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Discussion Regarding Disputed GOP/Nunes Memo Just Released. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 2, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:01] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: But that's our best first reading of what's in here.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Very important, and I think that last point is so key, Jim, about the fact that this is a specific memo making specific allegations in what they say are findings. But our understanding from multiple sources for months is that this whole probe did not just start with the dossier that CNN --

SCIUTTO: That's right.

BASH: -- first reported about in January, it was much more of a robust picture.

Jim, hang with me for one second. I want to bring in our viewers first of all from around the world who are joining us. If you are just joining us, the House Intelligence Committee has just released this -- now I would even say infamous memo that was prepared by House Republicans on the intelligence committee because the president formally allowed that to be declassified.

I want to bring in CNN's Evan Perez, and Evan, the warrant was extended multiple times. What does that mean? Explain it.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, exactly, Dana. I think that's an important point for us to remind viewers here is that not only was the first warrant authorized by the court, by the FISA court in October of 2016, but that was renewed every 90 days, three additional times.

And for you to do that, for the judge to approve that, for this FISA court to approve that, it would have to be that the judge -- that the FBI presented evidence and the Justice Department presented evidence and intelligence information at least that supports the idea hat they were getting something fruitful. That this was yielding information that was valuable to warrants, you know, continued surveillance of Carter Page.

So, you know, we don't know again what's the underlying documents that were presented to the court. We don't know beyond what Devin Nunes and his staff have been able to tell us here what else the court was aware of. But, you know, their central point is that, this is fruit from a poison tree. Essentially that because this dossier was prepared by political operatives, by somebody who is being paid by a political organization, the DNC and Hillary Clinton, that it should never have been used and it should never been granted.

The key to remember is that beyond the first time it was approved in October of 2016, it was renewed three additional times, and the way the FBI and the Justice Department are able to get that is by showing to the court that this not only is warranted, that they are continuing to get a valuable intelligence information that supports the idea that Carter Page, again, the principal here, that he was -- they have reason to believe that he was acting as an agent of a foreign power.

Those are the key words in every FISA application, including the renewals, which is reason for a judge to be able to approve this, Dana.

BASH: Evan, standby. I want to get back to Jim Sciutto. Jim, you had another point you wanted to make as you look for this memo.

SCIUTTO: Well, highlighting Evan's point there as well we heard Jim Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence on our air this morning make the same points to say, you do not renew those warrants. First of all, the FBI would not seek to renew those warrants unless it believe it was getting valuable intelligence. And that FISA court judge would not renew it unless he was convinced that the FBI was getting valuable intelligence.

So, it's an interesting point here that mixed in with the allegations coming from the Republican Devin Nunes is a hard fact, that there were four in-effect warrants issued on Carter Page, that he was acting as Evan said as an agent of a foreign government, that there was evidence of that. And you would have to believe then that the FBI sought the renewal of those surveillance warrants, you know, in bad faith, right, or on made-up information and that the judge as well decided to approve those applications for renewal on bad faith as well.

It's a remarkable charge here and that does affect where we are because that's where the president is. The president is charging that the FBI, the nation's premiere law enforcement agency, acted in bad faith here to surveil his campaign.

BASH: He's not mincing words about it. That's exactly what he is saying. Guys, standby, I want to bring in our colleague Manu Raju. He is on Capitol Hill.

Manu, you have been speaking to the House Intelligence chair, Devin Nunes on a conference call that he and his staff had. What are they saying?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, it's actually Nunes' staff that laid out what they believe were the top lines in this memo. This happened just before the release of the memo. Really, the large -- the main point that they are trying to make here is the fact that this warrant was sought on Carter Page without the disclosure to the judge who approved that warrant, that it was the Steele dossier was used for that warrant.

According to Andrew McCabe's testimony before the committee, he said according to the memo and according to the aides who viewed this as a very significant part, that no surveillance form would have been even been sought had it not been for the Steele dossier.

[12:35:06] Then they lay out a number of allegations against Christopher Steele, saying that he communicated very clearly his anti- Trump bias, that he was desperate to get rid of Trump and make sure that Trump would not be elected president. And they said that Steele had communicated this with senior DOJ officials who did not disclose this at that time.

Now they -- I tried to get them a little further about what they viewed as real problems with Rod Rosenstein. They didn't really want to get into that. They didn't address questions or concerns about Rod Rosenstein. As we know, heading into this, he had been a major target of a lot of conservatives who wanted to push him aside.

But what they see as a general misconduct in getting that FISA warrant to monitor Carter Page, an initial warrant, those three additional extensions and not disclosing that Steele dossier. That's what they viewed as the real problem here. In addition, Christopher Steele having alleged discussions with Yahoo News back in the campaign season about the Carter Page warrant. They've highlighted that aspect as well. They said he improperly disclosed information to Yahoo News.

And as we know, Dana, separately, Senate Republicans have sought a leaked investigation -- have sought an investigation I should say that Christopher Steele did not disclose information to the FBI about those conversations with the news media.

It's not clear -- it appears to be this is what they are referring to. These discussions that he allegedly had with Yahoo News. But that's one of the points they say here alleging misconduct by Christopher Steele, alleging misconduct by -- in getting this court warrant.

Now, I tried to also push them on these changes that were made after they were not disclosed by the House Intelligence Committee on Monday when the committee itself voted to approve the release of the memo. They downplayed it. They said it was really to make it more precise, the language about how that conversation between Christopher Steele and Yahoo News occurred during the campaign season. And they said it was really just some minor thing that they changed. Well, the Democrats have a much more different interpretation of that. They say there were major changes, five material changes that were made that was not disclosed to the committee as it was sent to the president.

And we're going to hear the Democrats' point of view very shortly. Adam Schiff in particular, another Democrats of course say this is completely ironies and full of factual and inaccuracies. We'll see what they say now that the memo was out there, Dana. Dana?

BASH: And Manu, I want to go back to Evan. Evan, you know, Manu just ended on an important point that we need to remember, which is, this is a three and a half page memo written by Republicans based on the way they view the underlying sort of -- not necessarily raw intelligence here but raw information and analysis of what happened, starting -- how the Russia investigation even started. And this is just one side of the story. The Democrats' side of the story, the memo that they have prepared for rebuttal still has not been declassified so we don't know what that is. Actually, hang on one second, Evan. Standby one second. We just got a statement from the FBI Agents Association and I want to read it to you and our viewers.

"The men and women of the FBI put their lives on the line every day in the fight against terrorists and criminals because of their dedication to our country and the constitution. The American people should know that they continue to be well served by the world's preeminent enforcement agency. FBI special agents have not and will not allow partisan politics to distract us from our solemn commitment to our mission."

Evan, let's just go right to that. I mean, you talk to FBI agents from the top down a lot. How -- I mean, that's an important point to sort of infuse into this conversation, the fact that these people are on the line every day. Certainly people make mistakes. It is possible that there were mistakes made when we get the full picture. But at the end of the day, having the president of the United States impugn this agency, and by extension, these agents can't be great for morale.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. And I think that's exactly what I was to -- what I was going to get to. And I'm glad that that statement came out because I think beyond just the Democrats, the Democrats obviously going to have their point of view. And frankly, there's a third point of view and that is from the FBI itself.

You heard from a statement that they issued a couple days ago from Chris Wray that made the point, that, you know, look, there are omissions in this document, this three and a half page document that was issued by Devin Nunes' staff and that was written by them that they believe paint a false picture of what exactly occurred here. So, beyond what the Republicans are saying and what the Democrats are going to say whenever they issue their own memo.

[12:40:06] There's also the FBI point of view which obviously they can't talk about the entire picture here because this is -- you know, this intelligence and this information is still under seal by the FISA court, which is supposed to operate in secret.

So they're kind of sort of -- you know, they're a little bit hog tied with what they can say. But it's very important to remember that you can -- as you said, there can be mistakes that were made by the FBI. And look, there are some things here that probably will bother Americans about how this was done.

But, it's different from, you know, saying someone made a mistake from saying that they were acting on a partisan point of view or trying to stop Donald Trump or trying to act for partisan purposes, which I think is where the FBI really takes offense about what happened here.

There may have been mistakes that were made by some people in leadership, but it wasn't necessarily for partisan purposes. At least that's the point of view of the FBI. And I think what you see in this memo is obviously they believe that the fact that this dossier was used is the end of the story. It's the beginning of the end of this memo. They believe it should never have been used.

And it's important by the way to remember that the law was written right by these members of Congress -- by the way, they just reauthorized a section of the FISA law.

BASH: That's a great point.

PEREZ: They just reauthorized a section of the FISA law and they knew what was in these documents that they reviewed, and they made no significant changes.

So, you know, if you are so bothered by the way the FBI carries out FISAs then maybe they should change the law.

BASH: Then change the process. Jim Sciutto, go ahead.

SCIUTTO: Two quick points. One, this is not principally Republican and Democrats, right, although there is certainly disagreement between them. This is Republican or really the president and its allies against law enforcement here. Because this is the FBI that is saying this is a fundamentally misleading document.

And remember, on the issue of transparency, right because that's been brought up -- you know, you'll often hear as a talking point, we'll just, you know, release it all and let Americans make their own point of view. The key assertion of the FBI and the intelligence agency is frankly is that, what this memo lacks is the underlying intelligence which was used to go about this investigation.

So, it's not about reductions, et cetera. You know, you can't be fully transparent, you can't understand the judgments they made without seeing the underlying intelligence on which they made their judgment.

BASH: Right. It's not about reduction. It's about --


BASH: It's about what's already left out, it's about cherry picking.

Guys, standby. David Chalian, you've been reading this. I've seen it out of my peripheral vision. What's up?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, the first thought here is, this is going to be something that Republicans are going to rally around. Trump supporters, there's no doubt. I mean, we saw it is in the build up in the whole (INAUDIBLE) secret chamber. But they're going to point you -- I think it was Jim that mentioned this earlier or perhaps it was Manu, that Steele, according to the -- again, this political document from the majority staff and the House Intelligence Committee, that Steele was talking to Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News in September of 2017 in violation of rules to do so as an FBI source by talking to the media before the first FISA application and that he should have been already fired at the time of the first application for FISA.

You see some Republican commentary, but you are going to see a lot of Trump supporters and perhaps Republicans more broadly to start using this to rally around the notion that too much has been made of this. There are some, you know, chinks in the armor here. That's how they will see it.

BASH: Too much has been made of the whole idea of --

CHALIAN: Well, of the whole Russia investigation. So, this is what I was saying that before is like, this is going to be a data point as the president views. However, look at what the White House is doing right now when McGhan's statement that just came out -- that we just got here in our report.

The White House is also trying to separate the president from this in some ways, saying that, you know, all national security considerations were made here, and he understands that's his highest obligation, and that, you know, everything in here reflects the judgment of its congressional authors.

They're trying to create some distance, but once again, Donald Trump undercuts his own staff because he sits in the Oval Office and says people are disgraced and should be totally ashamed of themselves.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Let me -- let me actually just read --

BASH: You're right, you're both right. But let me just read because you mentioned that, because I just got that as well across the desk here. Don McGhan, the White House counsel says, "The president understands that the protection of our national security represents his highest obligation." And he went on to say, "Accordingly, he has directed lawyers and national security staff to assess the declassified request."

Chairman Rogers, you are the most recent chairman of this committee that we are talking about. You are a Republican. What are your thoughts? You've gone through it.

MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: You know, as a former FBI agent who actually did Title III applications which is the application to get a criminal diversion of a FISA warrant in criminal court. So I've been through this process. I don't see anything in here that was overly classified other than the classification came from the fact that this came from a FISA application which is secret.

[12:45:11] The thing with this is, and this is what I worry about. So the first thing it succeeded in doing is having the FBI agents' association come out and make a political statement on a document like this.

BASH: This is so rare.

ROGERS: I have to tell you that almost breaks my heart to even hear that we've gotten into this place. This is a group of people that are they -- certainly, they have political views. They never get up in the morning and think about that when they're doing an investigation. And that bothers me more than anything, just seeing Tom O'Connor, the president, the FBI Agents Association. He's a good guy and a great agent. That bothers me more than anything.

So, it tells you and when I read it, I think, OK, if I'm doing this FISA application, there are some things that concern me in here, no doubt about it. The fact that they were using news reports in a FISA application concerns me a little bit. I don't know I'd like to talk with that.

BORGER: We don't know if that was all they use.

BASH: Yes.

ROGERS: No, well, the odds are, and that's the part of this. If this is all they used, well, the judge ought to get in trouble too, and I doubt that happened. I think there is a lot more information that supplanted the information that they provided.

In addition, they went through separate renewals, and each renewal, according to the law, you actually have to reconfirm probable cause, meaning you had to get something off that wire. And remember what the target was here, an individual American citizen who was meeting with Russian officials that they believe to be intelligence officers. I have to tell you, that's the nature of a FISA court going after Americans who they may or may not be engage in espionage activities against United States and that's what this wants to do.

BASH: Can I just want you to ask you one of the follow up, because Evan put it I thought really well about how your colleagues are viewing now this whole Russia investigation. He said that this is fruit from a poison tree. Just having read this, do you think that the whole Russia investigation is fruit from a poison tree?

ROGERS: Well, it depends on -- again, it really depends on what else -- what other information they have. I do think not disclosing to the judge that there was information from a dossier that had political implications is a problem for them. And I also think that the news articles is a problem for them. But again, we're not seeing the whole thing.


BORGER: We're also not seeing --

BASH: Yes.

BORGER: -- we're not seeing what they received.

BASH: Right.

BORGER: We're not seeing what the judge received as, yes, we got this, we got this, we got this information, we got that information. What we see here is something that I think is being portrayed as quite nefarious in its own way. That the FBI knew, according to this, that they had a biased source here, an important source in Steele, and that they hid it.

BASH: Right.

BORGER: They're effectively saying they kept as a secret, and that as a result, they were -- Steele, who was trafficking in what may have been bad information. So we have these two charges, which are nefarious when you think about it, against the FBI, but what we don't know is the rest of the information that the judge--

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: How can they judge those without knowing the full --

BORGER: -- had.

BASH: Guys, I want you all to listen to this. One of the people who was kind of at the source of this, Carter Page, who was a national security adviser to the Trump campaign just put out a statement. And here's what he said, "The brave and assiduously oversight in congressional leaders in discovering this unprecedented abuse represents a giant historic leap in the repair of America's democracy." He said, "Now, that a few misdeeds against the Trump movement have been partially revealed, I look forward to updating my pending legal action in opposition to DOJ this weekend in preparation for Monday's next small step in the long potholed road toward helping to restore an order in our great country." OK.

HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, this is the whole idea of the deep state, right, and this is, I think, a memo that really kind of corroborates this conspiracy theory, that there is this kind of longstanding element in the government that is now targeting the Trump administration.

I think what's interesting here is what now happens to Christopher Wray. I mean, he was noted to be an impeccably qualified person who could really restore the morale of the FBI when he was appointed. What does this mean for his tenure now?

I understand from our reporting there was some, you know, some concern about whether he would stay. But also the irony of the Republican president attacking -- a law and order president, right, attacking the preemptive law enforcement agency in the country.

BORGER: Can I just point out something that my -- or colleagues Shimon who's just texted to me which I think is an important point, and you can probably speak to this. And his point is that informants are not always as clear as the snow, you know.

BASH: Just the opposite.

[12:50:09] BORGER: Just the opposite. So, you know, what to say well, Steele was dealing the Democrats or was paid by Democrats. I mean, you can get good information from sources who come at you with a bias one way or another, can't you? So --

ROGERS: That's the whole nature of these things. Remember, you're action --

BORGER: -- and -- but it's common to confirm any information.

ROGERS: -- if you're paying an informant to give you information in a criminal organization, trust me, that person is committing or has committed crimes prior to that in order to get there. So their veracity is always a little bit in question. That's why you would filter in other aspects of this, --

BORGER: Right.

ROGERS: -- which they don't tell you that information.

BORGER: We don't that, exactly. So I think that's a good point from this man.

BASH: We have a new statement from the House Intelligence chairman, Devin Nunes, and here is what he said. The committee has discovered serious violations of the public trust and the American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes. And he went on to say, our intelligence and law enforcement agencies exist to defend the American people not to be exploited to target one group on behalf of another.

And he goes on to say -- this is again Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence chair who led the compilation of this memo and pushed for it to be released. He said, it is my hope that the committee's actions will shine a light on this alarming series of events so we can make reforms and allow the American people to have full faith and confidence in their governing institutions.

Mike Rogers, I have to say since you're his predecessor, do you agree? I'm guessing you wouldn't have done it.

ROGERS: Well, I would not have done it. Listen, if they had enough information to have members say, I think there's a problem. I think that there was some -- they were either purposely, by the way, and if you accuse somebody purposely knowing altering the facts in an application, that's perjury, right? So they're saying, you know, somebody may have perjured themselves or just wrongdoing.

My argument is let's do a full investigation. Bring in the Democrats in a classified space, do a full investigation where you have all of the facts. Now what we have, unfortunately, is, you know, affirmation memos. If you love Trump, you're going to say this is the best thing ever and I'm done with all of it.

BASH: But that's not what the Intelligence Committee --

ROGERS: No, that's my point. And then the Democrats are going to come out with one and say, if you hate Trump, you're going to say, oh, --

BASH: Exactly.

ROGERS: -- this is exactly what I need to hear. BORGER: And you still won't to have the full story.

ROGERS: And you're not going to have the full story. So I think the way they should have done this is a full hearing, excuse men, full investigation off of the committee in classified space and then put out a report, even if they disagree all on the conclusions, then Americans can make their own decision.

BASH: I want to get to our legal and national security analyst, Asha Rangappa. Asha, pick up on that point or please make anything else that you see that is noteworthy as you read this memo.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. So, this memo just on its face, appears incomplete to me, and let me explain why. So, when you prepare a FISA affidavit, as I have, you have to show the court, particularly for a U.S. person, that the target was knowingly acting or knowingly conducting clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of a foreign power.

We know the FBI had Carter Page on their radar as far back as 2013. And they went and warned him he was being recruited by Russian intelligence. He was on notice. If he continued to be in contact with the FBI after that, you have your knowing element right there. He is knowingly continuing to engage with them.

So this FISA application, in my opinion, would have clearly had information going as far back as 2013 because they would have need to establish that knowing requirement, that higher bar for a U.S. person. Now, the other thing that you show in a FISA affidavit is the so what. What is this foreign intelligence service doing that is so bad? And here is where the bigger picture would come into play, and for example, the tip about Padopoulos. What the FBI would have outlined is the Russian intelligence service is now engaging in an unprecedented effort to interfere in our elections.

Here are the 10 pieces of evidence that corroborate this. Padopoulos, we know Manafort that they, you know, were in communication with him, and he was part of the campaign. The dossier, if it was used at all, would have likely been used to provide this, you know, additional, look, somebody that was working on this completely independently came up with this whole -- you know, came across this as well.

You don't staple a dossier to a cover sheet and send it to the FISA court. That's the whole point. This would have been a very large application, and I would not believe that anything would be needed to support Page's probable cause, but it could have given some context.

[12:55:09] So, I think, yes, this is very scant memo, I would say, in terms of laying out what would have actually been in an affidavit.

BASH: You know, I want to pick up on what you were just talking about the kind of the basis for this FISA memo and the whole question of whether it really was just the Steele dossier. David, you've been going through it. Do you want to make a point?

CHALIAN: Yes, one of the last points in the memo, remember, this is the Nunes staff memo, but it's actually included in here. It says the Page -- the Carter Page FISA application also mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign adviser, George Padopoulos, but there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Padopoulos.

They admit right here that this FISA application was not completely based on Steele, because Papadopoulos was mentioned and we all know how that started and triggered the Russia investigation. I just think that's important point to include here, because as there are going to be so much conversation certainly about McCabe's comments and what he said about the warrant not happening if there was unseal. The Republican majority themselves admit here this wasn't just based on Steele, which again begs what we're all saying, which is wouldn't it be wonderful to see the entire application and have the full --

ROGERS: Can I bring up one quick comment?

CHALIAN: Please.

ROGERS: The fact that Mr. Padopoulos was mentioned in the memo tells you that he was part of the FISA warrant at one point and likely had his communications intercepted and now he's pled guilty. So, --

BASH: Not only pled guilty but is talking.

ROGERS: Cooperating.

BASH: Yes.

ROGERS: And so, this is the part -- you make a great point, is that there is so much to this that we don't know, and that's why this is candidly unfair, and I think it's even unfair, even if you agree or disagree with them or disagree with them with a people named in these documents, because they are not going to get a full in court either off of this memo. And I just, you know, government power is a big deal, you can take your liberty or I can assassinate your character. And I worry that we don't do this judiciously, we do it for partisan reasons. We're all going to be in trouble.

BASH: I have to bring somebody else up that we haven't talked about since we've seen this memo, because, you guys can correct me if I'm wrong because you have had time to read through the whole thing and I haven't. Rod Rosenstein, right, now that we've gotten through it, what do we think that this means for him? Anything?

CHALIAN: Well, as the president said, I think you know the answer of that. You can figure that out.

BASH: But do we -- I mean, does this indict him?


ROGERS: Probably sign a renewal.

BORGER: Sign off one or more --

HENDERSON: That was his job.

BORGER: It says he signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of the DOJ. So, you heard the president today.

BASH: Exactly.

BORGER: And the president now clearly considers him part of a cabal that unfairly did this based on a dossier which the president considers unfair and not factual and also is detrimental to his case.


BORGER: And so, you know --

CHALIAN: Reminder of course to our viewers. The president appointed Rod Rosenstein.

BORGER: Right, right.

CHALIAN: That's a Trump appointee.

BASH: Yes, right.

ROGERS: You know, there's one point that they --

BORGER: Yes, and he's mentioned in a critic --

ROGERS: -- could make is they could say that because he was a participant in the FISA applications, he should not be in the Russia investigation stream.

BORGER: Yes. And then --

ROGERS: They could make that case.

BORGER: That he should recuse himself.

BASH: Because remember --

ROGERS: And he would have to recuse himself from this.

BASH: -- president calling his allies saying, this could, should, undermine the Mueller investigation, so is that the president's desire?

HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, I think if you look at this paragraph, where they're talking about Rosenstein. The people mentioned in this paragraph, James Comey, I don't believe he's there anymore. Andrew McCabe, also gone, Sally Yates and even acting D.A., Dana Winte. And so, I mean, it sort of begs the question.

BORGER: Maybe that's why they're gone.


BORGER: We don't know why McCabe is gone. HENDERSON: We don't why they're gone but these people aren't there anymore, and they were targeted by Trump. Can you imagine? I mean here is he.

BASH: Who is left?

BOGER: Yes, who is left?

CHALIAN: Are you suggesting Rod Rosenstein now was a witness inside this Russia investigation because of the signing of --

ROGERS: Well, I'm just saying, if you're looking at this from a defense attorney's perspective, I'm thinking, hey, this guy signed it and now he is -- the fact that he was proactively seeking a FISA might not make him the most neutral person in an investigation. I think that's what they end up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They won't go for it.

BASH: And if you're President Trump looking at it, knowing what he said just, you know, within the last hour, you would say either leave or recuse yourself.

BORGER: And if he recuses himself, then the question is, who is Bob Mueller's boss? And that would be according to the lines here, Rachel Brand, number three. And so, this all has to kind of -- this all has to play out. But if you look at the list that Nia was reading there's one person that remain standing right now and that's Rod Rosenstein.

BASH: OK, everybody, thank you very much for bringing us through this. Thank you for watching. We have a lot more to discuss here on CNN.

Our breaking news is going to continue. Wolf Blitzer is picking it up right now.