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How Will Comey Firing Impact FBI's Russia Investigation?; Trump details dinner and calls with Comey before his firing; Laptop Ban Expanding?; Who Is Rod Rosenstein? Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 12, 2017 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Nothing from GOP leadership of any meaning.

REP. SCOTT TAYLOR, (R) VIRGINIA, FORMER NAVY SEAL: You know, I'm not -- I'm not going to speak for anyone.I'll let them speak for themselves. I'm sure they'll come on your program and answer --

CUOMO: No, they won't and that's the point.

TAYLOR: -- any questions that you have.

CUOMO: You were happy to come on and we respect that, but they are staying quiet here. Is this the time for quiet?

TAYLOR: They'll have to decide that. I mean, I'm not going to speak for anybody or condemn anybody on either side. There are certainly people that are speaking out on both sides. I've heard both of them. I don't know -- I don't think -- look, as I said before, I mean, the FBI -- I don't want them to become political, right -- this political football -- on either side --

CUOMO: Right.

TAYLOR: -- Republican or Democrat, you know. They have to have the confidence of the American people for objective investigations. And I'm not saying that there has to be an independent one at this moment but we'll see. You know, like I said, there's two concerns I have. One, a president has to have confidence in his director -- that his prerogative or hers and, we have to have the confidence in the process for the American people. Let's see who gets appointed next so the Senate, in a bipartisan way, can have confidence that they will carry out an objective investigation.

CUOMO: What about the confidence in what comes out of the White House? I mean, you know, they said this was about Rosenstein's memo. Everybody said it. We have this montage. I'm calling it the mendacity montage because it's just filled with lies. You know, they put out a letter saying this was what it was about. Every spokesperson, including the vice president, was put in a position to come out and say this was what it was about and then the president goes on T.V. and says that's not what it was about. I was going to fire him anyway. The recommendation didn't matter. This was about Russia and I think it's fake and Comey's a grandstander. He had to go. What about being able to trust what comes out of the White House? Does that matter?

TAYLOR: Of course, it matters. Of course, it matters. The memo, itself, I don't think is full of lies and I don't think that's what you were saying.

CUOMO: No, I'm not saying that.

TAYLOR: But the -- I mean, the memo -- yes. The memo, itself -- obviously, you know, he's very well respected, of course and, you know, Director Comey, who has given great service to this nation -- let's say that, of course -- but he made some missteps for sure and -- on both -- and I think Democrats and Republicans are both on record for saying that. And he clearly -- the president -- whether that's the only reason or there are other reasons where he lost the confidence of the president, he lost the confidence of the president and he had -- he's within his legal authority --

CUOMO: Sure.

TAYLOR: -- to fire him and then -- again, but my concern in moving forward is who's next. Who's next and is that -- does that give a person who is for the American people -- they believe there's objectivity in an investigation. But your question is yes, you have to -- there has to be trust. There's no doubt about that.

CUOMO: Congressman, I appreciate you coming forward and speaking out on this. It's tricky political terrain but we need our leaders to step up. Thank you for doing so.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Exactly.

TAYLOR: Leadership matters. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Poppy --

HARLOW: It does, indeed. All right, thank you gentlemen. President Trump has proved that loyalty is incredibly important to him. It seems important above, perhaps, all else, and when it comes to former FBI director James Comey, President Trump demanded that loyalty. "The New York Times" reporting this morning Comey would not promise it. Our panel weighs in, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:37:05] HARLOW: All right. It has become abundantly clear that President Trump values loyalty a lot. A source tells CNN James Comey's refusal to declare that loyalty to the president is part of the reason he was fired. Did President Trump demand personal loyalty over loyalty to the nation?

Let's discuss. CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers is here, and former political director for President George W. Bush, Matt Schlapp joins us. Gentlemen, thank you for being her this Friday morning and Matt, let me begin with you.

MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH POLITICAL DIRECTOR, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Sure.

HARLOW: Multiple threads are reporting on this. Our own Jake Tapper reporting first that one of the reasons that Comey was fired is because he would not promise that loyalty to the president. And, "The New York Times" this morning reporting that at that dinner on January 27th at the White House between the president and then-FBI Director James Comey, the president said will you be loyal? Will you make a pledge of loyalty? Comey demurred and said no, I'll be honest. I'll be honest with you, Mr. President. Do you believe that this is a president who has put loyalty above all else and that it is part of what caught -- what cost the FBI director his job?

SCHLAPP: Two answers. I think loyalty is important to this president. I actually think it's important to all presidents. I was involved in the personnel process for President George W. Bush and we asked every single political appointee about their opinions of the president and if they could buy into his agenda and be loyal to that agenda.

Second of all, I think it's very important to know that there was a dinner that President Trump disclosed between him and Jim Comey. There are now all these articles about pushing back and what the president said in his interview with NBC and who could that source be, Poppy? If there's two people having a dinner and someone is pushing back on the narrative and saying well, here's what the president demanded, it has to be Jim Comey.

This is one of the reasons why a lot of Republicans and Democrats have become frustrated with Jim Comey over the years, is he is a political animal and he plays this game and he is clearly trying to push back to win the news cycle --

HARLOW: Matt, the West Wing --

SCHLAPP: -- and what might have happened at this dinner.

HARLOW: The West Wing leaks plenty.

SCHLAPP: It does.

HARLOW: The West Wing leaks plenty, especially people close --

SCHLAPP: So does Jim Comey.

HARLOW: OK, but I'm saying don't say Comey -- you know, who knows --

SCHLAPP: Who was at the dinner, Poppy? Who was the dinner? It was two people.

HARLOW: Hey, I wish I was at the dinner, OK?

SCHLAPP: Me, too. Me, too.

HARLOW: Bakari, let me get to you because, seriously, on the issue of honesty and the president's base, look at these numbers from this new Quinnipiac poll. Not only has the president's -- this trust level people have in the president that he's honest fallen nine points since November. You also have a pretty significant drop-off there in credibility for the president -- we have a second slide, I think, to show you -- among his base -- whether they think he's honest. Forty- four percent of non-college-educated voters say that the president is honest today -- 44 percent versus 56 percent in November. What will this week mean, Bakari, to the president and his ability to hold on to the trust of his base?

[07:40:00] BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (D), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE MEMBER: Well, first and foremost, Poppy, this president went into the White House with a trust deficit with more than half of America and I haven't seen a White House in all of my years erode the remainder of that trust so quickly.

Whether or not it's Kellyanne Conway or whether or not it's Sarah Huckabee Sanders or whether or not it's Spicer, their affinity for the truth is, shall I say, distant. And when you look at this interview that the president gave yesterday -- I remember Matt Schlapp and many other Republicans when you had Bill Clinton meeting on the tarmac with Loretta Lynch they were practically clutching their pearls. They couldn't believe what was happening. And now you have a president sitting down with Lester Holt -- sitting there saying, simply, at this dinner -- this isn't a leak, this is what the president said -- that Iasked about the investigation into me and my associates. And there's no pearl-clutching there. There's no -- there's no irate behavior there. The question is who leaked what?

Well, people and Americans throughout the country, whether or not you're Democrat or Republican, fly-over country or big cities, are beginning to see that this president -- one, he's a liar and two, he cannot be trusted, and I think it's his own words. It no one else, it's his own words that's doing it -- that's created his downfall.

HARLOW: Matt, let me get your take on some of -- some of his own words --

SCHLAPP: Sure. Can I --

HARLOW: -- in this interview. When the -- when the president said to Lester Holt -- when he was asked about Russian interference in the election he said, "if there was hacking." He questioned the finding of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. He then questioned whether we have 17 intelligenceagencies, which we do. But then also yesterday he signed, in the middle of the day, this executive order starting an entire commission to look into voter fraud, a claim -- an unsubstantiated claim he's made there have been millions of people who voted -- you know, fraudulently voted in this election. Is the president putting more trust in what someone points to as conspiracy theories or unsubstantiated claims --

SCHLAPP: There's a --

HARLOW: -- than he is the finding, Matt, of 17 intelligence agencies?

SCHLAPP: That's a lot you've thrown at me there. I'm going to try to keep track of this. First, on the question of the FBI investigation, it's very important for everyone to understand that the person now running the FBI has said there's been zero attempts by Trump or the Trump administration to affect their investigation. That is what the FBI is saying. Whether or not James Comey runs the FBI, there will be a continued investigation into what Russia did with our elections and I think we all want to know what those answers are, whether it's good for President Trump or bad for President Trump.

When it comes to the question of setting up this commission, it's a bipartisan commission which I think is the right way to handle this issue, and I think that there are examples of voter fraud.

HARLOW: Not millions, not millions. What I'm saying is he's giving more credence --

SCHLAPP: Poppy, can you let me answer?

HARLOW: Sure, but I'm saying he seems to be giving more -- my question was is he giving more credence to an unsubstantiated claim than he is to the findings of 17 intelligence agencies.

SCHLAPP: OK, so I don't know which one you want to me go. I can go to the election one and talk about that, which is this is an issue within our politics. I think we should all be against illegal voting. We have a question about when this illegal voting happens. We have convictions on the books. This commission intends to take voting officials which is -- by the way, voting is basically a state function -- to work with them to make sure that we have less voter fraud.

When it comes to the question about Russia's hacking in our election, look, nobody has found one example of when there's been any interaction, any lawbreaking by the Trump campaign. I'd love to hear what that lawbreaking is because there's no example. How about a Russian official name that they dealt with? There are -- this is an investigation in search of a crime and it's time for the American people to just simply get the facts from the FBI.

HARLOW: All right, not an answer to my question but we're out of time. You'll both be back.

SCHLAPP: Well, that was a pretty big question.

HARLOW: I think it's an important question, what the president give credence to. Guys, thank you very much. Bakari, I'm sorry that we're out of time -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Homeland Security officials considering a big change to the way you fly. What they have in mind and when it could go into effect, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:47:50] CUOMO: Listen up, air travelers. The ban on laptops and other large devices may soon be expanding to flights from Europe. What does that mean for you? CNN's Rene Marsh live in Washington with more. Tell it. RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It means inconvenience and long lines at international airports if you are coming from there and trying to come to the United States. Right now, Chris, the ban is in place for flights 10 airports in Muslim-majority countries -- eight Muslim- majority countries. But now, the new focus is Europe. They haven't made a decision yet but it is coming soon. Deliberations are still ongoing about whether to institute this ban at just select airports in Europe or just simply across the board.

Now, a ban across Europe for all U.S.-bound flights, it could impact more than 350 flights a day. The Europe to U.S. track is the world's busiest international traffic corridor. Delta, United, American Airlines -- those are the U.S. carriers that would be impacted the most because they have the most flights flying that route.

I'm told we should expect a decision to be announced in about another week or two but the reasoning behind this is because, essentially, they have intelligence that suggests that terror groups have perfected their ability to conceal explosives in battery components of these electronics, so that is the concern. Back to you, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Rene Marsh, thank you for the reporting. We'll watch when that develops. Coming up for us, the president's decision to fire James Comey putting the nation's new deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, in the spotlight. Up next, we're going to speak with the man who has worked with Rosenstein and known him for 25 years.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:53:25] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Rosenstein, did you threaten to quit over the Comey fallout? Can you say as to why?

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: No, I'm not quitting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: The Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man at the center of the political firestorm -- maybe not fair. I think Trump is at the middle of the political firestorm --

HARLOW: Yes.

CUOMO: -- but he is the man who wrote the memo to President Trump justifying the stunning firing of FBI Director James Comey. Who is Rod Rosenstein? Did he know about his role?

HARLOW: Let's talk to someone who knows him and who's worked with him for over two decades, Paul Butler, who is a Georgetown law professor, former colleague of Rosenstein's at the Department of Justice. And to be specific, you guys started out working together in the DOJ's Public Integrity Section, of all places, which was started after Watergate. It isnice to have you here. What -- just what is your initial reaction to all that is swirling around the man that you know? PAUL BUTLER, FORMER COLLEAGUE OF ROD ROSENSTEIN, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN LAW SCHOOL: Rod Rosenstein is a man of utmost integrity who got played by the President of the United States. Look, everything he said in that memo was true. Director Comey undermined confidence in the FBI and he very well may have changed the course of the election. Rod and I worked together in the Public Integrity Section, the Section that was created after Watergate. Watergate was about the president trying to obstruct justice -- trying to change the course of an investigation. So anybody coming from that Section knows how dangerous it is when the president tries to assert his authority in appropriately.

[07:55:00] So this narrative that Rod Rosenstein, a man who was appointed to high positions in the Department of Justice by President George W. Bush, then by President Obama, and now by President Trump -- the idea that he just gets rolled -- just gets bogarted by President Trump asking him to be his henchman -- again, that's just not what happened. That's now how it worked.

CUOMO: Well, you have merits of what he put in the letter which, as you're saying, you have strong support for and people make arguments on either side. Certainly, the Democrats are making a lot of those arguments all along. But then you have the what was his role here and what did he know about it. It is a little bit hard to believe that Rosenstein could get asked to write this memo and not have any clue as to what it was about. I mean, if somebody comes to you, Professor, and says do me a favor, write up all the reasons that Comey should go, why do you think they're asking you for that?

BUTLER: Well, what you do when you are appointed to serve the President of the United States -- to give him your carefully considered and honest legal advice is to do just that. In the Public Integrity Section all we did was go after corrupt politicians. What we were trained to do is to put the politics aside. If you're a prosecutor and all you think about is the political implications, you'll go crazy. So did Rosenstein realize that if he gave his honest opinion that President Trump might use it to his political advantage? Of course, he did. Should that have -- should he have said I'm sorry, Mr. President, I can't tell you the truth because of how you might use this information? No.

You know, the problem -- the problem, Poppy, with this is it's bigger than Rod Rosenstein, so part of it is the old Washington story. A scandal arises and we throw some hardworking public servant under the bus, never mind his 30 years of service to the United States. But the bigger problem, it underestimates Donald Trump. President Trump told Lester Holt yesterday he didn't care what Rosenstein said, he was going to do what --

HARLOW: Right, fire him anyway.

BUTLER: Yes.

HARLOW: Because you know Rosenstein, let me get you on the record on this because, you know, you've got reporting out of "The Wall Street Journal" this morning that says Rosenstein went to Don McGahn, White House counsel, and said you guys got to change this narrative. This just isn't true and I'm not comfortable working in an environment like this. You heard him say at the beginning of the segment, "No, I'm not quitting." But, I mean, do you think he makes it through this? What can he stomach? What is he willing to stomach and stay on board?

BUTLER: Well, you know, if the president is actually saying I didn't care what the deputy attorney general --

HARLOW: Yes.

BUTLER: -- and what the attorney general said, I'm going to do what I want to, that's a problem. I think there should have been a part two of that memo where Rosenstein said I know this is a bad look so I'm going to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate this.

HARLOW: Right.

BUTLER: He has more power than anybody in the country --

HARLOW: It's what he should do.

BUTLER: -- to do that, yes.

HARLOW: Right.

CUOMO: A special counsel, right. He could bring in special counsel --

HARLOW: Right.

CUOMO: -- and that may be an issue right now. I think that Rosenstein got good cover from the president in a way, with his admission that I didn't care what Rosenstein said, I was going to do this anyway.

HARLOW: Kind of a low --

CUOMO: At least it removes Rosenstein froma position of direct assessment of culpability. But to one of your points, Professor, this wasn't a legal memo. This was, you know -- this was --

HARLOW: Opinion.

CUOMO: -- a set of factual and opinion inferences based on his reckoning of the situation. I mean, this talk about what the moral factor was at the agency and how Comey's actions were perceived. You know, that's not a legal memo, this is an opinion based that should have been seen as having political impact by Rosenstein, no?

BUTLER: Yes. Well, it's about the judgment and ethics of the director of the world's preeminent law enforcement agency. So again, when Director Comey went on television in the course of national election and cast all these aspersions on Hillary Clinton without giving her a chance in a court of law to defend herself, that broke every law in the Department of Justice handbook about how you act as an ethical investigator and prosecutor. That's what Rosenstein said in that memo. That's was absolutely correct.

CUOMO: Now there may be a new issue put on Rosenstein's plate, which is how about if Comey actually told the President of the United States that he wasn't --

HARLOW: Three times.

CUOMO: -- a subject of investigation, and what if he was actually asked? We'll see where that leads, Professor. Maybe we'll have you back for it. Thank you for joining us on NEW DAY.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BUTLER: Great to be here.

CUOMO: All right, we've got a lot of news -- this whiplash in Washington. One reason offered for why Comey was fired and then the president says no, it was something totally different. Let's get after it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was going to fire Comey -- my decision.

CUOMO: The president clearly contradicting himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He demanded loyalty of the FBI director responsible for that probe.

TRUMP: He's a showboat, he's a grandstander.

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING DIRECTOR, FBI: Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI.

TRUMP: Am I under investigation? He said you are not under investigation.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't see that as a conflict of interest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This investigation will go forward and will be completed.

TRUMP: I said to myself, Trump and Russia is a made up story.

MCCABE: You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing.

TRUMP: So if Russia did anything having to do with our election I want to know about it.