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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  May 8, 2017 2:00pm-3:01pm PDT

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i want to be, not just expert but also people of deep conviction. and i agree with my colleagues that there ought to be an independent commission that can have public hearings, 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 prosecute uncovered about how the russians sought to interfere and undermine our democracy and our electoral system, and they also want accountability. they want not only the russians to pay a price, they want anybody who colluded with the russians or aided and abetted them to pay a price as well, and there are criminal statutes that prohibit that kind of collusion
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and impose serious criminal fines and imprisonment for people who might have done that. and we know that the fbi is now investigating the potential collusion of terrorism associates and trump campaign and administration officials with the russians as director comey has told us and made public, so there's no classified information there. the meeting that the fbi conducted on january 24th preceded by one day approximately your first meeting with donnell mcgann. isn't it a fact that michael nine flied to the fbi? >> i can't reveal the internal fbi investigation, senator, even
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though that part would not be technically classified, it's an ongoing investigation and i can't reveal that. >> did you tell donald mcgiann then national security advisers michael flynn told the truth. >> >> he asked me how he had done in the investigation and i declined to answer that. >> because it was part of an investigation. >> that's right. was that intended to i7bd kate to him that michael flynn had a problem in that interview? >> no, i was intending to let him know that michael flynn had a problem on a lot of levels, but it wasn't necessarily with respect to how he performed in the interview. i was intentionally not letting him know how the interview had gone. >> and lying to the fbi is a crime, correct? >> it is, yes. >> violation of 18 united states code 1,4001. >> that's right. >> and it's punishable by five years in prison. >> yes, it is. >> so if michael flynn lied to
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the fbi, he had a ton of legal trouble facing him. >> he could face criminal prosecution if he lied to the fbi, yes. >> and if he became a foreign agent for another country, for turkey, which he was a foreign agent for without getting permission from the department of defense, he faced criminal penalties for that and still faces them, correct? >> yes. it's certainly violations can be criminally prosecuted. >> in fact, that's a violation of 18 united states code 21 and that's punishable by two years in prison, correct? >> mm-hmm. >> and his failure to disclose payments from foreign sources which also he had done before you went to donald mcgann is also criminally punishable, is it not? >> that was not a topic i discussed with mr. mcgann so it's not something that i can discuss here today. >> but it is in fact from your knowledge a violation of
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criminal law, is it not? >> to not disclose payments, yes, but i'm not speaking to his specific conduct, just generally that it is, yes. >> if michael flynn is prosecuted for any of these crimes, isn't it possible that the vice president of the united states might be a witness? >> i guess it would depend on the crime. >> if it were a false statement to the fbi about his conversations with the russians, wouldn't he potentially be called as a witness to corroborate that false statement in the. >> certainly that's possible, but i'd be speculating how such a criminal prosecution would come together. >> so where i'm going is the need for a special prosecutor is because officials at the highest level who are simmon for -- who are responsible for appointing the attorney general, deputy
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attorney general, are all potenti potential targets. >> potentially. >> and to hold those officials or others responsible really has to be independent, correct? >> well, department of justice lawyers pride themselves in being able to be independent regardless of whether they are appointed as a special counsel. >> but the ultimate decision whether or not to prosecute for the sake of appearance as well as in reality should be made by someone who is unquestionably independent, objective and impartial? >> senator, i absolutely understand your concerns here, but the fact of the matter that particularly as someone who just departed from the department of justice, i'm just not going to wade into whether or not they should have a special counsel or an independent counsel in this matter. i don't really think they need the formers telling them how to do their jobs. >> well, i'm going to be very unfair to you and just ask you as a private citizen wouldn't
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you like to see a special counsel appointed under these circumstances? >> not going to go there either, senator. >> as an expert witness for our committee? >> keep fishing. >> i'll qualify you as an expergt if senator graham allows me to do it. >> you'll have to pay her. >> let me just close by asking you my colleague senator franken made reference to warnings given to the -- given by president obama to then president-elect trump about hiring michael flynn. that is a public report from the "new york times" in fact today which i ask be entered into the record and i also ask be enter the into the record the
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february 9th report from "the washington post," i believe there's a reference to it and without that published report and the free press telling us a lot of what went on, michael flynn might still be sitting as national security adviser because by january 30th you were forced to resign, you were fired. >> yes, i was fired. >> so no one was around to tell the white house as you said that our national security was in danger. >> well, there were still the career officials and the national security division who had been working with me on this matter that were there and were certainly conversant in the facts. >> but the ultimate decision to go to the white house was yours? >> yes, it was. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. in spite of the trump administration's ongoing efforts to convince all of us that there's nothing to see here with regard to russian interference
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with our 2016 election and the trump team's connections to these efforts, we need to get to the bottom of this so i thank chair graham and our ranking are members and in fact i had a number of town hall meetings in hawaii this past weekend and hundreds of people care about this. in a press conference today sean spicer said, quote, everyone in the government goes through the same process and he also said, quote, there's no difference of a security clearance once it's issued, end quote and basically as far as this administration is concerned nothing more needed to be done by them regarding general flynn's clearance. director clapper, isn't true that the cia has a separate vetting process for national
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security council employees and the press is reporting today that general flynn never completed that process. can you enlighten us. >> i can't speak to sfes fix of how it was done with general flynn. i know what i went through as a political appointee twice, in a republican and democratic administration, and the vetting process for either a political appointee or someone working in the white house is far, far more invasive and far, far more thorough than a standard tssci clearance process, but i don't know what process was used in general flynn's case nor did i have access to his complete investigatory file so it's very difficult for me to speculate on what was-ins it and what action, if any, was taken to the white house. >> well, according to sean spicer, he had a clearance from the obama administration and that was it, and this administration had no further
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responsibilities. so let me go on. others of my colleagues have mentioned, and you yourself, mr. clapper, said that rt is a russian mouthpiece to spread propaganda and, of course, we know that general flynn attended a gala hosted by or the tenth anniversary gala for rt in december 2015 where he sat next to president putin and got paid over $37 n.o.w. for that. given the information that miss yates provided to the white house regarding, and this is during the january 26th and 27 time frame regarding general flynn, and the following discussions on january 28th, he particul participated in han hour long call along with president trump to president putin, and on february 11th he participated in a discussion with president abe at mar-a-lago to discuss north korea owes missile tests. should he, given the information that had already been provided
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by miss yates, should he have participated in these two very specific instances? >> well, i -- you know, i can't -- that's difficult for me to answer because i'm not -- i was out at that point. >> let's say you were in. >> just a standard comment, a general comment, i don't think it was -- i don't think it was a good practice, put it that way. >> so i think this comports with some of the concerns that have been raised about the appropriateness orred a cautiony of the trump administration's vetting process with regard to various disclosures by other members of his administration, and as i mentioned they were continuing efforts to downplay russia's interference in our elections. after general flynn resigned in february 13th, on february 15th president trump tweeted that flynn is a, quote, wonderful
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man, and, quote, is very, very unfair what's happened to general flynn, unquote. so mr. clapper, is this the kind of statement that would be made by a president aware of serious security concerns about his former national security adviser? >> well, i -- i'm loathe to comment on the tweets. you know, that's -- that was -- i suppose an honest expression of how he felt. >> well, does it sound like somebody who knew that there were security concerns about it, that he who say it's very, very unfair and that -- that mr. flynn is a wonderful man? maybe i should let people draw their own conclusions. >> i don't know what information was conveyed to the president. i have no insight there, so i don't know to the extent to which he had an understanding of what the former -- acting
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attorney general conveyed. i don't know how much of that made its way to the president. >> yes, precisely. that is a concern that i would have, that it sounds perhaps that the president was not aware and going on in marching the president tweeted that flynn should be given immunity. flynn resigned on february 13th and that the fbi's investigation is, quote, a witchhunt, so i would like to ask both of you, should these tweets and other assertions by the president have the any influence at all on the fbi's ongoing investigation into russian interference in our elections and team trump's connections to these efforts? >> well, it shouldn't, and i'm confident that it won't. >> i hope so. i have a question about the foreign agents registration act, violations. a number of trump administration officials ary will baitedly disclosing their work under the foreign agents registration act
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some of which raise serious counterintelligence concerns. i asked director comey about these concerns last week. miss yates, what are the consequences for a white house staffers who nail to disclose their foreign contacts on their security clearance forms? >> well, there can be a variety of ramifications. you can lose your security clearance. you can lose your job or in certain circumstances you can be criminally prosecuted. >> is it up to the didn't of justice or the fbi to pursue these kinds of allegations against staffers who do not disclose appropriately? >> again, it would all depend on the circumstances, whether it was willful and what the circumstances were of the conduct underlying that. so it's going to be very fact specific. >> i agree that it should be fact specific but considering the allegations i hope that either the fbi or the department of justice is pursuing an investigation into these
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matters. again, under what circumstances would the department of justice decide to bring charges against someone for violating that? you said it would depend on the facts of the situation. if the president or someone close to him knew that a white house official failed to disclose work on behalf of a foreign government and close to cover that up, again, can you reiterate again the possible repercussions to this person. >> to the individual. >> to the individual. >> again -- >> let's say that the allegations are proven true. >> that they failed to disclose their activity and that the president covered it it up or the individual did? >> let's say the president knew or the administration knew and then the individual also covered it it up. >> well, cover-ups are bad. that usually is evidence of intent so that's something that we lock at in makings determinations about whether it's something that should be criminally prosecuted, but, again, it's got to be very fact
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specific. it's hard to give you a hard fast answer there. >> and if -- >> i'm sorry. thank you very much. >> we're going to do a second round, but we're going to do it quickly and we're going to do four-minute rounds, and there's light at end of the tunnel. we've got a vote at 5:30 so i promise you you'll get out of here very quick and senators have question and starting with me and i'll enforce the four minutes for myself. general clapper, during your investigation of all things russia, did you ever find a situation where a trump business interest in russia gave you concern? >> not in the course of the preparation of the intelligence community assessment. >> since? >> sorry? >> at all, any time? >> for graham, i can't comment on that because that impacts the
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investigation. >> it wasn't enough to put into the report? >> that's correct. >> okay. miss yates, the rule of law, you cannot hall lou people to leak classified information because they want a particular outcome. that's not the rule of law, is that correct? >> absolutely. >> and i think you both agree with that concept. did mr. mcgann ask reasonable questions about your concerns? >> i didn't really have a judgment about whether they were reasonable or unreasonable, but i do think mr. mcgann was trying to get to the bottom in our discussions whatever had happened. >> and he wanted to actually seat information that you were talking about in a. >> >> he indicated he did. i don't have any way of knowing. >> and he said he wanted to and you tried to set that up. >> that's correct. >> now about surveillance. this is very important, an american citizen cannot be sf d surveilled in the united states for colluding with a northern government unless you have a warrant. is that a true statement of the
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law? >> that's right. >> is it fair to say incidental collection occurs even in the united states? >> that's correct as well. >> so there's two situations that we would have found out what general flynn said to the russian ambassador. if there was a fisa warrant focused on him, was there? >> was there, either one of you? >> i'm not going to answer whether there was a nisa warrant or am i going to talk about whether general flynn was talking to the russians. >> i'm obviously going to have to go on. >> if he wasn't talk together russians we've had a hearing for no good reason so clearly he's talking about the russians and if there is no fisa warrant, the other way is if he was incidentally surveilled so those are the two options. do we know who unmasked the conversation between the russian ambassador and general flynn? was there an unmasking in this
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situation? >> are you looking halt me? >> yes, sir. >> i don't know. >> do you, miss yates? >> i can't speak to the specific situation but can i try to clarify one point on this unmasking thing. >> very quickly. >> i'll try to do it quickly. as a consumer of intelligence, i would, for example, i would receive intelligence reports from various agent significance. >> i get that. >> oftentimes the names are already unmark of the by the intelligence agentit. >> bottom line is i want to know how it got to the "the washington post." somebody had to have access to the information, and they glare it to "the washington post." is the that a fair statement? >> that's right. that's what it looks like to me. >> is that right, general clap remember? >> yes. >> and it was -- neither one of you did it? >> that's right. >> that's right. >> how many people can request unmasking of american citizens in our government, general clapper, how many? >> i don't have an exact number. it's -- that's fairly limited
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because that's normally fairly high level officials. >> how did you know that general flynn was talking to the russians? who told you? >> and i can't reveal that in an open setting. >> but what i was trying to say was that is oftentimes we receive intelligence reports where the name of the american citizen is already unmasked, and it's unmasked by the intel agency because not based on anybody's ask but because the name of that citizen is essential. >> is that the situation here? >> senator, i cannot -- >> my four minutes is up. thank you both but i want to know the answer to these questions. senator whitehouse. >> thanks, chairman. two things. one, there are multiple levels of security clearances and they are issued by different agent circumstances correct, so having one for dod doesn't make you good for all good in all places? >> it does not. >> and the dod operates clearances at multiple levels,
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correct. >> >> right, but i think the key point here is that -- as i indicated earlier the requirements for a tssei versus the requirements for occupying a sensitive position in the white house as a part of the national security council. >> way higher than what's required for a general. >> and much more invasive and aggressive than a standard tssei. >> now, in terms of compromised trade craft, if you have somebody and you have them compromised, it's pretty standard compromised trade craft to ask them to do some little thing for you under the threat of having the compromising information disclosed and if you succeed, you now have two things on them and you work it that way to get somebody more man more enmeshed in compromise until they are morals owned by the
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intelligence agency, is that a fair description of how you can develop compromise through a regular trade craft? >> yes, yes, want to make sure because we're talking a lot about it here. >> lastly, my list, i went through the list and looked at like propaganda, fake news, trolls and bots. we can all agree from the ic report that those were in fact were used in the 2016, hacking and theft, hack into the dnc and the modesta e-mails, i think we can all agree that's a yes. timed leaks of damaging material, that appears very strongly to be a yes because of the timing of the release smack after the "access hollywood" release. i believe that the answers were correct no as to in-country assassination and political violence by the russians here in the united states. would you both agree with that? >> i don't think we turned up any evidence of that. >> okay.
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>> and controlling investment in key economic sectors for leverage. it the seems that hour economy is probably a little too big for that and there was no evidence of that in the ic report either, correct? >> that's correct. >> so the question of shady business and financial ties that not only start out as bribery perhaps or as highly favorable deals, secret deals with russians, but that in turn can turn into compromise. >> it could. >> and it's not just the carrot of i'm continuing to bribe you. at some point you have a stick over the individual of i'm going to out deal that we have unless you do this, correct? >> that's classic compramat. >> and we do not know the extent to which that has played a role in the 2016 russian election hack, correct? >> i don't. >> and in terms of corrupting and compromising politicians,
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the same? we don't know the full extent of whether or not politicians have been corrupted or -- >> i certainly don't. >> or compromisinged? >> i did not and don't. >> the so if we were to go down this, yes, yes, yes, no, no, question mark, question mark would be our -- our tally at the end. are we agreed on that? >> yes, yes. >> okay. anything else, miss yates ? . >> not from me, sir. >> i yield back my nine seconds. >> you're a trend setter. >> senator grassley. >> mr. clapper, you said yes when i asked you if you ever unmask a trump associate or a member of congress, but i forgot to ask which was it, was it a trump associate, a member of congress or both? >> over my time as dni, i think the answer was on rare occasions
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both, and, again, senator, just to make the point here, my focus was on the foreign target and at the foreign target's behavior in relation to the u.s. person. >> okay. how many instances were there or was it is just one? . >> i can only recall one. >> could you provide. >> it could have been more and the best accounting of this would be in accordance with the proceed you're the collecting agency. >> yeah. >> and that would be a better source of records than top of my head. >> okay. could you provide us more details in a classified setting? >> i could. >> okay. >> miss yates, the same question. you said -- i don't know what you said to answer my question if you were involved in any unmasking, were you involved? >> no, it i've never asked for
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anyone to be unmasked. >> okay. senator graham, both you and i and maybe other people have been said that we need a classified setting to get some answers here. i assume you're going to pursue that. >> yes, sir. >> okay. >> let's see. i've got time for a couple more questions, i believe. regardless of any disagreements that we have about allegations of collusion, the fact that russia tried to meddle in all of -- in our democracy is obviously an affront to all americans. we have to punish russia and we have to deter all nations from these shenanigans. do you two believe that the government's response so far has been enough to deter future attacks of this kind, and request not what, else do you think we should be doing? miss yates, would you answer please. >> i think they are coming back
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and we need to do more to ensure that folks out there know when they are looking halt news feeds that it may not be real news that they are reading. i think that we have to do more to deter the russians, and it wouldn't hurt to prosecute a few folks, but i dong think we should kid ourselves that we'll be able to prosecute our way out therefore problem. >> mr. clapper? >> well, as much as i love a congressional hearing, i think there is a huesful purpose, sir, because i think the most important thing that needs to be done here is to educate the electorate as toss what the russians objective is and the tactics and techniques and procedures that they have employed and will continue to employ, and i predict it will be against all the parties, and so -- so i think education of the public is the most important thing we can do in this hearing,
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grudgingly though i admit it, serves that purpose to the extent that this can be shared openly. i do think as well there needs to be more done in the way of sanctions to the russians or any other government that attempts to interfere in our election process. >> i'm done. >> thank you very much. senator klobuchar. >> thank you, and we thank you both for being here again. i think senator graham then asked if you would want to come back, director clapper, and we're very glad that you're here. when i asked the questions before i asked about this general fact of a high ranking national security official is caught on tape with a foreign official saying one thing in private and then says something in public that's different and -- and if that's material for plaque mail, and you both said that it was. could you give me some examples just from your experience, director clapper, of when russians have used for want of a
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better word sex, lies and videotape against people as blackmail. >> well, i don't have a lot of direct knowledge, trnl to russia. this is a classical technique goi going back to the soviet era that they would use to co-opt and compromise political opponents and, of course, the current administrations and the russians, even more aggressive than that, when they just blot out people for being in opposition, so -- so there are examples of that. i don't have them off the top of my head, but i have read and seen it particularly during the soviet era internal to the soviet union that this was a common practice. >> what about our election infrastructure as we move forward? as you said one major thing we need to do sed kate the public and i'm very concerned, we have
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different states have different election equipment and we're working on a bill on this. how important is it to protect the integrity of our election? >> it's quite important and speaking now as a -- as a private citizen, not in my former capacity, i do think that our election a rattus should be considered critical infrastructure and should have the protections that are attendant to that. a lot of states push back. secretary of homeland security engaged with state election officials about having that designation and having the federal government interfere in -- in the election process, but as a citizen i would be concerned with doing all we can to secure that apparatus. part of the attendant to the security assessment, dhs put out
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on paper a best practices as an advisory on how to secure election apparatuses at the state and local level. >> very good. do you think we're doing a good enough job now back to the propaganda issue in educating our citizens about this? >> no, we're not, and the other thing whether he don't do well enough is the counter messaging. >> and how would you suggest we could improve that? >> i would be -- i've been an advocate for a usia on steroids. i felt that way in terms of countering the message from isis who is very sophisticated and messages and proselytizing and recruiting people our countermessages are too fragmented in my own opinion, that's all i'm saying here, and would i seriously consider the notion of a usia on steroids. >> what would that mean exactly? >> well, someone that we
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could -- that we could message or countermessage, and our efforts to counter violent extremist ideology, particularly that from isis, who are very skilled at this, and i don't think we do -- as a nation we do a good enough job. i think counter messaging the russians, giving some of their own medicine much more aggressively than we've done and i should hasten to add that that should not be tagged on to the intelligence community. it needs to be a separate entity from the intelligence community, something the ic would support but accept ross perot from it. >> one last question. miss yates you brought a career lawyer would you to the meeting at the white house. >> yes, that's right. >> when you were giving these warnings about the knowledge you had on general flynn. is that normal practiceand did you do that? >> well, this was a person who was the career lawyer who was
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supervising this matters, and we thought that it was important. first of all, she was the one most intimately familiar with it, but secondly we knew that my tenure was going to be short and make sure that there was couldn't nult i continuity there. >> you didn't know that it was that short. >> i think the voet is on. >> let's do three minutes. >> i'll be very quick. >> yes, sir. >> mr. clapper, does mr. putin have any assets in the united states? >> i don't know the answer to that question. >> who would know that? well, some component in the intelligence community might know it or the fbi, but i don't know. >> do you know in -- if any of mr. putin's friends might have assets in the united states that are being held from mr. putin. >> >> that's a possibility, yes. >> who would know that? same person? >> i'm sorry. >> what would know that, same person? >> i would guess the fbi.
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>> okay. if the intelligence community and the attorney general knew all this information about mr. flynn, how did he get a security clearance? >> knew what about mr. flynn? >> well, that he had had a conversation with the russian ambassador about sanctions? >> well, that was late, that was the 29th of december or so as reported in the media that took place. >> january 19th the president was sworn in. how did he get a security clearance? >> he had a security clearance and had one for a long time. a career military officer, and i don't know the specifics of when his -- when his fell due. the system is every five years you -- the current system every five years you're supposed to get a periodic reinvestigation, and i don't know of the details
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of that. that would probably be done by his old agency, the defense intelligence agent. >> i don't have you to get some additional double secret security clearance to serve of in the white house. >> well, yes, you do, and as i indicated before -- >> could i ask you how he got one. >> the process is -- i don't know how it's done in this administration. >> okay. >> but my -- my own knowledge of how it was done when i served in the bush administration and again in the obama administration there is an extensive vetting process by the fbi. >> okay. let me stop you because i've only got 50 seconds. miss yates, are there any reasonable arguments that can be made in defense of president trump's executive order. >> i don't believe that there are reasonable legal arguments that are grounded in truth that can be maimed in defense of his argument that the travel ban was not intended to have an impact
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of -- a religion impact and to disfavor muslims? >> so you believe that the arguments made by the lawyers who are now defending the executive order are unreasonable. >> >> i believe that the department of justice has a responsibility to uphold the law and to always speak the truth, particularly when it's about something as fundamental as this executive order was, that deals with religious freedom. let me say this. i have tremendous respect for the career men and women of the department of justice including the lawyers in the civil division who are handling there, but their obligation was different than mine. they must make an argument if they can make a reasonable legal argument. as acting attorney general my responsibility was broader than that, and i had to look beyond the confines of the face of the eo to look at the president's statements and to look at other factors to determine what was
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the actual intent here, and that's -- that's the basis for my decision. >> for the record, different travel ban. >> there's a -- the first order was withdrawn. there's a second one out there. >> senator blumenthal. >> thanks, mr. chairman. missiate, yates, the concerns expressed concerning the executive order have been upheld by the courts. >> that's correct. >> secondly, director clapper, on the issue of possible use of the far right websites by the russians, you were asked earlier whether you have any knowledge that potential cooperation or involvement. do you have independent knowledge of the use of those far right websites? >> i don't. i don't have -- at least off the top of my head specific knowledge or insight into that
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connection. could have been. i -- i just don't know that directly. >> but you made reference to published reports. you said i think you knew from what you read about in the newspapers. >> that's specific reference to what occurred in france. >> correct. and the same tactics that were used most recently in france were also used or at least reportedly used in this country, correct? >> correct. >> and i would like to put in the record one public report, there are probably others, a mcclatchy report of march 20th which begins with the lead federal investigators are examining whether far right news sites played any role last year in the russian cyber operation that dramatically widened the reach of news story that favored donald trump's presidential bid t.quotes two people familiar with with the inquiry and goes on to match as among those sites
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breitbart news and info wars. mr. chair, man, if this could c be entered into the record. do you have knowledge, miss yates, of that investigation? >> i don't and if i did i couldn't tell you about it. >> i thought that might be your answer. finally you said, miss yates, that we're not going to prosecute our way out of the russian continued attack on this country. but putting americans in prison if they cooperate, collude, aid and abet or otherwise assist in that illegality might send a very strong deterrent message, correct? >> i expect that it would, yes. >> and there are indeed criminal penalties existing on the books. we don't new zealand ned new la involve criminality and potential prosecution for those acts, correct? >> yes, that's right. >> thank you very much,
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mr. chairman. >> thank you all. we're at the end of the day, and you've been great. i think the public is better educated, i least at hope about what russia d.seems to be bipartisan consensus that russia tried to interfere with our elections and differences in other places but in terms of housekeeping. you will provide to us, if you can, mr. clapper, i know you're a private citizen now, but if you can help us determine the pool of theme can request unmasking we'd appreciate it at some later did. when it comes to incident a.m. collection on 2016 campaigns, i'm a little confused but i think we found at least one occasion where that did half. you made a request for an unmasking on a trump associate and maybe a member of coming, is that right, mr. clapper? affirmative? >> yes. >> do you know of any others off the top of your head of any other candidate on either side of the aisle? >> i don't -- there could have been other requests, unmasking requests that i -- >> but there's a way to find that out?
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>> yes. >> and the west way to do it would be to the original collect agency who could probably compile nal. >> i'll request that. timely, the current deputy attorney general, do you know him, miss yates? do you have confidence in him? >> yes, i do. >> thank you all. >> final comment? >> absolutely. >> during the last hearing we had the author of the kremlin playbook as one of our witnesses, and we had the well-regarded kenneth weinstein as one of our witnesses, and they both agreed that the united states is leaving itself vulnerable to this kind of influence if we continue to allow shell corporations to proliferate without a way for law enforcement to figure out who the beneficial owners are. so i mention that because chairman grassley and i are working on a piece of legislation to help solve that, but i think that's very
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important in this area, and i wanted to flag it and express to chairman grassley my appreciation for his bipartisan cooperation on that front, and, of course, my appreciation to chairman graham for his work to make this hearing a success and so interesting and meaningful. thank you. >> thank you both. the hearing is adjourned. >> there you have it. i'm wolf blitzer here in "the situation room." we just heard very, very gripping testimony from the former acting attorney general of the united states sally yates and former director of national intelligence james clapper who appeared before a senate ju dishly panel for more than three hours looking into russia reese meddling into the u.s. presidential election and contacts with trump associates. yates testified she warned the white house on two separate occasions that the then national security adviser mike aol flynn had lied about his contact with russia and was compromised and
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could potentially be subject to russian blackmail. yates and clapper were both asked about leaks in the russian probe and both denied having revealed any classified information to journalists. let's bring in our correspondents, our political and legal counterterrorism specialists and jeffrey toobin, let me start with you. you were listening so very, very carefully to the former acting attorney general and the former director of national intelligence. >> think about this, wolf. there has never been a conversation like the one sally yates had with mr. mcgann in all of american history. she goes to the white house, new president in office, and says your national security adviser can be black mailed by the russians. the next day she goes back and says it again. and what happens after that? >> load hon. >> nothing. >> hold hon one second. hold that thought. lindsey graham is speaking with our own manu raju. >> i want to know who requested
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the unmasking. i can't give that information to the press because you want a particular outcome. i want to know about the russian involvement in 2016 and what kind of system do we have when it comes to following people because i think it is right for abuse that a political person, if they are in the right situation, ask for an unmasking of intelligence gathering and use that information politically. i think that's clear to me that russia tried to undermine our election, so there's two fronts for me. what did russia do? was there any conclusion between the trump campaign and russians, and i want to know anything and everything about that. secondly, i want to know what kind of system we have in place in america that allows us to incident lip collect on american citizens, political figures and how that information can -- who can obtain and what they can do with it, so those are two fronts this. what is a good hearing. i think you got bipartisanship that the russians tried to interfere. i hope we'll have as much interest on what happened in
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terms of the leaks to "the washington post." >> senator for 18 days the white house kept michael flynn employed even though shali yates warned him about him possibly being compromised on multiple occasions. >> to me i'm not worried about it taking 18 days. he asked questions about, you know, what do you have, why are you concerned? why should you be concerned about white house people lying to each other. she gave a real good answer, because the russians could compromise lieutenant general flynn. he says can you share with me the information that brings you to that conclusion. i think he asked really good questions. she left. all do i know is that general flynn god fired. to me that was the responsible way forward. should it have been 15 days, one day, to me that's not the concern. >> but he could have accessed -- >> do you think michael flynn was compromised? >> i think she makes a very good case that anybody in that situation could be compromised,
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so sally yates did the right thing. i thought the white house general counsel asked the right questions and put a process in place that led us to general flynn being dismissed and it was the right decision to dismiss him and i've got to go. >> senator. >> all right. there you heard lindsey graham, the chairman of this subcommittee of the judiciary committee applauding, applauding what he heard from sally yates, former acting attorney general. jeffrey toobin, i interrupted you. you were making an important point on the historic nature of the acting attorney general telling the white house counsel you have a big problem with the national security adviser. >> correct. and what happens after she says it twice in two meetings? what happens is nothing. absolutely nothing until "the washington post" reports that flynn -- flynn has been compromised and only then is michael flynn fired. in it weren't for the leaks
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which the republicans keep trying to change the subject, trying to make this hearing about leaks, if it weren't for the leaks, michael flynn would probably still be national security adviser today, and that's what i think is extremely killing, not the fact that some decent americans and some great journalists at "the washington post" did their job >> you know, gloria, you just heard lindy graham, the chairman of the subcommittee saying yes the russians got involved inappropriately in trying to impact this election, but he's equally concerned about the leaks, about the unmasking of michael flynn. >> that's been the division here, republicans, not lindsey graham, but some republicans seem more concerned about the leaks than general flynn's behavior, and i think one other thing we learned at this hearing was that, you know, sean spicer had said that -- that sally
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yates had given them a, quote, heads up. it seems to me that what we learned today was that flynn had been interviewed by the fbi on january 24th and then there were two subsequent meetings with -- with sally yates and the white house counsel on january 26th and the 27th. she was not giving him a heads up. this was a red flag. that was not just oh, by the way, i think you ought to know about this. this was that the -- in fact, flynn's underlying conduct was what she called problematic, that the vice president and others wren titled ere entitled that the information they were telling the american public was not true and that the russians knew that general flynn was lying, so he was in a compromised position. they knew about his phone calls. they knew what he was telling his superiors and they could potentially blackmail him. when she went back again, she didn't back down, and so this
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wasn't just a heads up, and clearly the white house counsel was dinterested enough in this o bring her back. >> one of the biggest questions i have from watching the testimony is whether the white house took her up on the offer of looking at the classified materials about michael flynn and the conversation he had about the ax sergey kislyak because she said on the day actually she was fired by president trump over her refusal to back the travel ban that she called don mcgann and said, all right, we've worked out the logistics. you can come over and look at these class night materials to show you why i am telling you and why i'm so concerned about why i believe he's compromise the. >> she didn't know the answer though, whether he actually took up that offer. >> she did not, and that's why that's still a looming question. >> right. >> she was fired, but what we do know is there an 18-day gap between the official warning from sally yates and "washington post" report and his subsequent
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dismissal from the white house and what happened in those 28 days? >> a couple of things. i think that's just as important for what she said today is how she conducted herself during the hearing. she came across incredibly credible to the point where we just did see the chairman of the subcommittee say that she did the right thing and she was very careful in the to the give too much information where perhaps she could be accused of revealing classified information but -- but having quite frankly mr. clapper off as your wing man to back up a lot of what you're saying i think two things that were not said that i think is just as important to what was said, when lindsey graham asked clapper about, was he concerned about donald trump's russian business interests, and he asked him to further clarify and mr. clapper said, i can't comment on that because of an ongoing investigation. that raised a red flag. i think when sally yates was asked about theish you've
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collusion, was there collusion between trump officials in russia, she said that would require me to reveal classified information. while we didn't actually get specific information, those answers are -- >> let me play the clip. here is the exchange on the question involving trump's russian business interests. >> general clapper, during your investigation of all things russia, did you ever find a situation where a trump business interest in russia gave you concern? >> not in the course of the preparation of the intelligence community assessment. >> since? >> i'm sorry? >> at all, any time. >> senator frgraham, i can't comment because that impacts an investigation. >> it wasn't enough to put into the report? >> that's correct. >> rebecca, that is significant answer he gave right there.
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>> it is. it is very vague so we don't totally know what this means. senator graham was asking about the broadest possible time range here. he said, was this ever a concern for you. at the time that clapper was in position. as director of intelligence, so this creates more questions. leaves us with more questions about what could he possibly mean, what business ties is he referring to. and we don't know because there is this ongoing investigation. >> he could have simply said no. he didn't say no. let me bring in phil mud, listening. we were all riveted of three hours plus of q arizo& a. >> we heard them distance themselves for a long time from general flynn. we heard sean spicer as gloria said earlier, use the phrase, i forget what it was, but suggesting this was a modest interaction, a heads-up. let me tell you something, going into the white house tries, once
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at their question within 48 hours, to indicate there is an fbi investigation under way with counter intelligence regarding one of your major adversaries and your security adviser is embroiled in that, that's not a heads-up. that's serious. despite what lindsey graham said, what happened in 18 days. i can give you a guess of what was going on in the white house during those days but boy that is serious interaction, not a heads-up. >> and you know, wolf, the question that asked, and what phil is meeting, she was asked, what is the likeliness that a criminal case would be against flynn. she did not answer that question. phil, i ask you, is that something that the justice department could have been pursuing against him? >> sure. i'm sure he is wrapped up in the
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investigation they started last july. it is clear what white house is doing. they aretive r differentiating something that justice didn't isn't responsible for. did someone else lie to someone else in the white house. it is not like the school principal for the united states. clearly the white house council is concerned about, is a white house official, in this case, general flynn, going to be embarrassed bay criminal prosecution later on? i'm sure they had going into president trump and say, this is not just about whether or not somebody lied. this is about getting wrapped up in a criminal investigation. at this point, you have to say, how does this guy still have clearance sh. >> something that stuck out to me, i would like to hear what you all think, sally yates said he was interviewed by the fbi at the white house and not represented. he didn't have council with him according to sally yates. which just strikes me as remarkable. you would think if white house council don mcgahn was aware that the fbi was going to interview national security adviser, he would make sure he
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has representation. >> hold on a moment, what is really significant, is if he told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, in that interview with the fbi. because if he didn't, he has major problems. right now as we all know. coming up, much more on breaking news. former acting attorney general of the united states testified that she warned the white house that the then national security adviser michael flynn lied to the president and was compromised and could be blackmailed by the russians. they call him the whisperer. the whisperer? why do they call him the whisperer? he talks to planes. he talks to planes. watch this. hey watson, what's avionics telling you? maintenance records and performance data suggest replacing capacitor c4. not bad. what's with the coffee maker?
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sorry. we are not on speaking terms. what's with the coffee maker? so how old do you want uhh, i was thinking around 70. alright, and before that? you mean after that? no, i'm talking before that. do you have things you want to do before you retire? oh yeah sure... ok, like what? but i thought we were supposed to be talking about investing for retirement? we're absolutely doing that. but there's no law you can't make the most of today. what do you want to do? i'd really like to run with the bulls. wow.
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happening now. breaking news.
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russian leverage, revealing testimony by form he acting attorney general of the united states. fired by president trump. sally yates said she warned the white house that now former national security adviser michael flynn lied to the vice president. was compromised. and could be blackmailed by the russians. presidential warning. the white house admits that former president obama himself warned president trump not to hire flynn as his first national security adviser. why did mr. trump ignore the advice? travel ban trouble. a panel of federal judges presses trump administration lawyers on the president's travel ban questioning the intent of the revised executive order. they also noted that the president's vow to ban muslims frommanteri frommant entering the united states was still on the campaign website. why was it suddenly removed? and for the second time in three weeks north korea detaines a u.s. citizen bringing the number


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