Home Mark Warner Video, Transcript: Mark Warner on Russia/Trump/Comey — “boy, oh boy, there’s an...

Video, Transcript: Mark Warner on Russia/Trump/Comey — “boy, oh boy, there’s an awful lot of smoke”

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George Stephanopoulos: A critical series of hearings this week. You see Andrew McCabe, the acting FBI Director. The Senate Intelligence Committee will continue its investigations. We’re joined by the top Democrat on that committee, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. Thank you for joining us. Is this firing of Director Comey going to affect your investigation?

Sen. Warner: It’s not going affect it, but let’s step back for a minute and look at what happened this past week. I thought this Administration could no longer surprise me but boy it surprised me this week. You had Sally Yates testify that the Administration had not taken her information about General Flynn in an appropriate manner. The firing of the FBI Director two days before he was supposed to testify before my committee. While yes, the president can fire an FBI Director, an FBI Director gets a ten-year term so they’re not subject to political interference. Unfortunately, I think you have seen that political interference, because the White House itself switched stories mid-week and said, yes, the President said he was going to fire him regardless of what the Deputy Attorney General said—because of the Russia investigation. And then at the end of the week, you had this very bizarre statement by the President that there may exist private tapes. We want to make sure they’re preserved because we’re going to want to take a look at them in Congress. A wild week…

Stephanopoulos: Do you think there are tapes?

Warner: Listen, I don’t have the foggiest idea whether there are tapes or not. But the fact that the President made allusions to that and then the White House would not confirm or deny, it is—not anything that we have seen in recent days.

Stephanopoulos: If there are tapes, will you try to subpoena them?

Warner: Absolutely. It may be appropriate for a different committee rather than the Intelligence committee, but first of all we have to make sure that these tapes, if they exist, they don’t mysteriously disappear. So I have asked, others have asked, that they be preserved if they exist.

Stephanopoulos: Do you to think the President, he also had the statement of him having Russia in mind when thought of firing Comey. Do you think he trying to throw road blocks in the face of these investigations?

Warner: George, I’m not going the try to infer what’s in the President’s mind. But it was very strange they said at first they fired Comey because of a memo from the Deputy Attorney General. A memo that didn’t pass the smell test because it said they were going the fire Comey because of how he treated Hillary Clinton. That’s a little bit laughable. Then he acknowledged it was because Comey was investigating Russia. Then we had the President, in effect, kind of criticize Comey, as he has criticized other intelligence community leaders. Which is frankly, I think General Clapper will address this as well, is not good for morale in our Intel community. So, what was on the President’s mind? I don’t know, but what I do know is we’re going to get to the bottom of this regardless. We’ll follow the facts—Chairman Burr and I have determined that. And the good news from this week, acting Director McCabe has said he’s going to put all the resources needed behind this investigation. It is a top priority for them and they are not going to be dissuaded as well.

Stephanopoulos: James Comey declined your invitation to appear in closed session this Tuesday. Some reports that he wants to appear in public session. Have you invited him to an open hearing?

Warner: We would love to have Director Comey appear in an open hearing. I think James Comey deserves his chance to lay out to the American public his side of the facts because how he was treated was pretty awful by this President.

Stephanopoulos: You say he was treated pretty awfully. It is true, however, that a lot of Democrats thought before this week that James Comey should go. Senator Schumer said he had lost confidence in James Comey. You had Hillary Clinton blame her loss, in part, on what James Comey did. Does the President have a right to feel that Democrats have turned around on this?

Warner: Listen, George, I can’t speak for other Democrats. I have always had confidence in James Comey. I think he made some mistakes last fall, but I have never lost that confidence. I know him. I think he’s a straight shooter. And I think it’s pretty remarkable, virtually unprecedented, one that an FBI Director is fired this way and two that an FBI Director is fired when he’s leading the investigation into ties between Trump officials and the Russians. To fire him mid-investigation, boy oh boy that raises a whole lot of questions.

Stephanopoulos: Your predecessor in the Intelligence Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein and the number two Democrat in the Senate, Senator Durbin from Illinois both said that the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein should resign if he doesn’t appoint a special counsel for the Russia investigation. Do you agree?

Warner: I saw Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein this week and said how disappointed I was with his actions. The fact that he had this memo that frankly was laughable. I think the best thing Rosenstein can do to preserve his reputation and actually do the right thing for the country is appoint a special prosecutor.

Stephanopoulos: What is the status of your investigation right now? You have put out subpoenas to General Flynn. You’re looking for financial documents on President Trump’s income investments, business dealings. What do you make of the fact that we had this letter this week from President Trump’s lawyers saying that he had no income debt or equity investments from Russians? Is the committee investigating if that is true or do you accept it at face value?

Warner: George, that letter was about as carefully crafted legalese that I have ever seen. The remarkable thing was that letter was drafted and dated in March. He releases it now. To my mind it raises more questions than it answers. And the truth is, I haven’t thought that Trump has that many investments in Russia. I think it’s the converse. How much Russian money has flooded into Trump organizations, propped up Mr. Trump’s organizations after the crisis. That, we don’t have the answer to. And that’s why we have asked the Treasury Department—the so called FinCEN division, to provide all that information to the committee.

Stephanopoulos: And finally, have you seen any evidence so far that President Trump or his associates were colluding with Russia during the campaign?

Warner: I’m not going to talk about where we are specifically at this moment. But boy, oh boy, there’s an awful lot of smoke. I’m not saying there’s fire, but we’re going to follow the facts wherever they lead.

Stephanopoulos: Thank you, Senator Warner.