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Sen. Warner on McCabe shake-up: Getting close to Russia investigation bad for job security

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., says he is concerned about the news that FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe is stepping down in the wake of the past firing of former director James Comey. The vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee talks to Judy Woodruff about what he sees as efforts to impugn the FBI, the confidential Nunes memo and the state of the Russia investigation, one year in.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We return now to the shakeup at the FBI, and what we know about the state of the investigations into the president and the FBI itself.

    This evening, I spoke with the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner.

    And I started by asking his reaction to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe stepping down earlier than expected.

  • Sen. Mark Warner:

    I'm concerned.

    I'm concerned because there seems to be this pattern that anyone that's involved in the investigation into Russian interfering, in possible collusion with the Trump organization, seems to end up losing their job or getting demoted.

    We have seen FBI Director Comey fired. We have seen the attorney general, deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, appear to be under attack from the White House. We have seen the president's own attorney general, Mr. Sessions, reports being the president is angry about his recusal.

    And then you heard earlier reports about the desire to get rid of Mr. McCabe. Now, I don't know what the basis of Mr. McCabe's stepping down early is. I need to hear that from the FBI, but, boy, oh, boy, it seems anybody who gets close to this investigation, it's not good for their long-term job security.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I noticed you said, Senator, in an interview over the weekend that you are thankful the FBI director, Christopher Wray, had what you called the backbone to stand up to pressure in recent months to fire McCabe.

    But just now, The New York Times is reporting that Christopher Wray was indeed putting pressure on Andrew McCabe, that he suggested he move to another position, which would have been a demotion, rather than stay where he is.

  • Sen. Mark Warner:

    Again, I'm not sure I know the basis of that New York Times reporting.

    I think that's why, at least in our investigation, the last remaining bipartisan investigation, you know, I want to hear from Director Wray. I want to hear why Mr. McCabe stepped down early before I weigh in.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What does it say to you that the president has been either critical of or actively trying to fire the very top officials at the Justice Department and the FBI?

  • Sen. Mark Warner:

    Frankly, Judy, it's unprecedented.

    We have — we went through that litany before, whether it was Comey or Rosenstein, his concerns with Sessions, now McCabe. Individuals connected to the investigation don't seem to last very long.

    But what is even as troubling, if not more troubling — and this we see more from some of the president's allies in the House — is that people are willing to go out and basically impugn the very integrity of the whole FBI and, for that matter, the whole Department of Justice.

    And that gets us in very, one, uncharted territory, but also, I think, very dangerous areas, where basically the integrity of our law enforcement agencies are being called into question, when it appears they're just doing their job.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, I want to ask you about something that is getting a lot of attention, and that is the memo prepared by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, about — raising questions about the kind of investigative work done by the Justice Department.

    That memo has not been released. We know it's classified, but there is discussion right now this afternoon about whether it should be released.

    You have called it fabrications. How concerned are you that it may be released? What do you see as the significance of it?

  • Sen. Mark Warner:

    Well, Judy, I have read the underlying intelligence that was the basis of this memo. I have not seen this specific memo. I have not seen it.

    My Republican counterpart, Richard Burr, has asked to see it. He's not seen it as well. The truth is, when you go on the Intelligence Committee, the first things you learn is to protect classified information. The fact that a small subgroup made up only of one party went out and created this product, and now we're kind of bandying it about, really bothers me.

    And on top of that, when you have got the president's own Department of Justice saying this memo shouldn't be released, well, I actually hope that if there is a way to get the classification issue dealt with that it does get released, because having seen the underlying documents, there's no there there.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, you said in that interview you did with Politico over the weekend that there were significant new revelations in many new documents that have been made available to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Where did that information come from?

  • Sen. Mark Warner:

    We continue to get additional documents. And we continue to schedule more witnesses.

    And the challenge in this investigation has been there always appears to be new threads coming up. And all of these have got to be followed to its conclusion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And when you said new revelations, you mean information that is different from anything that's been in the public arena before now?

  • Sen. Mark Warner:

    I mean, Judy, that we have been working at this for a year, and we have a lot of items that still remain to be cleared up, some of which we may never be able to fully clear up because they would fall more in the realm that Mr. Mueller, the special prosecutor who's looking at criminal actions, may take on.

    But we owe it to fellow senators and we owe it to the American public to conclude this as quickly as possible and get as many of the facts out as quickly as possible, one, to make sure that we knew what happened in 2016, but equally important to make sure that Russia and, for that matter, any other foreign country doesn't intervene again this massively in our elections.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you know how much longer this means the investigation will go on?

  • Sen. Mark Warner:

    I hate to speculate.

    Listen, we want to get it done. And the chairman and I have talked about getting this done as expeditiously as possible. The sooner we get these witnesses in, the sooner we get a chance, for example, to get back some of the principals, like Mr. Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. and the president's lawyer, Michael Cohen, the sooner we will get done.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just finally, Senator, back on Andrew McCabe, do you plan to ask FBI Director Wray about how this came about?

  • Sen. Mark Warner:

    Yes. The short answer is, we need to find out why Mr. McCabe, a career FBI official, stepped down early, particularly in light of some of the press stories about Mr. McCabe over the last couple of weeks.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, thank you very much.

  • Sen. Mark Warner:

    Thank you.

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