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Trump Would Have Power To Block Release Of Dems' Memo; GOP Lawmakers Distance Themselves From Trump On Memo; Democrats Push To Release Rebuttal Of GOP Memo; Representative Schiff: Relevant To Alert Court Of Political Motivation. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired February 5, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: -- in just a few hours, the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are expected to vote on releasing their own memo. A counterpunch to the one that was released Friday by their Republican counterparts.
Now President Trump says the GOP memo, which claims Justice Department abuses in the Russia investigation, vindicates him. And it is the president himself who would decide if the Democrats' rebuttal can be made public.
This morning, a possible hint as the president launches a fresh attack on the panel's ranking Democrat, "Little Adam Schiff who is desperate to run for higher office is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper. Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information, must be stopped."
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill. Sunlen, this tweet coming just hours before the House Intel Committee meets. What are you hearing?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They will meet at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight, Brianna, but this certainly sets the stage, this kind of Twitter back and forth between President Trump and Adam Schiff, potentially a dramatic closed-door committee hearing tonight.
We did see President Trump tweet that out. Adam Schiff this morning, the Congressman really hitting right back, essentially mocking President Trump's Twitter habits, mocking his tv watching habits.
Schiff writing on Twitter, quote, "Mr. President, I see you've had a busy morning of executive time instead of tweeting false smears. The American people would appreciate it if you turned off the tv and helped solve the funding crisis, protect the DREAMers or really anything else."
Now, we haven't heard on Twitter from President Trump responding to that tweet, but in essence he took a jab at Congressman Schiff by praising his Republican counterpart, Devin Nunes on the committee shortly thereafter, calling Devin Nunes on Twitter an American hero, someone with great courage.
Now, the committee will meet tonight at 5:00 p.m., then we believe that they will vote if this Democratic memo will be released. That will be sent if it gets out of committee, to President Trump, he's the one that will decide whether to approve it or block it from going forward -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Sunlen Serfaty on the Hill. Let's head now to the White House, which is ultimately the court that this ball is going to be in. That is where we find CNN's Kaitlan Collins.
So, that's the question you heard Sunlen lay it out there, Kaitlan, it will be up to the president, up to the White House to approve the release of this Democratic memo, if it gets the votes that it needs today out of this committee. Will he go for it?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, that's the big question around here, today, Brianna, will the president give the Democratic memo the same treatment that he did with the Republican memo.
And a White House official told my colleague, Jeff Zeleny, not too- long ago that if they do decide to declassify that memo and it is sent over here to the White House for the president's final decision, that it, quote, "will be evaluated."
But this person added that it would be a mistake to presume either way what is going to happen with this memo because the president wants to see it, the White House lawyers will have to see it.
And Brianna, that's an interesting note because the president was caught on a microphone after the state of the union address last Tuesday, before he even read the Republican memo saying that he would, quote, "100 percent release it."
So, certainly interesting to see if the president gives this the same due they did the Republican memo, which they said they released in the name of transparency.
KEILAR: And it was interesting because the president said over the weekend that this memo, the Nunes memo, vindicated him, but Republican lawmakers are saying otherwise, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Yes, they certainly are. The president said it was insisting actually that this memo vindicated him from the Russia investigation, repeating that there is no collusion and no obstruction. But that certainly wasn't the message we were hearing from some members of his own party on Capitol Hill, who had a very different message than the president's.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower. The dossier has nothing to do with an e-mail sent by Cambridge Analytica, the dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopoulos' meeting in Great Britain. It also doesn't have anything to do with obstruction of justice. There is going to be a Russia probe even without a dossier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So, quite a stunning statement there from Trey Gowdy, who I should note helped write that Republican memo, making a very clear difference between the Russia investigation and the release of the memo, two things that the president has certainly pulled together here, Brianna.
And the president is scheduled to depart here, the White House, in the next hour, to go to Ohio to make some remarks on tax reform, and we'll be waiting to see what he has to say about the dueling memos -- Brianna.
KEILAR: We sure will. Kaitlan Collins for us at the White House, thank you so much.
And let's talk to our panel now, shall we? We have CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston, CNN legal and national security analyst, Asha Rangappa, also a former FBI special agent, and we have Jim Schultz, a CNN legal commentator, former White House lawyer and special former specialist assistant to President Trump and he's joining us, a very happy man from Philadelphia, as you can imagine.
[11:05:09] Jim, thanks for being with us. First question to Mark here, you know, you think of Trey Gowdy and I think for so many people they think this isn't a friend of Democrats, this is a friend of President Trump's.
This is the guy that you associate with all of -- really such a figure head of the Benghazi investigations, plural. He's breaking with the president on this, and take a listen, he's not the only one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never felt of all of the things --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This memo has frankly nothing at all to do with special counsel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is a separate issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The memo isn't about the special counsel's investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you don't agree with President Trump when he says this vindicates him in the entire Russia investigation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't.
GOWDY: There is a Russia investigation without a dossier. The dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Interesting, Mark. I mean, what do you make of this? Is this some Republicans just following what Speaker Ryan said, which was basically trying to keep some of your powder dry here, you know, live to fight another day on this. What do you make of it?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think honestly that they truly believe it. I think that -- some of them, I do think that Trey Gowdy does think that is something nefarious happened after the FBI, whether it did or did not.
But I think it is interesting as you tick through the Republicans right there, who are going out and saying this has nothing to do with the Mueller investigation. This has nothing to do with the investigation into Russia.
This has nothing to do with the meeting in Trump Tower where there was clearly an effort at collusion, you know. This has nothing to do with the fact that George Papadopoulos was he himself acting as a solo actor.
One of those people that you just pointed out there to was Will Hurd, Republican from Texas, a former CIA operative. So, I think that --
KEILAR: Tough district.
PRESTON: And, yes, no doubt he's in a tough district, but I don't think President Trump has everyone behind him in Congress that he thinks he does.
KEILAR: Very interesting. So, Jim, now we're looking at Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. If they are going to be able to convince enough Republicans to vote to release their memo, which is a rebuttal, if that happens, do you -- if it is released, we have heard some Republicans say, yes, this should be released. If it is released, do you think the president would sign off on putting it out there?
JIM SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it sounds like Majority Leader McCarthy is already said he believes it is going to be released, that they're going to have the votes and the Intelligence Committee to release it and have to have the understanding that the Republicans chair the intelligence committee.
KEILAR: But you know -- Jim, you know -- no, you know, no, no, no. Jim, Jim, the White House decides.
SCHULTZ: It will be similar to the process they went through the first time with the Republican memo. They will have go through and make sure it doesn't reveal any sources and methods. They'll have to make sure that it is not going to cause any true national security concerns because the protecting the American people is most important thing. Provided it doesn't do that, yes, I think that the White House will likely let it go because I think they want it out there in the interest of transparency.
KEILAR: Because you think they feel that it is important to make that point, the Democrats get their say? SCHULTZ: I think that, you know, you can have the debate in an open forum once both memos are released and both sides can take it to the American people as to what their arguments are on either side, as to, you know, what really happened here.
What we know is that the -- what we don't know is what was in that FISA application. What we know is that the -- it wasn't released that the DNC and that the -- and that the Clinton campaign paid for that dossier.
Now, some will argue that, you know there was enough information for a judge to draw that conclusion, but to date the Republicans state that they didn't know that.
KEILAR: Asha, our understanding is at least when we hear from Adam Schiff who actually has read the underlying intelligence in the FISA warrant that the court did know that there was a political operator involved and that Christopher Steele who put the dossier together didn't actually know who -- the identity of the political operator. Is that -- is that your understanding? What do you think?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That is my understanding and legally speaking we need to understand how a judge would look at a human source, even one with bias. So, judges assume, I mean, prosecutors get search warrants all the time.
And often they are from tips from informants or sources or from people off the street, for example, and judges assume that sources have biases. They might be trying to get some better deal for themselves, might have it out for somebody else.
[11:10:06] So, they take that into account and what they look at is three things. One, is this the only thing that the prosecutors are basing this on? Two, what is the record that this person has of providing reliable information, and, three, has anything that the source said been corroborated.
So, if any -- you evenly need one of those things, if they are there, and that's present, and the prosecutors even disclose that there was political bias in this source, you know, this is not a strong legal claim for the -- for Devin Nunes to be making, maybe they didn't say it exactly how he wants it, but he can't really micromanage how a judge looks at an application.
KEILAR: Mark, listen to the former White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, he weighed in this weekend. Let's check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I never felt of all of the things that we went through in the west wing, I never felt that the president was going to fire the special counsel. I only know what I dealt with, and I can just tell you I've never felt that there was some sort of collusion or some kind of obstruction situation going on in the west wing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: It is so interesting to hear from Reince Priebus because we haven't. So, we know that he's already talked to the Mueller investigation, right. You see him doing what is very -- a high profile interview. What do you -- what is the calculus?
PRESTON: Risky thing, mind you, right, to go out there and subject yourself to Chuck Todd and basically to be grilled on these questions. Clearly, his lawyers said it was OK for him to do that. Reince is somebody who I've known for a very long time and not somebody to go out there and take risks.
I think what is interesting is what he said, I never felt, I never felt, that was an emotion that he's talking about. So, that allows him to go out and answer the question as truthfully as you think he can truthfully answer, but at the same time, perhaps he never felt that any of these firings were going to occur.
KEILAR: Jim, what do you think when you saw Reince's interview?
SCHULTZ: I think the same thing. I think Reince was being forth right and honest. That he didn't feel that the special counsel was in any jeopardy of being fired. And I don't think the White House has put out anything to date that would suggest that either Rob Rosenstein or Bob Mueller are in jeopardy.
PRESTON: Well, what I would just say to that is -- and we're in agreement on the Reince thing, is that we have seen comments made by the president about individuals that would lead you to believe that, in fact, that he's thinking of firing him.
KEILAR: We have seen that --
SCHULTZ: We'll crawl into the brain of the president. The White House has been pretty clear that -- in its public statement as to where they stand on both of those individuals.
KEILAR: All right. Gentlemen, we'll agree to disagree. Asha Rangappa, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. Jim Schultz and Mark Preston as always.
And still ahead, we're keeping an eye on the markets, the Dow Jones is recovering after opening down triple digits. We'll dig into what is behind the roller coaster morning on Wall Street.
Plus, a deadline to keep the government open and the deadlock on immigration. This is a familiar script, right? The Democrats and Republicans in Congress may have an opening for compromise.
KEILAR: Well, Republicans clamoring for more transparency in the Russia investigation release the controversial Devin Nunes memo. Now Democrats could get their chance. This afternoon the House Intelligence Committee is expected to vote on releasing a second memo, drafted by Democrats.
They say it contradicts some of Nunes's claims of surveillance abuse by the FBI and the Justice Department. And joining me now, we have Republican Congressman from Virginia, Tom Garrett with us, a member of the Homeland Security and the Foreign Affairs Committees. Sir, thank you so much for being with us.
REPRESENTATIVE TOM GARRETT JR. (R), VIRGINIA: Thank you for having us.
KEILAR: So, we heard Trey Gowdy saying directly that there is a Russia investigation without a dossier. The president says this memo totally vindicates Trump in probe. Where are you on this? What do you think?
GARRETT: I think the truth lies somewhere in between. If there were a vin diagram of dossier and Russia investigation, there would be overlap to be sure. I think that the president is somewhat ham handed at times in how he phrases things.
I think there is certainly overlap. I think Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington, said the other day that the FISA warrant relied only a tiny bit were his words, a little bit on the dossier, which would admit it relied some on the dossier. There is some overlap, but I don't think there are entirely identical in nature.
KEILAR: Also, on what the court was told about the dossier and where it came from. Listen to the top Democrat on house intel Adam Schiff, he has seen this FISA application, that's important to note, because a lot of people have not. He's also seen the underlying intelligence related to the memo and he says that the FISA court was told that Christopher Steele was paid by a political operative.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It is relevant information to alert the FISA court, is there political motivation, political actor involved? And the court was notified political actor was involved. And that's part of the misleading nature of the FISA application.
In terms of the identity of the political actor, the most important information for the court is what did Christopher Steele know, and Glenn Simpson has testified that Christopher Steele was not told the identity of the lawyer or the party behind the lawyer, that's the most important information evaluating Christopher Steele's bias.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: I found that fascinating to hear him say that, Congressman. Does that undercut to you the Republican argument that the dossier was biased, and the court was uninformed? Because the investigator was operating in the blind and the court, according to Schiff, was told here.
[11:20:07] GARRETT: Based on information I can't get into I don't believe it. I have respect for Adam Schiff. I'll tell you this --
KEILAR: Is he lying? Is he lying about what's in the FISA warrant?
GARRETT: I think they should release the affidavit undergirding the FISA warrant.
KEILAR: But it is important to know if he's being inaccurate. So, you're saying he's not being truthful.
GARRETT: Release the affidavit underlying the FISA warrant. But imagine that there was a political -- partly political funded investigation into President Obama's place of birth, right. This Russia investigation is essentially birtherism, and so imagine there was a politically partially funded investigation of President Obama's place of birth where the levers of power of the federal government --
KEILAR: Do you think Russia didn't meddle? Is that why you mean it's birtherism?
GARRETT: Russia has meddled in every single election since 1919, we know that. The "L.A. Times" reports of 84 elections the United States has meddled in. The question is what the American government does to its own people against the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be processed.
Release the affidavit undergirding the FISA warrant, that will clear this up real quickly, and then we need to know about other instances saying the IRS scandal where the federal government has been aimed and fired at U.S. citizens.
That's the nature of what's going on here. Watergate was a bunch of political hacks. These are employees that the federal government, and so what is at stake here isn't Republican or Democrat, it is about who we are as a country.
Do we have a right to privacy? Do we expect due process? And so, again, I take off my partisan hat and say I want to live in an America where the Bill of Rights means something, and so I think releasing the affidavit that undergirds the FISA warrant is the answer to the question.
KEILAR: I know what you're saying, you're saying classified information, you can't say what it is unless it is out there. Do you think that the wool was pulled over the eyes of the FISA court?
GARRETT: That's my fear. And I have read the Democrat memo, and candidly I would submit that without redaction, without discussing the contents of that memo, without redaction it can't be released.
And sort of I wonder if they drafted a memo that would be difficult to release so they can claim their memo wasn't released. I support releasing the Democrat memo with appropriate redaction to protect sources and methods and the affidavit undergirding the FISA warrant and support getting to the bottom of the federal government being weaponized against the very citizens it was elected and appointed to serve. That's the scariest story here. Again, imagine if political money, $9 million for the Clinton campaign and DNC to Fusion GPS were levied to do an investigation against President Obama as to his origin of birth. That would be ridiculous and un-American, and this is too.
KEILAR: Why do you equate the two? I mean, the president -- if I may, President Obama was born in the United States. And when you look at this investigation, one, Russia colluded -- not colluded, Russia meddled in the election.
And then there were some contacts between either associates or members of the Trump campaign with kremlin-backed Russians, whether there was -- excuse me -- whether there was some sort of nefarious intent, whether there was some sort of obstruction of justice that percolated out of this, that is what Mueller is trying to investigate.
But I guess I don't understand why you're equating birtherism, which, by the way, was really spearheaded by President Trump, with this Russia investigation that is spearheaded right now by Robert Mueller.
GARRETT: Let's talk about the contacts with Russians, OK, because you don't get to pick the people with whom you're going to interact.
KEILAR: You get to decide who comes into Trump Tower, Congressman.
GARRETT: Let me finish. Sessions had contact with Russians at the Republican National Convention, those very Russians were approved to be there by the Obama administration, and now somehow Sessions is a bad guy.
Carter Page engages in business activity abroad, and now somehow Carter Page has done something wrong. There are Russians in this world. Some of them are good. Some of them are bad. That's for sure like any nation.
And so, any attenuated contact becomes a smoking gun, that's ridiculous. The crazy people who made aspersions against President Obama didn't have the way to the federal government being brought to sort of flesh out those aspersions.
Listen, Delaware B. Frank says that if you don't have duty -- if you don't exercise candor with the court, nothing you use --
KEILAR: I've read Frank B. Delaware and what Adam Schiff says blows a giant hole in the middle of that and you --
GARRETT: So, release the affidavit. We'll see. I'm confident that Adam Schiff is being less than forthright, release the affidavit and we'll know who is telling the truth.
KEILAR: I will add that you said you can't know who you have contact with. You do get to decide who you invite to Trump Tower for a meeting is one example --
GARRETT: Donald Trump didn't invite anybody into Trump Tower, right?
KEILAR: I'm talking about his son. I'm talking about Paul Manafort, the head of the campaign.
GARRETT: Right. Manafort has been -- Manafort has been indicted for completely unrelated offenses involving his taxes, right?
[11:25:09] Which you would agree as a civil libertarian, I think, that if the due process wasn't there, the evidence would be inadmissible, right? I was (inaudible) for nine years, I would rather let a guilty person go than convict an innocent person.
That's why we have safeguards, that's what's in jeopardy. This isn't a Democrat or Republican issue. This is the sanctity of our rights as an American citizen issue.
KEILAR: All right. I'm going to have to leave it there for time unfortunately. But Congressman Garrett, we really appreciate you being with us, thank you.
GARRETT: It was a real pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity. Have a great day.
KEILAR: You too as well.
Now still ahead, a short time ago, former USA Gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison for decades for sexually abusing young girls in his care. Hear what he said in the courtroom next.
KEILAR: Well, we have been keeping a close eye on the Dow this morning. It seems to be bouncing back after an ugly 355-point drop this morning and today's wild ride is coming after a brutal Friday when the market suffered its steepest point drop since --