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Trump Threatens Comey in Tweet; Cummings Calls for Hearing on Comey Firing; Credibility Crisis for White House; Officers who Helped End Cleveland Killer Manhunt. Aired 8:30-9a ET
Aired May 12, 2017 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:31:57] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, President Trump tweeting up a storm this morning after the initial story from the White House about why James Comey was fired turned out to be fake and it turned out that way because the president directly contradicted it in an interview just yesterday. So, there is a new tweet that deserves our attention. It says, "James Comey better hope there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press."
Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings joins us now.
Now, the context of this, congressman, would be that the president said in his initial letter something that was a little bit forgotten in the moment, but wound up being the most relevant thing in the letter. The second paragraph where he said, I asked Comey and he told me three different times I wasn't under investigation. Now, there's information coming out from those who know Comey saying they can't believe he would have ever said that. That at this dinner where it supposedly took place initially, that Comey was pushed up to profess his loyalty to the president and the president doesn't like those reckonings and obviously now we see this tweet. What do you think about that?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: All of this is very shocking to the conscious and painfully painful to see what we're going through right now. First of all, it was - to - for the president to have invited Director Comey to dinner it's - and I know there's the president saying one thing and Director Comey is saying another. But then to talk about his tenure as director of the FBI and also talk about an ongoing investigation or question him is just something that should never be done. And I think that anybody who does that, I think that's a - that's a real problem. And it - and there seems to be, and I've said this several times before, that the president needed to back off the tweeting and concentrate on governing and back off the efforts to comment constantly on an ongoing investigation and let it move as it will.
We have people who I know, many in the FBI, who are doing a great job. And I respect them. And they're doing the best they can. But I've got to tell you, all of this, the American people deserve better. And that's why this morning, Chris, I sent a letter the deputy attorney general, Mr. Rosenstein, asking him to look into the issue of whether we do need a special prosecutor. And the question of whether there has been a true adherence to the recusal that Secretary Sessions said that he was doing with regard to the Hillary Clinton matters and to President Trump and the Russian matters. We need to know exactly what the situation is. I - to be frank with you, I think right now at this moment, the key person in all of this is Rod Rosenstein, the deputy because -
CUOMO: That's a lot of pressure you're putting on him. I mean first the president, whether knowingly or unknowingly from Rosenstein's perspective, made him the hatchet man on Comey with that memo. Now, yes, we found out later that the president didn't care about the memo, he was going to fire Comey regardless, which just exposes the artifice.
CUOMO: But now you want Rosenstein to give an assessment on whether or not the attorney general is respecting his recusal. That's a lot of burden to put on someone who works for the A.G., no?
CUMMINGS: You know, in our lifetimes, Chris, sometimes we don't go to the problem, the problem comes to us. And the question is whether we'll be a Sally Yates or whether we'll be a Clapper or whether we'll be a Rosenstein.
[08:35:07] And, by the way, I know Rosenstein. He served in - as the Maryland U.S. attorney for over ten years. And even when President Obama came into office, he kept him for eight years in a deep blue Democratic state. That says a lot about him. And he is a man of integrity and I really believe - when I heard about this, I said, this doesn't add up. This is not the Rosenstein I know. And as I hear more and more, I am convinced. And when I heard, as a matter of fact, the president talk about the fact that he had made the decision to fire Mr. Comey when he had concluded that this whole, quote, "Russian thing was made up," end of quote, I said that that sounds more likely.
CUOMO: What do you think about the pressure from those among Republicans and a lot of people in this country saying, if there's proof of collusion we should know by now, you should be able to show it to us and in the absence of that it is proof that the president's right, this is all a hoax.
CUMMINGS: Yes. You know, these investigations take time. And you also got to keep in mind, Chris, that we are dealing with foreign governments. We're dealing with the government of Russia. And it takes years sometimes to untangle all of these things.
I think when you look at what happened with Flynn, who claims that - General Flynn, who says that he has a lot to talk about, when you look at Manafort, who may very well be cooperating with the authorities, I think some of these questions may soon be answered. And I think that justice is not always swift. A lot of us wish it was swift. But having practiced for many years, I've realized that it can move very slowly. But justice does move. And so I think the best thing is for us to allow the FBI and others to continue what they're doing, to look into this. Let Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein make his decision and move forward. There's one other thing, Chris.
CUOMO: Yes, sir.
CUMMINGS: One of the things that concerns me is that we've gotten almost - we've gotten very little cooperation from the Republicans on the House side. Here we are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and protect its people. But we're sitting on the sidelines. Nunes, I don't know what he was doing. And then - so he's - he's out of the loop. Chaffetz, when Hillary Clinton was being invested, held six emergency hearings after Comey had said she was not going to be charged. Six. Here, we cannot even get the cooperation for them to issue subpoenas for us to get one document. They will not have one hearing.
And I am saying to our Republican friends, help us do our job. This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democratic issue. Not even an independent issue. This is about the soul of our democracy. And this is a - we are - we are in a crisis of confidence and we've got to address it.
CUOMO: Well, to give Chaffetz a little cover, he did ask the inspector general to review the FBI's actions in advance of the 2016 election and now he's asked him to take a look at the circumstances surrounding Comey's dismissal. We'll see what fruit that bears.
And also your invitation to James Comey to speak, that's more important than ever.
CUOMO: I mean he needs to clear up whether or not there was inappropriate discussions on his part, or the president's part or both when it came to this investigation. But, Congressman Cummings, you always have NEW DAY as a platform to discuss our advances and understanding of these important issues. Thank you, sir.
CUMMINGS: Thank you. I'm honored.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you, guys.
Back to this. President Trump just threatened the FBI director in a new tweet this morning. This is after suggesting that press briefings should be canceled for the sake of accuracy. What is going on? David Axelrod gives us "The Bottom Line."
[08:43:17] CUOMO: The Trump White House is facing a major credibility crisis after contradicting accounts on why the president fired FBI Director James Comey. The president's tweets this morning are raising, frankly, more concerns.
Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN's senior political commentator David Axelrod.
He is the president going at it with unusual fervor this morning. What do you read in his efforts?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, we've seen him in this kind of mode in the past when things aren't going well. We saw after the Republican Convention he went on a tear. After the Democratic Convention he went on a tear. And, obviously, this has been a disastrous 48 hours for him. And I - you know, I - he woke up this morning to a different account of his meeting with Comey than the one that he offered on TV and just enormous amount of discussion about what he has done to the surrogates who went out there to represent him, both his people who were behind the podium in the press room and the vice president carrying a story that he himself ended up impeaching. And, you know, he is undermining his own - not just his credibility, but the credibility of everyone around him.
But I think he's reacting to all of this negative media. You know, Donald Trump likes nothing better than to be called a winner and he's losings right now and he doesn't like it.
HARLOW: David, he just tweeted minutes ago that James Comey, the former FBI director, "better hope there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press." I mean it's a direct threat to, you know, the man who used to run the FBI a few days ago.
AXELROD: Yes. I'm not sure -
HARLOW: How big of an issue is this? Why should that concern the American people?
[08:45:06] AXELROD: Well, I think the bigger concern is the nature of that meeting. The fact that he called - apparently called - he sort of fudged on the interview as to who made the invitation -
AXELROD: Or who asked for that dinner. But he apparently invited the FBI director over and he asked him point blank, am I under investigation, which is highly improper. But the other thing was, he asked for his loyalty -
AXELROD: According to at least the reporting that was in "The Times" this morning. What does that mean for the next FBI director? Is there going to be a loyalty test for the next FBI director? And how is the public going to have confidence in the independence and integrity of that person if this is the test that Donald Trump is applying?
So, you know, I think we're used to these kinds of tactics, the tweet that we saw this morning aimed at Comey. I'm not sure Comey is going to back down as a result of that. I'm quite sure he won't given his history and his nature. But the larger implications for what this means for the integrity of
the FBI, the criminal justice system, is really - the problem with the president is, he spent a career flouting laws, norms, rules and the truth. And that's one thing when you're running the Trump organization. It's another thing when you're president of the United States and a trustee of our democratic institutions, a trustee of our institutions who doesn't engender trust is really bad for our country.
CUOMO: Well, one thing's for sure, Axe, James Comey has to talk. You know, forget about the political implications and that of his own reputations. We have to know from his perspective, were you asked to give assurances about the president being safe from this investigation? Did you offer those? Why would he? That could be - seem - you know, patiently inappropriate of that director. That affects his reputation as much as anything the president has said here and it also would give you a window into whether or not you can trust the White House to stay away from this investigation. And if you can't, then it raises a legitimate question, as we just heard from Elijah Cummings, for Rod Rosenstein about maybe you do need a special counsel.
CUOMO: Maybe you do need an entity that can't be called to dinner.
AXELROD: Yes. No, I mean, I think the president has talked himself into a deeper and deeper hole in the last couple of days and there's going to be growing momentum. Certainly Comey is going to be called before Congress and he's going to be asked to speak. Now, what he feels he can and can't speak to, you know, we will see. And that's - he's gotten - that's part of the controversy that he's created.
But I'll say this, I was as critical as anyone of Jim Comey for the way he handled some of these matters during the election. But, you know, I had some exposure to him or certainly to his reputation when I was in the White House. I don't think that he's someone who takes his responsibilities lightly or his institutional responsibilities lightly. And the account that the president gave of that conversation doesn't square with a person who we have read about, that we've seen and who I heard about when I was in the White House.
HARLOW: You know, and he didn't just say this was one conversation. This was three separate conversations.
CUOMO: And it shows an intent to monitor and influence the reckoning of this investigation with respect to his own interests.
HARLOW: It does indeed.
CUOMO: That's dangerous.
HARLOW: And he said one of those phone calls was that Comey called him.
AXELROD: And -
HARLOW: David Axelrod, your final thought, but also tell us about what's coming up tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, a special "Axe Files" tomorrow on CNN.
AXELROD: Yes. With my "Axe Files" podcast on TV, with - on CNN with Governor Jerry Brown of California, one of the most durable franchises in American politics. I always joke, when I started in politics, I've been in politics to long that Jerry Brown was governor of California when I started. Well, he's governor again. He was the youngest governor or one of them in America in 1975. And he is the oldest governor in America today. And he has an extraordinary career and vantage point on history and a good story to tell about California right now that is in contrast to the story we see here in Washington. So we had a really interesting conversation and I look forward to others sharing it.
HARLOW: We look forward to seeing it.
CUOMO: Well, and the timing couldn't be better.
CUOMO: You need people who understand the same the way Axe does, to help make sense of what's going on right now. Thanks for being with us, brother.
HARLOW: Thank you, David.
AXELROD: All right, you guys, have a good day.
HARLOW: You too.
Be sure to watch "The Axe Files." That special David just told us about, it's tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here.
CUOMO: All right, so, two officers responding when a murder suspect who posted video of a senseless shooting on social media is spotted. The brave men who helped stop him are speaking out only to CNN. What a story. Stay with us.
[08:53:32] CUOMO: A manhunt puts two states on edge. Steve Stephens, the man who killed a grandfather in cold blood on a Cleveland street, was on the run. These two Pennsylvania officers helped bring the search to a dramatic end and they're only telling their story to CNN. Brynn Gingras has this week's "Beyond the Call of Duty." Take a look.
AARON DAVIS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: It's a lot quieter right now.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the first time Pennsylvania State Police Corporals Mark Van Horn and Aaron Davis have returned to the spot where they helped stop a cold-blooded killer.
DAVIS: When Mr. Stephens was, you know, allegedly in our area and on the loose, everyone was concerned. GINGRAS: For two days, the entire country looked for Steve Stephens, a
Cleveland man who killed a 74-year-old stranger on Easter Sunday, then posted video of the horrific shooting on FaceBook.
MARK VAN HORN, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: I thought of the fact that he had already taken one life and bragged about taking many others, and for all intent and purposes was going to take more.
GINGRAS: On April 18th, an alert employee spotted Stephens at this Erie McDonalds and called 911. That McDonald's was directly across the street from where Davis was on a break.
DAVIS: We saw the vehicle, the white Ford Fusion, drive by. And so, obviously, we were trying to catch up to him. But he pulls over and we start to pull in behind him.
GINGRAS (on camera): What were you thinking?
DAVIS: If he is giving up, I don't know if he's giving up like he's going to surrender or giving up like he know this is the end of the road and he's not going to go peacefully. He was very much still a threat to everyone around him.
Right as we're about to come to a stop, he takes off again.
[08:55:06] GINGRAS (voice-over): The chase continued for two miles. Corporal Van Horn had joined in and made the quick call to end the pursuit.
VAN HORN: I shot out around these guys and had an angle on his vehicle and I hit the back left corner of his car with the front of mine and spun him around.
GINGRAS: It's a tactical move called a pit maneuver. In 20 years on the job, Van Horn says he's never had to rely on it. But with the help of Davis boxing Stephens in, the chase and nationwide manhunt ended. Through all the commotion, authorities say, Stephens look his own life.
VAN HORN: I think it was his intention to die that day, whether by his own hand or by ours.
DAVIS: When it all ended, there was that sense of relief.
VAN HORN: I know the family wants closure. We would like to have apprehended him as well.
I try to remind myself of the human side of all this and that it's my job but I still have feelings, too, and my heart goes out to those folks.
GINGRAS: Brynn Gingras, CNN, Erie, Pennsylvania.
HARLOW: All right. Thank you all for being with us on this very busy morning full of news. Good to be with you.
CUOMO: Always. Always.
CNN "Newsroom" with John Berman missing the big star this morning, but still plenty to cover. It's going to start right after this quick break. They're headlines. Stay with CNN.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
[09:00:02] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.
The breaking news this morning, the president of the United States just threatened the man he fired as FBI director. Now, there will be people who say that this is Donald Trump being Donald Trump. He says things on Twitter.