Show: MTP Daily Date: March 22, 2017 Guest: Joe Manchin, Ken Dilanian, Adam Schiff
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, I'm Chuck Todd and welcome to MTP DAILY.
It is 5:00 p.m. here in Washington, 9:00 p.m. London time where a deadly terror attack has rocked the British capital.
We're following three major stories tonight, the terror attack in London, an extraordinary development on Capitol Hill after the chairman suggested that communications from Mr. Trump's team were incidentally swept up by foreign wiretaps.
And, of course, we've got the health care cliff hanger in just about 24 hours ahead of the crucial vote of the president's plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Folks, today was already going to be a big news day as planned, before this awful incident in London and before the surprise announcement from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
This afternoon, apparent attempt to validate president Trump's wiretapping claims, which we are going to now disrupt because here's Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on House intelligence, responding to Devin Nunes.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA, RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: -- information that the chairman was referring to. And, therefore, it is really impossible for us to evaluate any of the merits of what the chairman has said.
But I can say this. The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct, which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House because he cannot do both.
And, unfortunately, I think the actions of today throw great doubt into the ability of both the chairman and the committee to conduct the investigation the way it ought to be conducted.
I have expressed these grave concerns with the chairman. I only learned about this the way that all of you did, when the chairman briefed the press in advance of briefing his own committee members. And that is a deep, deep problem.
I think it does underscore the importance of establishing an independent commission. Some -- a body that is fully independent of any political considerations, including those that may emanate from the White House.
That would certainly give me a lot of confidence that, in addition to whatever work our committee does and the Senate Intelligence Committee does, that there is a truly independent body that is looking into the grave issues that have been raised.
Second, with respect to the intercepts themselves that the chairman referenced, those have not been provided to the committee for our evaluation.
But on the basis of what the chairman has said and on the basis of my conversation with the chairman, I can say this. There is still no evidence that the president was wiretapped by his predecessor.
President Trump's claims that he was remain as baseless today as they were yesterday. And they were the day before where the directors of the FBI and NSA testified that they were made without any basis and fact.
If the incident today is an indication that after making the baseless claim, the president then aggravated the damage by implicating the British in a potential plot to have the British surveil him on behalf of President Obama and now is attempting to interfere in the Congressional investigation.
Again, with the effort of trying to provide some substance to a claim without substance, then the damage, the wrecking ball of this allegation, has just claimed another victim, that being our own committee.
What I understand from the chairman is that he has reviewed intercepts of foreign intelligence. And what I understand from the chairman is there is no indication that that surveillance was anything but lawful.
And what people need to understand about foreign intelligence gathering and incidental collection is if we are listening to two foreign spies, for example, talking to each other on foreign soil or two representatives of a foreign government, and they mention a U.S. person.
That is incidental collection. It doesn't necessarily mean there is a call from a foreign party to a U.S. person, even the mention of U.S. person is incidental collection and that name would be masked.
If there is a call with the U.S. person or U.S. person identities are involved at all, those names are masked. But there are proper procedures for unmasking a name. When it is necessary for the intelligence agencies to understand the significance of the intercept and they cannot do that when the names are masked, you can properly unmask the name.
The chairman has provided no evidence that any names that were unmasked were unmasked improperly. And, of course, without the ability for the committee to look at the intercepts, we're not in a position to evaluate whether the procedures were followed or were not followed.
[17:05:09] Moreover, as I understand from my conversation with the chairman, most of the names in the intercepts were in fact masked. And the chairman's concern was that he could still figure out the identities of some of the parties even though the names were masked. Well, that doesn't mean that the masking was improper.
And so, again, it's impossible to evaluate whether there is any there there, in terms of these intercepts without the committee being able to look at them. And thus far, the chair has no not provided this evidence to the committee.
So, this is deeply troubling along many levels. But among the most significant levels is it really impedes our ability to do this investigation the way we should.
I've been part of investigations that were conducted properly, when the House Intelligence Committee investigated Benghazi. And I've been part of investigations that were not such as the Benghazi Select Committee.
It was my hope that our investigation could be conducted properly. It's still my hope that this investigation should be conducted properly, but, unfortunately, the actions of the chair throw that very much in doubt. And I'd be happy to respond to your questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two questions. One, what is the Democrat's next step here? Are you planning on pulling out of this investigation the way that he did to the Benghazi inquiry? And, two, did Chairman Nunes reveal any classified information today by his disclosures to the press?
SCHIFF: Well, on the first one, we actually stayed on the Benghazi Select Committee. Though we knew from the outset that it was a -- essentially, going to be a political instrument to tear down Secretary Clinton's numbers.
And, of course, we will have to analyze what this development means. I do think that if there is any chance remaining for us to conduct this investigation, we need to do it.
As I said earlier in the week, we could do a tremendous service to the country if we're able to do a credible investigation and, at the end of the day, provide a report to the American people that has Democrats and Republicans on the same page.
But if you have a chairman who is interacting with the White House and sharing information with the White House, when people around the White House are the subject of the investigation, and doing so before sharing it with the committee, it make -- it throws a profound doubt over whether that can be done credibly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Chairman Nunes reveal any classified information today?
SCHIFF: Well, it's certainly -- it's certainly inappropriate for us to be discuss whether specific people were the subject of collection or incidental collection to any degree that can divulge who the targets of that surveillance may be.
So, I'm not prepared to say that what the chairman said was classified or unclassified. I can say that it is beyond irregular to receive any evidence that's within the scope of an investigation. And, clearly, if the chairman is right about the content here, it's within the scope of the issues we're looking at, about whether masking procedures are followed and whether things are being leaked.
And I would -- I would say that the most profound concern here I have is that these actions simply raise enormous doubt about whether the committee can do its work. And I think that, more than anything else I've seen, this makes the most profound case for the formation of an independent commission.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To follow-up on this question. On Monday, we heard quite a bit about from several committee members about improper unmasking of individuals who were collected in unwarranted surveillance. What is this fundamental difference between what the chairman did today and what the complaints were on Monday?
SCHIFF: Well, first of all, with respect to what we were discussing on Monday, we could actually discuss concrete things. We could -- you know, if there were a specific instance where there was an unmasking that we were concerned about, we could ask the questions about it.
Here we have no information about who was masked or who was unmasked. And, indeed, based on what the chairman told me, the names were masked apart from a single name which wasn't necessarily anyone connected with the Trump organization.
The concern the chair raised with me was that the names that were masked he believes were associated with the president or his associates.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he -- did he unmask the president today in this?
[17:10:01] SCHIFF: I don't know. You know, again, this is the problem. This is the precise problem when the information is not shared with the committee itself.
We will be seeking this information. We will be evaluating it. And once we've had a chance to review it, I will issue a statement about what I think it says and what I think it doesn't say.
But here, we're operating on hearsay on hearsay, and this is simply not a way to conduct an investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On that point, had the committee been previously briefed about the intercepts in general or had you had any background knowledge about these intercepts? You say you don't have these intercepts but were aware of these intercepts? Did members of the committee have information about that?
SCHIFF: Well, it's impossible to know because we don't know what intercepts the chairman is referring to.
So, again, my assumption from what the chair said is that these are intercepts that we don't have. But he also said this doesn't relate to the Russia investigation. So, if it doesn't relate to the Russia investigation, if they were lawfully conducted and he said there's no reason to believe they weren't, then we wouldn't have them as a part of the investigation.
Now, we have made a request of the intelligence agencies for information about their masking procedures. If indeed it's within the scope of our request, then it's information we should be getting.
And if that's true, and I think the chairman indicated he thought that the information he'd received is within the scope of what we've asked for, then it's a significant question that if this is within the information we've asked for that the agencies are going to be delivering to us later this week, then why make the statement to the press before we have it? It just begs more questions, frankly, than it answers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any reason to believe -- I know we discussed briefing the president, but just to, kind of, clarify. Is there any reason to believe that the president or members of his family were people present in these documents?
SCHIFF: You know, again, you would have to ask the chairman because he's the only one on the committee that I'm aware of that's been able to see this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he express that to you? Did he say, I think these people are involved?
SCHIFF: You know, I don't to want characterize what the chair said. And I think if you look at what he has said publicly, it's not very clear because he has used words like may have been or it might be, and how can we evaluate the strength of that information? We just can't.
And, again, this just underscores why this is not how you conduct an investigation. You don't take information that the committee hasn't seen and present it orally to the press and to the White House before the committee has a chance to vet whether it's even significant.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE.)
SCHIFF: I'm sorry?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of assurances did you receive from the chairman (INAUDIBLE)?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I've expressed my grave concerns about how this was handled. And I'm not sure that, at this point, we're likely to get those kind of assurances. Certainly, we're going to have a much more lengthy discussion of this when we meet as a committee.
But it casts quite a profound cloud over our ability to do our work. And I do think that the concern over Russian intervention in our election is one that permeates the Congress. And it's a concern the Democrats have and it's a concern that Republicans have.
And I have to think that most of the members of the House want a bipartisan investigation to be done. But this is not the way to do it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Chairman Nunes tell you how or where or in what way he viewed these documents (INAUDIBLE)? And, also, you've said that you're gravely concerned and you criticize the chairman right now. But are you pursuing any further more formal (INAUDIBLE) of him in light about that?
SCHIFF: This is not a situation I think where you can pursue something like that. You know, we still have a very important job to do even apart from this investigation. But, right now, the country is counting on us because in the House of Representatives, we're the only investigation there is. If we don't do it, no one is going to do it.
Now, perhaps the White House would like it that way. But the American people, I think, want there to be a credible investigation. And if we're not going to conduct it, then we need to have an independent commission do it.
And if the chairman is going to continue to go to the White House rather than his own committee, there's no way we can conduct this investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And did he tell you how or (INAUDIBLE)?
[17:15:00] SCHIFF: You know, I don't have a lot of details on it. The most I think he was able to say is that it was shared with him alone, so it doesn't appear to have been shared even with the other Republican members of his committee. And so, all of us are in the dark. And that makes what the chairman did today all the more extraordinary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any concerns about the way in which he got this information or who it would have come from? He said he doesn't have the documents in his possession so -- but he knows where they are.
SCHIFF: Well, I -- you know, obviously, there are a lot of questions. I mean, if this came from people within the intelligence community, then you're looking at sort of a Channel Four A (ph) leak to the press which raises a whole other category of concerns.
If this is within the intelligence community, it ought to be shared with us by the intelligence community. I don't know if that's the source of it. And --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said he also went and called the NSA, the CIA and I think the FBI.
SCHIFF: You'd have to ask the chairman. Again, we have no idea where these documents came from, whether they even show what they purport to show. But even if they do, on the basis of what the chairman said, the underlying fact is still the same. There is no evidence to support the president's contention that he was wiretapped by his predecessor.
So, I'm not sure what the point of this extraordinary process is and I have to hope that this is not part of a broader campaign by the White House aimed to deflect from the director's testimony earlier this week.
But, again, not having seen the documents, not having the chairman share those documents with either Democrats or Republicans on the committee, there's simply no way for us to evaluate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any idea of how many names were in here, masked or unmasked?
SCHIFF: I have no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dozens?
SCHIFF: There's no way for us to know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It seems like the said decision about an independent commission is in the hands of Paul Ryan. Have you talked to him about that and do you have any plans to do so?
SCHIFF: I certainly intend to do so. The request has been made by our minority leader as well as the entire membership of the -- Democratic membership of the House of Representatives in the form of sponsorship of legislation by my colleague, Eric Swalwell, and Elijah Cummings.
So, we have certainly made it clear, now for many weeks, that we ought to follow the model we did after 911, where we do an investigation through our intelligence communities -- committees. But we also have a truly independent commission.
And there are two reasons why I think the commission now is more essential than ever. The first is that a commission would have a dedicated staff and resources focused solely on this issue. An investigation of this magnitude really justifies that kind of investment.
But, second, it takes it completely out of the political realm. And today's events show why that is just so essential. A commission, like the 911 commission, wouldn't have one of its chairs go to the White House when it obtained new information. And we just cannot continue along that kind of a path.
So, I think more than anything else today's events have underscored the imperative of an independent commission.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he -- did he tell you --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the chairman give you any indication why he decided to go to the White House before he came to you with any information?
SCHIFF: No, and that's a good question for the chairman. I'd certainly did express my concern that that is simply not a way to conduct a credible investigation.
TODD: Wow, an extraordinary counterpress conference from Adam Schiff, the Ranking House Democrat. All of this is in response to an initial, stunning decision today by the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Devin Nunes, who apparently got new information about perhaps folks that were caught up in incidental surveillance when it comes to a foreign intelligence that folks that may have incidentally caught up in the gathering of information, important on things overseas.
And the question is, he decided to brief the president before he briefed, essentially, anybody in the Intelligence Committee outside the speaker of the House, this so-called Gang of Eight.
I'm going to get to this story in a minute but joining me right now is West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin. He is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Senator Manchin, it was an extraordinary decision from Devin Nunes today. Does it -- how -- what's your level of concern about what you've seen and heard today between Devin Nunes and then, now, Adam Schiff?
[17:20:01] SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: My level of concern, Chuck, is what I would think most Americans would be right now, can Congressman Nunes be impartial in his deliberation on whatever information we gather and the investigation that we're doing, that's being done as we know? We're going to be hearing that gathering of information and have to make some decisions. And it's going to be hard for people to believe that he could be impartial.
TODD: You know, this comes at a time, if you recall -- and I know this happened a couple of weeks ago. But the White House essentially reached out to the two Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committees, Devin Nunes and Richard Burr, who's the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee that you sit on, to essentially help push back on some of these stories.
That made a lot of folks in Congress uncomfortable because these are -- these are oversight committees that are designed to provide accountability of the executive branch by the legislative branch. These are not staffers of the White House.
How concerned are you about Senator Burr?
MANCHIN: Chuck, the only thing I can say is knowing Senator Burr and knowing senator warner, both are chair and are ranking member, I'm happy to say that I don't believe that this would have ever happened in the Senate from one of our incensed (ph) intelligence chairs or leaders.
With that being said, I think it would give everybody cause and pause to be very careful what they're saying and how involved they're going to get unless it's involved in the committee setting. That's the reason we go into a room we go into.
MANCHIN: A secured room. That's the reason the press is not there or the public is not there. For us to be able to discuss openly and get information that's needed. And the facts basically that comes from our intel committee -- or community takes us to where we need to go.
MANCHIN: We're not there yet.
TODD: Are you concerned that this puts a stain on your investigation?
MANCHIN: Well, it puts -- not on the Senate side, it's not going to. We were never basically being led by the House. The House is doing their own thing. They had -- already had an open hearing. That was great.
We're going to do one a little bit different. We'll have an opening hear, and we're going to get to the crux of where we are and what we want to hear.
There's a -- you know, there's a certain thing that people need to know. First of all, the FISA court. If it's a foreign agent and have suspicion and the FBI is basically investigating that, they go to a FISA court and get an order. And it basically allows them to show there's cause for us to be concerned and a wiretapping would be ordered.
If it's an individual citizen, then it has to be caught up, as they're saying it is. They have to go to a regular court and the FBI has to show cause of why that person. So, there must be reason for someone to have cause or you're saying it's an illegal tap. That's a whole other -- that's a whole other accusation.
And we don't see any facts whatsoever that leads us to believe that President Obama or any individual citizen of this country could have done that.
TODD: Now, we heard from Chairman Nunes that this was incidental. Multiple FISA warrants but none of them had to do with the Russia investigation. So, at this point, why even bring this up? Is it even part -- is it even part of the scope of the investigation?
MANCHIN: I don't know. I mean, the investigation might be larger than what we think and we're finding that out as we continue to have the intel communities come to us. The FBI said it in an open hearing there. You had FBI Director Comey basically saying they had been conducting an investigation since starting of last July. So, we're hearing more about that.
We can only go to just what level we can discuss that goes up to a -- you know -- you know, there's an --
TODD: I understand that. Let me does you this. Confirming a FISA court - - confirming a FISA court subpoena being granted, isn't that something you're not supposed to confirm on the record?
MANCHIN: Well, you wouldn't be supposed to do that. It was an ongoing investigation. We haven't had that. But I'm telling you the facts of how it would happen. Did it happen or not? I don't know. Him saying that today leads me to believe he's basically stating that there was a FISA court order or there was a court -- civil court order that basically gave cause.
TODD: Has that been confirmed to you? Has that been confirmed to you?
MANCHIN: Not to me. No, we have not. I have not --
TODD: So, nobody has confirmed any FISA court order related to the Russia investigation?
MANCHIN: Absolutely not. Not in our intel and not in meetings I've intended. I've been to all of them.
TODD: And you've attended meetings that have included the director of the FBI?
MANCHIN: Correct. When he first came in. We haven't had him -- we have not had him back since he went in an open hearing on the House side.
MANCHIN: He will eventually be coming to us, but there's an awful lot of other people that we would like to talk to before we get to Director Comey.
TODD: You know, it was interesting. Chairman Nunes brought up the fact that it is not uncommon for sometimes members of Congress to see their names caught up where intel has got it, it's incidental. And that there is a procedure, he was talking about, where a member of Congress would be informed if this happened.
[17:25:07] What is that procedure? Can you enlighten us anymore?
MANCHIN: No, I don't know. I don't know that procedure. I would like to think that if we were caught up in something -- because we're talking to people. We're trying to build relations. We want a peaceful world. And if you can't communicate, you've got serious problems, Chuck.
MANCHIN: That's our job. And especially if you're on foreign -- you know, if you're on foreign relations, if you're on armed services, which I've been for six years, if you're on intel. You want to be able to talk and find out if there's a pathway forward.
I would assume that if we got caught up in an incidental, knowing that we were trying to do good, that they would let us know that, you know, we're not a target whatsoever and we do have that. That has not been brought to my attention.
TODD: You have stopped short of signing on with other Democrats, calling for a special commission. You know, either outside of Congress, set it up like a 911 commission, something like that.
Given today's events, are you -- are you changing your mind at all?
MANCHIN: Well, it makes it much more difficult to say why don't you let us do our job. Let the intel committee do their job. Let any -- if they want a select committee -- and I've talked to Lindsey Graham about this. I said, Lindsey, I support a select committee. Anything you want to do, I support.
But the intel, we're able to go a little differently than most any other committee and get their faster. We would love to be able to do that and I have confidence we can.
I think what happened today would give pause to think that the House intel, with Chairman Nunes at the head of that, could do that. (INAUDIBLE.)
TODD: All right. Senator Manchin, I will leave it there. Senator, let me ask you one final question, actually. Do you think the president is correct in saying he was somewhat vindicated today?
MANCHIN: I -- you know, I don't want to comment on that because I still think that -- with what we know, that an apology is still warranted to President Obama.
TODD: He still owes President Obama an apology in your book?
MANCHIN: I mean, from what we know. Because I know, and everyone that knows anything about how the law is in our country, that unless he's accusing President Obama of an illegal wiretap, I don't think that was the accusation. So, you're saying that he directed somebody. President Obama can't do that.
So, I would think that an apology should be warranted.
TODD: So, he shouldn't be calling himself somewhat vindicated, it sounds like in your mind?
MANCHIN: I'd be a little bit cautious on that.
TODD: All right. Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia. I know you've got to run. Appreciate you coming on, sir. Thank you.
MANCHIN: Thanks, Chuck. Always good to be with you.
TODD: All right. So, how did we get here today? This is one of those cases where the live events are moving faster than the initial news item.
Let me catch you up. The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, said today he has seen reports that claim communications from members of President Trump's transition team, and potentially the president himself, were incidentally collected by the U.S. intelligence community as part of a broader FISA surveillance effort, not at having to do with Russia, he said.
Nunes spoke outside the White House after briefing the president on this. Just the speaker of the House, then the president, nobody else. And then the press. Here's what he said this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What I have read bothers me and I think it should bother the president, himself, and his team because I don't -- I think some of it seems to be inappropriate.
This is information that was brought to me that I thought the president needed to know about incidental collection where the president, himself, and others in the Trump transition team were clearly put into an intelligence reports that ended up at this White House and across a whole bunch of other agencies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And, again, Nunes said these communications were swept up legally in November, December and January after the election. And that the surveillance did not stem from any investigation relating to Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNES: In the dozens of reports I was able to see, I was able to determine that it was -- it looks like it was legal collection, incidental collection but then made itself into intelligence reports.
So, it has to deal with FISA and there's, you know, a multiple number of FISA warrants that are out there but there's nothing criminal at all involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Ah, general FISA warrants that are out there. Well, what are they? They are legal orders that allow the government to monitor communications with foreign spies inside the United States or other foreign dignitaries.
It's unclear how the Trump transition would be connected to a FISA warrant and generally it is illegal for U.S. officials to publicly disclose the targets of FISA warrants.
Now, how does this play into the president's accusation that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower? Here is what Nunes has to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNES: I think the wiretapping, you know, if you use it, generally, like the president has said, you know, he clearly, you know, used it differently than what I think a lot of people took it which was did Obama actually wiretap Trump Tower which we know didn't happen. I think the president's been pretty clear on that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the physical act of wiretapping, do you see anything (INAUDIBLE)?
NUNES: No. No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR, "MEET THE PRESS DAILY": One of the great phrases, just simply say I think the president has been clear about that when you don't to want say exactly what the president might have said. Meanwhile, president did react, very quickly, after Nunes spoke.
(START VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel vindicated by Chairman Nunes?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I somewhat do. I must tell you, I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Fast moving story. I want to quickly check in on Capitol Hill, Kasie Hunt been running around all day. A little crazed. All right. We had Adam Schiff, heard you question him. Have we had a response from Devin Nunes yet? We now have a growing list, right now it's all democrats of essentially saying the house intelligence investigation is essentially been corrupted. KASIE HUNT, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT FOR NBC NEWS AND MSNBC: Chuck, I think we're headed in that direction. I think Congressman Schiff who of course is a former prosecutor chooses his words carefully, walked basically right up to that line, didn't quite step over it here. But I do think, especially considering the lack of clarity on where did this information come from, why did Chairman Nunes have an opportunity to view it but not move it anywhere that could potentially, I don't want to speculate too much, imply that he viewed it in a secure facility, but at the same time we don't know.
That has left democrats unable to view the information and make a judgment for themselves. And it really does, the House and Senate Intelligence Committee is much more than the others, as you know, have a tradition of bipartisanship. And they have been working in concert as oversight committees in the course of this investigation. So, I think the sense up here is really that this raised a lot more questions than answered.
TODD: All right. Kasie, I'm gonna leave you there. By the way, we are going to talk to Adam Schiff on this show in a few minutes. Let me bring in my panel tonight. Jeremy Bash, NBC News national security analyst, former chief of staff for the CIA and Department of Defense. Evelyn Farkas, NBC News national security analyst and foreign policy contributor and a former deputy assistant for secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. And Ken Dilanian, our own intelligence and national security reporter right here at NBC News. Welcome all.
Jeremy, I want to start with you because you have some experience. You were a staffer on the House Intelligence Committee before being on the other side of the CIA. You had some strong words for what Devin Nunes did today. Adam Schiff stepped right up to the line. What do you expect happens next in the House Intel Committee? JEREMY BASH, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR CIA AND DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: Well, I think today was Devin Nunes standing on his tippy toes trying to hold an umbrella over the president during a political hurricane. The hearing that happened on Monday was a debacle for the White House. The FBI director repudiated the president's claim on wiretapping and he announced to the world that Trump and his inner circle are under federal, criminal, and counterintelligence investigation.
I actually expect that democrats will stick with this investigation. So I think if they walk away, Chuck, they're doing exactly what the White House and exactly what Devin Nunes wants which is to collapse the investigation. They want to be in the room to get the information.
TODD: Evelyn, this could politically it seems like backfire either one of two scenarios. One is you have more republicans that say, you know what, special commission. Congress, we don't want it, right? Ryan and McConnell may say get this stinker out of here. Or Nunes can't fight as hard on Trump's behalf going forward. EVELYN FARKAS, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FOREIGN POLICY CONTRIBUTOR: Right, right. I mean, I think -- I am very curious what is Paul Ryan thinking because he -- I.
TODD: He apparently was briefed on this. And like gave him the okay to go to the White House.
FARKAS: He's now quiet. I actually think that Paul Ryan would probably be most interested in having this move out of the house, out of congress entirely, and move into a bipartisan commission. And that's because he then will not be held responsible for what's happening. Having the White House constantly correcting and interfering is likely if it's happening in the house. TODD: Ken, we already learned, they got in -- they got in tight with Trey Gowdy and helped him during on Monday. So they're clearly the White House is very much trying to have a lot of influence on how the questioning goes in this investigation. And then you have this development. On one hand, they're clearly wired. On the other hand, have they gotten too close -- too close to the edge here?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, I want to break down what we might be talking about here. There might be much less here than meets the eye and what we need to talk about. Incidental collection could mean one foreign leader talking to another foreign leader about an American. And that's their captured and.
TODD: We're surveilling, it's Putin and Xi talking on the phone. What do you think of this Trump guy?
TODD: And all of sudden oh, Trump's name is mentioned. DILANIAN: And it could mean a diplomat who is under foreign surveillance calling somebody at Trump Tower and speaking to them. But Nunes did make some interesting charges that I think deserve further exploration. Why were some of these people unmasked? Why were their names revealed? They're supposed to be blacked out unless there's a reason.
DILANIAN: And then secondly, he said that some of the stuff didn't seem to him to have intelligence value, yet it was circulating around. I'd like to know more about that. TODD: Jeremy, help us here. You worked at the CIA. I thought it was interesting. He made it clear he did not get this from the heads of those agencies. And in fact, he now wants to know why he didn't get this information from the heads of those agencies. What do you think happened here? BASH: He made a suggestion that somebody kind of slipped it to him under the table. Basically.
TODD: So whistle blower -- quite to say whistle blower but it was an illusion.
BASH: Or someone who had the same political affinity as he did or someone who had the same political affinity as the White House. Someone who wanted to give them some ammunition. And he claims he got it in that channel. Now, to tense point, there are some very interesting cerebral substantive issues about the way the law applies here.
But as a process matter, this is a huge process fell, because if he was really concerned about the committee's oversight function, he would have briefed the entire committee, briefed the democratic ranking member and said what are we going to do about this? Instead, he held two press conferences and ran down the White House to tell the president hey, I got something for you. TODD: Evelyn, the part I don't understand is, just for his own CYA, bring Schiff with you. FARKAS: Right, right. TODD: I mean, usually the intel committee chairs, 25 years I've watched this, that's the one place where bipartisanship sticks.
FARKAS: I think -- I worked on the house -- the Senate Armed Services Committee rather and -- I mean, it was always you want to at least have the basic facts, the intelligence shared with one another. They do trips together, bipartisan trips generally, so I think that's really important. But what also bothers me here is whether some of the surveillance was in a very closely held compartment, and so, how this person who slipped it over the trans -- I understand it's the chairman of the committee, but still, some of this is very, very sensitive information.
And then to go over to the White House, how many people were in the room? So, not everyone in the White House is cleared into, and I'm thinking specifically about Russia channels. It is a very small number of people. And if I could just say something about incidental collection. I mean, I read thousands -- not thousands, but I read many reports where I was the person masked, but I was having a discussion with a foreign diplomat. I read reports of other diplomats complaining about U.S. diplomats and I could tell who it was. It was masked again. So I think there are so many questions left unanswered here. TODD: Can we go to the most logical explanation? Somebody who is supportive of Trump wanted to scour anything they could find to support the president's contention that he was somehow surveilled. DILANIAN: Right. TODD: And it's like, voila, I found something that kind of, sort of, somewhat vindicates to borrow a phrase that the president used, maybe somewhat vindicates him. That's what this smells like. DILANIAN: Here's what's weird, this came from the executive branch. The president of the United States could have ordered to brought to his desk every communication surveillance that referenced somebody in my transition team. Why is it being routed through the legislative branch.
TODD: Doesn't it give it more -- if he's the guy that's conducting the investigation, doesn't it give it more -- it would be less believable coming straight from the White House.
DILANIAN: Right, but instead of conducting investigation, he's acting today as an agent of the president. He's briefing reporters on things that he sees favorable to Trump.
BASH: Nunes is one step further. He assailed the intelligence community, the professionals. He said that the collection was inappropriate. On a day that our intelligence professionals are working with the British.
TODD: Around the clock.
BASH: In London, he's out there actually criticizing, joining the Trump team's critique of the intelligence community. He can't trust them. This has been a campaign against the intelligence community from day one. And Nunes added to it today. TODD: I was just gonna say it's getting ugly here. I'm gonna pause here. Sneak in a quick break. Congressman Adam Schiff will join me right after the break.
TODD: Joining me now is Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He's the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee. If you were witness from the start, you saw his opening press conference. Congressman Schiff, welcome back to the show.
ADAM SCHIFF, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR CALIFORNIA'S 28TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: Let me start basically, when did you first learn what Devin Nunes shared with the public? SCHIFF: Well, I think I first learned, Chuck, when you did, when the chairman had his presser and made this statement. We got notice that the chairman was gonna do a press availability. We've usually done those jointly and much as we ask what the subject was we weren't informed, and that was I sort of guess the beginning of our concern. But I have to say things became quite more alarming after that.
It's simply not possible to do a credible investigation if you take information that's pertinent to the scope of what you're investigating and bring it to the White House instead of bringing it to our own committee. So, today's actions I think have really been a body blow to the credibility of the committee and we are going to have a real heart to heart about this tomorrow.
TODD: Well, let me -- have you had a conversation with him since though? With Chairman Nunes?
SCHIFF: Yes, yes, I did have conversation with him.
TODD: Can you tell me about it?
SCHIFF: I had a conversation with him about it this evening where I expressed my great concerns with what the chairman did today, the fact that none of us have seen the intercepts that he has seen. And I don't think either democrats or republicans on the committee really have the capacity to evaluate this because none of us have seen it. So, whether it is even significant or not, we can't say.
I also can tell you from our conversation that it appears that the names were masked in the information although there may have been some names that were unmasked. They didn't appear to be related to the Trump organization or Trump transition team. The chairman's concerns seemed to be that he could figure out who the masked names were. That doesn't indicate that there was any problem in the masking. And the chairman himself said that he had no indications that the surveillance was somehow unlawful.
So it's not clear, you know, whether there is even a there there. And this is particularly the problem when information is not shared with the committee the way it should be, but instead is shared with the White House. The problem is compounded, Chuck, when it's the president's own campaign team that is the subject of investigation. So a lot of problems with this.
TODD: All right.
SCHIFF: And I think a real threat to the credibility of the investigation.
TODD: All right. One thing that Chairman Nunes also said was this came from not the official channels, didn't quite say they were unofficial, but he seemed to say point blank it it didn't come from the heads of these agencies, which concerned him more. Are you concerned that if there was even something as incidental as this that the heads of the FBI, CIA, NSA, DNI weren't as forthcoming with the committee as they should have been? SCHIFF: No, not at all. And I think the directors were fully forthcoming about this. Just based on what the chairman said and again it's impossible to evaluate without the materials. But this involved foreign surveillance, not involving Russia, not targeted at Mr. Trump or his associates, in which people's identities were incidentally collected. What that can mean, Chuck, is you have let's say two Chinese business people talking to each other about how they wanted to do business with Donald Trump and his is mentioned.
That would be incidental collection even though it doesn't involve any communication directly from a Chinese official to anyone in the Trump organization. The fact that his name is mentioned is considered incidental collection. His name would then be masked. His name could be unmasked if it was important to understand the significance of the intelligence.
But what I gathered from the chairman was, the names of the U.S. persons, if they were people on the Trump organization, were in fact masked. So it's very difficult to discern what's the relevance here. But even on the basis of what the chairman has said, it doesn't cast any doubt on what we've heard from both directors this week and that is there is simply no evidence that the president was the subject of wiretapping by his predecessor.
TODD: Didn't we already know that some Trump officials were caught up in some -- in some of the FISA wiretaps? Mike Flynn and his conversations with Ambassador Kislyak. It was -- put it this way, everybody in your situation that has got an briefing sort of implied, of course the Russian ambassador is commonly under surveillance. Could this simply be a reference to Flynn? SCHIFF: You know, Chuck, I don't know. I assume that it is not a simple a matter as that because the chairman says it doesn't involve Russia. But nonetheless, we really have no idea. And again, we will be requesting in the committee access to whatever evidence the chairman has received, if it can be called evidence, to see whether it has any pertinence whatsoever to this investigation. And indeed if it doesn't involve Russia, that raises a profound question about whether it is pertinent. Nonetheless, in the absence of that, we simply can't evaluate any of these claims.
TODD: I have to ask you something that you said also to me on Sunday. Is that you took -- you thought that at the time, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was too definitive when he said no evidence of collusion at the time that he served essentially January 20th of this year. What basis can you feel confident saying that the director of national intelligence oversold something? SCHFF: I don't think it was deliberate on the director's part, but all I can tell you is reviewing the evidence that I have, I don't think you can conclude that at all, far from it. And I think that. TODD: But you admit, all you have right now is a circumstantial case. SCHIFF: Actually, no, Chuck. I can tell you that the case is more than that. And I can't go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now. So, again, I think.
TODD: You have seen direct evidence of collusion? SCHIFF: I don't want to go into specifics, but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial, and it very much worthy of investigation. So, that is what we ought to do. Now, again, I think we have been dealt a serious body blow to the credibility of our ability to get answer by today's events, and to me it underscores the importance of having an independent commission look at this as a supplement to anything that congress does. TODD: Have you completely lost confidence in Devin Nunes to be your investigative partner in this?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I have to say my confidence has been severely shaken today. And we will certainly have a heart to heart in the days to come about how we go forward. TODD: What can he do? What can he do to reassure you?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think that the chairman needs to think about which role he wants to play here. Is he going to play a role as a surrogate for the administration or is he gonna play a role as leading an independent investigation? He can't do both. And if he decides to do the latter, which I think is the real public service here, then I think he needs to explain what he did here today and commit never to undertake something like that again.
TODD: So, what you're saying is there's a chance for this relationship between you and him to recover? SCHIFF: Well, look, I hope so because, again, at the moment we are the only investigation going on in the house.
TODD: So you're not walking away under any circumstance?
SCHIFF: Chuck, at the end of the day, and however this turns out, I want to know that I did everything possible to make this investigation succeed. And that's why I'm trying so hard, but I have to say, today was very discouraging.
TODD: It's an interesting word you used, succeed, what is the definition of success? SCHIFF: Well, in my view, the definition of success here is that we conduct a nonpartisan investigation and we reach a common conclusion that we can share with the country. That to me is what is most in the national interest then, you know, that's what I'm trying to do. I need the chairman to commit to trying to do that as well. And today's events were deeply discouraging. TODD: Congressman Adam Schiff, I appreciate you coming on last minute. Thank you for sharing your views.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
TODD: You got it. Let me bring back the panel. Jeremy, Evelyn, and Ken. Jeremy, sounds like he is taking your advice which is don't walk away from this yet. BASH: Yeah, I think he wants to be in the room. He wants to issue the subpoenas, get witness testimony, look at documents, maybe even give immunity to some witnesses to turn, if you will, state's evidence against the target. I've got to say one thing, put one thing on the table. The president has a nuclear option here as well.
He could preemptively pardon the people in his inner circle who will are under investigation. That would effectively extinguish the FBI criminal investigation and take a lot a wind out of the counterintelligence investigation. It's a big move, but don't put it past them. TODD: Meaning pardon, you would go as far as a pardon a Manafort and a Stone, even people that are not in the administration?
BASH: Yes, on the grounds that this whole thing is a sham. This is part of a deep state trying to attack him. TODD: Wow. FARKAS: Meanwhile, Russia attacked our government. Russia attacked our elections. And I want also to use Jeremy's phrase, put another thing on the table. Reminder that of the 20 executive committee members of Trump's transition team, Devin Nunes was one of them. So he -- I mean, the minute you started looking at collusion and members of the Trump transition, I think we were already in hot water at least from the house perspective. You couldn't have an independent investigation at that moment. TODD: Ken, the other thing that popped in the interview is it's more than circumstantial, but I can't say what it is.
DILANIAN: Adam Schiff just made some news. TODD: Yes, okay.
DILANINA: I mean, and he made news the other day when he said circumstantial because he has not said that before.
DILANIAN: So now he is saying he seems some direct evidence collusion. Don't forget, during that hearing the other day, he laid out a (inaudible) of connections. He read from the dossier that the former British intelligence operative wrote. And he that into the congressional record. He talked about Carter Page going to Moscow. He talked about alleged payoffs. He talked about a conspiracy between the Trump campaign allegedly and the Russian effort to subvert the democracy. This is a former federal prosecutor, careful guy. TODD: Jeremy, I have this feeling that we're on -- we're this close to where it is all intel officers for themselves. And we're going to see so many leaks and so many piecemeal leaks that it is going to paint a picture that we can't see. BASH: And that would be horrible because our system, Chuck, is the envy of the world. We got the strongest intelligence committee and the we also have the strongest oversight of intelligence. That's a hallmark of our strength. If we pull away one of those pillars, it's going to upset the whole balance. I fear our defenses are going to be down. TODD: This war between the sort of nonpolitical actors and the political actors, I think is going get worse, not better, Evelyn.
FARKAS: Yeah, I think you're right. I mean, this should not be as political as it is, Chuck. This is, again, I'm going to say it again because I'm the Russia, you know, fanatic. This is about Russia attacking our elections. It's about them not wanting us to be a strong democracy or strong country at all. They want us to be fighting.
TODD: Should be bipartisan support for that to stop that. FARKAS: To stop that, exactly. TODD: That is the one thing here, Ken, does it -- especially in the senate side, does it become more than McCain and Graham? Well, that you could see explode quickly.
DILANIAN: You know, obviously, senators in private are -- republican senators are very disturbed by this. The question is, when did they go public, Chuck?
TODD: And I keep going back to, you brought up the Paul Ryan, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, they have a hard enough job trying to figure out how the heck to pass health care. This is a stink bomb they want out of congress. At the same time, they don't want to admit congress can't do this. BASH: That's right. Again, going back to the point of the news that Adam Schiff made on your show, he said there's more than circumstantial evidence, it's clear this investigation is picking up steam. This may be an attempt by the chairman and White House to slam the brakes on it.
FARKAS: Yeah. TODD: Certainly smells like it a little bit. FARKAS: Independent commission. TODD: There you go, we'll see. Jeremy, Evelyn, Ken, thank you. After the break, we are going to turn to the other giant story of the day, the latest on the investigation into the terror attack, maybe ISIS-inspired in London. Stay tuned.
TODD: We're back now with the other major breaking news today, what was a horrific scene outside British parliament. Three people are confirmed dead. Plus the attacker. At least 20 have been injured. And here's what we know. According to authorities, at approximately 2:40 p.m. London time, a four- by-four vehicle was turned into a deadly weapon, mowing down pedestrians and several police officers as it drove over Westminster Bridge.
The vehicle then crashed into a fence near parliament where at least one armed man exited then tried to enter parliament. A policeman was stabbed and killed by the apparent attacker who was shot and killed by police. At this hour, one police officer, two civilians, and the suspected attacker are dead. The current working assumption, at least among some security experts including the ranking member of house -- on the House Intelligence Committee, is that this attack has the appearance of an ISIS or Al Qaeda attack.
Now, today is the one year anniversary of the Brussels terror attack. Here at home, President Trump spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May. According to the White House, he offered her the U.S. government's full support in responding to the attack. Joining me now with the latest is our own Matt Bradley in London. And I know we're getting obviously much later London time. So, Matt, where are we on who the suspect is and any -- any known ties yet?
MATT BRADLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chuck, there's been no claim of responsibility so far, and there's been really quite a lot of speculation in the media about who the attacker is. I'm not going to into what people are saying because we don't want to give you the wrong information and NBC News is trying to find out exactly who's behind this.
Of course, this guy was shot dead. His body is in police custody. So they know who this -- who this assailant is but they're not revealing the information so we don't want to speculate because there's already been some speculation that's been shown to be wrong.
But Theresa May has come out and called this attack basically disgusting but she said that the parliament was going to be opening and going to be holding its session tomorrow on time as usual. And you know, Chuck, so much about this is continuity, it's just showing that the politics here in Britain are continuing, that everybody's moving on despite this horrific attack.
And we can say, Chuck, that while this was a horrific attack, it certainly wasn't a surprise because the police here have been girding for this for the past several years ever since we've seen all of these terrorist attacks in capitals throughout the continent, throughout Europe.
Londoners have been asking when this is going to happen, not if, but when. There was always a severe level of warning here in London and the police were always ready for this. There were about 600 additional police officers who were deployed into downtown London last year, last August. And they were all armed with live ammunition. I'm not sure if you've been to London, but it's very rare to see police officers here armed and visibly armed.
That's what you see now in downtown London. And I think we're probably going to see that more and more, maybe not to the level that you see in a New York subway where you have a soldier in fatigues holding a major weapon. But you're going to start to see more of the visible police presence that you start to see throughout Europe.
TODD: I was just gonna say, you know, one big difference between London and the United States and Washington, D.C., is frankly the perimeters around Washington, D.C., government buildings are much bigger than in London. Are we going to see more?
BRADLEY: That's true. TODD: Very fast, Matt. BRADLEY: That's true. We could start to see -- you're starting to see that. The fact is there are so few people here who actually carry guns. Not as much of a situation here. The police don't feel compelled to be quite as armed as they would in the states. Chuck? TODD: Matt, thanks very much. You're going to be working for us all night. Don't get any sleep. That's all for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "For the Record with Greta" starts right now.
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