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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
White House Denies Trump Asked Comey To End Flynn Investigation; Aired 7-8p ET
Aired May 16, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN OUTFRONT ANCHOR: Good evening, I am Erin Burnett and we are following the breaking news. Sources telling CNN that former FBI Director Jim Comey wrote a memo stating that President Donald Trump asked him to end the investigation into the former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn. Comey apparently so appalled by the February 14th request that he documented the conversation in this memo.
Now, according to Comey's memo which was first reported by the New York Times, the president said this and I'm quoting Comey in the memo. Comey says the president said, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." The White House responding tonight saying, quote, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn.
This is perhaps the most explosive revelation yet in Trump's short tenure as president. I want to Jake Tapper, our first reporter is here breaking this news, and Jake, what else are you learning about what happened in that room -- in that room on February 14th between the president and Jim Comey?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Pamela Brown and I each have spoken to sources that confirmed the existence of this memo. The source I spoke with has a copy of the memo. He's a source close to Comey. He tells me that on February 14th, Director Comey, then still the FBI director was in the Oval Office with President Trump and Vice President Pence and the Attorney General Jeff Sessions talking about an issue of national security or the law.
After that meeting was over, the president asked the vice president and the attorney general to leave the room and then according to this memo, Comey said, as you read, that the president said to him, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He's a good guy. I hope you can let this go." He told Comey that Flynn had not done anything wrong. This is the day after Flynn had resigned. Now, Comey kept a record of this as is characteristic for him.
People who have followed Comey's career for the last couple of decades know that often when there is a controversy Comey is somebody in the center of storm who has written a contemporary in his account of what was going on at the time and what he was thinking and advocating at the time. This happened during the Bush years when he was deputy attorney general and he did this during the U.S. attorney firing scandal or controversy, during the NSA wiretapping, and then during the debate over torture.
In any case, the source says to me by the way and this is important, Erin, that there -- he says, quote, he wrote a number of memos. A great many, if not all, were about contact with Trump, particularly the ones that made him feel uneasy. Now, I said to him does Comey think that this was obstruction of justice what President Trump said to him about ending the investigation, and the source said, "That's your language not mine," but he agreed with the fact that Comey's impression was the president was telling him to end the investigation.
BURNETT: Obviously, an incredibly significant development tonight, as we said perhaps the biggest thus far in the Russia investigation. Thank you, Jake. And I want to go Pamela, OutFront in Washington. Pamela, you did confirmed this story for us here at CNN. Someone has read to you these memos and I guess the big question is as we're starting to see different parts of them, are we going to see them? Are we going to see everything that Jim Comey thought about the February 14th meeting and these other meetings or calls that as Jake said, made him feel quote, unquote uneasy?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's the -- that's the big question now and there's already a rhetoric on Capitol Hill from -- coming from democratic senators and congressmen in particular saying that they want to subpoena of these memos from James Comey. It is clear from my source and from Jake Tapper's sources that he has been speaking to the James Comey felt it was important to document some of these conversations that he had with President Trump.
And this one in particular, I am told through my source, a person familiar with the matter that he was appalled by the fact that he believed the way he perceived it was President Trump asking him to end the probe into the Michael Flynn, the embattled former National Security Advisor, and so he felt for ethical reasons, legal reasons, it was important to document this, and he apparently shared it with close associates, with people -- senior people on the FBI, but the question remains outside of that, who knew?
Did the Department of Justice know? Who in the Department of Justice might have known? And of course Andy McCabe the now acting director of the FBI to recall, Erin, testified last week on Capitol Hill and said that there is no indication that the White House has tried to interfere in the Russia investigation. Of course, the argument could be made that this is interference with the president asking him to end that probe, but it's unclear if Andy McCabe even knew if this memo existed. So still someone is with questions at this hour, Erin.
BURNETT: And obviously the answers to those questions could be some of the most important here in presidential history as we look at the significance of the story. Sara Murray is OutFront at the White House. And Sara, the response of the Trump administration, defiant?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Defiant, they are basely denying that this conversation ever exist and Erin, I think it's important to know a little bit of background here that publicly, administration officials have said the president wants the Russian investigation to go on. I believe he said that in an interview, but privately we know that the president was stewing about the fact that all anyone could talk about was Russia before he made this decision to fire James Comey.
So in a statement tonight responding to this bombshell report, the White House said, the senior administration official said, the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country. The president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation including any investigation involving General Flynn. The president has the us -- utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies and all investigations.
This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversations between the president and Mr. Comey, but I can tell you, Erin that tonight people close to the president and even some staffers are sort of accepting this with kind of a grim reality. Saying they don't really know what to make of it and they're waiting to see what comes of it. I think that gives you a good indication of, sort of, how people are feeling after really weeks of chaos has wracked the White House, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Sara Murray, thank you very much. And our panel on this massive story tonight. Jeffrey Toobin, former federal prosecutor, Paul Callan, former prosecutor, Chris Swecker, who is former Assistant FBI Director for the Criminal Investigative Division, he knows Jim Comey. Tony Blinken, the former Deputy Secretary of State, Deputy National Security Adviser under President Obama, Gloria Borger, our Chief Political Analyst, and Mark Preston, all with me. Jeff, let me start with you. You know, I think people watching have come to now say, well, there is -- there is always something. OK? OK. But in the context of there being something on a one and something on a ten, this one is significant.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is -- this is very high, because if the -- and -- report is true and if the memo that Comey described accurately described what went on, that seems clearly to be obstruction of justice. This is a pending investigation in February 14th. Everybody knew that the FBI was investigating Michael Flynn and for at -- for his role in the Trump campaign, whether he made false statements, whether he participated in colluding with the Russian government.
And if Donald Trump says to him, let it go, says to Comey, let it go, the only interpretation I can make is that he's telling him to shut down the investigation and I think Jake Tapper made a very important point about the context here. There was a meeting in the Oval Office about national security. Trump asked Sessions and Pence the attorney general and the vice president to leave.
BURNETT: To leave. Right.
TOOBIN: That's -- BURNETT: Again, this is according to Comey.
TOOBIN: Again, that suggests consciousness of guilt. You don't want to ask for something improper in front of other people. We need to see the memos and of course the great question is, are there tapes because President Trump suggested there were White House tapes. That could certainly -- I mean, congress has to ask for all the underlying documentation.
BURNETT: So Chris, you know Jim Comey. Does this sound like something he would do, to keep this sort of a memo and what would you say about its accuracy are from what you know of him?
CHRIS SWECKER, FMR. ASST. FBI DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: Well, it's definitely something that agents do, it's something that lawyers do. I was trained on it. If it didn't -- if you don't document it, it didn't happen, and I can definitely see former Director Comey documenting contemporarily easily as contemporarily as possible, probably right after the meeting, and it would be sound judgment to do that. I know -- yes, I know Jim Comey.
I've been very critical of some of his judgments, in fact, maybe a little harsh on him in terms of this firing and perhaps I suggested it was justified, but I can tell you this, there was no question about his integrity, whatsoever. That, I can tell you and I think that if he is -- if -- this is exactly what happened and it's well documented and we have these circumstances surrounding it, I would believe what was -- what's in the memo.
BURNETT: So let me ask you, Gloria, politically, OK, we're 24 hours out from the report that the president shared classified information with a U.S. adversary, obviously talking to the Russians. Well, the man believed to be a top Russian spy in the Oval Office. You're now the White House official. Just telling Jim Acosta a moment ago, saying of the Comey memo, quote, I just don't know on this one. Jim's take is there was no attempt at spinning at this one. Obviously, the president is denying it, but that's a pretty troubling statement for the Trump camp from their own aide.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is and there are other people inside the White House who are trying to put some, sort of, the face on this, but look, before this story broke this evening, I was talking to somebody who's very close to a bunch of Trump loyalists who had spoken with numerous people inside the White House yesterday and the way this person described the people in the White House to me was disconsolate. That was the word yesterday.
So -- and also, in talking to people who are close to the president before this story broke tonight, I can tell you that they describe him to me as a person who felt under siege, who didn't have confidence in anybody on his staff, and was kind of -- was kind of trying to think his way about what to do about it because of course, this is a president who never admits that he himself has made a mistake. But if you'll look at the past two days, you look at somebody from the intelligence community feeling strongly enough about what went on in the Oval Office with the Russians to talk to reporters about it and then you look at this story today.
You have people in the -- in the law enforcement community feeling strong enough about Comey to talk about this, and so you can see the president saying, "Oh, the intelligence community and the FBI is out to get me, but in fact, I would argue that these are people who saw something alarming and wanted to tell the story."
BURNETT: So -- but let me ask you about this though because this is important. The president denies it happened. OK. No shock to anybody, but he -- but in part his statement reads, "The president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end investigation including any investigation involving General Flynn." OK. That's his words. Jim Comey is now coming out with a memo with quotes that he said he wrote right after this meeting on February 14th. He was obviously fired only, you know, a week or so ago. OK. So what happened in between then and now?
The claim --
BURNETT: Why didn't he put the memo out right away? What -- who did he tell?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, exactly and I think that's the big problem you're going to have here. Technically, if what Comey says in his memo happened, I agree with Jeffrey. This is a supportable conduct, a criminal conduct which translates into an impeachable conduct. However, look at Comey's situation. He hears the president ordering him to stop an investigation. His does nothing about it, doesn't go to congress, he doesn't raise the issue, he just makes notations about it. His credibility I think is going to be harmed quite a bit. Instead of course Comey continues on the job. And there will be a strong argument by Trump supporters that Trump is more believable on this than Comey.
BURNETT: What do you say to that, Jeff? Because there is this question and now we're hearing there were memos at many times because he felt appalled. If he was so appalled why didn't he share them with someone?
TOOBIN: Why didn't he, like, call a -- call a policeman into the oval office to arrest Donald Trump?
BURNETT: Well, couldn't he -- couldn't he call one of these committees and go in and tell them about it or --
TOOBIN: He could have and I suppose that that is true. I mean, I think, you know, given the context that the FBI director isn't going to, you know, resign on the spot right away.
CALLAN: But why not? Why not?
TOOBIN: He might've -- I don't know.
CALLAN: Maybe that the president is threatening criminal activity --
TOOBIN: You know, that -- CALLAN: -- why not resign on the spot.
TOOBIN: That's a -- that's a good question.
CALLAN: And this is a guy who's got a lot of integrity and that's all has been his reputation. He has integrity. So instead, he takes the job and continues on. He's going to get torn apart on the witness stand if there is a witness stand in this case.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, he will, but I mean, you know, that is an example of, you know, putting the witness on trial as opposed to the defendant. I mean, yes, it -- that is something that Comey will have to answer for.
TOOBIN: But --
BURNETT: So --
TOOBIN: -- what about the underlying conduct of the President of the United States?
CALLAN: Well, If he did it -- if he did it, it's impeachable, but remember the jury here is the congress, a republican congress.
BURNETT: So --
CALLAN: They have to vote to impeach. I don't see them voting to impeach on this evidence.
BURNETT: All right. So Gloria --
CALLAN: It's technically enough but not enough.
BURNETT: Gloria, I hear you trying to jump in. Come in.
BORGER: Well, I was going to say that one reason Comey might give is that he actually wanted to finish the Russia investigation which was his job and he didn't want it to be politicized because he thought the investigation into the hacking, into an American election was just that important to the country that he wanted to finish that job. Look, I can't speak for Comey and nor do I -- would I ever try to. But I would -- I would think that that might have been a more important thing that he was thinking about getting done.
BURNETT: So Tony, let me ask you because I know you also had, you know, been in the situation room or, you know, with Jim Comey. What do you make of this, that the fact that he would say that in a memo and perhaps as we understand now multiple memos over multiple times and at least at this time, it's unclear whether he shared it with anyone.
TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATES UNDER OBAMA: You know, I've had calls to question his judgment, but never his word. And this has the feeling of chickens coming home to roost. You know, a few days ago, the president was unleashing this sort of veiled threat in Mr. Comey's direction. You better hope there was no tape of the meeting that we had when Mr. Comey said in that meeting. He had been asked for a pledge of loyalty.
It turns out the president should've been concerned that there was no memo that Mr. Comey was writing about their meeting. That's where we are now. And look, at the end of the day the real problem is this. The president has over a long period of time apparently an adversarial relationship with the truth. And if it's going to be he said -- he said, "I think Mr. Comey's going to come out on top in this instance."
BURNETT: Mark Preston, what do you say?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple of things. One is, you know, I think republicans, you know, go back to the idea about impeachable offenses and what would the republicans do. I think we have to look through this through two lenses right now. Party loyalty and then loyalty to the country at this point. Up to this -- up to today, so to speak, I think that republicans were willing to let a lot of things go from the president because they thought that for the things that he did, they at least had him in office and they could get things through that they thought were necessary, OK, whether that, you know, legislatively on big issues.
However, I spoke to a republican just a short time ago, somebody who is very sober on these types of issues, doesn't jump to conclusions, described this to me as a very critical moment right now for republican leaders here in Washington and throughout the country and this republican pointed out to me which does make a lot of sense at this point when we talk about subpoenaing and having control over oversight investigations.
The road they were on right now is republicans will lose the House of Representatives in 2018. That means democrats immediately have subpoena power and they can go in and they can ask for any kind of documents they want from the administration. And what does that mean? It means that the republicans would be in a lot of trouble on retaining control of the White House in 2020.
BURNETT: All right. So all of you please stay with me because when you talk about congress, obviously this is going to come down to whether it can be proved what Jim Comey says happened happened. If so, right, then you're down the path of they could pursue impeachment for obstruction of justice. At this hour on Capitol Hill there are growing calls for Jim Comey to come testify and tell his full story. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer just moments ago said this on the senate floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) MINORITY LEADER: The country is being tested in unprecedented ways. I say to all of my colleagues in the senate, history is watching.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Manu Raju is OutFront. He is on Capitol Hill tonight. Manu, what are republicans saying right now?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESIONAL REPORTER: Well, Erin, there are no -- very few republican defenders of this president right now. Most either want to see this James Comey memo, want him to testify publically. Senator Lindsay Graham told me earlier, suggesting maybe even a special prosecutor could be warranted if he feels that the president did anything inappropriately based on James Comey publicly testifying.
And others concern that the president continues to distract from what the republicans are trying to do up here. Now, just moments ago, Erin and I talked to Mark Walker, he is the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, this is the largest conservative faction in the house. He said that he's concerned, also. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK WALKER, (R) NORTH CAROLINA: If that's accurate -- I don't have any reason right now that it's -- that it's not. I'm just hearing it from one of our staff people. To say that we would have concern -- some concern would be accurate. That would be true. For me to act like it's not a concern would be -- would be remiss on my part.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, this comes, Erin, as house oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz saying that he is prepared to go after this Comey memo saying this in a tweet earlier, saying that this committee's going to get the Comey memo if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready. So republican and democrats want to get to the bottom of this. The question is whether or not republicans are pushed to do anything beyond the existing investigations on Capitol Hill, will they embrace what democrats have been calling for, a special prosecutor but the very least concerns from conservatives and liberals alike, democrats and republicans wanting to get more information tonight, Erin.
BURNETT: ALL RIGHT. Manu, thank you very much. Back to my panel. Just let me just put this question to you. OK. Let's just assume that they -- that Comey will give over that -- this memo and any other memos. Let's assume that he does that.
BURNETT: OK, fine. Let's assume that what's quoted is what's actually in that.
BURNETT: I think those two are fair things that they exist and that that's in there. OK. Then what? It's a he said, he said. That in it of itself is that enough to cause obstruction of justice? I mean, it's one man's word versus another.
TOOBIN: Well, you have to look at the surrounding circumstances. It's not just the memo. Is -- will Sessions and Pence confirm that they were asked to leave the room? That would corroborate what Comey says --
BURNETT: And they could be --
TOOBIN: And they could be --
BURNETT: -- and come in and testify on that --
TOOBIN: Or -- and they certainly will be asked publicly about it as well. You know -- you -- there are lots of cases that involve differing versions of the facts and, you know, juries are ultimately designed to make those credibility determinations. You know, I think, you know, if one person has contemporaneous that is written at the time records of what went on in a conversation, that's usually pretty good evidence, but this is a political situation. Impeachment is a more -- a political event than a criminal event and so we will have --
BURNETT: So wait, there is no beyond a reasonable doubt or any such thing that would need to be proven at this point?
TOOBIN: Absolutely not, absolutely not. And democrats are going to -- republicans are going to just to have to make a seat-of-the-pants judgment, is this something we want to force somebody out of office about?
BURNETT: So Chris, let me ask you because this is now leaking to multiple news organizations that Jim Comey have these memos, OK. I think we can make the assumption Jim Comey knows that that's leaking and he's OK with that. There's been plenty of leaks coming from his camp in the most -- in the most recent days, so is he going to come out and come on the record himself and testify the way that they want to now in congress?
SWECKER: Yes. I think they need to give him the forum to do so and the sooner, the better. They should do it warp speed. Bring -- I generally have minimal respect for congressional investigations. There is more politics than there is investigating going on, but this is the perfect forum. You don't launch right into impeachment. Hold some hearings, bring Jim Comey in there, let him bring his memos, let him testify. Let's find out what happened. I'm getting really tired of hearing from third parties and secondhand information. I want to see some first-hand information.
TOOBIN: I agree and also -- I think that you're absolutely right that, you know, it's not time for newspaper articles. It's time for testimony. But you have to get underlying documents as well. Are there any documents that shed light on what went on in this meeting, including the waves records, which are the records of who was going in and out of the White House on February 14th and of course are there any --
BURNETT: Well, they've said they don't want to share those records of who's coming in and out of the White House --
TOOBIN: Well, well --
CALLAN: Just let me add one point on the bind that Comey is in because Comey, ironically, they wind up being forced to be on Trump's site in this scenario because he is going to have to come in and say, "Well, I -- if I thought the president was asking me to obstruct justice, I would've either resigned or I would've gone to a senate committee or I would've gone to a house committee." He-- he's in a really tough spot because for him to endorse the idea that this was in truth and obstruction of justice he has to say that he was complicit in the obstruction.
BURNETT: Yes. Gloria?
BORGER: But there was enough reason for Comey to memorialize this. He didn't memorialize it because he had interest in a conversation with the president that he wanted to -- were called for his memoir, I assume. I assume he did it as a matter of record because he found it worrisome and dangerous and so, you know --
BURNETT: Right. But then, why not say something earlier, Gloria? Why wait until he's been fired?
BORGER: Well, that -- I think that's a completely legitimate question. And, you know, I was just guessing before that maybe it's because he felt that the Russia investigation was more important.
BORGER: I mean, we'll have to wait for him to say why he didn't go to oversight or why he didn't go to the White House counsel or why he didn't go to the attorney general, right? I mean -- well, he might not have been confirmed at that point. I'm not -- I'm not quite clear on the timing. He will -- he will have to answer -- he will have to answer that question, but it's very clear to me that the reason he did this is because he found it worrisome. I mean, why else would you memorialize a conversation with the president --
BURNETT: So --
BORGER: -- in which he asked you to see your way through to clearing something.
BURNETT: So Tony, let me ask you because part of the memo, in the memo -- this is according to the New York Times, Jim Comey said that Trump said, "'I hope you can see your way clear to letting this thing go, to letting Flynn go,' Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey according to the memo. 'He is a good guy, I hope you can let this go.'" Now, here is -- here is the part we haven't yet shared. "Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, only replaying, 'I agree, he is a good guy.'"
What do you hear when you hear that. Is that Jim Comey acquiescing? Is that Jim Comey making Donald Trump think he's acquiescing when he's just buying time? What is he doing there because obviously he's not responding to the full comment of Donald Trump but he is appears, sort of, trying to placate him.
BLINKEN: Well, I think he's trying to end the conversation on that topic and move on. Ideally what he would have said is, "Mr. President this is a totally inappropriate conversation for us to be having and I'm not going to continue it." It may have been his polite way of ending it and deflecting it to something else, but the bottom line is, goes to what Jeff was saying a little earlier, which is it is the underlying conduct, again, if this is all true that the president was engaged in trying to put his thumb on the scale.
Now, look, maybe the simple truth is he felt bad about what was happening to General Flynn and was trying to be a nice guy and help him out, but regardless even if that was the intent, the President of the United States interfering even for good reasons in an ongoing investigation and possible prosecution is totally inappropriate and ideally the FBI director would have told him so.
BURNETT: And there are questions, though, you know, to this point, however he handled it. Mark, there was obviously the hearing on May 11th, right, when the now interim director of the FBI, McCabe testified, right? He was asked about Marco Rubio whether the president or this White House has tried it in any way to impede the investigation. I wanted to play the question and the answer because they're both important for the context here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Has the dismissal of Mr. Comey in any way impeded, interrupted, stopped, or negatively impacted any of the work any investigation or any ongoing projects at the Federal Bureau of Investigation?
ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING DIRECTOR, FBI: The work of the men and women of the FBI continues. There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So Mark, what does that mean in context of what we're learning now? Did McCabe who was the number two at the -- at the FBI have no idea?
PRESTON: Well, two things. One is we don't know if McCabe had any idea in whether or not then Director Comey shared with him this information, but if you go back and listen to that clip right there, you have Senator Rubio saying has the dismissal -- has the dismissal of Director Comey negatively affected the investigation and then, of course with we saw McCabe say no, in fact, that's not the case. So that is a specific --
BURNETT: But then it continued to say --
PRESTON: -- wording right there.
BURNETT: Yes, but then he continued to say there has been no effort to impede our investigation to date which I took to be me more broad than simply the dismissal of Mr. Comey.
PRESTON: No doubt and no -- right, no doubt about that, but again, we don't really know what the relationship was between McCabe and Comey and where there was discussion about what the president says and maybe Comey didn't feel comfortable enough to talk to McCabe about it and that he only spoke to somebody else in the bureau or a couple of other people in the bureau instead they feel very uncomfortable about it but I have memorialized it and I've put it over here, you know, just in case they ever need it and that might be the case.
TOOBIN: And one of the reasons why Comey might not have said anything to McCabe or other people is that he wanted to protect the bureau from precisely this kind of interference. If he doesn't tell anyone that Trump is trying to end the investigation, then the investigation proceeds. Now, one of the things that FBI directors and FBI supervisors always talk about -- it's a phrase that you hear them use often is protect the bureau and I suspect that Comey will say his goal in this whole process was protect the bureau. So if he didn't tell anyone that the president tried to shut down the investigation and the investigation proceeded, he had protected the bureau.
BORGER: Well, we don't know --
CALLAN: Well, there's just -- and one other thing, there is -- there is one -- there's one other thing we haven't even discussed that I think really goes against the president very strongly. You remember when Flynn's lawyer started saying my client has a story to tell but he needs immunity.
CALLAN: The president came out publicly and said he should seek immunity and now, why would the president be saying that Flynn should seek immunity unless the president now acknowledges that there was criminal exposure for Flynn and he had in fact try to influence Comey to drop the case. It's just another small piece of evidence that's going to get put on the scale that we've go against the president.
BURNETT: Now, Chris, let me ask you on this issue of protecting the bureau, does that add up to you, that Comey would see what perhaps could be obstruction of justice which he would know full well as an impeachable offense, say nothing about it because he was figuring out what to do or trying to deal with the president because he didn't want to cast a shadow or cause any fear among those in the FBI who are handling the investigation, does that add up to you?
SWECKER: No, it doesn't. What adds up to me -- well, first of all, it's protect the criminal justice system, not the FBI. FBI is an investigative agency. They're supposed to get to the facts. That's the way I was trained and that's the way I look at it and I'm sure that's the way Jim Comey looks at it. I think he looked at it as he didn't feel feel threatened, he didn't feel, like, he was being ordered to end an investigation. He wanted to document it. That sound practice. He never -- you never know what's going to come up later, how things are going to come up later, whether it's going to fit into a broader context. So I think -- he didn't feel like -- I mean, certainly, the language could've been stronger if you're being ordered to stop an investigation. Hey, stop, I want this investigation ended, you know, you -- your -- you serve at my will. There could have been much stronger statements there and I -- and I believe he shared this with Andy McCabe. Andy was in the -- at the inner circle. I don't know that for a fact but I believe if this happened and there is a memo --
BURNETT: You think it's likely?
SWECKER: -- and the sources are correct I think it's highly likely and I'm not -- I don't think Andy McCabe looked at it that way, either.
BORGER: But what --
BURNETT: I would say though -- I think we've all been in situations where someone doesn't directly tell you to stop doing something but you feel that that's exactly what they're using and you know that you're going against their will and you're doing so at your own professional risk. I think -- I think everyone has experienced those sorts of things before.
Let me go back to Jake Tapper on this issue.
Jake, this issue of why did Jim Comey not reach out to Congress earlier? Why now after he's fired and you're learning a little bit more as to the answer?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The White House has been putting out this pushback asking if this really happened, then why didn't he do something about it, let other people know immediately? So I asked the source close to Comey about that and I'll just read you what he said.
Quote: because it wasn't a very successful effort on the part of the president and Comey thought he had pushed back on it. Living with this president is about standing up and pushing back. He thought he'd pushed back and was working to regularize communications between the bureau and the White House and he knew more work was needed, but he thought he was starting to succeed.
And then this interesting quote: he was very sensitive tom how difficult it was going to be to work with this president. He also thought he could do it.
If I could offer one bit of analysis to somebody who has covered Comey now for several years, he has a rather high opinion -- and I'm not saying that in as pejorative way -- but he has a rather high opinion about his sense of integrity. And I'm sure that he thought, I'd push back on that, I can handle that, I am still the best person for this job.
BURNETT: Tony, what's your reaction to that if that's what he actually thought? I think regardless of the fact that everyone who knows him is speaking up for his integrity. It would seem that's not a decision for him to make.
TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STAT UNDER OBAMA: Look, it makes sense knowing what I know of him. That sounds right but there are many reasons why he may have held back. I think certainly, the argument that I'm trying to make this work and I'm trying to get this White House to act in a normal fashion and I'm trying to get the president to act within the bounds of propriety and thinking maybe he was succeeding in that, that certainly could well be.
Gloria also made the point earlier that this may have been something he was simply wrapping into his larger investigation, another element that would need to come out when he concluded that investigation. So, there are many possible interpretations. But the bottom line is this, we do need to hear from his and hear from him directly. And the sooner, the better.
Because again, the bigger picture here is this -- all of these self- inflicted wounds by the president are taking us away from the business of the country. And imagine, we're spending all this time on a self- inflicted wound. When we get a crisis coming in from the outside --
BLINKEN: -- it's hard to imagine a how the president is going to deal with and what it's going to do. And especially, everything here is so corrosive of his credibility and of the administration's credibility, that's your most valuable asset and they're losing it.
BURNETT: One more point comes back to a point we made with earlier, which is, OK, if you can get the memos from Comey, obviously, that's important. But the thing that ultimately would be the arbiter of the he said/he said would be tapes. OK?
The president put it in quotes. We know there are many who have attested to the fact that he has often recorded -- always recorded conversations when he was in the Trump Tower. Will we ever know if there were tapes?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. You know, I -- you know, this is a fact in the world whether there are tapes. And no one operates in isolation, especially in the White House, even the president of the United States. There are --
BURNETT: You would not say there would be a rush to get rid of that evidence?
TOOBIN: Look, I recognize there are a lot of reasons to be suspicious of Donald Trump at this point. I don't see him destroying evidence. I've never seen him destroy evidence.
I mean, if the tapes exist, there is certainly a taping system where foreign leaders are taped. That's been done as a matter of course for years.
BURNETT: Right. TOOBIN: The question of whether he is taping domestic, political,
national security meetings with his own staff, that's the real question.
TOOBIN: And we don't know.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: -- the taping system with Trump, you might be talking about a small digital recorder in his pocket, which wouldn't be examinable by White House personnel. That's what I'd like to know. Did he carry one around and use it occasionally?
So, this is why I think in the end, you really need a special prosecutor in this case to pursue all of these details. Where are the tapes? Do they exist? We need subpoena power. You need a lot more power to investigate this.
BURNETT: And, Mark, what is the bottom line on where they are in Congress on the tapes and whether they can get them. I know that we know Democrats and Republicans have called for them if they exist but that's it.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we know that Jason Chaffetz right now is saying that if there is this memo, which we know there to be one that he is going to subpoena --
PRESTON: -- they're very reluctant to ask about the tapes, though, at this point, although I do think there's going to be an incredible amount of pressure put on Republicans in Congress who have that oversight, who have the ability to subpoena to get those and to listen to them.
[19:35:09] If not publicly, certainly behind closed doors.
BURNETT: All right. Let me just step for a moment here. As you were all here, I want to bring in the Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
By the way, Congressman, I want everyone to know. You were just briefed by the CIA director about the very latest on what the president may have told Ambassador Kislyak and Foreign Minister Lavrov from Russia about information that was not authorized to be shared.
But I want to start with this breaking news right now and the memo that Jim Comey says he has. What's your response to this? The White House says it didn't happen. Jim Comey says it did.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, first of all, it's deeply troubling. And if the reports are true, then the American public really demands that we -- we've had enough talk. We need to take action. I would say that we should give James Comey 72 hours to produce these
memos of the FBI, 72 hours to produce the memos. If they aren't produced, they should be subpoenaed. By the same token, we should give the White House 72 hours to produce those tapes if they exist. And if those aren't produced, then they should be subpoenaed.
BURNETT: So, what is the hold up as far as you understand it on those sorts of subpoenas, right? We're hearing obviously Republicans agree with you on the memo, perhaps not so much on the tapes.
CASTRO: I think that all of this is still being sorted out. Remember, the House of Representatives, unlike the Senate, was not in session last week. This is our first day back.
CASTRO: But now that we're back in session, we need to take action.
BURNETT: Now, when the president fired Comey, you said, Congressman, that it would be an impeachable act if he fired Comey to effect the Russian investigation, right? If he did so for that motive.
BURNETT: OK. If Comey's memo is accurate, what we're hearing now about the president saying, give Flynn a break, stop looking at Flynn, does that meet your bar for impeachment proceeding?
CASTRO: Again, those reports have to be verified. We have to make sure that it's true. This is a deliberative body.
This country's only gone down that road twice. But yes, if it, in fact, is true, then yes, that is an impeachable offense.
BURNETT: So, I'm just trying to understand because I know, obviously, you have a lot of discretion in Congress, right? If it's true, it has a lot of latitude, right? It's not beyond a reasonable doubt, right? We may get those memos and you may see them and they may say exactly what we and "The New York Times" and others are reporting that they say. It is still Jim Comey's word against Donald Trumps.
Is that enough for you to know that it happened the way Jim Comey said?
CASTRO: Well, a few things. First of all, memos made by FBI agents and officers are routinely admissible in court.
CASTRO: And remember -- and again I don't want to get ahead of myself. It's got to be a deliberative process. But just as a matter of fact, the impeachment process is also a debate. There is a debate over that. So, that is when you would get into the back and forth perhaps of what's true and what's not.
BURNETT: Now, you also were just -- I believe in the past few moments, you finished your briefing by the CIA Director Mike Pompeo. I know a lot of questions about exactly what the president told the Russian ambassador, Russian foreign policy. One, of course, is believed to be a top spy and spy recruiter for Russia in the United States.
What did you learn from Director Pompeo?
CASTRO: Well, you know, of course, I can't divulge exactly what the director said, but needless to say, everybody in that room, it was my sense, was very troubled by the president's behavior, that he seemed to confirm on Twitter and basically giving up this highly classified information that has the potential to basically endanger lives of our allies and also endanger our national security.
BURNETT: So, the president's national security adviser, as you know, Congressman, came out today, last night obviously with a statement. I think he realized he should have done more and he did today. He calls this a wholly appropriate conversation, the conversation that happened between the president and the Russians in the Oval Office. After the briefing you just had with the CIA director, do you still doubt McMaster or do you think it's possible that the conversation was appropriate?
CASTRO: Well, if by "appropriate," he means legal, then yes, the president has the --
CASTRO: -- broad ability to declassify information and to share information. That doesn't mean that it wasn't reckless. It was very reckless to share that information with the Russians. First of all, to have them in the Oval Office after they interfered with our democratic processes, but then to share such highly sensitive information that may have come from allies, that was completely reckless and it makes me wonder if he's done it before and whether he intends to do that again.
BURNETT: Did you get the feeling from the CIA director's testimony that the president had any idea that he was sharing information that was top secret, that had not been agreed to be shared by the third party at this time or did the president know that and do it anyway?
[19:40:07] CASTRO: I think that's a good question. And quite honestly, it's hard nor me to discern that. My inclination is to say that perhaps he didn't know what he was doing, but either way, the damage is done.
BURNETT: So, your Senate intel colleague, Jim Risch, just moments ago, I don't know if you know this, but he said something I wanted to get your reaction to. He says the traitor is not Trump for sharing classified information with an adversary. He says it was the person who told "The Washington Post" about it. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It was not the president of the United States that caused this. It was some traitor who's in the chain of command below the president who actually disclosed this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: What is your response to that? The traitor is the person who leaked to the newspapers, not the president who leaked or shared the information with the Russians?
CASTRO: I strongly disagree. I think the trouble -- the problem is the president sharing this very classified information with Russian officials and also the senator's words speak to a real problem around here which is that people keep putting party above country, and that at some point, this body and the Senate are going to have to put country before party, and it feels like perhaps we're turning a corner where that's actually going to happen.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.
CASTRO: Thank you.
BURNETT: Sobering and major developments are coming just hours -- I mean, we're just days barely to go before the president goes on his first overseas trip. It is a very significant trip to Saudi Arabia, to Israel, to NATO, to the G7, to the Vatican.
I want to go to our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.
And, Jim Sciutto, the timing on this up incredibly troubling.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. Listen, the first presidential trip -- these trips with ones used to burnish the image of a new president, to show him or her being presidential. The context will be, sadly very different, as you have certainly Democrats and now some Republicans calling for a further, deeper investigation into the president's behavior here, including the phrase "obstruction of justice" being raised.
And let's look at those countries that you mentioned there. Saudi Arabia, key ally in the war on terror. Israel, key ally on the war against ISIS and we know now that it was Israel that supplied the sensitive information that the president shared with Russia.
And, of course, Russia is the number one topic of conversation for NATO. That's going to be the main really topic of conversation as he goes to Brussels to meet with NATO members there. So, not only is the talk here different than what the president wants for his first presidential trip, but these issues going on here challenging his very presidency are ones that are very germane, in fact, central to those parties that the president is meeting on this first trip, Israel, those NATO allies, Saudi Arabia, et cetera.
We know that the White House, as well -- I would just mention finally, Erin, wanted this trip to help change the narrative somewhat from the many previous controversies we were reporting on just the number of days ago. That's not going to be possible.
BURNETT: All right. My panel is back with me. I also want to add Jason Miller, of course, former communications director for Donald Trump's campaign and transition, and Dan Pfeiffer, communications top executive in the Obama White House.
So, let me ask you, Jason, do you think the president has tapes that could prove that his side of the story, right? He says Jim Comey is lying. Essentially is what he's saying. He's saying that what Jim Comey says happened didn't happen. Can the president prove it?
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Erin, thanks for having me on.
The only that I know about the tapes is what we've seen from the public reports and the president, he said that he's not going to comment any further.
But to go right at the heart of this Comey matter, I think it is absolutely absurd to think that the president supposedly made such a comment or such a request to Director Comey and Director Comey sat on it for three months and then, after getting fired, magically reaches into his jacket and pulls out some memo that he wrote at the time. That is absolutely absurd.
I mean, he would have had the obligation to step forward and make that public, or at least brought it up when he briefed members of Congress.
And I think there's something a little bit weird and a little bit vindictive on Director Comey's part, there's this little diary or figuratively speaking a diary where he's keeping every single note as we can try to come back and play gotcha games later on. I mean, the whole thing just doesn't seem to make any sense.
BURNETT: So, Tony, let me ask you. Look, Jason's making the case that the Trump defenders are going to make. Jim Comey, as Jake was just reporting, is saying that he thought that he didn't say anything because the president had pushed at him. He didn't think the president was successful at making him stop. He thought that living with this president is about standing up and pushing back. He thought he was capable of doing so and could protect the integrity of the investigation.
[19:45:03] Does that, Tony, add up to you as an explanation for what Jim Comey did not do, which was tell Congress, telling anyone what the president supposedly did?
BLINKEN: It does add to me, Erin. But, again, it would be good to hear directly from Mr. Comey in his own words exactly what he was thinking. But again, we're looking at what he did or didn't do in this instance. And again maybe ideally he would have come out with this right away.
But the hard truth is this. Time and again, going back a long period of time, the president has represented that the relationship with the truth is adversarial. And at some point, that comes and bites you because now, there's a question of credibility, and it may be a he said-he said question that comes up. And whether it's saying President Obama wasn't born in the United States, whether it's saying he founded ISIS, whether it was the crowds at his inaugural, whether it's so many other things in between, time and time again, he seemed to be divorced from reality and what he says.
And that means that his own credibility is really undermined. And that's just not good for the country. And again, you mentioned -- we're heading often on this foreign trip. There's a lot of foreign business to be done and unfortunately this is going to be a dead weight around that trip.
BURNETT: Mark, let me ask you, because 24 hours, of course, the massive story that the president shared class fight information with the Russians that had not been authorized to be shared. Obviously, not illegal. He's allowed to do it.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
BURNETT: But perhaps unethical or inappropriate. Now, you have this story 24 hours later. Can he just ride it out cycle after cycle and then everyone just moves on to the foreign trip?
PRESTON: You know, I don't think so. Look, he's been able to continue forward despite all these unforced errors or forced errors on his part quite frankly in his first few months of his administration. But what we saw yesterday with the allegations of leaking out information in a very careless manner was stupid. And it doesn't look very smart when you're working with our allies.
The allegations today potentially could be criminal, you know? So, that in itself rises to an entirely new level. And I do think we need to take a step back to, Erin, and just look at how people are looking at us right now.
Vladimir Putin and Russia affected our elections last year. They toyed with our elections last year. They try to break into our political system last year. This year, they're now affecting the operation of our government. And the big winner in all that -- and I said this to you last week on your program when Director Comey was fired -- is Vladimir Putin, because right now, he is sitting back in Russia laughing.
And we should have had the foreign minister and the ambassador to Russia were in the Oval Office last week. Why did that happen? It's just amazing to me that the president allowed that to happen.
BURNETT: So, Dan, can I ask you a question --
MILLER: Erin, can I --
BURNETT: Hold on one second. I want to get Dan in this point about the ambassador and the foreign minister, because, Dan, you know, we've reported it was 21 or 23 times that Ambassador Sergey Kislyak from Russia, this is the guy who's the top Russian spy and recruiter, according to intelligence, visited the Obama White House?
Can I ask you because you were there? Was he ever in the Oval Office? How unprecedented was that?
DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't -- I don't actually know, Erin, if he was in the Oval Office. I wasn't in those meetings.
It's a different situation where the Russians got themselves involved in our elections. They did it to help Donald Trump win. And then to have him come in and then to leak classified information, whether it was careless for some other reason, it's just -- there is ranking incompetence at all levels here, starting with the very top in the Trump White House. And sometimes, it's -- it calls for a lot of Twitter activity or cable chatter about it. Some of this has real consequences.
This one has real consequences because it affects intelligence operations that are being used to protect the country. That's very dangerous. And that is where this gets very serious. And we have to be, this is what Democrats worried about putting someone like in Donald Trump in office and we're seeing that come to roost here.
MILLER: Well, Erin, if you go back to the campaign, the president must have said dozens of times that he was going to try to enlist Russia's help in this war against ISIS. I think that's the only thing that happened here, and the only crime out of everything that he talked about so far, the only crime that we know that absolutely happened is the fact that somebody illegally shared the details of President Trump's conversation with a foreign leader to "The Washington Post" and that's a very serious offense.
BURNETT: What's your response to that, Tony? Would you agree at least technically right now? Obviously, we know there's other crimes that might have happened but what would you say?
BLINKEN: Well, first, I don't think I'd want to go back to the campaign because we've seen over the last 24 hours repeated montages of the president going after Hillary Clinton for not respecting intelligence and confidential information.
BURNETT: Right, calling her unfit --
BLINKEN: And anything she may or she may not have done. It pales in comparison to what happened, whether it was intentional or not.
[19:50:04] But giving this information to the Russians as Dan just said, in so many different ways undermines our security. And we're depending on other countries to trust us, to have confidence in us, to share the most important, significant intelligence they get with us. And you know what's ironic is, sometimes when it's something incredibly important, but incredibly classified, you'll say to the other country, look, we'll only share it with our president. No one else in our system is going to see it.
In this instance, that would not be something that inspires confidence.
BURNETT: Chris, do you think there will be a chilling affect on other countries' willingness to share information with the U.S. or for spies to put their lives on the line to get information that could be shared with the U.S.? By the way, given that we have confirmed that it is with Israel that is the third party, and, of course, the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, coming out in full support of the president today, even after it turned out that Israel is the country that could perhaps be put in jeopardy.
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASST. FBI DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATE DIVISION: You know, these relationships are built on trust and many of these were wired after 9/11 in a way that had never been done before. Israelis are great partners in the intelligence area.
But let me just say, it's an inadvertent disclosure and a very close meeting with high level officials is different from disclosing to the entire planet. And if anyone put someone in jeopardy, if this was a human source, it was the leaker, and it's really disgusting to see someone at a high level inside a law enforcement or intelligence agency putting their own personal agenda ahead of the safety of the source and the good of the country.
And, look, if President Trump made a mistake, he made a mistake. This has happened before, believe me, inadvertent disclosures, but not a deliberate leak to a national media outlet. So, the whole world and ISIS can sit in their armchairs and read about it in the newspaper.
MILLER: It's criminal.
BURNETT: Paul, what's your response to that, because, obviously, the argument here that is made, and, look, leaking is criminal, but leaking is what happens, it happens to Democrats, it happens to Republicans. It is the only reason, for example, that Watergate even happened, that was even able to be expose was leaking, OK? So, everyone who wants to come out and say it's horrible, it's been very important in American history.
CALLAN: It has.
BURNETT: Could this be a case like that?
SWECKER: But there's a process for that.
CALLAN: It could be. It could be a case like that. But I think the thing that bothers most people who looked closely at what happened in the White House is, this was the president being extremely irresponsible in the handling of this intelligence by leaking it himself to the Russians, without having had a discussion with his national security staff, to make sure that this was a good idea. It strikes me as an off-the-cuff decision that he made, kind of showing off about how much intelligence the U.S. had, without really stepping back and being aware of the consequences of that act.
That's the most disturbing aspect of that. And yes, somebody in the intelligence community was so upset about this, that they leaked it. And that is a crime and that is something that should be investigated. But on the other hand, I think the president has some questions to answer too about being cavalier and utterly irresponsible and immature in the handling of classified material.
BURNETT: All right. Also joining the conversation now with our panel, the former CIA director under President Clinton, former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, Ambassador Jim Woolsey, and former White House counsel for President Richard Nixon, John Dean.
So, John, let me just -- let me start with you. With the newest information that we have tonight, which is the memos that Jim Comey apparently kept, because he was appalled that that is the word that we're using from our reporting at things that Donald Trump said in meetings and phone calls with the FBI director, including asking him to let this go, when it comes to the investigation into General Flynn, apparently that memo from February 14th.
If this happened, John, does this mean the legal of obstruction of justice which is, of course, is the impeachable offense?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Well, we got two levels of obstruction, actually. You have the technical, legal level which he cannot be charged with while he was president. Or the impeachable level of obstruction, which he could be charged with if the Republicans want to charge him.
So, I think he had -- there is an obstruction here, without getting into the weeds of technical legal issues, not always is it an obstruction to just interfere with an FBI investigation, or to impede it even. It has to be connected with a judicial proceeding, and we don't have all those facts at this point.
But there's no question, it could be impeachable, indeed, Nixon was impeached for just this such act.
BURNETT: Ambassador Woolsey, we're learning now that these memos were -- I think it's fair to say extensive. Apparently, the FBI Director Jim Comey, I'm just giving you the very latest reporting crossing at this moment, documented, quote, everything he could remember, and he did so because a source says, you realize something momentous has happened and memories fade.
[19:55:06] So, he wanted to memorialize it at the earliest time. In one memo, we are now learning, Ambassador, Comey included a description what Trump said to him about crowd size at the inauguration, which, of course, we all remember was something the president claimed which was not true.
Ambassador, when you take the base memo that we have right now, that Comey says Trump asked him to end the investigation into General Flynn, Donald Trump tonight via the White House denying that happened, who do you believe?
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR UNDER CLINTON: Well, the important thing is I think to get straight what type of investigation is going on. There are really two kinds that the FBI runs, there's criminal investigations, which is what everybody thinks of with grand juries and prosecutors and so forth. And then there's intelligence collection, which is really intelligence collection, the FBI collects information about counterintelligence in the U.S., the CIA collects it overseas.
But it's not a criminal procedure, it's not part of the criminal justice system.
WOOLSEY: You can't have a system whereby you treat it as if it were criminal. That's wrong and a violation of the law. So, if you want to have a criminal investigation, and you have one.
But this is a situation where almost everybody is talking about the investigation that's taking place, as if it's a criminal investigation. To the best of my knowledge, it's not. It's a counter intelligence investigation.
BURNETT: So, John, I want to share with you a little bit more of the reporting we're getting. Pamela Brown talking to a source who has seen the memos and knows Comey's thinking in terms of why he kept these extensive memos and the source tells her, quote, There is no need to document conversations with people who are truthful or situations that are routine. It's when you have situations that are not routine, and people who are not truthful, you would write a memo to file. There's other occasions he has done this, but not every day.
What's the significance of that coming from Jim Comey?
DEAN: It sounds like it's his past practice. We know he did this during the Bush years, and it's not surprising, that is a good rationale for somebody who sees something exceptional. They make a note or they send a document -- a contemporaneous document to keep a record of it. He's obviously done this for a long time, and I don't think any of us should be surprised that this have appeared. I actually tweeted that I thought they would come up a couple of days ago.
BURNETT: So, Ambassador, what is the bottom line, how damaging will it be when the former FBI director testifies, because our understanding is he believes these memos will be subpoenaed. We just heard a member of the Intel Committee saying he wants to give him 72 hours. Look, he's going to give them out. He wants to testify. Or, you know, tell his story, he wants to come out and tell it. So we're going to hear it.
It is going to be he said/she said, Ambassador.
WOOLSEY: Talk about testifying in a criminal proceeding, then somebody has to start one up. They haven't done that as far as I can tell. They don't have one going.
The situation today, it's as if a bunch of kids on a playground, somebody catches the ball and then drops it and somebody else says, hey, you're out, infield fly rule, and the guy who drops it, what do you mean? We're playing football.
They're assessing the wrong kind of proceeding in talking about obstruction of justice and the rest. And that is something that we need to get clear. Is there any kind of violation of law that we have seen in people's behavior in the counter intelligence investigation? Not that I know of.
CALLAN: I think, Admiral, the thing that we're not clear about.
WOOLSEY: No, we got above army captain. Thanks for the promotion.
I think the thing that we're not clear about at this point is whether a grand jury has actually been convened. And there may in fact be an investigation being conducted by a grand jury of contacts with the Russians and it may in fact involve General Flynn. And when you look at a possible obstruction charge here, Comey's going to come in and say, you know, the reason I didn't act and do something about this was because it was an a attempt maybe to influence me at the time, but nothing came of it. However, something ultimately did come of it. Comey was fired to try to stop the investigation from going forward.
And people who are going to come in against the president will say, that was the act that turned a possible obstruction into a real obstruction of justice.
BURNETT: All right. And I hit pause. I thank all of you. Our breaking news coverage is going to continue.
I want everyone to know, we have a special town hall tonight, "White House in Crisis". That is tonight at 10:00. The guests are Senator Bernie Sanders and the governor of Ohio, John Kasich.
And our continuing coverage of the breaking news is right now with "AC360".