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Report: Trump In UK; Sparks Fly at Grilling of FBI Agent in Congress; Strzok Says Disgusting Behavior of Trump Prompted Texts; FBI Agent Says Today's Hearing Is Another Notch for Putin. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 12, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. Thank you for being with us, I am Ana Cabrera in for Brooke Baldwin. And also, with us John Berman in London for CNN special live coverage of President Trump's first official visit to the United Kingdom. John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, the president is here at the United Kingdom. He's on his way to Blenheim Palace which is not in London. It is about two hours away from here, he'll attend a special black-tie dinner at the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. He'll be greeted there by the British Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband. there will be dignitaries, all sorts of pomp and circumstance, special music. In a sense this will be the most glamorous moment of his visit here. But beyond the pomp and circumstance there is also controversy. We have seen examples of it even so far, protests near where the president is staying at the ambassador's residence north of here in a different part of London.

Protests near Blenheim Palace with the president is today. He's been with Theresa May over the last two days at this NATO meeting in Brussels where the president stirred up a great deal controversy leaning on America's NATO allies to spend more in their own defense. The president claims he secured promises to do that and although other NATO leaders say no, we'll continue to promise what we promised for the last three years.

Tomorrow the president has another official meeting with the prime minister and then tea with the queen at Windsor Castle. You know the president has been looking forward to this and also looking forward to the more formal things again. You're looking at live pictures from Blenheim Palace right there where the president will be about half an hour. We'll bring you that event live including all the glamour. Ana.

CABRERA: Looks like a bloomer day in England. John Berman, we'll talk to you soon. Now turn to the fireworks on Capitol Hill testified publicly for the first time former FBI agent Peter Strzok is back in the hot seat where lawmakers on the House judiciary and oversight committees have been grilling him about those anti-Trump text messages he exchanged with an FBI lawyer during the 2016 campaign. Now before the recess we heard explosive criticism and interrogation from Republicans and a scalding defense from Strzok. It speaks of a deep divide in Congress right now over the integrity of the Russia investigation. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TREY GOWDY, (R), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Your testimony is Bob Mueller did not kick you off because of the content of your text, he kicked you off because of some appearance he was worried about.

PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT WHO SENT ANTI-TRUMP E-MAIL: My testimony of what you asked, and I responded to, he kicked me off because of my bias. I am stating to you it is not my understanding that he kicked me off because of any bias. That it was done based on the appearance. If you want to represent what you said accurately, I am happy to answer that question. I don't appreciate what was originally set being changed.

GOWDY: I don't give a damn what you appreciate, agent Strzok, I don't appreciate having an FBI agent with an unprecedented level of animus working on two major investigations during 2016.

STRZOK: I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, at no time in any of these texts did those personal believes ever enter into the realm of any action I took. Furthermore, this is not just me sitting here telling you don't have to take my word for it, at every step and every investigation, there are multiple layers of people above me and the assistant director and deputy director and director of the FBI and multiple layers below me, section chiefs, supervisors, unit chiefs and case agents and analysts, all of whom were involved in all of these decisions.

They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me anymore than I would tolerate in them. That's who we are as the FBI. The suggestion that I and some dark chambers somewhere in the FBI would cast aside all of these procedures and safe guards and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me. It simply could not happen. The proposition that's going on and it may occur anywhere in the FBI deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission, and it is deeply destructive.


CABRERA: You can feel the heat from here. Joining us now, CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, has been following this hearing closely. Manu, what's your big take away from all the testimonies that we have heard so far?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is one of the most contentious hearing that I have ever covered in Capitol Hill. Both sides going after each other in unusually stark and personal terms. At times disrupting the flow of this hearing because of questions that each side's views are out of order. Democrats pushing back of what they believe is Republicans over reach. One key aspect of this hearing, Peter Strzok's unwillingness on behalf of the FBI to answer questions about issues involving the Russia investigation.

[14:05:00] He said he was instructed by the FBI attorney not to answer certain questions of an ongoing investigation and that prompted a furious response from Republicans on this committee and the Republican chairman threatening to hold Peter Strzok in contempt for not answering questions. He's been told by the FBI to do so and raising their own questions about why Republicans did not hold others in contempt for not answering questions during other investigations like Steve Bannon when he testified before the house intelligence committee about Russia and would not answer a wide range of questions.

That all devolving at the onset of the hearing into what has become an incredibly partisan affair all the while Peter Strzok pushing back and making a bit of news in explaining one key text that had gotten a lot of scrutiny, saying quote, "we'll stop it" in August 2016 when he was trading text messages that FBI attorney Lisa Page, referring to stopping Trump from becoming president. He explained for the first time he was not referring to himself, he was referring to in his view the American public for pushing back of what they believe at what he believes quote, "disgusting behavior" in reference the president's criticism, then candidate Trump's criticizes the gold star family, Khan family back in 2016.

He said the American public he believed were not put up with that. That was the context of the texts that he said saying quote, "we'll stop it." The Republicans believe this showed he was simply biased and not stop President Trump from becoming President Trump. Never look the less it is clear minds have not been changed in this extraordinarily contentious hearing and we expect this to go on for several more hours through the course of the day and potentially into the evening too.

CABRERA: And we are continuing to look at the live image. We see Strzok has retaken a seat after that recess. We expect the hearing to continue any moment now of course, we'll go there immediately as soon as it starts back up. But while I have you, Manu, since you have been watching closely, may I remind that he has already testified with many of these members of Congress previously. He was in the hot seat for 11 hours behind closed doors. Presumably, they asked some of these same questions. Is today really just about the show?

RAJU: Exactly, got a lot of questions behind closed doors. These are about show and Republicans trying to make a case that they believe this investigation was biased because of Peter Strzok. There was no evidence of anyone's individual bias affected the outcome of their decision to exonerate Hillary Clinton. Never the less, Republicans want to make a public show of these text messages and expect tomorrow too behind closed doors of Lisa Page who he was exchanging all these messages, she's going to meet behind closed doors about those messages as well. She can come before a public setting as well. This is not ending any time soon. Republicans definitely want to make the case. We are learning new details right before the break.

Peter Strzok talked to Jackson Lee. We are learning more about that as well. Some individual nuggets of information are coming out, explanation of some of these texts but overall what's dominating this day long hearings so far of both sides accusing each other turning a blind eye to the truth and Democrats believe a part of an effort to kneecap the Mueller's investigation. CABRERA: Manu, we did hear him asking several questions, some of the

names and people continue to ask questions and it goes back and forth quite frequently. He was asked questions of biased text messages and what roles those had in his removal from the Mueller investigation. Did we learn anymore about what Mueller told him when he was removed from the investigation?

[14:10:00] I am sorry, hold your thought, they're starting up. Let's listen in.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R), CALIFORNIA: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Strzok. You were apart of the Hillary Clinton's e-mail investigation, is that correct?


ISSA: In that investigation, you were part of the decision for her to and her lawyers to go through e-mails that were produced during -- exclusively used during her time as secretary, go through and determine which ones were government and which ones were not. Both classified and unclassified. Is that correct?

STRZOK: I was not.

ISSA: You are not involved at all.

Strzok: That's correct.

ISSA: But you are aware of it?

STRZOK: I was aware how they did it.

ISSA: You think it was OK for Secretary Clinton to determine what could or could not qualify for her to turn under the federal records act?

STRZOK: I can't speak to that. That was the decision my understanding between her and her attorneys.

ISSA: But you're aware that in her production she failed to deliver some items that have been ruled as classified, correct?

STRZOK: I am aware that we recovered information that was not in the materials that she turned over. I don't know if it was her failure or the failure of the attorneys conducting that sort or simply because she does not have it. I don't know the answer to that question.

ISSA: I bring up something that came up in the previous rounds. So far only you have determined what should be turned over from your private e-mail that or your non-government e-mails and texts of what should be delivered because of government nature. You made that decision.

STRZOK: That's right.

ISSA: It is your decision that nobody else in the way of a government entity should be able to look over your shoulder and make that decision.

STRZOK: That's right.

ISSA: So, you think it is OK for the target and you are a target of an investigation to determine what should be delivered rather than if you will the government, right?

STRZOK: Sir, I am not aware of any investigation which I am a target.

ISSA: Well, you are a target of our investigation. We think you had a bias and you acted on it. That's pretty clear. So, I am going to ask a series of questions if I could. You did a number of texts and all of the texts presented to us came from your government phone, correct?

STRZOK: I believe that's the case, yes.

ISSA: You made no texts available from your private phone, correct?

STRZOK: That's correct.

ISSA: Did you ever text on your private phone?

STRZOK: Yes. I did.

ISSA: Did you ever text Lisa Page on your private phone?

STRZOK: I did.

ISSA: Did you text similar texts to the ones you did on your government phone?

STRZOK: By similar you mean what?

ISSA: Commenting on Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton or anything else politically in nature.

STRZOK: I don't recall but probably safe assumption, yes.

ISSA: Likely it is similar.

STRZOK: It is the safest assumption.

ISSA: Your personal phone has likely similar texts to the ones we found on your government phone.

STRZOK: I would have it has similar expression of personal believes.

ISSA: In front of you have one sheet of paper that was presented to you a few minutes ago. I am going to go over the date and ask you to read your own words. March 4th, 2016.

STRZOK: You want me to read this. O-M-G, he's an idiot.

ISSA: May 4th, 2016.

STRZOK: Now the pressure starts to finish MYE.

ISSA: July 19, 2016

STRZOK: Hi, how was Trump other than a dousche? Melania?

ISSA: July 12, 2016.

STRZOK: Trump is a disaster, I have no idea how he destabilizing his presidency would be.

ISSA: August 6th, 2016.

STRZOK: I don't believe I wrote this text.

ISSA: It's been attributed to you, will go on to the next. August 8th, 2016. I will preface for context. Miss Page says not ever going to be president, right, right?

STRZOK: No, he's not, we'll stop it.

ISSA: Repeat that again.

STRZOK: No, he's not, will stop it.

ISSA: August 15th, 2016.

STRZOK: I want to believe the path you through out for consideration in Andy's office that there is no way he gets elected. I am afraid we cannot take that risk. It is like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before your 40.

ISSA: October 20th, 2016.

STRZOK: I can't pull away and I deferred to the chairman.

ISSA: You can use one letter.

STRZOK: What the f -- happened to our country?

[14:15:00] ISSA: Read it again that way.

STRZOK: You just want to hear it for me to repeat it.

ISSA: Please.

STRZOK: OK, sure. I am happy to indulge you. I can't pull away, what the f -- happened to our country.

ISSA: Why in the world do you believe this committee should not ask for the record of similar texts from your private account to find out what else you may have said about insurance policies or about the president of the United States or investigation. That's a rhetorical question, you need not answer and I yield back.

STRZOK: Mr. Chairman, may I answer?

GOWDY: You may respond briefly even though he said it is a rhetorical question.

STRZOK: Congressman, I think what is critical and I am glad you brought up a lot of these. Because I would like to make the point --

ISSA: I didn't bring them up. I just asked you to read your own words.

STRZOK: If I may, what is important is that these texts represent personal believes just like those you would find on my personal phone. What these texts do not represent is any act or suggestion of an act or consideration that we need to do this or not do this. And, furthermore I would encourage that I forget who I said this to earlier this morning, you need to read these texts in the context of what was going on at the time. When I make the comment of Trump having no idea how to stabilize his presidency, that came on the heels of the speech where candidate Trump said he did not know whether or not the United States should honor its commitment to mutual defense of NATO.

ISSA: I appreciate that. Mr. Chairman --

GOWDY: No, no. Everyone will suspend, I told the gentleman he could answer briefly he has answered briefly.

STRZOK: He has not finished.

GOWDY: We'll now turn to the woman from Washington, DC for her questions.

DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Thank you there chairman. In order to allow this witness to continue. Let me ask questions. Mr. Strzok, you are a senior, or were a senior and experienced FBI staff person, is that not right?

STRZOK: Yes, I would consider myself a senior and experienced FBI staff person, yes.

NORTON: You have been involved in the Mueller investigation of the last election involving Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the highest level. Is that not the case?

STRZOK: If you mean by the highest level that I had interactions with those cases with the director and deputy director and senior staff of the Department of Justice, yes.

NORTON: That's what I mean. We have been reading from your personal phone and your official phone. Did it occur to you that your personal political messages if they became public may be misinterpreted in light of your role in the investigation?

STRZOK: To be honest, I did not anticipate that because I never thought these texts would become public.

NORTON: Some of them were not on your personal phone.

STRZOK: Correct. Yes. That's correct. NORTON: So, everything that is on your official phone beings to the

public. I want to establish that this confusion between your public and private phone is apart of our problem here today. I want to know for the record that President Trump is on his way to a controversial meeting with Vladimir Putin, let me ask you sir about an undisputed finding of the intelligence committee and by that, I mean the CIA and the NSA and the FBI, these people do not usually speak in such absolute terms.

Hear them. We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered and influenced campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference of president-elect Trump.

[14:20:00] We have a high confidence in these judgments, are these conclusions familiar to you, sir?

STRZOK: They are.

NORTON: Are you aware of any finding that undermines these conclusions under the three intelligence committees?

STRZOK: I am not.

NORTON: The senate committee on the other side of the capital, under the leadership of a Republican chairman, Richard Burr, and not split in the way our own intelligence committee here in the house has made a bipartisan finding affirming the intelligence committee's assessments.

I want to quote briefly from them that the three committees, the intelligence commission assessment is a quote, "sound and intelligence product." Let me indicate something I have not known before preparing for this hearing. They're not only cited the unusual context here in the United States, they quoted public Russian leadership commentary, Russian media reports, all aligned with the body of our intelligence reporting.

Were you aware of the confluence of what the Russians were saying and our own intelligence sources were saying?

STRZOK: I believe I understand your question to be between the intelligence community sources and open source reporting including those from Russia, yes, I was aware of all those things coming together at the same time.

NORTON: Do you have any reason to believe that the senate intelligence committee or the NSA or the CIA or the FBI or the office of division of intelligence are on some kind of an effort to discredit Donald Trump?

STRZOK: No, not at all.

NORTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

GOWDY: Gentle lady from the District of Columbia yields back to the gentleman from Ohio to recognize.

REP. STEVE CHABOT, (R) OHIO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Strzok, you were involved in investigating both the matter of Hillary Clinton's private emails server and the so-called Russian collusion matter. Is that correct?

STRZOK: That's correct.

CHABOT: Miss Page was also involved in both of those.

STRZOK: She was not a member of the investigation team for either. She was a senior staff member for Mr. McCabe who I believe began --

CHABOT: And you would agree would you not that both investigations were supposed to be fair and unbiassed?

STRZOK: Yes, and that they were.

CHABOT: Yet, you were both rooting for Hillary Clinton to win and you detested Donald Trump, did you not?

STRZOK: I think that's fair to say.

CHABOT: And fact as we have learned you found Donald Trump supporters to testable too like those around Loudoun, Virginia, we heard who you called ignorant and -- I am not going to say that here. And you visited a southern Walmart and you could smell Trump's supporters. When I read of what you said about Trump's supporters, it reminded me of something Hillary Clinton have said about Trump supporters. What did she call them? Deplorable deplorables? I would submit that it was your and Hillary Clinton's smug view of Donald Trump supporters that was truly deplorable. Don't you think the American people paying for your salary and paying for an unbiassed investigation by none other than the FBI deserve a whole lot better than what those comments I just referred to reflect?

STRZOK: Congressman, two things, one, I regret the appearance of those texts which I would have said or phrased or not said at all of some of the things I did. Two, I disagree completely with your attribution of my views of Trump's supporters. I never said that. I express no such things. There are millions and millions and millions --

[14:25:00] CHABOT: OK. You told Miss Page and I will quote here, "I loath Congress and she agreed." you are in good company there and I saw a while back of Congress found this less popular than root canals and colon colonoscopy and although we did beat out playground bullies and the Ebola Virus. This is not about us. It is about you and whether or not the American people can have the confidence and the investigation that you were involved in and whether you were fair and unbiassed when you investigated both Clinton and Donald Trump. Would you agree with that?

STRZOK: I appreciate that concern very much. I have the utmost respect for Congress and its role of oversight and passing laws of any of the functions. What I was stating in that comment was the effort for some to unwarranted --

CHABOT: There is a lot of us that don't like Congress and the vast majority would agree you on that. Mr. Strzok, you were removed from the investigation, right?


CHABOT: But for the most part all of the others that were there are still there. Correct?

STRZOK: I can't speak to the current staffing and personnel --

CHABOT: Let me tell you who they are. Greg Andrus who gave $1000 to the Democrat running to hold the Senate seat previously held by Barack Obama. $2,600 to Democratic leader Senator Gillibrand and zero to the Trump campaign. He's still there. And Rush Atkinson who donated to the Clinton campaign. Zero to the Trump campaign. He's still there.

And Kaley Freeny who contributed to both the Obama presidential campaigns and Hillary Clinton's campaign and zero to Trump's campaign. Still there. And Andrew Goldstein who donated $3,300 to both Obama campaigns and zero to the Trump campaign, still there. And Elizabeth Freelager who by the way clerked

for liberal Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, and contribute to both the Obama and Clinton campaigns, and zero to the Trump campaign. Still there.

And James Quarrels who contributed to the Democratic presidential campaigns of Dukakis and Gore and Kerry and Obama and Hillary Clinton. Now he did contribute to former Congressman Allen, but he contributed 20,000 to the Democratic and Senate campaign committees and zero to the Trump campaigns.

I can go on but I am just about to run out of time. Suffice to say what nine of the 16 investigators still on the case gave to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or to both and none gave to Trump. Shouldn't such a wide disparity in political support of one party over the other give the American people concern that even though you are off the Mueller team that the fairness and lack of bias that President Trump deserves and the American people to serve just might be lacking here.

GOWDY: The gentleman is out of time, but you may answer your question.

STRZOK: Sir, what I tell you is this and what I would tell your constituents is this. I have no idea of what contributions were made by anybody. What I can tell you and what I would ask you to relay to your constituents is that the men and women that I saw, the attorneys and agents and analysts were the most remarkable, bright patriotic, hardworking people that I ever had the honor to work with. I want you to know whether people leaving here believe me or not. I was absolutely and remained convinced that the people that make up the office of special counsel are the best of America. I have complete faith that they'll arrive at the truth and they'll do that well.

GOWDY: Gentleman from Ohio yields back and the gentleman of Tennessee.

REP. STEVE COHEN, (D), TENNESSEE: Thank you, Mr. Chair. If I can give you a purple heart, I would. You deserve one. This is an attack on you and Mr. Mueller of the investigation that's to get Russia of collusion involved in our election. Which is what this committee should be looking at. A direct strike of democracy and what this country is about and free and fair elections keeping us independent of who was our foe and not our competitor. Our foe.

I just returned from the OSCE in Berlin and there is little question among our allies and people and diplomats throughout Europe that Russia is an antagonistic country that is trying reek havoc in the Baltics, and the Balkans as well, they try to use assassination to try to influence elections in Montenegro.

[14:30:00] What they have done in Ukraine, with Crimea, what they've done in Georgia, what they have done in Moldova. They are the bad guys. You dedicated most of your life to working in counter intelligence. One of your big cases was Donald Heathfield and Tracy Ann Foley. Is that correct?

STRZOK: Yes, sir.

COHEN: How many Russian folks did you expose and bring to justice?

STRZOK: That was a long, large investigation of tremendous number of extraordinary people worked on. I believe 10 roughly Russian illegals that were here. I started out in the early days and honored to start out. That ran a decade.

COHEN: How many Russians were deported for that?

STRZOK: 10 or 11. I am not certain on that number.

COHEN: Pretty good case that you worked on it. Good job. Did you work with Russia primarily when you were in the FBI?

STRZOK: Early on, yes.

COHEN: Are there some things that you can tell us about the Russians that maybe we should know before the president meets with Mr. Putin, his very good friend, a man he cannot say anything bad about.

STRZOK: Sir, I can speak to my experience as a national security professional and the FBI, the Russians are top rate adversary in terms of their foreign intelligence service, in terms of how competently they are able to use their intelligence service to achieve their foreign policy and national security goals, many of which you referenced.