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Committee to Vote on Releasing Memo; Protecting Mueller from Firing; Putin Critic Released; Eagles Arrive for Super Bowl; Gronkowski Returns. Aired 9:30-10:00a

Aired January 29, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


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[09:34:02] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, the House Intelligence Committee could vote today, within a few hours, to release the controversial memo written by Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes.

Talking to us now is someone who's actually seen that memo, the Republican Congressman Mike Johnson of Louisiana.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

You have seen the memo. I know you want it released. Let me ask you about the latest revelation that we are hearing from "The New York Times," that this memo says that the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized the surveillance of Carter Page, moved to have it reauthorized last year. Can you confirm that to be the case?

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I can't talk about the contents of the memo, John, because we had to sign nondisclosure agreements, and I think that's important.

What I will say is that I think the American people deserve to make decisions about the contents of the memo themselves. And that's why I support it being released to the public. I think this could be done in a responsible manner that doesn't sacrifice in any way our national security interests or our national security apparatus.

[09:35:04] But, look, if we're going to have a government of the people and by the people and for the people, as Lincoln famously said, transparency is a big part of that. I think this is an important step.

BERMAN: Do you have questions about Rod Rosenstein's ability to oversee the special counsel investigation?

JOHNSON: Well, I don't think it's any secret that on the House Judiciary Committee, where I serve, we've been investigating allegations of bias in this investigation all year, for the past year. There have been a number of allegations that have been made and we've been looking into that. Rosenstein has testified before our committee. I, myself, among others, have asked him questions about all this. So I don't think any of that is a -- is a secret.

What I think's important here, the overarching --

BERMAN: But, hang on, congressman. Hang on, congressman, I just want to know, because you've read this memo now. You've had him before your committee. Do you have concerns about the deputy attorney general's ability to oversee this investigation?

JOHNSON: Look, I've had confidence in Rosenstein from the beginning. I think he's a man of great integrity. What I am concerned about is allegations about the mechanics of the Mueller investigation and some of the people that have been involved in it at the highest levels, FBI agents and FBI lawyers and we know all the names.

Look --

BERMAN: Well, he is the highest -- he is the highest level in a way of the special counsel's investigation. He appointed the special counsel. The special counsel (ph) has to go to him if he wants to expand it or check-in with him periodically.

Hypothetically then, because I know you don't want to discuss the contents of the memo, what would be wrong with the deputy attorney general extending the ability to surveil Carter Page, whom the FBI had said, you know, as far back as 2013 had connections with the Russians?

JOHNSON: Look, I can't get into the details of the specifics of this. And I think you know why. We've got to be very careful about that.

If the House Intel Committee votes today, as we expect that they will, that this will be released, everybody will be able to get -- to make up their own minds about all of these issues, OK?

I do think the contents of the memo are alarming. You've heard that said many times. Over 200 members of the House now have reviewed it individually. I think there's a lot of concern here. We think the contents of it are credible as well. So I can't get into specific individuals or names or anything until maybe --

BERMAN: OK, you say credible, you say credible, but have you seen the underlying intelligence, right? A lot of the underlying intelligence is classified, so you think it's credible. But you haven't seen, I imagine, the underlying intelligence, correct?

JOHNSON: I haven't read all of it because I'm not on the House Intelligence Committee. I'm on the Judiciary Committee. But we've seen summaries of much of this material. We know from our own hearings and investigations some of the background and material that's being discussed. It's difficult to get into the specifics. I'm not trying to be evasive. I just -- I've -- we've got to be -- we've got to hold (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Well, but you do understand that one of the -- one of the complaints you're hearing from some Democrats, you hear from some Republicans too, is that without the underlying intelligence, you'll never be able to get into the specifics. And what you have here then is you basically have this charging document, this political document, critics will say, written by, you know, by Republican partisans in this case trying to highlight what they consider to be perhaps left- leaning partisanship.

JOHNSON: I can tell you this, without disclosing anything, it's not a political document. It's a summary of the underlying material. Now, people can make their own judgment. But I think that's the important part here, John, and that's what I mean --

BERMAN: OK.

JOHNSON: Is that the American people should make that judgment for themselves.

BERMAN: Two quick questions here.

Robert Mueller, do you think that Congress needs to pass protections to make it more difficult for the president to remove him from this investigation?

JOHNSON: No, I don't. Look, I think the Constitution has served us well these many 240 years. I think the executive branch is where that authority resides. And I don't think it's been abused. It hasn't here either. The Mueller investigation's gone forward. We hope it comes to a conclusion very soon. And we certainly hope that the biases that have been alleged about this investigation are not true.

BERMAN: Just --

JOHNSON: I can tell you I'm concerned about things that we've heard and seen in the Judiciary Committee, and that's why we want all of this to come to an end.

BERMAN: Concerned enough -- concerned enough so that you wouldn't object if the president did move to remove Robert Mueller?

JOHNSON: Well, it's not my decision to make. And the -- and the president hasn't (ph). In fact, he's said quite the opposite over the last couple of weeks. He would willing sit (ph) for (ph) that investigation (ph).

BERMAN: I understand he -- I understand what he said on it, but if he -- but if he did, there are Republicans who say, if he did, it would be a big mistake. You're not willing to say it would be a big mistake to fire Robert Mueller?

JOHNSON: Well, look, I'm an attorney. I'm a constitutional law attorney. Were he my client, I would tell him to be very cautious about that. But he's not. I'm just a member of the House, a member of the Judiciary Committee. We want the facts to come forward. That's what we've all said from the very beginning. Let the facts lead where they may. But let's make sure that on that path that we have integrity in the investigation. (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Don't undersell your position. You're -- you know, you're an elected member of Congress. I have great respect for anyone who sits in that body. And you do have influence, not just with your constituents, but I also would think with your president. Let me quickly ask you about immigration and this proposed deal that

the president has put on the table to grant a path to citizenship for more than 1.5 million dreamers, which is a higher number than perhaps was even discussed a few weeks ago. On your website you say of immigration, you oppose any form of amnesty for those who have broken our laws. Would a path to citizenship be amnesty for these dreamers?

[09:40:07] JOHNSON: I'm afraid if we create a special path to citizenship for those who are here illegally, that we encourage more illegal immigration. I think securing the borders is important. I think enforcing our immigration laws is important.

And at the end of the day, John, this is about the rule of law. We have great sympathy for the DACA people that are involved in that, but there's -- there are other ways to handle this. There was a great proposal on the table that I hope maybe we'll get pack to a bill that would -- that would give them a three year renewable work visa effectively to be here. There are ways to handle this without -- without going right through our current immigration law.

BERMAN: So if this were put to you -- if this were put on the floor for a vote today, the president's plan, you would be a "no" vote?

JOHNSON: I would have to be a "no" vote. And I think there would be a lot of others as well.

But the encouraging thing is, we have time to work through this and come up with a resolution that will resolve it for everyone.

BERMAN: Congressman Mike Johnson, thank you so much for coming on. Please come back. It's great to have you.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BERMAN: So will the administration crack down on Russia for meddling in the U.S. election or not? Today is supposed to be a deadline to implement new sanctions. So where are they? Stick around.

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[09:45:18] BERMAN: This morning the president facing a major deadline and a big test on Russia. The administration has until today to implement a new set of sanctions punishing Russia for meddling in the 2016 elections. These sanctions were passed by Congress and reluctantly signed into law by the president last year. Congress, by the way, passed it nearly unanimously.

Also this morning, the Kremlin says that opposition leader Alexei Navalny poses no threat to Russian Leader Vladimir Putin. This comes after Navalny was arrested and later released for organizing nationwide protests to boycott the presidential election there. He says the elections are rigged. Protesters took to the street about -- in 46 separate events across the country.

Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance in Moscow for us. A very busy weekend and a lot of concern I think right now about

what's going on, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it has been an extraordinary weekend, John, because there are very few, if any, opposition leaders in Russia, apart from this one guy, Alexei Navalny, who has the political ability to, you know, make this call for nationwide protests in this vast country, and for that call to be listened to by so many people. We haven't got exact figures, but all over the country in at least 46 locations and perhaps in other towns and cities as well. Thousands of opposition supporters came out to heed that call to protest for a boycott of the March 18th presidential elections here.

And it's hard to see, though, how the numbers stack up for Alexei Navalny. He's been barred from standing in these presidential elections in March. As you mentioned, he was also detained by the authorities but then freed the day afterwards, along with 350 other people that were detained. He's got to go to court shortly where he could be sentenced and face prison time.

But before that happens, we were able to gain access to him. He's been difficult for us to access. And he gave us a short interview. We asked him about the kind of threat, about the challenge he wanted to pose to Russia's president. Take a listen.

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CHANCE: Do you think that Vladimir Putin is genuinely concerned or fearful of you as a political opponent?

ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): He is scared of all real competition. We see in these elections that he only allowed those to run who did not even resist, do not even do any campaigning. When they say that we are actually fighting for peoples' votes, they got scared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHANCE: Well, as I said, the figures, though, despite the fact he's got this ability to turn out thousands of people on the streets, the figures don't look good for Alexei Navalny. He's polling at somewhere in the region of 2 percent of the Russian population, which when you consider that Vladimir Putin regularly gets 80 percent, true, these are official polls, but even so, there's a massive gap that Alexei Navalny or anyone like him would have to bridge to oust President Putin.

John.

BERMAN: Matthew Chance for us following these developments for us in Moscow. Thank you so much, Matthew.

I want to show you some live pictures right now. Look at this. Live pictures of the Patriots rally in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The world champion New England Patriots headed to Minnesota very shortly for the Super Bowl.

We'll be right back.

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[09:53:14] BERMAN: You're looking at live pictures right now of what really has become an annual event in Foxboro, Massachusetts. This is the Super Bowl sendoff for the New England Patriots, on their way to the big game in Minnesota.

Joining us now from a time really when a team besides the Patriots won the Super Bowl, Hines Ward, two-time Super Bowl champ, MVP of Super Bowl XL, joins us now with more.

Hey, Hines.

HINES WARD, CNN SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, John.

I mean Super Bowl LII is almost here. So I know you're super excited because your Patriots are always there. But this first big event kicks off tonight later at Media Day.

Now, for the Eagles, arriving in Minneapolis yesterday, they got off the plane inside the hangar so they didn't have to deal with the freezing temperatures. The forecast for Super Bowl Sunday, right now calls for a high of 7 degrees. Luckily, though, the game is indoors, but walking into the stadium should be fun for everyone.

Now, good news for your Patriots, though, John. Rob Gronkowski practicing for a second straight day. The Gronk was knocked out of the AFC championship game with a concussion, but he looks likely to be back on track to play come Sunday. That's something that Brady definitely is rooting for.

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TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: It's always great to have him out there. He's a, you know, great play, a great person, a great teammate. And big part of what we do. So, obviously, it hurts when he's not out there for a lot of reasons. But he's doing the best he can do and, you know, we're all hopeful.

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WARD: Now, the Patriots are scheduled to arrive later today. Now, the Pro Bowl took place in Orlando yesterday, but it was Drew Brees' kids who stole the show. While Drew and his older son Baylen were doing an interview, the other two was going at it. Check them out right there on the sideline. This was probably the best action of the night.

Now, as for the game, John, the AFC won 24-23.

[09:55:03] So I can't wait. The Super Bowl is here. I'm wearing my two Super Bowl rings, John. I mean I'm not Tom Brady. I'm -- you know, he has five. Could have six, though. Good luck to your Patriots, John.

BERMAN: You're a Super Bowl MVP. I mean that's a pretty big deal. We'll take that, Hines Ward.

And, by the way, yes, Drew Brees' kids, that was more physical defense than was actually in the game by a long shot.

WARD: Exactly. Exactly.

BERMAN: All right, Hines, thanks so much.

WARD: You're welcome.

BERMAN: The president and his allies turning their fury on the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who actually oversees the special counsel Russia investigation. Much more on this coming up.

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