Return to Transcripts main page
Nunes Memo to Come to Light; More Trump People Drag to Russia Mud; Pro-Trump and Anti-Trump Weighs on SOTU; Confusing Nunes Memo to be Unleashed to the Public. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired January 31, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, HOST, CNN: ... back for a special edition of AC360. That starts right now.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: Good evening and welcome to a special late edition of 360.
Even on a big night of breaking news, this stands out. The FBI led by Christopher Wray, the president's hand-picked director, directly challenging him on releasing the so-called Nunes memo.
Now, that's the document, of course, written by republican staffers for House intelligence committee chairman, Devin Nunes. It's the memo that republicans on the committee voted to release over the objection of democrats.
Now, for days, republicans have been saying that Director Wray of the FBI was shown the memo and had no problems with it. That he made no changes. Basically saying, look, he signed off on it.
Well, now here's what the bureau actually believes. They publicly said, and I quote, "The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it, as expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."
So, there's that, and now there's also the possibility that the White House could agree to some redactions. Exactly how many and of what, we're not clear. The redactions might address certain security concerns, but likely will not improve on any mistakes in accuracy.
JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Anderson, we are hearing from a source familiar with this review process over here at the White House of that Nunes memo that this could happen tomorrow. That this is likely to happen tomorrow, and it's likely to be released.
Now, the source that we talked to earlier this evening said that at this point, it is very likely that there will be redactions made in this memo to sort of respond to these concerns expressed by the FBI.
Now, the question, of course is, Anderson, do these redactions go far enough to satisfy Christopher Wray, as you said, the president's hand- picked director of the FBI. We just don't know at this point.
We're also told my this source that as of this evening, the president has not been made aware of what might be changed inside that memo and what the actual results of this review are over here at the White House.
And despite the fact that this source was saying, Anderson, that this is likely to be released tomorrow, this source was telling us no final decision has been made. That's despite the fact that the president was saying, you know, 100 percent, at the state of the union, that this is going to be released.
COOPER: I mean, for days, Jim, republicans on the Hill have been saying that FBI Director Wray saw the memo, didn't object to it, didn't make any changes. Obviously, the statement from the FBI released, I mean, he does have objections to it, as well as did the Department of Justice before him.
ACOSTA: That's right. And we cannot emphasize this enough. Underline it, put it in bold, put it in italics, this is a rare public plea from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to not release this memo. That was what was being expressed by the bureau earlier today. And that is why I think you're seeing the White House tonight going through this memo and trying to find some redactions in there that will satisfy Chris Wray.
You know, Anderson, all this week, we were hearing from people saying, listen, this new FBI director, Chris Wray, he is somebody who believes in the institution. He is willing to stand up to the administration, despite being the president's hand-picked successor over at the FBI.
And it appears, at this point, that Chris Wray is doing that. He apparently was over here at the White House on Monday, along with Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, saying to the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, don't do this.
But it appears the president is bowing to the demands of the far right in his party, in wanting to release this mainly for political reasons. But Anderson, we are crossing into areas of unchartered waters that we haven't seen since the Nixon days, where you could have potentially a constitutional crisis if this president goes too far, trips some of these wires that have been set up on over on Capitol Hill.
Paul Ryan and others saying you can't fire Robert Mueller and so on. At what point do the republican leaders up on Capitol Hill say, this is going too far? Anderson?
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
ACOSTA: You bet.
COOPER: I want to bring in our legal and political panel, CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin and Carrie Cordero and CNN politics at large editor, Chris Cillizza. Carrie, let me start with you -- Cillizza. Carrie, let me start with you. You worked for the Department of Justice. How unusual is it to have a letter from the FBI, a public letter, essentially rebuking and begging the president not to do what he's going to do?
And previously to that, a letter from the Department of Justice saying that it would be extremely reckless for the republicans to do what seems the White House is going to do?
CARRIE CORDERO, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Both letters are pretty astounding. I mean, that Department of Justice that was first released that said the release would be reckless was very surprising. That's not the normal type of letter that we would see. And that I used to work on going from the Justice Department to Congress.
[22:04:47] And this FBI statement is just such a sincere expression of frustration on the part of the FBI director, where he has not been able to be persuasive to the president or to the White House to not release a document that apparently not only did not go through a proper national security declassification review, but also is the opposite of what the intelligence community has been trying to do in their transparency initiatives.
Instead, this is really the definition of using intelligence information for political purposes.
COOPER: And Jeff Toobin, I mean, just in terms of, you know, even if the White House redacts some information, that doesn't necessarily help the accuracy -- I mean, if things are inaccurate, redacting other things, that doesn't impact the accuracy.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Right. I mean, the statement from the FBI is quite clear that the problem is not just that there are -- there is too much classified information in this document. It says that there are omissions that make the document false.
You can't redact a document to fix omissions. That is something that can't possibly be addressed in a simple classification review.
I mean, what's going on here is that Fox and Friends and Fox News is setting the agenda, not just for the House republicans, but for the President of the United States here.
They're the ones who want this released. No one else thinks this is accurate. The democrats in the House don't think it's accurate. The FBI doesn't think it's accurate. But because the right wing of the party wants to discredit the investigation of Robert Mueller, the damage to national security is being done. This is without precedent in American history.
COOPER: Chris, I mean, obviously, look, the House intelligence committee does have oversight at the Department of Justice and the FBI. And if things were done illegally or if things were done inappropriately in violating people's civil rights, all of that is obviously very important.
But what I don't understand is, if that's what actually is occurring and they're actually trying to exercise their oversight role, why wouldn't they haul Director Wray before their committee or Department of Justice officials before their committee, and actually get to the bottom of this before just releasing some sort of a public memo?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNN: Particularly, because as Jeff and Carrie note, this -- there is not a whole hell of a lot of precedent for this, Anderson. There just isn't. This is not something that we see. This sort of politicization of the intelligence community and the intelligence committee.
It's a break with standard practices that makes you have to ask why? I think the answer there is pretty clear, which is there's been a long- standing effort from the president on down to discredit the FBI. To suggest there's a deep state conspiracy at work embedded within the FBI that is aimed at undermining him. And that the 2016 election is evidence of that.
I'll add, I think Jeff touched on something important. Which is, we have a tendency, particularly in Washington, to view everything as democrat versus republican. Frankly, because most things are in this day and age.
What's interesting about this is that it's not really that. It's House intelligence committee, Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, and John Kelly versus the intelligence community writ large, the FBI, which, by the way, Chris Wray was Donald Trump's pick to be the FBI director.
CILLIZZA: And a lot of Senate republicans, including Richard Burr, who is the head of the Senate intelligence committee, who has asked his staff, has asked to see this memo and has been told no.
COOPER: Everybody, stand by. We have more breaking news on the Russia investigation, specifically concerning possible obstruction of justice and what a former spokesman for the Trump legal team plans to tell special counsel Robert Mueller, the New York Times to break in the story.
According to paper, the former spokesman, Mark Corallo, plans to talk about a previously undisclosed conference call centered on the Trump tower meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and Russians which you remember who was promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
CNN political analyst and Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman shares the byline and she joins us now by phone.
Maggie, this is really a fascinating detailed story. You're learning more about the role, first of all, that Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, allegedly played in perhaps, could be interpreted as attempting to cover up the now-infamous Trump tower meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and Russia.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Sure. The issue with this conference call involves a couple of things, Anderson, but the main issue is that it was Hope Hicks, the president, and Mark Corallo, supposedly.
And according to what Corallo is expected to tell Robert Mueller's investigators, Hope Hicks had said these e-mails that went back and forth between Don Junior and this person trying to set up this meeting with this Russian lawyer would quote/unquote "never get out."
COOPER: I'm sorry. This was on a phone call with the president, Hope Hicks, and Mark Corallo.
COOPER: And Mark Corallo at the time, what was his role?
HABERMAN: He was the spokesperson for the legal team representing the president.
COOPER: And Mark Corallo was concerned when Hope Hicks said that?
[22:10:00] HABERMAN: Apparently Mark Corallo plans to tell the special counsel's investigators that he was concerned that that represented a potential obstruction of justice, that that was what she was considering doing.
Her lawyer has strongly denied that, which is in our story. And I think that it is worth thinking about the fact that there are two ways to read that.
One is, she was suggesting that she was going to somehow destroy evidence. The congressional investigators were already aware that this meeting had taken place. So the opportunities to destroy documents would have been pretty minimal.
The other reading of this is that she was suggesting that they wouldn't come out to the press anytime soon. But, again, her lawyer has denied that that was said. It's going to come to her word versus his.
COOPER: So just to be clear, Mark Corallo, according to your reporting, is going to testify to Robert Mueller that Hope Hicks said, these documents will never come out, meaning the e-mails from Donald Trump, Jr. about this meeting, setting up this meeting, describing, saying, you know, I love it, let's go for it.
COOPER: And Hope Hicks and her attorney are denying that she said anything along those lines.
HABERMAN: She never get them. Correct. And it's also worth remembering that Donald Trump, Jr. then put them out himself, a couple days later on Twitter.
COOPER: Under pressure, because the New York Times, if memory serves me, had the e-mails.
HABERMAN: We had -- correct. We had obtained at least portions of that e-mail chain. And he just put the entire thing out when we were getting ready to report it. COOPER: It does seem like from your reporting that Robert Mueller is
really zeroing in and knows an awful lot about what went on, on Air Force One in terms of the president's involvement in drafting an explanation of this meeting, an explanation that we now know was false.
HABERMAN: I mean, it's certainly -- it's certainly something that he's looking into. There's no question about that. You know, the sense from people who are being asked about it is on the one hand, some are very puzzled, because while they acknowledge that not being candid with a newspaper is perhaps not always best practice, that it's not a crime. And therefore not something the president would have legal exposure on.
But the other is, you know, you would assume that Mueller is trying to figure out intent. And the question is, what was the intention in not making clear the full, you know, explanation for how this meeting came to be.
The statement that was released in Don Jr.'s name was pretty narrow. Among the things in our story tonight is that he had been the person who had insisted on the word primarily being in that statements, as in, the meeting was primarily about adoption as opposed to solely about adoption.
COOPER: But it was the president, correct me if I'm wrong, according to your reporting, who was the one pushing the idea that this meeting or was insisting that this meeting be described as a meeting about adoptions.
HABERMAN: Yes, that it be cast in the narrowest way possible. That's correct.
COOPER: Is it clear why he would have wanted to do that?
HABERMAN: I mean, look, Anderson, you've interviewed him many times. I've interviewed him many times. He tends to go in the opposite direction of what is suggested to him in the first place sometimes, number one.
Number two, his impulse is often not to do full disclosure with the press on any number of topics, for any number of reasons. I think it would be dangerous to speculate as to what exactly he intended to do there, because that is clearly what an investigator is looking at.
COOPER: It is so interesting, though. I remember, I think Jay Sekulow was on CNN. I think maybe I even interviewed him about this or someone else did. And he said, look, Don Junior and his attorneys were the one who is drafted this statement. That was the word from the White House, that the president had nothing to do with this. I think it was the times...
HABERMAN: That was not true.
COOPER: Right, that was not true.
HABERMAN: Right. No one denied our story.
COOPER: Right. And I mean, everyone seemed to go out and deny the story. And now it just seems clearly they were not telling the truth. But to the point you made earlier, that may not be a, you know, lying to the media and lying to the American public, that's not necessarily a crime.
HABERMAN: It's not ideal, and it's not what you want. But given that there is a legal aspect here, you just want to be careful not to suggest where it could end up.
COOPER: All right. Maggie Haberman, I appreciate it. We're going to get more from panel members on this breaking story tonight. And shortly, even more breaking news on the Nunes memo and it's a shocker. More ahead.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: The breaking news in the New York Times, the headline, Mueller zooms in on Trump tower cover story. The allegation that Hope Hicks on a conference call said this about those e-mails Donald Trump, Jr. wrote, expressing his eagerness for political dirt from Russia.
The e-mails, quote, "will never get out." That's what the Times is reporting.
Now former Trump legal team spokesman Mark Corallo will tell special counsel Mueller. They're sourcing it to three people unnamed. The e- mails, quote, "will never get out." Now a lawyer for Hope Hicks denies Corallo's allegation. He said she never sail actually said that. The e-mails, of course, did get out.
The panel is back with us. Joining us as well is Van Jones and Jack Kingston. Jeff, the Times piece makes the point that even if Hope Hicks was suggesting that the e-mails could be kept secret, it would have been too late because copies of them had already been requested and prepared to send to Capitol Hill. Does any of that give her wiggle room?
TOOBIN: Well, it certainly does. And in fairness to Hope Hicks, I mean, the fact that she says that they might never get out doesn't necessarily mean that she was talking about destroying them or hiding them.
COOPER: Right, could have been, just, they're not going to get out, they're not going to get released.
TOOBIN: Right. They're private e-mails on Donald Trump, Jr.'s personal server. I don't think that this is necessarily completely incriminating about Hope Hicks.
But let's remember the big picture here. The big picture is, when this story came out, the Trump administration put out a false story about the -- about this meeting in Trump tower. They lied to the public about what was going on there.
TOOBIN: What Mueller is doing, quite appropriately, is trying to do a biography of that lie. How did they come to lie about it. And is that relevant to a possible obstruction of justice claim. I don't think Hope Hicks is the issue here. The issue is the President of the United States and what role he had in putting out a false story.
2COOPER: Carrie, how do you see this reporting by the Times?
CORDERO: Well, a couple of things. So first of all, Mark Corallo is a well-known, very experienced P.R. official. And he was the spokesperson for the Justice Department in the Bush administration. So he understands how Justice Department investigations work and he understands something about the law. So I think that he will be a credible witness.
The second piece is the new report's emphasis on the special counsel's focus on this June 2016 meeting might shed some light on why in recent days we have been hearing from the president's legal team, some new legal theories that they've been floating about why maybe the president can't or shouldn't or it's not appropriate for him to be interviewed by the special counsel.
And that might be because if the special counsel's focusing so much on the June 2016 meeting, that events surrounding that would not be protected by executive privilege. Because, of course, he wasn't president then.
COOPER: Well, Chris Cillizza, the Times also makes the point that according to Corallo, he was concerned that Hope Hicks' statement was being made without any lawyer on the phone.
[22:20:01] And the president was on the phone. And therefore, attorney-client privilege could not be invoked.
CILLIZZA: Right. I mean, I'm echoing Jeff here a little bit, which is it doesn't strike me necessarily as a giant legal problem. It just -- this particular tidbit. It just strikes me, as you read that piece and you think, this is really the gang who can't shoot straight.
The idea that you would have a conversation like the one that the Times is reporting Corallo will relay without a lawyer on the phone, I mean, it goes to all of what we know about that meeting, that June meeting.
Remember, I mean, it was primarily about a relatively obscure adoption law. Well, turns out it wasn't.
CILLIZZA: The e-mails will never get out. Well, it turns out they did. It wasn't -- there was nothing promised to the Trump campaign. Well, with turns out the reason the meeting happened was because there was dirt promised the Trump campaign. And so, you know, being incompetent is not generally speaking illegal,
although I'll defer to Carrie and Jeff on that. But I mean, that's the sense that I get when you read that story, is, how is this even happening...
CILLIZZA: ... when this is someone who's the nominee or about to be the nominee to be the President of the United States.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, Jack, as a supporter of the president, to Chris' point, does it concern you that the people around President Trump did not see fit to realize, you know what, you probably shouldn't be involved in the crafting of a press release about a meeting your son went to that you allegedly know nothing about.
JACK KINGSTON, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes, it does. But I would also attribute this to the fact that this is a new team, a non- political team. They're not used to the nuances of politics, of the press, and the legal system and...
COOPER: Donald Trump is not used to the nuances of the press, you're saying?
KINGSTON: Well, I would have to say that they were acting like innocent people. If they were guilty and if there really was collusion and this was really a nefarious meeting, then there would have been a far more careful in the way it was handled.
But I think what they were doing was, look, this wasn't a big-deal meeting. The guy was supposed to have dirt. Everybody looks for dirt on their political opponent, but you know, it looks bad to say that's what you were actually doing. Let's talk about adoption. But there was no crime here. And I think if they were doing something wrong, they would have been far more careful.
COOPER: Well, let me -- Jeff, let me go to you...
TOOBIN: Anderson, wait a second.
COOPER: Jeff, let me go to you. Because I remember distinctly you in the past saying, how many criminal defense attorneys in the world have argued about their client, there's no way my client would have done this, because it would be monumentally stupid.
TOOBIN: Right. Criminals do stupid things all the time. But what happened here is, you know, there was this meeting. They had to respond to questions about this meeting. What did they do? They lied about what went on at the meeting. That's exactly what criminals do.
KINGSTON: Not necessarily. TOOBIN: When you ask them what happened, you lie -- they lie instead
of tell the truth. So the idea that that's somehow exculpatory is crazy.
KINGSON: But Jeffrey, I think -- and I've got to say this, because you know, I've been in politics for many years. I think what we can do, as we politicians, as a political class is you don't tell the full story. I think adoption was one of the topics. They didn't want to tell the whole story. But that's in my opinion this is what innocent people do.
COOPER: But Jack, you know adoption is not adoption. You know for Russians, adoption is not the issue.
KINGSTON: Well, I understand that.
COOPER: It's sanctions. It's a code word.
KINGSTON: But saying this meeting was about adoption still sound better than, listen, we were really hoping and looking for dirt on Hillary Clinton.
TOOBIN: Yes, that's right, that's why they lied.
KINGSTON: But I would argue very strongly, but if they were doing something really nefarious if there was this real collusion going on, the last thing they would have done was to have handle it in the way it was handled.
KINGSTON: And as Hope Hicks' lawyer said is, the last thing that she would have done is said we're going to, you know, infer that they were going to hide evidence, these e-mails were going to disappear. Robert...
COOPER: But on the one hand, Jack, on the one hand you're saying they're political neophytes, they're not familiar with the media, so but she's so smart that there's no way she would have said that. I mean, you're arguing kind of both sides here.
Van, how do you see this? Because I mean, what's interesting is, we don't know if the president knew about this meeting. We don't know if Donald Trump, Jr. told his father about it. It seems hard to imagine that Donald Trump, Jr. would not tell his father hey, you know what, I got these e-mails that just said that the Russians are actually backing you and we're going to set up this meeting. Donald Trump, Jr. has said he didn't talk to his father about it. We
don't know what Robert Mueller knows. Does any of this -- what do you make of this new reporting?
VAN JONES, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: You know, sometimes things are exactly what they appear to be. And you can spin and you can turn and you can twist. Here is what happened. They were up to no good. They went to a meeting with Russians and they were up to no good.
[22:25:00] And then it turned out that they had to make a public statement about it, and the President of the United States was so concerned about it that he practically wrote it himself and what he wrote was a lie.
You don't get involved in something and write a lie when there's nothing happening. And so, you know, it's amazing to me to hear this kind of stuff. If your teenage kids came home and said what Jack just said to you, here's what you know, your kids are on drugs or something. Something terrible is going in your family. Because this kind of stuff is not...
KINGSTON: Van, I'm telling you...
JONES: No, I am telling you, sir...
KINGSTON: They would have lawyered up before they responded to the New York Times if they were guilty.
JONES: No, no.
KINGSTON: Here's what we know, Van, let's get facts...
JONES: It's so terrible.
COOPER: They did lawyer up, and their lawyers were not telling the truth either. Their lawyers went forward on television and said, no, Donald Trump Jr. wrote this thing and it was Donald Trump, Jr.'s lawyers. That wasn't true.
KINGSTON: Well, let me say this. For two years, nearly, all we've heard is collusion, collusion, collusion, there's nothing to it. And I think that this is just the New York Times is trying to distract what's going to happen probably in the next couple of days, is releasing the memos, which are going to show some real abuses of citizens right.
COOPER: You think this is a plot by the New York Times -- you honestly think this is a plot by the New York Times to distract attention?
COOPER: You think they're not reporting on the Nunes memos? That they're like keeping that hidden?
KINGSTON: Anderson, listen.
COOPER: Go ahead.
KINGSTON: I may have a little bit of a republican paranoia in here, in me, but when you see 75 percent of independent voters approve of what the president said last night, I could have told you a year ago the next day the New York Times was going to write something like this.
JONES: Jack, you sound desperate, man.
KINGSTON: No, I'm not.
JONES: For normal people who don't believe in like conspiracy theories that you know, somebody is sitting around making up stuff just because the president gave an almost-decent speech, that's not what's going on.
The president lied to the country. The president's son lied to the country. The president's lawyers lied to the country. The president lied to the country about a meeting with Russians. That is a big deal. You can spin that all day long.
COOPER: All right.
KINGSTON: He did not lie to the FBI. He has not lied in a legal context.
JONES: Well, not yet. Not yet.
KINGSTON: He did not give all the information which the New York Times would have wanted.
COOPER: We don't know what was said to the FBI, I should point out. Anyway, just ahead, we have more breaking news on, yes, the Nunes memo. We're not hiding it, we're not ignoring it. The ranking democrat on the House intelligence committee now says the White House actually got a different copy of it than the one that the committee actually voted on.
That changes were made by Devin Nunes without the committee's knowledge. We'll tell you the details on this. It's a brand new information we're getting right now.
[22:30:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: So there's more breaking news tonight on the Nunes memo. This happens -- just happened and it's kind of weird.
House intelligence committee ranking member, Adam Schiff, a democrat, saying tonight that the memo now at the White House is actually not the exact memo that republicans on the committee voted to release.
That Congressman Schiff is saying that it's been altered. He says materially altered from the original version by Chairman Nunes, without informing those people the republicans who voted for it or anybody else on the committee.
He says the changes do not correct the alleged distortions or inaccuracies in it and that committee members were, in Schiff's words, never apprised of, never had the opportunity to review, and never approved the memo that the White House now has.
Earlier tonight, I spoke with a democratic member of the House intelligence committee. This is before this story broke, Congressman Mike Quigley, who confronted Chairman Nunes on another aspect for the memo, namely possible cooperation on it with the White House.
COOPER: Congressman Quigley, you've said that when you confronted Chairman Nunes, his mannerisms and expressions led you to believe that he wasn't being candid. Can you describe? How so?
MIKE QUIGLEY, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Let me add to that, my first year of watching this investigation under Chairman Nunes' helm, you detailed his midnight run to the White House.
I've also witnessed his unwillingness to sign subpoenas for key witnesses. His refusal to push us to make sure that witnesses who refused to answer questions do so.
So I think there's a long history leading up to that questioning. It's hard reading the transcript mannerisms. That's why juries don't read transcripts.
I think if there was an audio or video combined, the American public would see a man who was clearly somewhat ruffled and not wanting to answer the question.
The totality of circumstances led me to believe that he wasn't being truthful. And as I continue the question asking about staff, he began to refuse to answer that question at all.
COOPER: And it's a question that we saw Sarah Sanders doesn't answer to Chris Cuomo saying, I don't know, I haven't asked that question. Which is a pretty major question, you would think, if she wanted to ask, she would have asked.
If you believe that Chairman Nunes or his staff was, in fact, working with the White House, because it was staffers who actually wrote this, what's next? I mean, s there anything you can do to try to prove that?
QUIGLEY: I think, yes. Look, I think we have to look at the totality here. Also in that transcript, I pressed the chairman about having the intelligence agencies brief Congress on this or at least tell us what their concerns are and check these memos.
He said, I'm not going to have them come testify before us. We're investigating them. Well, that's a fact that was news to everyone else in the room. It's another example of the chairman's rogue, unilateral stealth attempts to stymie this investigation. And that is breaking all the rules and the traditions and the customs.
He is with a few staff, I think, acting as an agent of the White House and has for an entire year. So all I can do is sound the alarm, ask the right questions, and make sure the American public know exactly what's going on.
It is as important, I think, though, to conclude here, this is the President of the United States acting to defend himself legally and politically at the expense of our national security. And complicit in that is the speaker of the house and Chairman Nunes.
COOPER: In Nunes' statement today, he said, quote, "top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counterterrorism investigation during an American political campaign."
Have you seen any evidence to support that claim? I mean, you haven't seen the underlying evidence. Nunes himself, to your point, and I talked to Adam Schiff about this, he has not seen the underlying evidence.
QUIGLEY: Yes, here's what I can say. This investigation began independently of the Steele dossier. That's as important a statement as I can make.
[22:34:59] If the minority memo is released and the public or at least Congress is allowed to read that, it is a more scholarly report with actual footnotes which will point by point rebut every aspect of the four-page majority memo.
And I believe it will bolster the integrity of the entire investigation. But this is a rush to action. It is not a rush to judge this, it is instead of a delivered attempt to judge the totality of circumstances.
We would like to see this under the light of day where members of Congress are allowed to do this. But instead, we rush some material that is basically a lie and it's misleading and it's inappropriate. And it hurts our national security.
COOPER: Let's get some perspective now from Phil Mudd, former senior official at the FBI. Also, Garrett Graff, he's author of the "Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror."
So, Phil, Adam Schiff has come forward now and said that Devin Nunes altered this memo after it was already voted on, did not tell anybody else. Nobody else voted on the new version of this memo. And now that the White House has a memo essentially that only Devin
Nunes knows the changes of or knew the changes of. And was not the draft that was voted on. Adam Schiff is saying, well, they should actually now take it back from the White House and resubmit it to a vote.
PHILIP MUDD, COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, CNN: Anderson, can you repeat that for me one more time.
COOPER: I don't know that I can, actually.
MUDD: Let me give you the perspective that I see on this. You've got four pieces here. Number one, you have the initial memo that republicans on the Hill saw. You evidently, secondly have a different memo that the White House gets.
You obviously have a democratic version of events that's totally separate. And then you have an FBI version of events.
So, all under the rubric of transparency. We're told the American people have to sort themselves through four versions of facts. One republican version, two republican versions, a democrat version, and then what the FBI says.
We have simple precedent here, Anderson. The precedent is after 9/11, you get a unified report nonpartisan that tells the American people, if you want the full story of both sides, here it is.
After the WMD debacle the government says we have a problem in government, there's a huge mistake, assuming there's a mistake here, and I'm not sure there was, but there's a unified response given by a nonpartisan panel.
Here we have four versions of an event and the Congress says transparency is that we can't do our jobs so the American people get to sort out four versions. That's transparency? I call that confusion, Anderson. That's what we've got here.
COOPER: Garrett, I mean, does this make any sense to you that Devin Nunes would alter this document that they had already voted on without informing the committee?
GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, THE THREAT MATRIX: No, and it's even actually more confusing than what Phil laid out, which was confusing enough, which is that the republicans right now are saying that they don't see any reason for the American public to actually be able to see the democratic version or the FBI version.
And so, there are four versions of the truth out there, only one of which the committee itself has actually seen, which is the version that the committee voted to declassify earlier in the week, which is evidently not the version that went to the White House.
But, you know, just to take that -- take Phil's point one step further, you know, the republicans are pushing ahead without releasing that critical democratic minority answer, or giving the FBI or the other intelligence agencies a chance to respond publicly.
I mean, I think the -- Christopher Wray's comments today, you talked about them earlier in the show, really are stunning. I mean, to hear...
COOPER: Stunning for the head of the FBI, newly appointed by this president, to basically criticize the White House for doing what they're about to do.
GRAFF: To use the phrase grave concern, that he has grave concern that this memo is so misleading as to be inaccurate. I mean, Phil knows this from his time. Grave is a specific word in government that is not thrown around lightly. I mean, that has a very specific connotation of the most serious level of concern that the government can offer.
COOPER: You know, Phil, the other thing that I keep coming back to, and we've been talking about this really now for two days, I had a republican congressman from the committee on my -- on the broadcast two nights ago, who was saying, no, no, no, Chris Wray saw this memo.
I don't know if he saw, I guess he saw the one that they ultimately voted on, that was then according to Adam Schiff later changed by Nunes, but Chris Wray saw it, didn't raise any objections, didn't make any changes to it and basically signed off on it. Therefore the FBI basically signed off on it.
Now, and Paul Ryan basically echoed that. That was a republican talking point from focus on the Hill. Now the FBI and Chris Wray have made very clear, no, that's not actually what happened at all.
[22:39:59] In fact, they say that they raised concerns and wanted to take a closer look at it. And basically, the talking points from the republicans were, no, no, Chris Wray is fine with this.
MUDD: This is pretty simple. Chris Wray has a couple of options and I think he chose the proper option. Number one is participating in the process to redact, to adjust the memo that he thinks fundamentally wrong.
That's like you, Anderson, adjusting a memo that you think is wrong about your performance on CNN saying, I'll edit line three. Why would you do it. He appropriately said, if you're going to release this tomorrow, this is clearly a clown show, we don't even have time for you to talk to you about what you did over the course of years of FISA investigations.
Why would he ever look a memo over the course of 24 hours and make minor adjustments if he thinks the whole thing is flawed. So he steps back and said, yes, I saw it, but I'm not going to edit it because I think the whole thing is wrong. That's pretty simple I think, Anderson.
COOPER: Phil Mudd and Garrett Graff, we've got to leave it there. Thank you, guys.
Coming up, the president's stance on North Korea and his non-stance on Russia. We'll get some reaction from Fareed Zakaria, next.
COOPER: One topic that was noticeably absent from the president's first state of the union speech last night, Russia's meddling in the election. The president didn't mention the multiple ongoing Russia investigations going on, barely mentioned Russia at all, in fact, except for a very quick reference. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China and Russia, that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values.
[22:44:58] In confronting these horrible dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict and unmatched power is the surest means to our true and great defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The president last night. With me now is Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS. I mean, we have to keep in mind this speech came just one day after the White House decided that they are not going to impose any new sanctions on Russia, which was overwhelmingly passed by Congress.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN: Yes. So here you have the president saying, weakness is a bad strategy when dealing with adversaries like China and Russia, and in the face of what everybody regard as Russian interference in the elections whether or not there was collusion, in the face of Russian interferes in our elections.
Congress, as you say, bipartisan, overwhelmingly decision to impose sanctions. And the president, without any explanation, essentially decides not to do it. And republicans now have taken the position that whatever Donald Trump does, you know, makes sense.
And so they are not protesting what seemed to have been once a core republican platform. And remember, Mitt Romney, when he ran for president, his single biggest criticism of Barack Obama was that Obama was not tough enough on Russia. He gave a speech, a whole speech devoted to that fact.
COOPER: Also, the State Department said that there's no -- on Monday said there's no need for sanctions, because the legislation itself was, quote, "serving a as a deterrent." Does that make any sense to you, that just the fact that legislation was passed by Congress, that's somehow serving as a deterrent. It doesn't actually need to be implemented?
ZAKARIA: It makes absolutely no sense. And you can see why. So when there was the fear that the administration was going to put these sanctions in Russian oligarchs, Russian ministers were doing cartwheels to try to figure out whether they were on the list or off the list. Why?
Because they realized if they were going to be on a list that was going to be implemented, they were in serious trouble. Their financial assets were in jeopardy. They weren't going to be able to travel. There were all of these constraints that would pin them down.
Once they realized that they weren't going to be enacted, the whole thing has become a joke here.
COOPER: I mean, this argument that the law doesn't actually need to be enacted because the threat of it is a deterrent. That's like saying, well, illegal immigration has dropped dramatically over the border, which it has, there's been a long-term decline, but certainly the Trump administration has struck fear in a lot of people not having them cross over, but, and then arguing, we don't need the wall anymore.
ZAKARIA: Or do anything.
ZAKARIA: Right. Just the bully pulpit to not, or even, why enforce the laws against robbing? They're on the books. You know, bank robbers know they shouldn't, you know, they shouldn't rob banks. They could look at the laws.
COOPER: The White House also nixed a plan to nominate a guy named Victor Cha to be the U.S. ambassador to South Korea. Probably not coincidentally, he wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post yesterday saying that he had objections to what he called a bloody nose preemptive strike on North Korea. He was dropped basically after that.
ZAKARIA: Yes. I mean, it's a very sad story. Victor Cha actually was a classmate of mine at Harvard. We got our Ph.D.'s together. And Victor is I mean, he's a conservative republican, I think, but he's basically a policy expert.
He is a guy who has no political agenda. He really calls it the way he sees it. And when outlining to them, as I understand it from his op- ed, I mean, outlining to them why it was a little dangerous to be making these threats about military action, he was pointing out there really wasn't a military option.
And there wasn't this limited option that they were talking about. And if you read the op-ed, he very methodically and logically points out why the strategy doesn't make any sense. Rather than taking that as constructive criticism or an interesting point of view, they decided that this meant that he was, you know, ideologically not faithful enough.
And this guy, who ran President Bush's North Korea policy from the White House, who is, as I said, is a stalwart republican and most importantly, just a policy, an expert, who knows the region intimately, has suddenly been dropped. COOPER: And there is no ambassador, obviously, to South Korea now.
ZAKARIA: There's no ambassador to South Korea. There are acting assistant secretaries of state for many regions of the world. There are at least 20 countries that I can think of where you don't have ambassadors.
It's a very strange situation where the United States is being asked to do more around the world because of the rise in China, because of things going on in the Middle East. And yet, we're almost pulling back for no particular reason.
COOPER: Fareed Zakaria, thanks very much. Coming up next, another perspective on the state of the union. An op-ed that open with a line about one word coming to mind more than any other that were pretends.
I'll speak with columnist Frank Bruni from New York Times about what he means, next.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: Reaction to president's first state of the union speech was, and I know this comes as a shock, mixed largely along political lines. The president spoke about unity. Not everyone buying it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Tonight I want to talk about what kind of future we are going to have and what kind of a nation we are going to be. All of us together as one team, one people, and one American family can do anything. We all share the same home, the same heart, the same destiny, and the same great American flag.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Frank Bruni isn't 100 percent sure the president's call for unity was entirely genuine. He has a column titled the fictitious state of Trump's fantastical union. Frank Bruni joins us now.
So you said that the word that came to mind last night as you watch the state of the union was pretend. Explain that.
FRANK BRUNI, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, you know, the footage you just showed, the passage you showed. We listened to that. And for this state of the union to be effective or convincing we have to pretend that we've never read Donald Trump's Twitter feed.
We have to pretend that there haven't been hundreds, thousands, you know, of vulgar and recklessly divisive moments before this.
And the other thing as he stands there and he lays these are my priorities and this is what I want to do we have to pretend that he is not always all over the map.
I mean, this is the Trump who one day is calling for a bill of love for immigrants and two days later is talking about you know what hole countries. So, in a moment like this for us to really kind of pay attention and be credulous and that sort of thing we have to pretend that Donald Trump over the last year didn't exist. Donald Trump at the campaign trail did not exist.
COOPER: Do you think that's why the reaction to this years' speech was different than the reaction to his address in front of both house and Congress last year. Because tonally I mean, it was sort of similar. But there wasn't the experience...
COOPER: ... of what can happen the day after or you know, the next day or what happened before. This was kind of a new introduction to the president last year.
[22:55:01] BRUNI: No, a 100 percent. I think a lot of people sort of felt burned. A lot of the analysts who looked at that speech to the joint session of Congress and said wow, Trump is capable of being presidential. Maybe Trump has turned a corner.
I mean, I think people wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. And I think people are hungry for him to turn a corner. But I think this time around everyone realizes they've seen more of him over the course of this presidency and what he is like on Tuesday is not going to be what he's like on Wednesday and as far as next week goes all bets are off.
COOPER: I mean, you've said yourself that the state of the union regardless who the president is a speech of wishes.
COOPER: You said traffics in the sublime. What was given about last night, I mean, can't President Trump do as others before him has done in terms of trafficking in the sublime.
BRUNI: You know, I think that's a fair point. And no state of every state of union is a performance. No president is trafficking entirely in the realm of truth in the state of the union.
But I think we're fooling ourselves if we don't acknowledge that the distance between controlled Trump and unscripted Trump is much greater than that distance with his predecessors like Obama and Bush. It's much, much greater.
And so it becomes more difficult if you have just watched Trump over time to take a moment like last night, extrapolate from it and say, OK, well, now we have a really clear road map to the legislation ahead. We don't. We saw Trump at a moment in time. And Trump is different at different moments in time.
COOPER: And also obviously it's a speech with a lot of promises. And yet you have, you know, the election calendar coming up in this next year. Historically more difficult for presidents you know, in the second year to pass legislation. BRUNI: Yes, and he didn't make it easier for him last night because I
think democrat, really, really dislike the speech. The only person, you know, when they were doing reaction shots, the only person who looked unhappier to be other than Nancy Pelosi was Melania Trump.
Democrats reacted to this both in real-time and this morning very negatively. And I think with reason, because the speech was fascinating. It argued against itself. It used words if not the word bipartisanship it used words similar to that it used that concept. And yet, it struck bitterly partisan note after bitterly partisan note.
BRUNI: So it was a complete paradox.
COOPER: Frank Bruni, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.
BRUNI: Thank you.
COOPER: Thanks for watching in special edition of 360. CNN Tonight is next.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)