JUDY WOODRUFF: There are now multiple investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any possible ties to the Trump campaign.
On Capitol Hill, the probes have expanded to look into possible obstruction and cover-up. There are many questions swirling around.
And we put some of them to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. She’s a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. She’s also ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
I spoke with her a short time ago.
Senator Feinstein, thank you very much for talking with us.
First, about those memos that were written by former FBI Director James Comey, I know your committee has been asking for those. Have you received them yet from the FBI?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-Calif.: No, not to my knowledge. We have not.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you expect to get them?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Well, that’s an interesting expectation.
And there are two answers. One is yes, and one is no. I think we’re serious. I believe we’re serious. And then we have to take the next step. We have invited very politely the former director to come and meet with us and be able to ask him questions in public. However, he has agreed to go before Intelligence, which I appreciate. I’m on the committee.
But I think he also ought to provide the documents to our committee and be willing to come and explain those documents. We are the oversight committee, after all. He has said he wants to make a public appearance. He will do that at Intelligence, and I think he also should provide those documents and make an appearance at Judiciary and explain them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How much of an obstacle is it, Senator, if those documents are not turned over?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Well, I mean, one way or another, they’re going to be turned over. I think it’s just a question of time.
And I think that his documents are fundamental to the issue of his firing. How many times did he meet with the president? What were the circumstances? What was said? And was there any unusual request, such as leading to an investigation, potential investigation of the president of the United States?
And I think that that’s something that one way or another is going to come out, and those documents will come out. And it’s quite proper that they do so. That’s what — he kept notes to be able to protect himself in the event of something that’s untoward.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, how much of this investigation do you expect may ultimately be about any efforts by the president or by the White House, the administration, to stop or slow down this investigation?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Hard to tell.
I don’t think I can answer that at this stage. I think the president — it’s interesting the president is apparently in the process of retaining outside counsel. That would likely have to do with events that an investigation might reveal.
I am one that believes that both the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee ought to add investigators and people with prosecutorial expertise to the staff for this investigation. I think it has to be well -known now that even the 9/11 Commission had about 100 staffers and people with prosecutorial experience and investigative experience.
We, in the Intelligence Committee, have our intelligence staff, and they’re accustomed to reading intelligence, interpreting intelligence, and they’re very good at what they do. But one of the things that’s been brought to my attention is that you need technical people.
If you’re going to follow the money …
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: … as Representative Speier said, and get involved with financing, you need financial people that will show you how to and, in fact, get the appropriate information in the appropriate way.
If it’s an investigation you’re looking at, you need people, I think, who are trained investigators. And…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator — Senator, if I may, it sounds as if you’re saying this investigation, the potential size of it has grown much larger than even what it seemed to be a week ago.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Well, I think that’s right. I think that is happening.
I think, as events go and comments are made by principal parties, it adds to the investigative material that’s out there. And I think that what both the House and the Senate needs to do is create the atmosphere where Bob Mueller could come in as an absolutely responsible and respected former prosecutor, former U.S. attorney, former director of the FBI, and be the special counsel, and see that the FBI counterterrorism investigation and criminal investigation — it’s both — are able to proceed as rapid — is able to proceed as rapidly as possible.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Washington Post reported last Friday, Senator, I’m sure you know, that the investigation — that there is a — quote — “person of interest” in this investigation who is a senior official in the Trump White House who’s very close to the president.
Do you know who that is?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: No, I do not. I read the same article, but I do not know who that person is.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you getting the cooperation from everyone you’re seeking?
We know that General Flynn, Michael Flynn, has declined to turn over documents, but, other than General Flynn, are there others who are not cooperating?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: I think, with respect to the Judiciary Committee, Senator Grassley and I spoke on the floor. And we have written letters asking for materials and asking that Mr. Comey, inviting him to appear.
I think we perhaps need to do more than just invite. I think it’s important that he come before the oversight committee that has responsibility for oversight of the FBI and at least do us the courtesy of appearing, and that we should be able to look at his material and ask questions about them.
So, I think both Senator Grassley — are on the same pathway to that. And, hopefully, we will be able to accomplish it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Senator, I want to turn you to one other issue that’s much before Congress right now, and that is the health care reform bill that passed the House of Representatives.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Oh, yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s now in the Senate.
The Congressional Budget Office came up — came out just this afternoon with its own estimate of the cost and the implications. And among other things, it says that almost as many people will be without insurance under this proposed legislation as there was in the original Republican proposal.
Is it your sense that this bill has a chance in the U.S. Senate right now?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Well, no one knows what’s in it. My understanding, there was a committee of about 12 men appointed from the Senate to put together a bill.
I think the same mistake is being made in the Senate that was made in the House, no public hearings. The medical profession has no chance to respond. The insurance industry can’t respond. Those people that run hospitals can’t respond, and the general public can’t respond.
And it’s unbelievable. This is the first time in my over 20 years in the Senate a big bill, a costly bill, a bill important to every single American citizen has no hearing and goes right on to the floor as some kind of secretive document.
I have no idea what’s in the Senate bill. And it’s not the way business should be done. It creates an atmosphere that makes a bill more difficult to pass, not less difficult. And it certainly gets the emotions going.
You have 24 million people who are going to be without insurance. It makes no sense to me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we will certainly all be watching to see what happens to it in the Senate.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, we thank you.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Judy.