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Source: FBI Says Despite Edits, Memo is Still a "False Narrative"; Interview with Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte; Interview with Democratic Congressman Jim Himes; Sr. Official: Pres. Trump "OK" With Memo Moving Toward Release; Comey Blasts "Weasels and Liars" In New Tweet; CNN: WH Worried FBI Director Could Quit Over Memo Release; CNN: FBI Director Frustrated Who's Not Listening To Memo Concerns; U.S. Official: CIA Director Pompeo Met With Russians Intel Chiefs; Say What?; You Don't Say!. Aired 20-21P ET

Aired February 1, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

With the president about to speak to Republican Party function being held, no surprise, at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, we begin tonight with the drama over the Nunes memo.

Keeping them honest, it is in many ways a phony drama. Phony because the release of the memo is by all accounts a forgone conclusion. It is and always has been.

Now, we should point out the document in question is not some bipartisan finding of fact from the House Intelligence Committee. It appears it will be something of a press release. Possibly just e- mailed out perhaps under the letter head of the Republican House Intelligence Committee membership, chaired, of course, by Congressman Devin Nunes, based on underlying intelligence he himself has not even read.

So, despite grave concerns from the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, as well as from officials at the Department of Justice, the memo is in all likelihood going to be released.

Now, how will we know this? Beyond the reporting by us and other news outlets, we know it because the president himself said he wants it out. 2He's been calling for it. Caught on an open mic on Tuesday night, he said the odds of it being released are 100 percent.


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?


COOPER: Again, the grave concerns of the Republican FBI director, who the president himself chose, have not swayed him. And according to our own new reporting, those grave concerns have not gone away. Just yesterday, you'll recall, the bureau said and I'm quoting here, quote, we have great concern of material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy. Still, the president wants it out, even though White House aides are worried that Director Wray may resign if it does come out.

The president wants it out even though there are concerns that the work of tens of thousands of law enforcement and counterintelligence professionals may be smeared. In fact, we learned just today that the president has been telling friends he wants the memo made public not as a way of rebuilding the FBI, as he promised or in the name of transparency as House Speaker Ryan and others have claimed, but as a way of impugning the Russia investigation and the people running it.

Every indication we have from the president, from his son Don Jr. who's been tweeting up a storm lately and others, is that this is about attacking the FBI and the Justice Department. So, any drama over will he or won't he is self-evidently phony. He will.

What's also still not known is if the White House had any role in the crafting of this memo with staffer Chairman Nunes. Nunes has said he did not have contact with the White House. But when pressed by a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee about whether any of his staffers had contact with the White House, Nunes didn't answer.

And Sarah Sanders apparently had no answers either.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Did Devin Nunes work with anybody in the White House on the memo?


CUOMO: 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 haven't had a chance --

CUOMO: He has worked with the White House before when it comes to intelligence and the Russia 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.


COOPER: In a moment, two of the chairman's House colleagues join us, a Republican and a Democrat.

But, first, CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House with the very latest.

Jeff, so just to be clear, the president has been telling his associates, what, this memo is going to discredit the Russia investigation?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we did learn that today, talking with some friends and associates of the president. They said in recent days, in telephone calls, he's been calling around particularly after the State of the Union Address to see how it went, that he believes the release of this memo will indeed discredit and confuse if you will the Russia investigation, simply by exposing bias in his view in the FBI.

So, that is something the president has been openly saying as the White House has been trying to show that, you know, they're doing due diligence here and going over this 3 1/2 page memo.

You know, the reality is, the lawyers have been reviewing it, aides have been reviewing it, the president himself read this memo himself yesterday, we are told earlier today. But the reality is, the president was always planning to review it and release it.

So, the point here is he has been talking about how he believes this will discredit the investigation was simply refuted by Speaker Paul Ryan today when he told reporters in West Virginia this should not impugn the Russia investigation. So, they are at odds with each other. Of course, he does support the release of this.

But certainly interesting that the president already getting ahead of this, believing this will discredit and muddle, if you will, this investigation.

COOPER: I mean, despite the fact the White House has said they'll be redacting parts of the memo, I understand the FBI today still pushing back on the release.

ZELENY: They are indeed. And, you know, throughout the day, we heard they were redacting it. A senior administration official said this evening they would not likely redacting much of it. They might be making accommodations to not anger the FBI here.

But the reality is the FBI has the same view it had a day ago. They are sternly opposed to this. And a U.S. government official familiar with the thinking of the FBI released this statement tonight to our Jessica Schneider.

[20:05:01] It says this, let's take a look. It says: It sounds like this is just spin to justify the release of the memo. There are still grave concerns about this memo.

And, Anderson, again, this is all coming on the 6-month anniversary of this FBI director handpicked by the president of his time in office. He was confirmed on a 92-5 vote in the Senate back on August 1st here, and this big confrontation between the FBI and the White House, it had some officials here worried that he might actually leave or quit. It doesn't seem like he is inclined to do that. But certainly, this is the biggest confrontation between these buildings, these agencies that we've seen so far in this administration, Anderson.

COOPER: So, as far as we know, it looks like the memo is going to be released, what, tomorrow? That's the reporting?

ZELENY: It does look like that. I mean, the president has indicated to his advisers that he is going to sign-off on this. It would, in fact, be a major news, a big surprise if he did not do that. Likely tomorrow, to send word to the Capitol Hill, that the House Intelligence Committee can indeed release this.

It seems to me the White House does not want the president to speak about this publicly. We had a couple of opportunities to ask the president as he flew to West Virginia and to that GOP retreat today, and flew back. We shouted questions at him. He often likes to stop and explain his thinking on things.

He did not answer our questions on this today. They want to keep him out of it. But the reality is tomorrow at this point, this might be released, likely will be released because, of course, there was a five-day review period. So the question is what happens after this, how these two agencies continue to sort of exist here. But by tomorrow at this time, it should be released, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much at the White House.

Joining us now from the Republican congressional retreat at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, House Judiciary Committee chairman, Congressman Bob Goodlatte.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

REP. BOB GOODLATTE (R-VA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Good evening. Good to be with you, Anderson.

COOPER: The fact that the FBI took this extraordinary step of publicly saying that they have, quote, grave concerns about material omissions of facts that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and DNI Dan Coats have all met with Chief of Staff Kelly to express issues they have with the memo, does that concern you at all in terms o the release?

GOODLATTE: No. I've had the opportunity to examine both the memo -- the Democrats' memo and the underlying sourced documents as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. I think it's important the American people have access to the information contained in this memo. I do agree that the president, whatever advice he's getting, the president should let the memo speak for itself. He should release it.

But I don't think that he or anybody else in the White House needs to comment on it.

COOPER: I'm wondering why you feel it needs to be released now, because, I mean, obviously, look, the House Intelligence Committee has an incredible vital oversight role. And if there is actually a real investigation into possible wrongdoing by the FBI and Department of Justice, that's incredibly serious. But if there is an investigation, why wouldn't one of the first steps before going public be to bring the FBI leadership, including Director Wray or anybody who may have done something wrong, in front of the committee, the House Intelligence Committee and grill them? Wouldn't that be the next step rather than releasing a memo?

GOODLATTE: Well, first of all, the director, in my opinion, has not done anything wrong. It's not about him. But it is about several other people in key positions in the department, in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And I think that this is part of a much larger investigation.

As you know, Congressman Trey Gowdy, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and I as chairman of the Judiciary Committee and several members of the committee have launched an investigation into another aspect of this related to the FBI's handling of the Clinton investigation. And at some point, a lot of these things start to come together.

But I called months ago, as did most of the Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee, for a special counsel to handle that. This needs to be out from the FBI. It needs to e handled separately, and we're continuing to do this investigation and we'll continue.

But the American people need to know the basics of what is going on and what is at stake here. They have an absolute right to know. Their civil liberties --

COOPER: Right.

GOODLATTE: -- are affected by this. And the public has a right to know in the middle of this, absolutely.

COOPER: You launched an investigation. You haven't released a memo with -- you know, taking facts from intelligence documents from your committee, nor has Trey Gowdy. I don't understand if there is this investigation by the House Intelligence Committee as it sounds like there should be, why not start having witnesses? Why not, whether it's Chris Wray or others directly involved from the FBI?

I just -- I don't understand the need to immediately release this memo now.

GOODLATTE: I can only speak for myself, and personally I believe that this memo lays a predicate for the public understanding the larger nature of the entire investigation and the bias involved here, that some of the public has seen through -- some of the parts of the Strzok/Page texts that have been released.

[20:10:11] But I think this is important. No, our committee has not yet reached a point. We started our investigation much later than the intelligence committee, and we have not yet determined to release any reports. We're expecting that the next step will be a report from the inspector general of the Department of Justice, which I think will also be very important.

But I think this is an important aspect of this that will, I think, help the focus on how this investigation should be conducted. Because while Director Wray should do the right thing within the FBI, I think this goes beyond what he can do and requires outside supervision. The public has a right to know about it. COOPER: So you're saying it's about educating the public. So, if

it's really about educating the public, shouldn't the public be fully educated and hear what the Democrats, what their problems with this memo are? I mean, if it's really about educating the public, why not release both of these memos at the same time?

GOODLATTE: Well, first of all, the work on this has been going on for quite some time. The Democratic memo is much newer. But after --

COOPER: Does that matter?

GOODLATTE: -- the members of the House -- I think it does matter. After members of the House have an opportunity as hundreds of them unveiled themselves with the majority memo, have an opportunity to review the minority's memo. And after sources and methods are carefully addressed and removed from the memo, then I think that the committee should.

But, again, I'll have to leave it to the Intelligence Committee to decide. It's those members of that committee who make the decision. In my opinion, I wouldn't disagree with you.

COOPER: But all this talk about the process, that the full house has to see it. That's actually not some process written in law or written in stone. I talked to Chairman Mike Rogers, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. And he said on Monday night, look, no, if the committee wanted to release it, they could have done a second vote right then and released the Democrats' memo at exactly the same time. If they really wanted it released, there is no process written in stone, correct?

GOODLATTE: No, I think that's correct. But there is a process for declassifying classified information, and they have followed an orderly process to accomplish that. They should do the same thing with the Democratic memo.

It's also important to note that this is --

COOPER: But waiting a couple of days to release the Republican one so the Democrat -- again, if it's about educating the public, I don't understand why you don't release them together.

GOODLATTE: Anderson, first of all, when this memo is released the Democrats will be perfectly free. And I have no doubt they will comment on the contents of this memo. And so, that will give you a pretty good idea of what is contained in theirs. And theirs will come out in a little bit. I have absolutely no problem with that whatsoever.

COOPER: I mean, yes, they can comment, but, again, it doesn't have the same specificity as the Republican memo will have. I mean, the Democrats are saying the Republicans have basically cherry picked facts from reams and reams of intelligence and put it into a four-page memo that there's no rebuttal for. And you know they can't come forward with facts that are classified. That would be inappropriate. So, again, if it's really about informing the American public, I don't

see how you're informing the American public by doing it in a one- sided way. I go back to the Benghazi commission in 2011, when both sides couldn't come to an agreement, the committee both released reports, the Democrat one and the Republican on at the same time. That seems fair. No?

GOODLATTE: Well, first of all, let's naught overlook the fact this memo has been under preparation for quite some time. The Democrats have been fully aware of that. And then at the last minute, they throw in one and say, no, you shouldn't release one until you release both.

Secondly, they have tried to prevent the release throughout this process. So, even today, when changes were made to the memo at their request and at the FBI's request, they complained that was not proper.

COOPER: Because those changes weren't voted on. 3

GOODLATTE: So I think the American people need to see the basis for this debate. The Democrats to the extent that they have information in a memo that once it is clear that sources and methods have been protected, and once it is clear that the members of Congress have had an opportunity to review it, we can do that quickly. I have no doubt. Then an appropriate vote should be taken.

But, again, I'll have to leave that to the Intelligence Committee. I don't speak for them on that. I'm just giving you my opinion about the necessity of the American people seeing what was taking place in the Department of Justice. And then they'll hear a lot more about this beyond that. I have absolutely no doubt.

COOPER: And even though -- obviously protecting sources and methods are incredibly important.

[20:15:02] But, I mean, the FBI has taken this really unusual, remarkable, kind of unprecedented step to put out saying they have grave concerns. And 3it's not just about sources and methods. It's about omissions which alter actually fundamental understanding of what went on. But let me ask you --

GOODLATTE: I get where they're coming from -- let me respond to that for a second. I get where they're coming from, but after all the department -- it is the Federal Bureau of Investigation that is being investigated. And that is a very unique thing in our country's history.

COOPER: Has a memo like this ever been put out to your knowledge?

GOODLATTE: I do not know of a similar circumstance in the past.

COOPER: So in all the history --

GOODLATTE: I don't know everything to know about that.

COOPER: But in all the history you do know of the House Intelligence Committee and the oversight role its had for decades, the idea that a memo like this -- I haven't found any evidence of a memo like this at this stage 3being put out. It is an extraordinary step.

GOODLATTE: I think that's why it has been carefully vetted and gone through the process it's gone through. It's up to the White House now, to the president, to make the final decision. And it's my hope that the American people will see it and see it shortly.

COOPER: You say it's been carefully vetted. Republicans kept saying on Monday and on Tuesday, and Speaker Ryan said this as well, look Christopher Wray, the FBI director had a chance to look at it, he didn't ask for any factual changes, implying the FBI was fine with it. We now clearly know the FBI was not fine with it. The FBI wanted the opportunity to come and testify in front of the committee and explain their concerns, and the Republicans on the committee said no.

Does that seem like careful vetting?

GOODLATTE: I definitely believe it does. There are thousands of pages of documents that a few members of Congress and several staff members of the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee have had the opportunity to review who have top secret clearance, and I think this is ready for the American people to consider.

I definitely think that in the course of this investigation, Director Wray and other members of the bureau will have an opportunity to testify, maybe in a classified setting, maybe in a public setting depending upon the questions to be asked to give their point of view about this.

I also think it is very important that there be independent reviews of what's happening in the bureau and that we not depend just on the bureau's opinion whether they would like to see this released or not.

COOPER: Absolutely. Look, transparency, as a reporter obviously, reporters are all for transparency. I mean, according to reporting, though, the president has been telling associates, on the phone and in conversations, he thinks this memo can help discredit the Russia investigation. I know Speaker Ryan says it doesn't impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general. I know you've seen it.

But if the president thinks it does and is releasing it with that in mind, are you comfortable with that?

GOODLATTE: I am not going to comment on the president's comments, but I will say -- and I'll go a step further with regard to the Mueller investigation. The Mueller investigation should absolutely proceed. And this action and other investigations that are going on do not impede that investigation.

In the Judiciary Committee, we have been very careful to give a wide berth to Mr. Mueller. We have expressed concerns to make sure that that investigation is impartial, that people participating in it have an impartiality and a professionalism that we did not see for example in the Strzok, Page texts. It was good that Mr. Strzok was removed. We've asked for the removal of some other people participating. However, that does not change the fact that Mr. Mueller is a

professional, both an investigator and an attorney, and he should proceed with his investigation.

COOPER: Chairman Goodlatte, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

GOODLATTE: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee weighs in on all this ahead. We'll be right back.


[20:22:54] COOPER: The news tonight and the conversation surrounding the Nunes memo, what's in it, how the president apparently hopes to use it in his running battle with the FBI, whether or not it was drawn up with White House help, which neither the White House nor Chairman Nunes have denied, or is it merely as Republicans on the committee and in Congress have said is this just a case of lawmakers doing their job, exercising oversight in the name of transparency?

Before the break, we spoke with the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte.

Joining us now is Democratic Intelligence Committee member, Jim Himes.

Congressman Himes, you heard Congressman Goodlatte defend the release of the memo. I'm wondering how you respond.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE : Well, Anderson, it's painful for me to watch an otherwise honorable man like Chairman Goodlatte trade his historical legacy as he retires in order to cheer- lead this second rate hit job, which the American public is about to see is precisely that.

I listened to the chairman say things that simply weren't true. Like the fact that this -- he alleged that this had been underway for a long time. But committee members, Republican and Democrat members alike, saw that memo for the very first time two weeks ago when we were asked to vote to release it to the broader Congress. This was not a product of an investigation. There is no investigation out of the Intelligence Committee.

And again, very soon if this memo is made public, people who are implicated in it and institutions that are implicated in it will quickly rise to their own defense, and the public will see what a shoddy second rate hit job this thing is.

COOPER: I mean, you've read the memo. You know what's in it. Could it be used to discredit the Russia investigation? Because, I mean, again, according to our reporting, the president has been reported as saying to his associate or friends that he believes it could be.

HIMES: Well, it's interesting that the president is saying that, but Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, is saying exactly the opposite, which is that this will in no way intersect with the Mueller investigation. I would side with the speaker on that. I've read the memo, I studied it very closely, it makes absolutely no mention of Bob Mueller or of the Russia investigation.

Again, it's a series of unfounded and out of context attacks on the Department of Justice, on the FBI and a number of individuals. By the way, most of whom are Republicans, some of whom are Trump appointees accusing them of bias. And I'm never a fan -- Chairman Goodlatte said, let's let the public know.

[20:25:01] This is a memo that is based on highly classified information.

The public's not in a position anymore than the committee was, Anderson. We were not afforded the opportunity to review the underlying intelligence when the memo was presented to us. Nonetheless, this memo is of such low quality that when it is out there, people will very rapidly see that this is the latest installment of second rate efforts to impugn the FBI.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting what the FBI's criticism of this is, that basically, there's omissions of facts which color the overall fact, picture, what Congressman Goodlatte, Chairman Goodlatte was saying was that Democrats will have a chance to respond, they can talk, they can respond on television or wherever about what's in this memo once it's released.

Is that really accurate? I mean if it's about educating the American public, I don't understand why they wouldn't just vote to let the Democrats release their memo at the same time. Again, like the Benghazi investigation had two reports released at the same time.

HIMES: Yes. Well, I mean, again, you know, Chairman Goodlatte made it sound like the Nunes memo was something that had been the product of months of work and lots of investigations. I will tell you this. There was not a single hearing, there was not a single interview, there was not a single deposition associated with this so-called nonexistent hearing.

I'm a member of the committee doing the Russia investigation. We've done dozens and dozens of interviews. I guess technically speaking in as much as the Democratic response is a response, it is a little younger than the Nunes memo. But, yes, the fact they're not being released -- and by the way, the Democratic memo won't be released unless the president says it's OK.

I would be shocked quite frankly because the Democratic memo takes the Republican memo point by point and refutes the screwed up time line that the Republican memo implies all sorts of facts. It wouldn't shock me if the president objected to the release of the Democratic memo. But again, you'll have a chance to look at it and the people who are accused of things will respond, and this will be shown for the farcical effort that it is.

COOPER: Both the White House and Chairman Nunes have not denied that their staffs may have worked together on putting this memo together. Sarah Sanders said she just didn't know. Nunes says he didn't work with the White House. When asked whether his staffers did by a member -- Democratic member of your committee, he didn't answer.

Do you believe have or have any evidence that this was in fact a coordinated effort? This is an issue, because in the past Devin Nunes has worked with people in the White House and gone to the White House claiming to be briefing the White House and the president on things which the White House apparently already knew.

HIMES: Yes. You know, Congressman Quigley in our hearing, and it's available publicly for review in transcript asked precisely that question, the chairman refused to answer. So, I don't know the answer.

But there's a larger point here, Anderson, it is really important. We asked that as would be traditional with oversight -- remember Speaker Ryan called this oversight. As would be traditional with oversight, oversight is about hearings and calling people in front of your committee, asking them tough questions. We asked that the FBI and the DOJ, both of whom are badly criticized in this memo, be given an opportunity to come in and talk to us about these allegations. If that had occurred you would say, golly, we've learned something and maybe we wouldn't -- you know, Congress wouldn't spin-off the rails with a bunch of poorly founded allegations.

The committee refused to provide an opportunity for the Department of Justice or the FBI to answer these charges. This is not oversight, Anderson. This is a political hit job.

COOPER: Chairman Goodlatte said he doesn't know of any other example, though obviously he doesn't know the entire history of all committees and oversight, but he doesn't know of any other example of a memo like this being released. And there's been obviously decades of oversight by Congress, of the intelligence communities, of law enforcement communities, of the FBI. Do you know of any other examples where there hasn't been an investigation but intelligence was examined by one group, you know, Republicans or Democrats, on a committee and then decided to release a memo and they had to get the president's sign-off to do it?

HIMES: I don't any of any example of a memo being released. And frankly, Anderson, as I think about the history of this country and the many investigations that have been done in the national security realm, I can't think of another example when something as serious as -- very serious charges of bias against an institution as storied as the FBI, that a work-product would be produced without actually talking to the entity being investigated, that a work-product wouldn't be produced with every attempt to make a bipartisan conclusion.

Not only can I not think of a memo being issued on a partisan basis without of any review, I can't think of another consequential investigation in which people didn't work really hard, conscious of the fact that America public needs to trust its institutions, conscious of that fact. I can't think of another example in which the shoddy process, the ridiculous process that would get thrown out of any court in a second has been followed, as has been followed in this particular case. COOPER: Do you trust that Nunes did not work with the White House, do

you trust that his staffers did not have some sort of contact with or direction from the White House? I mean do you believe that there was no contact?

REP. JIM HIMES, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I don't want to speculate on something I don't know about. But Anderson this is much -- this is part of a much larger effort that got kicked off the day after Jim Comey announced to our committee that there was an investigation. You know, it really saddens me that the chairman is taking his rout. But we are -- and this is part of a much larger effort in which the White House says -- either explicitly complicit or certainly the President has made his desires known.

When Devin Nunes made his midnight run to the White alleging that there have been spying on Trump Tower, and then we get allegations that Susan Rice and Sam Powers were unmasking improperly. Both of those things turned out to be false. Both of those things exist only to throw dust -- a sand in the gears of this investigation and create doubt in the American population that the FBI and specifically the Mueller investigation are happening in an unbiased way. They are happening in a non-biased way. There is zero proof or evidence that there is political bias in the FBI. But if you say it long enough and often enough, there will people who have doubts about it and to profoundly unpatriotic thing to do.

COOPER: Congressman Jim Himes, appreciate your time, thank you very much.

HIMES: Thank you Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up ahead we're going to talk about all of this, what it may mean and why the President seems so determined to release this memo.


COOPER: Fired FBI Director James Comey stepped into the memo controversy today. He tweeted, "All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would take hard American history shows that in the long run weasels and liars never hold the field so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy".

No holds barred in that tweet. Here to discuss is Phil Mudd, former senior FBI official, Mike Shields, former chief of staff for the Republican National Committee, and Jen Psaki, former Obama White House communications director.

[20:35:14] Phil, you know, we're talking about the break and I asked this to both the chairman and also Congressman Himes. Do you know of a situation where a memo like this was released without, you know, talking to -- having the FBI testify in front of a committee or this stage of an investigation?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sure. I do. And we quickly forget history in this country including Democrats. Look, I think this process is fraudulent. You've got to have both parties sit down together. They have to talk about the individuals involved in the case that is the FBI. And if they're going to critic one suggestion I'd have is there's a third piece, they might offer recommendations for improvement. Just a few years ago we had the so- called torture memo come out. In that case it was the Democrats who owned the committee. They came out with their memo, and Republicans came out and said we're going to issue a minority memo separately. And finally the third memo came out to CIA saying, we have a perspective too.

Let me tell you how many witnesses they interviewed it Anderson. Before they protest too much, none. I don't remember any of us interviewed by Congressional committee, own by the Democrats about what we did the CI persons. So I think the process if fraudulent, but to say we never seen this before ignores history. We have.

COOPER: Jen, how extraordinary is it for the President to allow the House Intelligence share whose main priority seems to be -- or a priority, it seems to be running interference from the White House to basically ignore the FBI director and deputy attorney general?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's pretty extraordinary. I mean I think one thing I'd just like to say to Phil's point, it is true that this happened in 2014. I can't defend how Senator Feinstein handled it. But the way the President at the time handle it is very different, and that's a key pivotal difference here.

MUDD: I agree.

PSAKI: Because President Obama took the memo that which was sent to him from the intelligence committee, he asked the DNI to run a process which took months and months and months to determine what wouldn't put national security -- or national security interest at risk. This is not being rushed out of the door. So I just want to make that point.

Well, look, I think the president here were making is there's no precedent exactly for this in terms of how Trump is handling this. And the question that you've been asking throughout the show Anderson of many of your guest of does it matter if Devin Nunes was involved in the White House drafting, of course it matters. He's been shown and been witting or unwitting puppet of the White House. But this is a memo that President Trump has said he thinks will impact the Russia investigation. So even if it won't, this is an intentional misleading of the public. And that's a precedent that's very dangerous to be setting in this country.

COOPER: Mike, you know, Chairman Goodlatte said, look, this is about educating the American people about what they believe is going on into concerns that they have. I totally get that, I get the role of over side and I believe in transparency, obviously. But if it really is about educating the American people, why not allow the Democrats to have a, you know, their response or their take on the Nunes memo both released at the same time? MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, look, I think that would be ideal. We're not looking at an ideal situation. I mean I think one of the things that really frustrates a lot of conservatives is how Devin Nunes takes a lot of hits and Adam Schiff is not hit by the media for how partisan he is. The leaks that are coming out of his committee, the entire process is broken. The Democrats are out for blood on this thing. They're not letting the process just play out like it should. They're leaking things that creates an entirely broken system where there's lack of trust on both sides.

And what's amazing to me is -- so a year into an investigation there has been multiple leaks but never any actual evidence that has come out about collusion. Should we be surprised that a year into that as this is dragging on, that the partisanship is starting to splitting the corners, people are putting out different memos. And this sort of thing is happening? I mean this environment that has been created of using this Russia investigation for partisan gain, for leaking stories -- you know, what do you know, shortly after some good news comes out in the Trump administration, we're going to go back to talking in a wall-to-wall coverage of the Russia investigation. A lot of Republicans are sick and they're going to push something out about how the investigation is being carried out in the FBI, they believed that's legitimate and they're elected by the American people, they get to have a say in that.

COOPER: Right. Mike, are you agree to Republican's leak just as much as the Democrats. I mean obviously for different reasons at different times.

SHIELDS: Look, I think that the committee is broken. But to lay that at the feet of Devin Nunes and delay as the blame just Republicans here is absurd. There are plenty of Democrats that are trying to use this for partisan gain.

COOPER: But you agree that it would be ideal to release both at the same time?

SHIELDS: I don't think it matters. And sure, you're going to release one -- the Democrats are saying this is not going to affect Mueller's case and it's really Trumped up, but we want to release ours at the same time, well sure, they'll have their say. I mean the FBI apparently is going to have their say. I think look, I'm a law enforcement Republican. I think Americans sleep safely at night because the FBI is protecting them, and we should always keep that in mind. I understand the leadership of FBI wanting to protect the institution and their people that work for them, that's kind of their job to protect their employees to a point.

[20:40:08] But in the end they work for the American people. The American people have elected representatives. And if those representatives want to have an investigation the FBI, and release information, it's shocking to me the media isn't supporting this. The media loves getting leak information that actually put troops in harm and put CIA operatives in harm, we're fine putting those things in the air at the "New York Times". COOPER: Right. We just like getting accurate information. And if this is cherry picked information and not a full picture, at the FBI saying, you know, that's obviously concern of anybody.

SHIELDS: Well, we found out when we get and we can -- everyone can look at it that point.

COOPER: Well we won't really know because we don't see the underlying intelligence. But Phil, if you were Christopher Wray and this memo was released despite your objection who -- and would you stay on the job?

MUDD: I would for a simple reason. The American people haven't seen one critical aspect of this so in the past 24 hours Anderson, and that is the flip side. Let's say Christopher Wray says the honorable thing to do for me when the President who appointed me decides that I'm running a corrupt enterprise is to leave, in the coming months maybe as late as the summer but I think probably earlier, Special Counsel Mueller I think will issue some sort of indictment. If Wray leaves who's on the chair to defend the FBI, that's going to be a touch situation and what we're seeing today, Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. Phil Mudd, Mike Shields, Jen Psaki, thank you.

Ahead a conversation with David Axelrod about the current state of affairs of the Trump White House. Be right back.


[20:45:03] COOPER: With the Nunes memo burning up official Washington, it's always good when cooler heads prevail. Joining us right now is CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod.

I guess, what does the fight over this memo say about where we are as a country or where our parties are?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think I've said this consistently, which is in a democracy party wins the White House, they have a right to make policy subject to the approval of a Congress. You may not like the policies they make, but that's our system. But the institutions have to endure. And if you begin to subjugate the institutions to politics to this degree, that's a real danger for the country. And the notion that a President would overrule his own FBI director, the guy he appointed, his own appointee at the Justice Department, both of whom have warned that this was reckless, dangerous, had potentially grave consequences -- in order to satisfy what is apparently a blatantly political objective, the fact that you have one committee in the house unwilling to share that memo even with their own parties counterparts -- their own counterparts from the same party in the Senate, the fact that they won't release the Democratic memo so that people can get a full picture, all of this undermines institutions, undermines confidence in those institutions. And that should be a big concern to people of both parties.

COOPER: I mean is there any going back now from this precipice? I mean because it just seems like every, you know, few years we talk about partisanship, and, you know, it's unlike it used to be. You know, Tip O'Neil and Republican used to seat down, they have lunch together and --


COOPER: -- there's this evolution of stuff. Is there -- it seems like we're at all-time high at party.

AXELROD: We keep waiting for the fever to break. But the concern is that once you -- once the glass is broken and you set these precedents, then it becomes easier for the next administration or parties to do this in the future. This is why, Anderson, I've been so -- so reluctant to join with others who say -- who even talk about impeachment now. Because impeachment becomes a tool that you use to get rid of Presidents with whom you don't agree politically. That's a very dangerous thing. And if you do it once then that precedent is established. And that's why I say wait for this probe. But every -- you know, my concern about this President is he has absolutely no regard for institutions norms, perhaps even laws when they're inconvenient. And that makes it -- he is setting precedence that may be followed by others.

COOPER: But it's also interesting the extent to which it is now his Republican Party, and people are just going along. I mean other than a handful of Republicans they're just going along with the President on this and saying things which I'm not sure I've ever had Republicans sort of say in this way.

AXELROD: Well, you would not have thought even a year ago that the Republican Party would be the party that would be running roughing shot over the FBI, Justice Department --

COOPER: Bias and all right.

AXELROD: -- intelligence community. But I think there's an effort going on, a campaign being run to -- to degrade the investigation that Mr. Mueller is conducting. So as to perhaps make it easier for the President not to testify or to refuse to testify. Or if the result is negative, to be able to make the case that the whole probe was politically motivated and invalid. And -- but there's so much collateral damage as part of that. And, you know, it's just kind of mind-boggling, and it's depressing.

You know, I'm a believer in this stuff, and to see institutions -- so I could not have imagined having served in the White House these kinds of developments. And I don't think anybody Republican or Democrat save perhaps those people who served in the White House during the Nixon administration could imagine this set of circumstances. Now that is -- it is important to remember that we did recover from what happened in the Nixon administration. So when you say can you come back from that, but it takes the will of both parties to make that happen.

COOPER: What's so interesting about this memo, again, and, you know, Phil brought up the idea of the torture memo the Democrats put out, which I think is, you know, is a fair comparison. But it just -- if that is the only other example that comes to mind, it just shows how extraordinary this is.

AXELROD: Yes -- no there's no question about it. I mean, I can't think of any parallel at all. And you're right about one thing, which is -- and you may be right about many things, Anderson.

[20:50:01] But on the point about the Republican Party, I have believe that there are many members of that Congress who were deeply disturbed about this but feel compelled for political reasons to at least remain silent.

COOPER: Yes, David Axelrod, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, what we're learning about meeting between the director of the CIA and Russian spy chief. The man who's under sanctions. More on that ahead.


COOPER: Did the director of the CIA originally meet with Russian intelligence officials who came in United States and did those Russian intelligence officials include Russia spy chief who's under sanctions. This week Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer demanded answers from the Trump administration. Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto joins me now with more. So was there a meeting between CI Director Mike Pompeo and some Russia intelligence says?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There was. I have that have from a U.S. official with direct knowledge of those meetings. Pompeo met with the heads of the FSB which is the successor of the KGB., that Russia's domestic intelligence services. And the SBR which is sort of equivalent of their CIA. He met them last week.

Now, the CIA makes clear a couple of things. One, this is something that senior U.S. intelligence chief for multiple administrations do -- they do this to exchange intelligence about terrorism, other common threats. It's something that they do. Now it happens that one of these intelligence chiefs is currently under sanction by the U.S. because of military action in Ukraine. But what I'm told by the U.S. officials is that CIA followed what is a legal process here. They let all the proper agencies know we're doing this. We're doing this to exchange information.

And they followed those processes before they came here for this meeting.

COOPER: Yes, I talked to Director Clapper last night, he was saying, you know, he had done that in the past often, it wasn't quite as fruitful as he had hoped. It was a sort of one way street (ph), he described it as. How does Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer factor into this?

SCIUTTO: So as you mention Senator Schumer has send some -- he's had a press conference on Tuesday and sent some letter, he send a letter to Director Pompeo saying, you did not provide information about this. Why did you meet with the implication that the CIA was keeping this in the dark? [20:55:12] I'm told by this U.S. official that Senator Schumer's staff was briefed before the senator held the press conference on Tuesday. Then again afterwards before he send this letter, so brief for instance on that legal process that follow a bit before they brought in this intel chiefs who are under the sanction. So from the perspective the CIA, Senator Schumer making a implication hear about these meetings that they say facts, you know, do not support in effect.

COOPER: This -- this have been reported, the Russian media, would we know about the meeting if the Russian media had not reported it?

SCIUTTO: No. And that's another thing from the CIA's perspective here is that Russia leaked the existence of this meeting on purpose via task, their state news agency with the intention of creating a curfufle here in the U.S. and is the view of someone I spoke to, U.S. official now it is that hey listen they got what they wanted here.

COOPER: That's fascinating. Jim Sciutto, thanks.

Coming up, the President said today that, a senator told him he was best president ever, than ever the Lincoln and Washington. But did the senator really say that? Keeping them honest, is next.


COOPER: We begin the hour with the keeping them honest report. We end up with as well, with a pair of claims from the President who often as you know speaks in superlatives especially about himself. The first is about his State of the Union message which was seen by tens of millions of people. A huge audience. No small achievements.

However not quite good enough for the President who today tweeted in part 45.6 million people watched. The highest number in history. Keeping them honest, that is not true. according to Nielsen it's number six. Enough if he sees that, really good, just not number one. Then there's this from the GOP retreat today. The President talking about Senator Orrin Hatch. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Orrin is -- I love listening to him speak. He said once I'm the single greatest President in his lifetime. Now he's a young man, so it's not that much but -- and he actually once said I'm the greatest President in the history of our country. And I said does that include Lincoln and Washington? He said yes. I said I love this guy.


COOPER: Well, keeping them honest, an aide for Senator Hatch tells us that's not actually what he said. Senator Hatch, says the aide, quote said that "he would like to work with the President to make this the greatest presidency in history for the American people". Or as Abraham Lincoln once said, Google it first. We're back at 10:00 p.m. eastern in an hour from now with a special edition of AC 350. Time now to hand it over to Chris Cuomo for "Cuomo Prime Time". Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right Anderson, it's great to give you a break in between shows. Always good to see you my friend.

And tonight we really do have to get after it and get beyond the headlines. We now know the President wants to release the memo and the pushback with that decision is growing. But that's just the surface.

[21:00:07] The real deal is to get deeper into the motivations and what's going to happen when this memo comes out. That's us tonight. Let's get after it. I'm Chris Cuomo --