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Interview with Senator Ron Wyden; Van Plows into Muslim Worshippers Near Mosque; Car Rams into Mobile Police Unit in Champs- Elysees; Trump Lawyer Denies the President is Under Investigation Despite Tweet. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired June 19, 2017 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:30:00] SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Folks usually talk to me about Russia. I'm happy to do it, but it's going to be all health care all the time this week.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a lot of that depends on what we hear from the president and his legal team, I imagine. Sometimes he has a way of injecting himself into that discussion.
I will stay on health care for just one more moment. You vowed to talk about this as much as you can. You're arguing, though, against something that doesn't exist yet. I mean, how can you argue against the Republican Senate plan when you don't know the details?
WYDEN: That's the ultimate indictment of what the Republicans are up to. I have never seen something like this. This is unprecedented to not have a bill, not any sense of the details of something that will affect hundreds and hundreds of -- hundreds of millions of Americans and you look, for example, at the implications of seniors, two out of three nursing homes beds are accounted for by Medicaid, then we got folks between 55 and 65 paying an age tax. The implications are incredible. We know none of the details.
BERMAN: Right. But when the details do come out, is it possible that your Republican colleagues in the Senate will be able to make what you consider a very bad House bill better?
WYDEN: We'll have to see it. What the conservatives are talking about looks worse than what Donald Trump described as mean. I hope the moderates are going to insist on protection for the vulnerable, those on Medicaid, I have worked with them often and I just hope they haven't changed.
BERMAN: We'll have you back on, I hope, when we do see what's in the bill. We can have a more informed discussion about the policy there.
Senator Wyden, let me ask you about the Russia investigations. We heard you talking to the Attorney General Jeff Sessions and before that the fired FBI Director James Comey. Over the weekend, the president said, quote, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt."
His lawyer has been on TV saying he's not being investigated. Can you clear this up for us? Is the president of the United States being investigated?
WYDEN: First of all, what I can tell you is I never thought I'd hear a president use those four words, let alone tweet them. "I am being investigated" are four words that are now being heard around the world. Of course I can't get into deliberations about committee business, but we're going to go where the facts lead.
BERMAN: But the president said it, his lawyer said he's not being investigated. I'm in the rare and bizarre position of asking you, is the president right that he's being investigated or is his lawyer right that he is not being investigated?
WYDEN: Under the Intelligence Committee rules, I can't get into that. Obviously, what we have seen in the last 10 days or so and James Comey documents are exceptional examples of presidential abuse of power. So we've got a lot of digging to do.
BERMAN: I understand. Your opinion that it's presidential abuse of power. We don't know yet if the special counsel is investigating that. It's possible he is. In which case, we could get a determination from the investigator if it was in fact abuse of power.
Let me as ask you about the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein because there is now an issue about whether or not he needs to recuse himself from oversight of the special counsel's investigation right now.
Do you believe this should be a legal consideration for him?
WYDEN: I don't believe things are at that point. Look, for me, if the president were to fire Bob Mueller, I think that would be an attack on the rule of law. To fire him without cause could actually raise the prospect of impeachment.
BERMAN: But that is a different issue than Rod Rosenstein in this case because the deputy attorney general may have been part of conversations. Look, we know he has wrote a memo to the president of the United States talking about James Comey's performance. He didn't say James Comey should be fired but you know he wrote a memo about that. It's possible that he might need to be a witness in the case.
Aside from whether or not the -- you know, former FBI director Bob Mueller should be fired as special counsel, does the fact that Rod Rosenstein might need to be a witness here mean he should recuse himself?
WYDEN: Again I don't think things are at that point. But say we're going to have to see how matters develop. What we know is when you look at President Trump, there is no one who has done the damage to President Trump as much as the president himself.
BERMAN: And again, we've been discussing that right now. He has not commented on this at least in the last few days. We will wait and see if he heeds the advice of people like you and Senator Rubio and remains quiet going forward, and lets his lawyer do the talking. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, please come back on when we can talk in
detail about the health care bill in the Senate. I appreciate your time, sir.
WYDEN: Thanks so much.
BERMAN: All right. London waking up this morning to a new nightmare. A new terror attack targeting Muslims as they leave their mosque after prayers in Ramadan. Stay with us.
[10:39:16] BERMAN: All right. New this morning, the mayor of London says the police presence across the city will be beefed up after what he called a horrific terrorist attack.
Just after midnight local time a man plowed a van through a crowd of worshippers outside a mosque as they left late-night prayers. One man was killed, eight people seriously injured.
Witnesses say survivors pulled the 48-year-old driver from the vehicle and held him for police as he hurled anti-Muslim insults. Police say there is no doubt he was targeting Muslims.
CNN's Clarissa Ward is in London. Also joining us terror expert Sajjan Gohel. He's the director of International Security at the Asia Pacific Foundation.
Clarissa, first to you. We heard the London mayor talk about the fact that there's going to be beefed up security presence especially in front of mosques and institutions for Muslims. I mean, this has got to be a precarious time in that city.
[10:40:05] CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is really a precarious time, John. It's important to remember for our viewers that this is kind of on the heels of seemingly an onslaught of terror attacks. You had the Westminster Bridge attack, the Manchester attack, the London Bridge attack, then we had of course this terrible fire at Grenfell Apartment block that took more than 70 lives.
We've had a lot of political instability in the UK as well and now on top of all of that, we have this horrible terror attack taking place near the Finsbury Park mosque last night. So certainly authorities in London and around the country have had their hands full.
And there is some real concern here, John, because of course this is now the last week of Ramadan. We're coming up to Eid al-Fitr, which is the sort of main holiday that Muslims celebrate every year. So they do want to make sure that there's added security, not just at mosques but in Muslim communities around the country because there are fears, really, essentially, that what we've seen is the sort of awakening of extremists on both sides and that the situation is sort of percolating at a dangerous pace. No one wants to see anymore attacks like this happen anymore -- John.
BERMAN: No, indeed. And Sajjan, one of the things you will hear people say was, you know, whoever carried out this attack and the twisted reasoning in that person's mind, it may have been revenge for some of the attacks earlier in London. But if he was carrying out revenge or retaliation, it was against innocent people at prayer.
Is this not playing into the hands of extremists? The jihadists around the world who want to see a religious war.
SAJJAN GOHEL, DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, ASIA PACIFIC FOUNDATION: It's a very important point that you raise. It's something that, unfortunately, ISIS will try and exploit and capitalize. It will appear in their propaganda material very soon. They are trying to pit this scenario of us against them. They are trying to create social tension.
We have to remember behind every terrorist attack that the first goal is to kill. The second is to cause disruption. And the third is the aspect of social tensions. It's very important that in these sensitive times, politically, socially, that we don't fall into this trap of hatred that unfortunately some people feed off it.
Now the authorities are trying to investigate the ideological motivations behind this individual. I understand they're also looking at the potential that he may have a mental issue. But regardless, the point is this is another act of terrorism that London is having to brace itself with.
BERMAN: It is a sign of the times. And I'm going to stop this conversation right now to give some breaking news also on the terror front. This time in Paris. We're getting information on some kind of incident on the Champs-Elysees inside Paris. It appears as if a car rammed into a mobile police unit. That's according to the Paris police Gendarmes on Twitter. We don't have much more information as to that.
Clarissa Ward, you know, incidents in Paris right now unfortunately -- Clarissa has stepped away.
Sajjan Gohel, if you're still with us, we saw an attack I believe it was just a week ago outside the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. We are seeing attacks there. We don't know the nature of this but obviously that, too, is a city on edge.
GOHEL: Very much so. And Paris has experienced the whole plethora of attacks, most notably the November 2015 marauding attacks. There was that incident and the build-up to the first round of the presidential elections where a terrorist inspired by ISIS shot dead a French policeman near here the Champs-Elysees. So unfortunately, France still has problems just like the UK has.
And it's also important to look at the timing of a lot of the ISIS inspired attacks that they tend to take place during Ramadan. For the last three years, ISIS is trying to hijack this important religious event for their own nefarious purposes. And as there's still some time to go before Ramadan ends, we may have to expect more of these type of incidents against civilians and against the police because that is something ISIS has called for, about targeting the police. BERMAN: And of course, though, as we speak again the attack overnight
in London was targeting Muslims. The only thing they have in common apparently the London attack and what may have just happened in Paris. So we don't know the nature of this event other than a police mobile unit was attacked. It was both vehicle borne cars ramming into things. And there's really very few ways to protect against that, is there?
GOHEL: It's a huge challenge. Turning a vehicle into a lethal weapon, billions of people driving their vehicles every day. 99.9 percent aren't going to commit an act of terrorism. But it's getting into a situation now where it could suddenly, randomly, spontaneously happen.
Now some of the attacks that have happened in London on the bridges, they are building concrete barriers between the sidewalk and the road, which is important, but we also know that there could be other locations. ISIS themselves have gone out of their way to promote these vehicle attacks, what they call just terror. So it's something that, unfortunately, we have seen and sadly we'll probably see in the future.
[10:45:06] BERMAN: All right. Sajjan Gohel, thanks so much. Our thanks to Clarissa Ward as well.
I want to go to Paris right now. Our France correspondent, Melissa Bell, joins us right now for some details on what we are see. A police mobile unit rammed by a vehicle.
Melissa, what can you tell us?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been within the last hour, John. This really has just happened here on the Champs Elysees. Perhaps you can see just behind my shoulder down there, the bottom half of Champs Elysses leading towards the Concorde is the part that's been cordoned off, John.
What we can see down there is one car that's been stopped in the middle of that police cordon. The white car that's been covered in the sort of material you spray on cars to put them out. And across the road, a man on the ground, now he's been there for the last hour. I could clearly see him when I was down there earlier on.
Now what the police have confirmed to us is that that car did try to ram into a police truck. No news yet, though, John, on whether this was a deliberate, intentional attack on the part of the man driving the car or not. Clearly a massive police presence, however, down there as these cordons has been growing really by the minute with onlookers being pushed further and further back.
And just to provide a bit of context, it was right here, of course, just a few weeks ago back in April, security forces were once again targeted. A police truck was targeted by a man who sadly took the life of one policeman. No word yet on whether this is that sort of incident or not -- John. BERMAN: Something of a pattern, a disturbing pattern that we've seen
in Paris of late, as Melissa said, on the Champs-Elysees some months ago. Also in front of Notre Dame, you know, what appeared to be attacks on law enforcement there.
We're still getting more information about what happened. A vehicle apparently ramming into a mobile police unit. We'll get more details, Melissa, and come back to you. We'll be right back.
[10:51:01] BERMAN: All right. President Trump's lawyer claims that the president is not under investigation, but the president has written that he is and calls the whole thing a witch hunt.
Joining us to talk about the mixed messaging right now, Craig Fuller, former chief of staff for Vice President George H.W. Bush, former co- chair of then President-elect Bush's transition team.
Craig, thanks so much for being with us. I hope you've had a chance to listen to Jay Sekulow over the weekend and this morning he was right here on CNN on "NEW DAY" right now. Wondering if you think that is an effective tool for messaging right now. The president's private attorney going on TV saying he is not under investigation.
CRAIG FULLER, FORMER CO-CHAIR, PRESIDENT BUSH TRANSITION TEAM: Well, I did listen to it, John. I'm not sure I'm anymore clear about exactly what the situation is. I think he sort of worked on the message as he went along and finally got to the place where he said he hadn't been or his client hadn't been told he was under investigation. That's a little bit of a distinction maybe from where he started and from where the tweet started.
I think the more this becomes confused, you know, it just doesn't -- it doesn't serve anybody very well. You'd like to have clarity in something like this in terms of whether the president is or is not under investigation.
BERMAN: Of course a lawyer's job is different than a political adviser or aides job, but in general, if you are out there speaking on behalf of your boss, you never want to have to explain what he or she meant or you never want to have to go out there and say he or she did not say what they actually said.
FULLER: You are absolutely right. I spent eight years in the White House, it was quite a while ago, but we wanted to be extraordinarily careful that the president had accurate facts, spoke the truth, spoke accurately about whatever topic he was discussing, he was well- briefed. That seems to be not a burden this White House faces. I don't quite understand it. I'm not sure which disturbs me. The things are said that are clearly not true or that the president really believes in what he's saying when he says it even though it's later proved to be not true.
By the way it goes well beyond politics. You know, he told us a couple of weeks ago from the East Room of the White House that our air traffic control system is broken and not working. And yet he's had a pretty good two weeks of controlling air traffic around the country. So I -- it's just very puzzling. It does not serve him well.
BERMAN: On that last point, not on air traffic specifically, but about the president's statements and how he chooses to make them, do you get the sense that the president, based on what he is saying about the investigation and other things, understands the gravity of the situation? I'm not saying he's in trouble, he may not be. But when there's a special counsel there, it does make for a serious situation.
FULLER: You know, as I listen to the reporting this morning on CNN, the metaphor that came to mind is bull in a China shop. Words matter. And careening around inside the White House, knocking facts left and right is just not a very good way to govern. I don't think they realize that this does have implications when it comes to policy and risk because you need to be able to trust the words of the president. And he needs to be speak accurately about events as he knows it.
BERMAN: You worked on the presidential transition. You helped fill a lot of jobs in the President George H.W. Bush White House. You know that the quality of appointees and hires matter, but also you need to have the quantity, also. You need to fill the job slots and so far this White House has a lot of empty slots. How much of an impact do you think that's having?
FULLER: I think the situation that we are going through now is really quite unprecedented. We clearly saw many, many good, highly qualified people competing for the top jobs, anxious to serve in these top jobs, by the way later leaving those positions and going out having enhanced their career.
Now people are asking real question as to whether or not getting caught up in this cauldron is going to, A, help the country and they actually serve in an effective way, and B, what comes later, will it help or hurt them personally in their own career? That's really highly unusual and another reason why you've got to get, you know, more attached to the facts as we go forward in some of these issues.
BERMAN: Sean Spicer says that there are people lining up for jobs. We haven't seen them hired yet but that may be something coming in the future.
[10:55:02] Craig Fuller, always great to have your insight. Thanks so much for being with us.
FULLER: Thank you.
BERMAN: So how did LeBron James let out a little Finals frustration on Father's Day weekend? We'll show you during the "Bleacher Report." That's next.
BERMAN: All right. With many of golf's big names out of contention early, relative unknown to at least some took over the U.S. Open to win its first major. Coy Wire has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Coy.
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. It has been a long journey for Brooks Koepka to make it to the top of the mountain. He started out in Europe's second tier tour back 2012 but has worked his way into becoming a champion at the 117th U.S. Open.
And for the final round, listen to this, his friend, his workout partner and last year's champion, Dustin Johnson, called to tell him, hey, you're good enough to win this thing. Well, D.J. was kind of wrong in a way, he was more than good enough. He shot lights out 67 yesterday tieing Rory McIlroy's U.S. Open record, 16 under par. Wait until you hear Brooks' response when CNN's Patrick Snell asked the champ what was it like to win this thing on Father's Day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKS KOEPKA, 2017 U.S. OPEN CHAMPION: It's pretty special. Unfortunately my parents couldn't be here this week. I think it's the first major they have actually ever missed, so, you know, unfortunately for them they missed it. And hopefully it makes up for the Father's Day card I didn't get my dad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WIRE: LeBron James proving he is one of the baddest dads on the planet this Father's Day weekend. He celebrated his 10-year-old Bryce birthday with an epic bash. The field painted with his name, they had different jerseys for each team. When it came to hoops, he was out there dunking on these kids. He didn't care, was holding nothing back. The best part, though, after working out the sweat, King James and his wife, Savannah, cooled the kids off by blasting them with some water balloons. A fun weekend indeed for King James.
And, John, I'm sure you'd like that brown spike he had with that football as well.
BERMAN: It was very impressive. He's setting the bar high, though, for all of us who are parents with kids. I mean, you know, I'm not going to line my yard with -- you know, with the stuff that he did there. But he is the king. So what are you going to do?
Coy Wire, thank you very much. Have a great day.
All right. That is all for us today. I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" with the unparallel Kate Bolduan starts right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are following breaking news this morning. Just hours after a terror attack in London, authorities in Paris are on the move in the heart of the city after a car reportedly rammed into a mobile police unit.