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Comey Testifies to Senate Intel Committee; North Korea Test Fires Four Missiles; Warriors Take 3-0 Lead in NBA Finals. Aired 4:30-5a ET
Aired June 8, 2017 - 04:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[04:31:06] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump has just fired the embattled FBI director, James Comey.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: James Comey was fired for being too mean to Hillary Clinton? Does anyone believe that? Could anyone believe that?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He wasn't doing a good job, very simply. He was not doing a good job.
REPORTER: Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey to close or back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?
TRUMP: No. Next question.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Jim Comey wrote a memo that President Donald Trump asked him to end the investigation into General Michael Flynn.
LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: The possibility in his testimony of opening the door to an obstruction of justice charge.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The most anticipated congressional testimony in decades.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a guy with a story to tell. If I were Donald Trump, that would scare me a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear that the testimony that you are about to give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I do.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to EARLY START this morning. I'm Christine Romans. DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dave Briggs.
There are watch parties across the country. Bars are opening early in Washington, D.C., for Senate hearings. That's right.
Hours away from what promises to be a riveting show on Capitol Hill as fired FBI Director James Comey will testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee about his interactions with President Trump.
Even before he takes the oath, though, Comey has already changed the dynamic. Intel Committee releasing Comey's entire opening statement a day ahead of time at his request. It confirms the president asked Comey to help lift the cloud created by the FBI's Russia investigation.
ROMANS: It also confirms President Trump demanded loyalty, and it contradicts the president's claim he never asked Comey to back off his investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Comey's statement does support the president's claim that Comey assured him he was not personally under investigation.
BRIGGS: Comey says the president brought that subject up over the course of multiple conversations. Today marks the first time Comey has testified publicly or spoken out at all since President Trump unceremoniously fired him last month.
ROMANS: For his part, President Trump declaring himself completely cleared by Comey's opening statement.
The president's personal lawyer handling the Russia investigation putting out this statement: The president is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the president was not under investigation in any Russian probe. The president feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda.
BRIGGS: The White House strategy pretty simple today -- pack the president's schedule, or at least try to. However, no public events this morning. But a Republican close to the west wing says officials are still trying to ensure he's too busy to tweet about Comey's testimony. Rapid response is being handled by the Republican National Committee.
ROMANS: All right. Let's get --
BRIGGS: Good luck to them trying to hold back the president from tweeting.
ROMANS: Let's break this down this morning with CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano, CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer and Rebecca Berg.
Nice to have you all here. This idea of loyalty, Rebecca Berg, honest loyalty, in that January 27th dinner between just the two of them, the president and the FBI director in the Green Room.
This is what James Comey writes about that: President Trump 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 not to push it any further. The term honest loyalty had helped end a very awkward conversation.
This is something that, you know, Republicans from Susan Collins, to Paul Ryan, to many others have said it was inappropriate. It was inappropriate for the president to demand loyalty from his independent FBI director. But they didn't go as far as something that's impeachable? There's inappropriate. There's the new guy, the renegade, the outsider in the White House, maybe doesn't know how things work, and then there's something more sinister.
[04:35:07] REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, you have to take this as a complete picture, Christine. All of these episodes that Comey describes in his sworn testimony are very important on their own.
But when you take it as a bigger mosaic of what happened here, when you take into account that Comey was fired after all these conversations for not, apparently, backing off of the Flynn investigation, for not backing off of the Russia investigation, the president was very displeased with. When you take into account separate conversations that the president had later with Russian officials who were visiting the Oval Office, where he reportedly told them that now the Russia investigation wasn't going to be a problem because he had fired James Comey. When you take the whole mosaic of comments together, this does become something that could be potentially legally problematic for the president, or at least problematic in the court of public opinion, to be sure.
But Comey's testimony today, I think, is going to answer a lot of these questions as to what is really the weight of these comments that the president made and where they something -- how inappropriate were they? But certainly, they were unusual to say the least for a president to ask for loyalty from an FBI director, very unusual. And I think that's been reflected in the comments we've seen from Republicans, too.
BRIGGS: Unusual to say the least. In these seven pages released from James Comey, three big takeaways, if you will. Certainly at the heart of this is that loyalty pledge that we discussed. Certainly, the fact that the president asked James Comey to let this go regarding the Michael Flynn investigation, and then the fact that he reassured the president, James Comey did, three different times, that he was not under investigation.
So, James, a former FBI special agent, what is the biggest question that remains unanswered after this opening statement? JAMES GAGLIANO, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: I've got to
tell you, Dave, reading the same seven pages that you did, I mean, James Comey walks us through it. And I think by releasing this early, and he would not have released this without getting permission, per se, from his special prosecutor to do so, he has given Congress the ability now to craft and finely hone their questions today to walk us through this.
Now, there is a distinction between illegal conduct and inappropriate conduct. I come to the side that the president's actions here are inappropriate. These seven pages highlight a litany of different instances where I would have said, wow, somebody that understands ethics, somebody understands the relationship between the executive and the apolitical FBI should have known better.
ROMANS: Julian, it is inappropriate, but is it something that can be part of an impeachment process? You've got one "I," but it doesn't lead to another one.
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It could. You have to remember, impeachment is a political process. It's vague what exactly high crimes and misdemeanor means. And certainly, this falls under the realm of obstruction of justice. We don't know if it is yet. That's what the investigation is about, but we are now in that realm.
And we have to remember, in the Watergate hearings in 1973 and in investigations, it was bits and pieces that all started to come together. It was stories about Richard Nixon trying to stop the investigation. It was stories about, from John Dean testifying about chaos to witnesses. So, it didn't like all one day, eureka, give us evidence that Nixon needed to step down. It was a slow process.
So, that's where we are right now. We don't know where we are right now.
ROMANS: The mosaic Rebecca Berg was talking about that all the instances in hindsight start to look different, too.
ZELIZER: Absolutely. And you're starting to get a critical mass that makes it harder for Republicans to simply turn away, and that's why we're having this investigation. We don't know how much further it will go.
Again, impeachment is a political, not a legal process, and the politics will be as important to determine how far this goes as well definition of the law.
BRIGGS: And let's be clear, Republicans have gone as far as to say inappropriate. Impeachment, not going to happen. Don't hold your breath on that one.
Rebecca Berg, there are dramatic sides to this and one says it's obstruction of justice and the other says the president is totally vindicated. Obviously, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but how ultimately will today's testimony do these seven pages and will today's testimony change the dynamic here? BERG: Well, I think this is actually more of an opening chapter than
it is a final period on the sentence of this investigation, because James Comey is sort of laying out a template for where this testimony goes from here. He mentions in his testimony that his memos were not classified, so that's something these committees can subpoena. The special prosecutor can get a hold of these memos for more information.
And then he also names all of the people who were in the room prior to him having these conversations with the president, who were involved or around these conversations. He mentions that he spoke to Attorney General Sessions and said he didn't want to be left alone with the president.
[04:40:02] And so, he's basically laying out for investigators, OK, here's my testimony and here's where you can go next. So, this is really just the beginning. There's a lot more information to come out, and really a lot more testimony that we could see from this Senate committee, and, of course, on the special prosecutor side as well.
ROMANS: Rebecca, what's your best bet on whether the president is going to weigh in today? I mean, there seems to be a vigorous debate among Washington watchers about whether the White House can keep him quiet today.
BERG: There does. Well, it's always a little bit unpredictable with the president, because we do know that the White House does not want him to tweet. Certainly, his counsel, his private counsel and the White House counsel do not want him to tweet, for obvious reasons.
But the president makes his own decision on this. And so far, his staff, his advisers have not been able to stop him from tweeting in the past. In fact, when they have told him not to do something, in some cases, it has made him more likely to do that thing, so that might be the case again today. The president kind of operates on his own schedule and in his own way without necessarily taking into account the advice of his advisers.
ROMANS: The impulses. I think it's impulses.
BRIGGS: Well, Rebecca's --
BERG: Depending, perhaps, on what show he's watching this morning. We'll see.
BRIGGS: Because some are calling this the super bowl, we're going to make you all get your predictions in. Yes or no, does he tweet, Rebecca?
BERG: Oh, man. Well, if we're talking about all day, I would say probably yes.
James? GAGLIANO: Dave, I say no, because I say the White House counsel's
going to tell him today that anything he tweets is part of discovery --
GAGLIANO: -- if there is to be a case.
ZELIZER: I imagine a moment where everyone turns around and there he is on the side tweeting away. I don't think he'll be able to control himself unless someone controls him from doing it. That's who he is. That's his temperament. That's the history of this presidency in this short window. He wants to tweet. He wants to state his position.
BRIGGS: We have not yet seen anyone who's able to tell the president exactly what he needs to do and seen him follow that advice. That would be arguably the most shocking development to come out of today, Christine.
ROMANS: We do know that the reason why this testimony is out is because James Comey himself wanted this testimony to be out, Rebecca. He wanted it to be out because he wanted people to be able to read these words, think about what he has written down here for the record, for history, right? And then be able to probe with the questions afterward.
I'm wondering how much, Julian, do you think the question-and-answer session afterward is going to make news.
ZELIZER: It's very important. Again, back to the Watergate hearings, what was important was watching it. It was important to see the people speak, to see the interaction. That's what we're seeing today. The words are important, actually, but equally as important is to see Comey talk to the senators about what happened, to have people gain a sense of is he telling the truth with these memos, what were his concerns?
And I think it's an extremely central part of the dynamic to literally watch this on TV.
GAGLIANO: And I think comparing it to what you saw yesterday, it's going to be akin to comparing apples to wheelbarrows. Yesterday, you saw folks that were saying I can't discuss this.
GAGLIANO: Today, you're going to hear a man who's already laid out what he's prepared to talk about.
ROMANS: All right.
BRIGGS: James, you have 4 hours, 16 minutes and 51 seconds to sleep. Julian, Rebecca, unfortunately for you, you're sticking with us. We'll check back with you in about ten minutes. ROMANS: All right. The impact of Jim Comey's testimony goes beyond
Washington. It's already moving stock markets. We'll show you how.
[04:47:35] ROMANS: So, former FBI Director James Comey's testimony later today already moving markets. Look at this, stocks popped right there after the release of that testimony, those prepared remarks.
One theory here is that, suddenly, it gave investors more of the facts and allows this whole process to move forward. There are still worries, though, that new revelations about the president's possible interference in the Russia investigation could delay his economic agenda, especially tax reform. Moving beyond all of this would be something that would really be helpful to markets.
Comey's testimony, by the way, is just one of three big events today that could move markets. You've got the U.K. election and a meeting of the European central bank.
Investors this week have really hit the pause button, stocks trading mostly lower, moving money into safe havens like bond and gold.
Oil price is a factor here. Crude tanked 5 percent over a possible supply glut. There's this rift between Qatar and four Arab states that could halt a deal to cut output.
Also, we've got news that U.S. crude inventories rose for the first time since March. That, though, is good news for U.S. drivers. Gas prices usually spike during the summer, but they fell, Dave Briggs, about 2 cents from last week.
BRIGGS: All right. Well, a new provocation from North Korea. Four more missiles fired into the sea east of the Korean peninsula. According to U.S. and South Korean military sources, they flew about 125 miles and are believed to be surface-to-ship cruise missiles. The Pentagon not expected to release launch tracking statements as it usually does because these were not ballistic missiles capable of posing a long-range threat.
ROMANS: The polls are open in the United Kingdom. Voters deciding between the Conservative Party led by Theresa May and the Labor Party led by Jeremy Corbyn, who is voting as we speak.
There is a lot on the line. Brexit will be a key issue for many Britons, and security is incredibly important in the wake of recent deadly terrorist attacks in Manchester and in London.
Montana Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte now apologizing in writing to "The Guardian" reporter he admits he assaulted at a campaign event. Witnesses say Gianforte became irate after reporter Ben Jacobs asked repeatedly about his position on health care. They say he tackled Jacobs, broke his glasses, put his hand around Jacobs' neck.
Gianforte now calling his actions unacceptable, unprofessional and unlawful. He also pledged to donate $15,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Gianforte will plead no contest to assault charges when he appears in court later this month.
[04:50:02] BRIGGS: All right, some sports. Looks like King James is about to get knocked off his throne. The Golden State Warriors one win away from an NBA title after staging a furious fourth-quarter comeback to knock off LeBron and the Cavs, 118-113, in game three of the finals. The Warriors went on a 11-0 run to stun the Cavs on their home court. Golden State, now a record in all four major professional sports, 15-0 in the playoffs.
In game four of Friday night, the warriors have a chance to become the first team in NBA history to complete a postseason undefeated.
ROMANS: All right. So, what intrigues you most about James Comey's testimony? We pose that to our panel next.
BRIGGS: Welcome back.
Former FBI Director James Comey set to testify in just hours, five hours, and our special live coverage starting in four.
[04:55:02] We want to bring back Julian Zelizer and Rebecca Berg for a few final thoughts.
Rebecca, what will you be watching for starting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time?
BERG: Well, there's a lot to watch today, a lot to impact, no doubt, but I will be watching for the Republican reaction to James Comey and also their approach in questioning him. Donald Trump has actually been able to depend on a pretty reliable Republican firewall to this point. His popularity among Republican voters has stayed pretty stable, and so, Republican lawmakers have followed suit and defended the president, but this might be a watershed moment for Republicans.
And I'll be watching to see if they question Comey, give him the tough questions, if they try to protect the president, or if they actually ask questions that might put the president in a difficult spot. This could be a really telling moment today in terms of where the Republican Party is going from here.
BRIGGS: Yes, and it appears John McCain, the maverick, is back. He's not on this committee, but he will be at these hearings.
ROMANS: And, Julian, I wonder if the Republicans will be trying to dent the credibility of James Comey, because that's what's going to be key here. Will people listen to James Comey, what we've seen here in his own words, and will they find him credible?
ZELIZER: Yes. Look, the White House wants to paint him as a disgruntled person, as someone that is not trustworthy, and now we get to see him, get to hear him. Many Americans have not even heard what he sounds like.
The more credible he is, the more damaging it is to the White House. The more it seems he is telling a story that actually happened, that's when you look back at Senator Rubio, for example, and see, is he changing his tone?
So, it's really important today to try to evaluate how he comes across, Comey, and how believable he is.
ROMANS: I wonder what the Democrats do. How do the Democrats do this? Do they just, you know --
BRIGGS: What is their play, Rebecca? What is the Democratic play today?
BERG: Well, they have to be careful, because they have been dealt a very good hand here in terms of Comey's testimony and in terms of how damaging this could potentially be to the president politically, at the very least, if not in a legal sense.
And so, they don't want to overreach today. They want some good sound bites. They want to ask Comey tough questions that moves him in a direction that is favorable to them.
But Democrats could actually just sort of lay back and let this unfold. Certainly, there are going to be some Democrats who are in a position where they want to lift, raise their national profile, like Kamala Harris, the senator from California, the freshman senator. She is seen as a rising star. And so, I would expect her to maybe lean in a little more to some of her questions to James Comey, come out there, try to raise her national profile.
But when you look at Dianne Feinstein, Heinrich, some of these other Democrats on the committee, I would expect them to just ask tough, pointed questions in a very quiet sort of way, let this play out on its own.
ROMANS: We're so lucky to have your analysis, both of you, this morning. Julian Zelizer, Rebecca Berg, thank you so much.
BERG: Thank you.
ROMANS: I know what all of us will be doing at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.
BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.
A four-hour edition of "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This moves us into the same realm as Nixon's obstruction, maybe worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dramatic, written testimony released a day early at James Comey's request. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Comey's describing is not a criminal case for
obstruction of justice. I think people are getting ahead of their skis on this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read this and I literally wanted to rinse myself off afterwards. I felt completely disgusted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is obstructive, and it looks like an abuse of power.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is exactly what Jim Comey does. He is a grandstander.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has the right to say, you will not investigate Flynn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If that isn't obstruction of justice, I don't know what is.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, June 8th, 5:00 here in New York, and we are just days away from the most anticipated congressional hearing in decades.
Here is your starting line in a highly unusual move, the Senate Intelligence Committee released James Comey's seven-page prepared statement a day early. The fired FBI director will testify that president Trump pressured him to, quote, lift the cloud of the Russia investigation off of his administration. Comey says the president asked him to publicly say that Mr. Trump was not being investigated by the FBI.
Comey will also tell Congress that the president demanded loyalty, repeatedly asked him to drop the Michael Flynn investigation.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's attorney seeing things very differently, saying the president feels totally vindicated by Comey's prepared testimony.
Several big questions today. Did the president's actions amount to obstruction of justice? What does that even mean? Would this be legal or just political?
Whose words will Americans believe, James Comey or President Trump? And how will the president respond to Comey? Will he respond in real- time?
There's a lot to cover. So let's begin with CNN's Jessica Schneider live on Capitol Hill.