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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Source: White House May Recommend Redactions of Nunes Memo Over FBI Concerns; Interview with Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois; CNN Exclusive: Pres. Trump Rosenstein "If He Was He Was On My Team"; James Clapper on State of the Russia Investigation; Source: WH May Recommend Redactions of Nunes Memo over FBI Concerns; CNN Exclusive: FBI Agent Who Sent Texts Mocking Pres. Trump Co-Wrote Draft Letter Opening Clinton Email Probe. Aired 8-9P ET
Aired January 31, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight keeping them honest, with a number of breaking news stories, all having to do with the ongoing investigations into Russia, the campaign and possible obstruction of justice.
Two new pieces of CNN reporting tonight, one deals a blow to White House claims that FBI agent Peter Strzok worked during the campaign to protect Hillary Clinton and against candidate Trump, the other item appears to fit a pattern, another alleged instance in which President Trump tried to either ascertain or somehow obtain the loyalty of a top official and Department of Justice.
Now, we're talking about Rod Rosenstein in this case, the deputy attorney general, the man directly responsible for the entire probe. The new reporting, according to our sources, is that shortly before Rosenstein's congressional testimony, the president asked him, quote, are you on my team.
Now, remember this is after reportedly asking FBI Director Andrew McCabe who he voted for and, of course, after allegedly asking that FBI Director James Comey for his loyalty. I'll have more on both of those stories tonight.
We want to begin, though, keeping them honest with another breaking story this evening that deals with the Russian investigation and the people running it, the latest on the so-called Nunes memo, that is the document written by Republican staffers for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.
Now, the memo Republicans on the committee voted to release over the objection of Democrats and with the refusal to allow Democrats to simultaneously released their own memo critical of the Nunes memo. The FBI and its director, Christopher Wray, now publicly voicing concerns about the White House releasing it and we are breaking news as well on possible redactions to address security issues.
In any case, it seems pretty clear the White House intends to get the memo out one way or the other.
Last night, the president was caught on an open mic saying the chances of it being released are a hundred percent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Let's release the memo.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, yes. Don't worry. A hundred percent. Can you imagine that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A hundred percent.
So, that was last night. Now, this four-page memo reportedly alleges that the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by using the so called Steele dossier as the basis to obtain a warrant for Carter Page who was as you know portrayed by the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser that doesn't seem like he did much advising.
For days, Republicans have been saying the Christopher Wray, the FBI director, was shown the memo and had no problems with it, made no changes, basically saying, look, he signed off on it.
Here's what one Republican congressman said on this broadcast just two nights ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RICK CRAWFORD (R-TX), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: As I said before, the FBI director has seen our memo and it was only four pages so he could read that fairly readily and come up with an opinion, along with his two top FISA advisers and legal counsel. And as I said, there were no issues factually raised with the content or thematically with our memo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK. So, he just said there were no issues factually or thematically raised with the content of the memo. A lot of Republicans on the Hill, in fact, said the same thing. It was basically a talking point of theirs for days.
But keeping them honest, here's what the bureau really thinks about this memo. Reading from today's statement, quote: The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy.
Grave concerns, they said, material omissions of fact fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy. Now, they certainly seem like issues with the content and thrust of the memo, and the FBI says these concerns were expressed during our initial review, their words.
So, all of those Republican talking points about the FBI director having no problems with it doesn't seem to be true or the FBI's lying. Someone is not telling the whole truth here. But even before Christopher Wray was shown the memo, Associate
Attorney General Stephen Boyd also raised concerns, warning that it would be, quote, extraordinarily reckless to release the memo. And the Department of Justice said they'd like to review it, so with the FBI.
Former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin, who has served both Republican and Democratic presidents, had this to say tweeting, FISA warrants typically our big thick documents 50, 60 pages. If the Nunes memo about one is just four pages, you can bet it's a carefully pick bowl of cherries, made all the more dishonest by holding back the minority rebuttal memo, a real debate needs both. Someone fears that.
Now, keep in mind, there's ample reporting our own and elsewhere that a number of factors, not just the skill so-called steel dossier went into FISA application. However, the White House and its supporters of the president have been saying repeatedly that the investigation the FBI, the Justice Department, they're all somehow tainted and this dossier is a big part of it. And if those White House talking points sound just like what reportedly is in the Nunes memo, well, you would not be the first to notice that, raising the question, did the White House consult with the Republicans on the Hill who wrote this memo?
Democratic committee member, Mike Quigley, who joins us shortly confronted Chairman Nunes over it during a debate before the vote on Monday. Quigley said: was any of this done after/during conversation or consultations with anyone in the White House?
[20:05:02] Nunes said, as far as I know, no.
The congressman then asked, Mr. Chairman, does that mean that none of the staff members that worked for the majority had any consultation, communication at all with the White House? Chairman Nunes did not answer that question, nor did White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders when "NEW DAY's" Chris Cuomo asked this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Did Devin Nunes work with anybody in the White House on that memo?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Not that I know of.
CUOMO: And he wouldn't answer that question.
SANDERS: Right, and I just don't know the answer. I don't know of anyone that he did and I hadn't had a chance --
CUOMO: He's worked with the White House before when it comes to intelligence and the Russian investigation.
SANDERS: Look, we have certainly coordinated with members of Congress as is appropriate. As to specifics on this, I just don't know the answer. I'm not aware of any conversations or coordination with Congressman Nunes. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, she's not aware of any conversations or coordination between the White House and the congressman who chairs the committee whose his basic mission after all is to oversee the White House not collaborate with the White House on some of the most sensitive national security and civil liberty questions imaginable. It would almost be crazy to think this could even be possible, right? I mean, a chairman of the House Intelligence Committee collaborating with the White House to carry water for the president.
Sadly, it's actually not so hard to imagine. In fact, it already has happened and it happened with Devin Nunes.
Let's go back to March 22nd last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What I've read seems to me to be some level of surveillance activity perhaps legal but I don't know that it's right and I don't know that the American people would be comfortable with what I've read.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, that's Congressman Nunes last March, having just rushed to the White House to allegedly brief the president on these allegedly disturbing details he says he just learned about the alleged improper unmasking and surveillance targets. Well, just two days later, we and others began learning what really happened and there's a technical term for the process. It was basically a crock.
Here's Sean Spicer being asked about it the very next day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Chairman Nunes today refused to definitely roll out that you received the information he announced yesterday on surveillance, that you got that from the White House? So, would you rule out that the White House or anyone in the Trump administration gave Chairman Nunes that information?
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't know what he actually briefed the president on, but I don't know why he was going to brief the president on something that we gave him.
REPORTER: That's why it's confusing to many of us --
SPICER: Right. I don't know that that makes sense. I did not sit on that briefing. I'm not -- it just doesn't -- so I don't know why he would travel -- brief the speaker and then come down here to brief us on something that we were briefed him on. It doesn't really seem to make a ton of sense.
So, I'm not aware of it but it doesn't really pass the smell test.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I'm not sure what his smell test was, but the stink was quite real because as we learned just a few days later, that's exactly what happened. Here's the headline, though, "The Washington Post" on March 27th. Nunes admits meeting with source of Trumps surveillance documents on White House grounds.
Fast forward now to this: this time, Nunes isn't saying whether his staffers collaborated on the memo with the White House and later today, his office put out a statement impugning career law enforcement professionals in the work they're doing. Quote: Having stonewalled Congress' demands for information for nearly a year, it's no surprise to see the FBI and DOJ issue spurious objections to allowing the American people to see information related to surveillance abuses at these agencies.
Now, keep in mind, he's talking about two organizations headed by Republicans, including the president's own choice for FBI Director Christopher Wray, and the one thing they all have in common is they're all involved in investigating the president and under suspicion by the president for not doing his personal bidding.
We're going to have more on all of this, including possible redactions to the memo from CNN'S Jim Acosta who joins us now from the White House.
So, do we know any more about when the Nunes memo might be released, because the president last night on that open mic said a hundred percent is going to be released?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Anderson, I talked to a source familiar with the process of reviewing this memo over here at the White House. Just in the last hour, this source is telling us that this memo is likely to be released and it's likely to be released tomorrow, although we should point out this source is telling us that redactions are likely to be made to the memo to respond to FBI concerns. It's not clear whether or not all the word actions will meet those concerns, but that redactions it appears will be made to this memo and that at this point, it appears it'll be released.
Now, we should caution our viewers, Anderson, at this point, the source said the president has not received the final recommendations from a staff that is going over this memo right now and this source, get this, even though those source was saying it's likely to be released tomorrow, said a final decision has not been made as of right now in terms of releasing that memo even though the president said it was a hundred percent deal at the State of the Union speech last night.
COOPER: You tried to ask the president earlier today about the memo. How that go?
ACOSTA: Yes, ever since the FBI released that statement, saying they had great concerns about releasing this memo, the White House really clamped down on responding at all, and as a matter of fact, they've not responded to the FBI statement tonight.
[20:10:08] We tried to ask the president about this earlier today and they essentially try to shout us down. Here's what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all very much.
ACOSTA: Mr. President, Mr. President, any response to the FBI saying in that statement that the Nunes should not be released? Mr. President, any response to the FBI?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're leaving. Let's go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: There you go, Anderson. And I think somebody there, one of the staffers actually try to tug on my jacket a little bit there to get me out of the door. But as you saw that the president did not want to comment and obviously this puts him in a difficult spot. I mean, this is as you said, just a few moments ago, his hand-picked choice to leave the FBI recommending that this memo not be released.
But as we were saying a few moments ago, it appears at this point the White House is going to try to meet the FBI halfway and recommend some redactions. It's not clear at this point whether that's going to satisfy the FBI.
COOPER: The other thing, Jim, is -- I mean, for days, Republicans on the Hill, Paul Ryan and others have been saying, look, Chris Wray saw it, he had a chance to raising the objections, didn't raise any objections. Clearly, Christopher Wray has objections to this. We saw that in the letter. We saw that from the Department of Justice days before Christopher Wray was given him the chance to see this. They said this would be a -- you know, a big mistake.
COOPER: Oh, that's right, not only raising objections in the statement that was released to the public and keep in mind, Anderson, it is not every day when the FBI puts out a statement. This is a rare public statement saying, Mr. President, don't do this. You just don't see that happen very often.
That is why you were saying what is a almost a constitutional clash that is going on inside the administration or at least a clash between the White House and the national security community because there are people concerned inside the FBI about sources and methods of being somehow revealed in all of this, which is why I think the White House is talking about these word actions.
But not only is that statement something that's been put out by the FBI, but the FBI director was over here the other day with Rod Rosenstein meeting with the chief of staff John Kelly, saying, don't do this.
But the White House appears to be going with these political demands inside the conservative base of their party, along with Paul Ryan, the House speaker, and saying they want this memo out.
But make no mistake, I mean, this is something that could haunt this White House in the months to come if -- you know, if it turns out somehow the release of this memo damages that Russian investigation were people inside the bureau feel like they can't do their jobs.
COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, appreciate it tonight. Thank you.
Joining us now is Democratic congressman and Intelligence Committee member, Mike Quigley, who has you saw squared off against Devin Nunes on Monday.
Congressman Quigley, you've said that when you confronted Chairman Nunes, his mannerisms and expressions led you to believe he wasn't being candid. Can you describe? How so?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, let me add to that my first year of watching this investigation under Chairman Nunes' helm, you detailed his midnight run to the White House. I've also witnessed his unwillingness to sign subpoenas for key witnesses, his refusal to push us to make sure the witnesses were refused to answer questions do so.
So, I think there's a long history leading up to that questioning. It's hard reading the transcript mannerisms. That's why juries don't read transcripts.
I think if there was an audio or video combined, the American public would see a man who was clearly somewhat ruffled and not wanting to answer the question or the totality of circumstances led them -- me to believe he wasn't being truthful. And as I continued the question asking about staff, he began to refuse to answer that question at all.
COOPER: And, of course, as you know, as we saw, Sarah Sanders doesn't answer to Chris Cuomo, saying, look, I don't know, I just haven't asked that question, which is a pretty major question you would think if she wanted to ask she would have asked. If you believe that Chairman Nunes or his staff was in fact working with the White House because it was staffers who actually wrote this, what's next? I mean, is there anything to try to do to prove that?
QUIGLEY: Well, look, I think that we have to look at the totality here. Also in that transcript, I press the chairman about having the intelligence agencies briefed Congress on this, or at least tell us what their concerns are and check these memos. He said I'm not going to have them contest if I before us, we're investigating them.
Well, that's the fact that was news to everyone else in the room. It's another example the chairman's rogue unilateral stealth attempts to stymie this investigation and that is breaking all the rules and the traditions and the customs he is with a few staff I think acting as an agent of the White House and has for an entire year.
So, all I can do is sound the alarm, ask the right questions and make sure the American public know exactly what's going on. It's as important I think though to conclude here, this is the president of the United States acting to defend himself legally and politically at the expense of our national security and complicit in that is the speaker of the House and Chairman Nunes.
[20:15:08] COOPER: If -- I mean, he says, look, we're investigating -- you know, we're over we have oversight the FBI were investigating them. As part of any investigation, wouldn't they actually want the FBI when they want Christopher Wray to come and answer questions in front of them?
QUIGLEY: Oh, absolutely, and they would also want our memo released at the exact same time. But at that business meeting, we're talking about that transcript, they voted against that on party lines. They didn't want anybody to come here and brief the entire Congress in executive session. They didn't want anybody a chance to have a long term review of this and critique it. They didn't want a chance for redactions which even the White House I understand is considering.
So, it's pretty clear that they wanted this out. They wanted transparency on a one-sided basis, and they did it with an extraordinarily flimsy memo and I think the FBI was accurate in discussing the quality of that memo. I was a little more harsh as a former professor. I described it as a book report by a junior in high school at one o'clock at night -- written in one o'clock at night with two Red Bulls under their belt and they haven't read the book.
As far as I know, only Mr. Gowdy on their side has read the underlying materials.
COOPER: In Nunes' statement today, he said, quote, top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counterintelligence investigation during an American political campaign. Have you seen any evidence to support that claim? I mean, you haven't seen the underlying evidence. Nunes is himself to your point and I talked to Adam Schiff about this, he has not seen the underlying evidence.
QUIGLEY: Yes, here's what I can say. This investigation began independently of the Steele dossier. That's as important a statement as I can make. If the minority memo is released in the public or at least Congress is allowed to read that, it is a more scholarly report with actual footnotes, which will point-by-point rebut every aspect of the four-page majority memo. And I believe it will bolster the integrity of the entire investigation.
But this is a rush to action. It is not a rushed to judge this -- it is a -- instead of a deliberate attempt to judge the totality of circumstances. We'd like to see this under the light of day where members of Congress are allowed to do this. But instead, we rush some material which is basically a lie and it's misleading and it's inappropriate and it hurts our national security, putting us all in an extraordinary difficult position, destroying the trust in a relationship that it's critical keeping us safe between the intelligence agencies and Congress.
COOPER: So, let me just repeat that. You're saying you can say with complete accuracy that the so-called Steele dossier was not the basis for -- for the FISA application?
QUIGLEY: What I'm saying is this investigation that began as a counterintelligence investigation began independently of the Steele dossier.
COOPER: Congressman Quigley, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
Coming up next, what our intelligence the national security pros have to say about what the White House is doing including someone who once had Chairman Nunes' job.
Later, a CNN exclusive reporting on the newly revealed encounter between President Trump and Rod Rosenstein, and the president's question about being on his team. That and more when we continue.
[20:21:40] COOPER: Well, the showdown between President Trump and his handpicked FBI Director Christopher Wray dominated what ordinarily would be a day for the White House to build on momentum from last night's State of the Union message. So, anyone remember that?
Today, it was all about the Nunes memo, it's pedigree or lack of it, and even last night, the president made it plain he wants the public to see it, 100 percent he said it's going to be released. He's that open -- is that open mic moment again in the State of the Union.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUNCAN: Let's release the memo.
TRUMP: Oh, yes. Don't worry. A hundred percent. Can you imagine that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was president last night. Tonight, as CNN's Jim Acosta told us, the White House may redact portions of the memo.
Joining us now is Mike Rogers, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa.
Chairman Rogers, I mean -- I bring this up again to you. You know, we've heard from Paul Ryan. We heard from a congressman who was on a broadcast that you were on two nights ago, all of whom kept saying, well, look, Christopher Wray had the chance to see this, he didn't raise any objections, his two top FISA people experts were there, nobody raised objections, nobody put a pin and started making any changes to this, the implication was that the FBI had essentially of Christopher Wray had signed off on this on this, clearly, that is not the case.
MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, it's my understanding that when the FBI director was there, he said, hey, listen, this is a lot to take in. I want to take this back to -- remember, he just reads it, he just
sees it. He says, hey -- and it was just himself. He's been FBI director you know a few months now and he said, I'm going to go back and look at it and you need to give them the opportunity to at least run through that information with his folks.
And clearly, they came to a different conclusion that it was -- you know, they omitted important facts to that case.
And here's what drives me crazy about this whole thing, Anderson. Listen, if there are allegations that the FBI perjured themselves in an affidavit to a judge for a FISA court, both Republicans and Democrats should be upset about that, number one.
ROGERS: Number two, so they shouldn't just say there's nothing there. But clearly the way that the Republican majority here is trying to release this without all the facts I think is also a disservice. This is a classified committee designed to deal with very sensitive intelligence classified information and you want a joint committee investigation into the problems of which they see dueling memos will do absolutely nothing but confuse the public and likely, I think just taint people's vision of what the important work that not only the committee does but the intelligence community writ large.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, Chairman, as someone who used to head this committee, wouldn't it, if they really were investigating this and concern about this, wouldn't bringing Christopher Wray in and or other FBI officials in and to pepper them with questions, wouldn't that be the normal step?
ROGERS: Well, all right, I'm really going to get in trouble now, Anderson. I don't think any committee -- any member of that committee should have voted on that until they all read the underlying intelligence information based on the memo including all of the information that was in the affidavit to the FISA court. Without having all of that information, digesting it, reading it and understanding, you can't make the conclusion that the information and that memo accurately reflects the concern that you have.
And I think that's really what the FBI is saying is, hey, listen, there may be some truth in that. There may have been -- which, by the way, I struck -- that was pretty big news for me today. They didn't say they disagreed with the points in the memo. They just said the facts of which you picked omitted lots of other facts that may have made a more accurate picture.
That's pretty interesting. So, it tells me there was a little bit something there that they need to look at. But without understanding the whole picture, you have no idea if that memo is accurate and now they're talking about redactions and other things. So, this is -- it's just really concerning to destroy the committee that is designed to be the secret place of which we oversee the intelligence community, including the FBI.
By the way, the FBI is not immune to oversight and they absolutely should be held to account --
ROGERS: -- if they did those things. That's really important here. But the way they're going about this -- and, by the way, this notion that the Democrats have a memo that somehow pure, none of this is good. The Republicans doing it, the Democrats are doing -- none of it is good.
COOPER: Asha, I mean, if the FBI is concerned about it, in their words, material emissions of fact that fundamentally impact of memo's accuracy, how would redactions fix that?
ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: It won't. So as the chairman said, you know, the affidavit will lay -- the full affidavit lays out the whole picture and these are incredibly long. I prepared FISA affidavits, and what you have are a number of facts that are gathered evidence -- has gathered from a number of different sources to paint a picture that that shows the judge that you've met your probable cause standard.
So, a source might tell you person X is doing this, but then you have bank records, financial records, intel coming from other sources, all of those are presented together. And if you pulled any one of those out, they may not be enough on its own.
The other thing, Anderson, is that apart from this investigation this particular case, if this is not a substantiated claim of abuse, in fact, if this is not in fact abused if they if the FBI actually followed the procedures, this can have a really dramatic impact on the FBI's overall efforts because if people mistakenly have the impression that the FBI can't be trusted, you know, the bread and butter of the FBI is to go out and talk to people and that people trust them to come and give them tips to give them information and mostly to gather -- to get sources.
RANGAPPA: And if you're you know -- if you're an FBI agent who has a source, you know, you want to be able to show that you can protect them and the FBI now --
COOPER: The credibility --
COOPER: Asha Rangappa, thank you. Chairman Rogers as well.
Coming up, combining -- more breaking news. What President Trump wanted from his point man at the Department of Justice overseeing the Russian investigation? New information about this and, by the way, it may sound familiar. Stick around.
[20:30:46] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: More breaking news tonight. Words that in a December meeting in the White House, President Trump asked his deputy attorney general over seeing the Russia investigation if he was on his side. Not all that to similar from a loyalty pledge, he reportedly ask from former FBI Director James Comey months before he fired.
Pamela Brown is in Washington tonight with the exclusive details. So what exactly happened according to your reporting?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well Anderson, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went to the White House this past December, he went to speak to the President to get his help to block document demands from House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes. But sources from (INAUDIBLE) with this meeting that we spoken with, tell that the President had other things on his mind at the time just to had it Rosenstein upcoming testimony before a House committee. You may have recalled that testimony this past December.
So that we're told that the President asked Rosenstein, where he thought the investigation of links between Russians and his campaign was headed? And then he went on to ask, whether Rosenstein was quote, "On my team, whether the two are on the same team". Now a reminder here, Rosenstein is the person who oversees the Russia probe, the special counsel investigation. He was the one who appointed Robert Mueller. But this is only the latest episode Anderson that come to light portraying a President who asks questions sometimes crosses a line that presidents traditionally have tried to avoid when dealing with the Justice Department. And this exchange could raise further questions about whether Trump was seeking to interfere in the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller who was looking in the potentially collusion by the Trump campaign and obstruction of justice by the White House, Anderson.
COOPER: Do you know any word on how Rosenstein reacted to this?
BROWN: Well, you know, Anderson we were told that Rosenstein was surprised by this and he didn't give any details in terms of where that the Russia investigation was headed as the President asked him them and then he responded sort of awkwardly we're told that the President's team request saying of course we're all on your team Mr. President. Now, remember the President did appoint Rod Rosenstein to be the deputy attorney general. But as this time we're hearing shortly after the White House meeting, Rosenstein was asked about loyalty pledges and here's what he said about that.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D) NEW YORK: Is it ever appropriate for the President of the United States to demand the Department of Justice official or FBI director take a loyalty pledge? ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't have any opinion about that. Congressman nobody has asked me to take a loyalty pledge other than oath of office.
BROWN: So you heard him there, Rosenstein did not believe that he was being asked to take loyalty pledge. Now -- you know, he also told lawmakers who were in the -- the same hearing Anderson, as long as you are following your oath of office, you can also be faithful to the administration. Also, want to note, we're told by sources Anderson, that the President was really focused on this testimony that was up coming. It was clearly top of mind during that meeting with Rosenstein, in fact we're told that the President was asking Republican congressman or suggesting them specific questions they should ask Rosenstein in that hearing. Anderson.
COOPER: Interesting. Pam, thanks very much. Joining me now to discussed something that certainly sounds familiar, our CNN legal experts Jeffrey Toobin, Carrie Cordero and Ken Cuccinelli.
So Jeff, I mean if this to be believed, it seems to be part of pattern when it comes to this President and the idea of loyalty.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANAYST: Yes, a pattern of potential criminal behavior in the Oval Office. Obstruction of justice. I mean what is he saying to Rod Rosenstein when he's discussing the investigation of himself? He saying are you on my team. He's not about on your -- on my team about fighting ISIS or fighting the Mafia. Are you on my team in connection with the investigation of Trump? That is evidence of obstruction of justice and it's just one of many pieces that have come to light already.
COOPER: So Carrie would then Robert Mueller's team want to talk to Rod Rosenstein and then if Rod Rosenstein is overseeing the investigation, does that put him in a odd if in fact Mueller seem wants to talk to him?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it does and that question, there has been legal scholars and academics and observers who've been paying attention to have been wondering in fact, whether or not Rod Rosenstein is a witness and whether that actually does raise questions about his continued oversight of the investigation.
[20:34:57] But the other part of Pamela's reporting that is so interesting is not only did he ask him if he was on the team, but he also asked him about the substance of the investigation. And that, you know, early in the President's administration, one could perhaps suggest that he didn't understand the relationship between the White House and the presidency and the Department of Justice. He didn't understand the norms that are supposed to be observed in terms of not pressuring Department of Justice officials. There is no way by December of 2017 that one could make that argument about the President.
COOPER: Ken, how do you see this? I mean when it comes to, you know, the President asking for loyalty, that certainly seems to be something that's recurring theme. Not just, you know, one or two people at several people. Is that a problem?
KENNETH CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly when we look at the Justice Department as being different from all the other cabinets because of their independent law making decision -- law enforcement decision they have to make, then there are differences there. You know, I would note for you all that this was not discussed by the mainstream media when there was no independence in the Obama Justice Department. And, you know, it does -- early in the report that you just cited was the under estimate of the report, was this president crosses lines that previous presidents stayed on the other side. I think Donald Trump does that all over the place. And you know, Jeffrey thinks that this one is evidence of criminal activity.
But look, he crosses lines all over the place. Propriety, language, you know, putting out on Twitter things that used to be internal White House discussions. So you know, how you digest all of this is a little bit different. And an example of that would be no one would believe that Bill Clinton never talked to his White House counsel about being rid of Ken Starr. But when Donald Trump does it, it somehow, and we know about it, it somehow shocking. And you know, I just, the comparisons just don't hold up with a guy with this personality.
Eventually, he is going to be talking to Mueller's team in either writing or in person, and I expect probably in person. And he's going to have the chance to answer all of these questions himself. And he's going to have leave the hyperbole president and be the more laid back discipline President we saw last night in the State of Union.
TOOBIN: Federal law does not have an exception for people with colorful personalities. This is criminal behavior --
CUCCINELLI: That's true.
TOOBIN: -- of obstructing justice. And, you know, the fact that Donald Trump, you know, is kind of a wacky guy.
CUCCINELLI: Yes, that goes to it.
TOOBIN: -- is not excuse him from violating the law.
COOPER: You're saying that goes to intent.
TOOBIN: It goes intent --
TOOBIN: -- it's also the underlying crime. I mean if you are obstructing justice, you're obstructing justice regardless what kind of personality you have.
CORDERO: The issue with the statement is that the President has had a pattern of pressuring Department of Justice and FBI officials in particular of those who are involved in this Russia influence investigation and the difference spokes that have come out of that investigation. And so that's where communications and contacts between the White House, the President and the Department of Justice, it is more important in that circumstance that those protocols be followed. And the procedures for White House influence and communications on ongoing investigations between the White House and the Department of Justice have actually been relatively consistent in terms of policy over the past several administrations of both parties.
COOPER: Ken, would it be within the bounds of propriety for Rosenstein and Trump to discuss anything involving the Russia investigation?
CUCCINELLI: I think if only at the highest level. Only at the level of generally time line, that sort of thing. But not at the level of detailed questioning. And I would agree with statement about just the first part of the statement just made about the fact that it's reasonable to expect certain lines of propriety to be maintained when dealing with the Department of Justice that don't exist with others. And that goes back to this President's willingness, frankly, to not abide by all of those old expectations.
CUCCINELLI: And it has -- it can have consequences here with the Justice Department that don't exist with any other department.
COOPER: Yes. Ken Cuccinelli, Carrie Cordero, Jeff Toobin, I appreciate it. Thanks. With all the new developments in the Russia investigation tonight including the storm of the Nunes memo that has even come out yet. We'll get former Direction of National Intelligence James Clapper's take in all of it, next.
[20:43:09] COOPER: There's breaking news on multiple fronts in the Russia investigation tonight. Today, we learned that last month the President asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he was "on my team". This is coming in the middle of the major drama over the impending release that controversial Republican memo, accusing the FBI of abusing its surveillance. The Nunes memo could be release as soon as tomorrow according to administration officials. Possibly, we learn tonight with redaction according to a source, with all of this going on, with better time to speak with CNN national security analyst James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence.
Director Clapper, so the FBI, the Justice Department, the Intelligence Community, all essentially saying releasing this memo is dangerous. Do you agree with the assessment?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well without having seen the memo but certainly inferentially yes. And I was struck by the FBI statement today which I shouldn't say anything about sources and methods jeopardy. What it spoke to was errors of facts through omissions. So I'm not terribly comforted by news that this memo will be published with redactions because I don't think that's reflective of correcting it for omissions of fact which I think was a concern of the minority, the Democrats on the committee.
COOPER: Which is essentially saying that it is cherry picking information that if you have, you know, pages and pages and dozens of pages underlying intelligence information and you end up with the four page memo that it is possibly just cherry picked.
CLAPPER: Well, yes. And you know, I've seen this happen before in the Congress particularly when you are into a partisan issue like this where only one side is writing something. And, you know, staffers are smart and they can pick and choose what they want to make a case. And that, I think, is what probably prompted the statement by the FBI.
[20:45:07] COOPER: A number of Republicans up from the Hill on this committee have said, well look, of course the Department of Justice, of course the FBI doesn't want this memo released if it shows that they did something improper. I guess what I don't understand is if this is actually a real investigation of the FBI, and the Department of Justice and maybe they did do something improper, wouldn't one of the first steps be to bring the FBI, bring Christopher Wray or whomever -- whatever FBI or Department of Justice official in front of your committee and grill them?
CLAPPER: Well, yes, in a closed environment. And I've been on the receiving end of that when one or more members or committees thought the intelligence committee was up to no good and that would traditionally be the way it would done or another way would be to refer their concern to their -- in this case, the Department of Justice inspector general who is there as an independent voice. Who has competent qualified in objective staff to look into this? But obviously this has got all kinds of political overtones and where it seems to me Chairman Nunes is more concerned with trying to protect the President.
COOPER: How unusual the situation is it. I mean it's not that unusual when we've seen Nunes frankly in a position that looks similar to this where, you know, he does sort made that midnight run to the White House and he'd been brief and he had to brief the President, it turns out they don't actually gotten information from people at the White House itself. How unusual is it though to have, you know, the FBI Director Christopher Wray, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein personally pressing your case to the White House that apparently fallen deaf ears other than this possible, you know, redaction or some things?
CLAPPER: Well, I don't recall another example of this, I do remember very well since I went through it was when the Senate Intelligence Committee which was actually Democrats released its report publicly or version a summary version of the report on extraordinary extortion techniques. And we went to a very vigorous redaction process with them and had a lot of back and forth discussion certainly in a closed environment. And that's what I am used to and what I've seen work be had -- which has been worked out between the legislative and the executive. But never something like this.
COOPER: This reporting that the President wanted to know whether or not Rosenstein was on his team. I'm wondering what your reaction to that is?
CLAPPER: Well, I thought immediately when I first heard about of conversation I had with Jim Comey then the director of FBI, and the 27th of January when I was at the FBI and he had gotten a call from President Trump to have dinner with him. And I remember, and this is my characterization on how uneasy Jim was with that because of the importance which he hoped to convey to the President of -- an independent FBI, an independent FBI director. And I thought immediately of that where this apparently the team reference may be a little -- a little more benign than a direct elicitation for a pledge of loyalty. But never the less, it smack of the same thing and sort of falls into what is a pattern here.
COOPER: Last year CI Director Mike Pompeo met here in the U.S. with his the Russian counterpart, including according to Russia media, the countries top spy chief, that Russian spy chief has currently under U.S. sanctions, there's so many details obviously, that have emerge about the meeting. Just days later, the Trump administration failed to enforce further sanctions against Russia. You know, it's there's always danger in conflating two events or multiple events. And I'm wondering, when you see that, does any of that strike you as unusual.
CLAPPER: Well, having all three of them at once is unusual. Now, there's been long tradition of engagement, attempts to engage with Russia intelligence officials. I certainly did that. I think what is important is whatever it is Director Pompeo said, I hope he just didn't give him a free pass and not acknowledge, hey, you know, we knew what you were doing in meddling in our -- interfering in our election. You know, let's get on with business.
So I -- and as far as engaging with one of them who is under sanction, well, I think I would have a conversation with my general counsel about that. And again, I don't know what the specific modalities were that were adopted. So on the one hand, yes it's a good thing to have try to have dialogue with them, although none I engaged and we very successful. It's always a one-way street. But I do hope that there was some mention made of those very same services by the way were the ones leading the interference.
[20:50:05] COOPER: Yes. Director Clapper, appreciate your time as always, thank you very much.
CLAPPER: Thanks Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up next, the exclusive new CNN reporting that shows an FBI agent under Republican attack for presumably eating the Democrats, actually some evidence shows may have done the opposite. Details ahead.
COOPER: More breaking news. Remember all the way back to last week where text messages between an FBI agent and an FBI lawyer were suppose to be part of a so-called secret society that was designed to undermine the Trump presidency. Well, that turned out not to be true, it turned out be kind of an inside joke. It turns out that the FBI agent at the center of that particular storm was deeply involved in the FBI decision before the 2016 election that was Democrats believed seriously damaged Hillary Clinton. Down is up. Up is down.
CNN's Laura Jarrett joins us now with details. So, what are you learning? Explain what we now know about the role this FBI agent played in the decision about Clinton.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we're getting a more detailed picture tonight about how Peter Strzok played a role in that crucial decision that essentially turned the Clinton campaign upside down just days before the 2016 election. We've now obtained a string of e-mails that show Strzok took the first crack at a draft of that now infamous letter that former FBI Director James Comey sent over to Congress informing them the bureau was investigating newly discovered Clinton e-mails on Anthony Weiner's laptop, just, again, days before the election.
Now, of course it makes sense that Strzok would be involved in all of this as the number two in counterintelligence. He was one of those leading the Clinton investigation at the FBI. But it's also significant politically because what this means is that while the Republicans on Capitol Hill have type cast Strzok has having thumb on the scale for Clinton given some of his private text messages trashing the President, he also didn't hold back when it came to taking action against Clinton back in 2016. And so there's a far more nuanced picture here, Anderson.
[20:55:08] COOPER: Strzok did have some reservations about making a public announcement about all of this, correct?
JARRETT: He did. A source familiar with Strzok's thinking on all this tells, that me he was firmly of the view the FBI had to pursue whatever leads were on that laptop, and he was being aggressive about it. But he had real reservations at the same time about making such public announcements just days before the election. In fact, his text messages that were turned over to Congress, you see him and this lawyer, Lisa Page, at the FBI grappling with the fallout. And in one, page said she's not so sure they should issue a public statement. Strzok agrees. And it turns out that was sent on the very same day that Comey sent his letter to Congress closing out the Clinton investigation. 2 COOPER: This report from the Justice Department's inspector general it's suppose to be coming out in the next few months. How much of that focuses on Strzok? Do we know?
JARRETT: Well, Republicans have focused a lot over the past couple weeks on what Strzok said in those text messages, since he was briefly on Mueller's team. But the inspector general's report is supposed to take a wide-ranging broad look at how the FBI handled the Clinton investigation writ large, from top to bottom, including whether Attorney General Loretta Lynch's tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton was appropriate, whether it was appropriate for Comey to make any number of the public statements he did about the investigation without following the typical protocols. So in other words this report is going to be explosive and a potential land mine for the Justice Department and FBI far beyond any text messages, Anderson.
COOPER: All rigjht, Laura Jarrett, thanks very much.
More news ahead. We'll be right back.
[21:00:00] COOPER: That's it for us. Thanks for watching 360. I'll be back for another edition of 360 at 10:00 tonight. Time to hand it over to Chris Cuomo for "Cuomo Prime Time.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Book ended by Anderson. I love it. Good to see you my friend.
We have a facts thirst feast tonight. New information about what a controversial FBI agent --