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tv   Inside Politics  CNN  June 7, 2017 9:00am-10:01am PDT

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2:00 this afternoon, would you all make yourself available since it doesn't linger on? there's been a lot of questions and ana lot of buildup, anxiety if you will. i think you could help an awful lot of us clear the day up. >> if i could address the senator's question, this afternoon is set with technical people to walk us through 702. rest assured that we will take the first available opportunity to have people back in closed session to address those questions that they can address. and hopefully prior to that, the vice chair and i would have an opportunity to meet with director mueller to determine whether that fits within the scope of his current investigation and we will do that. >> mr. chairman, the oh only thing i'm saying i know that you can tell by the intensity of the questions here that there's a lot of concerns right now. we have both director coats and admiral rogers willing to say in a classified hearing that they would be able to answer differently. that's the only reason i brought that up and we have it in
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afternoon. i ed hope that maybe would be considered. does the president support section 702 reauthorization of the fisa and expanded authority? >> absolutely. >> everyone? >> full sport. >> full support there? did the president ask or was he given any side effect intelligence or info concerning the russian active measures in the 2016 presidential election? was he briefed on that? did he ask for that briefing or is it an automatic briefing that you give? >> admiral rogers. >> all that took place before i was. >> il say yes he was briefed on the results of the assessment. i was part of that in january prior to his assuming his duties, he and i have discussed as well as the specifics of that assessment subsequent to after he became the president assumed the duties. >> let me just say just in finishing up, i just would hope that you all with your expertise and all of your knowledge would
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help us put closure to this sooner or later. we need your help and assistance. we really do. this is a committee that i think will take the facts as give them to us and decipher that and come up with some appropriate action and a final report which is i think what the public is looking for. we can't do that without your assi assistance. >> thank you. >> senator,cy fully understand that statement. and as the chairman mentioned, the procedures he's going to put in place relative to when we hold that hearing and the relationship it is to the official investigation that's going on by director mueller will dictate when and how we do that. >> i think we need you in the scif sooner than later. thank you. >> senator cotton. >> thank you, gentlemen. i want to talk about the import of section 702 to our national security. admiral rogers i'll direct most of these questions to us as the
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expert. does section 702, admiral rogers allow you to collect information on u.s. citizens? >> as intentionally targeted individuals in scenario. >> does it allow to you target foreigners to do what's called reverse targeting of u.s. citizens knowing those u.s. citizens are in communications? >> no, it does not. >> does it allow to you collect information on foreigners who are on u.s. soil? >> no. >> it doesn't. >> 702 is outside the united states. >> so you can collect information on an isis terrorist in syria and he comes to the united states and you can no longer collect information on his cell phone or his e-mail address. >> we're an interrogation organization. we coordinate with the fbi. we don't do internal domestic collection broadly. >> mr. rosen stein, do foreigners have constitutional rights? >> when they're in the united states, senator, different rules apply. that's why i think it's important for people to understand that section 702
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applies only in circumstances where it's a foreign national outside the united states. if they're inside the united states, we would need to rely on other provisions of fisa to do the collection. yes, we can do it but need to apply different rules. mr. mccabe as the director indicated is responsible for that. >> mr. mccabe, what happens when an isis terrorist comes from syria to the united states and admiral rogers can no longer use 702 to monitor his electronic communications. >> his folks notify mine and we work together to pursue coverage under different elements of the fisa statute. >> i'm sure you work as hard as you can to make sure it's seamless. it seems like 702 because it's limited to foreigners on foreign soil without targeting u.s. persons anywhere goes the extra mile to protect the constitutional rights of american citizens and even the supposed constitutional rights of foreigners when they come on u.s. soil. that's one reason why i support thor.
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the extension of section 702 and introduced legislation to that affect yesterday. tom boss sert, the homeland security adviser to the president writes in the "new york times" today about our legislation, the trump administration supports this bill without condition. admiral rogers, is that your position? >> could you repeat it again? i apologize. >> trump administration supports this bill without condition? >> yes. >> on a scale of 1 to 10, how enthusiastic would you be if this bill passed? you can go over 10 to be enthusiastic. >> i would be ecstatic we would be in a position to generate significant insights for security. >> director coats? >> my level is about 100. >> mr. rosenstein. >> senator, i'm not familiar with the rating system. i do think it's very important. >> director mccabe. >> i'm at 11. >> director coats in exchange
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earlier with senator wyden about the efforts to estimate and declassify the number of persons who might be subject to incidental collection under section 702 when you have a lawful 702 order but someone does communicate with an american citizen, it's my understanding that it would be virtually impossible to doe so in a way that wouldn't further infringe on the rights of american citizens. is that correct? >> yes, and that's one of the central reasons why i came to the conclusion, but the main reason i came to the conclusion is that just is not conceivably possible. we could go through the procedures, we could shift hundreds of people to go over and breach the rights of 00 reds if not thousands of american citizens to determine of individuals to determine whether or not they are american citizens or not. but we still, having done that, could not get to an accurate number, the number that senator wyden was trying to get us to.
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my pledge to him is i would go out there, try to fully understand why it was we couldn't get that. they'll be detailed discussions on that and the closed session with the staff and the technicians from both nsa and from senate staff here and others relative to all of these that have been made to try to answer the question. and as i said in my statement it, even if we were to take people off the regular jobs and say get on this issue, even if we could put other measures in place, we still would not be able to come up. it's hard to explain how difficult this is or why this is the case. but that is what is going to be discussed in the closed session because all of this is classified information this afternoon. i assume the staff of members,
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all the members here will be there. but my pledge was to do the best i could to try to get to some answer. and the result was we couldn't get to an answer, number one and number two, trying to get to an answer would totally disrupt the efforts of the agency. now, you know, you might be able to make the case let's hire 1,000 more people and get to the answer if you knew that you would get to the answer. admiral rogers has told me, i hope he doesn't mind me saying this that if someone out there knows how to get to it, he's welcome to have him come out and tell nsa how to do it. everybody says you can get to the number. it's easy. there's all kinds of agencies out there that can do it. you might welcome the advice if they wanted to do that. it really raises a question why there has to be an exact number. >> if we're going to hire 1,000 new people, i would sooner they would they would focus on
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terrorists than violating the rights of american citizens. my time has expired. >> senator harris. >> admiral harris in response to the question from senator mansion on you, it appears felt tree to discuss the conversations you've had with the president in january about russian active measures. can you share with this committee how you're determining which conversations you can share and which you don't feel free to share? >> ma'am, the fact that we briefed the president previously both went up to new york and as a matter of public record. >> if it's a matter of public record, you feel free to discuss those conversations? >> if it's not classified. you can keep trying to trip me up, senator, if you could, could i get to respond. >> no, sir. no. >> okay. >> are you saying that if it is classified, you will not discuss it and then my follow-up question obviously would be, do you believe that discussion of russian active mishes is not the subject of classified information? >> i stand by my previous comments. >> thank you. mr. rosenstein, when you appointed a special counsel on
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may 17th, stated "based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person hop exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command." the order you issued along with that statement provides that 28cfr600.4 through 10 were applicable. those are otherwise known as the special council regulations. is that correct. >> yes, senator. >> and it states that the 13esh8 council "shall not be subject to the day-to-day supervision of any official of the department, however, the regulations permit you as acting attorney general for this matter to override director mueller's investigative and prosecutorial decisions under specified circumstances." is that correct? >> yes, senator. >> and it also provides that you may fire or remove director mule ter under specified circumstances. is that correct? >> yes. >> and you indicated in your
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statement that you chose a person hop exercises a degree of independence, not full independence from the normal chain of command. so my question is this. in december of 2003, then attorney general john ashcroft recused himself from the investigation into the leak that led to the disclosure of valerie plame's identity as a cia officer. the acting attorney general at the time was jim comey. he appointed a special council patrick fitzgerald to take over the matter. in a letter dated december 30th of 2003, mr. comey wrote the following to mr. fitzgerald. "i direct you to exercise the authority as special counsel independent of the supervision or control of any officer of the department." in a subsequent letter dated february 6th, 2004, mr. comey wrote to clarify the earlier letter stating that his delegates of authority to mr. fitzgerald was "plenary." moreover it said my con federal
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on you of the title of special counsel in this matter should not be muss understood to suggest that your position and authors are defined or limited by 28cfr part 600. those are the special counsel regulations we discussed. so would you agree, mr. rosenstein, to provide a letter to director mueller similarly providing that director mueller has the authority as special counsel "independent of the supervision or control of any officer of the department and ensure that director mueller has the authority that is plenary and not defined or limited by the special counsel regulations "? >> i'm very sensitive about time and i'd like to have a very lengthy conversation and explain ta to you. >> could you give me a yes or no answer. >> it's not a short answer. >> it is either you are willing to do that or not. we have precedent in that regard. >> but -- >> chairman, they should be allowed to answer the question.
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>> it's a long question you posed senator. i appreciate the import of your question and i'll get to the answer. my quibble are you is, pat fitzgerald is a very principled very independent person. i have a lot of respect for him. pat fitzgerald could have been fired by the president because he was a united states attorney. robert mueller cannot because he's protected by those special counsel regulations. although it's theoretically true that there are circumstances where he could be remove by the acting attorney general for at this time is me, your assurance of his independence is robert be mueller's integrity and andy mccabe's integrity and my integrity. >> sir, if i may, the greater an insurance is not that you and i believe in director mueller's integrity which i have no question about his integrity. it is that you would put in writing an indication based on your authority as the acting attorney general that he has full independence in regards to
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the investigations that are before him. are you willing or you are not willing to give him the authority to be fully independent of your ability statue rilly and legally to fire him? yes or no sir. >> he has the full independence as authorized by the regulations. >> are you willing to do as has been done before. >> will the senator suspend? the claire will exercise its right to allow the witnesses to answer the question and the committee is on notice to the provide the witnesses the courtesy which has not been extended all the way across, extend the courtesy for questions to get answered. >> mr. chairman, respectfully. >> mr. rosen stein, will you. >> id point out this witness has joked as we all have with his ability to filibuster. mr. rosenstein, would you like to thoroughly answer the question. >> i'm not joking. the truth is, i have a lot of experience with these issues. and i could give, i could speak
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to you for a long time about it. i appreciate the five-minute limit. that's not my limit but the answer is, this originated with the independent counsel statute. i worked for an independent council and worked in the department during the independent counsel era when they were appointed by authorization of the senate. they were appointed by federal judges and they had the authority equivalent to the attorney general. that statute sunseted and the majority of members of this body concluded that that was appropriate because they did not want independent counsels who were 100% independent of the department of justice. that was a determination made by the legislature. now, i know the folks at the department who drafted this regulation under janet reno and they drafted to deal with this type of circumstance. and the idea was that there would be some circumstances where because of unusual events, it was appropriate to appoint somebody from outside the department, not somebody like pat fitzgerald who is a u.s. attorney who could be fired but somebody from outside the
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department who could be trusted to conduct this investigation independently and given an appropriate degree of independence. now, under the regulation, he has i believe adequate authority to conduct this investigation and your ultimate check, senator, is number one the integrity of the people involved in the investigation but number two, the fact that if he were overruled or if he were fired, we would be required under the regulation to report to the congress and so i believe that's an appropriate check. so i realize that theoretically, anybody could be fired. and so there's a potential for undermining the investigation. i am confident, senator that director mueller, mr. mccabe and i and anybody else who may fill those positions in the future will protect the integrity of that investigation. that's my commitment to you and that's the guarantee you and the american people have. >> is that a no? >> senator cornyn. >> well, seems to be one thing we all agree on at least so far
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based on the questions and the comments and that is that 702 is an important tool for the intelligence community. and one that needs to be preserved and i agree with senator cotton that it should be extended without a sunset provision as currently written. so it's good to have one thing we agree on. but i want to ask director coats and perhaps admiral rogers if you want to comment on this, as well. as i understand the framework of 6702, it is to intentionally not target american citizens. it is to intentionally target foreign persons and to not collect information from american citizens except by way of incidental collection and i think you've described admiral, rogers, the extensive procedures that the law requires and that nsa practices have in place to
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minimize the access of anybody in the intelligence community to that u.s. person and indeed you've talked about purging incidental collection that was made in the course of the 702 investigation. >> so it strikes me, director coats, the question that senator wyden has asked you and that's come up several times to intentionally target american citizens in order to generate a number is just the opposite of what the structure of 702 provides because the whole idea is to not collect, not to be able to gather information about american citizens except in the course incidental course of collecting information against a foreign intelligence target. is that a fair statement? >> that's fair in my mind. and it was a central piece of the information of fact that
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caused me to come to the conclusion that this would -- this would do just exactly what you said. you're breaching someone's privacy to determine whether or not they are an american person. >> to generate a list for congress. >> it potentially could -- yes, to generate a list for congress. that wasn't the only basis on which we made the decision but that was an essential basis. >> thank you. i want to ask a little bit more about the minimization procedures and the importance of those, and a little bit about unmasking of u.s. persons' names that admiral rogers and others have director coats you've talked about. you've explained the process and the elaborate procedures in place to make sure that this is not done accidentally or casually. and i think that's very important reshoo a suring the
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american people that in the collection of foreign intelligence, we are extraordinarily protective of the privacy of u.s. citizens who might be incidentally collected against and so to me, the minimization procedures are very important. the internal policies of the nsa when it comes to collecting foreign intelligence that happens to incidentally impact american citizens is absolutely critical to this balance between security and individual privacy. perhaps this is a question for mr. rosenstein though and maybe director mccabe. if someone is to use the unmasking process for a political purpose, is that potentially a crime? >> yes, senator. >> and director mccabe, perhaps or deputy attorney general rosen stein, for somebody to leak the name of an american citizen that
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is unmasked in the course of incidental collection to leak that classified information is that also potentially a crime? >> yes, i think that's the most significant point, senator. it's important for people to understand unmasking is done in the course of ordinary legitimate intelligence gathering when the identity of the person on the other end of the message may be relevant to understand the intelligence significance of the communication. leaking is a clinical different matter. leaking is a crime. that be prosecuted in the appropriate circumstances and there have been cases where we've been able to determine there's a willful violation of federal law, a disclosure not authorized and prosecutions have been brought and will be brought. >> and mr. ro rosenstein not to pick on you or director mccabe, but i think there's some confusion when we can talk generically about russian investigations. we described the role of the special counsel which i think
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you've discussed in great detail. but that's primarily to investigate potential criminal acts and counter intelligence activities. is it not? >> the answer to that is yes. it is -- the idea of the russian investigation that has much broader signatures i know to many of you than the piece the director mccabe and i are referring to and the piece that director mueller is investigating. > that's enormously helpful at least to me because when people speak generically confident russian investigation, i think they're also including things like our responsibilities as the intelligence committee to do oversight of the intelligence and of the counter potential counter measures we might undertake to deal with the active measures campaign of the russian government were clearly documented in the intelligence community assessment. but by my count, there are multiple committees of the united states senate including
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the judiciary committee on which i serve which has different jurisdiction and oversight responsibilities. it's our job to do the investigation and write legislation. we're not the fbi. we're not the special counsel. we're not the department of justice. and i'm afraid in the conversation that we've been having here, people have been conflating all of those and those are very zing and importantly zing functions. thank you. >> senator reed. >> thank you very much. director mccabe, on may 11th you testifieded "director comey enjoyed broad support with the fbi and still does to this day," and you added you hold him in the absolute highest regard. is that still the case? >> it is, sir. >> thank you. director mccabe, i'm trying to understand the rationale for your unwillingness to comment upon your conversations with director comey. first, you have had i would presume and correct me if i'm wrong, conversations with
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mr. mueller. you've had those conversations. >> yes, sir. >> you're fully familiar with the scope of the investigation. since you've dealt now the with mr. mueller but also with -- >> i am, sir, but i think it's important to note that mr. mueller and his team are currently in the process of determining what that scope is. and much in the way that senator cornyn just referred to, the fbi maintains a much broader responsibility to continue investigating issues relative to potential russian counter intelligence activity and threats posed to us from our russian adversaries. so determining exactly where those lanes in the road are, where does director mueller's scope overlap into our pre-existing and long-running russian responsibilities is somewhat of a challenge at the moment. that is why i am trying to be particularly respectful of his efforts and not take any steps that might compromise his
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investigation. >> getting back to your rationale for not commenting on the conversation between you and mr. comey, it seems to me that what you said is that either that is part of a criminal investigation or likely to become part of a criminal investigation. the conversation between the president of the united states and mr. comey. and therefore, you cannot properly comment on that. is that construct. >> that's accurate, sir. >> what about the conversations between director coats and admiral rogers with the president of the united states? is that likely to become or is part of a ongoing criminal investigation? >> i couldn't comment on that, sir. i'm not -- i'm not familiar with that and it wouldn't be for the same reasons it's not appropriate for meet to comment on director comey's conversations, i certainly wouldn't comment on those that i'm further away from. >> mr. rosenstein, are you aware of the possibility of an investigation in in conversations that director coats and admiral rogers had
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with the president. >> my familiarity with that is limited to what i read in the newspaper this morning and what we heard here today. >> director coats, have you had any contact with the special prosecutor or any -- >> i have not. >> have you been advised by any of your counsels or private or public that this conversation that you had with the president could be subject to a criminal investigation? >> i have not. >> add mir rogers the same question? >> to the last question, no, i have not. >> let me just return again to the points that i think senator king made very well, which is this unwillingness to comment on the conversation with the president but to characterize it in a way that you didn't feel pressured, yet, refusing to answer very specific and nonintelligence related issue, i
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don't see how it would impact on the classification and our status whether or not you were specifically asked by the president to do anything. do you still maintain that you can't comment whether you were asked or not? >> nothing has changed since my initial response. >> i stand by my previous answer. >> i just must say the impression i have is that if you could say that, you would say that. thank you. no further questions. >> senator mccain. >> well, gentlemen, you're here at an interesting time. it's funny how sometimes events run together. this morning's "washington post" top intelligence official told associates trump asked him if he could intervene with comey on fbi russia probe. it goes into some detail. i'm sure you've read the
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article. and it's more than disturbing. obviously, if it's true, that the president of the united states was trying to get the director of national intelligence and others to abandon an investigation into russian involvement, it's pretty serious. i also understand the position that you're in because it is classified information and yet, here it is on this morning's "washington post" in some detail. i'm sure you've read it. so i guess if i understand you right, director coats, is that in a closed session, you are more than ready to discuss this situation. is that correct? >> i would hope we'd have the opportunity to do that. >> well, i hope we can provide you with that opportunity. you know, it's just shows what
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kind of an orwellian existence that we live in. i mean, it's detailed as you know from reading the story as to when you met, what you discussed, et cetera, et cetera. and yet, here in a public hearing before the american people, we can't talk about what was described in detail in this morning's "washington post." do you want to comment on that? >> are you asking me? >> comment on the integrity of the "washington post" reporting? i guess i've been around town. >> it's pretty detailed. >> i guess i've been around town long enough to say not take everything at face value that's printed in the "post." i served on the committee here and often saw that information that we had been discussed had been reported but that wasn't
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always accurate. but i think this is the response that i gave to the "post" was that i did not want to publicly share what i thought were private conversations with the president of the united states. most of them, almost all of them intelligence related and classified. i didn't think it was appropriate to do so in an open -- for the "post" to report what it reported or do that in an open session. >> well, it's an unfortunate situation that you're sitting there because it's classified information and this morning's "washington post" describes in some detail, not just outlined but times and dates and subjects that are being discussed, and i'm certainly not blaming you but it certainly is an interesting town in which we
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exist. >> just because it's published in the "washington post" doesn't mean it's now unclassified. >> but unfortunately, whether it's classified or not, it's now out to the world. which is obviously not your fault. but describes dates and times and who met with whom and so, well, do you want to tell us any more about the russian involvement in our election that we don't already know from reading "the washington post"? >> i don't think that's -- that's a position i'm in. i do know that there are ongoing investigations. i do know that we continue to provide all the relevant
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intelligence we have to enable those investigations to be carried out with integrity and with knowledge. >> well, it must be a bit frustrating to you in protecting what is clearly sensitive information then to read all about it in the "washington post." you have my sympathy and i expressed that at your confirmation hearing doubting your sanity. so admiral, you got anything to say about it? >> no, sir other than boy, some days i sure i wish i was on the bridge of that destroyer again. >> i can understand that. i feel the same way. mr. rosenstein? >> senator, i can't speak for anybody else but i'm proud to be here. proud to be here with director mccabe. i'm sure he feels the same way. >> i do. >> whatever that might mean. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator mccain. the chair is going to recognize
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senator wyden for one question on 702. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i appreciate the courtesy. this one, director coats, i'd like a yes or no answer on. can the government use fisa acts, section 702, to collect communications it knows are entirely domestic? >> not to my knowledge. it would be against the law. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator warner? >> again, i want to thank all the witnesses. but i come out of this had hearing with more questions than when i went in. gentlemen, you are both willing to somehow characterize your conversations with the president that you didn't feel pressure. but you wouldn't share the content. in the case of admiral rogers, we will have independent third
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party that will at least provide some level of contemporaneous description of that conversation and obviously why there was concerns enough to commit that to writing. i'm pretty frustrated that there is this deference to the special prosecutor even though the special prosecutor has not talked to you. i'm concerned with the deputy attorney general also deference to the special prosecutor but there doesn't seem to be and this committee and the chairman and i are committed to making sure we appropriately deconflict. what we don't seem to have is the same commitment to find out whether the president of the united states tried to intervene directly with leaders of our intelligence community and ask them to back off or downplay,
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you've testified to your feelings response candidly, your feelings response is important but the content of his communication with you is absolutely critical. and i guess i would just say, the president is not bob the law. if the president intervenes in a conversation and intervenes in an investigation like that, would that not be the subject of some concern, mr. rosen stein. >> senator, anybody obstructs a federal investigation, it would be a subject of concern. i don't care who they are. i can commit to you if you're looking for commitment from mr. mccabe and from me, if there is any credible algs that anybody seeksings to obstruct a federal investigation, it would be investigated appropriately about whether it's by me or the special counsel. that's our responsibility and we'll see to it. >> i thank the chairman. we will ultimately have to get to the content of those conversations. >> director coats, i know you've got to go. give me 90 more seconds if i could. this question probably to you, admiral rogers. if our partners globally used
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702 intelligence to stop a terrorist attack? >> yes, sir, if we were to lose the 702 authority, i would fully expect leaders from some of our close yet allies to put out one loud scream. >> and in most cases, didn't they take credit for our intelligence? >> we don't, this he don't publicly talk about where it comes from. we acknowledge nsa is a primary provider of insights. >> i just wanted to get on the record. this is a global asset. >> yes. >> that the war on terror has is 702. >> yes, sir. >> mr. chairman, if i could just take the time you were trying to protect from me for my next appointment to just say following and i just want to repeat, following my interaction with my contemporaries in a number of european countries, they are deeply deeply grateful to us for the information
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derived from 702 has saved what they said literally hundreds of lives. >> well, certainly the committee is privy to those instances in a lot of cases and we're grateful for that. and gentlemen, i want to thank you for your testimony. but before we adjourn, i would ask each of you to take a message back to the administration. you're in positions whereby you're required to keep this committee fully and currently informed of intelligence activities. in cases where the sensitivity of those activities would not be appropriate for the full committee or open session, there's a mechanism that you may use to brief the appropriate parties. it's sometimes often referred to as the gang of eight notification briefing and i think without exception, everybody at the table has utilized that tool before. congressional oversight of the intelligence activities of our
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government is necessary and it must be robust. thus, the provisions of this unique briefing mechanism given the availability of that sensitive briefing avenue, at no time should you be in a position where you come to congress without an answer. it may be in a different format. but the requirements of our oversight duties and your agencies demand it. with that, again, i thank you for being here. this hearing is adjourned. >> i'm john king in washington. welcome to "inside politics." you just watched the chairman risch richard burr gasoling to a close more than 2 1/2 hearing of the senate intelligence committee on capitol hill. this hearing will be remembered more for what the witnesses refused to answer than what they did answer. the director of national intelligence, the head of the national security agency, deputy attorney general and the acting head of the fbi all witnesses all grilled about what they know
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about the russian election meddling investigation specifically what they know, were there efforts by president trump to interfere in that investigation. before we bring in our panel for a conversation, i want to bring you one key moment early in the hearing the ranking democrat mark warner asking the director of national intelligence and the head of the national security agency, did the president of the united states ask you to either dismiss publicly or interfere with the fbi director james comey and get him to back off his investigation. listen. >> i have never been directed to do anything i believed to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate. and to the best of my recollection, during that same period of service, i do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so. >> i have never been pressured, i have never felt pressure to intervenor interfere in any way and shape with shaping intelligence in a political way
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or in relationship to an ongoing investigation. >> the great group on hand. we'll introduce them. jeffrey toobin, let me start with you. on the one hand, if you're the trump white house you print those answers and say see, they were never pressured by the president. they were repeatedly subsequent to that were you ever asked by the president. did the president ever ask you to do anything. they refused even though that's not classified and they agreed to testify at this hearing this they refused to answer whether the conversation took place or to describe it just saying we weren't pressured. >> that's why i think you saw a good deal of frustration particularly from the democratic members because they will both witnesses gave kind of generally exkulpatarily answers to questions that weren't really asked. they were not -- they didn't describe kug the conversations. ultimately what these hearings should be about is gathering evidence and the evidence is what was said. and they only provided their own
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conclusions. and what was especially irritating i think and understandably so, was they didn't really give a legal basis for their reasons to decline to answer. they didn't say, it's classified. 'not classified. they didn't say that the white house had invoked executive privilege. they just said we don't feel it's appropriate. which and as several senators said, we don't really care about your feelings. what's your basis? and that's where frustration. >> let's listen to more. angus king who is an independence but sides with democrats most often after senator from maine raised that point essentially saying we are the oversight committee. dan coats had told the senate armed services i'm not going to talk about conversations with the president in this setting but will talk about them over to the investigate tisk setting but he refused. here's it the frustration voiced by senator king. >> why are you not answering the questions? is it an invocation of executive
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privilege? if there is, let's know about it. if there isn't, answer the questions. >> i stand by the comments i've made. i'm not interested in repeating myself sir. i don't mean that in a contentious way. >> i do mean it. i don't understand why you're not answering our questions. >> and he repeatedly asked -- essentially said what's your legal basis. they didn't have a legal basis. >> they clearly didn't want to answer the questions and said they consulted the white house about privilege but never got an answer which i thought was a little strange. and angus king was clearly frustrated because he said your answers aren't good enough for me. and the chairman of the committee chairman burr at the very end admonished them and said at no time should you appear before congress without an answer to our questions. i mean, this is their job. and they were saying well, this is mueller's investigation, it's
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not appropriate. and they were just saying it's our opinion that it's not appropriate. therefore, we're not going to answer. >> is there any other conclusion that they both made a judgment, dan coats appointed by the president, admiral rogers inherited about the president that they both made the judgment they were not going to embarrass the president because something was discussed. we don't know what. this they said they were not pressured. they did not say there was no such conversation. they could have said this never came up with the president. >> if it never happened, you bet they would have said it never happened. this was stonewalling. there's no other way to say it. they were stonewalling. frustration was bubbling over as you said not just from the democrats but to come from the republican chair at the very end saying that you can't do this is really telling. just the notion of dan coats saying, well, what i promised was that i would talk about it, that i would talk about it in a setting that is not public. it isn't classified. this is not intelligence
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information. this is potentially privileged information if the white house wants to go there, but they didn't even know. it seemed like it was unnecessarily chaotic and uncomfortable and awkward. it's unclear why knowing this hearing was coming the white house didn't get their ducks in a row that everybody didn't understand where they stood and what they were going to say and it was painful to watch them. >> and nor did they commit. they said they would perhaps, perhaps and they were hopeful they could say more in a private setting not a public setting. both the admiral and director coats did not rule out the possibility that in further consultations with the white house or their own counsel, they might in a closed setting cite some executive privilege or some other reason not to answer the question. >> john mccain tried to get at that. he was clearly exas per rated with this whole experience saying listen, we have read about all of this in the "washington post." and now here you are before a senate committee and before the american public, right? because that's the purpose of these hearings to inform the
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american public what's going on with these investigations. so john mccain trying to get some answers. it seems in that moment they could have flatly denied what was in "the washington post" and you had coats there kind of oh, you know, at times things that appear in the "washington post" might not be true. but you know in, that moment it was telling that again, there were no flat outdenials about these conversations. >> for anybody watching to didn't read "the washington post" article this morning, the post article contends after we're going to hear from james comey, fired former fbi director tomorrow. this hearing sort i've pray include to that. tomorrow's blockbuster testimony. today was the preview. the post suggests we know from comey the president said first pledge loyalty to me. "the washington post" reports that the president asked director of national intelligence dan coats can you intervene? is there anything you can do? you can read it right there.
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as the briefing was wrapped up, trump asked everyone to leave the room except for coats and mike pompeo. the president started complaining about the investigation and officials familiar with the account gave to associates. is there anything you two can do to help me. >> into. >> you're going to have after today's session as we've had with every step of this investigation republicans and democrats and the president take what they want from it. so the president certainly at some point will tweet, look they exonerated me there. as gloria said, keep in mind, the gop chairman of the senate intelligence committee who supported the president during the election and was supported by the president said in so many words they did not answer the question. a key question and they had no reason not to answer the question. not classified. the special counsel did not ask them to talk about it. and you even had dni coats in a remarkable moment say i'm not sure i have a legal basis for it. that's a remarkable thing in front of a committee to which he had previously committed to
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answer these questions. another moment i senator har martin hinrich said it, how simple it would be for you to say no, that never happened. he's right. none of them said that. >> whether they wanted to or not, the message sent loud and clear was they had clearly lawyered carefully prepared answers to not answer the question and i think that if you're just casually watching this and you want to take a headline away from this nobody is come away from this thinking the headline is this thing didn't happen. they're going to think none of these people were willing to answer yes or no. >> i was going to say, one of the things they he did it put this back on the white house. they said we will go and talk to white house counsel and consult with them. so now, you've kind of set up a situation where the white house has to answer to this. we haven't heard from them. it will be very interesting to see how they respond. >> i keep thinking if comey was never fired, he would have been sitting where mccain is sitting
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right now and we wouldn't have a blockbuster hearing tomorrow we're all anticipating. he would have been another person not answering these questions had the president not decided to fire him. >> this hearing ostensibly was about whether to reauthorize section 702 of the fisa law which is an important intelligence gathering foreign surveillance international surveillance and an a controversy about that. it's not going to get much attention because of this. mentioned the conversations with rogers and coats, did the president somehow try to interfere, influence, if you want to have an innocent view of it, some sort of public relations campaign to downplay the investigation, if you a nefarious view, did he try to obstruct justice. fbi director testifies tomorrow as you noted, thing director was jim comey's deputy. after conversations with the president that made comey comfortable, he took notes. we know from his associates he shared them with several associates so they would know this is what you do in law
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enforcement these were memos he didn't make up after the fact. early in the hearing mccabe was asked, what did jim comey tell you. >> director mccabe, did direct ker comey ever share details of his conversations with the president with you, in particular, did director comey say that the president had asked for his loyalty? >> sir, i'm not going to comment on conversations that the director may have had with the president. i know he's here to testify in front of you tomorrow. you'll have an opportunity to ask him those things. >> i'm asking you, did you have that conversation with director comey. >> i've responded that i'm not going to comment on those conversations. >> why not? >> because for two reasons. first, the as i mentioned, i'm not in a position to talk about conversations that director comey may or may not have had with the president. >> i'm not asking you about that. i'm asking about conversations you had with director comey. >> those matters also begin to
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fall within the scope of issues being investigated by special council and wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment on those today. >> got a hint of it right there at the very end. that's the acting fbi director saying those issues that could fall under the purview of the special counsel. i should not discuss them publicly. later in the hearing, jack reed of rhode island came back to the same point to put the hammer on the nail, if you will. >> getting back to your rationale for not commenting on the conversation between you and mr. comey, there's it seems to me what you say is that either that is part of a criminal investigation or likely to become part of a criminal investigation, the conversation between the president of the united states and mr. comey and therefore, you cannot properly comment on that. is that construct? >> that's accurate, sir. >> we knew these things that the special counsel was named that the special counsel has broad purview although there are ways the president or justice department could fire him.
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among the subjects bob mueller the special counsel would looking into is when the president fired jim comey was that an effort to obstruct the investigation. did he interfere? will it make a difference in the public discourse about this to have credible public be ants say it? this has been sources say intelligence leaks. there you have people with long resumes in law enforcement saying this is a criminal investigation including the president. >> i think it is significant. but you know, this is different from other investigations at least so far. you know in, watergate, there was a special prosecutor and there was a congressional investigation. in iran-contra, there was a special prosecutor and there was a congressional investigation. in those congressional investigations, the witnesses were not saying, i can't talk about it because the independent counsel is investigating it. they both go on at the same time and the public has an enormous interest in getting these facts. so if witnesses are going to come before congress and say we
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can't talk about it because the special counsel is investigating it, we'll never learn anything. >> maybe they could be held in contempt of congress. who knows. burr sounded upset about it. it steeped to me there was one message they had. we weren't directed. we weren't pressured. that was it. >> but -- >> the president was also the president's perspective, is elves lucky today it was dan coats a former senator in that chair and admiral rogers a man in uniform in the chair. if they were two other people who didn't have the military history and credibility with the senate, i think they would have been pushed further in this setting. it doesn't mean they won't be pushed further down the line but they didn't get it as hard today as they might have had it been other people. >> you can have both investigations simultaneously and that was their excuse. if that were their actual excuse, then at least we can have ta discussion. to me, their excuse was completely, what was their excuse? >> but then it was like, i mean
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at one point the fact dan coats said i don't know if there's a legal basis. what? >> watch that back. >> you have to admire his candor if not the legal advice he's giving. the only reasonable inference is i don't want to say something public that would embarrass the president. >> right. >> and get hip in hot water with the president. >> john mccain's moment as he was sitting there with a copy of the "washington post" and he called it orwellian existence. >> that's a great point. he's the chairman of the armed services committee so he gets to sit in. at the end he was asking his friend dan coats about the "washington post" today and the director's refusal to talk about it. >> you know, it's just shows what kind of an orwellian existence that we live in. i mean, it's detailed as you know from reading the story as to when you met, what you discussed, et cetera, et cetera.
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and yet, here in a public hearing before the american people, we can't talk about what was described in detail in this morning's "washington post." do you want to comment on that? dan? >> are you asking me. >> comment on the integrity of the "washington post" reporting? i guess i've been around town. >> it's pretty detailed. >> i guess i've been around town long enough to say not take everything at face value that's printed in the "post." i served on the committee here and often saw that information that we had been discussed had been reported but that wasn't always accurate. but i think this is the response that i gave to the "post" was that i did not want to publicly
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share what i thought were private conversations with the president of the united states. >> just um, um. he doesn't know what to say at the end. the post story is well documented. he won't talk about it publicly. >> at the ends there, he kind of tacitly confirmed the story. he said he didn't want to comment on conversations that first of all, no one seems to want to acknowledge exists but he seemed to acknowledge in that moment they existed. they just thought they were private. which when you're sitting before congress is not a reason to not answer questions just because you think it's private, you don't want to talk about it, it's not a reason to not answer questions. that's one of the reasons you might see a republican chairman of this committee essentially saying you cannot do that because it undermines the very foundation of the whole point of having a senate committee where people are sitting there under oath. they're supposed to tell the truth. they have to tell the truth. >> their frustration you could sense the republican frustration at the end.
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the chairman it was brought up earlier saying don't come up here unless you can answer the questions. appreciate everybody coming. rock 'n' roll with all the live coverage. wolf blitzer takes over our coverage after a quick break. point decisively with the arm of your glasses. abracadabra. the stage is yours. step two: choose la quinta. the only hotel where you can redeem loyalty points for a free night-instantly and win at business. if you have a garden, you know weeds are low-down little scoundrels. with roundup precision gel®, you can finally banish garden weeds without harming precious plants nearby. so draw the line. just give the stick one click, touch the leaves and the gel stays put killing garden weeds to the root with pinpoint precision. draw the line with roundup precision gel®. and be sure to check out roundup® with sure shot wand. another good-for-the-garden product from roundup.
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>> this is cnn breaking news. hello, i'm wolf blitzer. it's 1:00 p.m. here in washington wherever you're watching from around the world, anxious very much for joining us. right now, you're looking at live pictures from cincinnati, ohio where president donald trump is set to speak momentarily. the trip to cincinnati is part of the president's and the white house's push to focus on increased infrastructure spending but as the president tries to focus his attention in southern ohio, most people are zeroing in on what the president left behind here in washington, d.c. before leaving the white house, president trump tweeted out the name of his nominee to become the next fbi director christopher wray. the announcement

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