Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Claims "Complete Vindication" from "Leaker" Comey; Pelosi Speaks after Comey's Bombshell Testimony; Dem Lawmaker to Trump: "Read about Watergate". Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired June 9, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: 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 this tweet this morning and if he is, is he willing to go under oath and prove it?
President Trump tweeting, "Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication and wow, Comey is a leaker!"
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: False statements and lies. If that is referring to James Comey and James Comey lied during his explosive testimony. That would be perjury.
And this morning, CNN broke the news that the president's legal team is taking action about the former FBI director being that so-called leaker. At any moment, we're going to hear from House Democrats Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Oh, at any moment, as in right now. Here's House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
PELOSI: Here we are, seven months since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, and we look to our responsibilities to the American people (inaudible) in the seven months of (inaudible). We have (inaudible).
On national security -- whether that's national security globally, homeland security, personal security -- our national security has been jeopardized by his attitude towards Putin. Put Putin in a pedestal. He's questioned Article V of the -- of NATO. He has flirted with the idea of not enforcing or expanding any sanctions against Russia in terms of their aggressive military behavior in Europe.
It is -- in terms of our economic security, where are the jobs? The election was about jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. He promised jobs. What has he done? He's been a jobs loser.
He has one bill that he has sent over here, health care bill that takes over 20 million -- 23, 24, 25 (inaudible) you take whatever estimate -- 25 million -- 23 million, let's take the low figure -- Americans will lose their health coverage because of his proposal. And it is a job loser. Estimated to be 1.8 million jobs lost. Donald Trump is a job loser. And third, in terms of the security of our democracy, here he has a foreign country interfering -- adversarial country interfering in our election. It is an absolute fact the Russians hacked, probably altered and leaked information into the elections which had a disruptive impact on the election. President doesn't seem to be even curious about that -- even be curious about that. In fact, the Republicans in Congress and he have stood in the way of an outside, independent commission to review all of that.
We have a special counsel who is highly respected, Mueller, and that is -- that will proceed within the Justice Department reporting to Trump appointees, but it's progress.
We have the House and the Senate Intelligence Committees making progress in their investigation, as we saw yesterday, on some of this, but that is within the Republican Congress and we are limited by what the Republicans are willing to do.
That's why we need inside Justice, inside Congress, we need inside -- outside commission so we can get the facts. Let's get the facts and get this -- get over this. Let's bring people together. That's our responsibility.
We have a beautiful Constitution of the United States. We all take an oath to uphold it, to support and defend it. And yet what the president is doing is to undermine it. All of the blessings of liberty that are in there -- more perfect union, domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, ensure justice, the list goes on -- depend on the system of checks and balances that follows in the body of the Constitution, and he is undermining the system of checks and balances, of separation of powers.
And so we have to take stock here and say this is so much bigger than politics, so much bigger than Democrats and Republicans, about how we protect the American people, how we grow our economy with good- paying jobs, increasing wages, and how we protect our democracy as a model to the world.
PELOSI: And you all, you're a very important part of that, because following the checks and balances in the Constitution are the amendments, the Bill of Rights, ensuring freedom of the press. Tries (ph) to undermined balance of powers within the government, undermine the freedom of the press outside the Congress.
You are the guardians of the democracy. Your freedom of expression, whether we agree with you or not, nonetheless, is to be respected. And that is a -- a -- a flagship issue of a democracy. Authoritarians want to suppress the press, and that's what we see here.
So again, we will stand ready to work with the administration, with the Republicans on jobs bills, an infrastructure bill that would be really, truly an infrastructure bill -- to work with them to address the improvements we can make in our tax code, whether it's about fairness, about transparency, about closing special-interest loopholes, lower the corporate rate, whatever it is, to create growth, to create good paying jobs in our country as we reduce the deficit. We see none of that.
With that, I'm pleased to take any questions you may have. Yes, sir?
QUESTION: Leader Pelosi, the president tweeted this morning, essentially accusing Director Comey of lying under oath yesterday. Do you think the president needs to go under oath to address this, either to Mueller or to one of the committees in Congress investigating this now?
PELOSI: Gosh. Take me all day to tell you what I think the president should be doing. You can (ph) start, as I said on one of the shows this morning, with a good night's sleep.
The -- the president's fitness for office is something that has been called into question. It takes a certain curiosity to learn the facts, to base your comments on evidence, and data, and truth. It takes a certain discipline to be able to prioritize what is important as we try to bring the country together.
And it takes a -- a -- some kind of stamina to keep your thoughts together. And I -- I -- I'm very worried about his fitness.
But that's -- that's something he and the people in the White House have to make a judgment about. And I don't know if there's the courage or the -- the conviction in the White House to say to the president you shouldn't be tweeting something like that, it's beneath the dignity of the office you serve.
So, I -- I don't know. I -- I'm not one to say the president should come here to testify, if that's your question. Maybe it would come to that. He probably would like to come here. But he's all about a reality show, so this maybe fit right into his agenda.
But for right now, I think that we have to exercise our oversight responsibilities in Congress. I think we should have an outside commission to examine this.
And again, this isn't about relitigating the past election, in terms of the outcome. It's about making sure it doesn't happen in the future. Again, an -- an adversarial country could have an impact on our election and our country.
And what that means to the rest of the world -- and as they do that in other countries as well, it's to undermine democracy. And does the president even have a curiosity about what the impact of the -- the -- all this had on the election?
So, again, I ask the question, what do the Russians have on Donald Trump politically, personally, or financially that he just won't go to that place, and instead, enshrines them -- sings, dances to their tune? And the Republicans in Congress have been resistant to finding -- resisted finding out the truth.
So, I think, you know, there are other remedies that we can exhaust. I respect the opinion of those who think he should come. But I think we -- if the Republicans in Congress would be more, shall we say, open to facts and the truth, we have -- we can learn a lot without the president coming here.
QUESTION: But would you -- would you permit me a follow-up to that?
QUESTION: You mentioned the sort of forward-looking part of this. What steps is this Congress taking, or does it need to take sooner rather than later to strengthen America's defenses against another intrusion like this?
I mean, you've got a -- an election in Virginia on Tuesday.
PELOSI: Yeah. Well -- and we had a couple -- we had one in California last week.
Here's the thing, during the -- when it was -- it was very obvious to many of us early on. I said at the convention, at the opening breakfast with the Christian Science Monitor folks, that it is an absolute fact that the Russians are hacking ...
[10:09:45] BERMAN: All right. We're listening to the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a statement following the electric day of testimony from James Comey, following the new tweets-comments from the president this morning, attacking James Comey.
Joining us now, Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst, Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times," David Chalian, CNN political director and Elizabeth Goitein, co-director for the Liberty and National Security Project.
[10:10:10] David Chalian, I want to start with you specifically on what we just heard from Nancy Pelosi, because I think it was actually fairly interesting and nuanced here. She called the president a failure. She said he's a threat to national security. She said she's worried about his fitness. I was joking about it being nuanced. There are some fairly direct comments today. She chose not to focus on the minutia of the testimony yesterday. She did choose to go big picture.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I was thinking as I was listening to her, well, tell me, Leader Pelosi, how you really feel. She basically, you know, just painted the president as an authoritarian figure with no respect for the Constitution.
And listen, Nancy Pelosi's job here is somewhat limited, right? I mean, this is -- there is a House Intelligence investigation, but as we know, the House is run by the Republicans, as is the Senate and Bob Mueller has his operation happening separately. So, really, Nancy Pelosi's job here is to rally her troops. That kind of rhetoric certainly does that. The other thing Nancy Pelosi did earlier this morning -- I didn't hear her repeat it, but perhaps I missed it -- is calling for the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to step down in the aftermath of Comey's testimony.
HARLOW: Jackie, to you. There was a stunning sort of overarching moment when you look at all of the Comey testimony and what lawmakers did with it yesterday and that is that no lawmaker really questioned Comey on why he thought the president was a liar. And we just had a Republican representative on this show about half an hour ago and we asked Representative Zeldin, are you prepared to say in your mind that the president has not lied? And he responded and said "With regard to what?" Do those moments combined strike you? Should they be worrisome at all for this White House?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF "THE DAILY BEAST": It definitely isn't a good sign when your own party won't stand up for the fact that you're telling the truth. And I thought it was very interesting. Susan Collins said earlier that one of the reasons that she's inclined to believe what Comey said is because he said it under oath and he testified before them.
So you have to wonder, is the president going to be called to meet the same standard? Is he going to have to testify to Congress? And you know he might end up having to talk to Bob Mueller, the special counsel. But certainly, when you have your own party not willing to go to the mat for you on basically, if people can trust what comes out of your mouth, that's problematic, but they've also been burned by this.
I mean, that whole -- the whole thing about whether Obama was wiretapping the president after his errant tweet really caused a lot of heartburn for the House and the Senate Republicans. And you know, made Devin Nunes step away from the Russia investigation. So, they have reason to be a little bit cautious here.
BERMAN: You know, on the subject of whether or not the president should testify under oath or come up to Congress, Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader there, almost seemed to be baiting him a little bit. --
HARLOW: Yes, I'll bet he wants to.
BERMAN: She said, you know, I'm not going to comment on it, but I bet he wants to. You know, laying a trap, maybe, Lynn Sweet, there, which the president may have provided for himself by his own statement on Twitter this morning, where he talked about false statements and lies from James Comey. The White House seems satisfied, intent on making this a he said-he said with the credibility of the president versus the credibility of James Comey. How smart of a move do you think that is?
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, so far, every wound has been self-inflicted that keeps this cloud over the Trump administration, so how smart is it to -- people are not baiting Trump. He's acting without the bait. That's why the most important question out there is, do tapes of these conversations exist? Because then that would almost make moot testimony, interpretation, analysis of what somebody meant.
The first most important question is are there tapes? That seems to me what you need to get the president to confirm one way or the other, because if the issue is trust, the matter can be settled pretty easily, right? The president hinted that there's a tape. Sir, can you come and tell us if there are tapes or not? HARLOW: Right.
SWEET: And then we will need to listen to them. That seems step one and we go from there.
HARLOW: There would be no discussion about who's lying and who's not, if there are tapes. Tapes generally don't lie. Elizabeth, counselor, to you, as the attorney on this panel, some news this morning that CNN has learned that Marc Kasowitz, the personal attorney for the president, is going to file a complaint to the Senate Judiciary Committee over these memos.
Now, Comey no longer works for the Department of Justice or the attorney general, so the worst this can mean is that he gets a note in his file and he's not employed there anymore. Is it just smoke? I mean, does it have any teeth, this response from the president's lawyer?
[10:15:09] ELIZABETH GOITEIN, CO-DIRECTOR LIBERTY AND NATIONAL SECURITY PROJECT: No, I don't think it does. I think it's a pure distraction. I don't think there's anything illegal about Comey leaking these memos. The word leak implies that something wrong was done. That's why they're using that word. But in fact, it's not illegal for government employees to disclose information, unless that information is classified. And yes, some communications are privileged for the president. These communications would not fall into the category of privileged communications, because they weren't about providing policy advice.
So, this is a distraction from the main issue here, which is that once again this president has shown that he believes that he is above the law. That he can put to rest an inconvenient investigation into one of his close associates that touches on these live allegations, this live investigation into possible collusion between Russian interference and the Trump campaign.
BERMAN: Look, it may not have much legal weight. It might have political weight. Some of his followers, some people in the country might not like the notion that James Comey did something, which was obviously a scheme. I don't say that pejoratively. He schemed to have something happen. -
HARLOW: He set a goal.
BERMAN: He set a goal and he achieved it. So, maybe the White House sees some expedience there and pointing that out. All right, David Chalian, Jackie Kucinich, Lynn Sweet, Elizabeth Goitein, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
Senate Democrats stopping short of saying the president obstructed justice, but one lawmaker feels differently. We'll speak to him coming up.
HARLOW: And a bombshell election overnight in the United Kingdom. Wait until you hear what happened to the woman who wanted the election in the first time. That's straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[10:20:58] BERMAN: Lest you think the James Comey testimony is the end of all this, a great deal of action about to take place, much of it behind closed doors with key players heading up to testify before the Congressional committees looking into the Russia matter.
HARLOW: Our Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill with the latest. You've got Jared Kushner set to meet with folks in, what, the next few weeks?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right. By as soon as the middle of next week, Jared Kushner could be meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff. After that meeting, Jared Kushner, according to sources familiar with the committee, will be expected to submit personal documents and then, he will be expected to meet with the senators on the committee themselves.
But guys, that's just one issue right now that's kind of bubbling up. One thing that we heard from sources familiar with the closed, classified session yesterday of Jim Comey's hearing is that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, has again come under scrutiny. This is something we know Senate Intelligence Committee officials have been looking at over the course of last couple of weeks, about the idea of a third meeting. This is something that Jim Comey discussed, according to sources, in this closed meeting, that the possibility that Jeff Sessions met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, in April of 2016 and this meeting wasn't disclosed.
Now, the Justice Department has made very clear this meeting didn't happen. Jeff Sessions says the meeting didn't happen, but this is something everybody is looking into. And guys guess what, Jeff Sessions testifies publicly, not in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but of another committee and committee staff makes very clear, these are the types of questions that will almost certainly come up in a public forum.
Now, guys, on top of all that, the top two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are expected to meet behind closed doors with Bob Mueller, the special counsel. One of the issues they want to discuss, well, Bob Mueller, Jim Comey said yesterday, has Jim Comey's memos, those memos that everybody has been talking about. Senators want those memos as well, so that will be discussed.
But also, another key component of that is how these investigations kind of coincide or work together with one another. Deconfliction is the word we continue to hear over and over again. They don't want to run into one another, so those meetings are also important.
Guys, as it's really important to know and John, you made this point, yesterday seemed like the climax. Yesterday, it seemed like everything. It's not. It's one piece of a very lengthy, expected-to-be lengthy investigation. Next week is another big week on Capitol Hill for a lot of the players that are involved in this.
It's very clear, there's obviously the federal investigation that's going on, but both in the Senate and the House, those Intelligence Committees are still working on their investigations. And there are still a lot of steps to come. A lot of pieces in that puzzle still to be put together, guys.
BERMAN: Also health care, tax reform, matters for another day.
HARLOW: Yes, those, too.
BERMAN: Phil Mattingly here to have with us. Appreciate it. In little over four hours, we're going to hear from President Trump himself. He will hold a news conference at 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time.
For now, before he speaks out loud, we have his latest writings. He wrote on Twitter, "Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication. And wow, Comey is a leaker!"
HARLOW: And as the White House has said, the tweets speak for themselves and are official statement. We will see more about what the president has to say about this total vindication that he claims. Others, though, other lawmakers see clear evidence of what they call obstruction of justice, like Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu, who just replied to the president a short time ago like this -- "Dear Donald Trump, you should have your lawyer explain to you the Obstruction of Justice law you violated. Oh, and read about Watergate."
Congressman Lieu joins us now from California. Thank you for joining us, sir. Explain the evidence. You think this is so clear that you tweeted earlier that a first-time prosecutor could easily convict on obstruction of justice charges. Really?
REP. TED LIEU (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Thank you, Poppy and John, for that question. As a former prosecutor, James Comey under oath -- I watched him -- he laid out all the facts to establish obstruction of justice.
It's a very broad statute. You don't actually have to obstruct an investigation. You just have to endeavor to influence an investigation and President Trump certainly did that by asking for the Michael Flynn investigation to be dropped and by firing the FBI director.
[10:25:00] BERMAN: Well, look, that is something that now Bob Mueller will be looking into. He's got the memos. He may be investigating that at this very moment. Congressman, you said that the former FBI director laid out all the facts. Do you agree that he made very clear that President Trump was not under investigation while he was FBI director?
LIEU: Yes. James Comey also did say that, but the purpose of James Comey's testimony wasn't about the Trump/Russia collusion investigation. It really was about obstruction of justice. --
HARLOW: Well, no -
LIEU: James Comey wasn't just - well, he was just talking to the American people. He was talking to Robert Mueller and his team. There's no way they could have watched that testimony under oath and not investigate the president and I believe they're going to do that. BERMAN: Robert Mueller is now a special counsel in the Russia investigation. And the Russia investigation is the pretext to everything that's going on right now. So, it can't be completely incidental, if James Comey said yesterday what he was unwilling to say while he was FBI director, that the president was not under investigation.
LIEU: Certainly, there is a Trump/Russia investigation ongoing, but the special counsel's direction is not just to do that investigation, but to also investigate -
HARLOW: Congressman, though, let me just -- I have to jump in there, because we have to have it straight for our viewers. The FBI director confirmed what the president had said and that is that he personally was not under FBI investigation up until James Comey was fired. Do you concede that?
LIEU: That has nothing to do with obstruction of justice.
BERMAN: That's true.
HARLOW: We hear your argument. You have to prove intent for obstruction of justice. That is not your job. That is not our job. That is the job of people far above our pay grade, however, let me move on to this.
The president, this White House is focusing - solely this morning, they say they're vindicated, but calling James Comey a leaker for releasing these memos of his own thought as a private citizen to a friend with the intent of getting them to the press, with the intent of getting special counsel hired.
Now, he succeeded in that intent. My question to you is. Are you completely comfortable with James Comey, who has also talked about problems with leaks of classified information? This is not classified. Are you comfortable with what he did, giving those memos over to a friend, to the press, instead of giving them to the correct Congressional committee?
LIEU: Absolutely. There is no law preventing a private citizen from disclosing unclassified conversations. And if you are a federal employee, Congress passed laws to protect you. So, as a member of Congress, I just want to say, if you are a whistleblower and you have unclassified information leaked to the press, Congress has laws to protect you.
BERMAN: To be clear, you're not advising anyone to break the law here. You're saying unclassified information, to be clear. You're saying information that is not part of an ongoing investigation. Is that correct?
LIEU: That is correct. If it's classified, there are other procedures. Look at the law and consult your attorney.
BERMAN: So maybe he didn't violate a law by giving this information to a friend to then leak to the press, but are you completely comfortable with it? Is there anything about it that seems odd to you? James Comey, this guy, if he had an issue, what kept him from saying it out loud in public to the press himself or in front of cameras to the American people? That seems like a very calculated action he took and he said it was to get a special counsel.
LIEU: That is correct, but he just did that yesterday. He spoke before cameras under oath to the American people. So, James Comey wanted to get the truth out and he was doing it in various ways and I'm pleased the American people got to hear his side of the story yesterday.
HARLOW: So, we've got to wrap up. It doesn't bother you at all that James Comey never brought up to the attorney general, to Congressional committees, hey, what the president's doing here is totally uncalled for, totally inappropriate, never once said it until yesterday? Is that OK?
LIEU: He did say it to members of the FBI, of his team.
HARLOW: OK. That is true.
BERMAN: According to his testimony yesterday and according to the memos, which hopefully we will see at some point. Democratic Congressman, Ted Lieu of California, always great to have you with us. Thank you for your time.
LIEU: Thank you.
BERMAN: We've got a huge story going on in England right now. There are calls for the British Prime Minister to step down after a huge political gamble blew up in her face.