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Report: Comey Says Trump Administration Lied About Me And FBI; Comey Says Lynch Said To Call Clinton Case A "Matter"; Comey Says Special Counsel Is Looking At Obstruction. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired June 8, 2017 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We're back here live in Washington. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Continuing our coverage of the biggest hearing on Capitol Hill in a very long time. Fired FBI director James Comey talking candidly about his private conversations with president Trump. But at some point, this morning he dropped a bombshell involving the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Obama administration. On the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail server, he was asked if there was anything that led to his decision to publicly announce its closure last July. Director Comey said it was influenced by then attorney general Loretta Lynch's now infamous tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton and another conversation he had with the then A.G., which he says concerned him.
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JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: It concerned me because we were at the point where we had refused to confirm the existence, as we typically do, of an investigation for months and it was getting to a place where that looked silly because the campaigns were talking about interacting with the FBI in the course of our work. The Clinton campaign at the time was using all kind of euphemisms, security review, for what was going on. The attorney general and I were going to have to testify and talk publicly about it and i wanted to know was she going to authorize us to confirm that we had an investigation. She said yes, but don't call it that. Call it a matter. I said, why would I do that? And she said, just call it a matter. And again, you look back in hindsight you think should I have resisted harder? This isn't had hill worth dying on. I said, okay, the press is going to completely ignore it and that's what happened. When I said that we are investigating a matter, they took it as the FBI has an investigation open.
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[15:35:00] BALDWIN: Joining me is Robby Mook, former Clinton campaign manager. I want to get your testimony on the big testimony today honing in on what director Comey just said about what the attorney general was instructing him to do using the word matter over investigation and that was essentially the language that your campaign was using. Do you think it was appropriate for Loretta Lynch to be asking director Comey to essentially downplay the word and say "matter" instead of "investigation"? ROBBY MOOK, DIRECTOR OF HILLARY FOR AMERICA: I don't obviously know
what transpired between the two of them. We'll just have to take the director's commentary on that. And our campaign wasn't talking to anybody in the justice department. We were going off what was being said publicly. I would say overall in this entire matter, you know, it's important that we learn the facts about what happened in the past but it's also important that we fix what didn't work in the future. And I think, to get into this -- into that small anecdote that he told, I think we're losing the broader picture here, which is we had breakdowns across the spectrum.
BALDWIN: I don't want to lose the broader spectrum but if we do take, you know, the former FBI director at his word and this is what Loretta Lynch told him to do, can you just weigh in for me on what he said this morning?
MOOK: It's hard for me to do so because I don't know the facts of the matter. You know, what I--
BALDWIN: If she did that, Robby, if she did, would that be appropriate?
MOOK: I just don't know because I'm not an expert on the justice department. I don't know what its status was at that time. What I do know -- and again, I'm stepping back into the bigger picture because that's all I know and understand, as two investigations are going on, one into now President Trump and his campaign with Russia and another was Clinton's e-mails. And the director made a choice to talk about just one of those matters and that was -- I would argue at this point it was misleading to the public and we saw "The New York Times" put out a piece very close to election day saying based on their conversations with the FBI, there was very little evidence that there was any sort of relationship with Russia and lo and behold after the election, nothing could be farther from the truth. So, again to me what matters is what do we do going forward --
BALDWIN: Forgive me, Robby, before I move forward, I'm not going to belabor this, but just so I'm clear, your campaign and DOJ never communicated over language to be used?
MOOK: Not at all. Not at all. I didn't know anybody in the justice department. And, again, I think this is a shiny object when the real question here is how should these matters be handled and why did the director talk about one investigation and remain completely silent on another? And I think this anecdote that he told me to ignore that fact. Not to mention, there are issues about whether there was coordination with the Russians by the Trump campaign and whether there's been obstruction of justice by the Trump administration as the FBI begins to investigate the matter.
BALDWIN: As that is something, it sounds like talking to our legal folks here, it sounds like now the inquiry into the investigation started the investigation into the potential obstruction of justice will begin. Let me -- before I let you go, on the testimony overall today, listen, I've read a lot of what you've said on Director Comey. Safe to say, you know, you're not a huge fan. I think in your discussions and what he's done border illegal. What did you make of what he discussed this morning?
MOOK: Well, look, I'll start with something positive. I think he made a very important point, which is that the Russian intervention in the election was unprecedented. This cannot be seen as a partisan issue. It's going to happen to the republicans at some point, too, and other countries are going to begin to play ball. We had a proof of concept by the rich Russians. I thought that was really positive. You know, I was astounded, as I'm sure others were, that the president did seem to intervene to try to diminish or stop this investigation in some way.
I think as your other guests were saying earlier, we're left with almost more questions than answers and I hope we get to the bottom of this and I hope that republicans on the hill realize this isn't going to get better by trying to make it go away.
[15:40:00] We just need to learn the truth and ask ourselves, how can the justice system, how can the media, social media, our republicans on the hill realize this isn't going to get better by trying to make it go away. We just need to learn the truth and ask ourselves, how can the justice system, how can the media, social media, our political process collaborate to resist this kind of intervention from happening again and how can we get our democracy functioning better. Being more partisan will only make for more coverups and secrets and more obstruction of justice.
BALDWIN: Robby Mook, thank you so much. Former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton and from the Clinton campaign to the Trump campaign, Jason Miller's just been seated. You were listening to my conversation there. What did you think of the points that he was making?
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's --
BALDWIN: First, on Loretta Lynch.
MILLER: I think that news is a bombshell today. The fact that this was just swept under the rug and we're just finding out about this now. But I think it goes to a larger narrative that sometimes things are okay to be political and sometimes they have to be brought up exactly then. Biggest thing that came up to me was the leaks. This leak issue is very detrimental and the fact that director Comey before today viewed him as a true lawman. They didn't know how he would interpret things but you can see where there is very, very political thinking that went into this. Specifically leaking a conversation that he had with the president to hopefully influence a special counsel, I mean, this is from the director of the FBI? This is remarkable.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I would say that the president has been pretty good about talking about conversations he had with Director Comey. But if you're director Comey and you've just been fired and you feel like you've been pushed into a corner and you have specifically written memos in a way that you know are not classified so they can be discussed whether that's in the public square or before a congressional committee, I don't know. Donald Trump can't have it both ways where he's frustrated by these leaks but at the same time he goes out and does the same thing.
BALDWIN: Was it legal? Let me -- just looking to you, Michael Zeldin, was it OK for Comey as a private citizen to say to his pal over at Columbia University, hey, here's this memo, here's what happened, get it out there?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO ROBERT MUELLER: Wrong and legal are different.
BALDWIN: Let's stick with legal. Legal.
ZELDIN: He's talking about what he said. This is not classified. There's no leak. It's not definitionally a leak. Leak is something completely different. I understand there are politics around here and that's not my beat. Legally speaking, this is not a leak. It's more Comey as whistleblower than leaker if you want to give it a name. In the case of a grand jury, when you come out as a grand jury witness and they say, what did you say, what was the conversation? You're perfectly permitted to say what you said. She can't say what I said if she was a grand juror and that's a leak. In this case, it's not a leak it's a conversation that he's permitted to have. The manner in which he did it, we can talk about whether that is desirable or not.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Just one question. Kasowitz, the president's outside counsel, refer to these conversations as privileged.
ZELDIN: Privileged conversations.
CHALIAN: Privileged conversations. Is that accurate?
ZELDIN: So, in the definition of executive privilege, you see the court was addressing conversations that are related to policy by the inner circle of the president so they can make informed decisions with respect to that policy. This was not that type of conversation. This was a threat, an intimidation, an obstruction. You can label it however you want to label it. A chat or a request or a hope. But it is not --
MILLER: Could anyone off the street have obtained this memo?
ZELDIN: No, because it's your --
MILLER: That's the point, is that not a leak then?
ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI AGENT: It's not an official document. Look, he was the FBI director. He came back. He had a very weird conversation with the president that he felt he needed to be put down on the paper and these were his personal recollections and they weren't part of an investigation, which we know, and he's entitled to --
BALDWIN: The fact that he did it on a classified laptop, that doesn't matter?
RANGAPPA: The content of it was not classified. They are his own impressions of what took place and I think that had he put this down in a memoir after he was fired or had it in his personal diary, just because he's calling it a memo.
MILLER: Why wouldn't he have e-mailed it out or posted it on Facebook? Why did he give it to --
[15:45:00] RANGAPPA: The real focus of this is the completely unacceptable and inappropriate behavior of the president. We can spin this and call squirrel to put our attention somewhere else but let's not forget --
BALDWIN: But if he found the behavior and the demands, I don't know if he had a great answer today, David, on alarm bells ringing. Why not say something to someone? Go to congress. Did he have a solid answer today?
DAVID PRIESS, FORMER CIA INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Well, this happens all the time. As a former intelligence officer, I used to brief the FBI director every day on the president's daily brief. I used to brief in the white house. There are awkward conversations and difficult conversations where the truth versus loyalty dilemma comes up. I'm giving the truth as Ii see it and the policy maker doesn't like the message I'm giving. In the Comey case, it was about what he was saying about the investigation and his unwillingness to say, yes, sir, I'm personally loyal to you. What happens when you have that ethical dilemma?
You resolve it one way or another. It's tough for us to put ourselves in those shoes and we should be slow to judge someone put in that position but I was put in that position many times. Do I call it like I see it and if there's some pushback, do I then go to the press, do I then bring a memo for the record or push back against the policy maker in this case or in his case, the president of the united states and say, sir, what you're doing is inappropriate. The difference is, when I was briefing intelligence information, we were there to help the policy makers do their jobs. In his case, he was telling the president something that affected the investigation and what he said this morning was, I did not want to call foul, throw the red flag and say it will impact the investigation.
ZELDIN: The other thing is, the Sally Yates conversation is what he did here. He felt the justice department was compromised back in the Clinton e-mail scandal. What did he do? He held a press conference, effectively to let that story be known. Here when he felt that they were similarly compromised and not likely to investigate a matter which he felt was worthy of investigation, he went to the press.
BALDWIN: You mentioned the A.G. let's listen to what director Comey said specifically about Jeff Sessions.
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SENATOR RON WYDEN, OREGON: In your statement, you said that you and the FBI leadership team decided not to discuss the president's actions with attorney general sessions. Even though he had not recused himself. What was it about the attorney general's own interactions with the Russians or his behavior with regard to the investigation that would have led the entire leadership of the FBI to make this decision?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Our judgment, as I recall, was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic and so we were -- we were convinced -- in fact, I think we had already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself, that he was not going to be in contact with Russia-related matters much longer.
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BALDWIN: April Ryan, it's the piece of that where he says I can't discuss in an open setting which my ears parked because I thought, OK, what else do we not know about the attorney general that he can't discuss unless it's a classified setting.
APRIL RYAN, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, it sounds like there's an investigation. Something's going on. It sounds like he could not trust when he was talking there to give the information to those people at the time because all eyes are looking and there is something going on behind the scenes that we don't know. You have to remember also at that time, they had information prior to us finding out about Jeff Sessions recusing himself. Jeff sessions is tainted. As the attorney general, he's tainted. So as an FBI director, you're like, where do I go, where do I go, you're in this quagmire. This experiment of Donald J. Trump as president, who how do I go up against the president. When you are standing in front of the president of the United States, and he said something to you, this is the guy of the office of the land. You are like -- I am not trying to trivialize it. The level that Comey had to deal with this president and his boss, he was in a position that no one should be in. You cannot trust anyone.
[15:50:00] PRIESS: He's making the remarks of the attorney general, saying there is something I cannot talk about open session. That's an affirmative that there is something I can't talk about here. He was very explicit in other parts of the testimony this morning. When he said I cannot talk about. That is not to imply there is something there, he was explicit about those cases. In this case, there is something there and we don't know what it is and we don't find what it is because it is a classified matter.
RYAN: We need to find out what it is.
PRESTON: If I can say, it will be unsatisfying for those who like Donald Trump and those who don't like Donald Trump. People expected finality today they expected that we would have the testimony and we get finale on this either Donald
Trump is guilty or not or his associates are or not. The fact the matter is this is one little piece and a big jigsaw puzzle. What happens today is one more step and many steps that are going to occur in this investigation across the board of Russian meddling in the U.S. election. The big winner today and it is worth repeating is Vladimir Putin. The reason why he's meddling in the elections last and continues to reverberate this year.
MILLER: I think the Democrats have over reached and they have motivated and fired up the republican base in a way to be supportive of the president. Hey, we hope everything you said was spot on. The way the director today went through systemically and confirmed all the time he had told President Trump he was not under investigation. How do we know that since then there is nothing to look into with the Attorney General Sessions front? I think that raises questions.
And one thing, April, sorry pick on you about this but this is not a Donald Trump experiment. This man received 306 electoral votes. He's the president of the country.
[15:55:00] RYAN: Let me correct myself, I believe it is a Donald Trump presidency, this is my personal opinion, as a reporter watching this nation and seeing elections happen, America wanted something new. They did not want an established person. America went with something new, this is an experiment.
I did not. I have the highest respect for the land. We have never had something like this before. We are trying to see if the democracy can withstand less than 140 days. We have someone who has never been in this process and now where are we? We got people like Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee who convened lawyers and scholars yesterday, trying to find out what's in their view and what they can do. The house is looking at if there is an abuse of power. This brought out issues of possibility of abusive of power and possibility of obstruction of justice. They're talking possibilities of looking down the road of impeachment. Forgive me, it is not a majority but this is an experiment right now with this historic president.
BALDWIN: Let me pause everyone, thank you for that. Quick break, we'll come back and talk about surprise at the beginning of the hearing. Back in a moment.
BALDWIN: We wanted to linger there the president at the event at the white house moments ago. You can hear some of the questions shouted at him getting some reactions and him just saying thank you. No tweets today. On Director Comey of the final moment that I have with you, the big surprise today, we all sat here reading the seven page opening statements that was released, none of that was read out loud, instead, it was a brief opening from Director Comey including the "L" word multiple times, being "lie."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting. I thought it was important to document. The administration chose to
defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray and it was poorly led and the work force have lost confidence in our leaders. Those were lies. [16:00:00] SENATOR ANGUS KING: In his press conference of May 18 the
president was asked whether he urged you to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn, the president responded, no, no, next question. Is that an accurate statement?
COMEY: I don't believe it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: All right, 60 seconds remaining, to you.
RANGAPPA: In using the word "lies." Comey has three things in his pocket. Number one, he was going to give his testimony under oath and nothing the president have said, today has been under oath. Number 2, he has memos. His third weapon is the essential counsel. We can debate all we want but it is Mueller's time. When Mueller starts this ball rolling. Comey is going to be one fact witness in this thing and I see how investigations go. When those agents start closing in on staffers and everyone around, there is going to be more people talking and much more information that's going to come out, I would not draw big conclusions as though the entire trial is based on everyone is hearing.
BALDWIN: It is just the beginning.
RANGAPPA: At the tip of the iceberg.
BALDWIN: Thanks for being with me,