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Hill Warns Lawmakers Kremlin Geared Up for 2020 Election Interference; FBI Lawyer Under Investigation for Allegedly Altering Document in 2016 Russia Probe; Tweet from Trump Sets Off Clash with U.S. Navy Over Pardoned Navy SEAL. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired November 22, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: When the administration's former top expert on Russia testified at the impeachment inquiry, she also warned lawmakers the Kremlin is geared up to interfere with the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Fiona Hill also rejected a big GOP conspiracy theory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIONA HILL, FORMER TOP RUSSIA EXPERT: Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country, and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did.
This is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian services themselves.
The informative truth is Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institution in 2016. This is public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan congressional reports. It is beyond dispute even if some of the underlying details must remain classified.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Former CIA operative and CNN security and intelligence analyst, Robert Baer, is here with us.
Bob, I want you to listen to what Russian President Putin said about election interference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): Thank god nobody is accusing us anymore of interfering in the election of the United States. Now they're accusing Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: We saw the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, reject Fiona Hill's testimony saying he thinks Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. How is it that the Republicans are giving life to this pro-Russia talking point?
BOB BAER, CNN SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Brianna, they're playing right into the active measures campaign of the KGB. This is Putin's campaign. This is exactly what he wanted.
He wanted the hard right in this country to believe this fiction that the Ukraine had something to do with the hacking. There's not a single piece of evidence. And the forensics that the Russians did is perfect. It's 100 percent right.
So these conspiracy theories are exactly what the Russians want us to start trading in. And Fiona is right, 2020 we're going to see the Russians all over this election, I guarantee you.
KEILAR: So what are you expecting? What are you expecting Russia is going to try to do, what they're going to try to build on from 2016? Maybe what could be new?
BAER: Well, they'll be hacking again, you can count on that, and they'll be using hard right outlets like "Breitbart" and even Facebook to put this disinformation out. And there's a segment of the American population that's going to believe this stuff.
The whole plan here is to undermine legitimacy of our political institutions, democracy. And they're going to look at whoever is elected is either just an illegitimate president. And they even -- they want people to know that they supported Trump in 2016. And after 2020, they won't mind at all when it gets out and it's going to fritter away at our institutions.
KEILAR: And yet you would think it would be, as we're seeing more efforts and we hear from the Intelligence Community that there are new efforts by Russia underway that this would undercut some of the Russian talking points the Republicans have taken up, that Ukraine is behind the 2016. But that's not necessarily the case.
BAER: It's not the case that -- the Intelligence Community deals in fact, but the facts are not getting over to the hard right in Congress. They have a political agenda. They're trying to undermine the press. They're trying to undermine the CIA and the FBI to the benefit of Russia. There's no question about it.
Miss Hill was absolutely right, this benefits Russia. And, frankly, I never thought the Russians would ever get this far doing in our political system. It's quite amazing.
KEILAR: How done in do you think it is?
BAER: The way this country is divided -- I mean, there's all sorts of people that believe in these conspiracies. I don't know what to say to them. I just stopped talking to them. These are ex-colleagues. And I said you're not dealing in fact. This
isn't politics. We're talking about fact. And they are not dealing in it.
It's sort of a war on reality, which the Russians know how to play. Stalin did it. Putin is doing it right now and he's won.
KEILAR: Bob Baer, thank you.
BAER: Thank you.
Still ahead, a former FBI lawyer is under investigation after allegedly altering a document in the 2016 Russia probe.
And why a tweet from President Trump has set up a clash with the U.S. Navy.
KEILAR: We're following this developing story. Sources telling CNN that a former FBI lawyer is under a criminal investigation for allegedly altering a document related to the 2016 Russia probe. This is part of a Justice Department investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation.
And we have CNN's Evan Perez with us now. He broke this story.
So this comes from the inspector general for the Justice Department, right? He found that allegedly this document was altered, though it did not affect the legality of the Russia probe. But this -- I mean, it's pretty stunning and it certainly opens a can of worms and is wrong.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. And look, if there was one FISA application that needed to be perfect, it was this one.
And by all accounts, there were a lot of mistakes made, including this former lawyer that is no longer with the FBI, who was part of an effort to put together the application, right, for Carter Page, the former Trump campaign aide.
In so doing, apparently altered some documents, or at least one document which made its way as part of the process.
That's what Michael Horowitz, the inspector general, found. He referred it to John Durham, who is a prosecutor doing a criminal prosecution.
John Durham has been appointed by Bill Barr to take a second look at what happened in 2016 of not only the FBI, CIA, and other agencies. But this is a big deal for the very reason you're talking about. It's the investigation that looks into what the Russians and the Trump campaign were involved in, in 2016.
There's a lot of scrutiny on this because the president has been essentially waiting for this report, saying it's going to show that he was illegally spied upon.
KEILAR: It's certainly a good data point for him.
And Greg Brower back with us now.
You are former director of congressional affairs for the FBI. What do you think of this, that there's this allegedly doctored document as part of this FISA application?
GREG BROWER, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL DIRECTOR OF CONGRESSIONAL AFFAIRS FOR THE FBI: It's hard to square with the FBI. And I think someone else at the FBI would have the same reaction.
KEILAR: How to square how? That someone would do this?
BROWER: Exactly. Things like this simply don't happen. For the reasons that are easy to understand.
We haven't seen the report yet. But assuming the report is correct and this happened, it seems like it's an isolated and inconsequential incident, whereby, clearly based on reporting, would be misconduct, should not have been done. I can't wait to read the report to find out what the details of the finding of this I.G. are.
But the reporting suggests the I.G. didn't think whatever this person did affected the validity of the Page FISA. We don't know, for example if it misconducted was related to the original FISA application or the subsequent renewals. That could make a difference.
BROWER: It is. If it didn't interrupt the original FISA application, I would say it's irrelevant.
But if it did happen, it should be dealt with. It appears it was and resulted in the person being terminated from the FBI, but we need to know details.
KEILAR: We don't know the change that was made.
PEREZ: Right, we don't know the change.
And stepping back, the question that the inspector general is going to try to answer is whether or not the FBI had reason to open this investigation of the Crossfire Hurricane that basically looks at what the FBI was doing investigating Russia meddling and the connections with the Trump campaign.
According to everything we've seen and heard from people who have gone in for this report, it shows that this was a predicated, a legally predicated investigation, that it had to be done by the FBI.
KEILAR: Crossfire Hurricane. Yes.
All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much.
PEREZ: thank you.
KEILAR: Greg Brower, really appreciate your insight here.
Despite a warning from President Trump, the Navy is moving on with a review that could oust Gallagher from the Navy SEALs.
And Shep Smith speaking out for the first since leaving FOX News.
KEILAR: President Trump is intervening again in the military's handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher. The president tweeting out that the Navy will not be taking away Gallagher's trident pin, which is to say the Navy won't be booting him from the Navy SEALs. Last week, the president reversed Gallagher's demotion for his conviction for posing for a picture with an ISIS fighter. He was acquitted of being involved in the murder of that ISIS person.
We have Rear Admiral John Kirby, a former State Department spokesman and a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, CNN Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne.
And, Ryan, I understand you have some news here. What's going on? What's the update from the Pentagon?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: That's right, Brianna. A Navy official telling me proceedings against Eddie Gallagher have been put on pause given the president's tweet as the Navy awaits further direction.
Presidential tweets aren't necessarily orders, and that they require formal orders to change their course of action. However, given the tweet, given how strong it was, the Navy kind of taking a pause now to see -- to wait to see if an actual order will come to tell them not to proceed with these proceedings against Eddie Gallagher, a review that could get him kicked out of the Navy SEALs.
KEILAR: What is the follow-on?
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I don't think this is in terms of our national security. But if he continues to pardon these types of crimes, war crimes, an erosion of the trust of confidence of the American people in the military that we stand up for the values the institution is supposed to represent, to defend them according to the law of war. I think also I'm worried about potential erosion of the trust and
confidence of our allies and partners to verify we will, in fact, hold our troops accountable for proper behavior when conducting combat operations in their countries.
KEILAR: More or less likely to have troops in-country because of this?
KIRBY: Potential, if it continues to snowball --
KEILAR: A pattern.
KIRBY: -- some countries would be reluctant to host Americans on their soil, certainly in a combat situation, because they won't have the confidence we'll hold these guys accountable.
KEILAR: The argument, we have to be clear, many Americans, some service members, or veterans, who believe that this is the right decision, what President Trump is doing, they have made the case that, you know, this is just what happens in war. What do you say to that?
KIRBY: The veteran community is not a monolith, that's true. Half a poll of Iraq and Afghanistan vets thought it was OK to do. Each case is slightly different than the other. But in none of them, Brianna, were these crimes done in the heat of battle or the fog of war.
Two cases, Gallagher and Golstyen cases, talking detainees murdered in detention. The threat had been neutralized at that point.
And in the other case, First Lieutenant Lorance case, there was a great dispute about the degree to which Afghans approached the soldiers were any threat at all.
Nine of his colleagues in his unit testified that they weren't. There was no physical threat posed by them.
The argument this is heated battle and asking these guys to be killers and shouldn't hold them accountable for that doesn't hold water.
KEILAR: The are pears actually contradicting what they're saying.
Ryan, in general, we see this again. Intervention by the president. How do top military officials feel about all of this? The reversal of Gallagher's demotion, the pardoning of Clint Lorance, a convicted murderer, and also the pardoning of Army Major Matthew Golstyen? How do they feel about what this does to their ability to this?
BROWNE: They advised the president against making these pardons. The president went ahead and did it anyway, lobbied extensively by some members of Congress, some members of the veterans communities, FOX News personality. Lost their argument there with the president.
The president is commander-in-chief. They'll carry out these orders.
Interesting in the Gallagher case is, after the president restored his rank, the Navy SEAL leadership attempted to conduct this review board, and then the president weighing in once again. I don't think the Navy would have done that had they thought the president was going to do that.
Gallagher's lawyer accusing the Navy of trying to undermine the president's decision to restore his rank. And actually Gallagher's lawyer calling for dismissal of the top admiral of the Navy SEALs over this.
Interesting to see where the Navy goes from here given how clear the president's direction on that tweet really was.
KEILAR: To be clear, the Navy SEALs have cleanup to do. This doesn't help that.
KIRBY: No. Actually, battle green, war college classmate of mine, the commander and trying to get arms around conduct, behavior inside the SEAL community. This isn't going to help in any way do that.
I assure you the argument the Navy is trying to troll the president or undermine him is complete nonsense. They are trying to follow a rigorous process, a normal process of administrate review and discipline. And they wouldn't have moved forward if they hadn't had assurances from the White House they could do that.
KEILAR: John Kirby, Ryan Browne, appreciate it.
Ahead, just in, Trump's former national security adviser is breaking silence with a series of cryptic tweets. This morning, Bolton tweeted this: "We have now liberated the Twitter account previously suppressed unfairly in the aftermath of my resignation as national security adviser."
Moments ago, he said, "The White House refused to return access to my personal Twitter account, out of fear of what I might say: -- question mark -- "to those who speculated I went into hiding. I'm sorry to disappoint."
That raised all kinds of questions. We'll continue to follow. We'll have more on the developing story with Brooke Baldwin after this short break.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.