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FBI updates Investigation of Attack on Lawmakers; Ex-DHS Chief Affirms Kremlin Meddled in Election. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 21, 2017 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We have breaking news and a jam packed hour all across Washington this morning. Any moment now, the FBI is going to update on the investigation into last week's shooting on lawmakers that left Steve Scalise who is still in the hospital recovering. You're looking at live pictures of that.

We are also about to hear from Jeh Johnson, the former secretary of Homeland Security. He is at a House Intelligence hearing. You are looking at live pictures of that as well.

We're also going to hear from House leaders very shortly on political matters. Let's go to the FBI hearing right now. I believe we are hearing the latest update on the investigation. Let's listen in.

ANDREW VALE, ASST DIRECTOR IN CHARGE FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: Good morning, everyone. My name is Andrew Vale. I am the assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office. Thank you for joining us today, as we provide a final investigative update to the shooting that occurred a week ago today, in Alexandria, Virginia.

Standing with me today are my colleagues, special agent in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office criminal division, Timothy Slater who led the investigative efforts on scene last Wednesday for the FBI, Chief Mike Brown of the Alexandria Police Department, Chief Matthew Verderosa of the United States Capitol Police, Frank Larkin, sergeant at arms of the Senate and Special Agent in charge Mike Boxler of the ATF.

First and foremost, we continue to wish those who sustained injuries and were affected by the shooting a speedy recovery. We also want to commend the work of the first responders from Alexandria Fire and EMS, Arlington County EMS and the United States Park Police who came on scene while it was still dangerous to provide medical assistance and transported the injured.

Today, you will hear about the investigative details that we know thus far. I want to underscore that the investigation is active and evidence collection and analysis is ongoing. I will also advise that there are two shooting reviews that are taken place by Alexandria Police Department and the United States Capitol Police. Therefore, we are attempting to share as much information as possible without compromising the integrity of our investigations.

At this time, the FBI has assessed that the deceased shooter, James Thomas Hodgkinson acted alone. We also assessed that there was no nexus to terrorism. The FBI is investigating the shooting as an assault on a member of Congress, an assault on a federal officer.

I am now going to turn it over to special agent in charge, Tim Slater who will provide the FBI's investigative update.

TIMOTHY SLATER, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: Thank you, Assistant Director Vale. And I just like to reiterate what Mr. Vale said. In our thoughts and prayers of all those stand behind me are with the family and -- or with the victims as they continue to recover and all those who have been touched by this incident.

Good morning, again. My name is Tim Slater. I am the special agent in charge of the criminal division of the FBI at the Washington Field Office. In the past week since the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, the FBI and our law enforcement partners have actively worked to gain greater understanding of the movements of the deceased shooter, James Thomas or Tom Hodgkinson.

In March 2017, the shooter told a family member that he was traveling to Washington, D.C. but did not provide any additional information on his travels or specifics about those travels. An FBI analysis of the shooter's computers showed that he Google searched truck stops, maps and toll routes in the greater northern Virginia area.

Prior to the shooter's travel, local police in Illinois were called to his residence due to complaints of target practice on his property. However, law enforcement determined that he had not violated any state laws at that time. The shooter's prior criminal record includes a charge of domestic violence in 2006. While the shooter was not known to have a history of diagnosed mental illness, he is known or it was known to have an anger management problem.

Evidence collection thus far indicates that the shooter had been in Alexandria area since March 2017. On the morning of Wednesday, June 14th, Hodgkinson, who was living in his vehicle in the parking lot of the YMCA at the East Monroe Avenue address, is believed to have exited his vehicle with two weapons, one being an SKS 7.62 millimeter caliber rifle and a 9-millimeter handgun for which he had a holster on his body.

[10:05:08] The shooter approached the baseball fields where practice for the congressional charity baseball game was taking place. Acting alone, the shooter aimed his weapon in the vicinity of where members of Congress and staffers were standing. Immediately adjacent to the field were two United States Capital Police special agents who were detailed to a member of Congress and who engaged the shooter. Alexandria Police Department officers responded to the scene of shots fired and also engaged the shooter, who was reported down at 7:14 a.m.

The FBI and ATF have determined that the shooter purchased his SKS 7.62 millimeter caliber rifle in March 2003 and his 9-millimeter handgun in November 2016 through federal firearms licenses. Our investigation has determined that there were magazines found to be chambered in the rifle and the FBI evidence response team found shell casings for that rifle and handgun on the scene. The rifle was found to have been modified.

We have processed property in three separate locations and on the shooter, his vehicle, a storage unit and his home in Belleville, Illinois. On the shooter, we found a piece of paper that contained the names of six members of Congress. No context was included on this paper. However, a review of the shooter's web searches in the months prior to the shooting revealed only a cursory of two -- cursory search that is, of two of those members. A second document with a rough sketch of several streets in Washington, D.C. was found on him as well. However, we have determined that this is not of investigative significance.

In April 2017, the shooter rented a storage unit in Alexandria in which we found a laptop computer, in excess of 200 rounds of ammunition, a receipt for a November 2016 gun purchase and additional SKS rifle components. Through a review of activity logs at the storage facility, we determined that the shooter visited his unit more than 43 times between April and June and every day between June 4th and June 14th. The morning of the shooting, he arrived at his storage unit at 6:23 a.m. and departed at 6:35 a.m. In the shooter's vehicle located at the scene of the shooting we found another laptop computer, a cell phone and a digital camera.

BERMAN: OK, some new details in the investigation into the shooting of the Republican congressional baseball practice last week. We're going to analyze that in just a moment. But first, I want to jump over to the House where we're hearing the former secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, testify about Russian hacking into the election last year.

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Though it is no longer part of my job description, I voluntarily accepted the invitation to be here today as concerned private citizen.

In 2016, the Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyber attacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election. That is a fact, plain and simple. Now the key question for the president and the Congress is, what are we going to do to protect the American people and their democracy from this kind of thing in the future?

I'm pleased that this committee has undertaken this investigation. I welcome it. My sincere hope is that, in bipartisan fashion, you find answers.

Last year's very troubling experience highlights cyber vulnerabilities in our political process and in our election infrastructure itself. With that experience fresh in our minds and clear in the rear-view mirror, we must resolve to further strengthen our cyber security generally and the cyber security around our democratic process specifically.

I am prepared to discuss my own views and recommendations on this topic, and I look forward to your questions. Thank you.

SEN. MICHAEL CONAWAY (R), TEXAS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Recognize myself for seven minutes. Again, Thanks for being here this morning. A lot of questions will be asked. Got (ph) a lot of the details. Can we start kind of a top-level kind of conversation about DHS's mission with respect to cyber, particularly even how intertwined it is with respect to voter registration, voting, vote tallying -- all those kind of good things?

[10:10:05] And also, if you wouldn't mind folding into that the -- what appears to be a delay between when the FBI became aware of things that were going on and when it seems that DHS was informed about things that are going on.

So how's the -- how's the relationship with the FBI, relative to this particular infrastructure, either at the time -- and then maybe going forward? So if you'll weigh in on that, I'd appreciate it.

JOHNSON: A couple of things, sir. First, I think the roles of the federal agencies in cyber security spelled out pretty clearly, last year in PPD-41, basically, law enforcement, the FBI is responsible for threat response. DHS is responsible for asset response.

So the crime: law enforcement, FBI. Patching vulnerabilities, detecting bad actors in the system: DHS. And the way I like to explain it publicly when I was in office was Jim Comey's the cop and I'm the fireman.

On a personal level, with Jim, we worked very well together. I've known him for 28 years, from the days we were assistant United States attorneys together in Manhattan. And on a personal level, at the top of both agencies, we worked well together.

Can I say that, down to the field office working level, we were always fully coordinated? No, but I was impressed that, day to day, the process seemed to be working well. Every morning, in my intelligence briefing, there would be an FBI briefer there who was with me to give his assessment, to tell me what the FBI feedback on something was. So there is that.

I spelled out in my opening statement -- my prepared statement the first time I recall hearing about the hack into the DNC. And I recalled that it had been some months before I was learning of this that the FBI and the DNC had been in contact with each other about this. And I was not very happy to be learning about it several months later, very clearly.

CONAWAY: Well, there's two things, I guess, going on. The DNC hack was at some point -- time -- what was the delay between the hacks that FBI was aware of -- or who found the hacks to the -- to the -- or the scanning, as you call it, of the various voter registration systems, the attempted intrusions, perhaps, into the voter records?

Who discovered that? And if it was the FBI, then how long was there a delay between that and your -- because, using your analogy of the cop and the fireman, that if the flames are going up, well, you need the fireman there first.

And so...

(CROSSTALK)

CONAWAY: ... what -- how was that delay between the -- the infrastructure we're concerned...

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: My recollection, and part of this is from open-source reporting I've read more recently, is that the FBI first discovered the intrusion. That's my recollection.

CONAWAY: Intrusion into the state systems?

JOHNSON: Into the DNC.

CONAWAY: OK.

JOHNSON: The -- and I recall very clearly that there was a delay between that initial contact with the DNC and when the report got to me as secretary of DHS. It may have been that there were others at the staff level in DHS who were privy to this before it filtered up to me in an intelligence report. But that's my -- that's my recollection.

CONAWAY: But I was asking -- let's ignore the DNC for the time -- moment. Let's talk about the attempts at scanning, or whatever the Russians did, with respect to the election systems, voter registration docs (ph). When was that discovered, and who discovered it? And if it wasn't DHS, then what was the lag?

JOHNSON: My recollection is that the initial scanning and probing around voter registration systems was discovered in late August. Could've been mid, could've been July, but late August, in my mind. And my recollection is that, once it was discovered, that information came to me and other senior people pretty quickly.

CONAWAY: OK.

The -- is there enough of a -- it's one thing for the director and the secretaries to have good personal -- working relationships. Institutionalizing that's what we're about, because that come -- that ebbs and flows with -- depending on who's in those jobs.

Is there a -- is the system of notification between FBI and DHS and that working -- is there any impediments to that -- not working on its own without the good relationship that you and -- and Mr. Comey had at the time?

JOHNSON: In my observation, it worked pretty well, but could stand improvement, very definitely. And I think it's incumbent upon the leaders of both organizations to instill that in their workforces. So I think it worked pretty well together in my three years, but there were glitches. There were...

CONAWAY: OK.

JOHNSON: ... instances where we did not communicate as effectively as we could have.

CONAWAY: So one of our purposes this morning was to reassure the American public with respect to the '16 election.

[10:15:03] And then also, secondly, look at what we do in future elections going forward.

You said in your opening statement -- or your -- in your prepared remarks that, to your knowledge, there was no vote tallying changes, that no one's vote was -- they voted one way and it recorded some other way.

Is that still your opinion, that, with respect to the '16 election, that -- that the intrusions or attempted -- whatever it is the Russians or others did did not affect the actual voting itself?

JOHNSON: Based on everything I know, that is correct. I -- I know of no evidence that, through cyber intrusions, votes were altered or suppressed in some way.

CONAWAY: OK.

The lesson's learned, and, moving forward, you've designated the voting system as critical infrastructure. In the remaining time, can you give us kind of a quick snap as to why that was important in your mind?

JOHNSON: It was important in my mind because critical infrastructure receives a priority in terms of the assistance we give on cyber security. That's number one. There's a certain level of confidence -- of confidentiality that goes into the communications between critical infrastructure and the department that are guaranteed.

And, number three, when you're part of critical infrastructure, you get the protection of the international cyber norms. Thou shalt not attack critical infrastructure in another country. And so those were the principal reasons to do this.

There are 16 sectors already that are considered critical infrastructure, and in -- in my view, this is something that was sort of a no-brainer, and in fact probably should have been done years before.

CONAWAY: Did that (ph)...

JOHNSON: ... and I'm pleased Secretary Kelly has reaffirmed it.

CONAWAY: ... reaffirmed it (ph). Does that include the parties and the -- and the related infrastructure around the candidates? Or is that just the mechanics of voting itself?

JOHNSON: If you read the way I wrote the statement on January 6, It's pretty much confined to the election process itself -- election infrastructure itself, not the -- not the politicians, not the political parties.

CONAWAY: All right. Thank you. Yield back -- my time is expired. Recognize the ranking member, seven minutes. Adam?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Secretary, in the late summer of last year, it became apparent that the Russians were doing more than gathering foreign intelligence -- that they were in fact dumping it in a way designed to potentially influence outcomes, not by affecting the vote machines, necessarily, but by affecting American public opinion with the dumping of these e- mails.

So that's happening in late summer -- mid to late summer. Why did it take the administration so long to make a public statement that a foreign adversary was trying to influence the American election? The statement didn't come until October. Why did we wait from July until October to make that statement?

JOHNSON: Well, Congressman, I'm going to disagree with your premise that there was some type of delay. This was a big decision, and there were a lot of considerations that went into it. This was an unprecedented step. First, as you know well, we have to carefully consider whether declassifying the information compromises sources and methods.

Second, there was an ongoing election, and many would criticize us for perhaps taking sides in the election. So that had to be carefully considered. One of the candidates, as you'll recall, was predicting that the election was going to be rigged in some way. And so we were concerned that, by making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the -- of the election process itself.

This was -- this was a very difficult decision. But in my personal view, it's something we had to do. It got careful consideration, a lot of discussion. My view is that we needed to do it, and we needed to do it well before the election, to inform the American voters of what we knew and what we saw, and that it would be unforgivable if we did not, pre-election. And I'm glad we did it.

You know, every -- Congressman, every big national security and homeland security decision I've made in my time, somebody always criticizes you for doing it, and then somebody else criticizes you for not doing it sooner.

So Jim Clapper and I made the statement on October 7th, and I'm glad we did, frankly. I think the larger issue is it did not get the public attention that it should have, frankly, because, the same day, the press was focused on the release of the Access Hollywood video. That's what made our news below-the-fold news that day.

SCHIFF: I want to ask you about that, as well, but -- a couple things. There were certain allegations by one of the campaigns, the Trump campaign, that the process was rigged.

JOHNSON: Yes. SCHIFF: But the allegation wasn't that it was being rigged by a foreign power.

[10:20:03] Why wasn't it more important to tell the American people the length and breadth of what the Russians were doing to interfere in an election than any risk that it might be seen as putting your hand on the scale?

Didn't the...

JOHNSON: Well...

SCHIFF: ... didn't the public have a compelling need to know, notwithstanding the claims made by a campaign about a different kind of rigging and the need to rebut the idea that this was being presented to the public deliberately to influence the outcome?

JOHNSON: ... yes, yes and yes, which is why we did tell the American public everything we were in a position to tell them on that date. You'll note from my statement that we attributed the hacking directly to the Russian government.

We were not then in a position to attribute the scanning and probing to the Russian government. We did say it was coming from a Russian- based platform at that point, but, at that point, we told the public everything we believed we could tell them, and I'm glad we did.

So the priority of informing the American public did override all of those other considerations, which is why we did what we did.

SCHIFF: Mr. Secretary, you mention, though, that the statement you issued didn't get much attention because of the timing of Access Hollywood. When it didn't get that (ph) much attention, why didn't the administration go further? Why didn't the president, for example, speak about this?

It was left to yourself and Director Clapper to issue a written statement, without any further elaboration. There were no steps taken, for example, to impose sanctions on Russia. Why weren't those additional steps taken when the first notice, really, was, essentially, overlooked by the public?

JOHNSON: Well, I -- you shouldn't view the October 7th statement in isolation, sir. First I've been engaging state election officials since August, and I'd issued a public statement on August 15th. I issued a public statement on September 16th informing the public and state officials what we knew at the time.

I issued another public statement on October 1st. There's the October 7th statement, and then I issued another statement on October 10th. So this was an ongoing effort to inform the public about everything we were in a position then to tell the public. It wasn't just the October 7th statement.

SCHIFF: Now, that October 7th statement was notable in another way -- in that it didn't include James Comey's signature as the agency that would be foremost -- have the foremost responsibility for the forensics of attribution. Why wasn't Director Comey's signature on that statement?

JOHNSON: Well, the thinking was that a statement should come from the intelligence community, and Jim Clapper then sat atop the intelligence community, as the DNI.

Separately, we wanted to put out a statement from DHS about what state election officials can do about this and, again, encourage them to come to us. At some point in the discussion, Jim and I decided to just make it a joint statement, and that's what happened.

SCHIFF: There been public reports in the last week or two that the Russian probing of our elections infrastructure was far more widespread than has been publicly acknowledged, and may have affected dozens of states.

What can you tell us about what was known at the time, and what you know now, in terms of the length and breadth of Russian probing of our elections infrastructure? How widespread was it? And did it go beyond penetration of voter databases or manipulation of data in any way?

JOHNSON: It was very definitely, in the fall, a growing list of states where we saw scanning and probing around voter registration databases, which concerned us greatly. As I think I stated in one of my public statements, probably the October 1st statement, in at least one or two instances, the effort was successful at an intrusion.

So there was a growing list, and we saw the scope of this activity expanding as time progressed, and then eventually, in January, we were in a position to say that this activity itself was also the Russian government.

Now, I, too, have seen the more recent reports. I have not had access to classified information for five months, so I'm not in a position to tell you whether it's right or wrong. But very definitely, as fall progressed, we saw a progression of scanning and probing activities around voter registration databases, which concerned me, which is why I kept encouraging state officials to come and seek our help.

SCHIFF: Did that involve a majority of the states?

JOHNSON: Yes, and I was very pleased about that. Eventually...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIFF: I'm sorry, I don't mean -- I don't mean the -- that they took you up on the help.

[10:25:00] But were the -- did the Russians probe a majority of the states' voter databases?

JOHNSON: I don't know the final count, because I haven't had access to the intel for the last five months. I know what I see open- source, and I'm not a -- in a position to agree or disagree. I've seen open- source, I think, 39 states, and I'm not in a position to agree or disagree.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(CROSSTALK)

CONAWAY: ... time has expired. Mr. Gowdy, five minutes.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Good morning, Mr. Johnson.

JOHNSON: Good morning, sir.

GOWDY: I want to start by thanking you for your service to our country, which includes a very successful stint as an AUSA. So you will recognize some of my questions as being leading questions. They are not leading from the standpoint of I'm trying to trick you. It is more in the interest of time.

So if I say something you disagree with, interrupt me, stop me. It's just, in the interest of time, I want to see if we can get some things out of the way that we all agree on.

Russia has a history of cyber attacks against our country. That true?

JOHNSON: Yes.

GOWDY: In our -- the parlance of our former jobs, Russia would be considered a career offender, as it comes to seeking to undermine the foundations of our republic. They are constantly trying to attack the -- the -- the foundations and firmament of our republic. Is that fair?

JOHNSON: I think that's a fair statement.

GOWDY: All right. So they're a career offender, they have a history of cyber attacks on our country. We suspected before the November...

JOHNSON: As do others, by the way.

GOWDY: ... election -- sir?

JOHNSON: As do others, by the way.

GOWDY: Yes, sir. It is -- it -- there -- it's not just them, but for purposes of the -- this morning, I want to focus on Russia.

We suspected before the November elections that they might attack our voting infrastructure. Is that fair to say?

JOHNSON: Yes.

GOWDY: In fact, you warned that they were going to do so.

JOHNSON: I was very concerned that they would do so, which is why I kept issuing all these public statements. Yes, sir.

GOWDY: All right. At the time you separated from service in January of 2017, you have seen no evidence that the Russians were successful at changing voter tallies or voter totals?

JOHNSON: Correct.

GOWDY: At the time you separated from service in January 2017, had you seen any evidence that Donald Trump or any member of his campaign colluded, conspired or coordinated with the Russians or anyone else to infiltrate or impact our voter infrastructure?

JOHNSON: Not beyond what has been out there open-source, and not beyond anything that I'm sure this committee has already seen and heard before, directly from the intelligence community. So anything I'd have on that is derivative of what the intelligence community has -- and the law enforcement community.

GOWDY: Speaking of the intelligence community, it strikes me that most of the information currently available was available in the fall of 2016. Most of the intelligence products that are relied upon to form certain assessments -- that underlying data was available in 2016, some of it before the election.

JOHNSON: I'm not in a position to agree or disagree with that, because I don't have access anymore to intelligence over the last five months.

GOWDY: Well, looking at this a different way, before the election in November of 2016, you had already seen evidence of Russian efforts to impact our election. In fact, you -- you testify...

JOHNSON: Yes.

GOWDY: ... they had a preference for a candidate, they were aggressive, and I think you used the phrase "plain and simple."

JOHNSON: Yes, with respect to efforts to hack into the DNC and other political organizations, yes, very clearly.

GOWDY: All right.

JOHNSON: Correct.

GOWDY: Well, this is, I guess, what I'm getting at. They're a career offender when it comes to attacking the foundations of our republic. They have a history of cyber attacks on our country. You warned before the elections that they may attack our voting infrastructure.

After the election, President Obama took steps to target Russia, and you took steps to consider our voting apparatus to be critical infrastructure.

Given what we knew before the election, what more could we have done and should we have done? We weren't surprised that Russia was doing this to us. They always do it to us. So what more could we have done, should we have done, before the election?

JOHNSON: Well, hindsight is brilliant. Hindsight is 20/20.

[10:30:00] I'll preface my answer by saying I think it was unprecedented, the scale and the scope of what we saw them doing, and, you know (ph), there had very clearly been intrusions before by a number of state actors, as I'm sure you're aware.