House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes spoke with FNC's Bret Baier Friday afternoon about the explosive memo he was allowed to declassify:
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Let's get the inside story on the memo from the man in charge. Devin Nunes is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that released this document.
Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Great to be with you, Bret.
BAIER: What do you think the biggest take away from this memo is in your eyes?
NUNES: Well, I am sad we had to get to this point. We should have never, never been here. It's unfortunate. I didn't want to have to do this. But the sad part is that I have an obligation to the American people when we see FISA abuse.
So, these are secret courts that exist to target foreigners for catching terrorists, for catching people who might be bad actors, and the American citizens that are represented before this court have to be protected. And the only place that can protect them is the U.S. Congress when abuses do occur.
BAIER: Did you write the memo?
NUNES: So, it's not a place we wanted to go. It’s not a place we want to go, but it's where we have to go.
BAIER: Did you write it?
NUNES: Myself, Trey Gowdy, our two investigators, and then obviously checked by the lawyers and the rest of our committee members.
BAIER: Did you read the actual FISA applications?
NUNES: No, I didn’t. This has been one of the bogus news stories that had been put out. So, the agreement we made with the Department of Justice was to create a reading room and allow one member and two investigators to go over and review the documents. I thought the best person on our committee will be the chairman of the Oversight Committee, Trey Gowdy, who has a long career as a federal prosecutor, to go and do this. And then they over a series of meetings would come back with their notes and brief the rest of the committee members --
BAIER: Did you or anyone on your committee coordinate in any way with President Trump or administration on the release of this memo?
NUNES: No, in fact --
BAIER: Or with the structure of the memo?
NUNES: No, in fact, we opened up an investigation into the DOJ and FBI for FISA abuse and other matters last summer, in the summer of ‘17.
BAIER: How about with President Trump's lawyers in any way?
BAIER: Outside conservative groups, one put out an ad that’s targeting Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, saying that he needs to do his job or quit. It seems like it was timed out. But did you work with any outside groups in the formulation of this memo?
NUNES: No, I didn’t. In fact, I personally like Rod Rosenstein. But look, the bottom line here is that Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. Sessions, Attorney General Sessions and Director Wray have work to do. And they can’t start doing their work to root the problems if you don’t admit first that you have a problem. And they have been unwilling to do that.
But no, I don’t work with outside groups on this.
BAIER: The FBI, DOJ, other intel agencies all say there are material omissions in this memo. What did you leave out? Is there -- is there justification for the FBI behavior you detailed in this memo that we have yet to learn?
NUNES: Yes. So, we looked specifically at just FISA abuse. We wanted to keep sources and methods out. If you remember, 10 days ago, we were accused of a lot of things, especially that we were going to disclose our nation's top secrets. I think everybody has learned, that was a total fallacy that was put out by the left and the mainstream media. We didn’t disclose any secrets.
Part of that is we had to take all of this information and reduce it down into a summary with just the pertinent facts about the FISA abuse. The only area that I am familiar with that we left out would be the history of Carter Page. I explained why we left this out to the director of the FBI. The director of the FBI is well aware of my concerns about Mr. Page.
And I don't believe that somebody like Mr. Page should be a target of the FBI, especially using salacious information paid for by a political campaign like this dossier was about Mr. Page and then supplemented by a news story that was -- that was actually created by Christopher Steele himself the author of the dossier. This is -- this is outrageous that this happened.
BAIER: Will you vote to release the Democrats memo?
NUNES: Yes, we will.
BAIER: When is that going to happen?
NUNES: But it has to go through -- it has to go through the same process. So --
BAIER: When do you think it will be released?
NUNES: Hard to say. I don't know yet. We haven’t even -- I have -- I have only read through it once. We will have to go through and scrub it again.
And let's not forget. These are the same Democrats who never wanted to start an investigation. These are the same Democrats who blocked our subpoenas or tried to block our subpoenas back in August. They tried to block our ability to go and get the records from Fusion GPS that led to a lot of discovers in this investigation.
So, these are not honest actors. They know they are not being honest. And, you know, I get tired of playing whack-a-mole every day with the Democrats on this committee who never wanted to start this investigation in the first place.
BAIER: Democrats are criticizing a lot, as you can imagine. I’m sure you’ve heard. But they’re jumping on one particular part of the memo in particular. Number four, the memo states that then-deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, quote, testified before the committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISA court without the Steele dossier information? Democrats say he never said that, did he?
NUNES: Yes. I mean, it’s a summation of a long interview. And that is definitely what he said. Not to mention, we have other witnesses who said very similar things. So, the fact of the matter is, the main things that were used to go out and get this warrant was the dossier and the story that corroborated the dossier.
BAIER: So, why not put McCabe's quote in there or release the transcript?
NUNES: Well, that would be the whole process that we’d have to go through. Actually, the quotes I think are pretty damning themselves. So, I wouldn’t mind doing that but we would have to go through a whole process to release transcripts.
BAIER: So, you were getting to the point about how much of the FISA applications relied on the Steele dossier. What was it, the characteristic? You said they were integral? Or it was integral?
NUNES: Yes, they wouldn’t have received a warrant without the dossier. The dossier was presented to the court as it was -- as if it was true. The court was not told that the Democrats have actually paid for this.
And just step back for a moment. This is not trying to go after some terrorist. This is about -- they opened, the FBI opened a counter-intelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016. That's what happened.
And then they got a warrant on someone in the Trump campaign using opposition research paid for by the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign. That's what this is about. And it's wrong and it should never be done.
BAIER: Is it true that the FBI led the FISA application with the dossier?
NUNES: Yes, most of the -- the largest percentage of the entire application has to do with the dossier and then using the news story to corroborate the dossier.
BAIER: There are Democrats on your committee insisted that the FISA court was told of the political nature of this information. Take a listen.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Is there anything inappropriate, do you think, about a partisan political document, the Steele dossier being used in an application to surveil an associate of a presidential candidate, in this case Carter Page -- especially if that fact is not disclosed in the application? Is that inherently wrong do you think?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Jake, that fact was disclosed -- it was disclosed to the FISA court, that part of the evidence was from a politically motivated source.
NUNES: No. I mean, these are things I said earlier. I mean, these guys tell so many lies, you can't keep track of them.
BAIER: That's not true?
NUNES: No. The court -- the court was not made aware. I would think that a judge -- if the judge knew that, hey, we’re opening -- we have an investigation of the Trump campaign. We’re going after this Trump campaign advisor and, oh, by the way, Hillary Clinton's campaign paid for all this information. If that did happen, which it didn't, if that court did know that, the judge would have to be I think considered very suspect. I don't believe that that happened at all.
BAIER: The former FBI Director James Comey, I know you heard in John’s piece, tweeted out “that it’s?” And went on to criticize this entire operation.
Your thoughts on that tweet and Comey's reaction?
NUNES: Well, Mr. Comey had a chance in January, February, March, April, I believe all the way until June to come clean on who paid for the dossier. He was asked about it in January and he said very clearly that he knew that Republicans had started the dossier which was a lie.
And then when asked and probed further, well, who finished the dossier? He didn't know. Now, maybe he was lying. Maybe he didn't know, but both seem to be a problem.
So, Mr. Comey is welcome to come back, tell us when exactly he learned the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign paid for the dossier. He’s welcome to come back and share that information. But, I think the American people understand that the FBI should not go to secret courts using information that was paid for by the Democrats to open up investigations to get warrants on people of the other political party.
That's the type of stuff that happens in the banana republic.
BAIER: Comey said in testimony that some of the dossiers are unverified and salacious. Are there parts of the dossier that are true?
NUNES: What, that Russia is a country and Carter Page is a person? I mean, other than that, I don’t know anything.
BAIER: So, you don't know anything that’s been corroborated by intel as a part of a dossier?
NUNES: No, very little, and I think if you actually look at that dossier from the beginning, I don't know what the FBI agent, what they were smoking that would think that Carter Page who somebody who doesn’t -- who hasn't had a job for many years, who is obviously a Russian sympathizer, but that somehow the Russians who actually said he was an idiot in court testimony, this was presented before the court, so Russian agents said Carter Page was an idiot.
And do you think that the Russians were going to offer him like a 19 percent share of the major oil company in Russian? I mean, this is crazy. And so, when somebody first reads that dossier, I would think you would come away from that and think, OK, this is really pretty -- this is wild stuff. In fact, it was probably -- there was a good chance, let’s not forget where the dossier came from, it came from Russians.
So, there is clear evidence of collusion with the Russian, it just happens to be with the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, that the news media fails to talk about or fails to even investigate.
BAIER: Mr. Chairman, you know FISA is controversial to begin it. It was challenged for reauthorization, Section 702 recently, members often look for reasons to vote against FISA. Some of them, civil liberties concerns. Wasn’t the cart before the horse here? Was the memo withheld until FISA Section 702 was voted on by Congress?
NUNES: No, so remember, 702 is different. It operates differently.
BAIER: But it still affects the overall authorization.
NUNES: But we found no abuses within 702. I made that clear to my colleagues. Don’t forget, the FBI and DOJ stonewalled us. We had to subpoena documents in August. We had several meetings all through the fall trying to get documents.
Remember in -- at the beginning of January, people tend to forget this, when the FBI director and Mr. Rosenstein tried to do an end run around our committee and attempted to go to the speaker so that we would not hold them in contempt? That was not until -- that was not until just a few weeks ago. So, it took the speaker --
BAIER: Let me ask about you. January 10th, there was supposedly a meeting where Rosenstein comes up to you about document production and it got fairly heated. Is that accurate?
NUNES: Look, I mean, I had never meetings with Mr. Rosenstein and I like him personally. I think that he can fix the problems over at DOJ. And we’re willing to work with him. But --
BAIER: So, you don't think he should be fired from his job?
NUNES: Well, look, that's not my decision. All I can say is that Mr. Rosenstein has a long career. But, look, he's never really been in Washington, D.C.
BAIER: But you know there are some members who are using this to question the Mueller investigation. Are you separating the two?
NUNES: Well, I think what’s happening is I think the mainstream media and the Democrats are tying this to the Mueller investigation because they’re trying to perpetuate this nonsense of obstruction of justice because they’ve left the Russian collusion. They know there was no collusion.
And, you know, I have been saying this for a year now that there was no evidence of collusion. And so, now, you fast forward --
BAIER: Are there other memos --
NUNES: Go ahead, Bret.
BAIER: Are there other memos that are going to come out? Are there other memos? You said this was phase one.
NUNES: Yes. So, this completes just the FISA abuse portion of our investigation. We are -- we are in the middle of like whole phase two of our investigation, which involves other departments, specifically the State Department and some of the involvement that they had in this. That investigation is ongoing and we continue to work towards finding answers and asking the right questions to try to get to the bottom of what exactly the State Department was up to in terms of this Russian investigation.
BAIER: Quickly, Mr. Chairman, some people have called you a Russian agent. Others have said you should be fired. The barbs today on cable TV were pretty amazing.
Your thoughts in dealing with all of this in the job that you have?
NUNES: Yes, it's actually quite enjoyable because -- because we have the underlying facts. We have been investigating this for a really long time. So, you know that you’re over the target when you’re being attacked from all sides. And so --
BAIER: Mr. Chairman we have to leave it. The computer is going to cut us off. We appreciate the time, sir. And we will follow it up.
NUNES: Thank you, Bret.
BAIER: Thank you.