CNN "CNN Newsroom" - TRANSCRIPT Atty General Garland Appoints Special Counsel In Biden Docs Probe; Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) Discusses About The Classified Docs In President Biden's Former Offices; Severe Weather & Tornado Threat Across Southern U.S.; McCarthy Stands By Rep. Santos, Says He Has To "Earn Trust". Aired 3-3:30p ET


Date: Jan. 12, 2023


CAMEROTA: Mm-hm. Okay, let's bring in now, Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington. She's the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for being here on this busy news day. How big of a political problem do you think this discovery is now for President Biden?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, Alisyn, it's great to be with you.

Look, I think the first thing is that this is what it looks like to have an independent Department of Justice and a president who is cooperating with, not obstructing an investigation. Second, I think that it is - there are a lot of facts that have to emerge and what occurs to me is we really need to have the intelligence community look at the bigger process by which documents get taken out of secure locations.

I mean, this is something that I've been listening to some of the analysts who say that this happens often, it happens routinely. I don't think it should. And so I do think that there needs to be a bigger look at how this happens. But all of that said, there are clear differences here and how this President is handling it, and we'll just have to wait for the special counsel to do his work.

CAMEROTA: Well, let's talk about that. Because back in September, when it came out that this was happening with Donald Trump, you tweeted Donald Trump's stole classified documents, he put not only our national security at risk, but the security and safety of our allies around the world, he must be held accountable to the full extent of the law.

Should President Biden be held to that same standard? I mean, he - you said President Biden - I'm sorry, President Trump stole the classified documents to put our national security at risk. Isn't it possible that President Biden is putting our national security at risk also?

JAYAPAL: I absolutely think that is why the Department of Justice has appointed the special counsel. But again, I would just point to the fact that these documents so far that we know, what we know is that they were kept in a locked place. That was a very small number and I don't know how important these are, they might be incredibly important. They were marked top secret.

But the storage and the approach to this is completely different. That doesn't mean that there isn't a problem here and certainly there's a political problem for all of us as Democrats. But I do think that there are significant differences and I do think it's important to look at the fact that this President is cooperating completely with the investigation. He is not obstructing. He is not saying that this is a witch hunt. He is not doing any of those things.

In fact, it is his Department of Justice that has appointed a special counsel who was appointed under Trump and who Republicans - and who was confirmed unanimously in the Senate and who Republicans and Democrats both respects. So there are significant differences. It doesn't take away my concern about the overall situation and I do think we have to continue to look at the facts.

CAMEROTA: And I just want to ask you about the timeline, because this has also come up. So we now know that the White House knew about this longer than the press or the public. So on November 4th, okay, before the midterms, the National Archives informed the DOJ - informed that the DOJ that the doc - informed the Department of Justice that these docs had been found at President Biden's former office from when he was vice president.

Some people have said that that was before the midterms. Do you think that he should have disclosed that to the public then?

PAYAPAL: There's really no way for me to know that. Obviously, we - this is going to be a part of the Department of Justice's investigation. What did they communicate at that time? What did the Department of Justice know? What did the Biden administration - what did the President think was in there? We don't know any of those facts, so I think it's early.

But I think the difference is that this has never been a president who has deliberately obstructed and stopped any investigation. He hasn't - he - his track record is very, very different. I'm glad that there's a special counsel that's going to investigate. I don't think Merrick Garland had a choice but to appoint a special counsel here, because again it's about the integrity and the interpretation of the public.


And I do think quick resolution of this issue I hope is forthcoming, because that is important for the public to be able to trust that these things are being handled fairly.

CAMEROTA: As you know, the Republicans came in saying that one of their priorities was to investigate the Biden family and investigate the Biden administration. Do you feel that this now gives them more of a rationale?

JAYAPAL: Well, it's not great because, obviously, they will pounce on anything, regardless of how different the circumstances are. Their intent, the Republican intent is to undermine faith in the government overall and certainly in Democrats, they have an extreme Republican agenda that we have seen rolling out. We saw the chaos on the House floor and the disunity of Republicans, they are dying to have something to change the conversation from the chaos and disunity of Republicans and so this has always been their extreme agenda.

They're going to use it Alisyn. I'm used to that. I'm on the Judiciary Committee. I've seen it over and over again, when there's nothing to talk about. And you give them a little piece of information like this. And clearly they're going to they're going to try to push on it.

But I think it's up to us to keep calling on these fundamental pieces, is the President obstructing an investigation? This President is not. Is the Department of Justice operating independently? This Department of Justice is. And so, I think these are big differences that the public really needs to take into consideration.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Pramila Jayapal, thanks so much for your time.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Alisyn.