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Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) Interviewed on President Biden Meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Lifting U.S. Debt Ceiling and Ongoing Congressional Investigations into Biden Family; Special Counsel John Durham Releases Report on Origins of Trump-Russia Collusion Investigation. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 16, 2023 - 08:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The suspect now under arrest this morning, and the Congressman says his staffers do have non-life- threatening injuries. One of them was just on her first day on the job. We are going to get started this morning with the five things to know for this Tuesday, May 16th, 2023.

President Biden is set to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy again as time is quickly running out to lift the debt limit and avoid what economists say would be a catastrophic default.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We're also expecting a crucial vote today on an abortion ban in North Carolina. Republican state lawmakers are trying to override the Democratic governor's veto and push it through.

COLLINS: Also, this morning, Congress is going to be taking a hard look at the dangers of artificial intelligence. The man behind the groundbreaking but controversial chatbot known as ChatGPT is going to be testifying on Capitol Hill just hours from now.

Also, in Ukraine, a top Chinese diplomat set to arrive in the capital on a peace mission. His visit comes after Russia launched a huge barrage of missiles overnight and drones against the Ukrainian capital.

HARLOW: And the NBA conference finals begin tonight. LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers will take on two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

All right, here is where we begin this hour. President Biden will meet with members, leaders of Congress today, trying to get some sort of progress on a debt ceiling teal. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reiterating the U.S. could default on its debt two weeks from now. In a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Yellen writes Treasury will likely no longer be able to satisfy all of the government's obligations if Congress has not acted to raise or suspend the debt limit by early June, and potentially as early as June 1st. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy echoed Yellen's urgency in the halls of Congress yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: I appreciate the president finally willing to talk after 97 days, but there is no movement. We are only a couple weeks away, and if you look at the timeline to pass something in the House and pass something in the Senate, you've got to have something done by this weekend, and we are nowhere near any of that.


COLLINS: McCarthy added that he believes President Biden needs to remain focused on the negotiations. Of course, he has an upcoming scheduled trip to Asia. He's set to depart tomorrow. President Biden over the weekend said he is optimistic they will reach a deal this week.

So for more on this, joining us is Republican Congressman Nancy Mace of South Carolina who serves on the House Oversight and Armed Services Committees.

Good morning, Congresswoman. The clock is ticking on this. It does seem like lawmakers are running out of time, but House Speaker Kevin McCarthy saying that he doesn't seem very optimistic about whether or not a deal is in the future. Of course, he said when he became speaker he would give Republicans 72 hours to review legislation, and President Biden is scheduled to go on that trip tomorrow. So are you optimistic they can reach an agreement this afternoon?

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I think it's deeply problematic given the trajectory that we are right now and how close we are to June 1st deadline that the president is traveling out of country. He should be here on the Hill working with Republicans and Democrats to strike some sort of a compromise, because guess what? Both parties, Republicans and Democrats, got us into this mess, and both sides need to come together and show the American people how they are going to get us out of it.

Leaving the country right now is not where he should be. He should be here, and they should be working something out to balance a budget, rein in spending over the next 10 or 20 years, something reasonable that both sides can agree to.

COLLINS: So you think that the president should not take his trip to Asia and should instead stay inside the United States for these talks?

MACE: Absolutely not. He needs to show the American people that he cares, that it's not just about tweeting some stuff about Republicans and how bad we are, that he's actually willing to sit down and work with us, because, guess what, this is a nation divided. This is a nation with $32 trillion in debt, $8 trillion added by Donald Trump, $4 trillion of it added by Joe Biden over six years. That's $12 trillion.

It's insane to me that we are having this argument on Twitter and on the airwaves, and we need to get into a room with both sides and figure this thing out. I have a plan to balance the budget in five years. A bit aggressive. It's called the penny plan, but, heck, it would take 20 years at this point. Just get it done.

COLLINS: You've said what Republicans have already passed when it came to spending cuts didn't go far enough in your view. I know a lot of lawmakers, Republicans, vote today pass that because they just wanted to get something started and for opponents to be able to say here's what we've passed, now what is the White House going to do here.

If Kevin McCarthy does reach a deal with President Biden, can Republicans get something that is a watered down version of something you said already didn't go far enough passed?


MACE: Right. If you look at the plan over the next 10 years, $47 trillion versus $52 trillion with a clean debt ceiling, these are very mild cuts, and they weren't going to balance the budget. They aren't going to go far enough or long enough.

I think we will have to see that that deal looks -- what's negotiated when it comes back. I'm always wanting to start from the strongest position, a position of strength, because you know that you are going to lose people or lose votes or lose different portions of a bill when it goes into the Senate or when you're negotiating with those across the aisle. And that was my concern. My concern also is that neither side is going to hold the other accountable, that we are just going to keep spending into oblivion until we are broke.

And guess what, we are pretty much broke right now, which is why we need to take it seriously, which is why I would like to see a plan that balances things out in five years, but I would take 20. That is a huge compromise, and it can be done.

COLLINS: And you do believe Republicans, depending on what they come to, what agreement they could potentially come to, are prepared to get less here?

MACE: Right. And you're going to -- we have to be. We have to be prepared to get less. We also have to be prepared to try to figure out how we get votes on the other side. It's a very slim majority. Nobody wants to shut the government down. Nobody wants to see that happen. And finding a way to work together, that's one of the things that the American people want from us is even when we disagree is finding a path forward. And we are not -- we are not yet there, it doesn't seem like.

COLLINS: Congressman, you know as well as I do what it would mean if the U.S. did default on its debt. As we both noted the time, it's about 15 days away from when the Treasury Secretary is warning that could happen. Last week I interviewed former President Trump about his position on what he believes Republicans should do here. This is what he said about the U.S. defaulting on its debt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I say to the Republicans out there, congressmen, senators, if they don't give you massive cuts, you're going to have to do a default.

COLLINS: The U.S. defaulting would be massively consequential for everyone in this room, probably.

TRUMP: You don't know. It's psychological. It's really psychological more than anything else, and it could be very bad, it could be maybe be nothing, maybe you have a bad week or a bad day.


COLLINS: What did you make of that?

MACE: Well, no one wants, certainly, the United States to default. And that in my opinion is not even on the table. In terms of tax revenue, we collect annually 11 times the interest on the debt. It would mean that we on the Hill and in D.C. would have to prioritize our spending. But default, in my opinion, is not on the table, should not be the table, the consequences of that globally will be very, very negative both here in the U.S. and abroad.

But we don't have to. We don't have to unless the president wants us to. And if that were to happen, if we were to somehow not strike a deal by June 1st, then we would have to prioritize spending. No one wants to see cuts to Social Security or vets or Medicare and Medicaid. You can avoid those things. But that means you have got to prioritize spending and put some things on the back burner if we could do that.

COLLINS: Yes, I think the White House has also made clear they also do not want to see a default, the nation default on its debts.

Congressman, while we have you here, you are also a member of House Oversight. We heard from the chair of that committee, Congressman James Comer, earlier on Sunday speaking about one of the investigations that the Oversight Committee has underway. This is what he said on Sunday.


REP. JIM COMER (R-KY): Well, unfortunately, we can't track down the informant. We're hopeful that the informant is there. The whistleblower knows the informant. The whistleblower is very credible. We are hopeful that we can find the informant. Remember, these informants are kind of in the spy business. So they don't make a habit of being seen a lot or being high-profile or anything like that.


COLLINS: We are told that the informant that he was referencing there is as Israeli professor who is wanted by the U.S. for arms dealing and has claimed to have incriminating information about Hunter Biden. He has gone missing in Cypress according to international press reports. His attorney has not commented to CNN. What makes the Oversight Committee think this person would have credible information? MACE: I have not spoken with the whistleblower and don't know which

information he is referencing with regards to being an informant. We do have multiple whistleblowers both through the Oversight Committee, Senator Grassley's office. There are multiple individuals that have information.

The one thing I can say about this investigation is it is real. I have seen many Suspicious Activity Reports. We showed bank records last year, and it's the sort of thing if you were to look at it, if this were any average person, it looks like racketeering, it looks like money laundering and should be investigated to fullest extent of the law.

And obviously, if you have whistleblowers, they need to be credible individuals with credible information and credible documentation. And it's something that we are going to follow the facts wherever they lead us. If it leads to referring charges to the DOJ, then so be it. And if it does not, then that's where we go as well. And so it's just important that we look at it from every angle and we show the American people what's truthful and what's not.


COLLINS: But we haven't seen any direct connection from the committee so far. We didn't see it last week in that press conference -- I know you were there speaking as well -- directly to President Biden. So it doesn't appear clear that you are anywhere near referring charges to the Justice Department. I just want to make sure that's clear. Is that right?

MACE: Yes. We are within 100 days of having subpoena power. This is the tip of the iceberg. And I will tell you, none of this happens without Joe Biden. We are talking about tens of millions of dollars, up to nine Biden family members now, including one grandchild, nieces and nephews, none of these people are foreign agents. Current wives, ex-wives, brother, son, and it just -- when you look at it from the outset, if it's not illegal, it should be, enriching themself, looking at the revolving door in the White House with meetings with Hunter Biden's business associates and colleagues and those sorts of things.

Even "The Daily Beast" came out a couple of days saying this should be investigated and follow the facts wherever they lead us, which is what we need to do with an unbiased hand. And I call the balls and strikes, Kaitlan, as you know, on both sides of aisle, and this is real.

COLLINS: But is there any evidence that President Biden had any knowledge of this that your committee has so far?

MACE: Well, he denied there was any communist China money coming into these shell correspondents, and that was untruthful. That was a lie. He said that during the 2020 election. But again, this is his family tree. They were enriching themselves off of him. Some of his family members appear to possibly be paying Joe Biden's bills in the past. But it doesn't happen without Joe Biden. It doesn't happen without Hunter Biden's clients getting access to the White House. None of that happens. And they enriched themselves with tens of millions of dollars. These

were adversaries from communist China, corrupt Romanians, Russia, and the list goes on. And it's something we ought to investigate, and if charges need to be brought, we should refer them to the DOJ because at some point we have to hold both sides accountable when they break the law or when they're unethical. That has to happen, and it has to happen because both sides have corruption issues. They are not perfect.

COLLINS: I should just note we haven't seen any evidence directly linking President Biden to this. And I will also note there is a U.S. attorney that is investigating Hunter Biden, that was a U.S. attorney who was appointed by former President Trump.

Congresswoman Nancy Mace, though, thank you for your time this morning. We will see what progress the White House and Republicans make when it comes to lifting the debt ceiling. Thank you.

MACE: Thank you.

HARLOW: Also, a new report released by special counsel John Durham concludes the FBI should never have launched its 2016 Russia investigation in the first place. Durham, who was picked by the Trump administration, writes that the over 300-page report details a four- year probe which yielded very little in terms of prosecutions. He adds, quote, "The FBI used raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence," and, quote, "ignored material information that did not support the narrative of a collusive relationship between Trump and Russia."

We should note, this report is at odds with the 2019 DOJ Inspector General's finding that there was a basis, a legitimate reason to open this investigation.

So let's talk about it with CNN senior law enforcement analyst Andy McCabe. He's the former deputy director of the FBI and, importantly, he oversaw what became known as the Crossfire Hurricane probe into Trump in 2016. And Andy, your name is this report almost 60 times, 58 times. Good morning.


HARLOW: In your words, you were, quote, deeply involved in the decision to open the investigation. John Durham says that you shouldn't have launched it. What's your response?

MCCABE: John Durham is wrong. That's not just me that says that. Every other entity that's investigated our activities in 2016 agrees, and that's, of course, as you mentioned the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz as well as the Senate intelligence committee led, of course, at the time by a Republican. So this is -- this report, Poppy, stands as an anomaly. I have my own near as to why it stands as an anomaly. I don't think this investigation was legitimate from its inception.

HARLOW: Why? MCCABE: Because -- simply because John Durham made clear from the

very beginning shortly after he was appointed exactly what he was going to conclude. He has made public remarks indicating that he thought that had possibly broken the law and inappropriately investigated the president, which is an odd thing for any then U.S. attorney to do at the beginning of an investigation. He's echoed the sentiments of his boss, William Barr, who was attorney general at the time. So I don't think it's surprising where the report came out. It's disappointing, and it continues to fuel a false narrative about alleged FBI malfeasance that continues to this day almost seven years after the events in question. But, as I said, I'm not surprised.

HARLOW: I will note at the time that he was appointed by Bill Barr, Democratic senator of Connecticut where, obviously, Durham practiced and practices. Chris Murphy told CNN he had a, quote, reputation of being apolitical and serious.


So, among the things that he concluded, is he says the FBI under your purview in this investigation displayed a quote, lack of analytical rigor, that's a quote. He also said that you use, quote, raw and analyze and uncooperative intelligence to launch investigation and makes the accusation that essentially, you guys use different standards for which to launch this as opposed to probe into Hillary Clinton. What's your response?

MCCABE: Yes, that's entirely inaccurate. You've got a lot packed into that question. So, I'll address a couple of those points, if that's OK. The investigation was initiated not based on raw uncorroborated intelligence, but on significant understanding and awareness of what the Russians were doing in their multi-pronged effort to influence the 2016 election. We knew the Russians had been targeting us in cyberspace. We knew the Russians had been going after and stealing electronic information from our political institutions, from government institutions for over a year, until the beginning of 2016.

We knew they targeted the DNC and exfiltrated an enormous amount of information about Hillary Clinton. And then, we knew that the Russians used that information in an effort to impact the election by releasing those emails on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. We only found out later at the end of July, that prior to weaponizing, that information. They'd made essentially an offer to the Trump campaign that they had information about Hillary Clinton, and that they would use it to benefit the Trump campaign.

So, with that understanding of what the Russians were doing, we had the question, the very real and very significant question of whether or not members of a domestic political campaign had conspired with or taken assistance from the Russians. We didn't know if they had, we didn't know who that might have been. But we knew that it was something that had to be investigated. That's the opening of the case, that as I said, the I.G. and other investigative entities approved of that action in hindsight.

HARLOW: And he also included in Durham's report or disparaging text messages about former President Trump, I'll just highlight this one we can show our viewers this was on August 15th, 2016, about two weeks after the investigation was launched between two key team members, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Here it is, quote, I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's office, that there's no way he -- meaning Trump gets elected. But I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event that you die before you're 40. That obviously has gotten a lot of attention for many years. You said last night to my colleague, Anderson Cooper look that was quote, objectionable and unfortunate. Is there a lesson learned for the agency writ large, from exchanges like that?

MCCABE: I think there's a lot of lessons learned for the agency, and certainly for those two individuals who are involved in the -- in those communications. If you're asking me, did the agency learn that they should now monitor the private communications of all their employees to safeguard against the occurrences like this? No, I don't believe that's true. But there's no place in the FBI for people involved in an investigation to be approaching that work from a politically motivated standpoint.

And I can tell you right now, that at no time did I or anyone to my knowledge understand that Peter Strzok, or Lisa Page harbored those sorts, we're having those sorts of conversations. Neither of the two of them ever gave me or anyone else that I'm aware of any indication that their work on this investigation is being influenced by their professional, rather personal opinions. So, I'm not that stand to this day.

HARLOW: And just to put a button on it, because of the point you made up in terms of not letting anything, in terms of personal political beliefs interfere with the work that is done. I thought it was interesting that in this report, Durham suggested creating a sort of a position for a nonpartisan FBI, lawyer or agent who would essentially step in, and oversee and help put checks on anything that would be deemed a politically sensitive investigation. Do you think that's a good idea?

MCCABE: It's not a bad idea, but I don't think it's necessary. I mean, look, that person that role, that voice exists in the FBI to this -- today. And that's the general counsel of the FBI and the staff of the General Counsel's Office include dozens of attorneys who do nothing but advise the FBI on the implications of their national security work. Those people James Baker, whose General Counsel at the time, and many of the lawyers who worked for him were present in all of the meetings in which opening this investigation and conducting this investigative matter were discussed.


And we had those conversations about what the implications would be legality of what we were doing the authority behind the steps that we were taking. So, those conversations happened if Mr. Durham and then, in a failure to come up with any other significant recommendations, that suggesting that the FBI should have another lawyer. I think that's great, they should have another lawyer, I'm sure they have plenty of work to do. But those kinds of conversations, that sort of oversight that he's suggesting, is already taking place and has always taken place in the FBI.

HARLOW: Andrew McCabe, thank you very, very much. Obviously, you were critical in this investigation. Appreciate you answering questions this morning.

MCCABE: Sure, thanks. Thanks, Poppy.


COLLINS: We're also getting new details this morning, about a mass shooting that happened in Farmington, New Mexico yesterday. Were police say an 18-year-old was armed with three guns an AR-style rifle.


HARLOW: Sad news report, new details this morning on a deadly mass shooting in Farmington, New Mexico. An 18-year-old gunman killed three people and wounded six others including two police officers before being shot and killed by police. The gunman used three guns, including an AR-style rifle and according to authorities, he roamed a rough -- roughly a quarter mile area shooting and firing randomly. Natasha Chen is following it and joins us this morning. We know there's not much information being released yet, but what have you learned?


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, the Police Chief released a video posted to Facebook last night where he described police arriving on scene within five minutes of the initial call. There were six people injured in addition to the three people killed, of those six, two of them were members of law enforcement. One of them a Farmington police officer, who the chief said was treated and released now. He said the other was a state police officer who drove himself to the hospital and is doing OK. So, they have non-life- threatening injuries. The chief described this as one of the most difficult and horrific days Farmington has ever experienced. Here he is talking about, investigating the motivation here.


CHIEF STEVE HEBBE, FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO POLICE: We are doing the best that we can to piece through and talk with family members of the suspect. He's to what was going on, look at the evidence to see if we can figure out what the motivation was. But at this point, it appears to be purely random, that there were no schools, no churches, and no individuals targeted.


CHEN: He says this was a wide and complex scene where the shooter shot at least six houses and three cars as well. We are talking about three weapons used as you said, one of them, the chief said an AR-style rifle. We're expecting a press conference later this afternoon. Hopefully with more information, Poppy.

HARLOW: Natasha, thank you for following that. COLLINS: Also, this morning, sources tell CNN, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is days away from announcing his bid for the White House before the end of the month. One of the candidates who's already officially in the 2024 race is here in the studio. We'll talk to former Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson about that and much more next.