tv Representative Devin Nunes Provides Russia Investigation Update CSPAN February 27, 2017 3:56pm-4:31pm EST
announcer: for free transcripts or to give us your comments, visit us at q&a.org. programs are also available as c-span podcasts. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1989, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. >> on capitol hill, the chair of the house intelligence committee, devon nunes, dismissed call for an information into russian hacking and ties to the trump campaign he spoke earlier today with reporters in the capitol
complex. mr. nunes: i want to thank all of you for being here. as you-all know it's long been a priority of mine to be a very transparent with all of you and to make sure that i'm readily available to answer any questions, especially when major issues arise as it relates to intelligence. and so kind of just watching what's occurred over the last few weeks, i wanted to make sure we formalize the process a little more. i know that last week i was here we had several press drums that a lot of you were attended. but i wanted to formalize it and make it more a press availability. i don't know if we'll do this every week or every other week. i'm just looking forward to taking your questions. with that i'll open it up. reporter: can you say categorically there were no contacts whatsoever between any officials affiliated with the
russian government and the trump campaign? mr. nunes: not that i'm aware of. we have not seen any evidence from the trump campaign or any other that's communicated with the russian government. reporter: why would you agree to be -- talk to reporters at the behest of the white house knowing you are looking into this? mr. nunes: that story was odd. if you ask me to contact the white house, and said, hey, could you set me up with somebody at d.o.d. or the intelligence agencies, i would say, sure. so it was kind of an odd story. reporter: is it compromised in any way? the fact that you have already -- mr. nunes: how is it compromised if i'm trying to be transparent with the press, and if the white house asks me to talk to a reporter, it was one reporter, i don't know if the white house asked me to talk to you, would you think that would be ok or not ok?
reporter: what's your response to it? you are investigating this matter. the white house is urging you to knock down the authorities -- mr. nunes: that didn't happen. that absolutely didn't happen. reporter: is there anything that you have learned in the course of this investigation that conflicts with the president clinton reporting? -- with the public report snk -- reporting? mr. nunes: if you look at what's happened, there's been major crimes have been committed. and what i'm concerned about is this -- no one is focusing on major leaks that have occurred here. right after the leak of the transcript that president trump had with the australian ambassador -- with the australian prime minister, i was in contact with the australian ambassador.
i was also in contact with the white house. and the appropriate agencies. because we can't run a government like this. a government can't function with massive leaks at the highest level of our president talking to foreign leaders. so that i think is one of the focuses that you-all should be concerned about. reporter: how big is the circle of individuals who have access to those transcripts? mr. nunes: well, this is i didn't realize this, but evidently the way i understand the process is is that the last administration had it set up to go down to the state department and the i.c. and perhaps any other stakeholders with the appropriate people within the white house. we don't know how those got out, but clearly how is a foreign leader going to be able to talk to our president if they don't think that this is going to be leaked to the press? reporter: just to follow. you said no contacts with the russian government. as i'm sure are you aware, there are many businessmen that report
back to the kremlin as part of their sickle of intelligence gathering. have you eliminated that possibility that the people that trump advisors were speaking with have connections to the russian government even if they are not officially working for the russian government? mr. nunes: we haven't eliminated anything. the only thing i want to make sure we do is before we go after american citizens and subpoena them or bring them before the legislative branch of government, that it's not just because they appeared in a news story somewhere. reporter: you are still investigating them, communications between trump campaign advisors and russians -- mr. nunes: i wouldn't limit it to trump only. or trump officials. i would say that it would be also any contacts with any political candidates, any where at any level, including in the united states or other foreign countries. reporter: are you saying there were clinton advisors speaking -- mr. nunes: no, no.
there would be no evidence of hat. nor is there any evidence that i have bn presented about trump advisors speaking to the russians. but we do know for a long time that the russians have been very interested in manipulating elections, manipulating the press. they are very good at propaganda. so that's what caused me a year ago to come out and criticize the intelligence agencies for the largest intelligence failure since 9/11 because of the lack of good intelligence we were getting on putin's plans and intentions. so that's why i really appreciate the amount of press that showed up here today because we do need to have some scrutiny put on to the russian government. and we do need to know if there are any americans that are talking to the russians. and anybody connected to the russian government or agents.
but at this time i want to be ery careful that we can't just go on a witch-hunt against americans because they appear in a news story. >> the former n.s.a.? mr. nunes: any american. reporter: are you referring to -- mr. nunes: specifically there was -- more important question on that there were three americans of which the only name i know is manifort. the other two i don't know. they appeared in a news story anti-questions that we had 10 days ago in that story broke for many of you who attended the different press availabilities that i had, the question was whether or not we were going to investigate those americans, and at this point here at the committee we still don't have any evidence of them talking to ussia. reporter: do you have all the evidence at this point that you expect -- where you say you are still in the preliminary stages? mr. nunes: we have the scoping
of our investigation finished. then we're going to move into receiving the evidence. as of right now the initial inquiries i have made to the appropriate agencies, don't have any evidence. reporter: the f.b.i. specifically told you that they have found no contact between any trump associates and russian officials? mr. nunes: i want to be -- we're not going -- the whole i.c. here. i'm not going to get specific to any one agency. but as of right now i don't have any evidence that would -- of any phone calls, that doesn't mean they don't exist. i don't have that. what i have been told is by many -- by many folks, is that there's nothing there. we're looking into it and we want the information.
i just can't call in american citizens with no information. reporter: when you say there are no contacts, are you referring to direct contacts? mr. nunes: i think specifically this would be contacts with any association whatsoever to anyone even within the realm of the russian intelligence apparatus. reporter: you just said many people have told you this. can you be more specific? who has told you -- mr. nunes: i'm not going to get into specifically the conversations i had. i had with the executive branch and the appropriate gencies. but i will say that we long have had a very good process in the congress here where we have the gang of eight. when counterintelligence issues arise, they brief us on those counterintelligence issues. and we keep them because they oftentimes involve american citizens. and it's important that we keep it that way when those nvestigations are ongoing. but in this case as it relates to any campaign officials dealing with the russians, we don't have any evidence. reporter: you have been told
there is nothing there. why are you specifically investigating whether there are any links between the campaign and russian officials? mr. nunes: unlike what's been reported, we have had a long ongoing investigation into russian activities. i would preferred for that not to be talked about in public, you may remember for the last several years we have been concerned about russia cyberactivities and we remain concerned about those activities. since the election, we have broadened the scope of that investigation to include any involvement in this -- in our
elections here. of course any ties that there might be to any government officials at any level. it's not just here in washington, but governors and others. if there is anything out there, any american citizens from political campaigns, coordinating with the russian government, we clearly would want to know that and investigate it. reporter: if you have you seen the transcripts of the phone calls with the russians? mr. nunes: no, but i have been briefed on them. it would be unusual, i think unprecedented for us to get transcripts that were illegally leaked out and discussed for us to have those here in congress. i think we have to be very careful about the legislative branch of government getting fisa warranted, communications and that we start coming through private conversations american citizens are having. we have to be very careful where we go with this. i think what it appears to me like is that it seems to me there is a difference between russia's sanctions are to people like myself, which when i think russia sanctions i think of
dealing with crimea, dealing ith the invasion of ukraine by the russians and the sanctions that we have put in to place working with our allies and then what happened right at the time after christmas when president obama kicked some russian diplomats out. i don't consider that to be sanctions. inaudible] mr. nunes: russia sanctions on the global stage. most of the meetings i have with foreign leaders, when we talk about russia sanctions that's what we're referring to. when president trump kicked out a few diplomats, and that was -- umber one it was way too late,
number two, it was extremely weak. and number three, the russian government didn't even respond to it because it was so ridiculous. reporter: the white house asked you about talking to this reporter, did you know that they had also asked the senator to do the same thing? does it feel sort of a coordinated effort to push back? mr. nunes: if anything it was the opposite. so many of you -- many of you who were around 10 days ago, you know that i took your questions as related to "the new york times" piece as it related to three americans, and whether or not we had information or not. so i had already talked to many of you about that several times. both in press grounds and on individual interviews. so by the time -- all it was was a white house communications person passing a number and name of a reporter over -- if i would alk to them.
following up what i had already told all of you in the days before that. i'm not sure how you generate a press story out of that. i can't control what you guys write. reporter: are you saying the f.b.i. has not complied with you that evidence? or the f.b.i. told you there is no evidence? mr. nunes: i'm not going to get into which agencies. i think it's important. but the intelligence agencies have not provided me or the committee any information about those three americans communicating with russians. reporter: but they have not told you that evidence does not exist. there is a difference there. mr. nunes: the way it sounds like to me is it's been looked into. and there is no evidence of anything there. obviously we'd like to know if there is. then it's serious. then it would be the intelligence agencies then misleading congress. which opens up another problem. reporter: special prosecutor, take away the notion this could be tainted by politics. mr. nunes: we're the legislative branch of government. we're elected. i think the history of special prosecutors is mixed. at this point what are we going to appoint a special prosecutor to do exactly? to chase stories of american
citizens that end up in newspaper articles? by now, look, at some point we have serious crimes have been committed, it would be something that we would examine. at this point we don't have that. the only serious crimes we have are leaks that have come out of our government to the press and others. [inaudible] mr. nunes: i wrote the letter and obviously it's a classified letter. there's a classified version and unclassified version. we're expecting answers to that. i think we have some briefings this week and next week. and those briefings will continue. reporter: committee resources to investigating these leaks? mr. nunes: well, as anything we can't -- it's very similar to us not having any evidence of who - of these american citizens
that were allegedly talking to russians. we also don't know exactly who would have known about general flynn. the good thing is about fisa and the way it works, there should be a record of who in the overnment knew about general flynn talking to the russian ambassador. from there we should know who is in the realm of the possible. we don't know yet. but that's a very good question. and we're -- those are some of the -- i think that we should be able to find out. we should be able find out who within the executive branch knew about the initial conversations. and then who went to who to get flynn's name en masse. so that should be a small number of people. reporter: is that evidence
turned over to your committee or will it continued to be housed in the intelligence committee? mr. nunes: well, that's one of the contentious issues, how it will be housed. some will remain at the gency. reporter: do you know anyone at the white house directing mr. flynn to discuss the issue, any issues with the russian ambassador? would anyone at the white house tell him to do that? mr. nunes: general flynn is an american war hero, put together one of the greatest military machines to eliminate al qaeda from iraq and he was the national security advisor designee. he was taking multiple calls a day from ambassadors, from foreign leaders and, look, i now this because the foreign leaders were contacting me trying to get in touch with the transition team and folks that wanted to meet with president
trump or president-elect trump and vice president-elect pence. reporter: did president-elect trump at the time -- [inaudible] mr. nunes: i find it hard. reporter: do you plan to coordinate with the senate side to have -- mr. nunes: we're separate bodies but we'll have a scoping document that should be pproved. i think it's finished now. and then probably just have some brief outlines of what we'll be looking at. look, you guys know what we will
be looking at. it's not rocket science. i wouldn't -- i wouldn't rule it out. i wouldn't rule it out but we'll try to work with the senate where possible but i view this as two separate branches of the legislative branch of government. yes. reporter: is there a difference between the white house asking you to call a reporter and asking the f.b.i. to knock down a particular story? mr. nunes: first of all, the white house talking to -- having a reporter -- if a reporter asks the white house, hey, can you get a hold of whatever member of congress, i don't know what the issue is. as it relates to the f.b.i., i believe what happened with the white house, as i understand it, and my limited conversations hat i had, i just think it was an obvious question that was asked if there's no evidence was ere can you talk about it? and the f.b.i. doesn't normally talk about leaks and whether or not they're investigating or other issues of who's under investigation. i think it's pretty standard for the f.b.i. not to comment on
his. that's pretty unusual if they do comment. and so obviously when -- so i don't even know how true that story is. i would go to the white house and ask what conversations actually occurred but i don't hink there are many. i think they were pretty simple. reporter: do you know how far you are in starting this investigation? mr. nunes: just to make sure you understand what caused me to go out a year ago and say the biggest intelligence failure ince 9/11 was our failure to understand putin's plans and intentions, what caused that was because we were constantly investigating the russia problems. so all we're doing is we're adding additional things that we're looking at which include the -- which will include the election issues. reporter: you say there's no evidence right now, russian ontact with campaign
officials. you say you are in the scope gathering process of the investigation. mr. nunes: no. we're putting together a scope, working with bipartisan with my counterpart, mr. schiff, so we make sure that we're on the election as it relates to the election, but, look, we've always been very, very interested in what the russians are up to so this is basically part of app ongoing investigation that i was hopeful would not have been out in the press like it is but it is but we're expanding the scope of the investigation to include what in terms of the election. some evidence we have. some evidence we do have. if you know american citizens that you know are talking to russian agencies, if you want to be whistleblowers and have those names, come. reporter: you expect to obtain more evidence or information, you could say, as the week goes? mr. nunes: we will continue to take evidence and follow it where it leads. reporter: the obama administration's wiretapping of the trngsition team and the campaign, wases it just flynn or do you think thises was a
regular process of listening into what trump was doing? mr. nunes: well, as i was understand it, this was inadvertent collection to mr. flynn's name was unmasked. somebody very high up within the government had to do that or multiple people and we're very interested in figuring out who those people were because they have questions to answer as to why -- what laws did they use to decide to unmask general flynn's name. reporter: to follow-up on that. if there was ongoing contact between the russians and the trump campaign, wouldn't other names pop up inadvertently? if this was the only incident that popped up, would that knock down the idea that there was regular contact? mr. nunes: there is no evidence that i've been presented of regular contact with anybody within the trump campaign. the only one that's obvious is general flynn's discussions with the russians which i would still contend that he was doing what he was supposed to do, which is
prepare the president-elect for office by getting as many leaders in front of him as possible. reporter: is it a major crime for leakers to discuss lassified information relating to these communications and elsewhere, why is it not inappropriate for the white house and you and senator burr to call reporters and give your wn interpretation of, again, continuing investigation that involves classified ntelligence? isn't that a counterleak, as it were? mr. nunes: i would never talk about classified information with any of you because that would be a crime. reporter: the message that was coming to you and others is we looked at the information, there's nothing there and that relates to an ongoing investigation, one. it's based on at its core classified information about contacts between -- mr. nunes: right. there's no release about classified information in
that. i'm a little confused about your question. either you -- i mean, the white house has been critical of a lot of you. so here you have the white house trying to communicate with many of you and trying to communicate with the congress what they're doing and now suddenly that's wrong. there's nothing wrong with that. if you look at the last administration and i think if a lot of the democrats were being honest with you, they know that the relationship between the last white house and congress as extremely poor. what we're trying to do is have a very good working relationship with the executive branch of government at all levels and so i would anticipate that and hope we have more coordination with the white house and all the appropriate agencies and that we actually on one side we're a separate branch of government and we will conduct rigorous oversight which, look, i've been very clear. if i find out that reince riebus was talking to russians
you know he will get a subpoena. reporter: [inaudible] as he appeared before your reporter: has comey appeared before your committee and if you asked for him to come? mr. nunes: we had discussions with the f.b.i. director and others within the f.b.i. and i do expect they will be briefing us again either this week or next. yes, sir. back there. [inaudible] mr. nunes: that's above my pay grade. i don't know what at this point the attorney general what would e refuse himself from? reporter: because of his relationship with the trump campaign that he would be an impartial -- mr. nunes: the way this works, if the f.b.i., if at some point they're conducting an investigation, they would have to go to the appropriate
authorities to get a warrant, to do something, and as far as i know none of that has appened. reporter: do you have concerns with him talking to the f.b.i., number two at the f.b.i., given hat -- mr. nunes: the f.b.i. regularly briefs the branches of overnment. they brief the president, the vice president, the chief of staff, any personnel, at the same time they brief the senate and the white house. it would not be unusual for us to make requests of the f.b.i. r any intelligence agency. reporter: your briefings have been verified? mr. nunes: not that i know of. reporter: you say it's not about nocking down [inaudible] - "the new york times" report.
nuance that's a good point. you guys were there. i think i spoke to you the orning of that story breaking. i was very clear with all of you what i thought about that "new york times" story. it was way advance of them sending me one phone number. i don't know the problem of the white house sending me a number of a press person for a all. you guys normally want to talk to me. that's why i wanted to make this press availability today so it's more organized. reporter: did they give you any guidance? mr. nunes: no. it's this person wants to talk about "the new york times" story and i got the number and i called the reporter. reporter: on the flynn phone call, i am not sure i fully understand the distinction between the ukraine sanctions and the sanctions that president obama imposed? it wasn't just -- mr. nunes: let me describe it
bluntly. reporter: individuals with the g.r.u., contractors that participated in the hacking and i guess the question is -- if general flynn telegraphed to the russian ambassador that those sanctions, whether or not you think they were serious enough or strong enough would be lifted -- mr. nunes: let me be very clear. so i think when i apply common sense to this, those were not sanctions. they were petty. any conversation i had about ussian sanctions it's always been about the russia sanctions dealing with the invasion of ukraine. reporter: you realize there were sanctions imposed. mr. nunes: you guys can call them that if you want but i wouldn't call them that. reporter: that's what they were called by the white house. the question is did general flynn in any way suggest to the russian ambassador he didn't
have to worry that vladimir putin didn't have to worry about these sanctions because president trump would ease or lift them? mr. nunes: well, i think if the discussions occurred around ensuring there was no overreaction by the russian government so that the new administration could do like all the other previous administrations who think they can work with putin which all three have been wrong they can work with putin, if that's what general flynn did which was try to keep the lines of communications open and to make sure the russians didn't overreact and maybe have some eciprocal attacks on other embassies around the world, we should be thanking him and not going after him. reporter: he was telling the ussian ambassador, don't worry about what the russian ambassador just announced, we will do something different?
mr. nunes: if that was said i don't know what the problem would be. that's exactly what he should be doing. reporter: isn't that one u.s. administration -- mr. nunes: so you want to -- a logan act guy -- look, it's ridiculous. the logan act is ridiculous. you guys know that's idiculous. reporter: do you plan to subpoena donald trump's tax returns? mr. nunes: no we are not going to do that. eporter: [inaudible] he said, i don't know buy he should because he didn't know of any investigation going on. mr. nunes: i don't think there's any evidence to go after anyone at that point. that would be up to the attorney general. reporter: did the f.b.i. not investigate these leaks? mr. nunes: the f.b.i. should always be looking at leaks. i hope they are investigating. they shouldn't comment on them nor should they. reporter: one other thing.
if you're looking -- [inaudible] -- mr. nunes: it would be rolled into the investigation. any new questions? reporter: your democratic colleagues are not here at this briefing today. we understand they didn't know it was happening. why should americans be confident that what you're doing is bipartisan? mr. nunes: me calling this i didn't want what we had last week where there were multiple press crumbs and i had to continue to repeat myself and then as i saw these stories roll ut i looked at this and said this can't possibly be true because i was open, very transparent with all you. i was willing to go on the record about what happened or not what happened with "the new york times" story, what i knew at the time. i just wanted to make sure what i'm trying to do to bring to this is more transparency so we can have a normal engagement with all of you that's regularly scheduled and advanced for two reasons.
one, it's all on the record so you know we are being transparent. two, i don't like to repeat myself all week on the same thing. reporter: mr. chairman, in the news a lot lately is north korea. how large of a threat is north korea to national security and how does it compare to russia? mr. nunes: well, the north korean regime is completely unhinged. they have long been unhinged. the closer they get to the ability to detonate a nuclear weapon but also deliver that nuclear weapon we have to take that seriously because for a long time this is not a regime that's -- that would by any stretch of the imagination you can have actual negotiations with. it also is i think one of the biggest travesties on the planet when people find out what's happening in north korea when you have 20 million people living like animals i think we should all be concerned about it and somebody unhinged as a north
korean dictator we should all be concerned about and so should the chinese and russians and thers. reporter: how does it compare to russia? inaudible] mr. nunes: well, you know, the uestion will be whether or not can there be a new relationship with the russia government? this administration wants to attempt to try that. i am very skeptical of that but to be fair to them president obama tried, president bush tried and so did president clinton right when putin was put in office. reporter: has the russian cyber activity been used since the election and if so, what's the intensity? mr. nunes: i think the important thing to know -- as you know the house intelligence committee for many years has been very active on cyberthreats and if you look at -- i think one thing you should assume the russians and chinese are very, very good at
their cyberactivities so most of the time we are not going to even know they're there. and they continue to expand their capabilities and we, of course, there's all sorts of anti-virus companies out there and people who are watching this threat but, look, everybody's communications are vulnerable. whether it's your email, phone calls, the grid, both the chinese and russians are actively increasing their cyberattack capabilities and we're trying to respond to that. reporter: at this point do you think you now know everything that the f.b.i. knows at this point? cred [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] ve nas are ordered, or on which the vote incurs oection under clause 6 of rule 20. record votes on postponed questionsilbe taken lat.