Malcolm Nance Speaks At 2019 Miami Book Fair
On Intel Community & The State of American Politics
Malcolm Nance Speaks about his new book in a panel discussion with Trump resistance authors, Josh Campbell and Phillip Mudd.
The authors sat and spoke about the obscured truth at the center of a seemingly aimless and accidental administration. It went on an for an hour with 5 audience questions at the end.
I believe this is what they said.
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
Thank you so much for being here tonight we’re very excited at the conversation that you’re about to see. Not just because it’s another celebration with another successful book fair that Miami-Dade College and the Miami Book Fair put on every year, but it’s rare to have professionals with the type of first-hand knowledge. That they bring to this discussion, share it with you, and then have the opportunity to engage. Rest assured, there is going to be an opportunity for all of you to ask questions of our panelists. But we thank you very much for being here and with that let me introduce the first of our authors this evening.
Josh Campbell is a correspondent for CNN and prior to joining the network. He did a very distinguished tenure at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Where he served as the special assistant to FBI Director James Comey. Josh has also worked with former special counsel of FBI Director Robert Mueller and he is the author of the brand-new book Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump’s War on the FBI. Let’s give a warm welcome to Josh Campbell.
Our next author is also an alumni of the FBI and also of the Central Intelligence Agency, but most important to those that are here in the room, he is a 305 till you die kind of guy. Because Philip Mudd is actually a South Florida native. He went to school down here. He is also the author of the book Black Site the CIA in the Post 9/11 World. Ladies and gentlemen, Philip Mudd.
Last but by no means and I emphasize, by no means least. A man who has taken on the myth and legendary persona. You see him up and down the cable television aisle offering his clues to the world. More than anything else, he is a Navy Chief and a very proud one at that.
The author of four New York Times bestselling books including his latest, The Plot To Betray America: How Team Trump Embraced Our Enemies, Compromised Our Security and How We Can Fix It. Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the Miami Book Fair stage Malcom Nance.
CNN will never stand for MSNBC. That’s what we call bipartisan cooperation in the media world. The CNN and the MSNBC guys mix it up. We got to get another one though I think there’s one missing right? Anyway, having said that. Gentlemen, there is a tremendous amount of interest in your books and I think part of the reason why is not just because of the information that you offer to the country and to the globe, but against this backdrop of these very strange times. That I don’t think anyone would argue that we’re living in. Josh, I’d like to start with you.
First, Crossfire Hurricane your book that really lifts the curtain on a lot of people. Were wondering just what the heck was going on within the FBI in the prelude to the 2016 election and then the aftermath that culminated in the dismissal of your boss director Comey. What is the number one a most important message that you’re hoping readers of your book come away with? In the writing of Crossfire Hurricane.
I appreciate it and let me say at the outset. Thanks to all of you for being here. One thing that you may not know is those of us who are working in television, we know you’re out there but we never get to see you as we stare into this camera. So the best part for me at least, and I can speak it on behalf of my colleagues I’m sure, is doing the book tours. To be able to interact with people and get to see people who care about these very important issues. So thank you for being here to answer your question. Thank you. The takeaway from this book is that there are real consequences to public safety when any elected leader tries to destroy the reputations of our law enforcement and intelligence community agencies. Now we’ve seen, you know, over the course of the Mueller investigation. Since the beginning of the Russia investigation that not every agency has operated, you know, 100% correctly. There have been issues that, for example, the Department of Justice Inspector General has found. I’ll speak specifically about the FBI where I worked but in the main these agencies are staffed with Patriots. Who go to work every single day trying to protect this nation from external threats. So what I fear, and the purpose of writing this book, is that if the American people actually start to believe this nonsense. That these agencies are filled with corrupt deep state cabals out to get any elected leader. How many people will then lose confidence in these institutions that require public confidence in order to do their work. So what I try to do in this book is to take you behind the scenes in the room inside the FBI. As this agency tried to grapple with something that it had never faced and that was having people associated with a presidential campaign under investigation for potential ties to a foreign adversary.
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
Phil, Crossfire Hurricane might have been an alternate title to your book because that’s the center of the storm that you had to endure. Both as a professional in Central Intelligence and later on during your Deputy Drector period of counterterrorism at the FBI. You wrote your book Black-Site: the CIA in the Post 9/11 World to really address the controversies around the enhanced interrogation program. Again so much passionate debate on both sides of the issue. What was your message that you wanted to convey to your readers in your book?
You know, I witnessed the debate. I was mentioned in the Senate report, shockingly not very positively. It’s horrifying but and by the way I’m not happy to be there and here in contrast to Josh. I would prefer to be out on South Beach. So in the interest of the CIA. We don’t usually tell you the truth, but in the interest of transparency I’d rather not be here. This is quite a change because usually, it’s the reverse right, but the book. I witnessed obviously and I’ve heard a lot of people attack what the CIA did. That’s their American right. I’ve heard people on a different side of the political spectrum say you guys represented our interest after 9/11. You saved us. Neither side on the conservative or the liberal side was able to talk to the 35 or 40 people I spoke with. My colleagues most of whom will never speak to you and say the book is not meant to be an offense of what many people hate. That is what the CIA did to detainees. The book is meant to say, if you want to live our life so that you understand why it happened, you might have ammunition to say, I still hate it. That’s fine, you might have ammunition to say I think what you did is right. But you ought to be able to live the life we lived to at least say. If I want to attack what they did or support it I haven’t understanding what was. It’s a step back 17 years ago to understand what people like me live through, so that you can understand on either side of the spectrum, why we did what we did. That’s it.
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
Malcolm, in your case Phil talked about trying to explain the past. Your trilogy of books has Nance-trodamus-like predicted events that have transpired directly supported by facts into the future. In your book, The Plot to Betray America you sounded the warning in July of 2016. As events were unfolding in real time and a lot of people wanted to dismiss that at the time. They thought it might have been a little bit of fear-mongering and yet. Events have borne that out. What is the message of the Plot to Betray America and what should Americans and people of good faith around the world be taking away from your book.
Well first let me let me applaud my two colleagues who are here on the stage. I read both of their books I loved Crossfire Hurricane. That is a salty FBI story, okay. That you’re sitting in there and he’s going from meeting to meeting like, why are we being attacked by the President? Then you’ve got Phil’s story. Which in an incidental way I was involved with, because I was brought forward to testify about waterboarding and all these things. Like he says, when you’re in the skiff, when you’re in secure sites and stuff, we have no windows in there. We rarely -the watch officers use the televisions. We’re doing whatever it is that we do and guys like this whether it’s in a counter terrorism center or other places. They have a perspective you can’t have. So you have to appreciate if it. If they did something good you’re never gonna learn about it.
If they did something bad you’re probably going to learn about it. So it’s the good that they do. It’s the people who fill out the travel claims and issue your checks and do all the things that you that many of us would think of as thankless. You can’t thank them. Because you will never go into their buildings and you will never be around them and watch these people try to struggle with the the popcorn machine at 1:00 a.m. when they’re watching activities in the middle of the night because it’s daytime in the Middle East.
They have thankless lives and they are the true patriots of this nation.They defend us all and it offends me. It offends me even though I have fought my entire career for the right for American citizens. I have defended you against terrorists, whatever, to say any stupid thing that comes to your mind, all right? That’s your right and well, that’s why we like to bomb terrorists, right, because they’re gonna take that away from you.
Those two books were brilliant and that led me to my book. Which was finally writing about it. I had written about Russian intelligence activities. Russians active measures. How Putin is essentially taking over Europe through democracy and he’s destroying democracy by getting governments to vote themselves out of power. To vote in autocrats and we have been attacked. So my book was designed to give you a warning about the very people that right now are neck deep in the impeachment. The difference is that none of us here on this this this stage who have written books are journalists.
We are intelligence professionals or national security professionals and when we write it is to inform you and that’s all. I do in my book and my favorite chapter in that book is The Good Guys Lose. I mean, guys like Josh Campbell and Comey and Mueller and all of them. Have been trying to help this nation in a decent manner cope with what has happened and now we have 40 percent of this country who will believe every word out of the mouths of the National Counterterrorism Center or the FBI. You will believe anything we say about terrorists But we tell you you’ve been attacked by Russia and the attack is ongoing and continuous. And that they’ve hacked your mindset and all of US intelligence proves it. You go out and call people like that conspiracy theorists. The conspiracy theory is you will not believe what is before your own eyes and that’s all I have done in that book was. Teach you what you actually see before your own eyes. Before Fox News corrupts it.
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
It seems that in this era that we find ourselves in. You literally cannot do an event without breaking news seemingly happening in real time. As we took to the stage a major development happened. If I were at home I would turn on the television and look for the three of you to give that commentary. Luckily I have the ability to do that in real time now. The Washington Post is reporting that the Chief of the Pentagon has asked for the resignation of the Secretary of the Navy amid the controversy over the Navy SEAL expulsion. Malcolm, as our Navy man on the panel, should we be concerned about this?
I’m gonna keep this short because as a Navy Chief I get very upset and this morning I just did a segment on MSNBC where I spoke as a Chief from the Chief’s Mess. From a long family of Navy Chiefs. Are they out of their minds? The Secretary of the Navy does serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States, but he has to keep good order and discipline of every sailor down there. When he makes a decision. Or the commander of naval special warfare makes a decision. That someone should not be entitled to their Tritan, or Dolphins, or Surface Warfare badge, or whatever, the President of the United States needs to stay out of Navy business.
He had his chance five times to serve this nation and he cowarded out and dodged out of it. The President of the United States right now has damaged good order and discipline and even though the Secretary of the Navy said he didn’t actually make that statement. About he was thinking of resigning and come to have special war com was thinking about resigning. They should have said that out loud and proudly, Because they have every sailor in this country and every soldier who watches this thinking I can commit war crimes and if Donald Trump backs me up, I can get away with it. Unsatisfactory.
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
This one is for Phil and and for Josh. Both of you have served again under dual bipartisan administrations. Whether it’s been Republican Presidents or Democratic Presidents and the word unprecedented is overused a lot these days, but from your perspective have you ever seen anything like this? Where the President of the United States will go out and attack the integrity of institutions that are designed to protect the American people? Phil, in your case, the CIA and the FBI. Josh, in your case the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
I served from 85 to 2010 so if I remember I had five Presidents. I think the opportunity I can offer everybody in this room is to take you two to the water cooler and offer you not necessarily what I say on TV but offer your perspective that you can’t share. I don’t remember conversations among colleagues and again, I didn’t spend two years I spent 25 years in. I joined at an entry level and finished as the Intel adviser for director Mueller, then special counsel Mueller. I don’t remember that many conversations about what a president did beyond a the president is having this approach to Iran or this approach to North Korea or this approach to Russia. You might talk about it over cocktails and believe me we did a few of those, but one way to characterize. To give you maybe a perspective that’s a little different than just saying, yeah this is a weird time. I don’t remember in 25 years conversation saying.
How do we end up saying that autocrats in Turkey and Egypt in the Philippines and Russia and North Korea are our friends and that NATO in the G7 are our enemies. You’re like, this is not only weird policy these are people who don’t represent American values. In places that were. The Filipinos are murdering people without due process and we don’t talk about it. So I don’t have it. I actually did say on air, I didn’t have a problem with the president talking to the head of North Korea. I have a problem saying you don’t have an endgame. Which it now appears is true, but I do have a problem saying it’s odd and I never witnessed this in 25 years. It’s odd to sit back and say why is it that we like people who oppose democratic values to the point that they murder the opposition and the people who have stood with us to oppose oppression since World War Two in the creation of the CIA 1947 are somehow enemies on Twitter. That dude is effing weird!
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
Josh, an that’s in that spirit you kind of had a front-row bird’s-eye view of what it’s like to be on the other side. All of us in this room that haven’t served in in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that there is this sense that at the end of the day the adults are in charge. There is a plan. There’s a contingency, and surely there has to be a scenario where the patriots at the FBI have had to scenario plan for the President of the United States attacking them on a daily basis. Or members of a presidential administration, right? Surely that plan exists.
Well, sad truth is I don’t think it does, in the sense that you mentioned before how unprecedented these times are and I don’t think so. We hear that word used a lot but I don’t think that that is an overstatement. Because these are unprecedented times in a number of different ways and I’ll say that you know, as the reporter on this panelists, you know my job is to stare at actions and report on them and to leave the value judgments to our viewers and our listeners. To make up your mind about what this information means but what all you have to do is look to the past and compare that with the present.
What I did in Crossfire Hurricane, in my book, was actually went back and looked. Since Watergate at instances where you had a White House that was in conflict with the Department of Justice and in doing research for this book it’s interesting. I found interesting that of all the Presidents since Richard Nixon, with the exception of President Obama who was the only President who didn’t have someone senior in his White House under investigation by the Justice Department.
There have been instances of conflict between the White House and our institutions of justice. You go back, again from every President except Obama since Nixon someone had some instance where there was a special counsel or someone that was being investigated. We saw especially under President Clinton, for example. A robust effort to go after Kenneth Starr for example the the Independent Counsel at the time but what you didn’t see in any of those instances was an attempt to burn down entire institutions. To try to destroy the credibility writ large of these institutions of justice and as well as the intelligence community.
It was always off limits there a system of norms that were in place. The so called guardrails that you couldn’t go this far.
Every President, every person in the United States, who finds himself being accused of something is entitled to a robust defense. President Trump is the exact same. Entitled to a robust defense.
We’re in this unusual place now though where it is now fair game to try to destroy reputations and the credibility of institutions to ensure political survival. Which is a dangerous place and this gets to the heart of your question. Because at the end of the day. When an FBI agent knocks on someone’s door and they need help conducting an investigation, the willingness of that person to help is directly correlated to their view of that agency. Does this person work somewhere that’s honorable? Is this an honorable person standing before me, someone that I trust that’s asking me for their help? When an FBI agent rises in a courtroom and testifies to that jury, their willingness to believe what that person says is based on their view of that agency. Is this person a truthful person from a truthful trustful agency?
What I fear is that this continued erosion of confidence in these agencies will impact all of our public safety in a negative way and this isn’t just anecdotal. I mean, I went back and did research looking at polling data, survey data, and what was fascinating is. If you look at Republicans back in 2014. Gallup had done a survey of public confidence in the FBI and among Republicans the numbers were in the high 70s as far as high confidence in the FBI. Today that number is less than 50%, which tells me that that there are people out there, good men and women in the United States, that are believing this narrative. That these agencies are corrupt and that’s going to make us less safe. To your point about whether there’s some plan on the Shelf that these agencies can deal with. That, you know, how do they grapple with this. It’s an unprecedented time. You haven’t had these agencies have to deal with this before and so I think that they are just as shell-shocked now as the rest of the country. When you continue to hear this narrative day in and day out this so-called deep state and this cabal, these agencies are imperfect. I mean, I cover them every day. My job now as a reporter is to unearth wrongdoing on behalf of these agencies but again in the main what you were being told by politicians about who these agencies are doesn’t square with the reality that we’d get to see for ourselves.
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
You know you use word shell-shocked and the breaking news has broken again. Malcolm, the resignation that was asked for has now turned into a full-blown firing. The Navy Secretary has been fired. Which suggests to my eyes, and if I’m wrong please correct me, you now have the executive branch of the administration having questioned the legitimacy of the American media, the American intelligence community, and now that is petering over into the American military. Is this as ominous as we think it
Yes it’s very ominous. You have a full-blown autocrat in the White House. He is not using the processes that you spoke about or that Phil spoke about, where you go through the policies and you have robust discussions. He is doing top-down finger-pointing. I don’t like you, you’re fired! Here is a tweet all right to the point. Where this man, the Secretary of the Navy actually refuted what he had said, but that’s not good enough. Ok, I worked again many missions against many of all these autocrats in this world and this reminds me of those show trials Saddam would have. Where everybody would be sitting there clapping, yay Saddam, yay Saddam. Then they would say there’s a traitor in the audience, and they would point up there, and that man would stand up. Then he would plead for his life and then would be dragged out. This is that being done on Twitter. This man has a malfunction. That is all there is to it. But that malfunction is it appears the constitutional processes which we all defend with our lives.
I’m from Philadelphia, so I take this very personally. The constitutional processes we all know and love and believe in, one man has decided he is King George the 4th. Because King George the 3rd wasn’t good enough for him, and right now look I’m waiting for him to start quartering troops into our houses and making us pay for it. Because everything that we have known since 1776 is in danger. When you point to an Admiral, or Secretary of the Navy. Yes, he serves at the pleasure of the President of the United States, but you should have enough good common sense to understand that people out there have duty to the Constitution, to our sailors, to our soldiers, our Marines, our airmen. When you destroy that by saying I’m appointing a guy who has been convicted of a crime. I’m giving a convicted war criminal for murder clemency and he gets to go on Fox News and lecture all of us. I mean, this has destroyed good order in the service. There’s going to be a robust debate happening at every level of this and I will say this one last time. Because I like saying it. The Chief of Naval Operations right now, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy right now, you have better decide whether you stand with my Navy. You stand in the tradition of Chester Nimitz and John Paul Jones and don’t give up the ship and you drop your anchors in front of this president and you tell him what the Navy is about or resign yourselves!
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
Phil, I come back to you because this crisis in morale doesn’t seem to just be limited to one of the agencies, or one of the departments of the federal government. We just have come off two weeks of an impeachment inquiry where one side tried to make the case for why Presidential abuse of power and high crimes of misdemeanor were committed and how that was documented by public servants in the federal government. The other side was focused on the whistleblower. A whistleblower that many suspect may have come from one of the intelligence agencies that you once pertained to. If you could talk to us a little bit about what you think the morale is in the agency right now, when at any moment possibly someone who risked career and possibly safety is at any moment potentially exposed by either the President or someone in his administration.
I think you know and one of the challenges in what we do for a living is to step back and and and and sort of reflect again in my time. After nearly 35 years after I started in 1985 there’s a couple of reflections. I think the story has changed in the past couple of weeks. Because before they were institutional attacks. Some personal as Josh can speak to, about the FBI and individuals at the FBI but in my case of the CIA. I don’t trust the CIA, this is the president speaking. I don’t trust what the CIA says about Russia. I don’t trust the military as the president said publicly. Which people didn’t notice but I thought was extremely embarrassing for military officers in uniform with the president. This is on TV a few years ago. The military hasn’t given me plans fast enough. Like, sir, you didn’t serve and you don’t understand what a military plan is. My point is, the institutions were being attacked. Look at what changed in the past couple of weeks. In the case of the CIA where I served. There’s a threat to name somebody by name which means I don’t know who the individual is and and I can’t confirm they work for the CIA.
These are what the news reports say, if you’re in the business. You’re saying if that person has a family and if they don’t forget about just death threats. I get death threats. They have to move. They have to move their family. They have to protect their kids in school. They’re gonna get death threat letters for years. The president is putting somebody’s life at risk. So if you’re in the business you’re saying this has now gone from institution to personal So to close on what Malcolm was saying, you understand the president isn’t just attacking the military. I was watching this and I didn’t serve in the military, and I don’t know if I’ve ever said this publicl. I went to testify secretly once, when a CIA contractor murdered an Al-Qaeda detainee. I went to testify in favor of putting that individual in jail for a long time. He killed him with a flashlight.
First of all, the president shouldn’t intervene in that. He’s got to worry about is other stuff like, for example, why North Korea hasn’t lost an ounce of nuclear material despite the fact that president says we’re safer. Why is the president intervening in stuff that’s four levels below him and now it’s getting personal. That is you’re telling me that an individual in the military who murdered a detainee is appropriate for you to intervene in. That’s murder. That’s not an act of war. So I think to kind of translate to a broader audience. What I’m seeing in both the CIA and more broadly also at State Department now the president isn’t just attacking State Department, he’s attacking people and by name people like me who serves start to say. The president, this is interesting, is risking Revenge of the Nerds. He’s risking people coming out saying, it’s my duty to support. I don’t care how many of you elected president Trump he’s the president. It’s my duty to support the man who was elected by the American people. I don’t care if it’s popular vote or not. We do electoral college but what he’s doing by starting to attack people by name including if he ever names the whistleblowers. Forcing people who where in my old position to say, this you cannot do. I must, whether you’re IBM or Ford Motor to see, I must protect my people.
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
Well just a quick follow-up before I go to Josh and not only has the president attacked people by name I mean to my knowledge you’re the only one on the stage that he actually has attacked by name. I wonder, what is it like to go through the crucible of having the most powerful man in the world quite literally single you out. Especially at a time when we have seen our fellow citizens in some cases take to violent retribution for people that they disagree with politically.
I mean I don’t want to get too dramatic but let me tell you. Inside that world, within 72 hours an individual who was later arrested in Florida for making death threats. Within 72 hours of the president threatening me. Remember the guy, the Florida pipe bomber? He attacked me on Twitter and said I need to watch my back. Which I didn’t know. I don’t do Twitter. My point is, in the environment we live in, when the president chooses to use your name in a negative tweet. You understand that every time you go into a restaurant, every time I walk at the Miami Book Fair, every time somebody comes up to me in the airport, you have to wonder. Is this the person? I have a personal relationship with my local police. My number’s registered my sister’s here. She doesn’t know this, I’m sorry sis. When I call the local police and identify myself I get prioritized because I have stalkers and some of those stalkers have made threats. The president has a responsibility. As an American citizen, whether or not I voted for him, being he does not seem to understand that when he threatens people like me by name he risks my life and this is not an everyday problem. I still have a glass of Bordeaux on a regular basis but I’m here to say, and I think part of our job is to take you into a different world. Maybe and to give you a perspective you don’t see. In my world daily hate mail means I have to have a relationship with the police department in my town to say if I call you you need to be here now. It’s real and it’s personal and it’s everybody, everybody in my world.
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
I want to go to Josh on the question of the personal and the professional. Because we sometimes forget these are not faceless bureaucrats. These are American public servants and American patriots. That with all of the noise going on around them, they still have to do the job. Yet Josh, you were in the the unique position, in the historic position of one day doing your job discovering that your job just like that was over. What does that experience where you were with the director at the moment he was fired by the president without any foreknowledge. Without any anticipation. Not only for you in the directors state of mind but for the morale of the colleagues that then stay behind. What is something like that like in this environment?
Well so if you go back to that day in 2017 when the FBI director found out by watching CNN that he was no longer the FBI director. I mean, it was a day that that set in motion a chain of events both inside the FBI and obviously for the country. What was so fascinating is, and I’ll say at the outset and I think everyone on the stage will probably agree, that there are no indispensable people inside the US government. Everybody who serves knows that you can be replaced. Obviously, career public servants are afforded certain protections. But if you leave, the agency’s mission continues. All these agencies. they’ve been around, some for hundreds of years and they will continue the mission. The problem that occurred with Comey’s firing, and I have tried to step back a little bit. Because obviously, I worked for him as his special assistant, but even then I’ve had lots of conversations with him since. We didn’t know and we knew at the time that any FBI director could be fired for any reason or no reason at all. The problem is twofold. First is the reason that the public was was given about why the FBI director was fired was a lie and those of us who care about the truth. I mean, my colleagues here on this panel. We get up every single day doing what we do because we care about the public being manipulated. We care about the truth being told.
These powerful politicians, people in government and you know of both parties. They have this platform to try to change your minds, your view and so what we tried to do is provide perspective. To say, look here’s what to know. One side is saying this, this is what the other side is saying. Here’s the center of gravity and so the reason I point that out is because Comey’s firing was a campaign of public manipulation. We were told. We the American people, that the reason why President Trump fired James Comey was because he was too mean to Hillary Clinton. You go back to that letter that was given to the public and publicized.
That he was fired because he mishandled that case and he had to go. What the American people didn’t know at the time is there was a group of us inside the FBI that there was this investigation that was going on and that the president had asked and demanded loyalty of the FBI director. What the American people didn’t know at the time was that the president sat in the Oval Office across from the FBI director and asked him to drop a criminal investigation into the president’s associate. The president himself would soon go on NBC News and lay the whole thing bare. Then say, no it was the Russia thing that was on his mind. So inside the FBI not only were we grappling with the decapitation of the organizational leadership. In a flash the FBI director was gone but we knew that the reason why he was being fired was because the president was firing the person leading the investigation into his campaign. Remove the names, remove the party. In the United States of America that is chilling.
To think that any commander-in-chief Republican or Democrat would try to cut the knees out from other law enforcement in order to make an investigation go away. So you had basically two frames of mind inside the FBI. People that highly respected James Comey that were sad to see him go. And that’s not just anecdotal in fact the New York Times got a hold of survey data inside the FBI and Phil Moses having to fill out these surveys hopefully you did. They were voluntary but yeah but every year FBI employees have to fill out surveys about your leadership. It’s anonymous so that leadership understands how they’re doing. On Comey the marks were off the charts as far as what people thought of James Comey. Now people didn’t agree with all of his decisions. I didn’t agree with all of his decisions. I write about some of the criticisms in the book, but he was highly respected and so grappling with two things at the same time. The dismissal of a leader that was highly respected but also grappling with the fact that the American people were being manipulated about the reason for the firing.
Now what was so fascinating after that is that as I say that set in motion this chain of events. Were, but for the firing of Comey, you wouldn’t have Mueller. You wouldn’t have the Special Counsel laying out all of these instances of the alleged obstruction of justice by the president. You wouldn’t have all of these people associated with the president going to jail but for that action. I firmly believe and so inside the FBI people were frustrated at the time that has now risen to anger. I talked to people inside the FBI all the time. Both friends and then now covering them as a reporter. These agencies, they’re angry. They’re angry that they are continued to be lied about. Obviously they make mistakes. We just learned last week about an FBI official that was fired allegedly for altering some form, for which that is a fireable offense and I would argue probably criminal if that is actually borne out. But again, in the main these agencies are patriots. That these people in these agencies and so that is risen to anger. It started with the firing of James Comey, It continues to this day.
If I could make one quick comment because I think we all see. All of us in this room and I want to make a comment about your responsibility all of us collectively responsible in this room. We see on this stage maybe a level of anger and sometimes hate that maybe you don’t see because of social media. I have an email address for a website. My point to you is that the anger that the Josh talks about that I see in hate mail. You cannot, all of us, you all have children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, co-workers. All of us live in a toxic environment. You cannot accept at the dinner table, at the restaurant, when you go home tonight, the word that says I hate the president. I hate the FBI, I hate the CIA. I don’t care which side you’re on. What I see people slipping into on both sides of the spectrum. Because people who think they’re with me will walk up in a restaurant and say I hate the president, and my answer is, that is not acceptable. You don’t like him. You want to vote against him, but when you contribute -and all of us do this, to this environment of hate by saying toxicity means that I can hate. That is not acceptable and I don’t care if it includes the people in this room who don’t like the president. We don’t hate people. We want them out or we want an end. I am tired of getting emails from people saying I don’t know you but I hate you for what you say. That is un-American.
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
On the subject of what is un-American. This is for all of you. We have all in our own ways and our professions had to analyze data. Analyze intelligence, analyze reports and on the basis of that data. Those reports, those, actions those behaviors, come away with conclusions. I have seen the President of the United States not in one moment or in two moments or in three moments, but in a systematic pattern of behavior. Act in lockstep and in synchronicity with every choice, in every decision that Vladimir Putin would seemingly want to make. Instead of the interests of the United States .I understand the disturbing implications which that analysis leads to and I understand that it may even at some other point of time in our history of sounded hyperbolic. Based not on what we suspect but on what we have seen with our own eyes and heard with our own ears, Malcolm, Josh, and Phil. Is it crazy to believe that whether witting or unwitting the President of the United States Donald Trump is an asset of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government?
Well I’ll take the the journalistic view here. I mean again, our job is to look at actions, right. To stare at actions and I can tell you, having written this book and having had the pleasure and honor of travelling to now 15 cities across the country. This is a question that constantly comes up during Q&A. People ask what explains the president’s decisions as they relate to Russia and I’ll tell you. Again just using my journalistic lens. We don’t rule things in, we rule things out and if you look at certain actions that have taken place. The only thing that you have to understand is. There is a reason for them. Now just walk yourself through and again don’t look at this through the through a partisan lens. I don’t care who you voted for but there’s a reason why the president of the United States stood in Helsinki next to Vladimir Putin and sided with him over the US intelligence community.
There’s a reason for that. We don’t know what it is yet. I mean definitively. You have reporters around the world who are working to determine the motivations of many different leaders. The one thing that fascinates me, and this is. What I just ask people to engage in is this exercise. If you look at president Trump, of all the recent Presidents, you know, in modern American history. His ego is probably the the largest and most robust of anyone who has sat in that office. That’s not a criticism by the way because he would tell you the same thing. He obviously says that he’s a genius, he’s obviously very complimentary about himself. I mean the ego is there for all of us to see. That’s not a criticism but it’s important to understand that for that for this reason. Why would someone with that strong ego stand next to an autocrat and seemingly cower. There’s a reason for that. That’s not what people with giant egos do and so I’m not going down the conspiracy theory route. We always get criticized for things anytime you bring up a question. Well what explains X or Y, but I’ll just say that there is a reason why. If you look at the foreign policy decisions as they relate to Russia. If you look at decisions that seemingly run counter to the analysis of the US intelligence community. There’s a reason why the most powerful person in the world is siding with one country over these agencies and that’s something we have to continue to dig into.
Well I’ve addressed this issue many times on television and and I’ve first off let’s get something off the table. I don’t believe Donald Trump has signed a contract with Vladimir Putin that says he is an agent of the Russian Federation. That he has tasking coming in from Moscow saying, Donald I need these by zero 700 tomorrow morning. That’s all the other agents that were running over there or that they have in our country. That is as a technical term of art. That is out there. The question on the table is. Is he proving beneficial to Russia? Is he aware of the benefits that come from his relationship with Russia? You don’t have to ask any of us that question. That was on page 2 of the Mueller report. Which said that he was aware that Russia was carrying out activities in his interest. He organized his team and the Trump campaign to take that material which came from Russia. Whether it came through news media, or WikiLeaks, or Roger Stone, or Paul Manafort. People who have already gone to prison or going to prison, and use that to his benefit. He is still doing it today. I’ve said this on the day that it happened on July 27. 2016. When he came out and made his great speech that said, “Russia if you’re listening I want you to release the 30,000 Hillary Clinton emails.” I believe that day he was. First off I’m pretty sure he upset the Russians but, I believe that day he became fully witting that Russia was in his court. Was going to help him. He expected them to help him, he wanted them to help him, he has now almost confessed that he wanted China to do it.
Now we find he went to Ukraine and pretty much blackmailed them and extorted them to try to cheat again in an election. Which he cheated before, so we find. Therefore he is an asset of Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin loves this guy. Vladimir Putin actually said that. That he had his special security services which is Russia speak for his intelligence agencies assist and that he did want Donald Trump to be president. Don’t tell me. Don’t ask me. Just go read Putin’s own words. Read all over the news media that comes out of Russia where they openly say this man is ours. But he’s ours for a reason and the one thing that we do within the intelligence community. We don’t generally care about who what when where and how. The question we are all after is why. Why is this behavior occurring and I often try to use an analogy that comes from astrophysics, the black hole. When I see many, many, many indicators of intelligence all drawing like gravity down to a place where there is no answer and there is only a black hole of information. Then all of those indicators that are going in there, Helsinki siding with Putin, insulting US intelligence, getting rid of the FBI director, bragging that he did it to Russians. While blocking US news media. Hundreds upon hundreds of indicators all leading to a black hole. All right. I can pretty much figure out what is in that hole. Because some day we’re going to cross the event horizon and we’re going to determine that Donald Trump in some way shape or form, for some reason is in debt to Vladimir Putin. I don’t know what it is. Maybe he still thinks he’s getting Trump Tower 2.0 out of it. This is a man who was so dense that he thought that he would offer Vladimir Putin a 50 million dollar bribe of a penthouse at the top of Trump Tower of Moscow. Vladimir Putin would own Trump Tower. I mean, he just does not see how he is.
If he doesn’t see how he’s being manipulated, that he is being manipulated by teams of intelligence professionals, and human intelligence, and psychology. By Vladimir Putin himself who was a former human intelligence officer who turned people into traitors with regularity in East Germany. That guy listens to his scholars his psychologists and all of his intelligence staff to say, say this about Donald Trump. He’ll jump like a fish through hoop, or whatever poor metaphor but Donald Trump does his bidding. Because he thinks it pleases Vladimir Putin. This is the man, for those of you who say you love Donald Trump and that you are patriots to the United States. I have a question for you. This president pulled our forces out of Syria so precipitously that they abandoned fully functional camps to the Russians and the Russians went in and raised their flag on our position. If that had happened at any other point in the United States history the impeachment would have happened within minutes of that. Russia now owns our positions in Syria. Explain that to me. We abandon the Middle East to Russia. Explain that to me. The why is missing around this black hole of intelligence and the only thing we can do is go through contexts and precedents and say it is unprecedented. There is no context except that suspicion. This man owes his bookie something and he’s never going to insult his bookie.
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
All right folks in our remaining minutes we have a microphone. If you all have questions, please line up behind the microphone center. Please get your question out quick, directed to one of the members of the panel and panel please answer as quickly as you can. So we can try and fit in as many questions as we can. Let’s go to the first gentleman over there. Yes?
For Malcolm. Thanks and to all of you. I know that Republican Congress persons are afraid of being primaried, but all of them are intelligent enough to know everything that you know and that millions know. How do you explain. Is it money from the Russians how do you explain the seemingly traitorous behavior of Republicans in Congress?
I’ll make it really quick. For those of you are a certain age, which is my age or older. There was a cartoon way back when called Little Abner, right? About a mythical place in Dogpatch, I think it was called. In Kentucky or West Virginia someplace like that and there was a animal there that is imaginary called the shmoo. The shmoo would turn into anything you desire to eat if you looked at it hard enough and I think the Republicans. Because of the fierceness and the ferocity of their base, have seen that they had better become the shmoo. They had enough vitriol and hatred. They had better join that train. Or not only will they be out of office. I think it has released them to be the people that they are. I think they always have believed like Trump. The evidence is there. They were unrestrained.
Their problem was they were restrained by common decency and comity amongst American citizens and mutual love of country. Which right now, like Phil said. I don’t hate Donald Trump, I don’t. He sits in the seat of the man and when I served, I served the seat of the President of the United States. This one has some issues, okay. He ain’t George Washington that’s for sure. He is not the greatest president in American history, but he sits in the chair. The problem I have is the abuse of power. Of abusing that chair, but for the Republicans who are now all lockstep. They are in lockstep because I think they fundamentally see a different America in their heads and that America unfortunately is turning out to be what I call a constitutional autocracy. Where they have the fig leaf of the Constitution over their desire to have a top-down government. Like the woman said on television earlier this year. She said, I never thought we would like to have a dictator in America, but if there has to be one it should be Donald Trump. That is just disgusting to me and they need to go and read. I don’t know the Federalist Papers or something and find their inner mutual love of this country. Because I think their belief that it is a forty-percent country screw the rest of us. It is wholly un-American.
So Phil, let’s play the devil’s advocate. Are we all just not seeing the bigger picture as president Trump engaged in a grand strategy here to bring about peace and stability around the world through these actions?
I mean, I actually wouldn’t go to war. I don’t see why an American in the United States is threatened by China. Russia today, my definition of a threat to America is if a child is threatened, that’s it. I spent part of my career analyzing foreign leaders. So let me play the role I used to play analyzing the president. I could do this in 60 seconds or less. A President says he’s a genius. This is what he said, I’m not attacking him. He’s used that term. He’s smarter than the legislature. He’s smarter than the judiciary. He doesn’t like the press. These are all threats to his power to do what he thinks is right for him or for America. Pretty simple. For Russia, North Korea, Egypt, Philippines, Turkey, what are the characteristics of every leader in those cases. They all have an approach that says legislature, opposition parties, media, members of the opposition in the civilian population. They’re impeding my ability to do what’s best for my country. I don’t think he’s a Russian agent, I think Russia in the context of all these other countries is just another place where he says. That’s how I should be able to operate. I know what’s best for America. The judiciary doesn’t, you don’t, CNN doesn’t, MSNBC doesn’t. Nobody knows better but I do and all the people I like. They think like I do. Conversely, the Canadians, the French, the Brits. They got it wrong.
First of all general and thank you for your passion and thanks for your service like we’re very grateful. I haven’t heard anybody say this on the news or anywhere but I realize I think I’d like to know your opinion. I think when Trump took out Maria Yanukovych, he didn’t just take out a diplomat he took out a person who was managing a spy agency. She is our asset. My question is. Am I thinking right and my second question is how long will it take the United States to recover if I’m correct?
So I think just quickly on the ambassador. The one overarching question with her dismissal. As we continue to watch this Ukraine scandal and the impeachment inquiry play out, is how the rationale given for her removal doesn’t square with the reason that the White House continues to give. Now the president says that his interest in essentially talking to the president of Ukraine about what was going on with the Biden’s and Burisma for example, was because he was interested in rooting out corruption. The problem with that is, that this was an ambassador. Whose entire reputation was one based on rooting out corruption and she rankled a lot of people over there throughout her tenure. Because she was so anti corruption and so that’s the one thing that doesn’t square. Is that if your goal was to really get to the bottom of what was happening in that country, why remove the person who was such a bulldog against those very corrupt actors?
Can I make a quick point? Because this president does not operate on the same system that every other President of the United States works on and that is love of country, decency, maintain stability, and advance the American system. He works on the Good Fellas system of government. You didn’t make your payment, pay me. In his world it is, you didn’t find the corruption I wanted on Joe Biden, you’re fired! You didn’t come up with a Russian conspiracy theory that the DNC was hacked by a NATO ally, you’re fired! He thinks like a cheap hood. Just like Andrew McCabe when he wrote his book about going after the Russian mafia in New York City. He said, these guys ran on pure arrogance, and ego, and brute force. Trump is hitting the guardrails and when he hits those guardrails he shouts you’re fired! Like he did to the Secretary of the Navy. That diplomat is an American Hero for maintaining. Maintaining what Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin started at the State Department right? To him, get rid of it. That’s the way he operates.
My question is almost a follow-up on his. Because I’m very concerned about the next four years that we have to get everything balanced back to where it was in all these other countries. So my question is specifically to Malcolm Nance. Would you consider a VP position in the next administration.
Negative, negative VP. Negative I’m not -you know what I don’t have an ego like that, I am not qualified. I’m man enough to say it, but you know maybe on the intelligence review board right?
First of all I’m going home very depressed. I was depressed about what’s going on. I’m even worse, but a very simple question that has not come up, Vietnam. The public, the kids Marched. They made change. They forced the issue. I don’t see anybody, I don’t see the kids on college campuses marching. I don’t see huge tens of millions of people going to Washington why is that?
I don’t have a good answer to tell you. One thing I struggle with and was captured when someone a high school teacher approached me on the street about two years ago and said. He told me he had to teach his students what a fact was. I think one of the challenges. Especially with it is.You don’t have Walter Cronkite anymore. The White House, back in Vietnam said when when we lost Walter, I’m paraphrasing, we lost the war. People are looking at different media sources. All those media sources, or most of them are biased. I think people have different understandings based on, not on facts, but on different interpretations. sometimes weird, a lot of conspiracy as someone who’s in government conspiracies typically aren’t true. I don’t think there’s an equal understanding of what a fact is as there was in Vietnam. What happened in Syria? Walter Cronkite would tell you. Nobody knows who’s gonna tell you today. There is no agreed on fact.
Moderator Fernand Amandi:
Final round robin question for the panel. There’s so much noise going out there. There’s everyday an inundation of information and news and this that and the other, and we’re less than a year an incredibly epochal election for American history. What do each of you think is the one thing the American public should be laser focused on. Like a dog with a bone between now and Election Day. We’ll go with Josh Malcolm and end up with Phil.
Mine is easy and that’s transparency. Anyone in this room, if you were accused of wrongdoing you would move mountains to ensure that anyone who could exonerate you or serve as a witness helpful to you could be heard. That is what we need to be focused on today. We saw, during the Russia investigation, where there were certain elements that were at play trying to obstruct those efforts. We’ll have to wait and see how it works out now with the impeachment. The president actually has said he actually welcomes us in at trial because that may be able to exonerate him. We’ll have to wait and see how transparent people are. Because again, if you’re innocent of things you want that word to get out.
What’s the one item of focus for the American people? Patriotism. I mean, I have a very hard time seeing some of the things that are said from one American to the other. I feel like this is the most serious time. I was a kid in 1968. So I don’t know how bad it was. They say it was bad. The nation was coming apart, but to me this feels like 1862 where I think thirteen states just decided, the election doesn’t matter, we’re seceding. I think, mentally that we have trouble. Because now the the information bubble that you were talking about and determining what is a fact. America’s information sphere is like a heart that was beating in a steady rhythm. Its fibrillating and fibrillating means shaking uncontrollably out of control and there isn’t something to shock us back into the mutual love for this country. I don’t want it to be a terrorist attack. I don’t want it to be some massacre of children.
I mean, we have people right now. They say they hate the FBI, but you love them when there’s a bombing or a shooting. You have to understand this nation is formed on one founding principle, however imperfect. It was at the time by a bunch of flaming hypocrites too who were from the Enlightenment. They knew that even though they were sleeping with their slaves, that someday they would incrementally make us a more perfect union. E pluribus unum, from many one. It does not say though 40% of us are taking the country and we’re going to rule over the other 60%. You must find your inner love of America. My family, I say it all the time, we have served in every war from 1864 to today and not because you think that my great-great-grandfather and his brother when they ran away from slavery were gonna get treated better. No they got an opportunity to shoot at the people who captured them, but they wanted to make America better for the next generation of children.
We are ripping that fabric apart because some people think that they are better than the next American that sits next to them and if you’re guilty of that. I’ve been guilty of it from time to time, but I love everyone that is on the opposite side of the bench from me and I will I have defended their lives with my life. Every one of them needs to say, liberals aren’t Lib tards and hate America and communists. They’re just Americans with opinions that I disagree with and the same thing should be to the other side. Phil was right you vote next year. You vote like your life depends on it but I’m gonna give you one task, you vote. Because the American Republic, as it has stood from the time of George Washington when he swore his oath to protect and defend the Constitution till 2016, is in danger.
Think about a child. We talked about Russia, I don’t care that much. North Korea, not so much. China, not so much. We look in the mirror and we say, we love America and we’re exceptional. infant mortality; mediocre. The likelihood a woman will last through pregnancy; mediocre. Life expectancy declining. Child obesity increasing. The fellow who said he’s depressed. You know what I’m depressed about? We offer a child a future for health that is mediocre. Why does a 24 year old single mom with a child have to go to an emergency room? I think we ought to focus on what affects a child and I would say if you’ve ever been unhealthy, that child deserves a healthy life. Vote for it!
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