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Deadly Wildfire Forces Thousands to Evacuate; Colder Temps to Grip the Midwest and Northeast; Billy Bush Opens Up; Trump Lawyer: President Cannot Obstruct Justice. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired December 5, 2017 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Conyers is under scrutiny for settling one case of harassment using taxpayer dollars.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead for us, a deadly wildfire in southern California forcing thousands to evacuate. We have the late-breaking details, next.

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HARLOW: All right, breaking news this morning. A fast-moving wildfire in southern California turning deadly forcing thousands to evacuate. Ventura County's Fire Department says an evacuee was killed in a road over crash trying to escape. Ventura, Santa Paula briefing for the worst as powerful Santa Ana winds keep pushing this blaze east.

[06:35:00] An estimated 25,000 acres have burned so far. More than 260,000 customers now without power.

CUOMO: All right, the Great Lakes and the Midwest are about to get a taste of winter. CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers has the forecast. What's coming, my friend?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Record highs yesterday and morning lows down to around 10 in Minneapolis. It was 72 degrees in Kansas City yesterday. Today, nowhere near it.

This weather is brought to you by Purina. Your pet, our passion.

It's the first two cold front of the year. Cold behind it and warm still ahead of it. We still have a 58 degree day in New York, almost 60 in D.C. today before this line of rain, cloud, and then the cold air behind it arrive or tonight into tomorrow.

Now, there will be some rain rush hour tonight in the big cities but the heavy rain is overnight. Here's what happen for Chicago. From 57 to 38 to 29, New York City is high on Thursday, only 45. But more impressive are the morning lows. Chicago, on Thursday will be 20.

That's the end of growing season no matter where you are, even if you cover up the plants, you can't survive that. Guys, back to you. Here comes the cold air.

HARLOW: And here comes the cold air. It was balmy when I was home in Minnesota last week, 50 degrees. Glad I'm back here.

Ahead for us, Billy Bush opening up about that lewd Access Hollywood tape, responding to President Trump now questioning whether it's actually his voice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILLY BUSH, FORMER CO-HOST, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD" AND "TODAY": I said OK, you're reopening wounds on them, too. Enough is enough. Stop playing around with people's lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right, we're going to discuss it with the experts. Billy Bush opens up, next.

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[06:41:05] CUOMO: Former NBC Host Billy Bush speaking out for the first time since being fired because of that "Access Hollywood" tape with President Trump. Bush speaking with Late Night Host Stephen Colbert making it clear, clear to everybody with ears.

HARLOW: Everybody.

CUOMO: It's President Donald Trump's voice on that tape joking about assaulting women, as Mr. Trump is trying to change the facts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Last week, for some reason came out with, that's not my voice on the tape. Like I said, you can't say that. That is your voice, I was there. You were there. That's your voice on the tape.

Twenty women don't get together and say, hey, do you know what would be really fun, let's take down a powerful guy together. Ha ha. No, they don't.

And their names -- and I said OK, you're reopening wounds on them, too. Enough is enough. Stop playing around with people's lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right, joining us now, CNN Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter, and CNN Media Analyst Bill Carter. How does this play for Bush?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: This is an attempt at a comeback, obviously. And I think he has a lot to offer. He's positioning himself as the anti-Trump, as the better man who actually learned a lesson after this embarrassing incident.

Trump does not seem to have learned a lesson from either the tape release or from the allegations that came forward against him, including the woman that was here on this program yesterday. Billy Bush is claiming he has learned a lesson. He'll need to prove that. It's not going to just be one interview that's going to help him get back to his former national T.V. presence. But it seems like he's on the right path, doesn't it?

HARLOW: What about the impact of this, Bill? When you talk about and think about who reads the New York Times, the opening pieces and who watches Stephen Colbert, talk about the reach of the impact and how it may be much more narrow than perhaps Billy Bush hopes.

BILL BUSH, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Yes, well, that's of course with all of this where (INAUDIBLE) their selves so much that, yes, people, he's speaking to and probably are people are going to respond the way he wants them to respond. And he's basically also jumping on the whole issue, which is in the news.

Everybody knows we're talking about these sexual harassment things. It's a national discussion. And it's smart for Billy Bush to say this is my rehabilitation mode. I'm going to jump in and say I support these women. I think it's sincere, but it's very smart.

STELTER: The New York Times gave him an excuse, right, by reporting that Trump was privately casting doubt on the tape. It gave Bush a reason to enter the national conversation. I thought the best moment on Colbert is when he said, I would have loved to say the tape is fake too. I would have loved to be able to claim it wasn't my voice.

HARLOW: But you can't do that.

STELTER: But you can't do that.

CARTER: Yes, exactly. And when he first came in, the first thought I had was, Trump is trying to deny it, there's also a witness. Besides his voice on the tape, there's actually a witness.

CUOMO: There's no need to substantiate the voracity of the tape.

CARTER: Not at all.

CUOMO: And the problem for the president on this, I don't even think it's perceived yet by the people around and which is, when you lie and you do it poorly -- and that's an important thing to note, it now becomes a reflection of what you say on other things that will matter a hell of a lot more than this tape.

CARTER: Right.

CUOMO: And he has now made it clear he is willing to fabricate what is fact if it serves his interest.

Now, Billy Bush also serves as a mirror on our current state of play. The confusing aspect of this is the chronology. If Billy Bush had happened now, this tape had happened now, it would be wait a minute, wait a minute. What is the point of our reporting? What are we trying to do with these exposes?

Do we want change? Do we want things better for women in the workplace and frankly for men in the workplace as well? Or are we in a gotcha game because Billy Bush smacks of a gotcha game.

Billy just did. The man was not accused of doing a single damn thing that was on that tape but he lost his job because of the sensitivities at the time of what he seemed to be enabling. What did they call it in a newspaper, a willing bystander or something?

STELTER: That's right.

CUOMO: That that was his crime. What do you think of that now in the context of all the other --

CARTER: Obviously it's in a different category because I mean, he didn't -- he wasn't a participant in the sense of what Trump was accused of.

[06:45:05] But he was sort of going along with it. And there are people who say he was sort of laughing about it himself before this -- and he knew even said, you know, three days he -- the tape came out three days after he was aware of it. He never said anything about it so he missed an opportunity.

Should he have been fired is really kind of the question. You could easily have said this is over the top. Let's suspend the guy. But he was like cut off at the knees right away.

And that was before the climate then. The climate is more sensitive now. I think he'd be in more trouble in a way now. I don't think he -- look at the Sam Seder episode, where was a tweet years ago, years and years ago that was out of context, a joke and he lost his job. I think the sensitivities are even heightened now.

CUOMO: Wow, look, I've been saying this consistently. It's easy for a corporation to fire somebody. It is hard for them to change their culture and their structure. What is the goal of the reporting? If it's to see that happen, we've got a lot more work to do.

Gentlemen, thank you very much. This is an interesting night and an interesting conversation.

So, here is an interesting question for some. Can a sitting president obstruct justice?

You're all maybe saying of course, of course. Nobody is above the law. That's not what Trump's personal lawyer says. A top White House lawyer downplays that as a defense. What's the confusion here?

We're going to ask the former head of the CIA and NSA, Michael Hayden with his take next.

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[06:50:41] CUOMO: President Trump's personal lawyer invoking a defense that was kind of used by Richard Nixon. And the defense is this. The president cannot commit obstruction of justice because he is the nation's chief law enforcement officer. But White House attorney is downplaying that defense. Let's discuss with CNN National Security Analyst Michael Hayden. He is a former director of the CIA and NSA. Sir, thank you. Always a pleasure to have you.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good morning.

CUOMO: So, we have the can and we have the should. Let's start with the can. Do you believe a sitting president can be charged with obstruction of justice criminally?

HAYDEN: A wonderful question and I think the most telling point is, here we are this morning on national T.V. and this has become so all- consuming that you're asking the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency for a legal opinion. And what this tells me as my lawyers at NSA and CIA used to remind me that when you own the facts, you argue the facts. When you don't own the facts, you argue the law.

And what we've seen since Mike Flynn's guilty plea last Friday is now the administration is trying to argue the law rather than argue the facts. To me, that's very revealing as to what's happening behind the screen there.

CUOMO: Well, I'll make three quick points. One, that was a good duck of my question by the way, by way of a story which is always good because you wrapped me into it.

Two, you're right, it does show how far we've come. The initial pushback was, the president is not under investigation, Comey said it.

We don't care what Mueller is doing. This isn't about the president and we don't care. And we have seen some creep in that as the circumstances have changed.

We also have to make a distinction between criminal conduct and what would be the subject matter for impeachment. They're different standards. If politicians take this up, it's different.

They may say obstruction of justice but high crimes and misdemeanors just doesn't really mean anything under the law other than what it can invoke in a number of votes. So people have to keep that separate in their mind.

So let's leave the legality of the possibility aside and go to the practicality of it. On what you've seen with this new key understanding, if the president of the United States knew that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI when he went to Jim Comey and said, I hope you can see your way clear of letting him go, does that smell like obstruction of justice to you?

HAYDEN: Well, of course it does in kind of the normal the English meaning of those words. But you point out that the key matter here. This is going to be decided at the political level.

I mean, does this constitute high crimes and misdemeanors? And so, if I'm now a station chief here in Washington for a foreign power and my government is asking me what is going on here, the answer I have to give is that despite whatever facts may be out there, I would doubt seriously whether a Republican-controlled House of Representatives would ever draw up a build impeachment on this sitting president.

And that's quite different from the circumstances in the 1970s when a Republican House did exactly that.

CUOMO: And of course what Mueller does with his criminal purview is something very different. It is a different standard and that would be a more acute concern for the president at this stage apparently.

Another issue. The president was attacking the legitimacy, the reputation of the FBI. It was assumed that is because of what happened with Flynn and that the president attacks that which he feels threatened by.

They will offer a different understanding, the people around him which is, oh, no, no, no, it's not about Flynn, it's about Strzok. It's about the FBI agent that was dismissed from the Mueller team because he showed an obvious bias against the president of the United States. And this is the same man who helped with the language for Jim Comey, to reduce the standard on Hillary Clinton, from gross negligence which would have triggered legal application under a statute, to extreme carelessness which was more benign.

This is the guy, this is the proof that the FBI was dirty when it came to helping Clinton and hurting Trump. Your take.

[06:55:04] HAYDEN: Yes. And back to that cable, I just imagine myself writing from Washington back to my national capital, trying to explain the big picture of what's going on here.

And the big picture is the sound you've been hearing out of Washington or American institutions pushing back against a lot of the actions of the Trump administration. And now what we are seeing is the administration, I think as a matter of strategy, is trying to discredit those institutions.

So for the FBI, it's Strzok and witch hunt. For intelligence when it presents things the president doesn't want to hear, they're being led by political hacks and for you guys, it's fake news. And that's the fundamental struggle that's going on now.

And by the way, if I'm the head of one of those institutions, I'm going to my guys every morning and telling them, folks, the standard here now is we've got to be perfect. Zero defects. Because if we're not, the administration is going to exploit our weakness, our misstep to discredit us wholly.

CUOMO: You know the old expression. When you've got one finger pointing at somebody else, you've got a bunch of them pointing back at you. So we'll see what the next step is in this back and forth battle.

General, always a pleasure. Appreciate your perspective, Sir. Poppy?

HARLOW: All right. So the RNC overnight opening up the financial lifeline and spigot to Roy Moore after President Trump endorsed him. What impact will this have in the final week of this hotly contested Senate race in Alabama? We'll discuss, next.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR EMERITUS: You cannot charge a president with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power to fire Comey --

(END VIDEO CLIP)