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tv   MSNBC Live  MSNBC  May 8, 2017 1:00pm-2:01pm PDT

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briefed the white house about the counterintelligence risk that he posed. during those 18 days, general flynn continued to hire key senior staff on the national security council, announced new sanctions on iran's ballistic missile program, met with japanese prime minister shinzo abe along with president trump at mar-a-lago and participated in discussions about responding to a nor korean missile launch and spoke repeatedly to the press about his communications with russian ambassador kislyak. miss yates, in your view, were there national security concerns in these decisions being made after the information you shared with the white house? >> i was no longer with doj after january 30th, so i wasn't aware of any actions that general flynn was taking, so i couldn't really opine on that. >> general clapper? would you comment? if you had the warning from the white house, or pardon me, from the department of justice to the white house about general flynn
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possibly being compromised here and then these important national security decisions had followed, would you have concern about that? >> well, i would, hypothetically, question. i mean, again, i was gone from the government as well when all this happened. >> you've had quite a career in intelligence and national security, and here you have a man that's been told, the white house has been told, he could be compromised and blackmailed by the russians, continuing to make highest-level decisions of our government. >> well, that's -- it's certainly a potential vulnerability, no question about it. >> i would say so. thank withdryou very much. thanks, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you to the witnesses for being here today. mr. clapper, you had testified as to the harms that come from leaks. the harms that come from our national security. you also testified about the importance of protecting classified information and keeping it classified.
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during your many years in intelligence, and at the dni, have you ever knowingly forwarded classified information to a nongovernment employee on a nongovernment computer who did not have authorization to receive that information? >> not to my recollection, no, sir. >> and director clapper, what would you do at the dni if you discovered that an employee of yours had forwarded hundreds or even thousands of e-mails to a nongovernmindividual, their spouse, on a nongovernmen computer? >> well, you know, i'm not a prosecutorial element but if i were aware of it, i would certainly make known to the appropriate officials that that was going on. >> would that strike you as anything ordinary? >> hopefully not.
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>> what concerns would that raise for you? >> well, it raises all kinds of potential security concerns. again, depending on the content of the e-mail, what the intent was, there's a whole bunch of variables here would have to be considered, but, you know, potentially, again, this is a hypothetical scenario, could be quite concerning. >> what could you ywould you ex happen if you made a referral of an individual who had forwarded hundreds or even thousands of classified information to a nongovernment employee on a nongovernment computer? >> whatever the transgression -- potential transgression was, if there were sufficient evidence of a compromise, we would file a crimes report. that's a standard procedure that we use when there's a potential for investigating and prosecuting someone. >> last week, i asked similar
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questions to fbi director comey and he said an individual who did that would be subject to, "significant administrative discipline" but he was highly confident they wouldn't be prosecuted. do you share that assessment? >> well, i don't know. i think the track record is the prior administration, i think, prosecuted more people for leaking than anyone in many other administraons in the past. so, it's difficult to do that and there are many cases we could not prosecute or even seek a crimes report because the potential audience of people that could have been the perpetrator of these insecurities could not be identified. >> it is true that other individuals who were got in the direct employee of the democratic nominee for president were prosecuted for that conduct. let me shift to a different topic. director clapper, you also
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testified that you're not aware of any intercepted communications of any presidential candidates or campaigns other than the trump campaign that's been discussed here. is that correct? >> yes, but that's to my knowledge, but, you know, prior administrations, prior campaigns, it wouldn't have been visible to me. so i can't say -- >> in 2016, you're not aware of any other campaigns or candidates? >> no. >> and miss yates, same question to you. >> i'm not aware of any interceptions of the trump campaign. >> and are you aware of any interseccepted communications o other kcandidates or campaigns? >> no. >> earlier when chairman graham asked you that, you declined to answer. >> i may i have misunderstood. i think the question i declined to answer was a different one th that.
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i'm glad i got a chance to clear it up. >> no information of terceptis the bnie sanders campaign, hillary clinton campaign or any other candidate? >> no. >> in 2016 or campaigns? >> no. >> okay. >> let's revisit the topic, miss yates, that you and senator cornyn were talking about. >> okay. >> is it correct that the constitution vests the executive authority in the president? >> yes. >> and if an attorney general disagrees with a policy decision of the president, a policy decision that is lawful, does the attorney general have the authority to direct the department of justice to defy the president's order? >> i don't know whether the attorney general has the authority to do that or not, but i don't think it whoubould be ad idea. that's not what i did in this case. >> well, are you familiar wits ?
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>> bi >> the executive order you refused to implement and led to your termination. a relevant and not totally obscure statute. by the express text of the statute, "when the president finds the entry of any alien or class of aliens into the united states would be detrimental to the interest of the united states, he may by proclamation and for such period as he shall deem necessary suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem appropriate." would you agree that that is broad statutory authorization? >> i would and i am familiar with that and i'm also familiar with an additional provision of the ina that says "no person shall receive preference or be discriminated against in issuance of a visa because of race, nationality or place of birth." that i believe was promulgated after the statute that you just quoted and that's been part of the discussion with the courts with respect to the ina is whether this more specific
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statute trumps the first one you just described. but my concern was not an ina concern here. it rather was a constitutiol concern. whether or not this -- the executive order here violated the constitution specifically with the establishment clause and equal protection and due process. >> there is no doubt the arguments you laid out are arguments we can expect litigants to bring, partisan litigants who disagree with the policy decision of the president. i would note on january 27th, 2017, the department of justice issued an official legal decision, a determination by the office of legal counsel, that the executive order, and i'll quote from the opinion, "the proposed order is approved with respect to form and legality." that's a determination on january 27th it was legal. three days later you determined using your own words, that although they have opined on legality, it had not addressed
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whether it was, quote, wise or just. >> and i also in that same directive, senator, said i was not convinced it was lawful. i also made the point that the office of olc looks purely at the face of the document and, again, makes a determination as to whether there is some set of circumstances under which some portion of that eo would be enforceable. would be lawful. they importantly do not look outside the face of the document. and in this particular instance, particularly where we were talking about a fundamental issue of religious freedom, not the interpretation of some arcane statute, but religious freedom, it was appropriate for us to look at the intent behind the president's actions and the intent is laid out in his statements -- >> final, very brief question. in the over 200 years of the department of justice history, are you aware of any instance in which the department of justice has formally approved the legality of a policy and three days later the attorney general
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has directed the department not to follow that policy and to defy that policy? >> i'm not, but i'm also not aware of a situation where the office of legal counsel was advised not to tell the attorney general about it until after it was over. >> thank you, miss yates. i would note that might be the case if ere's reason to spect partisanship. >> senator klobuchar. >> thank you. i want to thank you very much for your service, miss yates, from beginning to end, your distinguished career as a prosecutor. i just was putting this timetable together and i realize your second meeting when you went over to the white house to warn them of general flynn's lying and his connections with russia was the same day that this refugee order came out and it was the same day that you had to leave the justice department. so you -- when did you meet with the white house counsel on that day? >> i met with white house
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counsel best i can recall about 3:00 in the afternoon on the 30th. >> and during that meeting, did they mention, anyone mention that this refugee order was about to come out? >> no. >> did the acting attorney general of the united states? >> no. that was one thing of concern to us is not only was department leadership not consulted here, and beyond department leadership, really the subject matter experts, the national security experts, not only was the department not consulted, we weren't even told about it. i learned about this from -- >> go ahead. >> -- media reports. >> so you learned about it after the meeting at the white house counsel from the media? >> right. >> and then it's true that during your hearing, then-senator sessions, now the attorney general, actually anskd you if the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or deputy attorney general say know? what did you say? >> i said yes, the attorney general said. >> okay.
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then moving forward here as was mentioned by senator then this order was after a lawsuit from the state of washington and minnesota, the court basically challenged the constitutionality of the order, the order's not taken effect. what i want to get to right now is the fact the administration then withdrew its request from an appeal of the court ruling blocking implementation of the same order and then they changed the order that you would not implement. >> right. there were a number of important distinctions between travel ban one and travel ban two. at the time i had to make my decision, for example, the exec exective order still applied to green card holders, lawful permanent residents and those who had visas. there were a number of distinction as well. >> thank withdrew. >> let me get -- go ahead very quickly. >> i understand people of good will and who are good folks can
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make different decisions about this. i understand that, but all i can say is i did my job the best way i knew how. i looked at this eo, i looked at the law, i talked with the folks at the department of justice, gathered them all to get their views and their input and i did my job. >> okay. i appreciate that. let's go to russia. december 29th, this is the date that actually senator graham and i were with senator mccain hearing about russian interference, meeting with leaders in the baltics, georgia and ukraine. this is a date that the president expanded the sanctions against russia saand a date tha michael flynn reportedly talked to the russians several times about sanctions. he went on to not tell the truth to the vice president. one white house official described the notification you provided warning them of this as a heads-up. how would you describe a
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heads-up? >> well, at the risk of trying to characterize it, i mean, we were there to tell the white house about something we were very concerned about and emphasize to them repeatedly it was so they could take action. >> it was much more formal than a simple, hey, this is happening. michael flynn did not resign his position as national security adviser until february 13th. that is 18 days after you went over there with the formal warning, and in particular, after they knew about this on january 28th, flynn was allowed to join president trump on an hour-long telephone call with russian president vladimir putin. do you have any doubt thatou coo the white house should have been made clear that flynn had been potentially compromised by russia, that this information was clear? >> well, the purpose -- in our telling them, again, was so they could act, so they could convey that information. so i would hope that they did. >> if a high-ranking national
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security official is caught on tape with the foreign official saying one thing in private, and then caught in public saying another thing to the vice president, is that material for blackmail? >> certainly. >> you want to add anything to that, director clapper? >> no. >> okay. i think it's pretty clear and i think it's pretty clear why we've had this hearing today. i wanted to ask you, director clapper, a few things about just in general, this russian influence. when director comey was here last week, he said, "i think that one of the lessons that the russians may have drawn from this," he's talking about the election, the influence, "is that this works." those were comey's words. do you agree? >> sclut . >> absolutely. as i said in my statement the russians have to be celebrating the success with what they set out to do with minimum research
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expenditure. the first objective was to sew discord and distension which they certainly did. >> and when you look at this in addition to the hacking into the dnc, podesta's e-mails, all those things, wepropaganda refe in the report. i believe it's $2 million -- >> if that, which doesn't include the government support to subsidies to "rt." >> and how does "rt" work? >> "rt" is essentially a propaganda mouthpiece for the government, since the predominance of its funding comes from the government. the management is close to putin, so it's a -- as i say, i think a russian governmental mouthpie mouthpiece. >> miss yates, i'm asking you in your capacity as the former attorney general and deputy attorney general, i asked this of director comey about the use of shell corporations. now something like 50% of real estate deals over $5 million are
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now done with shell corporations. we're trying to push so that the treasure ay department puts mor transparency. this is something the european countries are working on right now and i'm very concerned this is another vehicle where money is laundered. i'm concerned about loopholes in our campaign finance laws as well. but could you address this just from your experience as a criminal prosecutor? >> sure. those are all value did concerns. we're actually lagging behind other countries in the world and we don't want to become a haven, then, where you can have shell corporations that can be used for all sorts of nefarious purposes, that can have national security implications as well as criminal implications. >> director clapper, did you want to add anything to that? and, again, this is why i believe an independent commission in addition to the great work that's being done by this subcommittee and the senate intelligence committee which is so important as well as the investigation, an independent commission would allow a panel of experts to go into the next election, go into 2020, where
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director comey had said "i expect to see them back in 2018 and especially 2020." those are his words. do you agree with that, director? >> absolutely. >> and that is why an independent commission would allow us to come up with some ideas on how we can stop this from happening again, whether it is how the media handled these things, how campaigns handle these things, how intelligence agencies when they find out handle these things because we cannot allow foreign countries to influence our democracies. do you agree, director clapper? >> i certainly do, and i understand how critical leaks are and unmasking and all these ancillary issues, but to me, the transcendent issue here is the russian interference in our election process and what that means to the erosion of the fundamental fabric of our democracy. and that, to me, is a huge deal
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and they're going to continue to do it, and why not? it proved successful. >> thank you. >> until they pay a price. i hope which they will soon pay. senator sasse? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you both for being here. director clapper, how likely do you think it is foreign intelligence services are trying to compromise congressional i.t. systems? >> well, i think that's -- congressional i.t. systems are a target and have been and certainly i saw examples of that during my time -- my time as dni and this is one case where we expeditiously informed the congress when we saw evidence of that, and, again, that's not just russians, there are others out there doing the same thing. >> and what intel value would it provide to them? >> well, depending on the nature of the material, it could be quite sensitive. hard to make a general statement about it, but just as a general rule, it could be quite
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damaging. >> and could you talk a little bit about the relationship between that particular intel gathering on legislators, and the interface with problem began do campaigns such as you say, russia? i've hea you testify in other places of russia's activity among their mere neighbors. what's the relationship between propaganda and direct intel gathering? >> you mean on the part of the russians? >> yeah. among their neighbors. >> well, they would certainly use that as they have in the examples of that in places like georgia and the baltics where they will turn evidence that -- or what they've gathered and use that as leverage or if they can, to kompromat, russianing ing ac for compromised material. there are real or nefarious things they can potentially do if they gather information like that. >> one of the unhelpful ways we talk about this issue in the present context in d.c.'s
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polarized context is it's almost always retrospective about our election in 2016, so it devolves into a shirts and skins exercise about what candidate you allegedly supported. director comey last week said that he expects, as senator klobuchar just quoted him, he expects the russians to be back in 2018 and back with a ve vengeance in 2020. unpack more of how that works. >> if anything, in many ways, particularly those countries that were in the former soviet orbit which they still feel, shall i say, paternal about, and so places like mall dooldova, t baltics, georgia, are aggressive in using all the multitude of tools that were on senator whitehouse's checklist, wherever they can, however they can, to influence the outcome of elections toward candidates of
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whatever office whom they think will be more pliant with them. and, of course, what's new and different here is that that aggressiveness is spreading into western europe. as we've seen, i believe, in france and will in geany. and in their -- in their mind, success at doing this is going to simply reinforce. so all the tools available to them, active propaganda, financing, candidate sympathetic to their cause, trolls, hacking, revelations of confidential e-mails, whatever it is, they'll use that. >> can you give us some sense without revealing classified information the order of magnitude of their financial investment in these kinds of efforts? if you're a near neighbor of russia and got your army, navy, air force, marines, and you
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might have a little bit of an intel community and a little bit of a sort of intel ops, infoe p ops campaign going, how does the russian investment -- >> i can't give you a figure. i will say, though, that in comparison to a classical military expenditures, it's a bargain for them. and of course, what they're looking for, particularly in europe, is sew dissension, split unity, of course, end sanctions. if they can drive wedges between and among the european nations, particularly by their manipulating and influencing elections, they're going to do it. >> director, do you stand by the ic's january assessment that wikileaks is a known propaganda platform for russia? >> absolutely. i'm in agreement with director pompeo's characterization of
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wikileaks as a nonnation state intelligence service. >> unpack that more. are you saying julian assange is not a journalist? >> you're asking the wrong guy a question about that. absolutely not. >> reasonable people in the american debate are worried when they hear people in the ic talk about something that sounds like it was just information. i'm obviously highly skeptical of mr. assange and i've been pushing the justice department to ask why we have not been taking steps to prosecute him for particular crimes that have endangered american intelligence assets, but across the continuum of journali isists who are legitimate journalists trying to help the american people under the 1st amendment be fully informed about the government, there are people in the journalistic community who will line on ic resources and say i want to know what you're able to tell us and the burden is on the intelligence official not to leak classified information.
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the burden is not on the journalists to not ask hard questions. >> that's correct. >> it's useful for the american people to hear you explain why is assange something other than just an american journalist asking hard questions? dissensi >> i think -- there's obviously judgment herer er here and when zwrurnli i journalist does harm to the country, harms our national security, compromises sensitive sources and methods and tradecraft, and deliberately puts the country in jeopardy, i think that's -- the line is crossed. that's a red line to use a phrase. that i think is unacceptable. >> have any unauthorized disclosures from assange and wikileaks directly endangered americans and american interests? >> in the -- yes, absolutely. >> thank you. miss yates, i wanted to ask you a couple of questions, but i'm
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almost at my time, so i'll limit it to one. cowell you please explain the bureaucratic process in which concerning information about political appointees would be brought to the attention of the attorney general? just give us a few steps and how that process would happen. >> when you say concerning information, what do you mean? if -- >> i'm trying to elicit an answer from you that doesn't require you to say that related to flynn, particularly, you can't disclose how this happened. i think it would be useful for the public to understand more generally how information about a political appointee would be brought to the attorney general from the fbi and other aspects of the intelligence community. >> generally, if we discovered information, let's say, an investigative agency like fbi discovered information about a political appointee, they would first get in contact with the relevant division of the department of justice that would have jurisdiction over it. whether it's the criminal division, the national security division, whatever it might be. they would report that information there and depending on the seriousness of that information, it would probably make its way to me when i was
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deputy attorney general or acting attorney general. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator graham. i want to thank both of you for your decades of dedicated service and intelligence and law enforcement and for your testimony here today. the question before us is one of really grave consequence. as you suggested in your opening statements, really an ex potential threat to our democracy, which is not faced appropriately, will simply encourage increased aggressive actions. the reality is a foreign adversary intentionally influenced our 2016 presidential election and our president may not want to confront this, but it is a reality and one that our u.s. intelligence community agreed about with very high confidence. i greatly appreciate senators graham and whitehouse in conv e convening this hearing and in treating this very real threat to our democracy with the seriousness that it deserves. former director clapper, in your opening statement, you suggested that the russians should be celebrating and that they are
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likely emboldened because they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and at minimal cost and they are likely to continue. in the french national elections, which jus concluded yesterday, there was a stunning dump of hacked e-mails at the last moment in an attempt, i at least believe, to influence the outcome of that election in a way designed to help advance a candidate favored by the kremlin. and in that instance, there was a significant amount of fake news, of manufactured articles mixed in with seemingly actual e-mails that had been hacked. and there are allegations that there was coordination between alt-right news sites trying to forward this information and to get it out around france and around the world. is that your understanding of what's just happened in france? and more importantly, was there any evidence that you saw of comparable coordination between alt-right news sites and released information in the attempts to influence the 2016
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american presidential election? >> senator coons, i hanghonestl all i know is what i'm reading in the media so i don't have access to any intelligence information that would help me cast any light -- that could authoritatively answer your question. all i know it's what's in the media. >> but during the period when you did have regular access to intelligence, did you see any evidence to suggest that the longstanding russian practice of spreading misinformation and fake news was being amplified by news sites in the united states and any reason to believe that might have been coordinated or intentional? >> well, i don't know about the latter, but i -- and i think some news outlets were probably unwitting of that. it certainly went on, but i can't say to what extent that was coordinated intentionally
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with certain news outlets. >> and you -- >> again, that's kind of in the domestic realm. >> you said the russians will continue this behavior until we impose some significant costs. could you speak briefly to what sort of actions you think we might take that would deter them -- >> well, that's -- >> -- from this action? >> that's over my labor grade as intelligence guy. i thought the sanctions we did impose on the -- and i was part of that as part of the former administration, were a great first step. >> well, i'll simply say i agree with you and a bipartisan bill led by my colleague, senator graham, and co-sponsored by 20 senators, republican and democrat, would be a terrific next step. miss yates, we've established in the course of these questions that on december 27th and 29th, former national security adviser general flynn discussed sanctions with the russian ambassador. so when the trump transition
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team told the "washington post" on january 13th that sanctions were not discussed, was that false? >> i understand that there have been news reports to that account, but i can't confirm whether, in fact, those conversations regarding sanctions occurred because that would require me to reveal classified information. >> understood. i have a series of questions about things that could have been untrue. were that the case, you're not going to be able to answer any of those? >> not to the extent that it goes to general flynn's underlying conduct. i can't address that. >> let me move to that, if i might. >> sure. >> on january 24th, you just testified that national security adviser flynn was interviewed by the fbi about his underlying conduct and that underlying conduct was problematic because it led to the conclusion the vice president was relying on falsehoods. what was that underlying conduct and are you convinced that the former national security adviser was truthful in his testimony to the fbi on january 24th? >> again, i hate to frustrate you again, but i think i'm going to have to because my knowledge of his underlying conduct is based on classified information
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so i can't reveal what that underlying conduct is. it's why i had to do sort of an artificial description here of events without revealing that conduct. >> i understand that. on juary 27th, you just testified you discussed with white house counsel mcgahn, and the former national security adviser and what were the applicable -- what applicable statutes did you discuss and in your conclusion, i'm sure the national security adviser face criminal prosecution? >> senator coons, i'm going to strike out here. if i identify the statute, that would be insite into what it was. i'm not goitrying to be hypertechnical but my responsibilities to protect classified information and so i can't -- >> okay. do you believe the administration took your warnings seriously when you made this extraordinary effort to go
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to the white house and in person brief the white house counsel on the 26th and 27th? do you think they took appropriate steps with regards to general flynn as the national security adviser given that he remained a frequent participant in very high-level national security matters for two weeks? >> well certainly in the course of the meetings both on the 26th and 27th, mr. mcgahn certainly demonstrated that he understood that this was serious. so he did seem to be taking it seriously. you know, i don't have any way of knowing what, if anything, they did. if nothing was done, then certainly that would be concernconcern concernsconcern concerning. >> so you don't know whether they took steps to restrict his access to classified information, to investigate him further up and until the "washington post" published information that made it clear that he had been lying to the
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vice president? >> no. again, i was gone after the 30th. >> further investigations into the national security adviser or that they restrict his access to sensitive and classified information. >> well, it's a bit of a hypothetical. had i remained at the department of justice and if i were under the impression tha nothing has ben done, yes, i would have raised it again with the white house. >> thank you, miss yates. thank you. >> miss yates, director clapper, thank you both for your years of service to the american people. miss yates, i want to start with you. you declined to support -- to defend president trump's executive order because you thought it was unconstitutional. is that correct? >> that's correct, yes. >> okay. and you believe that no reasonable argument could be made in its defense. is that correct? >> i don't know that i would put it in that way, senator.
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i -- this was the analysis that we went through. >> okay. let me stop you because i've got a whole bunch of questions. >> okay. >> i just want to understand your thinking from my perspective. >> sure. >> did you believe then that there were reasonable arguments that could be made in its defense? >> i believed that any argument that we would have to make in its defense would not be grounded in the truth because to make an argument in its defense, we would have to argue that the exec utive order had nothing to do with religion. that it was not done with an intent to discriminate against muslims. >> okay. >> based on a variety of factors -- >> you were looking at intent? >> yes. i believe that's the appropriate analysis, and in fact, that's been borne out in several court decisions since that time. that's the appropriate analysis when you're doing a constitutional analysis, it's to look to see what are you trying to accomplish here. >> okay. suppose instead of an executive order this had been an act of congress. would you have refused to defend
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it? >> if it were the same act, yes, and in fact, the department of justice has done that in the past, for example, with doma, defense of marriage act, when the deparent tment of justice refused to defend dorksma. i can't speak to that, but that was another example when d oj dd not defend the constitutional y constitutionality. >> the executive order was unconstitutional? >> i wasn't convinced it was unconstitutional. i couldn't in good conscience send department of justice lawyers in to defend it. >> i want to be sure i understand. do you believe it's constitutional or unconstitutional? >> i belved i was n convinced that it was constitutional. i believed that it was unconstitutional in the sense that i -- there was no way in the world i could send folks in there to argue something that we didn't believe to be the truth. >> so you believe it's unconstitutional? >> yes. >> okay. i don't mean to wax two -- >> and if i can say, i can understand why you might be a
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little frustrated with the language here. >> i'm not frustrated. i'm happy as a clam. >> here's the reason. let me give you a little idea of the timing. >> let me stop you because i don't have much time. i got a lot of ground to cover. >> okay. >> i don't mean to wax too met physical here, but at what point does an act of congress or executive order become unconstitutional? >> all depends on what the act does. >> at what point -- i can look at a statute, say i think that's unconstitutional. does that make it unconstitutional? >> i think the issue that we faced at the department of justice is to defend this executive order would require lau lawyers to go in and argue this has nothing to do with religion. something -- >> at what point does a statute or an executive order become unconstitutional? is it some determination?
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it become -- let me tell you what i'm getting at. i don't mean any disrespect. who appointed you to the united states supreme court? >> i was -- >> i mean, that determine -- isn't it a court of final jurisdiction decides what's constitutional and not? in fact, aren't most acts of congress presumed to be constitutional? >> they are presumed but they're not always constitutional and now, of course, i was not on the supreme court and i can tell you, senator, look, we really wrestled over this decision. i personally wrestled over this decision and it was not one that i took lightly at all, but it was because i took my responsibility seriously as acting attorney general. >> i understand that. i believe you believe what you're saying. >> yes, i do. >> just understand this is slykely to coslyke likely to come up in the future. at what point does an executive order or statute become unconstitutional? when i think it's unconstitutional, you think it's unconstitutional or court of final jurisdiction says it's unconstitutional? >> i believe that it is the responsibility of the attorney
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general if the president asks him or her to do something he or she believes is unlawful or unconstitutional to say no and that's what i did. >> okay. i get it. all right. let me ask you both a couple questions. can we both -- can we agree, director and counselor, that the russians attempted to influence the outcome of the election? >> yes, sir. absolutely. >> yes. >> do you believe that the russians did, in fact, influence the outcome of the election? director? >> in our intelligence community assessment, we made the point that we could not make that call. the intelligence community has neither the authority, the ek p expertise or resources to make that judgment. the only thing we said was we saw no evidence of influencing voter tallies at any of the 50 states, but we were not in a position to judge actual outcome of the election. >> how about you, miss yates? >> i don't know the answer. that's part of the problem,
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we'll never know. >> okay. have youered hea ereheard -- th have been doing this for years, i might minimize what they did. i think they did try to influence the election. >> it's absolutely true. as i pointed -- as i mentioned in my opening statement, sir, the -- they've been doing this at least the '60s. >> okay. >> the difference, however, was this is unprecedented in terms of its aggressiveness and the multifaceted campaign that they mounted. that's new. >> isn't it a fact that in 1968, the kremlin actually, part of the agb, attempted to subsidize the campaign of hubert humphrey? >> i don't know the specifics of that. i want to research that. again, that certainly comports with what russian tactics would be. >> okay. isn't it a fact that in 1984, the kremlin tried to stop ronald reagan from being re-elected? >> again, i'd have to do some research toify that, but,
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again, it certaly comports with what -- if they chose a candidate for whatever reason they had an aversion to, they would do that. >> okay. general clapper, have you ever leaked information, classified or unclassified, to a member of the press? >> not wittingly or knowingly, as i said in my statement. >> classified or unclassified? >> well, unclassified is not leaking. unclassified -- that's -- that's somewhat of a non -- >> have you ever given information to a reporter you didn't want to have your name connected with but you wanted to see it in the paper? >> i have not. i've had many encounters with media over my career. >> i'm sorry about that. how about you, miss yates? >> there have been situations where the department of justice
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would arrange, for example, for me to talk on background with reporters about a particular issue, to educate them about that, no, i've certainly never provided classified information and that would be the only kind of background information. >> do you know -- >> i have done the same thing, but certainly not -- that doesn't -- doesn't include sharing classified information. >> do you know anybody else of justice who has ever leaked classified or unclassified information to the press? >> no. >> miss yates? >> no. >> okay. thank you, mr. chairman. i went over. i apologize. >> that's okay. senator lee? >> thank you, mr. chairman. general clapper, miss yates, good to see you again. good to have you back here. i -- miss yates, i remember so well your confirmation. i remember one senator just bearing in on you, intensely bearing in on you saying would you stand up to the president of the united states if you thought
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he was asking you to do something unlawful? he's demanding under oath for you to say, yes, you would stand up. and you told th-senator jeff sessions of alabama thas what you would do. and appears to me that you kept your word. apparently it's okay to keep your word depending upon who the administration is. but i'm proud of you for keeping your word when the president tried to set a religious test for entrance into this country. something most first-year law students would say was unconstitutional, you said you were not going to uphold it. i wish that mr. sessions and others had kept it as consistent in this administration as they did in the last. that's editorial judgment.
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now, you wrote to the justice department, "i'm responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this constitution's solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. at present, i'm not convinced the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am i convinced that executive order is lawful." that an accurate statement of what you said? >> yes, it is, senator. >> you still feel that way today? >> yes, i do. >> the white house claims that you betrayed the department of justice. do you feel you betrayed the department of justice? >> no, senator, i feel to have done anything else would have been a betrayal of my solemn obligation to represent the people and to uphold the law and the constitution. >> was the white house trying to tell the justice department how to carry out that executive order? >> well, i didn't have a lot of
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discussion with the white house about this executive order. >> apparently. >> they -- >> go ahead. >> i'm sorry. i don't entirely understand the question. >> no, i mean, did anybody from the white house try to direct the justice department how they should respond on that executive order? >> well, certainly there was discussion with the white house about litigation strategy, but that occurred, to my knowledge, over the weekend, but after the 30th when i issued my directive, i was gone then that evening around 9:00. so i don't know what other discussions occurred after that. >> well, keeping your word to then-senator sessions who apparently has a different standard as attorney general. fbi director comey testified before this committee, told why he appointed a special counsel to investigate the valerie plame leak back in 2003.
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he was deputy attorney general. attorney general ashcroft has recused himself. the -- some of the senior officials in the trump campaign, administration, are connected to this russia investigation. attorney general was forced to recuse himself. do you think this is the kind of situation where we should do what then-deputy attorney general comey as acting attorney general did in the plame investigation and appoint a special counsel? >> senator, i think that my successor, rod rosenstein, has a big job ahead of him, and i don't think i'm going to be giving him any advice from the cheap seats about how he needs to do it. >> let me ask you this. we know that -- about general
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flynn's vulnerability to russian blackmail. attorney general sessions misled this committee about his contacts and had to change his testimony. the president's son-in-law and senior adviser also reported he failed to disclose contacts on his security clearance forms. do you have, or did you have, any concerns about the attorney general, about mr. kushner or other trump officials' vulnerability to blackmail? thi-- all of this information came to light after i was no longer with doj. >> did you have concerns, though, while you were at doj that general flynn might be vulnerable to blackmail? >> yes, i did, and expressed those to the white house. >> and you say why you feel he may have been vulnerable to blackmail and if somebody else
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fell into that same category, might they be vulnerable to blackmail? >> certainly any time the russians have compromising information on you, then you are certainly vulnerable to blackmail. >> let me ask general clapper this, you've looked at a lot of these. the other case of senior government officials. if they had hidden financial information, things that are normally disclosed when you take a senior official position, is that an area where they could be blackma blackmailed? if it's discovered. >> yes, it is, of course. >> and is it your experience that the russians search for that kind of thing? >> absolutely. they do. >> january, the intelligence community, the fbi, cia, nsa, concluded high confidence that russia interfered in the 2016 election to denigrate secretary
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clinton, help elect donald trump. last week, president trump contradicted that consensus. he said, well, it could have been china, could have been a lot of different groups. you feel russia was responsible? >> absolutely. regrettably, senator lie eahy, although the conclusions we rendered were the same as in the highly classified report as in the unclassified, unfortunately, a lot of the substantiation for that could not be put in the unclassified report because of the sensitivity of it. to me, the evidence was overwhelming and very compelling that the russians did this. >> does it serve any purpose for hi officials like the president to say, look, it could have been somebody else, it could have been china? does that really -- does that help us or does that help
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russia? >> well, i guess it could be -- you could rationalize that helps the russians you could say it helped the russians by obfuscating who was actually responsible. >> thank you. good to have you both here. >> senator frank? >> thank you. i want to thank both you and the ranking member for this hearing and these hearings. and i want to thank senator clapper and ms. yates for hearing today. the intelligence communities have concluded, all 17 of them, that russia interfered with the
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election. and we all know that's right. >> as i pointed out in my statement, senator franken, there were only three agency that's directly involved in this assessment. plus all 17 signed on to that. >> we didn't go through that process. this was a special situation because of the time limits and my, who could really contribute to this and the sensitivity of the information. we decided it was a conscious judgment to restrict to it those three. i'm not aware of anyone who dissenltd or disagreed when it came out. >> okay. and i think anyone who has looked at even the unclassified board was convinced this is what happened. on. >> one of the questions was why they favored donald trump. there are a number of contacts and communications between the
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trump campaign officials, associates, members of the tmp administration, jeff sessions, as senator leahy mentioned, carter page, a former campaign adviser, paul manafort who was a former campaign manager and chief strategist, rex tillerson, secretary of state, got a friend of russia award. roger stone, and of course, jared kushner, white house senior adviser, son-in-law, general flynn. that's a lot in my mind. going to flynn, he appeared during the campaign on russia today. russia today is the propaganda arm. since you retired, have you appeared on russia today?
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>> no, not wittingly, no. other. >> and general flynn received $70,000 $for sit go next on putin at the tenth anniversary of russia today. all this seems very odd today and raises a lot of questions. i was struck that mr. mcgann did not and you in the second meeting why doj, general yates, would have concerns that the national security adviser had lied to the vice president. first meeting, did you mention? >> we went through all of our
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kernels in the first meeting. it was in the second meeting that he raised the question of why is this an issue in the department of justice if one official lies to another? >> i don't understand why he didn't understand that. on. >> i'm not sure i can help you with that. >> general flynn stayed and was in one meeting after another. there was a question of who gets security clearance and not. executive order 12968 outlines security clearances and says when there's a credible allegation that raise concern about someone's fitness to access classified information, that person's clearance should be suspended pending investigation. is that right? the executive arm states that
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clearance holders should always demonstrate trust worthiness, honesty, reliability, discretion, and sound judgment as well as freedom from allegiances and potential for coercion. is that right? and yet the white house counsel did not understand why the department of justice was concerned? >> well, to be fair to mr. mcgann, i think the issue that he raised, that he wasn't clear on why we cared that michael flynn had lied to the vice president and others. >> i think that's so clear. i can't, and the president had told, president obama had told the incoming president-elect two days after the election, don't hire this guy.
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>> i don't know anything about that. >> what's we've heard. and mcgann doesn't understand what's wrong with this? then we have spicer, the press secretary saying the president was told about this. the president was told about this in late january, according to the press secretary. so now he has a guy, the former president said don't hire this guy. he is clearly compromised. he has lied to the vice president. and he keeps him on. and he lets him be in all these classified phone -- he lets him talk with putin. the president of the united states and the national security adviser sit in the oval office and discuss this with putin.
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is it possible that the reason that he didn't fire him then was that, well, if i fire him for talking to russians about sanctions, and if i fire, what about all the other people on my team? who coordinated? you and yourself, why wouldn't you fire a guy who did there? and all i can think of is that he would say, well, we've got all these other people in the
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administration who have had contacts. we have all these other people in the administration who coordinated, who were talking. maybe that. we're trying on put a puzzle together here, everybody. maybe, just maybe he didn't get rid of a guy who lied to the vi president, who got paid b the russians, who went on russia today, because there are other people in his administration who met secretly with the russians and didn't reveal it until later. until they were caught. that may be why it took 18th
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days, until it went public, to get rid of mike flynn who was a danger to this republic. care to comment? >> i don't think i'm going to touch that, senator. >> senator blumenthal? >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i want to thank senator graham and senator whitehouse for prioritizing this issue which is such gravity to our democracy. i want to thank you for not only your long and distinguished service but also for the conscience and conviction that you have brought to your jobs. i home there are, two prosecutors around the country and members of the intelligence community who will watch this and say, that's the kinds of
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professional i want to be. not just expert but also the deep conviction. and i agree with my colleagues that say there ought to be anened commission, that can produce recommendations and a report. but i also believe that there has to be a special prosecutor. because what i hear from people in connecticut, and from my colleagues in their town halls and meetings, is that people want the truth uncovered about how the rusans sought to interfere and undermine our democracy and our electoral system and they also want accountability. not only the russians to pay a price but anybody who colluded and