From “Fox News Sunday,” March 26, 2017

(host) CHRIS WALLACE: Does the president accept the conclusion from all sides that President Obama did not wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign, and is he ready to apologize?

POTUS Chief of Staff PRIEBUS: OK. Well, first of all — well, the answer is no. But —

WALLACE: No, he doesn’t accept it?

PRIEBUS: No, and I don’t accept it. I mean, the reality is, is that, number, when people say Obama, I think it’s really clear Obama administration.

WALLACE: Now, my second question, does the president believe that this was a concerted effort by the Obama administration to sweep up this intelligence and to leak it to undercut the current presidency?

PRIEBUS: Well, there’s two things there. One, the links are apparent. I mean, it’s obviously all over the place.

I’ve been on your show before and I’ve had people in my office, at the highest levels of the intelligence community that volunteered, I didn’t do anything wrong, they came into my office, shut my door and told me that these stories about Russian contacts and collusion were ridiculous.

So, there are leaks out there that are injuring the president, it’s wrong, and people should be prosecuted. Now, as to whether or not to the first party of your question that there some sort of broad conspiracy, there’s potentially something very wrong here. But I’m not going to go any further than that other than to say that I think the documents that the intelligence committees have apparently asked for from all over these different agencies that there collecting and reviewing —

WALLACE: I’ve got one last question for you, again, quick answer. Does Chairman Nunes coming to the White House and briefing the president before he briefed his own committee, did that undercut his credibility and does that open the door to an independent investigation?

PRIEBUS: Well, first of all, that’s not for me to answer. It’s for Chairman Nunes to answer. But it was his decision he made. We don’t calculate the decisions that they make and whether they’ve briefed someone or not. We had no knowledge — I think we let the House Committee do its job and see what they come up with. I mean — by the way, they’re not going to come up with anything. We’ve already been told. I mean, I have been on the show — I’m not making this stuff up.

Every single person has been briefed by the intelligence community has come back to the sticks (ph) and told the press, we have been told that there’s no truth — — there is no truth to the allegation that there is some sort of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.


WALLACE: Chuck, did Nunes make a mistake going to the White House, briefing the president before he briefed his own committee? And does this open the door, and this is a question I asked Reince Priebus, does this open the door and increase the demand for an independent investigation?

CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, on the second part of your question, obviously it’s increasing the demand for an independent investigation, both in the media and elsewhere on Capitol Hill, if I’m not mistaken I think John McCain piped up about that again this week. And for good reason that here you have a House body, obviously whose chairman feels it’s his duty, you know, the minute some new development takes place in the middle of their investigation, to run over to the target in effect of the investigation and tell him what’s going on.

On the point about whether or not it’s a mistake, I guess it depends on what his goal was. If his goal was to remain in good graces with the Trump administration, it was probably a very successful venture on his part, but it doesn’t seem to me, at least, consistent with sort of separation of powers 101. And, politically, I think it obviously has backfired on him.

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: Well, you still — you do have Democrats calling for an independent commission or a special counsel but you don’t really see anybody in the Republican leadership going that way. And it seems to meet you need some explosive new disclosure to really propel an independent investigation beyond. I mean now I think Democrats will focus more on the Senate Intelligence Committee that has not had the kind of partisan breach that we saw this week on the — on the House Intelligence Committee. And, of course, the FBI investigation is going to continue no matter what. So this is going to be an issue that we know from Monday’s testimony — just on Monday, it seems like so long ago — just on Monday from the FBI director that this is going to be with the chairman called a big gray cloud over the Trump administration for at least months.

NEWT GINGRICH: The fact is, this whole thing is so overblown and I think what Nunes was saying to Trump, which the media doesn’t want to accept is, that in fact he has some reason to believe they were under surveillance. Now, Trump got the — he got pounded on by the media for weeks. And all of a sudden Nunes says, wait a second, what if it turns out he was right? Well, I think he probably was — was stunned at the idea that after all of this lynch mob mentality in the media, it may well turn out Donald J. Trump is right and everybody in the establishment is wrong. And I think that’s why he went up to see him.


WALLACE: Within the next few weeks Daesh, ISIS, will be gone from Iraq?

AL-ABADI: Yes, militarily. We are defeating them militarily. As a terrorist organization, as I said before, they will try. So that’s where we need the efforts of others to flush them out and see there (ph) and other places.

WALLACE: There are now 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dunford, talks about wanting to keep troops in your country for a long time.

GENERAL JOSEPH DUNFORD, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We have, as has NATO, become a dialogue about a long-term commitment to groom capacity, maintain a capacity of Iraqi security forces, but no decisions have been made yet.

WALLACE: How many U.S. troops do you want in Iraq and for how long?

AL-ABADI: We are concentrating on training, logistical support and intelligence cooperation and gathering. These are three important elements which I think we need some U.S. troops to stay in Iraq to continue the task.

WALLACE: So if we now have 5,000 troops there, to complete the kind of mission you’re talking about, to train and assist, how many U.S. troops would you —

AL-ABADI: I think much less than the existing one. Of course with the war done, and the (INAUDIBLE) will be much less than at the present. So we’ll be looking at much — at — at a lower number than (INAUDIBLE).

WALLACE: On thousand?

AL-ABADI: I think it’s a bit more. Fighting terrorism is a priority. It’s a priority for us. It should be a priority for everybody. I know it’s a priority for the United States, but we should be on the same chapter on this.

WALLACE: I want to follow up on that. Do you see a difference between President Trump’s determination to destroy ISIS and President Obama’s?

AL-ABADI: I can see a very powerful determination to defeat Daesh.

WALLACE: But more determination with President Trump then President Obama?

AL-ABADI: Well, I — yes, I can see that determination. President Obama didn’t want to get involved in the first place. He just want to just forget Iraq. But I think coming back to Iraq was sort of (INAUDIBLE) because of Daesh and what they have done by crossing the Syrian-Iraqi border and occupied about 40 percent of Iraqi land. I mean slaughtering people. So there was a lot of pressure on President Obama to set — to — to come to the help of Iraq. While I think, at the moment, there is understanding that Iraq is an ally and we should keep on working with Iraq to support Iraq to stand against terrorists.

WALLACE: During the campaign, and even as president, Mr. Trump has talked about taking Iraq’s oil as a way to repay the U.S. for all the money we have spent in your country.

TRUMP: The old expression, to the victor belong to spoils. You remember, I always used to say, keep the oil.  So we should have kept the oil. But, OK, maybe we’ll have another chance.

WALLACE: One, what do you think of that? And, two, did you tell the president directly in your meeting?

AL-ABADI: Yes, I did. I told Mr. President, Iraqi oil is — are — is for Iraqis. There’s no question about that.

WALLACE: Did it upset you that he was suggesting that the U.S. could take your oil?

AL-ABADI: Well, of course it upset every Iraqi. It upset every citizen. I don’t think one should say that. This is the wealth of the country, the wealth of the people. It’s not right for any foreign country to take over the wealth of another country.

WALLACE: One of the reasons that you came to Washington is because you would like continued U.S. support as you try to rebuild Iraq after the war, after the attack by ISIS. But President Trump announced in his new budget that he’s cutting foreign aid by 30 percent.

AL-ABADI: We are not begging. We have been fighting on the ground, fighting ISIL, Daesh, with our own blood, with our own sacrifices and this is a danger to the whole world. But we need much more to win the piece rather than winning the war — after winning the war. And this, I think, is what’s (INAUDIBLE) of all — all our partners. It shouldn’t be just fall on Iraq, because this terrorism is not from Iraq alone. It’s from all over the world.

WALLACE: But President Trump talks about cutting foreign aid.

AL-ABADI: This is not aid. This is something else I think to preserve your own national security. It’s completely different. Terrorism is a threat of — to all — to the whole of the world.

WALLACE: Iraq was one of seven largely Muslim countries that was included in the president’s original travel ban. And after you raised strong objections, Iraq was taken off the list. But I wonder, what do you think of the travel ban in general? Is it a good policy, and have other Arab leaders been as upset about it as you were?

AL-ABADI: As to do with Iraq because we are allies. We are — we are victims of terrorism. It was like it is not acceptable to us, especially when you have U.S. soldiers, U.S. officers working with Iraqis in Iraq. I was really tough for them to tell the Iraqis, I’m working with you (INAUDIBLE) a threat to the U.S. I think that’s a major point which was raised and was rectified and I’m very thankful, which indicates that the U.S. administration (INAUDIBLE).

WALLACE: After 14 years in Iraq, America wonder what’s going to happen to your country and one of their big concerns as this, can you guarantee that Iran will not have undue influence or even control over some parts of Iraq?

AL-ABADI: See, Iraq is for Iraqis. Iraqis are nationalist. They don’t accept anybody controlling them. They will object it and they will fight for their —

WALLACE: But — but Iran plays a big role in the Shia parts of the country.

AL-ABADI: Well, Iran playing a role being a neighbor and other neighbors play a role. We are looking at the good side and we want to prevent the bad side. No country accepts another country controlling it. And definitely in Iraq we don’t accept it.

WALLACE: Finally, ever since we toppled Saddam Hussein, it seems that the different parts of the country, the Sunni section, the Shia section, the Kurdish section, have each pursued different interests and a somewhat different future. How comfortable are you that Iraq will remain a stable and democratic nation?

AL-ABADI: It’s happening in Iraq. I mean there’s freedom of expression. There’s a freedom of election. We — we hold elections every four years. This is going on despite all our difficulties. Yes, this is new since democracy, very infant. It needs support and we are supporting it. And I think it was worth it to remove Saddam Hussein from power. He was a dictator. He killed the people. He oppressed the people. And people are seeing the new Iraq as a democratic Iraq.

WALLACE: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.


 

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