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Comey's Meetings with Trump; AG Directive on Email Probe; Trump Calls Testimony Vindication; Comey Hopes for Tapes; Comey Admits Leaking Memo. Aired 9:30-10a ET
Aired June 9, 2017 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:30:00] SEN. ED MARKEY (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Then ordered out of the Oval Office, the attorney general and then everyone else in that meeting, and asked Comey to stay behind and then privately asked him, would he let the General Flynn investigation go. And he did not receive an affirmative answer from Comey. And then, three, President Trump fired Comey. So those are the elements of an obstruction of justice. You ask for loyalty, you ask to end the investigation and then you fire the person who is investigating you. So that is not a vindication of President Trump at all.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Senator, mafia analogies aside, does it bother you that at no point over these six conversations did the FBI director tell the president what he was asking was inappropriate, go to the congressional committees, say this isn't appropriate, go to the attorney general and say this isn't appropriate, asides from saying, don't leave me in a room with him. Does that sit OK with you?
MARKEY: Well, Mr. Comey's actions reflected, I think as he said yesterday, his own shock that the president was asking him to do these things, but it doesn't, in fact, deal with the issue of the president asking it in the first place and then firing him when he did not get the right answer. So telling Sessions or telling others who were actually part of the firing of Comey were not going to be key elements in actually being able to preserve Comey's job. The president was intent on shutting down this Russian election, even though it seems as though he's the last person in America who does not understand that the Russians were hacking our elections. He continues to deny that. He continues to call that a hoax. And you know that is not true.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And Director Comey in fact testified yesterday that the president had never even talked to him really about the Russia investigation, whether they hacked that. But that's not an answer to the question that Poppy asked, nor is it an answer to the question of, are you comfortable with the behavior of James Comey during these months that he served as FBI director under President Trump and even carry it to after he was fired. Are you comfortable, senator, that he leaked this memo of his conversations with the president to a Columbia University professor to give to the press?
MARKEY: What Mr. Comey did was to speak candidly and openly to the Senate and to the American people yesterday. The memo which he leaked had no top secret information in it. In fact, every time Comey was asked yesterday in the Senate committee about top secret information, he said that he could not answer those questions until he got behind closed doors.
And, so, this is the distinction that people have to understand. If the information was classified, if it was top secret, Comey did not speak to the Senate about it. So the information in which he gave to his friend was not top secret -
MARKEY: Was not confidential and actually helped to protect Comey against the charge by the president that Comey himself was not telling the truth.
HARLOW: OK, senator, it's not a direct answer to our question. We've tried twice. But I take what you're saying as you're not uncomfortable with it. And we've got to get you on the record on this because there was another stunning moment where he talks about a previous interaction h had with then Attorney General Loretta Lynch over the investigation into then Secretary Clinton's e-mail server. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: You were getting to a place where the attorney general and I were both going to have to testify and talk publically about it. And I wanted to know, was she going to authorize us to confirm we had an investigation. And she said, yes, but don't call it that, call it a matter. We had a criminal investigation open as of - for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We had an investigation open at the time. And so that gave me a queasy feeling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Does it give you a queasy feeling, Senator Markey?
MARKEY: Actually, whether you call it a matter or you call it an investigation, that matter or investigation was ended without a conclusion by Jim Comey that there had been a violation of the law. This is status (ph) complete (ph) -
BERMAN: But the question - but the question was at the time. But that was before - but that - but being told by the attorney general to call it a matter, not an investigation, happened before it was determined by the FBI director -
HARLOW: In the middle of it.
BERMAN: You know, that there was no violation. It happened during the investigation. And the FBI director said it gave him a queasy feeling.
[09:35:00] MARKEY: The attorney general did not ask Jim Comey, please be loyal to Hillary Clinton. The attorney general did not say to Jim Comey, please let this Hillary Clinton matter go. This was just what's the headline, or what's the title, "matter" or "investigation." That's different from Donald Trump saying, will you be loyal to me, head of the FBI? Will you let the matter go with regard to the relationship between Michael Flynn and the Russian government? That is a completely different matter. That goes right to the heart of the substance of the investigation and in no way, as far as I can hear, was Loretta Lynch trying to interfere with the investigation, with the substance of it, with the conclusion of it. Those are two different matters altogether.
HARLOW: They are, and that's why we were asking you independently of the other one your thoughts.
We are out of time, but I would just note for our viewers, the issue at hand is the word "matter" tracks the same language that the Clinton campaign was using, saying it's a matter not an investigation.
Senator Ed Markey, we'll talk to you more when we have you back. Thank you very much.
MARKEY: Take care. Applicate it. Thank you.
HARLOW: Coming up, what do Republicans think about the president's claims of vindication? A Republican lawmaker joins us next. Is he optimistic? Is he as optimistic as the president is this morning?
[09:40:24] BERMAN: All right, you're looking at live pictures from Capitol Hill. We are waiting to hear from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. We expect her to weigh in on James Comey's testimony. We will bring her comments to you live as soon as they happen.
Meanwhile, we are learning from two sources that President Trump's personal lawyer plans to file a complaint against Director Comey over the leaked memos. Now, here is what his attorney said about those memos yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC KASOWITZ, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: It is overwhelmingly clear that there have been and continue to be those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications. Mr. Comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: This morning, the president echoing similar sentiments in his early morning tweet, in which he claimed false statements and lies and also claimed Comey is a leaker.
Joining us to discuss, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of the great state of New York.
It's nice to have you here.
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
HARLOW: Complete and total vindication. That follows former FBI Director Comey calling the president a liar, not once, not twice, five times yesterday. Do you see it the way the president sees it? ZELDIN: If he is referring to getting confirmation that he's not the
target of a criminal investigation, then he's absolutely right. If he's referring to a cloud just, you know, magically disappearing yesterday, I would assure the president that his opposition will make sure that there will always be some kind of a cloud lingering over him. So from that standpoint, I would say no. But if he's referring to getting confirmation that he's not the target of a criminal investigation, absolutely.
BERMAN: He got confirmation that he wasn't the target of the criminal investigation -
BERMAN: While James Comey was FBI director. The irony is - and we just don't know the irony is it's possible that it's - that he's involved in an investigation right now. We'll leave that aside because we don't know the answer to that.
Congressman Zeldin, the tweet from the president this morning seemed to accuse the FBI director of false statements and lies. Lying before Congress is a felony. It's a felony perjury right there. If the president is making that charge, doesn't he owe it to the American people to give his side of the story, say why he thinks or what the lie is from the former FBI director?
ZELDIN: Absolutely. And I think the American public on both sides, whether you are a strong supporter of the president or you are someone absolutely away on the other side of the president, I think that the American public is asking for as much facts as possible so that we can all form independent judgment, independent conclusions for ourselves. So the more information, the better for sure.
HARLOW: So hopefully then the president will do that today. I mean he's going to take questions from the press for the first time in two weeks, I think. And you can bet he's going to be asked about this. Were you saying that Comey perjured himself? Did he commit a felony in doing so? If the president refuses to give the evidence for that claim, if that's the claim, what would your response be?
ZELDIN: Well, I think as far as evidence goes, we're in a position where you're going to have two different people giving their side of what was said in a private conversation that might not have any type of substantiation one way or the other. If there were - now you've heard both sides refer to tapes, recordings. If you had a tape or a recordings, that would be your substantiation to conclude who is telling the truth or not. But when you just have two sides against each other, you know, you kind of take it for what it's worth and you make your own independent judgement.
BERMAN: So, congressman, you know what's an easy question to answer from the White House, is there a tape? Are there tapes of any of these conversations? The White House refuses to answer that question. Why?
ZELDIN: I don't - I can't speculate on what the answer is as far as why. I will say, as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in my meetings with foreign leaders, you know, I have my suspicions from one meeting to the next which ones are being recorded and which ones aren't as a matter of practice for that foreign leader entirely.
BERMAN: But, will you call - will you call - will you call on the White House right now, because you leveled with the White House, congressman. Will you call on the White House to own up yes or no to whether there are tapes that exist?
[09:45:06] ZELDIN: I don't see any reason why they wouldn't be able to answer that question. I - so, sure. I don't see any reason why not to share it. But if there is a good reason, I would be interested in hearing it.
HARLOW: Yes, they haven't put it forward. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she'd look under the couch, sort of in jest yesterday. But, remember, it's the president who brought the whole idea of tapes into the discussion with that tweet.
Let me ask you this. The president and some of your fellow Republicans and some Democrats who are making a big deal out of the fact that Comey handed those memos over to a citizen, a Columbia University professor, with the goal of getting them to the media and out to the public, with the goal of getting a special prosecutor hired. Now, he achieved that goal. Do you have a problem with that? Do you have a problem with him, as the president calls him, a leaker. Do you take issue with that or do you see him as a private citizen able to hand over his thoughts to anyone he wants?
ZELDIN: Yes, no, I'm not - I'm not sure that was a good idea on the part of Director Comey. I've been critical of - you know, there is really something for everything in analyzing yesterday's testimony. And the fact is, while he is a private citizen, he's referring to a memo that was created while he's the FBI director. And memos that need to be provided to Congress when they're out of his possession but are in the possession of "The New York Times," that's concerning.
As far as the content of the memos, you know, I don't know if there's anything in there that shouldn't be released because there's, you know, any type of classified information. The director says that there isn't.
BERMAN: Congressman - just last, final question here. Yesterday in his testimony James Comey indicated either directly or indirectly that he believed that the president lied or was a liar. He did it five separate times. As you sit here today, are you prepared to say that in your mind the president has not lied?
ZELDIN: With regards to what?
BERMAN: The five instances where James Comey said that he had. Number one, he said he was concerned that he lied in a meeting on January 7th, he lied about the nature of his dinners and the invitations there. He said the White House was lying about why he was fired him. Those general areas. Will you - are you willing to say that the president, in those cases, was completely honest? ZELDIN: Well, I think that, you know, the president - I wasn't there
for any of those conversations. The president, as you mentioned, has an opportunity today when he starts answering questions to be able to give his side of the story. But, you know, as each side gives, you know, their side of the story, you know, I'd rather get all of my facts and hear both sides first and, you know, not just - you know, calling both sides names and trying to be, you know, judge, jury and executioner, especially before the president gets his opportunity to speak today.
HARLOW: I think we all hope that you're right, that he's going to address these questions in full today when he speaks, 2:45 Eastern Time.
Congressman, thank you. We appreciate it. We'll be right back.
ZELDIN: Thank you.
[09:52:28] HARLOW: Well, the president breaks his Twitter silence. He responded to former FBI Director James Comey's testimony, tweeting he's been "completely vindicated." He also said, "wow, Comey is a leaker."
BERMAN: So in his testimony, the former FBI director said this earlier tweet from the president prompted a crucial decision. "James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts looking to the press." This is how the fired director said he reacted to that tweet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The president tweeted on Friday, after I got fired, that I'd better hope there's not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night, because it didn't dawn on me originally, that there might be corroboration for our conversation, there might be a tape. And my judgment was, I needed to get that out into the public square. And so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. I didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons, but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. And so I asked a close friend of mine to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right, a couple really fascinating things are going on here.
Joining us to talk about it, CNN's senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources," new father, Brian Stelter.
Great to have you here with us.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed. Thanks.
BERMAN: Look, the White House, in the past, has tried to diminished the president's use of Twitter in some instances, saying it's just social media.
BERMAN: We now know that the just social media has enormous consequences for both the president and the country.
STELTER: That's what made Comey's candor about this so striking. The president's Twitter account is a destabilizing force for our government right now. And Comey is saying it's why he ended up sharing one of those memos with a friend and then leaked it to "The New York Times," because of the president's tweets.
Now, the president's tweet this morning saying that Comey was full of, quote, "false statements and lies" is only going to spur more demands for testimony and on-the-record responses from the president.
HARLOW: When you look at this, there were a number of attacks just on the media in general, including "The New York Times." You've got some reporting on this. "The New York Times" is standing by its reporting, even though Comey disputed it.
STELTER: Right, Comey said one of the "Times" stories about Russia and Trump was in the main wrong. The "Times" says it stands by its story. There's still a lot we don't know because a lot of these stories have been coming from anonymous sources. But Comey confirmed a lot of what's been reported from anonymous sources as well. I think that's been lost in the coverage.
HARLOW: His memo - his memo came from an anonymous source. I mean -
STELTER: Right. Right.
HARLOW: In terms - the public didn't know who until now.
STELTER: Until yesterday.
BERMAN: In ten seconds or less, have you ever heard of someone, a senior official, as senior as James Comey, admit that he leaked something like that?
STELTER: Never anything quite like it. It was very candid. I think he was trying to boost his credibility. And the early ratings for yesterday are very, very high. Despite all the spin we're hearing on TV today, Americans tuned in to see the actual testimony.
[09:55:01] HARLOW: They did, indeed. There were watch parties at bars. I was not at one of them, but I hear there were.
BERMAN: Poppy drinks at home alone.
HARLOW: Brian Stelter, thank you.
STELTER: Coffee at home.
HARLOW: For the record -
STELTER: Coffee (ph).
HARLOW: "Daily Show," were you watching?
Brian, thank you very much.
Moments from now, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters. What does she say after Comey's explosive testimony? You can guess some of it. We're going to bring it to you live right here.
BERMAN: All right, top of the hour. Lots of news. I'm John Berman.
HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.
[09:59:57] Off the script and on the clock. Just a few hours from now, President Trump will hold a news conference at the White House, and we hope answer questions from the media for the first time in weeks. You can bet he will be asked if he was accusing the former FBI director of a felony with his tweet this morning.