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Politics & Government

DOJ Officials To Hold Bipartisan Briefing On Russia Probe Papers

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Key members of the Justice Department are set to meet today with congressional leaders from both parties - at issue, whether the FBI crossed legal or ethical lines in its probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. President Trump has repeatedly accused the FBI of spying on his campaign with political motives. Here is the president speaking about this yesterday before boarding Marine One at the White House.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: All you have to do is look at the basics, and you'll see. It looks like a very serious event. But we'll find out. When they look at the documents, I think people are going to see a lot of bad things happen. I hope it's not so because if it is, there's never been anything like it in the history of our country.

GREENE: All right, we're joined now by former Republican Congressman Mike Rogers in our studios in Washington. He once led the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, you also used to be a FBI special agent - so a lot of relevant experience here.

MIKE ROGERS: Well, I did a little bit of everything.

GREENE: (Laughter) Sounds like it.

So is the president right? If, quote, "a lot of bad things happened," as he puts it, this - never anything like this in the history of the United States - what's he talking about?

ROGERS: Well, I think his premise is that this informant or asset was tasked to go and find and seek out Trump campaign individuals to elicit some information about what their relationship with Russia is. If that in fact is correct, then there is a problem. That is a line that they crossed. Looking from everything I've seen publicly and in my experience as an FBI agent and as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I think that's highly unlikely that that in fact happened.

GREENE: Well, one of the issues here is whether the Department of Justice - how revealing they should be with secret information to lawmakers. I mean, you, leading the House Intelligence Committee, knew a lot of things that were classified that none of us ever knew. Is there some line? I mean, is there some secret information that the Department of Justice should keep even from lawmakers if it would protect sources?

ROGERS: Well, sources and methods is always the most sensitive thing. As an FBI agent, I've looked in the eyes of people who are risking their lives to offer up information that they believe would help their country or, in some cases, help their community, their friends, their family - in a criminal matter. And as an FBI agent, you make a solemn promise you're going to protect their identity, you're going to protect their life and safety and security.

And so when you start having big groups of meetings where there may be disclosures of names and sources, it will give everyone pause, including people who want to show up at the FBI's door and say, I want to offer you something; I want to offer you some information. So that part is really, really risky.

There may be a time - as we did it when I was chairman, my ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger, a guy from Maryland - great guy, we decided we weren't going to play those kinds of games. We would never ask for a source unless we absolutely believed it was important to whatever we were doing. And I'm trying to recall a time we even had to do that because the identity of the source is really not as important as the kind of context around how they're using that person. Are they following the law? Are they following the rules and procedures of those agencies?

So having a group of eight and expanding and do it in a partisan way, by the way, which should give us all pause, is a little bit - gives me pause, as I said, as a guy who used to do that work.

GREENE: Well, you're mentioning partisan. I mean, one of the meetings today is going to be with the Gang of Eight, which is bipartisan. But one is going to be with just Republicans. You're not convinced that this is nonpartisan?

ROGERS: No. I mean, you have two of the most partisan investigators. They've clearly shown themselves to take a partisan bent in their investigations, Trey Gowdy on the Republican side - and he's now with Oversight Committee; he also did the Benghazi investigation. And you have the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, both who have shown clearly that they have very partisan bents in their investigation. And well, that's - you know, in a partisan investigation, the first victim tends to be the truth.

And so I worry about a purely partisan effort. And the reason, you know, they have the Gang of Eight is because the public - I think there was a bit of an outcry of, hey, how can you have to expressly partisan individuals show up and get this information and that's the only lens of which will, likely, some context of that meeting will come out? Probably not the right way to do it.

Matter of fact, both of their ranking members should be in that meeting. If this was a serious Oversight investigation and this was a step in that, they should have had both of their ranking Democrats in the meeting with them. And it would give credibility to what their accusations are.

GREENE: I just want to be clear. You said only lens - and you've expressed some concerns in the past - House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes and a memo that came out from him not painting a full picture of what is happening, allowing a certain narrow narrative to take hold. Is that what you're worried about here, that the president and maybe his allies in Congress might be able to create a narrative that doesn't paint the whole picture at all?

ROGERS: Completely. You know, some things just - they look one way. And, you know, from a public view, you look at something and say - oh, my gosh - that guy's guilty. Well, that's why you have investigations. That's why most of that information is sensitive and classified because at the end of the day, you go - you know what? - the facts present a very different picture. But you should see all of the facts.

And what happens in these very partisan investigations is that you don't get all the facts. You get the facts that they want you to see for you to come to their conclusion. And the Democrats do it, and the Republicans do it. And they've been doing it throughout this event, which I think is just a horrible injustice to something that I think is pretty serious, the questioning of the institutions of the United States and, you know, serious government accusations against individuals.

GREENE: Mike Rogers, former Republican congressman - he chaired the House Intelligence Committee, also a former FBI special agent.

Congressman, really appreciate your time.

ROGERS: David, thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.