CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Senator Feinstein.
SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks very much, Mr. Chairman. Where there's obviously more than one threat to our country, I would argue that the greatest danger to the United States is North Korea. And I'm one of those who have been very worried in trying to follow this as close as possible.
In the statement, for the record, you state, and I quote, "North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs will continue to pose a serious threat to U.S. interests and to the security environment in East Asia in 2017."
You go on to state, "Pyongyang is committed to developing a long- range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States." These assessments, combined with North Korea's behavior, recent ballistic missile launches, and proximity to U.S. forces and allies in Asia is deeply concerning.
For the purpose of this open hearing, could each of you express the threat posed by North Korea in this public setting and then address, most importantly, some of the specific actions we're taking as a nation? And some of it you may want to do in a closed hearing later.
COATS: I think we could get into greater detail in the closed hearing, but it's clear that we have assessed this as a very significant, potentially existential threat to the United States that has to be addressed.
You're aware, there has been considerable discussion among the policymakers without providing intelligence with the administration relative to steps moving forward.
General Mattis has taken a role in this, as well as our secretary of state and others. The interaction with the Chinese of late I think can play a significant role in terms of how we deal with this.
We have dedicated a very significant amount of our intelligence resources to the issue of North Korea, and I think we'd look forward to going deeper into all of that --
FEINSTEIN: Let me ask this --
COATS: In a classified session.
FEINSTEIN: Is it possible in this hearing to estimate when they will have an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of taking a nuclear warhead?
COATS: I think it would be best if we save that for -- those kind of details for the closed session.
FEINSTEIN: Can you say in this session how effective China has been in stopping some of the testing? [11:05:07]POMPEO: Senator Feinstein, let me try to answer that as best as I can. I just returned from Korea last week. I had a chance to be with our soldiers, General Brooks (ph) and his team as well as the great soldiers -- on the front lines there. They're doing amazing work in a difficult condition.
With respect to the Chinese, they have made efforts in a way that they have not made before in an effort to close down the trade that they have and putting pressure, diplomatic pressure as well, on the North Koreans.
The intelligence would suggests that we're going to need more to shake free this terribly challenging problem. And that they could do more and they have the capacity to do more as well.
FEINSTEIN: Could you be specific? It's my -- have they entirely stopped cold? To what degree have they reduced it? How about oil and other commodities?
POMPEO: I'd prefer to defer the details of that to the classified setting, but there have been restrictions on coal that have been significant.
FEINSTEIN: Is there any other comment?
LT. GENERAL VINCENT STEWART, DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: If I could, Senator. North Korea has declared its intent -- they said it publicly, it produces propaganda images that shows their intent to develop intercontinental missiles, nuclear-armed.
What we have not seen them do is a complete end-to-end test of an ICBM with a nuclear device. In the closed session, we can talk about how close they might be to doing that.
But they're certainly on parallel paths -- nuclear device, processing enough fissile material for nuclear warheads and developing a wide range of missile technology -- short, intermediate, long-range missile technology.
So, they're going to put those two together at some point, but we have not seen them do that tested, end to end, missile launch, intercontinental range, miniaturization and survival of a re-entry vehicle, but they're on that path and they're committed to doing that.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would just add, Senator, on top of General Stewart's comments that they are in a race. He's pushing very hard on the accelerator here. This whole panel is well aware of that, and we are doing everything in our power, and we can give you the details in closed to make sure that we give you and our customers the advantage to win that race.
FEINSTEIN: If I might just say -- and Mr. Cardillo, you've given us very good, solid information. It is much appreciated. I think, you know, it is time for the American people to begin to understand that as the director said, we do, in fact, have an existential threat in the Pacific Ocean, and we need to come to grips with it.
BURR: Senator Blunt.
SENATOR ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Director Coats, let me join everyone else in welcoming you back to the committee, this time on the other side of the hearing table, but please, along with others, you take this responsibility.
As I understand, I want to talk a little bit about the two executive orders on vetting that the president has been challenged on in court. My understanding is you're, as the DNI, involved in the vetting in that process. Is that right? The screening process, is that something that reports up through you?
COATS: You're talking about the classification process?
BLUNT: Yes, well, I'm talking about the extreme vetting where the president's issued -- the first executive order was January the 27th, where the president's order said that we'd suspend refugee admissions from certain countries for 90 days, pending a review. There's also 120 days mentioned in that order.
And since we're beyond 90 days and approaching 120 days, my real question is, are we, in spite of what's happening outside of the organization, are we continuing to pursue that timeline and are we about to get to the 120 days of having that review period behind us?
COATS: I would like to take that question and get back to you with the specifics relative to the days away, what has been done to this particular date and are we on target. Obviously, this is going forward. I don't have the details in front of me right now, but I'd be happy to get that information for you.
BLUNT: Good. I'd be interested in that. I'd be very concerned, frankly, if we're now over 100, close to 120 days into that time frame, to find out that the 120 days didn't get the job done because we were waiting to figure out how the order could be properly enforced. And so, I'd be very interested in that.
[11:10:01]On the cyber front, Director Cardillo, I know among other things, your organization has conducted what you've called hack-a- thons, or at least been called hack-a-thons.
What does that done in terms of bringing others into the discussion of how we protect ourselves better from these cyber-attacks?
ROBERT CARDILLO, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL GEOSPATIAL-INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Sure. Thank you, Senator. So, we're quite proud at NGA of our history of support to the community and to you, but through predominantly historically closed systems, government-owned systems, et cetera, as the committee's already discussed and the panel's responded clearly, the high-tech reality of our world, the interconnectedness of the internet, et cetera.
So, what we're trying to do is take that historic success of our expertise and our experience and then engage with that community in a way that we can better leverage our data in a way to inform and warn you.
And so, I'm trying to tap into the agility and the innovation of that community. We use these hack-a-thons to put out challenge questions in which we can engage with industry and academia in a way that will enable us to do our job better.
BLUNT: Let me ask one more question of you. We had a witness before this committee on March the 30th in an open hearing, Clint Watts, who observed that he said, quote, "The intelligence community is very biased against open-source information." That ends his quote. I may come to you on that, too, Director Pompeo. But in terms of geospatial, what are you doing there with open-source information?
CARDILLO: Well, we're engaging. As Admiral Rogers mentioned, though, there's an upside to this connectedness in the fact that the commercial market and the commercial imagery market is getting into a business that was prior government-only entity, has great advantage, and we seek to build on that and take advantage of those developments.
We also need to go in eyes wide open and realize that there is a risk. So, I don't have a bias, I have an awareness, an appreciation for this open development in innovation, and my commitment is to smartly engage with it to make sure that we use the best of it while we're aware that there is a risk as we do so.
BLUNT: Director Pompeo, do you think that was a fair criticism that the intelligence committee is biased against using open-source information?
POMPEO: Senator, I think historically that may well have been true. I don't think that's the case today. We have an enormous open-source enterprise that does its best to stay up with the world-class and information management, get information that is not stolen secrets but open-source information to the right place at the right time to help inform the intelligence that we provide to you and to our other customers. So, today I would say that statement is inaccurate.
BLUNT: Thank you, Director. Thank you, Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Senator Cornyn.
SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me highlight one issue and then ask a question, Director Coats, about another issue. And I'd invite comment from anyone who has something they want to offer. I've been increasingly concerned about foreign governments hiring lobbyists here in Washington, and unbeknownst to members of Congress, actually lobbying Congress to enact policies --
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: All right, I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan. We are watching, of course, the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. It was previously scheduled but taking on new significance in the wake of President Trump firing the FBI director, James Comey. This one today featuring the acting FBI director. We're going to get in a quick break. We'll be right back, watching this breaking news, just ahead.
KEILAR: And welcome back now to CNN's special live coverage of the Senate Intelligence Committee holding a hearing on Capitol Hill. This is featuring the new acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe. And of course, this comes just a couple days now after President Trump fired the former director, James Comey.
This was previously scheduled, but obviously taking on new significance in light of this. We're going to go back and listen in right now.
SENATOR RON WYDEN (D) OREGON: -- probably forgotten that Donald Trump urged the Russians to hack his opponents. He also said repeatedly that he loved Wikileaks. So, the question is not whether Donald Trump actively encouraged the Russians and Wikileaks to attack our democracy. He did. That is an established fact.
The only question is whether he or someone associated with him coordinated with the Russians. Now, Mr. McCabe, the president's letter to Director Comey asserted that on three separate occasions, the director informed him that he was not under investigation. Would it have been wrong for the director to inform him he was not under investigation? Yes or no?
ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: Sir, I'm not going to comment on any conversations that the director may have had --
WYDEN: I didn't ask that. Would it have been wrong for the director to inform him he was not under investigation? That's not about conversations. That's a yes-or-no answer.
MCCABE: As you know, Senator, we typically do not answer that question. I will not comment on whether or not the director and the president of the United States had that conversation.
WYDEN: Will you refrain from these kinds of alleged updates to the president or anyone else in the White House on the status of the investigation?
MCCABE: I will.
WYDEN: Thank you. Director Pompeo, one of the few key unanswered questions is why the president didn't fire Michael Flynn after acting Attorney General Yates warned the White House that he could be blackmailed by the Russians. Director Pompeo, did you know about the acting attorney general's warnings to the White House, or were you aware of the concerns behind the warning?
POMPEO: I don't have any comment on that.
[11:20:03]WYDEN: Well, were you aware of the concerns behind the warning? I mean, this is a global threat. This is a global threat question. This is a global threat hearing. Were you aware?
POMPEO: Senator, tell me what global threat it is you're concerned with, please. I'm not sure I understand the question.
WYDEN: Well, the possibility of blackmail? I mean, blackmail by an influential military official, that has real ramifications for the global threat. So, this is not about a policy implication. This is about the national security adviser being vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians, and the American people deserve to know whether in these extraordinary circumstances the CIA kept them safe.
POMPEO: Yes, sir, the CIA's kept America safe, and the people at the Central Intelligence Agency are committed to that and will remain committed to that and we will do that in the face of --
WYDEN: You won't answer the question.
POMPEO: We will do that in the face of political challenges that come from any direction, Senator.
WYDEN: But you will not answer the question of whether or not you were aware of the concerns behind the Yates warning?
POMPEO: Sir, I don't know exactly what you're referring to with the Yates warning. I wasn't part of any of those conversations.
WYDEN: The Yates warning was --
POMPEO: Senator, I have no --
WYDEN: -- blackmail.
POMPEO: I have no firsthand information with respect to the warning that was given. She didn't make that warning to me. I can't answer that question, Senator, as much as I would like to.
WYDEN: OK. Director Coats, how concerned are you that a Russian government oil company run by a Putin crony could end up owning a significant percentage of U.S. oil refining capacity, and what are you advising the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States about this?
COATS: I don't have specific information relative to that. I think that's something that potentially we could provide intelligence on in terms of what the situation might be, but --
WYDEN: I'd like you to furnish that in writing. Let me see if I can get one other question in. There have been mountains of press stories with allegations about financial connections between Russia and trump and his associates.
The matters are directly relevant to the FBI, and my question is, when it comes to elicit Russian money, and in particular, it's potential to be laundered on its way to the United States, what should the committee be most concerned about?
We hear stories about Deutsche Bank, Bank of Cypress, Shell companies in Moldova, the British Virgin Islands. I'd like to get your sense, because I'm over my time, Director McCabe, what should we be most concerned about with respect to elicit Russian money and its potential to be laundered on its way to the United States?
MCCABE: Certainly, sir. So as you know, I am not in a position to speak about specific investigations and certainly not in this setting. However, I will confirm for you that those are issues that concern us greatly. They have traditionally and they do even more so today.
As it becomes easier to conceal the origin and the track and the destination and purpose of e illicit money flows. As the information becomes more clouded in encryption and more obtuse it becomes harder and harder to get to the bottom of those issues that would shed light on those issues.
WYDEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
BURR: Senator Risch.
SENATOR JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Thank you very much. Gentlemen, the purpose of this hearing is the --
KEILAR: All right, you're watching special coverage here on CNN of the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill following Donald Trump's firing of his FBI director. We'll be right back.
KEILAR: Welcome back to CNN's special live coverage of the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, where we're hearing top Trump administration officials answering questions here in the wake of the president's firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
I am joined now by a large and esteemed group of voices here to dissect all of this for us. I want to start with you, David Chalian. We heard an interesting exchange between a Democrat, Senator Ron Wyden, and the FBI director -- or sorry, CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
And it seems that the CIA director was really in the dark when it came to this warning about the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, being vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. You remember last week we heard Sally Yates give that detailed account of how then as acting attorney general she went to the White House, alerted the White House counsel that the national security adviser at the time, Michael Flynn, may be compromised by the Russians.
Obviously, that's sort of like a big alarm. It's something the White House is downplaying as sort of she gave us a heads-up and we looked into it. What is clear from CIA Director Pompeo is that he had no firsthand knowledge that that was going on.
And what Senator Wyden's point was, in these global threat hearings, isn't the national security adviser possibly being compromised by the Russians, doesn't that fit into a global threat matrix of sorts? And you know, Pompeo really had no good answer, which, Brianna, you look at this and you think, this is again, because of the White House's posture on this story, all Russia-related things, it leaves his top team befuddled without an answer.
KEILAR: And let's go back now to the hearing. We have Senator Mark Heinrich asking a question here.
SENATOR MARTIN HEINRICH (D), NEW MEXICO: When did you last meet with the president, Director McCabe?