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Republicans Decide to Release Memo on FBI; Interview With California Congresswoman Jackie Speier; Interview with Adam Schiff; Deputy FBI Director Leaving Job Early. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 29, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: Pushed out. The deputy FBI director suddenly steps down under pressure and under attack by President Trump. We have new details on Andrew McCabe's exit and Mr. Trump's fury over the Russia investigation.
Releasing the memo? The House Intelligence Committee is expected to decide whether to go public with the Republican chairman's secret summary of alleged abuses by the FBI. This hour, I will ask a member of the panel what's been going on behind closed doors.
Prosecutor protection. We're tracking proposed legislation to ensure President Trump can't fire special counsel,Robert Mueller, as he tried to last year. Tonight, some Republicans are on board, but many others are balking.
And sanctioning the Russians. This is the deadline for the Trump administration to follow through on new punishment for Moscow's meddling mandated by Congress and reluctantly signed into law by the president. After months of foot-dragging, will there be an announcement tonight?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We are following multiple breaking stories involving the FBI and the Russia investigation. We are learning more about the abrupt exit of Andrew McCabe as the bureau's deputy director after he was slammed often and publicly by President Trump.
We are also waiting to learn the outcome of a showdown in the House Include Committee. Members expected to vote on whether to release a Republican memo of alleging abuses by the FBI.
This hour, we will hear from members of the committee, including Democrat Jackie Speier. I will talk to her live. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider.
Jessica, what are you learning? JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're learning what may
have led to Deputy Director Andrew McCabe's sudden and early exit.
FBI Director Christopher Wray wrote an all-employee e-mail to FBI staff today hinting that the inspector general investigation into the 2016 handling of the Clinton e-mail probe, that may have played a part in prompting McCabe's departure. That's according to sources who have seen the e-mail.
Now, Wray wrote he couldn't get into specifics about the report and he defended himself in the e-mail, saying he wasn't being swayed by politics. The FBI has come under constant attack in the first year of this Trump presidency.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Andrew McCabe, the man former FBI Director James Comey elevated to be his deputy and the man Donald Trump spent months undermining on Twitter, is out of a job tonight.
Sources say the deputy director of the FBI left headquarters today for good, surprising colleagues more than a month before his expected retirement.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can tell you none of this decision was made by that of the White House. And any specifics, I would refer you to the FBI.
SCHNEIDER: McCabe announced his decision in a meeting of senior executives Monday morning, saying it was his choice. Other sources, though, suggested he was pushed out, told by the new FBI director, Christopher Wray, he would no longer be deputy adviser.
President Trump repeatedly went after McCabe, claiming a bias because his wife ran as a Democrat in a Virginia Senate race in 2015. The president took issue with Jill McCabe taking money from a group affiliated with then Governor Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of Hillary Clinton.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: McCabe got more than $500,000 from essentially Hillary Clinton. And is he investigating Hillary Clinton? The man who was more or less in charge of her got -- the wife got $500,000 from Terry. Terry is Hillary.
SCHNEIDER: Jill McCabe lost, three months before her husband was given the number two job at the FBI and before he took over the e-mail investigation.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: I think that the best thing to do for the country is to release this information into the public square, and then let's have a thoughtful and thorough debate about the type of country we want to have.
SCHNEIDER: McCabe's departure comes amid high tensions between the FBI, the White House and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, who are weighing whether to release a controversial memo spearheaded by Chairman Devin Nunes accusing the FBI of abusing surveillance laws.
CNN has learned FBI Director Christopher Wray was on Capitol Hill this weekend to review the classified report. The FBI has lobbied to keep it secrete and the Justice Department's assistant attorney general called it extraordinarily reckless for the committee to make it public without FBI sign-off.
Sources say the four-page highly politicized report drafted by Republican staffers alleges the FBI relied on information from a controversial dossier to obtain a secret surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
That dossier was gathered by a former British spy as opposition research against Mr. Trump during the campaign. According to sources, the Nunes memo concludes the judge who signed off on the warrant wasn't told the dossier was paid for in part by Democrats. The push to release the classified memo has ignited a firestorm from both parties.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: My concern is whether it would compromise classified information. And that's a really serious matter.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: I think before releasing something like this, it should be carefully and thoroughly reviewed and DOJ given an opportunity to respond in a classified setting.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Having read this memo, I think it would be appropriate that the public has full view.
SCHNEIDER: The president is inclined to reveal the report, one sources says. But a White House stressed today the president will listen to advisers first.
RAJ SHAH, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He has the ability to object to it and just say, I want to release or I don't want to release it. That's a five-day review period. If that happens, we are going to have a whole national security review and look at this document and then make a determination.
SCHNEIDER: And CNN has also learned after focusing his fury on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the president now has another top Justice official in his cross hairs, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Rosenstein oversees the Russia probe. And in recent weeks, we have learned the president has been venting about him and has even floated the idea of firing him. Advisers, though, have warned any firing would be an ill-fated idea -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks very much, Jessica Schneider reporting. As Andrew McCabe's dramatic departure played out here in Washington,
two key officials were spotted over at the White House today.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, tell us who they are and what you're learning.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
That was the FBI director, Christopher Wray, and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, over here at the White House earlier today. The White House, of course, is insisting it did not have anything to do with Andrew McCabe's departure from the FBI.
But CNN has learned that FBI Director Chris Wray made it clear to the deputy director he was on the way out. Wray told McCabe he was forming his own team over at the FBI, sources tell us, and that his deputy, McCabe, was not on it.
This comes after the president took the extraordinary step of attacking McCabe on Twitter. And after we reminded the White House today of all the pressure the president and his aides have put on this investigation, from firing FBI Director Jim Comey to trying to fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders acknowledged the president has applied pressure. Those are the words she used, has applied pressure to get this investigation resolved.
And we have learned on his way to the World Economic Forum in Davos, last week, remember, the president was there last week, the president was venting his frustrations that a top official at the Justice Department had recommended the White House stay away from that memo that you were just mentioning a few moments ago, this House Republican effort to release a memo alleging abuses in the Russia investigation.
As for the investigation, as you were just saying, two of the top officials close to that probe, the FBI director, Chris Wray, and the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, they were both here at the White House earlier today, we're told, meeting with the White House chief of staff, John Kelly.
But, Wolf, at this hour, White House officials are not telling us what was discussed at that meeting -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very sensitive time, indeed. Thanks very much for that, Jim Acosta, over at the White House.
I want to bring in our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly.
Phil, there are calls for legislation to actually protect special counsel Robert Mueller. Where does that stand right now?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, there's actually two pieces of bipartisan legislation that allow a three-judge panel to play a role if there were any firing of the special counsel.
But, Wolf, I'm told by senior Republicans that, as it currently stands, there's no future for those pieces of legislation. They don't feel there's a need to actually move them forward. Democrats on Capitol Hill are saying absolutely there is.
But I'm also told by a senior Democratic aide they are not going to make a huge issue of it. They're concerned, no question about it. But they aren't sure there's a bill to actually attach it to at this point.
What that means, Wolf, just underscoring the point here, is that right now on Capitol Hill, while there are a pocket of Republicans that feel maybe Bob Mueller should be dismissed or should be removed, for the most part, Republicans and Democrats just want him to have space. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think Mr. Mueller is the perfect guy to get to the bottom of all this and he will. And I think my job, among others, is to give him the space to do it. And I intend to do that.
COLLINS: It probably wouldn't hurt for us to pass one of those bills.
MCCARTHY: I don't think there's a need for legislation right now to protect Mueller. Right now, there's not an issue. Why create one when there isn't any place for it?
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I would encourage my Republican friends, give the guy a chance to do his job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Wolf, I think what Republican Leader of the House Kevin McCarthy said is the most operative right now, at least according to Republicans I have been speaking to.
They don't feel like the threats are bringing this to a head at the moment. And because of that, while there are two bipartisan pieces of legislation still sitting out there, introduced last year, at this point in time, there are no plans to move them forward.
Right now, they trust the president, despite the reports and despite what they have heard, not to fire the special counsel, at least any time soon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We will see what happens on that front. We are standing by for this meeting to end, the House Intelligence Committee.
The members have been meeting behind closed doors. We are expecting to hear any moment now, once they emerge, whether or not they will release this secret four-page memo alleging FBI abuses.
Stand by for that.
Let's bring in the panel.
Shimon Prokupecz is with us.
You have been doing a lot of reporting today on this sudden, surprising decision by Andrew McCabe. He is out. He was under enormous pressure. What is the latest you're hearing?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the latest is we still really don't have any idea as to what happened, what prompted the move today from the deputy director.
We have done some reporting based off of an internal e-mail that the FBI director sent out to the FBI late this afternoon where he seemed to hint at the I.G. report.
BLITZER: The inspector general.
PROKUPECZ: Inspector general investigation that's been ongoing into the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, and said he couldn't really talk more about essentially the Andrew McCabe situation because of that investigation.
So, there are some hints that it may be related to this report that's forthcoming. But we really don't know what happened. Something happened in the last few days, perhaps, that caused this. Today, Andrew McCabe came in, met with his executive team, with the executive staff and said, I'm done. I'm leaving. Today is my last day. At 12:00, he left.
BLITZER: He walked right out the door.
Phil Mudd, you used to work at the FBI and CIA, for that matter. How extraordinary and how unusual is all of this, the sudden departure of the career FBI agent under these circumstances?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I wouldn't call it unusual, Wolf. I would call it downright weird. I don't think I have ever seen anything like this.
Typically, in this situation, even if you want to leave relatively quickly, you are going to say on today, Tuesday, you say, look, I will leave Friday, I will leave a week from Friday. Set up the party, get your doughnuts and bagels. The director gives you your cufflinks.
To walk out at lunchtime tells me -- I'm also looking and hearing what Shimon is reporting -- that something happened today or yesterday that led to a sudden departure. This is really unusual. It's not just sort of an occasional event at the FBI. I don't think I have ever heard of this, Wolf.
BLITZER: Have you heard of a president of the United States for months now attacking the deputy director of the FBI?
And to say from the White House perspective they had no influence on the departure of the deputy director is a little bit disingenuous. They may be saying they didn't order his departure, but if you are in Andy McCabe's shoes, how about if the president said for a career civil servant, I understand your wife stepped out and ran for office? Any American outside has that right, but I support your role as deputy director.
The president could have had a role ensuring Andy he had a future in the government. The president pushed him out. Would you ever do that to a U.S. general, Wolf, but you don't do that to an FBI agent? I don't like it. It smells bad.
BLITZER: Gloria, you have been doing a lot of reporting on this as well. What are you hearing?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Like Shimon, we are sort of trying to put the jigsaw pieces together.
"The New York Times" is reporting, as Shimon just said, that there was some hints about the inspector general report containing something that the FBI director, Chris Wray, didn't like and told McCabe so, and then the whole thing sort of came to an end.
But if you take a step back and you look at all of this, you will know that the president of the United States has been tweeting about Andrew McCabe since last summer, that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, went to Chris Wray, the FBI director, and said, you know, you have to get rid of this guy.
Chris Wray didn't like that. He went to the White House counsel, reportedly, Don McGahn, and complained about it. Let's just say Andrew McCabe was not in good standing over at the White House and that, Wray, for whatever reason, Wray had been defending McCabe, correct?
PROKUPECZ: For the most part.
BORGER: For the most part. He had been defending him.
And there was something that happened over the weekend that made him scratch his head and think, you know what? I'm going to stop doing that.
BLITZER: It could have been two things. It could have been the inspector general's report or it could have been the Devin Nunes memo which Wray was allowed to review over the weekend, a four-page memo outlining alleged FBI abuse.
BORGER: Right. We don't know. We just don't know the answer.
PROKUPECZ: On the Nunes thing, I was talking to some people at the FBI side, they don't believe it's related to the Nunes memo.
BLITZER: Because Wray did see it.
PROKUPECZ: Yes, Wray did see it, but those -- whatever is contained in that memo doesn't appear to have any kind of direct effect or factored into the decision that the FBI director made today with McCabe about him leaving.
BLITZER: We are told, also, David, the president was pretty upset, furious, some are suggesting, when he was flying back from Davos, Switzerland, and he saw that the Department of Justice, his Department of Justice, the assistant attorney general, Stephen Boyd, had written this letter to Devin Nunes saying it would be reckless for the committee to release this information without letting the intelligence community review it to make sure that sources and methods and sensitive information was not being disclosed.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think this illustrates the president has had a problem all along with some of the legal advise he's been given.
In his career, he's had lawyers like Roy Cohn early in his career, who was a pit bull. Then more recently, he's had lawyers like Michael Cohen, who is sort of a flunky. He has still not adjusted, Wolf, to this idea of having lawyers who are working for the government under his supervision, but not necessarily personally for him, and that they are giving him arm's-length legal advice, not personal fealty to him, no matter what the issue is.
BORGER: I spoke with someone today, Wolf, who speaks with the president regularly.
He said to me flat out the president believes the Justice Department is corrupt. That's his feeling about it. If they weren't corrupt, they would have handled things differently.
And he's tried to put in some new leadership here. But we know, from our reporting late last week, that he's been complaining about Rod Rosenstein. We know he's been complaining about Andrew McCabe. The question is whether he's now complaining about the new FBI director, Chris Wray. We don't know.
BLITZER: Take a look at this live shot, this live picture coming in.
This is right outside of the secure room where members of the House Intelligence Committee had been meeting to try to decide whether or not to go ahead and release this four-page memo.
Adam Schiff is walking out with some other Democrats. Let's listen.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening.
I want to give a quick briefing on the events in the committee this evening. And I think we have crossed a deeply regrettable line in this committee, where, for the first time in 10 years or so that I have been on the committee, there was a vote to politicize the declassification process of intelligence and potentially compromise sources and methods.
I made a couple of motions this afternoon or this evening. First, we scheduled a hearing today or the business might, so that the minority memoranda could be made available to the members of the House that had been misled by the majority's memoranda.
We expected that vote to be noncontroversial. And it was. The House members will now have access to the minority memoranda.
I made a secondary motion that prior to the public release of either memoranda, that the FBI and the Department of Justice have the opportunity to come and brief the entire House in a classified session on both memoranda on the underlying facts and the underlying materials, so that the committee could make a responsible judgment as to whether or not the memoranda should be made public.
That motion was voted down by the majority. The majority expressed a concern that something in the minority memoranda or otherwise could compromise sources and methods.
And for that exactly reason, we asked that both memoranda be vetted by the FBI and the Department of Justice. But that was voted down.
I spoke with the director of the FBI earlier this afternoon. He expressed his strong interest in being able to brief our committee prior to any release of these materials about concerns that the bureau and the department have.
I relayed that interest by the director of the FBI, an appointee of President Trump, to this committee, but that was un -- they were not willing to meet with the director of the FBI to hear the bureau's concerns or the department's concerns.
Instead, they voted against allowing their own members, as well as the members of the broader House of Representatives, to be briefed by the Department of Justice and FBI on these memoranda.
Finally, I moved that if the majority was going to release their memoranda publicly, that they release the minority views as well, that they be released jointly. And the majority on a party-line basis voted against both memoranda being released to the public.
They then took up their own memoranda and voted it out to make public. We had a separate vote on the minority memoranda, and the majority voted against allowing the public to see the minority memoranda.
The release-the-memo crowd apparently doesn't want to release the memo now. The most they would do is say that at some indeterminate point, a week or so from now, they would consider whether to release the minority memo.
We raised, of course, the transparently political objective behind this, which is to allow the minority to set a certain narrative for a week or so before they released a full statement of the facts from the minority.
But, nonetheless, this is where we are. We have votes today to politicize the intelligence process, to prohibit the FBI and the Department of Justice from expressing their concerns to our committee and to the House and to selectively release to the public only the majority's distorted memo, without the full facts.
A very sad day, I think, in the history of this committee. As I said to my committee colleagues during this hearing, sadly, we can fully expect that the president of the United States will not put the national interests over his own personal interests, but it is a sad day indeed when that is also true of our own committee, because today this committee voted to put the president's personal interests, perhaps their own political interests above the national interests, in denying themselves even the ability to hear from the department and the FBI.
And that is, I think, a deeply regrettable state of affairs. But it does show how, in my view, when you have a deeply flawed person in the Oval Office, that flaw can infect the whole of government.
And, today, tragically, it infected our committee.
And, at this point, I will yield to my colleagues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not talking about the investigation. We're talking about the distraction that they have created. And that's sad and unfortunate, because if you're a Democrat or Republican, you should care just as much about this.
They attacked the democratic process. They hacked into boards of election. And one can imagine a scenario in which they were just as likely to attack a Republican candidate as a Democrat.
SCHIFF: I should also mention that it was disclosed to the minority today for the first time that the majority has evidently opened an investigation of the FBI and an investigation of the Department of Justice.
Under our committee rules, of course, that has to be the product of consultation with minority, but we learned about that for the first time here today.
Now, it has been publicly reported from time to time that there was a subset of the majority working on some kind of an investigation or inquiry into the Department of Justice and FBI. But, apparently, the chairman made it formal today. According to the majority, the FBI's under investigation and so is the Department of Justice.
This is a wholesale broadside against two of our respected institutions and brings to mind something I brought to the committee's attention a week ago, when we first took up the majority memo.
And that is, we need to be concerned not just what happens with this presidency, but the lasting damage that may be done to these institutions, and, unfortunately, that damage just became all the more greater today.
QUESTION: Congressman, are you comfortable with how DOJ handled the situation that's under review? (OFF-MIKE)
SCHIFF: Well, I think the Department of Justice has done what they could, but the majority has been unwilling to share with them the nature of the concerns they have, the memoranda, to invite feedback from the department.
And I think the department was all too accurate in saying that this is extraordinarily reckless. Why on earth would you not want to give the FBI and the Department of Justice the opportunity to come in and say, you're right, you're wrong or here's what really happened?
But they denied the department and the bureau that opportunity. And I think that's a grave disservice to the hardworking men and women in both the FBI and the Department of Justice.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) put the memo to one side, are you confident, Congressman, that there was no abuse of government surveillance systems by the Department of Justice and FBI during the 2016 campaign?
SCHIFF: I certainly haven't seen any abuse of the investigative process by the FBI or the Department of Justice.
What I have seen, instead, is a deliberate attempt from the very beginning of this investigation to distract attention from the Russia probe.
What we saw today is only the most recent chapter of a series of events that began the day after the first hearing of our investigation. On March 20, James Comey came before our committee and testified for the first time that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation involving the Trump campaign.
The very next day, our chairman went on what has become known as the midnight run, to obtain documents that he would the following day go to present to the White House, claiming that they showed evidence of an unmasking conspiracy of the Obama administration.
We would very soon learn that in fact he had obtained that information from the White House and it was a charade.
That charade was designed to do the White House's bidding. And I'm afraid today is just a continuation of that same priority of the chairman and that same phenomenon. This is an effort to circle the wagons around the White House and distract from the Russia probe.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: From what we understand, Christopher Wray did come up to Capitol Hill this weekend and did review the memo.
You have had conversations with Mr. Wray. Did that review satisfy the Justice Department's concerns? And I want to know, too, what was the rationale that the committee gave for not releasing your memo?
SCHIFF: No, the review did not satisfy, I think, either the bureau or the department's concerns, and, indeed, the director of the FBI asked for the opportunity to come before the committee and express those concerns, but that request was denied by the chairman today. RAJU: And what was the rationale for your memo? Why is that not
being released publicly as of now?
SCHIFF: Well, Mr. King made the request to release the majority memoranda and in his statement advocating its release said that we need full transparency.
And so when I moved to have the minority memo released, in the interest of full transparency, they evidently took the view that full transparency means only one side gets heard and not the other.
So they voted down the opportunity for the country to see the minority memoranda and, frankly, an accurate recitation of the underlying facts.
QUESTION: With the resignation of Andy McCabe, is there concern that the memo is going to show that perhaps he may have been involved (OFF- MIKE) perhaps in the issues that the GOP is bringing up right now?
SCHIFF: I would only say, at this point, I can't comment yet on the contents of the majority or minority memoranda, that I think Mr. McCabe has been deeply and unfairly maligned. He has been a career public servant with the FBI.
I think he has done an admirable job serving the country, and I think that this committee and others have done a tremendous disservice to Mr. McCabe.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) trying to vote on the memo (OFF-MIKE) and also is there a chance that the memo could be released before the five-day window, or do you have to wait for five days (OFF-MIKE)
SCHIFF: The vote to release the majority memo and the vote to deprive the minority of having its memo released was on a party-line basis. Both of those votes were a party-line basis.
In terms of the timetable, this has never happened in my experience in the committee, so we're in uncharted waters. But if the president expresses the view short of five days, hey, I'm perfectly copacetic with anything being published that helps me, I don't know that they have to wait five days.
And the White House has made it abundantly clear that they want the memo published, even though they haven't read it. That should tell you all you need to know about the president's priorities.
Even without reading it, even without hearing the intelligence agencies or the FBI, what damage it might do in terms of public release, it's clear they already want it released. I think, as one of my Tea Party colleagues said all too candidly, he was sure the president was going to want to release the majority's spin memo because it was good for him.
And that is apparently the standard now for the release of classified information. If it's good for the president, then fine, regardless of its impacts on the bureau, the department or the interest of justice. (CROSSTALK)
SCHIFF: I have no confidence that that review will take place of the majority memo.
In fact -- if I could, in fact, I think it's quite clear that the majority has no intention of having this vetted by the department or the bureau. And at least gleaning from what the White House has said over the weekend, it doesn't look like they have much of an intention to vet it either, that the conclusion is precooked.
We did make it clear that if and when the majority allows the minority memoranda to see the light of day, we are going to do the responsible thing, and we are going to seek to have the Department of Justice and the FBI redact anything from our memo that could compromise sources and methods.
QUESTION: Was there any consideration of releasing your (OFF-MIKE) underlying intelligence behind the memo?
SCHIFF: That was not the subject of a motion today.
The last thing I will mention is that I also moved that the transcript of the open proceeding be made available to the public tomorrow. The chair committed that that would happen as soon as possible, because I think you need to read the transcript to see my colleagues, on the one hand argue for full transparency, and then vote down a motion to make public the minority memoranda.
[18:30:30] And I think you need to see them express concern about possible compromise of sources and methods and then vote down the opportunity to have the Department of Justice and FBI weigh in on those very issues.
Thank you. Thank you.
MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is this the end of the Russia investigation, sir?
SCHIFF: No, no, we're determined, no matter what wild goose chase the majority would take the country on, we are staying focused on conducting the Russia investigation. And that will go forward. We expect Mr. Bannon to come in on Wednesday, we're told by the majority. I did ask when Mr. Lewandowski would come back, because he refused to answer precisely the same questions. They don't have a date for Mr. Lewandowski. Apparently, they're holding Mr. Bannon to one standard and other witnesses like Mr. Lewandowski to another.
But, no, we press on. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you heard back from Bannon's lawyer?
BLITZER: All right. So there you have it. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, with two major headlines, pretty extraordinary headlines, I must say, as well.
The -- along party lines, strict party lines, the Republican majority memorandum on alleged FBI abuses, they voted in the House Intelligence Committee to release that memorandum, send it over to the president. He clearly wants it released.
The same time, they voted against releasing the minority memorandum which rebuts what the Republican majority memorandum says. That's a major headline right there.
Pretty extraordinary how the House Intelligence Committee, usually a source of bipartisan cooperation, has divided strictly along party lines. Also that the House Intelligence Committee has now opened up a formal investigation into both the Department of Justice and the FBI.
Gloria Borger and our whole team is here. It's pretty amazing to hear that from the ranking Democrat. On the Senate side, they're cooperating, the Senate Intelligence Committee. But it's collapsed completely on the House side.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It has collapsed. And the news is really stunning, especially given the fact that the FBI didn't want this done. That the FBI director, we were told, said, "Let me come to you before you do this, and let me brief you. Let me tell you why we believe this should not be released," because it would compromise sources and methods and whatever else he wanted to say.
And instead, according to Adam Schiff, and instead a vote was taken, we know, to release it. We're not quite sure of the timetable yet, but we know the president wants to do it.
And it goes back to the point that we were talking ant before, which is that the president of the United States believes that the Department of Justice and the FBI, regarding the Russia investigation, has been corrupt regarding him; and he wants this out there without -- and the committee is not going to allow for the minority report to be released at the same time. So it is -- it is just kind of a stunning turn of events here.
BLITZER: Yes. I want to go to Manu Raju, who -- you were standing right there with Adam Schiff. By the way, Adam Schiff will be a guest at "AC 360" later tonight during the 8 p.m. Eastern hour, Manu.
But it's amazing to hear that kind of talk from the top Democrat of the committee, especially noting that the Republicans decided to do all these things without any support from the minority.
RAJU: Yes, remarkable turn of events. Very contentious, partisan briefing. And there are a number of motions that Adam Schiff said he put forward, got rejected along party lines, everything from allowing the full House to get briefed by the DOJ, by FBI before releasing the memo, as well as having their own Democratic memo be released alongside the Nunes memo. According to Schiff, this was rejected by the committee.
Now, we'll have to wait for exactly the Republican rationale about why they stood in front, they blocked, apparently, the Schiff motion to release this memo. But clearly, it shows the -- how partisan this investigation has become.
The other interesting point, Wolf, is that the fact that they have opened up, the Republicans on the committee have opened up their own investigation into the DOJ, into the FBI and to presumably things that happened during the 2016 campaign. This is going to be at least the second committee in the House, second investigation in the House, third committee in the House to investigate the FBI, presuming that the Intelligence Committee continues to go down this route.
And the other piece of news, at the end, I asked Schiff if this investigation, Russia investigation was essentially dead. He said no. He expects Steve Bannon back before the committee on Wednesday.
[18:35:07] Bannon, of course, did not answer a host of questions when he came before the House Intelligence Committee earlier this month, citing privilege, citing conversations that he would have with the president, that he would not discuss after the campaign season. We'll see if any of that is resolved. But he expects Bannon back.
And he expects Corey Lewandowski back, but he did not know when that would happen.
But after that, Wolf, it's really not clear what this committee is going to do to investigate Russia meddling, any potential collusion with the Trump campaign. Clearly, moving along partisan lines as Republicans move to investigate the Justice Department and the FBI, and the Democrats essentially cry foul, as they try to figure out what's next here on this very partisan committee, Wolf.
BLITZER: Manu, very quickly, I thought Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had removed himself from the Russia probe investigation. Mike Conaway, the congressman, the Republican, was supposed to take that responsibility, but it clearly looks like Devin Nunes, right now, he's in charge.
RAJU: Yes. He's always been quietly wielding influence behind the scenes. Remember, he stepped aside last year amid that House ethics investigation into whether he mishandled classified intelligence. He allowed Mike Conaway to essentially run the investigation, but behind the scenes, he wields an influence. He still retains subpoena power.
And when you would ask Devin Nunes, "Why? Are you recused from this investigation?" He would say no. He said, "I'm still involved." But he was still involved in scheduling witnesses, although he would not appear at witness interviews.
Now, Wolf, he was cleared by the House Ethics Committee last year, late last year, and perhaps one reason why he's reinserting himself very aggressively into this investigation going forward.
And we know he's been one, the driving force behind this memo, behind what he views as DOJ and FBI abuse during the campaign season and over the Russia investigation. Democrats say it is all a way to undermine Bob Mueller's investigation. But Nunes says that he needs to investigate what's happening with DOJ and the FBI. And he's getting support from Republicans in his House conference, including the House speaker, who said that -- Paul Ryan's office said they're behind whatever Nunes decides to do on this investigation, Wolf.
BLITZER: Momentarily, we're going to be speaking with another member of the House Intelligence Committee, get some more information. Stand by, Manu.
I want to quickly go to Phil Mudd who worked in the CIA, served in the CIA, served over at the FBI. What's your reaction when you hear what the ranking Democrat on the committee just said?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: What a pitiful representation of American democracy. Look, we started out with an American problem. Three hundred and thirty million Americans said, "We trust our Congress to answer a question. Not about the FBI or the problem with Justice but about whether a foreign power intervened in an American election."
We cannot now rely on this committee to give us an answer that's not broken out between Democrats and Republicans. Not on an issue of health care, not an issue of taxation. On a foundational issue of whether Russia interfered in an American election, we can't get an answer out of them.
And by the way, there's history for how to do this. In the most sensitive I've seen in the past ten years, the release of a document related to the CIA treatment of al Qaeda prisoners in secret prisons, the majority put out a report. The minority put out a report. And the CIA put out a report. All three different, but they agreed that the American people should see the full story.
We can't even see the full story here, and that's American democracy? I don't understand, Wolf. This isn't that hard.
BLITZER: It's pretty extraordinary, Shimon, when you think about the Republicans say they want full transparency. That's why they want to release the majority memorandum. But they don't want full transparency, because they're refusing to allow the minority, the Democrats, to release their counter memo.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Right. And in talking to some people, certainly at the FBI, the concern here is the effect, again, that this will have on the FBI and the work that they're doing. You know, they all feel, in some ways, that this is being done to attack them.
So you're going to have more instances, more -- additional situations where members of Congress, Republicans continuing their attacks on the FBI.
And I'm telling you, Wolf, in talking to a lot of people at the FBI, this is having a huge effect on them. The morale within the FBI is suffering. What happened today, as a result of McCabe leaving the FBI, the way they learned of McCabe leaving the FBI, all of this is not good. It is not a good place for the FBI and for law enforcement, in general, in that you want these guys, the men and women of the FBI, feeling good about what they're doing. I don't think that's happening right now.
BLITZER: You know, normally, David Swerdlick, the Judiciary Committees in the House and the Senate, they're in charge of reviewing the Justice Department and the FBI. It's pretty unusual for the House Intelligence Committee now to open an investigation into the Department of Justice and the FBI.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and Wolf, I would say -- this is the question I would like to ask Chairman Nunes about this. If he sincerely believes that there's -- that the FBI has been compromised, if the investigation is proceeding improperly, if there's bias; and if they really believe they have to open this investigation in the Intelligence Committee, as you point out, why wouldn't you want to initiate the investigation first, in concert with the Judiciary Committee, and then present findings, rather than voting to release a memo when the investigation that they're starting hasn't even taken place?
[18:40:18] BORGER: I mean, it's because time is of the essence. If your objective is to muddy the waters before the special counsel, Bob Mueller, comes out with anything -- and I would argue that this is part and parcel of that. If you want to muddy the waters, then you want to discredit the work that's being done by the FBI, the work that's being done at the Department of Justice, overall. And don't forget, those are Bob Mueller's people. They're working for him. And one can only speculate what Bob Mueller's people are thinking about -- about today's events.
But if you want to stir the pot, you want to muddy the water, then this is -- this is one way to do it. Then you have an inspector general report that's going to look into the handling of Hillary Clinton's e-mails, go back to that. And you put it all together, and you have kind of a brew, which says, "Well, whatever Bob Mueller says maybe -- maybe it can't be trusted, because his investigation is tainted."
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting. And I think about this. And Phil Mudd, I'm anxious to get your thoughts. If the Russian objective in meddling in the U.S. presidential election was, first, to sow dissent in the United States, to get a fight going within the U.S. democracy; second, maybe, to undermine Hillary Clinton; third, to help Donald Trump, their first objective, and we just saw it when -- when the ranking Democrat came out, sowing dissent in the U.S. government, they seem to have succeeded pretty successfully. Don't you agree?
MUDD: Let me take it a step further. I mean, the remarkable piece of this is that You have a Republican-controlled committee setting themselves up for a fight with a hard-core Republican attorney general and a Republican appointee as the FBI director. So not only is this what we might have seen a few months ago -- that is, Democrats pitted against Republicans, the White House pitted against Democrats -- it's Republicans pitted against Republicans, diverted from investigating Russia and, instead, directed to investigate our own Department of Justice, which is actually now, looking at the Russians. You can't make this up, Wolf. I mean, you couldn't make it up in a cartoon.
BLITZER: You can't make up the fact that they rejected, for all practical purposes, the Republican majority in the House Intelligence Committee, this letter that was written from the Department of Justice, the assistant attorney general, Steven Boyd, saying, "It would be extraordinarily reckless for the committee to disclose such information publicly without giving the department and the FBI the opportunity to review the memorandum and to advice the House Select Committee on Intelligence of the risk of harm to national security and to ongoing investigations that could come from the public release."
They're going to release it. The president, clearly, has the authority. He can declassify whatever he wants. He clearly wants this memo out there. He doesn't want the Democratic minority memo out there, apparently. That's why the Republican majority is not going to release it.
BORGER: And let's see how hard -- you know, to Phil's point, let's see how hard Jeff Sessions pushes back after this is done. Let's see how hard Chris Wray pushes back on this after it's done.
Are they going to come out and say, you know, the committee should not have done it? It's one thing for Wray to do it privately. But the attorney general, you'll recall, was pushing for Wray to fire Andrew McCabe. So let's see what -- let's see what Jeff Sessions says.
BLITZER: We've got a lot more coming up on the breaking news. We're going to speak with a member of the House Intelligence Committee who was inside that room, those closed doors, when all this was unfolding. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[18:48:18] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We are following breaking news in a party line vote. Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee, they just agreed to release their controversial memo about FBI surveillance practices. However, the Republicans, at the same time they refused to release an opposing memo written by the Democrats. And in another major headline, the House Intelligence Committee's Republican majority revealed the committee has now opened a formal investigation into both the department of justice and the FBI.
We are joined by a Democratic member of the committee, Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Hello, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, spell out specifically. What are your concerns about the Devin Nunes majority memo, a four-page memo being released?
HIMES: Well, Wolf, it was a really, really sad moment in the Intelligence Committee, a committee that has traditionally been bipartisan in which the Republican Party voted unanimously and purely along party lines. Most importantly, and this is what I need to hear first, most importantly, to refuse to allow the DOJ and FBI to respond to the irresponsible and inaccurate allegations that are made in the memo that will be made for all to see.
That memo contains highly classified information and it creates out -- it contains out and out lies, which are, by the way, exhaustively dealt with in the Democratic memo that was provided today, 10 pages, 38 footnotes that the Republican majority also voted to prohibit from being made public. So, all you need to understand is that the Republicans declared war today on the national security on classified information. If you doubt that hearing it from a Democrat, they refused to allow the FBI or the DOJ to come to us and say, hey, you are not right about this.
[18:50:03] And, oh by the way, if you let the public know about this, you are going to damage our investigation, you're going to compromise sources. It was a profoundly irresponsible moment.
BLITZER: Will that memo be released, you know, precisely as written or will it be scrubbed? Will certain sentences be redacted to prevent sources and methods from being released or a cooperation with friendly intelligence services to be damaged as is raised, those fears are raised in the Department of Justice letter to the committee?
HIMES: Yes. You know, and the Department of Justice in the letter chairman used words like, you k now, irresponsible and reckless to describe what would happen if that memo were made public. Now, the process is it goes to the president for a period of five days and the president has a right to say, you know, do I release it or do it not?
Well, he's already said that he's doing to release it. What is really, really concerning here is the fact the majority in their headlong rush to get out a memorandum, which I pointed out to them, you know, this will come back to bite them because the once the public has seen this memorandum and people have an opportunity to go to work on it, it will be shown for the specious, misleading thing that it is. They voted to not even allow the DOJ or FBI to come in and say you've got these facts wrong. I have no confidence that the president is going to be that prudent and that careful about what gets released.
BLITZER: Has anyone from the intelligence community or the director of national intelligence, the CIA director, anyone from the intelligence community had chance to review this Republican memorandum to see if it does compromise U.S. national security?
HIMES: Well, most of the memorandum deals with U.S. law enforcement process and procedure. So, this is really an FBI or Department of Justice thing. The head, the director of the FBI was apparently in today to review this memo. Ranking member Schiff spoke to the director of the FBI after he reviewed the memo. And the director of the FBI told ranking membership Schiff, I really need to come in and talk to you about this.
So, ranking member Schiff made that motion. He said, let's let the people who are being accused. Now, imagine if you were accused, if I were accused, you would have the right to face our accuser and try to get to the truth. The motion today to allow the FBI and the DOJ to come in was voted down on a straight partisan, unanimous no basis on the -- by the Republicans. That should tell the American public all they need to know about whether this is a search for truth or whether this is an ignorant, no nothing attempt to put the national security at risk in the service of this, you know, now yearlong escapade to back up Donald Trump's wild contentions about being spied on or about being unmasked.
BLITZER: Why do you believe the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, wants to release this memo?
HIMES: Well, this is all part of an orchestrated thing. You know, this memo gets produced to a committee that's not had chance to read it or to read the underlying intelligence. There's still only two members of the committee who have read the underlying classified information. And then, of course, we get the -- you know, release the memo campaign. This is the latest chapter, Wolf, in Devin Nunes' now nine-month campaign to back up the president's wildest charges that he's getting spied on, that the FBI and the DOJ are somehow against him at the senior level.
Look at Senator Ron Johnson who had to back away from his contention that there was a secret society. I mean, it's gotten to the point of true insanity. And, you know, this memo becoming public, it will be refuted. And the members who voted for today will answer for saying, yes, we're not going to let the DOJ, we're not going to let the FBI talk to us about whether these allegations are true or not.
BLITZER: If the FBI director, Christopher Wray, has these concerns, why didn't we hear from him? Could President Trump still block the release of this memo?
HIMES: President Trump could block the release of this memo. I leave it to your imagination whether there's any probability that that happens.
But you point out one of the bizarre things here. You know, Director Wray, who was appointed by Donald Trump, Donald Trump appointee, and members of the assistant attorney general, appointed by Donald Trump, have been here saying please take a step back. Let's talk about what's in here. We don't think it's accurate. We think this disclosure of this classified information would be a problem. And Devin Nunes and the committee Republicans said, we're not interested in hearing from you on those topics.
BLITZER: Does all this mean, Congressman, that for all practical purposes, the Russia investigation in the House Intelligence Committee, your committee is effectively over?
HIMES: Well, I don't think so, Wolf. And it's really important that it not be. You know, again, when we get away from this, you know, now nine-month-long attempt to buttress up the president's fantasies about being spied on or how the DOJ and the FBI is full of people who don't like him, that's actually not relevant to the Russia investigation.
Now, we know how the president feels about the Russia investigation. But, you know, Mike Conaway and the people like myself who were working on this thing, we continue to do interviews, we continue to see the importance of getting to the bottom of the Russia hack and answering the question without prejudice, but answering the question about whether there were Americans that assisted or colluded in any way with the Russian attack on our election.
[18:55:03] BLITZER: Do you think the minority of memorandum, the Democratic memorandum eventually will be replaced? I know the Republicans voted against releasing it right away, but you think it will be?
HIMES: Well, I certainly hope so. Again, the whole point that the Republicans made today was the transparency is essential. So, we pointed out to them, if we're going to be transparent, if we're going to release the memo, let's release both memos. Let's do full transparency, not Republican transparency, but they said no.
Now, a week from now, at least some Republican members indicated an illness to, once they had a chance to review the memo, to make it public. We will do something though that the Republicans did not do, which is we will share our memo with the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and ask them and say, hey, we're going to make this public, but please point out to us if we would compromise any of your sources or methods. The Republicans head long refused to do that. We're at least going to commit to do that with the FBI and het Department of Justice.
BLITZER: All right. Congressman Jim Himes, thanks so much for joining us.
HIMES: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Let's get back to the panel.
Gloria, this is a moment -- a moment in history right now to see which direction these members go.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It's a moment for the FBI. What is Chris Wray going to do? He now runs a department that is, as Shimon has pointed out, has demoralized by this. But he has also asked these people, can I brief you before you decide to do this. If he doesn't brief them and convince them that perhaps this should not be released, what does the FBI director do because and maybe Phil Mudd can answer this. I mean, this is a stunning development, and he's being undermined here.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: You know, Wolf, if I --
BLITZER: I just want to direct for a moment to Shimon, we're not told that the four-page Republican memo is being couriered over from Congress to the White House right now, the president will get it, I'll take a look at it, they'll be able to review it over five days, make a decision whether or not to release it, in part or in whole or whatever, they could release the whole thing within a day or two if they want --
BORGER: President could tweet it if he wanted to.
BLITZER: The president can declassify whatever he wants.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: I mean, we know that, you know, the FBI director and Rod Rosenstein were at the White House today, you know, wonder if some of these came up there. I have to say, you know, FISA and Phil knows this pretty well, some of the most sensitive information that the FBI deals with, especially when it relates to American citizen, if they're going to ask for a FISA.
This is some pretty sensitive, highly sensitive, highly classified information to reveal, perhaps some of the people that they were talking to, in the Russia investigation, or in any investigation, to get some of these warrants to be able to eavesdrop, to look at emails, you know, keep in mind, there was a lot of concern at the FBI during the campaign that the Russians were trying to, you know, infiltrate our government, that they were trying to affect policies.
So, they had in their mind every right to go and get these warrants and to track people and to listen to conversations and having to reveal some of this now, it's going to be quite dangerous and definitely, Gloria, I think demoralizing to the FBI. This exposes the FBI and just continues to harm them.
BLITZER: Phil Mudd, go ahead.
MUDD: A couple of people have to speak. First of all, I think Gloria is right that FBI director cannot take this sitting down. He's got to speak and he's got to speak publicly. So, then, three things roll. Number one, if the attorney general doesn't speak, it looks really weird. Number two, if the president decides to release the memo, then he's pitted against his own FBI director in a public fight. And number three, we're missing one piece of this.
When you get an order to listen to someone's phone or especially to read their e-mail, that's a judicial branch. There are judges on the FISA court who review this. People keep talking about the FBI and the DOJ, eventually those judges have to say, do we think our process is corrupt or not? We haven't heard from them, Wolf.
BLITZER: All of this happening on the same day, David, that the deputy director of the FBI, Director McCabe, he stepped down today under enormous pressure.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. And as we started talking about we don't know all the reasons why this happened in the way it happened so suddenly. I think, though, that the key point just to go back to what Phil was saying here is now you have people in the administration, career people in the Justice Department, the FBI who are being in a put in a position to take positions to defend their agencies which aren't really partisan positions or appear to be partisan positions because they are locked in this fight with the White House.
BLITZER: Also today, the deadline for the administration to start implementing sanctions against Russia for its meddling in the U.S. presidential election. We have been waiting all day to see what they are doing. So far, nothing.
BORGER: So far nothing, which for those who voted for sanctions, one would presume we could be hearing from them pretty soon.
BLITZER: Yes, it was only 98-2 vote in the Senate and 400-plus to three or four votes in the House of Representatives. The president reluctantly signed it into law because he know he vetoed it, it would be overridden. He didn't want an override but he didn't like that legislation. He thought it was unconstitutional.
We'll have a lot more on this coming up. That's it for me.
Our coverage continues with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".