LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Washington is abuzz with talk of a mystery memo drafted by the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee. The classified document is even being kept in a secure room, where few have seen it. Conservative Republicans claim the memo contains damning information about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Democrats call it a deliberate distraction. We are joined this morning by U.S. Representative Jim Himes, Democrat from Connecticut. He's a member of the House intelligence committee. And he has, apparently, seen the memo. Thank you for coming onto the program this morning.
JIM HIMES: Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What can you tell us about this memo put together by House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes?
HIMES: Well, sadly, this memorandum - and I have read it - is just the latest installment in the long campaign to try to delegitimize the FBI and the Department of Justice and Bob Mueller. It makes allegations that are unfounded. It's full of factual inaccuracies. And if it's ever released, even people who are not familiar with the information will see that. And, of course, most interestingly, it makes reference to very highly classified things that nobody has seen.
So in some senses, it's unverifiable. You know, I guess one of the best ways to think about this memorandum is that when asked, Devin Nunes refused to share this memo either with the DOJ - or the Department of Justice - or the FBI - the very people accused in the memo, or with the Republican chairman of the Senate intelligence committee. So that tells you a little bit about his level of confidence in the allegations that are made.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Apparently, Democrats are drafting their own memo in response to this memo. So now we're going to have dueling memos? What's in that one?
HIMES: Well, we haven't completed it yet, but it will be a memorandum which points out the factual inaccuracies in the original one. Again, it's a bit sensitive because in - there's sort of an evil genius to this first memorandum because it does make reference to very highly classified intelligence that almost nobody has seen. But in as much as we can, we'll try to lay out the facts around these acquisitions - sorry, these allegations. And, again, just make the point that, you know, along with, you know, the belief that there was wiretapping of Donald Trump, you know, that there was improper unmasking - this is the latest in a steady stream of unfounded allegations designed to undermine the FBI in particular.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to understand a little bit about what the committee, at this point, is doing in the House that is investigating collusion between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign. It's been nearly a year. Have you found an - evidence of any crimes?
HIMES: Well, we certainly found plenty of concern. You know, whether these things rise to the level of crimes would ultimately be a decision for the Department of Justice to make. You know, Congress doesn't prosecute crimes per se. But what we have...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Republicans, though, say they've done an exhaustive search, and the smoking gun just isn't there.
HIMES: Well, the investigation is far from done. And we have interviewed dozens of people. There have been connections established, people who - many of which are known - you know, Don Jr. happily indulging a meeting where the Russians were to provide him with information. We're not done yet, so it's a little early to speak of conclusions out of the investigation. But, again, this is - you know, this memo is sadly a distraction. You know, the investigation itself is actually being run pretty well by a Republican congressman named Mike Conaway, who's doing, I think, a fair job at getting through the work we need to do.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But is the committee broken at this point? I mean, the proceedings have been contentious. The process is frequently politicized. I'm assuming, at this point, you're not talking over drinks with Devin Nunes. You know, should it be scrapped?
HIMES: Well, no, it shouldn't. This is too important a topic to scrap. And as I told you, you know, the investigation is proceeding...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's the Senate. Mueller's doing his own investigation.
HIMES: Well, it's important that Mueller does his own investigation, of course, because he comes at this from a criminal angle. Again, he's very interested in investigating individuals to see if there were crimes committed. Our mandate is much broader - in other words, really understand what the Russians did, really understand if there was any contact or collusion. So there are different investigations. Both are important. Yes, the committee has gotten tense lately...
HIMES: ...Which is sad but, you know...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We'll have to leave it there.
HIMES: We need to proceed - yeah.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Congressman Jim Himes speaking to us from his home in Greenwich, CT. Thank you.
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