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INSIDE POLITICS

Christopher Wray's Confirmation Hearing as FBI Director. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 12, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


SEN. JOHN NEELY KENNEDY, (R) LOUISIANA: Because matter place better with the public and investigation.

[12:00:04] CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR NOMINEE: Then I would try to persuade the person asking me as to why the request was ill considered.

KENNEDY: And what if they said, do it anyway.

WRAY: Then I would consult with the appropriate ethics officials and make a judgment about what my next course of action should be.

KENNEDY: OK. And what if they said the ethics, well, strike that. I don't know. Let's don't speculate with the ethics people would say.

We have an extraordinary crime problem in New Orleans. We're rapidly becoming the murder and armed robbery capital of the Western Hemisphere.

If you are confirmed, and I believe you will be. Can I count on you to, within the -- the limited scarce resources you have, and all -- all resources appear scarcer or ought to be considered to be scarce, can account you to give us some advice and help? We're wrestling with a -- with a huge crime problem, and we're losing.

WRAY: Well, Senator, y can count on me to take a hard look and figure out how we can be more effective in New Orleans, just like we need to figure how it can be more effective in every city that's targeted by violent crime.

KENNEDY: OK. Thank you, Mr. Wray.

WRAY: Thank you, Senator.

KENNEDY: Madam Chair? Madam Ranking Member, I was handed a note, and I' m supposed to say -- but you can say if you'd like that we will --

(OFF-MIC)

(LAUGHTER)

KENNEDY: It's kind of Senator Nunn, isn't it?

We will stand in recess for 10 minutes. If I had a gavel, I'd bang it. But --

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. BENJAMIN SASSE, (R) NEBRASKA: And you have been watching the confirmation hearing of the nominee for FBI Director Christopher Wray.

DANA BASH, CNN INSIDE POLITICS, HOST: I'm Dana Bash, in (INAUDIBLE) "Inside Politics". I'm filling it now for John King.

What you've been watching is a pretty, a times contention, but for the most part in a bipartisan way a supportive group of senators impressed with the person that they have before them.

We have with us a group to share their reporting and insights, Michael Bender of the "Wall Street Journal", Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Jonathan Martin both of "The New York Times", and Laura Meckler the "Wall Street Journal". Thank you all for joining me.

I want to start by talking about his hearing before we get into some of the questions about what it would take to be the FBI director and his personal abilities to do that, one of the most interesting and I am kind of -- I would say even important with regard to the news of the day, exchanges came from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who was pressing him on the whole question of the -- whether or not he's appropriate for a person like Donald Trump Jr., to accept a meeting that was a purpose about coming to him from the Russian government to have a discussion about dirt on opponent. Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: If I got a call from somebody saying the Russian government will step Lindsey Graham get reelected. They got dirt on Lindsey Graham's opponent. Should I take that meeting?

WRAY: Well, Senator, I would think you would want to console with some good legal advisors before you did that.

GRAHAM: So the answer is should I call the FBI?

WRAY: I think it would be wise to, --

GRAHAM: -- director of the FBI, pal. So here is what I want you to tell every politician, if you get a call from somebody suggesting that a foreign government wants to help you by disparaging your opponent tell us all to call the FBI.

WRAY: To the members of this committee, any threat or effort to interfere with our elections from any nation state or a non-state actor is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know.

GRAHAM: All right, something that we should call you and that is a great answer is Russia our friend or our enemy?

WRAY: Senator, I think Russia is a foreign nation that we have to deal with very warily.

GRAHAM: Do you think they're an adversary of the United States?

WRAY: In some situations, yes.

GRAHAM: Do you think in the situation of trying to compromise our election, that's an adversarial move on their part?

WRAY: Yes.

GRAHAM: Do you believe the Russians did it when it came to the hacking into the DNC and Podesta's e-mails? Do you believe the conclusions?

WRAY: Well, Senator, as I said to your --

GRAHAM: Do you have any reasons to doubt --

[12:05:00] WRAY: I have no reason to doubt the conclusions of the intelligence.

GRAHAM: Would that make you a good candidate to be an enemy of the United States?

WRAY: I think an effort to interfere with our elections is an adversarial act as you said before.

GRAHAM: You say that Mueller is a good guy, right?

WRAY: That's been my experience, yes.

GRAHAM: And you will do anything necessary to protect him from being interfered with when it comes to doing his job.

WRAY: Absolutely. I think he's a --

GRAHAM: Do you believe that in light of the Don Jr. e-mail and other allegations that this whole thing about Trump campaign in Russia is a witch hunt? Is that a fair description of what we're all dealing with in America?

WRAY: We, Senator I can't speak to the basis for those comments. I can tell you that my experience with Director Mueller --

GRAHAM: I'm asking you, as the future FBI director, do you consider this endeavor a witch hunt?

WRAY: I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

BASH: A lots to unpack there with one line of questioning. I just want to say this because I feel like today I'm just going to call everybody, pal.

So I'll start with you Jonathan Martin, pal. If you're -- if Donald Trump and the White House watching that exchange would you take --

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You're happy that you don't have many more Lindsay Grams and Lindsey Graham's in the U.S. Senate, you know, he first honed his skills when, Dana, as you know, he was one of the impeachment managers back in the 90's against President -- not his first rodeo there at a Congressional hearing. He obviously has got his way down pretty, pretty well.

Look, I think that the president does not want to come to terms with the fact that the Russians hacked the election. He views this something that undermines his own success last year. But you can't -- a formidable coalition, bipartisan coalition of Russia Hawks in the Congress fit view Russia as our enemy, as Senator Graham there said repeatedly.

And where I'm fascinated by, Dana, is not just as FBI --but what they do with the sanctions. And I hope we can get to that here in a minute. But what did they do with the sanctions. There is a huge overwhelming support in Congress to come down hard on Russia. The administration has signaled to the Hill, watered down this sanctions bill.

BASH: Yes.

MARTIN: What is going to happen?

BASH: Yes. No question about that. And I would just tell you that -- my college, my Roger just spoke with Dianne Feinstein who is the top Democrat on this committee who said that she is -- already said yes. She's going to vote for him.

So, it looks like it is pretty smooth sailing unless something happens for him to be the next FBI director. And just kind of taking a step back, I mean, we kind just launched in to this -- an important exchange with Graham, but this is a very, very important job in any context, but particularly coming on the heels of Jim Comey.

And that was not lost on the Senators, particularly the Democrats. I want to play for you an exchange that he had with Patrick Leahy, a veteran of this committee, on the question of loyalty.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

WRAY: My loyalty is to the Constitution to the rule of law and to the mission of the FBI, and no one asked me for any kind of loyalty oath at any point during this process, and I sure as heck, did not offer one.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VERMONT: You would not give one if ask.

WRAY: Correct.

LEAHY: Correct. Did t he present asked you do something unlawful or unethical, what do you say?

WRAY: First I would try to talk him out of it. And if that fails, I would resign.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BASH: Obviously, unspoken backdrop of that was the alleged conversations that the president had with the guy he fired, James Comey, asking him to do things that James coming felt uncomfortable about.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, right. And, I mean, one of the things that you take away from the exchange that he had with Senator Graham and also from this exchange with Senator Leahy is that, he understands the stakes of this right now for the FBI, and for him personally coming into this job and incredibly scrutinized time and time when all of these allegations are not just being investigated by actually mushrooming before his eyes.

So, it's very important, I think, for him to put out there that he's going to be independent, that he's going to be a person who will, you know, say now in a situation like that if he feels like he's being pressured. But it's interesting also that he referred to, I would try to talk him out of it. That is something that we know from James Comey's account any way that he didn't actually tried to do.

BASH: Right.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: He kind of witnessed all of this, took it all in was alarmed. And, you know, (INAUDIBLE) militants felt that have now come to light that sort of detail what the exchanges were. It was interesting to me that he brought it up and said, you know, I would have a conversation with the president.

BASH: Right.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: This is not something you wanted to do.

BASH: Right.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Because we now know that this is a group of people and particularly the president who don't really understand the intricacies of these things. And that had gotten them into a lot of trouble and we see that with the Don Jr. conversation in particular.