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Comey Testimony Preview; Comey Talks Trump Meetings; Comey Talks Congressional Hearings. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 7, 2017 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Coverage of the critical moment for the Trump presidency.

And we have just gotten some paper that has landed in our laps today being the eve of the testimony from the now fired FBI Director James Comey in which he details multiple briefings, multiple events with the president of the United States. And so this has just come out. This is the opening statement for his testimony tomorrow. And so we're just going to all do this together live.

I'm going to read for you - that's how we roll at CNN - I'm going to read for you from Mr. Comey's statement ahead of tomorrow. Let's begin. And I have a panel and we'll dissect all of this as we go through.

This January 27th dinner. So this is what Mr. Comey writes. "The president and I had dinner on Friday, January 27th, at 6:30 p.m. in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night saying he was going to invite my whole family but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others. It turned out to be just the two of us seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

The president began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay. And I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away."

James Comey goes on. "My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position meant the dinner was at least in part an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI's traditionally independent status in the executive branch. I relied that I love my work and intended to stay and serve out my 10-year term as director. And then, because the setup made me uneasy, I added that I was not, quote, 'reliable' in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody's side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in the best interest of the president. A few moments later, the president said," and I'm quoting James Comey,

"I need loyalty. I expect loyalty. I didn't move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on.

But he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner. At one point I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox. Throughout history some presidents have decided that because problems come from Justice they should try to hold the departments close, but blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.

Near the end of our dinner, the president returned to the subject of my job saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions and many others. He then said, I need loyalty. I replied, you will always get honesty from me. He paused and then said, that's what I want, honest loyalty. I paused and then said, you will get that from me. As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase honest loyalty differently. But I decided it wouldn't be productive to push it further. The term honest loyalty had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made it clear what he should expect.

During the dinner, the president returned to the salacious material I had briefed him on January 6th and he had done previously expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them." He - in closing in this section he says, "he said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn't happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we're investigating him personally, which we weren't, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it. As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI."

And that is just a portion of all these pages we now have from James Comey ahead of tomorrow.

[14:05:08] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You have all these people speechless.

(INAUDIBLE)

BALDWIN: (INAUDIBLE). You, sir.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, let's just start with one thing here because now -

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Or should we wait for the movie?

CHALIAN: You just read the words - BASH: She just read the screen play.

CHALIAN: You just read the words that Jim Comey is going to sit before the Intelligence Committee tomorrow and read in his own voice tomorrow. What is clear here is the level of detail that he is including to bolster his recollection. So we had learned about the reporting, the contemporaneous memos.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CHALIAN: But what we did not know was things like being in the Green Room at a specific time and that his family was first invited and -

BALDWIN: The Navy stewards.

CHALIAN: He includes such - he includes such a level of detail which we know Jim Comey wants to build the narrative and tell a story here. And he is going to do so. But I think that is going to help him bolster his own credibility because he remembers these incidents in such incredible detail, I think it's going to make it potentially harder for the president to push back on it.

BASH: OK, so this is very long, I should say, and you read a very important, fascinating part of it talking about the loyalty pledge request.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BASH: Later he talks about the now infamous Valentine's Day meeting in the Oval Office where he, James Comey, is confirming very explicitly that the president of the United States asked him to back off Michael Flynn. This is on page five of his testimony. He says, "the president returned to the topic of Mike Flynn saying he's a good guy -

TOOBIN: Can I interrupt and let -

BASH: Yes, please.

TOOBIN: I think Brooke maybe should read this whole thing -

BALDWIN: Should we take it section by section?

BASH: Please, go ahead.

TOOBIN: Because I mean I think Dana is exactly right -

BASH: Well, I think that this is the potential obstruction of justice -

TOOBIN: That - yes, I mean I think Dana is so right about this.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to - I didn't mean to interrupt - I did interrupt -

BALDWIN: Shall we read the whole thing?

TOOBIN: Oh, read the whole thing.

BALDWIN: Or should we continue - should we continue with the dinner?

TOOBIN: But, I don't know, let's -

BALDWIN: Jump in on the dinner - I mean on the dinner first.

BASH: Do you to read it? Do you want to go ahead and read it?

TOOBIN: But, Dana, I mean, is so right that this part is so important.

BALDWIN: You can - go ahead, Dana, you read that section.

TOOBIN: Read that. Yes.

BASH: Do you want to read it?

TOOBIN: No, I don't. You read better than I do.

(CROSS TALK)

BASH: "The president said -

BALDWIN: It's incredible.

BASH: "Return to the topic of Mike Flynn." This is when they were - he asked everybody to leave and the two of them were together, just the two of them in the Oval Office.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BASH: Saying, quote, "he is a good guy and has been through a lot, end quote. He repeated that Flynn hadn't done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the vice president. He then said, quote, '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,' end quote." Again, this is quotes.

BALDWIN: But these are direct quotes.

BASH: Quoting what the president said to the FBI director about letting it go, meaning a probe into his fired national security adviser.

"I replied only that, quote, 'he is a good guy, (in fact, I had a positive exchange dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at the FBI)." Then he goes on to say, "I did not say I would, quote, 'let this go'." Then he goes on to say, "the president returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock -

BALDWIN: By the grandfather clock. BASH: "Making my way through a very large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus, Reince Priebus, and the vice president. I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with the FBI's senior leadership. I had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with all statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the president to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to this campaign."

BALDWIN: "I had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with all of this."

BORGER: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

BORGER: Well, and then - and he is describing his contemporaneous thoughts at the time immediately after he had this conversation with the president. And that's why I think it's so important because he took these notes because he considered it so concerning and at the time he says that, you know, it was concerning given our role as an independent agency and that he didn't think the president was talking about the broader Russia investigation, but really just the investigation into Mike Flynn.

BALDWIN: Mike Flynn.

BORGER: And -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But that's still an investigation.

BORGER: Of course. Of course.

TOOBIN: I mean this - I mean just - let's just keep this in perspective. There is a criminal investigation going on of one of the president's top associates, his former national security adviser, one of the most - handful of most important people in the government. He gets fired. He's under criminal investigation and the president brings in the FBI director and says, please stop your investigation.

BORGER: Right.

[14:10:00] TOOBIN: If that isn't obstruction of justice, I don't know what is.

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Brooke, let's -

SETH BERENZWEIG, COMPLIANCE AND BUSINESS ATTORNEY: This all - I'm sorry, you go ahead.

RANGAPPA: Oh, what's striking to me about this is -

BALDWIN: (INAUDIBLE) still sitting on that.

RANGAPPA: That, you know, from an FBI agent's perspective, we record these kinds of conversations all the time. They're very dry. There's not any editorializing or about, you know, how it landed on you and what your interpretation of it was. So what's striking to me, and I'll be interested to know whether this is also reflected in the memos, is him actually giving his interpretation of the meaning of what the president was saying, which may, on its face, could be kind of excused away. But as Jeff will probably attest to, obstruction of justice is a very complicated crime because proving the intent is the key. And so for him to say I understood this to be essentially a direction to stop the investigation, I think, is a pretty striking comment.

Go ahead, sir.

BERENZWEIG: But I think this demonstrates that the - this - the obstruction statute is also pretty simple. We know what is not included in there. It doesn't care if there was actual Russian collusion in the background. It's a separate independent felony. There's no feelings clause that tries to get into how it made you feel, which was part of the circus for this morning where the witnesses were talking about how it made you feel versus what the president actually said.

But the other thing that's so interesting about this disclosure is that it really blows up any theory from this morning that the witnesses were anything other than completely unprepared. This demonstrates there was no executive privilege. There was no criminal investigator privilege. There was no problem vis-a-vis Mr. Mueller and his reactions. This is - all of those are completely blown away and it further demonstrates how the witnesses this morning were completely unprepared. They're raising these things. We see from this that it doesn't matter. These are not privileges. We finally are going to be moving away from robotic responses and really into the facts.

BALDWIN: I do think there is a huge difference, though, between the people who testified - the gentleman who testified today who are working - you know, many of them are working, still have their jobs with working, you know, with the administration versus someone who's just been fired by a man and I imagine these guys today were very aware of the TV cameras glaring on them and a certain someone watches a lot of TV. Am I wrong?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Right.

BASH: And (INAUDIBLE) that, they're not the ones who are in charge of the investigation. This is the FBI director. This is the guy whose job it is to be the head person in charge of this very investigation -

BALDWIN: Yes.

BASH: That the president is asking to just let go. That is why this is so incredibly monumental and shocking.

CHALIAN: We should just step back and remember -

BALDWIN: Ys.

CHALIAN: The three things - and Gloria's done a ton of reporting on this. The three things that we were expecting to hear as it relates to Donald Trump's conversations with Jim Comey, there were there different categories. There was the loyalty pledge, which you just read all about that incident -

BALDWIN: Yes.

CHALIAN: And how that came to be about. There was the issue written in the letter to Jim Comey about when he got fired by the president saying those three occasions where you cleared me and said I was not under investigation, we're going to hear about the interpretation of that and that is clear even in what you read before that this does seem to have some nuance to it and some open interpretation about how somebody - of the two of them could have left that thinking, perhaps he was told he wasn't under investigation, even though that's now what Jim Comey is writing down here that he actually said. And then, of course, there is, as Dana was reading about, that February 14th incident about letting the investigation go with Trump, which to Jeffrey's point may be the most serious portion of this by far.

BASH: Yes.

BALDWIN: That's why I wanted to loop back to that point.

I mean what you said is very serious.

TOOBIN: Yes. I mean - I mean, I'm sorry, it really is very serious.

BALDWIN: You said - you looked at the camera and you said "obstruction of justice."

TOOBIN: And - and - and I think - you know, yes, it's sort of interesting about the clearing stuff and that does seem to be somewhat ambiguous about how he understood whether he was under investigation. But telling the director of the FBI to let it go, to let an investigation go, what's the innocent explanation for that? I can't think of one.

(CROSS TALK)

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I do think that there's something to be said about what we're going to hear tomorrow, which I think it's very important to actually hear it come from his mouth and hear his words even beyond what we're reading right now.

But this morning, what's just as important is what wasn't said and you didn't hear anyone sitting on that panel come out and say it didn't happen. Now, they said we did feel it and that we would have these discussions in private, except, unless they go to the counsel's office and the counsel tells them, the White House Counsel tells them, invoke executive privilege. So even though they may agree to go behind closed doors, as we heard from the DNI director, it doesn't necessarily mean that he's actually going to be able to say anything.

BALDWIN: I want to keep reading. I do want to keep reading because we're all looking at this March 30 phone call. How - just, Gloria, I want to hear from you, how big this is? BORGER: Yes, well, I was going to say, what we - what we don't have in this is that, you know, we've been told that - that Comey wants to present himself as a fact witness and what we have here are the facts. We don't have his interpretation, as Jeff Toobin will give us his, we don't have his interpretation of in fact whether he considered this some sort of obstruction or not. And I don't think we're going to get that tomorrow.

[14:15:14] But, he did think it was serious enough not only to memorialize it, but he and the FBI leadership team, he writes, thought it was important enough not to - and he uses this word - infect the investigative team with the president's request, which we did not intend to abide. So they kept it in a close circle and there were very few people they could go to, including Jeff Sessions, whom he said they presumed would recuse himself on the Russia issue. So it really gives you a sense of Comey hearing this, being very disturbed by it, going to a small group of people and understanding that they didn't want to infect their investigation and they had to keep it tight.

TOOBIN: And then - and then - I mean, again, I don't want to jump ahead - too far ahead here, but he goes to Sessions, his boss, the attorney general, and says, don't let me be alone with the president anymore.

BASH: Right.

BORGER: OK.

TOOBIN: Because this is what he's doing and it's inappropriate.

CHALIAN: The one place where he sees -

RANGAPPA: And he said, I can't guarantee that.

CHALIAN: The one place where he seems to draw a conclusion and not just be a fact witness is in saying that the president was going about what he wanted to accomplish the wrong way by going to Jim Comey and that he should be going to make requests about a public declaration of being cleared in this to the Justice Department -

BASH: Right.

BORGER: Right.

CHALIAN: And the attorney general and the deputy attorney general. And he said very clearly here in what was the final interaction, phone call between Donald Trump and Jim Comey on April 11th, it is clear that Donald Trump was done with Jim Comey on April 11th. I know it was all about that May 3rd testimony he said when he - but by April 11th, Donald Trump, according to Jim Comey, is reminding him of the loyalty pledge while Jim Comey is saying, you should be talking to the deputy attorney general.

BORGER: Right.

BERENZWEIG: And, by the way, this is - this is what a cooperative, incredible witness looks like. They don't walk in and act like repetitive robots to try to lay out some kind of a - a generalistic paragraph to say that they're not able to make a comment based upon privileges that they admitted themselves several times that don't even exist. This is someone who's coming in, he's prepared, he understands what privilege apply and don't apply. That's why the temperature in the room tomorrow is going to be even that much hotter.

(CROSS TALK)

BALDWIN: Asha, as a former FBI specialist -

RANGAPPA: Yes.

BALDWIN: I think it's just - we're in the weeds on this and everyone's reading, reading, reading. But just take a step back.

RANGAPPA: Yes.

BALDWIN: How big do you think this is?

RANGAPPA: Well, listen, as the director of the FBI, I don't think that he would have normally been in a position to come back and document conversations with other senior executive branch officials and put them in a file. That's what rank and file investigative case agents do. So, again, I think that this just, you know, attests to how much of a concern this is. I suspect that senior leadership team included the general counsel of the FBI who advised him to document this. And, you know, I think that his statements are going to carry a lot of weight because the things that he's quoting in here are probably taken verbatim from those memos. And those are contemporaneous records which are going to -

BALDWIN: And I think - I think - I think also listening to you, it's - you know, we're reading it and there's been so much reporting on the memos and the memorialization of the different meetings. But to sit there tomorrow, Mark Preston, and for, you know, the world to listen to this first-person perspective, to hear the words from James Comey himself, how strong of a case will that be?

PRESTON: Very strong. And I think that even though we're in Washington, we're in the swamp, James Comey is not political, right? So let's take a step back. He's not a Democrat. He's not a Republican. Or he keeps it to himself. He has served both administrations. He doesn't need a job. He's very successful. He's going to get a job after this. He will be hired right away, you know.

BALDWIN: He's going to write a book.

PRESTON: So it's not as if he's trying to make a name for himself.

BALDWIN: Yes.

PRESTON: I think, if anything, he's just trying to set the record straight. But to actually hear it from his mouth as opposed to any - any one of us on this panel reading it, is night and day, I believe. TOOBIN: And just imagine how it's - he will be asked about it after he

reads this statement. When I finally stopped interrupting Dana and let her read this paragraph, and as you read it, I mean, have him say it, because he was in the room. We weren't in the room.

BALDWIN: Shall we keep reading?

BALDWIN: And I -

BALDWIN: Should we go to -

TOOBIN: Please.

CHALIAN: (INAUDIBLE) can we just go to 30,000 feet for one second -

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

CHALIAN: About what I think also - let's just look now about how the press story is going to play out because now that this material is out today -

BALDWIN: Yes.

CHALIAN: These are the headlines tomorrow dominating as he goes into the hearing. Which means that - because very often out of these big hearings, even with questioning going on that can be tough, it's the opening statement, that revealing of facts that garners all the headlines the next day. Well, this is now happening a day before.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CHALIAN: So all of the headlines that we're going to talk about and are going to drive the news cycle are about this opening statement going in, which means the questioning becomes all that more important tomorrow because those are going to be the headlines coming out of the hearing tomorrow.

[14:20:04] BASH: And - and this was clearly done - oh, for lots of reasons, but one of the reasons -

BALDWIN: Well, why did it come out?

BASH: One of the reasons, he's not political in that we don't know if he's a Democrat or Republican or neither.

PRESTON: Right.

BASH: But he is - he gets politics.

PRESTON: He knows how to play the political game.

BASH: He know the way this city works and/or people around him do in this particular case and you are totally right, David, as usual, on this particular note, not only are the headlines going to be out, but he is giving the questioners all of their material 24 hours ahead of time, maybe - you know, or less than that, so they can prepare their questions, so they're not just kind of, you know, trying to do it on the fly.

PRESTON: And let me just add to that too to what Dana's saying, what David's saying. We also saw what happened this morning. There's a narrative that is going to be built up right now by the supporters of President Trump. Comey releases this right now and tries to cut that narrative off right away because we didn't actually hear anyone on that panel this morning say that they had been pressured or felt pressured -

BASH: That's right.

PRESTON: Even though they -

BALDWIN: Let me - let me ask one quick question of you, sir, Mr. Toobin, because one of the pieces that I read - and let me go back to this quote from James Comey - "because I have been very loyal to you" - this is Trump talking to Comey - "because I've been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know." Is that a threat?

TOOBIN: Well, it's - it's certainly - Comey seems to have taken it as one because he - I mean as - as he tells the story here, he had already accepted the job - he had already accepted to stay on as FBI director.

BASH: Yes.

TOOBIN: But then he essentially is subjected to this job interview again.

BASH: That's right.

TOOBIN: Where he's asked his loyalty.

BALDWIN: Right.

TOOBIN: And, again, I mean I get why I think the magnitude of this is so important. You have to put it in the context of all the events that happened.

BALDWIN: Yes.

TOOBIN: So he says, you know - and I - and I really do think that the stuff about Flynn is by far the most important. Where he says about Flynn, let it go, drop the investigation and Comey doesn't drop the investigation. So what happens then? The president fires Comey.

BASH: Well, no, first he calls him back a few times to try to do it again -

TOOBIN: Well, but - to try to do it again. OK. But, still, I mean you have to - it's not just like a stray comment that, you know, that Trump maybe later would regret. It's a whole pattern of activity trying to get him to drop this investigation.

BORGER: And that's the big picture. That's the big picture here.

BALDWIN: Right. Yes.

BORGER: If you want to take a step back and look at this, you see a president who believes that he should be able to control this. And he has lost control. Or he feels like he's losing control. And he's thinking, this is my administration, why aren't I in control of this investigation? And Comey is getting him madder and madder every time he talks to him, even though Comey said, you are not personally under investigation. He makes the point here that there is some nuance to that, that he couldn't - he didn't tell the president this but h couldn't say it publically because that didn't mean that he would never be under investigation. And so it -

TOOBIN: And there's a parallel here. And there's a parallel here. January 20, 1973, when Richard Nixon and H.R. Haldeman sat six days after the Watergate break-in, June 23rd, not June 20th, when six days after the Watergate break-in, they have this FBI investigation that they can't control.

BORGER: Exactly.

TOOBIN: And they - and so what do they do?

CHALIAN: (INAUDIBLE).

BORGER: Right. Right.

TOOBIN: They come up with this idea of telling the FBI that the CIA wants this investigation stopped.

BERENZWEIG: But I think -

TOOBIN: And it's that tape that's the smoking gun tape that persuades the House Judiciary Committee to vote to impeach Richard Nixon.

BORGER: And there are two people the president is concerned about here. For some reason, General Flynn -

BASH: Always.

BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) - always, and himself, always reminding Comey, can't you tell people publicly that I'm really not the person you are looking at here? And, of course, Comey couldn't do that because things change and there are different investigations going on and maybe he wasn't the subject of a counterintelligence investigation, but maybe something else. So the president, you can just sense his frustration. This is a cloud hanging over my administration. I have to get rid of it. You have to clear this up for me. This is - and he gets more and more frustrated before Comey's testimony, as David pointed out, on May 3rd. But you can imagine the president having all of this garbage now, you know, in his head about it and May 3rd and it kind of does it.

CHALIAN: But the point that the president - but your point, Gloria, the fact that we - the president thinks it appropriate -

BALDWIN: Yes.

BORGER: Yes.

CHALIAN: To go to his FBI director and say, this cloud over my head is your problem to solve for me.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BORGER: Your fault.

BASH: Because, David, you know this president -

CHALIAN: It is - it is a misunderstanding.

BORGER: Because you work for me.

BASH: Exactly.

BORGER: You fix this.

BALDWIN: That's how he sees it.

BORGER: That's how he - that's how he -

(CROSS TALK)

CHALIAN: No, I'm saying, it - you get full insight into how he thinks.

[14:25:02] BASH: Totally.

CHALIAN: It is - it is - it is clearly a wrong way to think.

BASH: But it's the way he's succeeded. He became Donald Trump by getting people around him to just figure it out and fix it -

CHALIAN: Totally.

TOOBIN: But there's -

BASH: Because it's OK, maybe not within this investigation -

BALDWIN: Not with this guy.

BASH: Certainly not when you're the president, but it's more OK when you're a real estate guy (INAUDIBLE).

CHALIAN: But at Trump Tower they don't have separation of powers.

BASH: That's -

CHALIAN: And -

BALDWIN: That's the difference.

TOOBIN: I think Dana is exactly right about the thought process that - that -

BASH: I'm not defending it. I'm just trying to explain it. TOOBIN: No, no, I - but this is the - this is his problem, the law.

BALDWIN: That old thing.

TOOBIN: You can't do some things even if you feel like it and you can't tell the FBI director to drop an investigation because you don't like the fact that he's doing this investigation and it's hurting you politically.

BASH: Totally.

BALDWIN: This is an incredible discussion. Give me one second.

TOOBIN: That's what happened in Watergate. That's what this is about here.

BALDWIN: Let's keep reading. Everyone join me. Page six. March 30 (ph), phone call.

BERENZWEIG: It's like being in class.

BALDWIN: Here we go. This is James Comey.

If you're just joining us, we have just gotten this whole massive statement. This is ahead of his big testimony tomorrow in front of the Senate Intel Committee.

And so "March 30th phone call. "On the morning of March 30th, the president called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability to (INAUDIBLE) half of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to, quote, 'lift the cloud.' I responded that we were investing the matter as quickly as we could and that there would be great benefit if we didn't find anything to our having doing the work well. He agreed, but then reemphasized the problem this was causing him.

Then the president asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the deputy attorney general, who we heard from this morning, until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me," quoting here, "we need to get that fact out. In parenthesis, I did not tell the president that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change." RANGAPPA: Sounds familiar.

BASH: Yes.

BALDWIN: He goes on, "the president went on to say that if there were some, quote, 'satellite associates' of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn't done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out and we weren't investigating him. In an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to the Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn't brought up the McCabe things because I had said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him," I think he meant Deputy Director McCabe's wife, "campaign money. Although I didn't understand why the president was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person. He finished by stressing - going back to this word the cloud that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn't being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.

Immediately after that conversation, I called acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente, A.G. Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related matters, to report the substance of the call from the president and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the president called me again two weeks later."

So, again, my takeaway is this insistent personal investigation questioning of that.

BERENZWEIG: Well, I also wanted in, this context, follow up on something that Jeffrey said. I think that the law is what it is and it applies pretty quickly. But one of the unique dimensions of this case is that the president, with regard to the facts, is essentially the architect of his own destructive narrative. All of these facts are really, for the most part, things of which he is the author. There are things that he's not able to dispute. The White House has supported that. We also have this unique dimension that's personal to the president where he puts a lot of this out on Twitter. We've been talking about threats. There was essentially a thinly-veiled threat issued against Comey about there better not be any tapes. So one of the unique aspects of this that really kind of one-ups Watergate is that he continues to be the architect of his own destructive narrative.

BALDWIN: But staying on what I just read, Jeffrey Toobin -

[14:30:02] TOOBIN: I'm sorry, could you ask someone else?

BALDWIN: Are you distracted?

TOOBIN: I was trying to read - I was trying to read -

BALDWIN: All right, Gloria Borger.

TOOBIN: I - I - I - BORGER: Well -

BASH: You just failed the class.

BALDWIN: You failed. Get out.

BORGER: I think that what you clearly have is a president who is talking about --