tv Washington Journal Hans von Spakovsky Discusses the Russia Investigation CSPAN June 11, 2017 8:02am-8:37am EDT
on twitter, people threatened violence against me and my family. that is also inappropriate. we need to bring civility back to politics. host: the midterm elections, our topic on newsmakers. the chair of the republican national committee. you can listen to it on c-span radio. be sure to check out our free c-span radio app. you can listen to it anytime. on funds but scott c -- hans von spakovsky is joining us. what news did you learn? guest: a lot of it was confirmation. asked, he said there was no evidence that the
russians or anyone else had actually hacked into our voting process, the balloting process, -- the administration of elections. it puts the rest of the idea that somebody alter the results of the election. the other thing that came out of it was that even if what happened in the white house between comey and donald trump in their conversation -- when their conversation occurred, that does not meet the standards of the obstruction of justice statute. there were 22 statutes on obstruction of justice in the federal code. the only one it really applies 1503. if you look at what comey described, that does not meet the elements of that statute. the other thing that came out of it was something that nobody had heard, which was comey saying
when he was about to go testify, about the fbi investigation into the clinton email scandal, he was called by former attorney general loretta lynch, who told him i don't want you referring this -- referring to this as an investigation in public, i want you referring to it as a matter. he asked why and she did not explain. the problem with that is that is the language the clinton campaign was using, calling it a matter and not a investigation. it is almost as if the attorney general was parroting the clinton campaign to try to help it. it is not unlawful, but it was concerning. host: let's talk about this tuesday. the attorney general will be testifying before the senate intelligence committee. you spent six years working within the justice department during the bush administration. ?ow is he preparing cap -- why did he agreed to testify?
what do you expect to learn on tuesday? we will will think learn a lot because sessions does not know a lot about this. everyone should remember he recused himself from anything having to do with the russia investigation. the standard way that anyone prepares at the justice department is their staff basically goes through and researches all the questions that they think their principal make it asked and help repair answers for them. a lot of them, when it goes to a -- for the comes to eight ongoing law enforcement investigation, you can't give an answer. you saw comey do that a lot in his hearing. you cannot give out details that might compromise the investigation or somehow affect a trial if there is one, down the road. there were a lot of questions that general sessions will not be able to answer. if there is an ongoing law enforcement investigation and if he were -- it because he recused
himself, he will not know a lot. host: what do we expect to learn in the next 24 hours, whether this will be a public or private -- classified meeting? guest: everyone should keep in mind that happened with comey. the senateat intelligence committee has open hearings were everyone can come, and then they close the door at there will be any kind of discussion of classified material. host: where do you think this is going to lead? guest: i don't think it is going to lead anywhere. the only thing that came out of kobe's testimony was for months, people have been talking about supposedly investigation of possible collusion between the trump campaign and the russian government, particularly russian intelligence op -- operatives. the main story that generated all of this, the new york times story was false. there was no evidence of collusion between trump campaign
people and russian intelligence operatives. i think that punctures this huge balloon that has been floating about that particular issue. host: we are talking to hans von spakovsky with the heritage foundation. our phone lines are open you can also -- are open. you can also send us a tweet. here is one exchange with one of the senior democrats on the senate intel committee. >> here is the question. you are big, you are strong. i know the oval office and i know what happens to people when they walk in. there is a certain amount of intimidation. why didn't you stop and say mr. president, this is wrong, i cannot discuss this with you? >> that is a great question. perhaps if i were stronger, i would have. i was so stunned by the
conversation, that i just took it in. building being -- the only thing -- i veryink to say carefully chose the words. i have seen the tweet about tapes. i hope there are tapes. i remember saying i agree he's a good guy as a way of saying i'm not agreeing with what you just asked me to do. maybe other people would be stronger in that circumstance, but that is how i conducted myself. i hope i will never have enough -- i hope i will never have another opportunity. host: in hindsight, was that a mistake? guest: if he believed that something was good -- was that a mistake? guest: if you believe that was something that was going on that really shouldn't have been, that he was being asked to do something improper, he knows is
a former top official in the justice department that he should have immediately contacted the white house counsel's office, contacted the attorney general or the inspector general at the justice department. the fact that he did none of those strikes me as post-fact to suddenly saying he thought there was a problem after he had been fired. host: why is the president hinting and based on his dues conference backing off of the idea of tapes? guest: i don't really understand that. i don't know what is going on, there. host: let me get your reaction to this new york times editorial. weeks after being described by donald trump as a net job, james comey on thursday deftly recap -- recaps his conversation with the president as a clash between the legal presence of -- legal principles of the foundation of american democracy and a self-interested politician who does not recognize, let alone
uphold them. let's hope that the principles only articulated and those that uphold them let them guide them in this investigation. host: it -- guest: it forgets that the chief law enforcement officer of the united states is not the fbi director or the attorney general, it is the president. a reasonable person could construe that conversation as a discussion of the balancing of the equities in the case. is the thing the fbi director and the attorney general do all the time. maybe the president should not have had that conversation, but i don't think anyone can really claim that it was a violation of law, in particular because of this. also said he had a phone call with the president about a month later and in that phone call, comey said to the president, told him again that he was not under investigation
and the president said to him, well if any of my satellite associates are involved, that is something we should find out. those are not the words of somebody who was trying to tell the fbi director to stop the russia investigation. ifis the president saying there is anything there, we want to find out about it. host: let me put this on the table because there are a lot of people speculating what warmer president bill clinton said to then attorney general loretta lynch on the tarmac, last year. guest: i am not the attorney general and i have never been the attorney general, but i have been involved in cases and i know when you have to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. what should have happened on that tarmac is that when bill clinton came up the steps, despite the fact that he is the ex-president, the attorney general should have said to him, i'm sorry, because we cannot
speak because your wife is the target of a fbi investigation and the director of the fbi reports to me. in and, she invites him they have a discussion and we don't know about what. that was something she should not have done because she had every duty to avoid the appearance of impropriety. our guest served in the civil rights division of the justice department, a graduate -- a graduate of the vanderbilt school of law. calls.et to your phone juanita, cincinnati, democrats line. caller: i'm going to assume this conversation is about the veracity of mr. comey and the president. frankly, as a democrat, i was very ticked and mr. comey, last
year. is far as theand, heritage foundation goes, when mr. trump years ago began the obama was not an american citizen and questioned not only his birthright but even his parentage, i heard no big cry from the heritage foundation about how presidential or how we looked and if i'm not mistaken, there were some russian people involved in that. there was a woman involved in that investigation. host: response? wast: the real issue is there any kind of attempt at obstruction of justice?
i don't know about what happened years ago, but that was not the topic of a hearing that mr. comey had last week. the topic was the russia investigation being conducted by the ei. mr. comey said that the president is not being investigated. that is the important issue involved. did the russians interfere with and whatcan election we heard from comey is that so far, they have no evidence that occurred. host: rick asking why the room was cleared by trump before he tried to sway comey. guest: i don't know the answer to that. remember, jeff sessions was recusing himself from any involvement in the russian investigation because of the fact that he was an early supporter of president trump. i don't see that that was that relevant to the issue. the point is, the affection of
justice statute has some very specific point you have to meet and they did not come close to meeting the elements of that statue. -- statute. host: our guest is hans von spakovsky. william in california, republican line, good morning. caller: good morning. foundation is just a propaganda mill for the right-wing corporate republican parties. comey clearly said that the instruction of justice investigation was going on and he could not comment on it. is -- wase department trump tried toy get him to promise total loyalty and drop charges against his man, flynn. this guy you've got there, you
should have somebody on the other side with him. this is all a phony set of job where you have this one with this who is just trying to feed us a line of malarkey about the fact that somehow, comey vindicated trump because he was tell the truth to trump, that the investigation could eventually lead to him being involved because he was afraid for his job and being forced to say things that he did not really want to say. host: we will get a response. guest: it is always a clue to what's going on with somebody engages in personal attacks and that of a substance of the issue. if big sponsor just what corporations want, you might want to look at the opposition of the heritage foundation
having to the continuing of the export import bank which is something a lot of big companies in this country wanted and we came out against. going back to mr. comey and the subject of this discussion, i worked in the justice department, i am a veteran of the department and i can tell you that if i were asked to do something that i thought was unethical or unlawful, i would resign or i would immediately call the inspector general. i would remind everyone that comey did none of those things. he had an obligation to do that -- to do so. it is not like he was new to the fbi job i did not have government experience. used to have one of the top positions at the justice department. he knew where his duty lies. if you thought something unlawful going on, he obviously did not think so at the time exceeded not do anything about it. louis, kerry is next, independent line. caller: good morning.
my thing is this. i want the investigation to go on, but i want america, not democrat, not republican. each should be a disgrace. not one republican to think that this man who has been lying to you since day one is in office, doing all kinds of backdoor deals, they complained about obama using his right as president to do certain things. this man is behind closed doors doing everything under the moon. he just did the pipeline where he did not care about the indians or their families or their forefathers, he just came in and put it in their. and trump sit back should be in jail before the end
of this year. c-span, i had a lot of respect for you until you put one side on here to sit like he is so intelligent. you are not the top, whatever you are. you should have two versions, that is all i have to say. host: we will get another perspective in about 20 minutes, but we appreciate you being here and taking viewer calls. guest: obviously, you don't like president trump, but the issue today is was the russian involvement in the election, illegal involvement in the election and did the president do something unlawful and the evidence that came out of that to all of those. the investigation is still going that the that the idea russians got into the election and altered all of it was denied
by comey and was denied six months ago by president obama's former secretary of homeland security and that is the real issue of what is going on. has: the president nominated christopher wray. his take is said to be low-key and principal. what do you know about him -- principled. what do you know about him? guest: i actually know christopher. i would like to point out that i was a career loyal and not a political appointee. christopher wray is a highly qualified professional and everyone who expects the fbi to do a real and objective investigation will get that from him. i would also like to point out about director comey, rimmer that last year, democrats all over capitol hill and elsewhere
were rightfully calling for him to be fired. he should have been fired because of the way he mishandled the clinton email investigation. he took a lot of steps that he should not of taken. the fbi director is in charge of doing federal investigations. when they are done, that has to be turned over to the justice department, where the prosecutors and the attorney general decide whether or not the evidence uncovered in the investigation is worth prosecuting, what there is enough there to after someone. he short-circuited that. he held a press conference where he said well i decided that hillary clinton is not going to be prosecuted and then proceeded to make their negative comments about her. host: in part because of that meeting between bill clinton and loretta lynch. guest: that is not the way you operate. that broke all the rules. the fbi director should have turned over evidence of the investigation to the attorney general.
if you believe there was some kind of problem with turning in over, if he believed she had a conflict of interest, that is the point at which he files a report with the inspector general of the justice department, who is an independent. the inspector general was appointed by president obama. he should have contacted the inspector general if he thought it was a problem. but he making the decision on that broke all the rules and broke all the protocols of how the justice department operates, provider whether there is a democrat or republican in the white house. host: our guest is hans von spakovsky from the heritage foundation and cindy is our next caller from arkansas, republican line. (202)-748-8001 good morning -- caller: good morning. i was wondering if anyone could answer the question to who was the fbi director, comey or targetedhen the irs
conservative citizens with no accountability whatsoever and would the special counsel not be in conflict of interest against the republicans as a target? guest: it was mr. comey who was in charge of the fbi when the irs started targeting conservatives. i'm not quite sure why there would be a conflict of interest for mr. mueller, who is the special counsel that has been designated to look into this, but it was definitely mr. comey and they are the ones who decided that there was no criminal violations of law. i don't think that was correct, but that was another decision by mr. comey. >> another line of questioning. >> was there any question that the president is not real fond of this investigation? 140 werenk of multiple character expressed -- 140 character expressions that he is
not fond of the investigation. i heard you share before that you are trying to keep the agents that are working on it away from any comment the president might have made. the president is in -- has informed around 6 million people around the world that he is not fond of this investigation. do you think there is a difference in that? >> yes. a big difference in taking superior officers out of the oval office, looking the fbi director of the i and saying i hope you will let this go. heardk of our agents that, there is a real risk of a chilling effect on their work. host: let me ask you about the 17 senators that asked questions. were they the right questions? , many questions were good ones. that helped get out a lot of the information. i would have liked to have seen mr. comey explain why in a
better fashion, why he thought there was something unlawful going on. why he did not contact the white house counsel's office. why he did not contact the office of the attorney general. why he did not contact the inspector general or take it of the federal whistleblower statute and go to congress, go to one of the relevant committees on the senate or house side. he did none of those. it is hard for me to believe him as the incredible when he did not take any of the most basic steps that he would have to take if he thought something was going on that shouldn't be. i don't think he was questioned intensively enough to about that issue. host: a point from one of our regular tweeters. interesting that comey and robert mueller our friends. -- are friends. guest: it will not lead to any kind of conflict, but there is always a problem with special counsel's. i'm not talking about mr.
mueller in particular. special counsels by themselves almost always have a conflict of interest, it being that they feel a need to justify their investigations and the a lot of time and resources. you hardly ever find special counsels coming back and saying what we looked into this and we did not anything wrong. began and ended with the impeachment of bill clinton over monica lewinsky. guest: there were all sorts of examples of such accounts are rules -- of special counsel's going on and on and on. the statue was not renewed by congress because they recognized the drawbacks of that kind of a system, having someone who is not answerable to anyone and that is one of the problems of special counsel law. our whole government is designed for the executive branch to have accountability and special counselors have no accountability. host: mike joining us from indiana, democrats line.
caller: good morning. i will make this short. in the end, it's about morality. my grandparents raised me and i grew up in the south. sessions, itff just reminds me of how i grew up as a young man. regime part of that old and it breaks my heart to see men defend -- a moral is a moral. i am a democrat. , butry clinton was immoral so is the president and to watch this men defend this man, it is crazy. grandkidso leave my to give me a choice between barack obama and the current president, i would save you have to choose one, it is simple. i think any fair-minded person
-- it is just about character. who would you leave a granddaughter with? barack obama or the current president? guest: i'm not defending the president, but what we are talking about is whether or not he engaged in illegal or unlawful behavior or whether anyone in his campaign did. the point i'm making is based on the testimony mr. comey gave last week, the evidence is not there, that it happened. as for mr. sessions, i think it is wrong to say that he is part of the old segregation of the south. you may not realize this, but he was the key person when he was a u.s. attorney down in alabama, in helping to lead to the investigation and breakup of the ku klux klan in the state. many different people have sided tocited his work to crucial
the fact that they got the death penalty for members of the ku klux klan in a particularly -- statements like that show that you do not know about his background when he was a u.s. attorney in alabama. host: you are from alabama, alabama,o mark -- correct? guest: i am. jeff sessions did a lot to bring about the new south that exists. host: roger, good morning, kentucky, independent line. caller: i just have to comment. i am calling from the independent line, but i would like to point out that director is a personality that has split a country on both sides i think i will
have some confidence in bob mueller. they say he was the fbi director for 10 years. i've never heard his name, so it seems to me that maybe he just andhis job as a long man went out and it would he was supposed to do. it seems like this particular director for whatever reason, on both sides with the democrats for a while and the republicans, he has caused a lot of divisiveness in this country and i'm glad he is off the stage. host: i agree with the -- guest: i agree with the caller. what you want in an a -- in a fbi director is not a politician, but a law enforcement official. that was not mr. comey. he mishandled the clinton investigation, to the detriment of ms. clinton. that was something that was pointed out in the memo that was produced by the deputy attorney
general right before they let him go. if you talk to the real people at the fbi who do the work, the special agents, they will tell you that he was too much of a politician. i think that was evident in his mishandling of the clinton investigation and many other things he has done. ahope that they are getting real law enforcement professionals who is not partisan in the new fbi directorship. host: your essays are available at heritagefoundation.org. our last call is john from illinois. democrats line. caller: good morning. i had a question. a lady earlier called and brought up trumps support for the birther issue -- trumps support for the birther issue. the response was that is not what the comey testimony was about. i read around to make sure i got this right.
part of your response was the comey testimony was about did the russians interfere with the election and what we heard from comey is that we have no evidence that that occurred. thinking maybe you misspoke or you meant to say that comey said we have no evidence that there was no collusion with the campaign or other americans in that interference, but he made it clear that not only did we have evidence that russia -- of russian meddling, but that we have so much of it that he had no doubt and the intelligence community had no doubt. guest: i will be happy to clarify. what i said was he agreed -- you are correct. he was convinced that the russians tried to interfere in the election. he also said that they had no evidence that they were in any attacking --l in
cyber attacking or manipulating the voting and balloting process. it is important to distinguish that. you can find both of that in his testimony. it's also important to note that he said that there was collaboration between members of the trump campaign and russia -- reports that collaboration between the trump campaign and russian intelligence were not true. again, he made it clear that the russians tried mightily to interfere in the election process, but then he said they were actually able to do it. host: if you were to ask a question to senator sessions on tuesday, what would be your first question? guest: what is he going to get more staff to help him at the justice department. one of his biggest problems right now is the justice department is a large department, and the confirmation
process has been so slow that he has -- he is running the justice department with a handful of people. that makes it difficult to get anything done. host: hans von spakovsky, who is with the heritage foundation, we thank you for being with us. thank you for taking our viewer calls. michael tomasky is going to be joining us in just a few moments. he has asa in the washington post about the democrats. the great democratic divide, can you beat liberals learn to embrace middle america? carol find send -- feinstein is going to be joining us, later to talk about the isis terrorist attacks in iran. you are watching and listening to washington journal on this sunday morning. we are back any moment. ♪ moment.a moment -- in a ♪ >
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