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A.G. Jeff Sessions to be Grilled on Russia Meetings, Comey Firing; Trump, Romanian President Joint News Conference. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired June 9, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:33:27] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: The nation's top prosecutor has gotten caught up in the fallout from former Director James Comey's explosive testimony. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to testify before a Senate subcommittee next Tuesday. But Democrats want to grill the A.G. about his contacts with the Russian ambassador and Comey's controversial firing.
Director Comey told Senators in a closed hearing, after the open one, yesterday, that Sessions may have had a third undisclosed meeting with Ambassador Kislyak, something he declined to talk about in public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Our judgment, as I recall, is 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: CNN Washington correspondent, Ryan Nobles, joins me now.
Ryan, for next the testimony next Tuesday, what should we expect from the attorney general?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, it seems to be the season of high-profile hearings on Capitol Hill. And this hearing on Tuesday where Jeff Sessions will appear in front of a Senate Appropriations Committee, which is supposed to be about the Justice Department's budget, we're expected to get a lot of questions about Russia. You mentioned some Democratic Senators already promising to ask questions and they want to ask about this potential third meeting that Jeff Sessions may have had with the Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on April 27th, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel on the day that Donald Trump delivered his first major foreign policy speech.
Now, Sessions' aides at the Justice Department have pushed back saying that this meeting never took place. They say it never happened. But CNN is reporting the reports were picked up on intercepts with two Russian entities in the intelligence gathering. So the question here for Sessions is, what interactions did he have
with Kislyak, was it limited to just this and did it impact the Trump campaign at all. Brooke, he's continuing to face questions about whether or not he can hold on to his position. A number of Democrats have called for him to step down but Sessions has said repeatedly that he's not going anywhere -- Brooke?
[14:35:42] BALDWIN: Next Tuesday in the hot seat.
Ryan Nobles, thank you, sir.
NOBLES: Thank you.
BALDWIN: A reminder, any moment from now, we'll be seeing President Trump taking questions from members of the media. There are pictures of the media and everyone waiting and watching for this news conference. This is a huge, huge news conference, because this is just a day after the now fired FBI Director James Comey called the president a liar. The president volleyed that back this morning in a tweet. We'll take the whole thing live. Don't go anywhere.
[14:40:37] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BALDWIN: All right. We're back here live in Washington, D.C., and I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here with me. You're watching CNN special live coverage.
The president is about to take questions for the first time in 22 days. And the first time since he and James Comey have called one another liars in the last 24 hours.
So let's go live to CNN's senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim Acosta, obviously, we'd love to get a question in to the president. It's a two and two. How do you expect he will respond, assuming he gets tough questions?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It will be interesting to watch. The president has been restraining himself somewhat since the testimony of James Comey. A couple of tweets. We'll see how much of that pent-up energy manifests itself when he comes out and speaks alongside the Romanian president here in a few minutes.
We should point out that the president hasn't said a whole lot in the last several weeks to reporters. It's been three weeks since that last press conference where he talked to reporters. It was during that foreign trip where we tried to ask the president questions. In the last few seconds, they did give us the two-minute warning so this may be happening fairly quickly.
Unanswered questions that may need to be answered, one, does the presidents have a recording system that allows him to record conversations at the White House. And what does he make of James Comey repeatedly calling him a liar during that sworn testimony yesterday. And what about this notion -- and you heard this from Marc Kasowitz -- that James Comey is somehow a leaker. My expectation is you'll hear the president go to that talking point during this news conference because they feel it's a potent weapon to go after James Comey in terms of his credibility, of course.
There are questions about whether he can even call James Comey a leaker since it wasn't a classified information and it was his personal memo to disclose. He wasn't under any executive privilege order invoked by the president. But all of this is going to play out here in a couple of moments.
And there's national security questions, since he'll have the president of Romania here. It may be asked of the president, what about your defense or lack thereof of Article V during that speech to NATO a couple of weeks ago during the foreign trip.
And of course, there are the elections we just say in the U.K. overnight. And the British Prime Minister Theresa May is going to try to hold together her government after the loss of her Conservative Party in that election. So lots of questions to be asked.
First and foremost, much of the attention will be on James Comey and that clash between these two alpha males here in Washington.
And the other question that remains to be answered is Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, all week long we've been trying to pepper the president with questions, does the president have confidence in Jeff Sessions. We got kind of a mealy-mouthed response to that yesterday, "Well, the president is confident in all of the members of his cabinet," was the answer. That doesn't really answer the question. That may be asked here as well -- Brooke?
BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, we'll stand by. We'll take that whole thing live.
Let me bring in my panel here.
Jim teed it up perfectly. My question to you, first, Dana Bash, we saw the tweet from the president. Is he standing up before the world in a moment? Can he resist ripping Director Comey in what do you expect?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's such a great point and it's one of the first bits of evidence that we're going to see as to whether or not his legal team and the people around him who got him to sit on his phone and not tweet yesterday --
BALDWIN: All day yesterday.
BASH: -- is going to have that same discipline in the Rose Garden.
Obviously, no matter who gets the question, will ask the obvious, which is --
BASH: First of all, the tapes, absolutely. And just to get him to say, did James Comey tell the truth, did all of that happen as far as you're concerned.
BALDWIN: According to his attorney --
BASH: -- but to hear it from his mouth.
BALDWIN: What's your question, number one?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYSTR: And would he say it under oath, because James Comey testified under oath? He has contemporaneous memorandum. The president has essentially made a Twitter and through counsel assertion that Comey is a liar.
[14:45:07] BALDWIN: Which, to Congress, is a felony.
ZELDIN: If you're under oath.
BALDWIN: If you're under oath, which he was.
ZELDIN: Yes. Exactly. And so will the president, if you will, do the same? And then we'll see sort of what spine there is behind the accusations. The other thing is, I thought that it was interesting that Rogers -- Admiral Rogers and Director Coats refused to talk about what was said to them with respect to Flynn in the investigation in public forum because I think they thought they couldn't breach that communication without the president's permission. Will he give them permission to talk so we will know whether or not they were both asked to intervene to push the Flynn investigation off the front page of Comey's investigative dossier.
BALDWIN: We got our two-minute warning. Our eyes are trained on that day to see the president of the United States. When we see the president walk out and speak before members of the media in the Rose Garden.
Anne Gearan, to you, what are you looking for?
ANNE GEARAN, STAFF WRITER, THE WASHINGOTN POST: I'm looking for Russia. That's the cloud that hangs over every one of the questions that we've been discussing here. Will the president get a direct question and will he answer it that goes to Comey's allegation yesterday that Comey was fired because of the way he was conducting the Russia investigation? If so, Comey's clear implication was that the president had a reason for that, that he didn't like the way the investigation was going or potentially that the investigation was getting too close to something that the president didn't want him to investigate. I mean, Comey wouldn't go all the way there. He said all those are questions for the special counsel. But he left a lot on the table that I think could be put straight to Trump today.
BALDWIN: It could put the whole "he said/he said" to bed. He could say, here's the tapes and the truth can come out.
So how long can the White House -- they know if they have tapes or not. Like, hello.
BALDWIN: Right. How long can they wait?
BASH: Well, the most -- who knows. Maybe there's a new taping system that we don't know about. It's harder to imagine that than the president doing what he was doing when he was a private citizen which was maybe recording on his phone or on another recorder.
BALDWIN: Or threatened that he did and didn't.
BASH: That's also possible.
One thing we should keep in mind as we're waiting for him, he's going to come out with the leader of Romania. So the questions will come from the foreign press, too. There is so much going on, on the world stage, vis-a-vis, this president.
BALDWIN: Global warning.
BALDWIN: Qatar, U.K.
BASH: Right. Is global warning a hoax or not? Qatar -- the fact is, if this Russia situation wouldn't be so big, the fact that he inserted himself between two Middle East allies and did so in kind of a bumpy way --
BALDWIN: The largest, you know, base in the Middle East.
BASH: -- to fight terror.
BALDWIN: Right. Right.
BASH: So there are lots of those issues I'm sure we'll be asked as well.
BALDWIN: Hi, David Sanger. Nice to see you. Just joining us.
BALDWIN: No worries. We're waiting for the president. We got the two-minute warning. We'll see. Just ahead of this all-important post-Comey, liar, liar, back and
forth for 24 hours, what's your question, number one?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICS & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the first question is, if you're saying that Mr. Comey is lying on these things, did you, at any moment, pressure him to go drop this investigation. And, if not, are you perfectly happy to have the investigation against Mike Flynn proceed full bore? And will you testify under oath in front of Bob Mueller?
BALDWIN: So Senator Reed was sitting here in the last hour with Wolf. Something he said, and let me ask you, the attorney, that he, Bob Mueller, could depose, could have the president testify. Obviously, it would be behind closed doors because it would be the special counsel doing this. Does Bob Mueller have that power over the president of the United States?
SANGER: Sure. When I was in the White House and an independent counsel, we deposed President Clinton and we did the same with Jimmy Carter. It's perfectly within your authority to do that. You make all of the accommodations. We did it at the White House when we deposed President Bush. We went down to the Houston. You're very accommodating. But we swore them and we took their testimony, and that's what Mueller will likely do here. The question is, when the president makes an assertion that the former director of the FBI lied, will he say -- and I am willing to come forward to the -- to anybody and testify under oath about that which I am tweeting about or making known through my attorney.
[14:50:08] BALDWIN: You agree with Senator Reed that the president would testify, under oath?
SANGER: No. Depending on where Mueller's facts lead him. If Mueller feels that obstruction of justice is a mandate and feels the only way to resolve the conflict between the president and former Director Comey is to take the president's deposition, then, yes, absolutely, it's within his power.
BALDWIN: So we've been talking a lot about the tapes. I want to say it was May 12th when the president, David, tweeted and sort of inferring you better wish there were tapes.
BASH: Hope there are not.
BALDWIN: Hope with regard to Comey in testimony. So at the time thinking maybe he's inferring that there are tapes. As David Chalian has pointed out, there's like this direct line between the president's tweet, three days after the Comey firing, than to Comey leaking this memo.
Oh, here these two are. Hold that thought.
Here's the president of the United States and the president of Romania.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. President Iohannis, thank you for being here. It's wonderful to
welcome such a good friend to the White House.
As you know, the people of Romania and America share much in common, a love of freedom, proud cultures, traditions and a vast and storied landscape to call home. The relationship between our two countries stretches back well over a century.
But today, we especially reaffirm and celebrate our strategic partnership that began more than 20 years ago. That partnership covers many did I mentions, including economic, military and cultural ties and today we are making those ties even stronger.
Mr. President, your visit comes at an important moment, not just in this partnership but among all of the nations in the world.
I have just returned from a historic trip to Europe and the Middle East where I worked to strengthen our alliances, forge new friendships, and unite all civilized people in the fight against terrorism. No civilized nation can tolerate this violence or allow this wicked ideology to spread on its shores.
I addressed a summit of more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders in the history of nations where key players in the region agreed to stop supporting terrorism, whether it be financial, military or even moral support.
The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has been a thunder of terrorism at a very high level. And in the wake of that conference, nations came together and spoke to me about confronting Qatar over its behavior. So we had a decision to make. Do we take the easy road or do we finally take a hard but necessary action? We have to stop the funding of terrorism. I've decided, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, our great generals and military people, the time has come to call on Qatar to end its funding. They have to end that funding and its extremist ideology in terms of funding.
I want all of the nations to stop immediately supporting terrorism. Stop teaching people to hurt other people and filling their minds with hate and intolerance. I won't name other countries, but we are not done solving the problem but we will solve that problem. Have no choice.
This is my great priority, because it is my first duty as president to keep our people safe, defeating ISIS and other terror organizations is something I have emphasized all during my campaign and right up until the present. To do that, stop funding, stop teaching hate, and stop the killing.
[14:55:17] For Qatar, we want you back among the unity of responsible nations. We ask Qatar and other nations in the region to do more and do it faster.
I want to thank Saudi Arabia and my friend King Salman and all of the countries who participated in that very historic summit. It was truly historic. There has never been anything like it before and perhaps it never will be again. Hopefully, it will be the beginning of the end of funding terrorism. It will, therefore, be the beginning of the end to terrorism. No more funding.
I also want to thank the Romanian people. They have their own difficulties with it and they've come a long way and they are doing a lot. Romania has been a valuable member of the coalition to defeat ISIS and it's the fourth-largest contributor of troops in Afghanistan. There, 23 of your citizens have paid the ultimate price, and America honors their sacrifice.
I want to recognize President Iohannis for his leadership in committing Romania this year to increase its defense spending from 1.4 percent of GDP to over 2 percent. We hope our other NATO allies will follow Romania's lead on meeting their financial obligations and paying their fair share for the cost of defense.
But I will say this. That because of our actions, money is starting to pour in to NATO. The money is starting to pour in. Other countries are starting to realize that it's time to pay up and they're doing that. Very proud of that fact.
As you know, I have been an advocate for strengthening our NATO alliance through greater responsibility and burden sharing among member nations. And that is what is happening, because together we can confront the common security challenges facing the world.
Mr. President, I want to applaud your courage and your courageous efforts in Romania to fight corruption and defend the rule of law. This work is necessary to create an environment where trade and commerce can flourish and where citizens can prosper. I look forward to working with you to deepen the ties of both commerce and culture between our two countries.
Romanians have made contributions to the United States and to the world. Very notable, among them was Nobel Prize Laurette, Eli Weasel, who was born in Romania, and sadly passed away one year ago. And I understand that earlier this week the American Jewish Committee presented President Iohannis with its very prestigious Light Unto the Nation's Award for his work to further Holocaust remembrance and education in Romania.
I joined the AGC in saluting your leadership in this vital cause.
The people of Romania have endured many, many hardships. But they have made a truly, remarkable historic journey. The future of the Romania and Romania's relationship with the United States is very, very bright.
President Iohannis, I thank you for leadership and I think you again for being here today. I look forward to strengthening our alliance with your country and our bonds with you people.