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FBI Agent Calls It Quits Over Attacks Against Bureau; White House Withdrawing Pick For Environmental Post; Eagles Upset Patriots In Super Bowl LII. Aired 12:30-1pm ET

Aired February 5, 2018 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:40] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: A former FBI agent says he's turning in his badge so he can help defend the agency against recent political attacks. Josh Campbell resigned amid agency criticism and fallout over the controversial Nunes memo alleging surveillance abuses by the Intel Community. Campbell says partisan attacks against the FBI erode trust between the public and the agency. Here's what he told CNN.


JOSH CAMPBELL, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: If you asked the men and women of the FBI what the last year and a half has been like, I think to a person, they would say either perplexing, sometimes angering when you see political attacks on the FBI. And I'm not talking about criticism, I want to start make that point clear.

Criticism of the FBI is needed. We have to have oversight. We cannot police ourselves. But what myself and my colleagues have been concerned about are the political attacks. I made the difficult decision to leave a career I love, an organization I still love and will always love, in order to defend it.


BASH: It's worth noting President Trump took aim at the Intelligence Community on Friday, accusing the FBI and Department of Justice of favoring Democrats.

Let's bring in CNN Shimon Prokupecz. And Shimon, you know the culture of the FBI and of agents like Mr. Campbell very well from all of your reporting. What is the context of Campbell resigning? Meaning, how symbolic is his frustration of others who are not going as far as he is in quitting?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. Certainly, there is that issue within the FBI. There are plenty of agents who feel that the constant attacks from the president, from members of Congress have been difficult. It's been a difficult time for them.

You know, I've talked to these folks sometimes on a daily basis who say that it's been a pretty tough time. What's, you know, different about Josh Campbell is that he's only been an agent for 12 years, right. I mean, it sounds like a long time, but FBI agents usually wait 20, 25 years before leaving and their career spans much longer.

But he has a very interesting perspective, and that he was here in Washington, D.C. for some time, he worked directly for the former FBI Director James Comey. All of this he explained in the op-ed that he wrote. And he really has lived through this last year and a half since the firing of Comey, since the president was elected, since these attacks started. And so he felt like enough was enough and that he really wanted to come out and speak and start defending the bureau, the agency that he worked for.

And, you know, he is not alone in this. Privately you talk to people, there is concern for what this means for the future. You know, you don't get FBI agents who spend their entire life trying to become FBI agents leave. So this is very different. He does have a different perspective, but he's not alone in this. I'm not saying this is widespread, but certainly he's not alone in these feelings, Dana.

BASH: Shimon, thank you so much for that reporting.

What do you think of this? And do you think there's any chance that this will have an impact on the broader discussion that even, you know, last Friday, Mike Rogers, who is not only the former House Intel chair but a former FBI agent, was lamenting, saying he almost felt sick to his stomach about the way his former agency was being painted.

JOHN MCCORMACK, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think, you know, this former agent in particular, if you read his New York Times op-ed, entirely (INAUDIBLE) and I think he handled this the way you should. I do think that there is a risk for some people in an effort to defend the bureau. You know, there's actually a guest now. He's CNN -- on the CNN over the weekend, former CIA official who sort of gave us an idea that spread this vague idea that Trump better watch out because, you know, the FBI, they can fight back. And that completely undermines the whole idea that the FBI is there to investigate matters impartially, that they're nonpartisan.

Obviously, the FBI is not beyond reproach. So I think that there are a lot of questions still about how they handled the Hillary Clinton issue, the e-mail issue, and that rhetoric before the election, Democrats for instance and I think Republicans should raise questions about why did they sit on it for a few weeks? Was there a partisan motivation behind that?

But I do think that it does help when people like this former agent come out and sort of give you the straightforward sober-minded in the defense of the agency.

BASH: And this is happening -- you're right, this is happening on the backdrop of us learning more about the reaction inside the FBI when President Trump fired James Comey.

[12:35:02] Remember at the time, the president was convinced we are told from -- certainly from my reporting, I'm sure yours as well, that James Comey was unpopular within the FBI and it would be seen -- it would be greeted with applause. In fact, he was tweeting negative things back in may about James Comey. But now the law affair blog through FOIA request has gotten some of the real primary action inside the FBI among the rank and file, and here's just some examples.

The head of the FBI or a senior person in Detroit, this is realtime. "I have no notification from H.Q. of any such thing Comey being fired." The next, "Unexpected news such as this is hard to understand." That's from Knoxville, Tennessee, an agent there.

"Our mission continues and we'll deal with the unexpected change and eventual transition from Austin, Texas."

So, excuse me, Boston, Massachusetts, thank you. Tell me how you think this is going to affect things, particularly in your daily beat and the White House?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: Well, look, it's easy to look at the Nunes memo and some of the back and forth on the Hill and say, well, this is just business as usual, it's partisanship, it's Republicans going after Democrats and Democrats going after Republicans.

But I think that that overlooks sort of a fundamental turning point you have here where you have the executive branch turning against the executive branch and the same party in Congress giving the president cover to do it. It's really unusual. And without making a huge sweeping generalization, but I'll make it halfway there, for most of, you know, my two-plus decades in journalism, every police officer, prosecutor, law enforcement agent, FBI agent, intelligence operative you ever met tend to be fairly nonpartisan actors. But if you gave them a truth lasso, they lean more Republican than Democratic. So the idea -- this really test a lot of our conventionalism about the law enforcement community and all the norms about the rule of law and the behavior of the balance of power.

BASH: Yes, absolutely. OK, everybody stand by.

Up next, we are going to have a Super Bowl reminder for Super Bowl viewers in Iowa. That happened last night. The caucuses are coming. Yes they are. One potential -- actually one declared presidential candidate used the game to run the very first ad of the 2020 cycle. Stay tuned.


[12:41:55] BASH: It's time now to check some of our other stories on our political radar. The Federal Reserve is now under new leadership. Jerome Powell sworn in to replace Janet Yellen as chair of the Fed. He is expected to continue her policy of gradual interest rate hikes but could face the added challenge of inflation and new volatility we've seen in the stock market.

Super Bowl viewers in Iowa got a 30-second reminder that the caucuses are only two years away. Last night, Democratic Congressman John Delaney of Maryland ran the very first TV ad of the 2020 election cycle. The spot entitled "Dirty Words" plays up one quality.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bipartisanship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bipartisanship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bipartisanship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It might be a dirty word in Washington, but it seems to be awfully refreshing right here in Iowa.


BASH: The commercial ran in four Iowa media markets, and for what it's worth, take a breath, everybody, we are now closer to the 2020 Iowa caucuses than the ones held in 2016.

And the White House will -- has to now find someone else to lead the Council on Environmental Quality,. The White House is withdrawing the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White in the wake of controversial comments that came to light during a CNN investigation. Our KFILE team dug up a radio interview she gave to a conservative media outlet in 2016 during which she offered a very unusual description of global warming.


KATHLEEN HARTNETT WHITE, COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY HEAD NOMINEE: There is a real dark side of the kind of paganism, the secular elites' religion now being evidently global warming.


BASH: And in addition to that, she had a pretty rough confirmation hearing. Manu, you are up on the Hill every day talking to senators about many things, but, you know, including one of their fundamental jobs, which is to confirm the president's nominees, and many of them have had a really rough go of it. It's pretty unusual to see the number of nominees that have been withdrawn. I mean, let's just start with the one that we're talking about now, Kathleen Hartnett White, but that comes after K.T. McFarland from last week. She was nominated to be ambassador to Singapore. She pulled out.

Andy Puzder, labor secretary. Tom Marino, drug czar, Daniel Craig, FEMA deputy administrator, and the list goes on down four, five more.

MANY RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, it is pretty remarkable especially since it's a Republican controlled Senate. But it also underscores that this is a very narrowly divided Senate right now, 51-49. Any defections, two defections are enough right now to sink the nomination for the Council on Environmental Quality nominee. She did not have the votes.

The Republicans were concerned about some of her views, and the question was did they want to try to force a big fight over someone who's not going to get confirmed. I thought it was interesting that K.T. McFarland news from last week. She was someone who's been wrapped up in the Russia investigation given her close ties to Michael Flynn -- BASH: She was deputy national security adviser.

[12:45:04] RAJU: She was deputy national security adviser. And when she testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year, she was asked about conversations that she knew that Flynn had with Sergey Kislyak, the then Russian ambassador. She said she didn't know of any, but it turns out from the Mueller investigation, she did know about some. And that appears to be what imperiled her nomination and she's the second person who's been thwarted by the Mueller investigation, the other being Sam Clovis for the top USDA.

BASH: That's right, that's right. And that's one bucket, maybe a smaller bucket. But Margaret, the bigger bucket seems to be people who weren't ready, weren't vetted, had bad confirmation hearings. What does that tell you, and what are you hearing about the process by which the White House is picking these nominees?

TALEV: Well, you'll recall this is sort of ancient history, but remember when Chris Christie was supposed to be involved in the transition stuff? This was like a year and a half ago.

And then there were changes to who were going to be the folks who actually were deeply involved in the transition? So, this White House kind of, instead of hitting the ground running, hit the ground with a rush of stuff to accomplish and not a lot of time to do it and was sort of plagued in those early months by an unexpected win, some mismanagement and misdirection.

But some of these are really different cases. These are -- in this case, the environmental case, someone with a record that is so on its face challenging of what that role has been in previous administrations. That when you have someone who is in terms of their kind of idealogical background polarizing. Then it just sort of exacerbates if they made some missteps or said some controversial things.

BASH: And look, in many ways this is the classic case of election's some consequences and presidents get to choose who they want. And that is specially true for areas like the environment where the president has a lot of pressure to pick people who are polar opposite from the people we saw in the Obama administration. But then there is the basic fundamental question of ability and whether or not the person is ready for the job, and that's some other questions we've seen.

I just want to --we don't have, really, a comparable list because it just isn't as big, I think, from the Bush and Obama administrations, but just check out the overall number of nominations that we have.

President Bush at this time, in the first year, I should say, 741 nominations, 493 confirmed. Obama 658, 452 confirmed. Trump, 502, 300 confirmed

So, just that number, only 502 confirmed speaks to the fact they are kind of struggling to get their nominations up and running which maybe has hurt a lot of these agencies, but also maybe the struggle to find somebody who fit the job or want the job?

MCCORMACK: I will add to that that Democrats are trying to slow down the rate of confirmations, but I do think that the president has also had a problem. He promised that he'd have the best people put in all these jobs.

But that pool of people has been limited by the fact that many people spoke out strongly against the president during the primaries, during the election. So his best nominees have been the ones from fields where they don't get engage in partisan politics.

James Mattis has been a very successful secretary of defense. His judicial nominees, judges don't get involve in partisan politics. They all kept their mouth shut. But in a number of other fields, you know, foreign policy, diplomacy, you had a lot of the Republican establishment come out strongly against the president. He is now trying to work in a much smaller pool to pick from.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: And in that, I think that it's twofold, right. People won't work for him and he won't take people who have said bad things about him. And because of what you said some of the more outspoken people, particularly from the foreign policy community early on, there were people who were blackballed, who couldn't -- you know, may have been willing to put their concerns aside for country, and the administration said, yes, no thanks.

BASH: And I will just note that this president has what the others didn't, which is the ability to get their nominees -- his nominees through without a filibuster thanks to the Democrats changing those rule when they were in charge.

OK, everybody, standby. At last, the Eagles fans, they get their say. They are the Super Bowl champs. We have a little flashback to Sunday we want to show you right here on Inside Politics. You don't want to miss it. Stay tuned.



[12:53:22] RAJU: This final score is going to be 46-10. This is the same score of Eagles over the Patriots. This is the same score that Bears, my Chicago Bears, the greatest team of all time, 1985 Bears, beat the Patriots in Super Bowl 20. Expect that same margin.


BASH: Now, aside from the fact that is proof that Manu Raju works every single day of the week -- that was yesterday, he did successfully guess the future, there you see him right now, the future of the Super Bowl. The numbers, maybe not so much. We're going to let that slide, Manu.

Score aside, the takeaway is the same. The Philadelphia Eagles are the Super Bowl champions for the first time ever, winning last night in a shoot out 41-33. and for Philadelphia fans, it's a sweet moment. Fifty-two long years in the making for a Patriots fan like the person who is usually in this seat, John King.

It's a very, very long off season of watching Tom Brady try to throw a ball that isn't there over and over and over. That was so weird.


RAJU: I look so much younger in that video from yesterday by the way.

BASH: It's so weird. It is so weird because there's -- by the way, nice Philadelphia green that you're wearing today.

KUCINICH: I mean, if the browns weren't playing, we may as well cheer for the Eagles because they're not the Patriots.

BASH: Because there's a (INAUDIBLE) for everything, flashback, Trump 2013, "Never bet against Bob Kraft, Bill Belichick or Tom Brady." It was true for a long time.

KUCINICH: Until yesterday.

RAJU: Until yesterday.

BASH: Until yesterday. And they're always fun wagers in politics with regard to these big games. And we had one yesterday, or leading up to yesterday.

[12:55:05] Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, Senator Bob Casey who's a Democrat, "And I made a little wager with Patriots fans Senator Warren and Senator Markey. When the Eagles win, they'll owe us some tasty New England brews should the unthinkable happens, we'll owe them some cheesecakes and yardbrews." It looks like they're getting some yummy beer sent their way.


RAJU: I always question though politicians about whether they are actually true sports fans or they actually embraced this moment in order to curry favor with their constituents. I don't know where Toomey is on this but I am skeptical about (INAUDIBLE). Suddenly there are Eagles fans coming out of the (INAUDIBLE).

BASH: Well, there's one person you should not be skeptical of, and that is the former governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell who this morning on a commercial flight led the entire flight on a chant to support and to celebrate his fans. I think we have a quick (INAUDIBLE).


ED RENDELL, FORMER GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA: I think they can hear us back in Philly.

CROWD: E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!


BASH: And yesterday, the person who's normally in this chair was wearing a Patriots jersey, very excited for the game. It didn't go so well. Let's see if, when he returns right back here tomorrow, he's going to be wearing that same jersey.

RAJU: I wonder why he's off today.

BASH: Thank you so much for joining us on Inside Politics. John King is back tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer starts right after a quick break.