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FBI Director Wray Testifies on January 6th Insurrection; Wray: FBI "Repeatedly" Warned of Domestic Extremism, Especially Surrounding Election Issues; Wray Says No Evidence of "Fake Trump Supporters" at Capitol Riot; Biden Urges Democrats to Reject Poison Pills that May Sink Relief Plan; Trump's Surgeon General Breaks with Fauci, Says to Prioritize 1st Doses. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired March 2, 2021 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): OK, Senator, you have the floor.
SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.
And, yes, I think I don't have enough band width -- something is wrong with the video transmission. We'll just go to audio.
To the chairman's following up, Director Wray, I would just like to add, I think it would be excellent -- and, Mr. Chairman, I would offer to you -- as we're looking at what is happening with cryptocurrencies and with the growth in that marketplace.
And how this currency could be used when it comes to cybercrimes and to terrorism, I think a briefing from you all on what you are tracking and what you're seeing would be very helpful to us.
So I would just -- I would commend that as a second place for us to go.
And, Director Wray, I want to say thank you to you for being here.
And thank you to the FBI and the U.S. attorney's offices in Tennessee for the work they did after January 6th, striking down and catching the rioters from Tennessee that had taken part in those activities.
And there are a lot of questions that still remain. One -- and I know Senator Kennedy mentioned this -- but the National Guard and the timeline that was there, I'd like for you to speak to that if you can, the day of timeline.
Because I understand that Mayor Bowser spoke with the secretary of the Army twice, at 1:34 and at 2:22, and with the chief's son. He spoke to the guard, the D.C. guard commanding general at 1:49. And the guard began to mobilize at 3:00, and the troops did not arrive until 5:40.
Is that your understanding of the timeline? CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Senator, I appreciate the question.
And I'm glad you tied me back to my exchange with Senator Kennedy because I fear that I may have contributed to a little bit of a muddle here.
First, let me say that my understanding is that -- on the question of authority is that the D.C. mayor and the U.S. Capitol Police can ask for the National Guard.
That the secretary of defense has the authority on federal land. The secretary of the Army has authority on, in effect, D.C. or, when it's not D.C., state land.
I really don't have the specifics on exactly who requested what and when. I understand why it's a topic of keen interest. But I, as FBI director, are not intimately involved in that process, so I don't want to add to any confusion that's out there.
BLACKBURN: OK. So, then, it would be appropriate that we direct that, first of all, to the guard command and to the secretary of the Army. Is that what I'm hearing you say?
WRAY: I think so, yes.
BLACKBURN: OK. All right. That sounds great. Thank you for that clarification because I do think that we do need some clarification there.
Let me go to some of the riots that have taken place around the country and the crime that has seemed to spike this year.
Previous to this, the FBI participated in Operation Legend. Of course, Memphis, Tennessee was a part of that effort. So we thank you for that.
But let me ask you, is the FBI tracking extremist groups like Antifa or other radicalism that are connected to violence in cities across the country, the violence and the looting that has taken place?
And we know Operation Legend wound down and ended in January. So how is the FBI going to continue assisting local law enforcement in these cities where you have these riots that have taken place?
WRAY: Well, Senator, I appreciate the question.
I think you've touched on two very important but distinct topics.
So one is the violence on our streets in a lot of our major cities, including Memphis, that Operation Legend was designed to address.
And the other is the violence that's occurring amidst protests, where otherwise peaceful protests are hijacked by people who engage in violent criminal behavior.
[13:35:01] So on the first, on what I would call the more sort of traditional violent crime side, in effect, the Operation Legend side, if I can just use that as a shorthand, we do think that was a successful operation, but it was, by its very nature, finite in duration.
What we're doing since then is trying to work with our Safe Streets Task Forces, which have representatives of state and local and other federal agencies, and to try to bring a strategic intelligence-driven approach to the violent crime problem.
What I have found -- and I have talked with state and local police chiefs in all 50 states -- is that each city has its own idiosyncrasies. There may be certain common trends.
But ultimately, there's usually some kind of, in effect, "tail wagging the dog" that is contributing disproportionately to the violence crime problem to that community.
If everybody can be working together in an intelligence-driven way, they can prioritize the impact and dismantle the enterprise as opposed to just kind of pushing the problem around.
BLACKBURN: OK. Let's me - not to cut you off --
BLACKBURN: -- but to jump in there because, you're correct, there are different sets of issues around the different types of crime. I understand that. And I appreciate that.
But I think part of the frustration is -- let's take July 4th last year with the Hatfield federal courthouse in Portland, with the fire that was started.
How did the FBI and federal and local law enforcement agencies attempt to track down those that were responsible? Was this an extremist group or groups, or was it individuals, like a lone actor, which you mentioned earlier?
And, of course, in Nashville on Christmas day, we saw the actions of a lone actor. And separately, at some point, I would like to get an update from you on that.
But let's talk about what you're doing to track those groups that are there, or like in Seattle, with the Capitol Hill autonomous zone, why they're just really flouting the rule of law and trying to abolish a police presence.
How are you tracking these anarchist groups who are planning attacks, who are occupying public spaces? And what type of work are you doing to help protect communities from this?
WRAY: So, sure. That's the second topic of the two that we touched on.
We do have a number of domestic terrorism investigations -- we would call them anarchist violent extremism investigations -- into individuals, some of the most dangerous individuals involved in conduct, in particular, over the summer.
We are looking at everything from taxes to funding to logistics. And we're pursuing all available charges against them.
I think I may have mentioned in response to an earlier question that, last year, in 2020, we arrested more anarchist violent extremists than the prior three years combined.
But in addition, I would say that in some of the activity you described from over the summer, when it's targeting federal buildings, there are certain charges that may be available there, as was true with the courthouse in Portland, and as is true, obviously, with the capitol on the 6th.
But when it comes to non-federal facilities, sometimes the charges end up being state and local charges where we work closely with and support our state and local partners as they bring charges.
So we are continuing to move full speed ahead. We've increased significantly the number of investigations into the kind of activity you're describing, and we're going to keep at it.
BLACKBURN: Thank you so much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
DURBIN: Thank you, Senator Blackburn.
As we conclude the hearing, in the area of shameless self-promotion, I'm not going to send you a QFR, but I'd like to send you a copy of my Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act and ask for your reaction to it.
You may suggest some changes to make it more effective, and I would appreciate that.
It's been a while since you've been before the committee, and we've certainly tried your patience today, but you've been excellent in your presentation.
I just want to thank you and the men and women of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the sacrifices they make to keep America safe.
This meeting of the Judiciary Committee will stand adjourned.
WRAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: You have been listening here to some significant testimony by the FBI Director Christopher Wray. This is the first time he's testified about the deadly insurrection at the capitol on January 6th.
And among the headlines, Wray calling the attack "domestic terrorism." He said he can't explain the breakdown in communications between intel agencies prior to the attack. He says there's no evidence that fake Trump supporters were involved,
which is a conspiracy theory that a Republican Senator recently pushed on the floor.
He said domestic terror investigations have risen sharply from last year. And Wray also said the riot has become an inspiration to would- be terrorists.
So a lot going on here, very important.
Let's get some reaction now. We have CNN's Gloria Borger. We have former FBI director, Andrew McCabe, as well, along with CNN contributor, Kathleen Belew, who is the author of "Bring the War Home, the White Power Movement in Paramilitary America."
Andrew, to you first.
Biggest takeaways here?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think there are a couple of notable moments, Brianna. You hit some of the moments in your introduction.
The fact, that he basically took the air out of the balloon about the presence of Antifa elements in the riot on 1/6, I thought, was really important.
And the fact that he very clearly stated that the FBI has not found any evidence of voter fraud and certainly not evidence of voter fraud on a level that would have affected the election.
So I thought both of those were important.
As to the matter of how Director Wray handled the FBI's handling of that infamous Norfolk intelligence report, I thought it was really interesting.
He seemed -- it was the one point that, every time it came up, he seemed particularly defensive. He made a point of restating the three ways the FBI tried to pass the report on.
But from my experience, Brianna, each one of those roots that he laid out, the way intel was handed off, really laid the blame on the lowest possible kind of rungs of the ladder.
So each one of those handoffs that he detailed is really just a very standard business-as-usual operations.
What I thought the director did not ever fully explain is the questions that really Senator Blumenthal, I thought, zeroed in on particularly effectively, and that is, what was the FBI's assessment of the threat possibly posed by this rally on January 6th?
Never got a straight answer to that.
How did the FBI think about this gathering of people with substantial grievances about the results of the election and possibly infiltrated by some violent groups?
How did they think about that, in advance, when they knew some of the violent actors were traveling to Washington?
I felt the director never gave us a straight answer to that question.
KEILAR: He would know the answer to that question, you would suspect. Why would he not share the answer to that?
A lot of folks have brought up the idea that, having the information they had, why didn't the FBI take a more proactive approach in following up on this and making sure that this was very much seen, absorbed, understood by law enforcement?
Why wouldn't he answer that, do you think?
MCCABE: Well, I don't think he has a good answer to that question.
Look, any leader has got to look at this situation and acknowledge that this was clearly a failure.
When your job is to protect the American people, and in this case, to protect the capitol, together with your partners at the Capitol Police -- the capitol got overrun that day -- that's not a success in anybody's estimation.
So the important thing to do is go back and look at each one of these elements and re-evaluate them to try to figure out how the FBI and its partners can work more effectively in the future.
We didn't really get an answer to that question.
KEILAR: And, Kathleen, Wray mentioning this attack is serving as an inspiration to would-be terrorists, certainly not good news when it comes to what law enforcement has ahead of them.
KATHLEEN BELEW, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Certainly not. I think that people who study acceleration of the white power movement have noted that January 6th is really an inflection point for further action.
But one thing that stood out to me in the testimony today was the question about, what should a high schoolteacher do if they encounter a student who is facing this kind of radicalization. His answer was to call your local FBI field office.
Now, your FBI field office is a great stopping point for things like being threatened if you see hate speech, if you see graffiti on your walls.
But it's not a call that a lot of teachers want to make about their students. It's not a call that parents want to make about their children.
So to me, that really brought forward an issue that we all need to spend more time thinking about, which is, what is the relationship going to be between the kinds of immediate answers we need about January 6th?
And the kind of broader social networks we need to build for ourselves in understanding and reckoning with this kind of violent activism on the far right?
KEILAR: It was really something to hear, Gloria. Repeatedly, Wray, knocking down the idea that the terrorist attack on capitol attack was somehow run by Antifa radicals in Trump supporter clothing.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
KEILAR: What did you think -- yes. What did you think about those moments?
BORGER: Well, look, I think he could have been clearer on that part of this, that there was no evidence of this. And no matter how much some Republicans wanted to keep raising the specter of Antifa or fake Trump protesters, he said, no, we have found no evidence of it.
I'm with Andrew McCabe here on one point, which is that he had no answer for that famous Norfolk memo, that FBI memo, and how it didn't get into the right hands quickly enough.
And sort of washed his own hands of it and said, well, you know, the best I can tell, all normal procedures were followed. I don't know if those were exact words. But he didn't make it seem as if it were anything out of the ordinary.
So my question would be, if I were a Senator sitting up there, is: Why wasn't everyone's hair on fire, and why was this just done with normal procedure?
And why was there no follow-up, if after you sent it, you didn't hear from anyone in the district or anyone else? Why didn't the FBI follow up with this kind of information?
And I still think we have no answer to that question.
KEILAR: Yes, we certainly don't. And there's going to need to be more of an answer on that in the future.
Kathleen, what did you think about Republicans blaming things on Antifa, repeatedly bringing up Antifa, as opposed to anti-government extremists and white supremacists?
BELEW: I think reasonable people can agree that politicians can be opposed to violence on both sides and have a realistic understanding about the facts around all of this.
One of these movements, the white power movement, has decades of action, infrastructure, like paramilitary training camps, huge amounts of armaments, and a casualty count in the hundreds.
The other one, Antifa, is a loose affiliation of people that have a casualty count of two.
So these are not comparable threats. These are not at all comparable threats by anyone who is a reasonable watchdog or expert or an information aggregator about these groups.
Furthermore, what we have to remember is that the white power movement is not simply a group of superpatriots, such as how they are sometimes described.
We're talking about a movement that has interacted in the violent overthrow of the United States.
We saw that in the really deliberate work they did on January 6th, not only to destroy the capitol and threaten our legislators but also disrupt our democratic process by delaying the results of the election.
That is not simply a violent action, full stop. That is an act of direct domestic terrorism. And one of the thing Director Wray really made a point of today was calling it that on the Senate floor.
KEILAR: I want to thank you so much, Kathleen and Gloria, for being with us following this very important testimony today.
As the first Johnson & Johnson vaccines doses get to Americans today, the former surgeon general, a Trump appointee, is breaking with Dr. Anthony Fauci on whether the U.S. should delay second doses.
Plus, sexual harassment allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo are intensifying as a third woman comes forward and several New York Democrats call for his impeachment.
And prosecutors are getting closer to the inner working of the Trump Organization. Now focusing on Donald Trump's long-time chief finance officer.
KEILAR: Breaking news. President Biden wrapped up a second day of meetings with Democratic Senators on a COVID relief bill. The package is expected to cost $1.9 trillion and Democrats are under growing pressure to stick together to pass it.
CNN's chief congressional correspondent, Raju Manu, is following all of the latest investments on Capitol Hill.
Manu, what new details do you have about what the president told lawmakers?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He just spoke to Senate Democrats at private meetings just moments ago. And he made very clear he needs to ensure they get behind this bill.
He argues it's bipartisan. He argues it's bipartisan outside of the halls of Congress.
And he also is making very clear that Democrats should reject any measure that could essentially sink the plan, amendments that could be offered on the Senate floor later this week during a marathon voting session that could occur.
The concern among Democrats is a couple of their members may join 50 Republicans and decide to essentially amend key elements of the plan.
So what Joe Biden is privately telling his colleagues is to not go down that route, to reject that.
He also says, you may accept some provisions of the plan that you may simply not like but you should still get behind it. Everyone in some way, he suggested, should swallow the provisions they may not ultimately like because of the greater good in this bill.
Arguing the Democrats should demonstrate to the American public they need to get behind this plan because -- the Democrats need to get behind the plan so they can demonstrate how -- to the voters that they're able to respond to the crises of this time.
Brianna, this is a pitch that Biden is making behind closed doors ahead of critical votes this week to get this bill out of this chamber, to ensure it remains intact.
And maintain that fragile Democratic coalition that will be needed to get past the Senate and then back to the House for final passage before that March 14th deadline when jobless benefits expire for millions of Americans -- Brianna?
KEILAR: What measure might Democrats or some moderate Democrats consider joining Republicans in -- with during the amendment process?
RAJU: There's some concern from the Democratic leaders that some of the more modern members may seek to whittle down the jobless benefits in particular.
Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, has suggested paring down that benefit to make an additional $300 a week instead of the $400 a week in that plan. That is not sufficient for most Democrats who want to keep it at $400 a week.
And, in fact, extended it. The time frame would expire in August. In the House bill, there's talk about extending it until December among some senior Democrats, like Ron Wyden, chairman of the Finance Committee. There's concern about that.
But there's also concern about tightening the eligibility of the stimulus checks of up to $1,400 for individuals. So can they -- what if Joe Manchin break with Democrats to do that?
If he did, how would that impact the vote count, particularly in the House among Democrats who, on the liberal side, were pushing for more expansive relief measures.
That is why Joe Biden is making clear that he does not want his party to go down the accepting what is, in his view, a poison-pill amendment that would sink the underlying bill if they were to change some of the core elements here.
So a complicated legislative strategy ahead of a very - a minefield of debate of amendments that would come up and that could change the course of this.
But Joe Biden is pushing ahead saying, get behind this, we need to show the voters that we will respond to the crises, even if Republicans don't agree -- Brianna?
KEILAR: All right, Manu, thank you for that. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.
The former surgeon general, a Trump appointee, is now contradicting the Biden administration's advice about getting two COVID-19 vaccine shots.
In a tweet, Dr. Jerome Adams wrote, "Good protection for many with one shot is better than great protection for a few. Two thousand people a day are dying because they can't get a first COVID-19 shot, not because they can't get a second."
Adams was referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci's interview with "The Washington Post" where he said the country should not delay getting a second dose. Otherwise, he added, quote, "That would be a messaging challenge to say the least."
I want to get some reaction on this from Dr. Richina Bicette. She is the medical director and an assistant professor at the Baylor College of Medicine.
Since his initial tweet, we should mention Adams rolled back his comments a little bit, writing that two shots is not necessarily the wrong way to go.
What do you think about this mixed messaging?
DR. RICHINA BICETTE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR & ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: I think that he should park his twitter fingers for a few minutes, Brianna.
The Trump administration has a lot to answer for with how their vaccine plan rolled out with the missing doses of vaccine, the 20 million missing doses of vaccine, the rate of vaccinations.
So I don't think we can take any advice from him right now. I would much rather listen to Dr. Fauci, who is a trusted national expert.
What we know is the science shows, for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, in order to be fully protected, you need to get at least two doses. Until we see science saying otherwise, I think we need to stick with that vaccination schedule. Now, with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being shipped out as we speak,
you know, that will be a moot point since it is a one-dose vaccine.
KEILAR: Yes, that's a very good point.
Let's talk about that vaccine. President Biden is set to announce that something pretty extraordinary here is going to happen. Competing drug makers, Merck and Johnson & Johnson, are going to work to increase the production of that one-shot vaccine.
That's pretty significant. What is that going to look like?
BICETTE: It's extremely significant. I mean, we have two big competitors in the vaccine world that are working together. But I think it just goes to show you that, right now, all hands are on deck.
And we're in global preservation mode. COVID is still ravaging many countries and the United States and we need to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
What we know is that Johnson & Johnson has said that in the immediate future, they can deliver at least four million doses to the United States, and they're thinking at least 100 million doses by the summer.
Along with what we're going to get or what we're supposed to get from Pfizer and Moderna, we should have enough doses in the United States to vaccinate our entire population by the end of July.
KEILAR: That is good news.
Dr. Bicette, thank you very much for that. It's good to see you.
BICETTE: Thank you, Brianna.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
Hello. I'm Brianna Keilar. It is the top of the hour.
We begin on Capitol Hill where lawmakers just finished grilling FBI Director Christopher Wray about the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol.
Today is the first time that Wray has publicly testified since pro- Trump supporters forced their way into the capitol in an attempt to stop lawmakers from certifying President Joe Biden's win.
Beginning that day, there had been questions about how authorities missed signs about what was coming and how serious it was.
And as there are concerns about potential future threats, Senators press Wray about how information was or was not shared across agencies in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): When did you first receive intelligence about the possibility of an attack on the capitol on January 6th? And what happened to the process that people weren't seeing the warnings?
WRAY: And that raw, unverified information was passed within, I think, 40 minutes to an hour to our partners, including the Capitol Police, including Metro P.D., in not one, not two, but three different ways, one email, one verbal and one through the law enforcement portal.