Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
CNN: Trump Lawyer To File Complaint Against Comey; Trump, Fired FBI Director Call Each Other Liars; Trump: Comey's Testimony Completely Vindicates Me; Did Comey Lay Out Case For Obstruction Of Justice?; Comey Testimony Raises New Questions About Sessions. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired June 9, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Just moments from now, President Trump will be speaking live as he and fired FBI Director James Comey are now trading accusations, calling each other liars.
The president breaking his silence this morning on Twitter, saying that he has been vindicated, also calling Comey a leaker. This comes after Comey had this to say about his former boss before the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president said "I had dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on." Is this an accurate statement?
COMEY: No, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then in that same interview, the president said "in one case, I called him, and in one case, he called me." Is that an accurate statement?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever call the president?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In his press conference on May 18th, the president was asked whether he had urged you to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn. The president responded, quote, "No, no, next question." Is that an accurate statement?
COMEY: I don't believe it is.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETRY (via telephone): No, I can definitively say the president at not a liar. I think it's frankly insulting that that question would be asked.
BOLDUAN: So, there's that. And now CNN has learned that the president isn't just tweeting about this, he is also threatening action, but how real is that threat and how real is that action?
Let's get right over to CNN's Joe Johns, who's at the White House with much more on this. So, what exactly is the president and his legal team threatening now, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know is that a person who's familiar with what's going on here tells CNN the president plans through his attorney to file complaints, both on Capitol Hill as well as at the Department of Justice, against Jim Comey.
This is all part of the pushback that started with the president's tweet today. Those complaints expected to zero in on Jim Comey's assertion during the hearing yesterday that he used an intermediary to release information to the news media that turned out to be fairly explosive.
So, what does all of that mean? Well, it's a little bit unclear, because quite frankly, when you look at it in process terms in Washington, number one, the president did not assert executive --
JOHNS: -- executive privilege over this. The second thing I think is important to say is this is the kind of thing that Jim Comey sort of guarded against in many ways. And there's no there "there," according to a lot of our sources.
However, it's a political move, and it gives the president an ability to push back, the kind of pushback that he's used through attorneys coming from New York, the real estate world, all the way to the White House. The question, of course, is where it goes, except to say that the president is pushing back and pushing back hard.
BOLDUAN: There you go. All right. We'll see what the next step is and if that complaint actually sees the light of day. Great to see you, Joe. Thank you very much.
Let's get right to it. With me now, former Clinton White House Counsel Jack Quinn, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra, former assistant special prosecutor during Watergate, Nick Akerman is with me, and CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" reporter, Abby Philip is here as well.
All right, it is a new day, it appears, and a lot to get to, so let's start here. Jack, let me start with what Joe was just laying out for us, this threatened legal action coming from the Trump legal team.
They want to file a complaint, if you will, with DOJ and with Congress about Comey. All the guidance that I'm looking at is that this doesn't have much behind it. It can't go really far and it doesn't really have any teeth with it, so what does it do then?
JACK QUINN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, it's certainly a distraction, and it calls into question the manner in which Director Comey responded to the concerns that he had. Look, it remains to be seen. You certainly can't take out of your government position documents, particularly documents that might be classified, but this doesn't seem to be material of that kind. I have a hard time seeing the basis for any kind of legal action or reprimand of the director on this basis.
BOLDUAN: Fascinating. And also, it's worth noting that Donald Trump, as Joe noted, is notorious for threatening lawsuits and legal action of many kinds, and many of it never appearing after getting a lot of headlines.
But Nick, on this point, the president's response to the hearing this morning, when he sent out that tweet, was "Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication. Wow, Comey is a leaker."
[11:05:01]All right, so, they're threatening to file a complaint, and he's now calling Comey a leaker and also saying that there are so many false statements and lies. Is President Trump accusing James Comey of perjury?
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I have no idea what he's accusing him of. I mean, this is not a real estate case. The Supreme Court has basically held in this Department of Homeland Security versus McLean, that under the whistle blower statute, somebody like Jim Comey had every right to release this information. There was no executive privilege on it because it was a statement made in furtherance of a criminal scheme to obstruct justice.
BOLDUAN: Well, and the president never tried to invoke it going forward, before he testified, and they said very clearly they weren't going to.
AKERMAN: That's exactly right. And if you look at history here, when John Dean testified before the U.S. Senate back in 1973, he detailed a whole series of conversations in the oval office with the president, with aides. Nobody ever filed a complaint against him. Nobody ever said that he was a leaker.
I mean, this whole thing is just a bogus distraction from the fact that now we have in the record pretty firm evidence that the president was involved in a scheme to obstruct the FBI investigation.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, weigh in on that. Do you agree with Nick Akerman here? PETE HOEKSTRA, FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: I'm not an attorney, but to jump to the president was involved in obstruction of justice, you know, absolutely ludicrous. There's a couple of things that I agree with James Comey on.
Number one is that the report that you're talking about this morning that may or may not be accurate -- James Comey didn't say the media was guilty of fake news, but he did say that a lot of the information that had been reported as news actually was dead wrong, so he's calling into question the quality of the current news reporting that we're seeing.
HOEKSTRA: The other thing is James Comey said he was a leaker. He's not a whistleblower. He ran to the media through a third person to get this information out. He should have gone to -- if he really felt strongly about this, he should have gone to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, or their House counterparts and given those documents to them.
They're still looking for these documents, while "The New York Times" at least has a pretty detailed description of this. James Comey clearly indicated he was a leaker and not a whistleblower.
BOLDUAN: Nick, Abby, I want to bring you in, but Nick, respond to that.
AKERMAN: I can respond in a number of ways. First of all, what he did was totally proper. There was nothing illegal about it. There was no classified information. He have every right to release that information at any point.
Secondly, the idea that Donald Trump was not engaged in a scheme to obstruct justice is absolutely ludicrous based on the overwhelming evidence that we now have under oath and in the public record.
One, you've got what Mr. Comey said yesterday about the direction not to try and stop the investigation -- to stop the investigation.
AKERMAN: But on top of that, you also have Rogers, Admiral Rogers, who was the national security office saying that -- I mean, he's going to testify under oath that Donald Trump asked him to try and stop the investigation. Coats is going to testify that Donald Trump asked him to stop the investigation. And then you've got the complete pretext that's used when James Comey is fired by --
BOLDUAN: Well, they actually dodged those questions under testimony. They dodged those questions.
AKERMAN: They dodged them, but believe me, when they get subpoenaed into a federal grand jury, they're going to provide that testimony. So you've got four pillars to this obstruction of justice case, and once you start getting into more of the facts -- the motive for doing it, the fact that Mike Flynn was meeting with the Russians to try and get the sanctions off of Russia based on the Ukraine and based on the meddling in the election, the motive here is just extraordinary.
BOLDUAN: Let me go with the politics of this, Abby. Let me bring you in on this. One thing that I and a lot of folks have noted -- and we've all seen it since the hearing -- is that you have not seen -- you have seen more Republicans coming to the president's defense in response to James Comey's testimony than moving away from the president.
From -- what is your sense? What has been the reaction that you've been hearing on Capitol Hill? Do you think that this testimony is bringing Republicans together around the president or pulling them further apart?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's giving them a pretty narrow frame by which they can actually defend Trump on this. You know, I talked to some Republicans this morning, including some who are involved in Trump's legal defense in consulting with him on that, and they are basically saying that they're looking at this from a very simple frame -- is there a case to be made for obstruction of justice?
And you know, they're saying that they don't see anything in Comey's testimony that would stand up in a courtroom setting that would justify a charge of obstruction of justice against the president.
[11:10:11]And they have taken this whole leaking idea and really -- you know, I think that's probably less legal and more political. They've seized on it to kind of undermine James Comey's credibility.
So, I think that the testimony gave them -- they feel like it gave them a couple of openings. Whether that's justified or not, they see a sort of legalistic, very narrow, legalistic frame by which they can defend Trump by saying James Comey felt whatever he felt, but in a court of law, that's not going to stand up.
I think that there are a lot of other people who will take that same legal argument and say that it's nonsense, but that's where the White House is coming from. That's what Trump believes. That's what his lawyers believe.
And I think Republicans are for the time being comfortable with that because it's very -- for now, I think it's going to be a long time before any of this is actually adjudicated in a courtroom. And so, it's a perfectly fine argument for them to get through this political storm at the moment.
BOLDUAN: Yes, sure sounds like it's going to be a while. And let's all not be Pollyanna about this whole thing. The White House leaks, members of Congress leaks, that's why they have the name it's leaky like a siv and how everyone gets information.
So, saying -- everyone leaks in Washington, not classified information that goes into a different category. This is not, as far as I was told by everyone, this was not classified information that, obviously, James Comey leaked to his friend who leaked to the press.
So I just want to make sure we're all being realistic about this. Let me ask you about kind of what led to that leaking, if you will, Jack. The biggest -- one of the biggest questions today, and it seems it should be easy to answer, is are there tapes of the conversations between Donald Trump and James Comey? Don't you think that -- is that -- should that be easy to answer, Jack?
QUINN: Well, certainly, there either are tapes or there are not tapes, and I'm confident that Robert Mueller will be on the trail, if he's not already, in finding out if those tapes exist, and if so, if anyone's tampered with them or destroyed them. Look, I do want to come back to this whole question of where we stand right now.
QUINN: And it may sound odd coming from me, but I think it's overstatement, frankly, to say that a case of obstruction of justice has been made out at this point. Obstruction is a hard crime to prove. You've got to get into the mind of the target.
You've got to know that it was acting corruptly, and you've got to have a nexus between the effort to impede an investigation and the actual conduct of that investigation. That is emphatically not to say that those things will not come to be proven.
But at this moment, to say that we're there is simply incorrect. I think, frankly, going to the end of this -- and this is, remember, all in the context of a process that is legal but intensely political.
There isn't going to be a courtroom appearance, and the $64,000 question is to be whether or not in that political process, because the president can't be indicted, but the question will be can he maintain strong support on Capitol Hill among Republicans?
And I think at this point, I think the fact that there aren't really cracks in the dike reflects the fact that the director's testimony, as important, as relevant, as disturbing as it was, is not such as to lead a stampede away from the president in terms of his legal defense.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, I can't let this point go, and I want to get your take. I mean, everyone has been asking the White House since the president's tweet about tapes -- and the tweet was back on May 12th -- and they haven't been able to answer the question of whether the tapes exist or not. They simply keep saying, I don't know. Can you think of a reason why they cannot answer that question?
HOEKSTRA: I can't think of a reason why they can't answer the question, because obviously, there are people in the White House who know whether that's true or not. So --
BOLDUAN: What does that say?
HOEKSTRA: It's going to be very easy for Mueller to get to the answer on that, and right now they're just kind of holding it out there in suspense. And thank you, Jack, for your analysis of this. I don't think the case has been made for obstruction of justice. You know, clearly, people have not listened to the testimony of Mike Rogers, of Dan Coats, and Comey, who have all said they have not felt pressure to stop the Russian investigation. Comey --
BOLDUAN: The one bit on that --
[11:15:07]BOLDUAN: Hang on, the one bit on that, Congressman -- between leave it here -- is that they didn't actually answer the direct question. Yes, they did not feel pressured, but when asked, when they would not answer the question, if they had been asked to -- if they had been asked to take these actions, they would not answer that question, over and over again.
That was a glaring moment in that hearing, and I know you saw that as well. Everyone stand by. We've got to take a break. Give me one second, guys.
One thing James Comey said he could not talk about in the public hearing, circumstances surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself. Hear what he told senators behind closed doors and why Sessions will be in the hot seat very soon?
Plus, another election, another surprising outcome. Theresa May's future now in question after taking a huge gamble. So, where does the U.K. go from here?
And moments from now, President Trump speaks live, hours after calling James Comey a liar. You'll definitely want to stand by for that one. We will be right back.
BOLDUAN: As if what James Comey had to say in public wasn't enough, he had more to say behind closed doors about the Russia investigation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
[11:20:01]The former FBI director telling senators privately that Sessions may have had a third undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States. I should note, Sessions is set to testify before the Senate next week, and I do wonder, then, if his appointment book will somehow make its way into the line of questioning.
Abby Phillip is back with me, but first, CNN's Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill with the very latest. So, Phil, what are you hearing? What would another -- another undisclosed meeting between Sessions and Kislyak, what would it mean?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it could be very potentially problematic, based on Jeff Sessions' own testimony at his confirmation hearing January 10th, where he stated that he had not met with any Russian officials during the campaign, testimony he later had to amend, because it turns out, he had. Now, here's the issue if you want to track back. This goes back, Kate, to April of 2016. If you remember, it's a very big foreign policy speech by then Candidate Donald Trump. Among the people who attended that speech was Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
Now Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department have said repeatedly there was no meeting between Sergey Kislyak and Jeff Sessions during that speech at the Mayflower Hotel here in Washington, D.C.
But as you know, Kate, yesterday, in the classified setting, after the public hearing, Jim Comey told senators, according to sources, that they had raw intelligence of intercepts, of Russian officials speaking to one another where Sergey Kislyak stated that he did, in fact, have a one-on-one meeting with Jeff Sessions.
Now, it's important to note a couple things. First and foremost, intelligence officials always caution that sometimes Russian officials might be overstating what these meetings entail. And it's also worth noting, again, the Justice Department has made very clear, they don't believe, or Jeff Sessions has said repeatedly that third meeting did not exist, did not happen.
But why this matter's going forward, obviously, Jeff Sessions going to be in a public session testifying in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee next week. Democrats certain to ask about this, but perhaps more importantly, the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting the main Senate investigation into the Russian meddling, is now very interested in this.
They were actually interested in this before James Comey talked about this yesterday in that classified setting. What you're seeing right now is what you're hearing, at least, from some Senate Democratic aides, is the possibility, if this is true, then Jeff Sessions is in a lot more trouble than just having to amend his testimony.
Again, the big question is whether or not this actually happened. Justice Department continues to say no, but this is an issue he is certain to be questioned on, and it's something that not just Senate Democrats, not just people on the Appropriations Committee next week, but also the Senate Intelligence Committee, are now very interested in -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: So, Abby, so Sessions very likely, we could guess, is going to get more questions about this next week when he testifies. And as Phil notes, all signs have pointed to he's been on thin ice or something of not-so-sturdy ground recently with the president.
It makes you wonder, I mean -- and add to that what we heard, that the White House still will not specifically say, that the president has confidence in Sessions, only saying that the president has confidence in his whole cabinet.
What should people read into this? Do you think sessions is on thin ice and now maybe on thinner ice? PHILLIP: Well, I do think that there was a time when Trump was pretty upset with the idea that Sessions recused himself from something that the president thought was, as he said publicly, a witch hunt.
PHILLIP: At the same time, I don't think that Jeff Sessions would be still working for the president if Trump actually wanted to fire him. So, I think that things can always change, but for the time being, Sessions is probably not going anywhere. The question becomes, to what extent is sessions actually recused from this whole, all these Russia matters? I think --
BOLDUAN: Good question.
PHILLIP: When Trump was looking for another FBI director, Jeff Sessions was involved in that process, A and B, at the time, his aides basically said he stepped aside, but he didn't actually totally take himself out in a concrete way.
So, I think there are some questions here about how involved is he and to what extent are these new revelations going to make it much more important for him to really say is he really completely out of this whole thing or not?
BOLDUAN: Yes, and Abby, so, play the odds for me. Odds that when Sessions testifies next week about the budget, he's only about the budget.
PHILLIP: The chances are zero. He will be asked about this. He will be asked about this. He will be asked about Comey. He'll be asked about everything. There is no chance this is just going to be about a budget.
BOLDUAN: Yes. Welcome to Capitol Hill, especially when your name is Jeff Sessions, and you know exactly how Capitol Hill runs. Abby, Phil, great to see you, guys. Thanks so much.
Coming up, here is a question, how is your morning going? I mean that. I truly wonder, but I also bet that it has been better than the one that British Prime Minister Theresa May just endured. She is now facing calls to resign today after her party was dealt a huge blow at the polls. Was her relationship with President Trump a factor?
[11:25:01]Plus, House Speaker Paul Ryan says President Trump is quote/unquote, "learning as he goes." Does that explain everything? Will that be a good enough excuse for the special counsel? The new line of defense Republicans are offering the president now.
BOLDUAN: Remember this? I assure you, this was probably better days for British Prime Minister Theresa May, when she was visiting President Trump at the White House. That was not so long ago, as you can tell. Now, her future is suddenly in question after an election stunner in the U.K. In a major upset, Theresa May's party lost its majority, losing seats when they were pretty confident they would actually win more of a majority in the end. So, what does this all mean?
CNN's international correspondent, Phil Black, is right outside 10 Downing Street for us. So Phil, fill us in.