CNN "The Situation Room" - TRANSCRIPT Special Counsel To Investigate Biden's Handling Of Classified Documents; Rep. George Santos (R-NY) Defiant Amid Growing GOP Calls For Him To Resign Over Lies; Russia Appoints Second War Commander In Three Months; Alabama & Georgia Declare State Of Emergency Amid Tornado Devastation. Aired 6-7p E


Date: Jan. 12, 2023


BLITZER: We're getting more reaction this hour to the new appointment of a special counsel to investigate President Biden's handling of classified documents. We're joined now by a veteran member of the house intelligence committee, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. Congressman, thanks for joining us.

First of all, do you support the decision by the attorney general, Merrick Garland, to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Biden documents probe?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Absolutely, Wolf. It was exactly the right move by the attorney general. It's really important that whatever has occurred here with the presence of classified documents in President Biden's possession that it be investigated impartially and fully so that we understand what happened. So it was exactly the right move by Attorney General Garland.

BLITZER: This investigation, for all practical purposes, only just beginning right now with this new special counsel named today.

The White House has been criticized, as you know, Congressman, for what's being described as a series of contradictory statements about these classified documents. Does it concern you that the Biden administration was not forthcoming about any of this until it came out in the news?

HIMES: Well, Wolf, let me say two things that we think are absolutely true. Number one, no classified information of any kind should ever be outside of secured spaces. And it doesn't really matter how classified it is. If it's classified, it means that its disclosure could classify the national security of the United States. So, whether it's in Mar-a- Lago or in Wilmington, Delaware, we've had cases obviously where formerly CIA directors have been found to be mishandling classifies information, that needs to stop. That's not a partisan statement. It needs to stop.

Now, that's -- of course, there's pretty important distinctions between what the White House is dealing with and what the previous president dealt with. You know, the White House, upon the discovery of the documents apparently in the two locations, has handled this precisely right, by disclosing the fact, by saying, we've got this stuff at Mar-a-Lago, not only did they not disclose, but they so resisted the Department of Justice in their attempts to recover that information that ultimately agents had to basically knock down the door to get the stuff. So, there are some pretty substantial differences between the two cases. But the bottom line is classified information should not be outside of secure spaces.

BLITZER: That could damage national security if released. You've served on the House Intelligence Committee and you've reviewed sensitive documents for a long time. You've been on the House Intelligence Committee since 2013. The new GOP chairman of that committee, Congressman Mike Turner, has asked for an immediate review of these, the Biden's documents, the classified documents that have been discovered. Do you think the committee needs to investigate this given the fact there's a special counsel now doing so?

HIMES: Well, we have an important oversight role, Wolf, that is independent of the oversight that is conducted by the Department of Justice, by inspectors general, by special counsels. So, Mike Turner is right.

Now, as you know, we have been asking for a very long time for a damage assessment associated with the documents that were recovered from Mar-a-Lago. We will ask for exactly the same thing with respect to documents that were in these apparently two locations for Biden.


It's really important for us to know what secrets may have been compromised. Now, we don't know they've been compromised, but obviously when they leave a secure space, that's always a possibility. Again, this is not so much a partisan issue though. I will note that an awful lot of my colleagues treated this whole problem one way when it was associated with Donald Trump, you know, excusing the behavior, suggesting that stuff maybe isn't that classified, and now they have a different tune to sing now that they see political advantage with Joe Biden.

But, really, bottom line, Wolf, forget the parties. What's important here is we understand how this happened, that it doesn't happen again and if there's any possibility that that information leaked, we need to understand how that might affect the security of the United States.

BLITZER: Very good point. Congressman Jim Himes, thanks, as usual, for joining us.