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Reports Indicate President Trump Asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein If He Was on President's Team; FBI Agent Accused of Anti-Trump Bias Urged Reopening of Hillary Clinton Email Investigation; Interview with Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired February 1, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they were doing something really nefarious, the last thing they would have done was to handle it the way that it was handled.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president lied to the country about a meeting with Russians. That's a big deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is New Day with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your "New Day." It is Thursday. It's not February 11th.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: No, it isn't. But imagine if it were.
CAMEROTA: You're not going to trick me this time prompter. But I do know it's 8:00 in the east.
CUOMO: Fake prompter.
CAMEROTA: Fake prompter. A public clash between President Trump and his top law enforcement officials over releasing that classified Republican memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI. In a rare statement the FBI expressed, quote, "grave concerns" about the accuracy of that memo after the Justice Department said it would be, quote, "extraordinarily reckless" to release it. So the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is now accusing the Republican chairman of that committee, Devin Nunes, of secret altering the memo before he sent it to the White House.
CUOMO: And we have two CNN exclusives in the Russia investigation. First CNN exclusive. Sources tell us that President Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he was, quote, "on my team" in a meeting that proceed Rosenstein testifying to the House about very important matters. What's the question? Obvious. Is this yet another attempt by the president to wrongfully influence his officials, to gain loyalty from someone investigating him.
The other exclusive, sources tell CNN the FBI agent whose text messages led to allegations of bias in the Mueller investigation played a key role in reopening the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe just before the 2016 election. You'll remember that gut shot when they said there are more e-mails on Anthony Weiner's laptop. Yes, they turned out to be largely duplicative and not illustrative of any criminality. But Strzok, the man who is seen as being a Clinton friendly, wanted those emails, wanted it reopened.
Joining us now, CNN political analysts Josh Green and Jonathan Martin. So this is not easy. J. Mart, we start with you. This latest headline about the president of the United States saying to Rod Rosenstein, are you on my team, is it a crime? Absolutely not. Is it inappropriate? Undoubtedly yes. But what might it mean to prosecutors? Is it just another wafting bit of smoke, or could it be something that suggests a pattern because of what's on the screen right now. It's not just Rosenstein, it's not just Comey. It's Coats, it's Rogers, it's Sessions, it's McCabe, all consistently Trump going to them saying are you with me or are you with -- fill in the blank.
JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a fantastic kudos and graphics to the graphics team.
CUOMO: Alisyn made.
CAMEROTA: I drew it.
MARTIN: Alisyn, fantastic work there.
CAMEROTA: Thank you. Free hand.
MARTIN: It really does capture the nature of a president who is not practiced in the mores of government where you treat the Justice Department with some detachment. That's not how this president operates. He doesn't understand government, frankly, and so he acts like everybody around him, no matter if it's the interior secretary or the attorney general, should practice maximum loyalty to him. To your question about how that's viewed legally, you have to ask somebody with a law degree. But to me politically, though, that really does underscore just how unfamiliar this president is with governance and how presidents treat the Department of Justice. They are not a political appendage of your administration, or at least they're not supposed to be.
CAMEROTA: Why not fight back with him when he says he's not practiced in the art of governing and that's why he asked? Remember how I said that last hour?
CUOMO: Because it doesn't remove the suspicion.
CAMEROTA: Of course.
CUOMO: Let's say he doesn't understand the act of governing, which I think is too much cover for someone as sophisticated as the president. But let's say it's true, OK, he doesn't know how to govern. So he thinks it is OK to apply corrupt intent to make sure state officials are on his side in an investigation? You wind up the same place legally.
CAMEROTA: I get your point. I was just surprised you weren't taking issue with J. Mart's take on it.
CUOMO: It was a very weak fist bump.
CAMEROTA: It wasn't open hand, but it was a little delayed.
MARTIN: With Chris, though, the president a year into his administration or at least seven, eight months.
CAMEROTA: Should understand governing?
MARTIN: Yes. By now it's hard for the Republicans to keep using that that. I think it's actually accurate. But after you're told time and time again that's not appropriate, Mr. President, he should probably figure it out.
JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not just a matter of ignorance at this point. It is an intentional and reckless disregard for the political norms that have previously surrounded a situation like this. What we see with Trump asking Rosenstein, are you on my team, is yet another example of Trump viewing this investigation through the lens of personal loyalty to Trump himself. He seems to believe that the Justice Department is the president's equivalent of his own team of personal lawyers that he had back when he was running the Trump corporation, and it fundamentally is not.
CAMEROTA: OK, next question. Jonathan, let's talk about another CNN exclusive, and that is that Peter Strzok, we know this name because he's the FBI agent who was transferred after these text messages with Lisa Page came out that showed a bias against Donald Trump. Well, it turns out the profile of Peter Strzok is more complicated than we initially thought. It turns out that Peter Strzok was also the FBI official who wrote the first draft of the James Comey statement reopening the investigation, the e-mail investigation into Hillary Clinton when those e-mails were found on Anthony Weiner's laptop that Hillary Clinton believes lost the race for her. So you cannot easily put Peter Strzok in a partisan box.
MARTIN: Right, because you can't apply the sort of rules of political warfare to the FBI. They're law enforcement professionals, and especially at this level they're going to conduct themselves like law enforcement professionals and they're going to, yes, be involved in investigations that may be sticky for one side or the other on the partisan divide. So we shouldn't be surprised at this.
And I think what it does, Alisyn, I think it underscores the folly of trying to portray individual actors at the FBI as somehow having an "R" or a "D" on their back. It's just not that simple when you're talking about law enforcement.
CUOMO: Also, a fact that is related to one of our headlines and actually helps the proposition you were bringing up is Rosenstein meets with Trump before he testifies, and that's when he is reportedly asked, are you on my team. In that testimony, Josh Green, what does Rosenstein say when asked if he has been asked for an oath of loyalty? He says no. Now, that is helpful to President Trump even though it is not dispositive of his intent in asking such a question, but because investigators are going to look at context. And if that's not how it was taken by Rosenstein, assuming they believe him, that will be helpful to the president in that context.
GREEN: At least according to the reporting Rosenstein replied by saying we're all on your team in the Justice Department here. But he said in the House -- trying to kind of dodge the question. So plausibly I guess he could say to the House, no, it wasn't intended as an act of loyalty. I think most people in that situation, though, would answer differently and say, yes, this did seem to be the president saying are you on my team, are you loyal to me, the same way he had said that to Jim Comey at one point and to other officials.
CAMEROTA: Jonathan, what do you think of the bigger issue here of the fact that President Trump is now publicly at odds with his own handpicked officials? From Christopher Wray to deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein, it goes on. These aren't Clinton shills. These aren't left wingers, these aren't even Democrats.
MARTIN: Right, they're his appointees. And in fact McCabe who basically got pushed out was a Republican who voted in the 2016 GOP primary. So I have to say, Alisyn, I'd be more surprised if it wasn't for the track record of, well, the last year. Think about it, last summer you've had the president on a daily basis -- I'm not exaggerating -- basically trolling his own attorney general and shaming him in a very public manner. So am I surprised that he's at odds with his FBI director? No. He's at odds with his own A.G. who is one of the earliest supporters of his campaign. So it's hard to be shocked, Alisyn, at this point in the Trump administration.
CUOMO: Look, the president says 100 percent that memo is coming out when he's leaving the state of the union. According to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, he hadn't even read it yet. This memo is being pushed as a release, and look, we're journalists, we always want more information. We want it just so that we can read it and test the people who put it out if nothing else. But they're pushing something out, Josh, where almost all of them haven't seen the underlying basis for the conclusions in the memo, including the man whose name is on it, Devin Nunes. How is that not about political opportunism?
GREEN: I think it pretty clearly is. And you also add to the fact that the FBI has come out in a remarkable public statement and said they have grave concerns about the accuracy and the context of the memo.
CUOMO: And they offered to come in and brief these guys on exactly how they did the FISA application in question. Ask us anything you want. They don't want that.
GREEN: Right. And so you take that, you take the fact that Nunes apparently altered the memo after the committee had voted on it. It seems pretty clear the intent here is to create a misleading political framework for Republicans to impugn the FBI with a larger purpose of undermining Robert Mueller's investigation. I don't see how you can conclude anything else based on the set of facts before us.
CAMEROTA: Also, look, the irony of Republicans on the House Intel Committee being so worried about bias at the FBI that they want to release this, there is no one -- well, I don't know -- Devin Nunes appears to not be exactly an impartial person on this. He has shown bias. He has gone to the White House to report on sensitive information. He was investigated by the House Ethics Committee for this. So how will the public trust the Nunes memo if and when it is released?
MARTIN: It's going to be viewed through a partisan prism like frankly most every other piece of news that comes out of Washington these days. But Josh is right, and we shouldn't mince words about this. This document is part of a larger political strategy to delegitimize the broader Mueller investigation. This is political warfare, and that's what they're engaged in. It's called muddying the waters when you basically confuse public even more and folks go to their corners.
And by the way, this is not novel. In the '90s we saw this kind of thing happen when Bill Clinton was being elected, folks investigate the investigators. It's not a new tactic. We're seeing it here all over again, just on the other side of the aisle.
GREEN: Yes, I agree. One of the things that's so remarkable to me this week was that Devin Nunes' hometown newspaper, "The Sacramento Bee" came out and in an editorial called him Trump's stooge. I think that says everything about what is going on here and the kind of slapdash nature of the way this memo is being put together and rushed out.
I think to Alisyn's point here, the goal isn't to win over everybody in the public. I think anybody can look at this objectively and say, all right, there's something going on here. The point though, is to win over only half the public. He needs to keep Republicans on board. And I've got to say, I think Trump and Republicans have been fairly successful in doing that, in undermining Robert Mueller's credibility and the credibility of the investigation in the eyes of both Republican elected officials and FOX News viewers and this whole side of the aisle who at some point we assume, if Mueller comes out with a report, is going to have to decide, do we think -- if the report is negative about Trump or says he obstructed justice or whatever, do we believe these charges. Part of that decision is going to be based on, do we believe that this investigator was honest. And by putting out memos like this and throwing out these distractions and flares, it's a way of, as John said, muddying the waters in preventing people from reaching the conclusion that, yes, this investigation --
CUOMO: There's a wrinkle here because usually it's left-right. We deal with that all day long here. But this is who is on the side of this major institution of law enforcement in this country? Ordinarily that would be the GOP. But now you have basically the Democrats are lining up with the FBI. This is -- it's usually the Democrats who are going at the FBI and suggesting they have problems with their investigations. So now you have all of these big shots who have been in the business
their entire lives being forced by the situation to come out and justify the legitimacy of the administration of justice. John Brennan -- put up his tweet. This guy is one of the giants of the intelligence community. "I had many fights with Congressional Democrats over the years on national security matters," true. "But I never witnessed the type of reckless partisan behavior I'm now seeing from Nunes and House Republicans. Absence of moral and ethical leadership in the White House is fueling this government crisis." That's John Brennan. Michael Hayden, who was the head of the CIA and the NSA said basically the same thing last night to me. He said they want ambiguity because it helps their political aims. Clarity would be a problem for them. J. Mart?
MARTIN: Yes, but I think Chris, to your point, though, this is part of the challenge Republicans have is what they have to do here is basically construct a narrative where the FBI is this nest of left wingers as though they're doing all their recruiting at Berkeley over the years and there's this hive of lefties. And that's not what the FBI is. As you guys well know, they're professional law enforcement folks. They're typically not very partisan. If anything, they might lean a little bit to the right sort of culturally and traditionally given the business that they're in.
[08:15:02] So, I think that's the challenge for the right is that you have to convince some folks -- the partisans will believe there's a conspiracy there. I think the broader public, it may have hard to get them to believe that the FBI has suddenly become the SDS, latter day folks, it's pretty tough to do that.
CAMEROTA: Josh, final word.
GREEN: Yes, I agree. Look, at the end of the day, this report is going to come out from Mueller and it's going to be up to Congress to decide if there are serious charges in there, whether or not he should be impeached. Ultimately, that's a political decision. All of this is about politics.
If Trump and Republicans can muddy the waters enough to undermine the credibility of this decision, they're going to have an easier political job keeping Trump in the Oval Office.
CUOMO: Right. And before that, this memo is going to come out. People are going to read it, believe what is in it and many will never change their mind.
CAMEROTA: All right. Josh Green, Jonathan Martin, thank you both very much.
So, why did Devin Nunes change that controversial memo? We ask a Republican member of the House Intel Committee. He'll know. That's next.
CUOMO: All right. Another big development. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is accusing Republican Chair Devin Nunes of secretly altering that controversial memo before it was sent to the White House for review.
[08:20:00] President Trump could decide has early as today to make the memo public. He has five days, and if he does nothing, it's up to Congress.
Joining us now is Republican Congressman Peter King, member of the House Intelligence Committee. He has seen the memo and he was one of the first calling for it to be released.
Congressman, always good to have you on the show.
So, is that true?
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Chris.
CUOMO: Did Nunes change the memo, Congressman?
KING: My understanding is, and this is agreed on before among Republicans, there is one small part which is in no way affects the substance of the memo, involves a fact which is publicly acknowledged by everyone, but for protocol reasons, the FBI asked that it'd be taken out. I think it's three or four words. They're out and no way does it affect the substance of the memo or anything at all.
CUOMO: If there was an effort to accommodate the FBI, why does that effort fall so short of doing what they're asking you to do, which is to let them scrub this memo, to let them come in? They'll talk about the FISA app that no one has seen, even though everybody seems willing to judge it. Why not respect their requests and their expertise if you were willing to do it on a small thing, why not on the bigger thing?
KING: Let me correct some of what you said right there. As far as the FBI being willing to come in and about us not having access to the FISA material, that's all because of the Department of Justice. They stonewalled us for months and months, refused to allow the committee to see any of that. They even went to the president to try to influence him to get us to stop and they went to the speaker of the House to try to influence him.
The final agreement that was reached at the Department of Justice is that one member on each side, one Republican and one Democrat and two staff members on each side would be authorized to look at materials. We had Trey Gowdy on our side, Devin Nunes intentionally took himself out of it to avoid any further controversy. Trey Gowdy is seasoned federal prosecutor, he was spent in our side, along with two professionals who are experts as far as national security legal matters.
They were the ones who analyzed it. They are the ones who wrote the report. That's because the Department of Justice putting those restrictions on us from the start. That's why it was done that way.
So when people say Devin Nunes didn't read it, no, because he authorized Trey Gowdy. Only one person can do it, so he authorized Trey Gowdy, and that was at the request of the Department of Justice.
As far as the FBI, we've been asking all along and they refused to give us the information we wanted. Now, when the memo was made available to Director Wray on Sunday, he had a top person with him, they looked at it, they could find nothing wrong with it. But the next day, to be extra cautious, we had our two top investigators sit down with two top people in the FBI to go through it word for word.
CUOMO: Congressman --
KING: We did not find one factual discrepancy, no national security risk, Chris. Those are the facts.
CUOMO: Well, one, you already said there was a question of fact you needed to adjust in the memo, but, Christopher Wray --
KING: No, no, no, no. Not because the fact was wrong. The fact was true. It was a protocol reason which will be explained. That is totally irrelevant to this.
That -- you're being diverted by the Democrats. You're allowing to be diverted by them.
CUOMO: No, no. Christopher Wray is no Democrat. He says he has grave concerns about this.
KING: No, Chris. I'm talking about the --
CUOMO: Go ahead.
KING: That's what he said now afterwards, now, two days later. Now they say they have a problem. I'm saying he cannot find -- his problem with he conclusion, not with the facts and certainly not at all with any national security risk. He's concerned with the conclusion.
And our conclusion is critical of the FBI. That's what this is all about. They've refused to cooperate with us all along.
CUOMO: So his statement says material omissions of fact. Hello.
CUOMO: So he has problems with the facts in the memo.
KING: I'm telling you that our -- no, he doesn't dispute them. Anyone can say that in any report. When you're putting a report together and also making it, doing it in a way so you're not going to hurt national security, obviously not every factor is going to be in.
CUOMO: If you cherry-pick facts -- why else would Trump's guys.
KING: Chris, your word is cherry-pick. Again, you're showing your bias because you're on (INAUDIBLE) all along. I understand all along.
COUMO: How is it a bias? If you don't put all -- hold on a second. I have you on because I trust you to give me the straight talk on this, Congressman. If I didn't trust you, you wouldn't be here.
KING: I'm giving it to you straight. You're using the term cherry- pick.
CUOMO: All right, and here's why, OK?
KING: Every relevant fact is in. Every relevant fact is in. Every relevant fact is in.
CUOMO: That's a subjective standard. The man whose name was on the memo was investigated for potential ethics violations because of his deference to the White House and his collusion with the White House in the true sense of that word.
KING: Let's stop right there. Let's stop right there.
KING: Let's stop right there. He was cleared completely. A complaint was filed against him by partisan Democrats.
[08:25:01] He was fully investigated and totally cleared. He was exonerated. Don't you believe in our system of justice?
CUOMO: I do, but it doesn't mean it's not relevant to his position. And he won't answer the question now of whether or not his staff worked with the White House. What about that?
KING: I'm telling you that Devin Nunes, to avoid controversy, he took himself out of it and gave it to Trey Gowdy, a seasoned federal prosecutor.
KING: -- who, by the way, and nobody -- 100 percent supports Bob Mueller. He supports Bob Mueller is 100 percent. And Gowdy is not an anti-Mueller guy.
CUOMO: OK, understood.
KING: He's the one who wrote this report, primarily with the two investigators.
CUOMO: Understood. Nunes won't answer the question of whether or not his staff worked with the White House on this memo. Why, if he's Mr. I want to avoid further controversy?
KING: As to what you discussed publicly, the fact is the White House never saw this memo until Tuesday --
CUOMO: Why won't he answer the question?
KING: Monday night he had -- I'm answering the question for you.
CUOMO: Why didn't he answer it?
KING: Again, public session, that can lead to other questions which can involve national security. I'm telling you what happened.
CUOMO: Go ahead.
KING: I'm giving the fact. I'm telling you. The first time the White House saw it, officially delivered to White House counsels and the national security lawyers on Monday night at the White House. That's the first time they saw it and that's the first time the White House saw it.
As far as -- if anyone is going to the White House, if the account is true that Rosenstein went to the president and went to speak with the House to get them to interfere with our investigation, that to me is a violation.
CUOMO: All right. So, Christopher Wray, picked by the president of the United States to be a cleansing agent. Rod Rosenstein, his choice to be at the DOJ, the man he leaned on in his case against Comey. Stephen Boyd, another man picked by Trump to be one of his own, they all come to him and say this is reckless, dangerous, the wrong thing to do.
Why would they all go against the man who picked them if they didn't have real concerns?
KING: I am aware of their concerns. I don't believe them. I think they're invalid concerns.
CUOMO: How can you not believe them?
KING: Because I've seen -- I've been working on this. Chris, I've been following this for 18 months. I've been following -- I've seen all the leaks that comes out of the Justice Department which nobody is investigating, criminal leaks coming out of the Justice Department against this president. I've seen false information given to "The New York Times" that goes on the front page. None of that investigated by the Justice Department.
I'm telling you that what is going to come out of the memo -- I told you yesterday when I saw you on the plane, I'm not one of these people that said this is going to shake the world, this is not going to turn things upside down. It's a very significant --
CUOMO: Steve King told me last night it's worse than Watergate. I said if you seen the supporting information? No. Have you seen the FISA application that you guys say was done wrong? No. Worse than Watergate?
KING: I'm not saying that. I've told you what I've said. I'm speaking for myself and I also, I think speaking to Trey Gowdy, who made these points the other day.
There are two many Republicans who overstate the case. I'm not doing that. I'm very precise. take this very seriously.
I was one of two Republicans that voted against Bill Clinton's impeachment. I was the only Republican who voted against Charlie Rangel being censured in the House floor because of my respect to due process of precedent. I've stood with your brother against the entire Republican leadership as far as getting aid to New York, almost got me thrown out of the party.
So, I take this very seriously. What I've seen over the last 18 months is wrong.
CUOMO: Look, I appreciate it. That's why I come to you in these situations, why I came to you yesterday for counsel on the situation.
I, however, give you no cover for making a decision to align yourself with my brother. That's your problem. You deal with that on your own time.
Here, I'm dealing with this bigger issue of -- here is my last question for you on this. You know what the concern is.
CUOMO: Nobody has any interest in protecting the FBI. I'm in the media. I spent most of my career looking at the FBI and what they do with a suspicious eye. The left, as you know, is known for going at the FBI in terms of its choices and its methods.
So, it's not about me being biased. I'm saying cherry-picked because that's what you're hearing from Trump's own guys who came to him about it -- about their concerns. It's not about a bias. Everybody wants the truth to come out.
We want the memo. We're journalists. I want to see where you guys are coming from on this. But to go around the I.C. -- here is the concern, Congressman, in the last couple days two different Republican Congress people or former members say, you know what happened to me? It was politically motivated. It's deep state stuff. Menendez gets cleared, the reaction from some on the right. This is that deep state stuff.
What's going to happen when Mueller comes out with his conclusions and all of this groundwork has been laid to give people an ability to say you can't believe him? Then what happens to the administration of justice in this country?