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Interview with Senator Ed Markey; Deputy AG Briefs House Members on Russia, Comey; Stocks Rise After Volatile Week; Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired May 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. ED MARKEY (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: That had been botched inside of the FBI. And so, by his arrival, Mueller has given credibility to it. A career prosecutor viewed as nonpolitical, and I think we need the same thing at the FBI at this time. I think we have to move away from a political and more towards a professional prosecutorial background in order to ensure that everyone in the country understands that this is going to be done by the book by professional prosecutors.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Just to note, I mean, he was, way, way back, the former attorney general of Connecticut. He has the legal background, the prosecutorial background. I hear your point on law enforcement. Unlike some of these other candidates that are leading. But would you vote no, then, if he is the president's pick?
MARKEY: Well --
HARLOW: Are you set, you're a no?
MARKEY: Well, what I'm saying is that my clear preference is for someone who doesn't come from a political background but comes from a professional background.
HARLOW: So you're a maybe.
MARKEY: And prosecute -- well, all I'm saying is the president hasn't named anyone yet.
HARLOW: All right.
MARKEY: We're trying to say -- I'm trying to say quite clearly that Bob Mueller answered the question correctly. That's why there was uniform praise for that appointment. We need the same kind of appointment to be made at the FBI in general at this time where there has been a cloud which has been placed over the agency. And I think the people inside of the agency would appreciate having it not be politicized, but rather, turned into once again this source of high- level professionalism that has led them all to being career prosecutors.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We'll count you as a skeptic, even if you won't answer the question today of whether or not you would vote to confirm Joe Lieberman as FBI director.
You had a closed-door meeting with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, yesterday. Did you learn anything in that briefing, sir?
MARKEY: Well, we learned that Rosenstein, again, clearly said that he learned about the firing of Comey before he wrote the memo. But what we did not learn was whether or not he had a conversation with Attorney General Sessions before he wrote the memo, whether or not he had a conversation with President Trump before he wrote the memo, who else he might have talked with before he wrote the memo. None of those questions were answered.
And so there is still substantial uncertainty that was left in the minds of each of the senators as they walked out of that room, and the American people ultimately have a right to know what exactly led to that memo being written and what role it was intended to play in the firing of Comey.
HARLOW: You know, it seems like these battle lines are being drawn, as our Mark Preston said earlier, because now you have Comey's very good friend, Benjamin Wittes, coming out and speaking very publicly about Comey's feelings. And this was fascinating, how apparently the former FBI director, Comey, feels about Rosenstein. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN WITTES, FRIEND OF JAMES COMEY: He had concerns about Rod. And what he specifically said was -- and I'll never forget it -- he said Rod is a survivor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meaning he's lived through Democratic and Republican administrations.
WITTES: Yes. And you know, you don't get to survive that long without making some compromises. And so he said, I have -- so I have concerns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Senator, do you share those concerns about Rosenstein?
MARKEY: Well, obviously, there is now great tension between Rosenstein and Comey. What Rosenstein told us yesterday was that in his opinion, in the opinion of many people who worked in the Justice Department, is that Comey violated the policies of the Justice Department by blurring the line between investigators, which is the FBI, and prosecutorial decisions, which is the Justice Department.
And when Comey had his press conference last summer about the Clinton e-mail investigation, from Rosenstein's position, that was a violation of the rules of the Justice Department. And then the same thing kept recurring every time Comey came out and spoke in public. And so from his perspective, there was a clear violation, and Rosenstein doesn't believe from his perspective that that was part of the tradition of the agency, and in and of itself, it should trigger his removal, that is, Comey's removal.
So I can understand now why there's a huge tension between these two men, but it's over a central principle, which is the division of investigation and prosecutorial decisions, and I think it is a pretty clear line, and that's why Comey was so heavily criticized last summer when he had that press conference making his announcement.
[10:35:08] HARLOW: Senator Ed Markey, we have to leave it there. Thank you for being here.
BERMAN: Go, Celtics.
MARKEY: You're welcome. I agree with you, John. Good luck to us.
HARLOW: Good luck to you both.
Ahead for us, former House member Anthony Weiner pleading guilty to sending obscene materials to a minor. This is a felony charge. It could mean jail time. He is headed to court in minutes. That's next.
BERMAN: All right, members of Congress coming out of what was apparently a short briefing with Rod Rosenstein. This is Congressman Darrell Issa. Let's listen.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: You can never get guidance from the executive branch on how Congress is to do something, because there is inherently always going to be tension. Congress is going to want to look over the shoulder of this investigation. It's going to want to be kept fully briefed. The executive branch will always try to limit that for fear that it would contaminate potential criminal investigations or leaks, all the while sometimes leaks occur in the executive branch, so I don't expect this to be any different. There is appropriate discovery and oversight.
[10:40:05] The speaker, I'm confident, will insist on that, but there's also that normal tension that has to be respected.
ISSA: Yes, you asked --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What was the general sense that you got in the room from your Democratic colleagues? Are they upset right now? Are they happy there's finally an outside investigation?
ISSA: I don't think anyone's happy that the Russians have had the gall to attempt to influence our election and that they continue to be a smaller version of the evil empire I grew up with. I do believe that there was great consensus that going after the Russians for interfering with our election is a nonpartisan or bipartisan issue, one that both sides need to get resolved before the next election, not just as to what they did but how to prevent it.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Issa, the meeting was originally called to talk about the tick-tock, how it all went down, the firing of James Comey and Mr. Rosenstein's role in that. Did he speak to that -- his responsibility and his decision-making process in the firing of Mr. Comey?
ISSA: I think he spoke to it by asserting that the record is a paper record with a chronological set of documents. What I will say, and I don't believe for a moment this is classified, is that the scope, again, of Director Mueller includes any questions about referrals related to any misconduct, any interference, and there were questions well outside the Russian scope in there, and repeatedly, Rod, or acting director said that he would feel that his job is to make sure others had the freedom to send it where it may be, including any judicial indiscretion.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) to write the memo on --
ISSA: I don't believe he in any way indicated anyone directed him, but in fact, he wrote the memo. You know, I think one thing, having a decade of doing investigations has taught me is that it's suspicious when a lawyer doesn't write memos for the record. We've had investigations where they claim that didn't happen, and it wasn't plausible. The fact is, one of the principles of law, and particularly lawyers in all administrations, is they write memos for the record. They write memos to codify what they believe happened, even in day-to-day meetings.
And so the record is what it is, and there's nothing unusual about a memo. Again, it's unusual when there is no memo of something like this.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he explain why he decided to finally appoint a special prosecutor?
ISSA: Well, I think the press has a tendency to look -- and I mean no disrespect to anybody -- at a timeline, and say, finally. The fact is, on February 25th was the first time, as far as I know, anyone called for the recusal of the attorney general, and I was the one that did it, and said that, in fact, there were ultimately under the statute need to be a special prosecutor. That's what we have now. We have a process that goes through, that determines certain things in order for the highest ranking person, the attorney general, or if recused, the next, or if recused, the next, to make that determination.
And when you look at eight weeks with discovery in order to determine it, that's not a very long period of time. I think in fairness, the history is not -- is fairly void of anything much faster than the time between, let's say February 25th, when I called for a special prosecutor, and today.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So, it is because --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Issa --
ISSA: I always assume somebody next has a question. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you think of the potential Joe
Lieberman as FBI --
ISSA: I think it's great. I worked with Joe when he was my counterpart between our two committees. As everyone here knows, he's solid, he's probably a little bored in private life. He's a public servant. His experience and his independence, including independence at times from his own party, is pretty legendary. So I'm a Joe Lieberman fan and wouldn't look at a second candidate if the president had the confidence to appoint him.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Issa?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you make of the fact that the timeframe on Comey's firing has changed? The White House initially hung it on Rosenstein's memo, but yesterday Rosenstein told senators he was told the day before that Comey was going to be fired.
ISSA: You know, that's one of the questions that came up in there in which the deputy AG said let the record speak for itself, and I think that's what we have to do. The timeline will be reviewable, and in fact, will be looked at that way. Again, you know, I for one thought that Comey ill served the American people when he tried to stretch beyond all reason the Fourth Amendment to hack into your iPhones.
[10:45:13] So I have had a belief that he didn't respect the Constitution, had become in love with the camera, which is normally for politicians, and that he began thinking that he was somehow larger than the FBI director, and effectively, being the FBI director and the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice is the FBI director's boss, not the other way around.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is Mr. Mueller on a witch hunt? Do you share the president's view?
ISSA: Well, I don't personally believe in witches. But look, the director's job is, in fact, to go where the facts lead. And he has a reputation. Now all special prosecutors turn over a lot more rocks than anybody else in the executive branch wants. You know, the reason that the old statute, if you will, the Kenneth Starr statute, expired was because of that tendency to turn over rocks even without being asked.
But I don't think the American people or our president should be concerned. I think that this is somebody who's done a lot of investigations. And yes, he's going to find things beyond the scope that the narrowest interpretation of either Republicans or Democrats would want. But I think the American people deserve the scope to be as broad as necessary to regain confidence in our elected officials, in our appointed officials, in our elections.
All of those -- you know, the deputy director -- or the deputy AG said it very well, his reason for doing this appointment is as much about returning public confidence. He was asked about the details of criminality, which some of you are asking, and I think he answered it extremely well in a way that isn't part of the classified part of this briefing that the American people deserve public confidence. The statute was available to him to use, to regain public confidence.
And I think for all the members of the press, you're all about getting public confidence back. Without an independent and decidedly trustworthy prosecutor that has the ability to go where the facts lead and to increase his scope, if appropriate, beyond just the four corners of the Russian activity, then the American people aren't going to get their confidence back. And that's what this is all about. It took a little while, but a relatively short amount of while by Washington standards.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you believe Mueller will conduct a fair investigation?
ISSA: Absolutely. You know, the definition of fair will not be a Republican definition. They won't like it. A Democratic definition, at times they won't like it. And the president at times will be frustrated. But you know, again, this is about public confidence. And I think most importantly, this will not be a partisan activity, even though partisans will complain one way or the other, but we need to have public confidence.
You know, the American people aren't Republicans or Democrats. They're the American people. They deserve the answers, wherever those -- you know, that investigation leads.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And very quickly, on an FBI director, what characteristics does the president need to look for in a replacement for James Comey?
ISSA: Well, I've already said, Joe Lieberman would work fine for me. It has to be somebody senior enough to understand how the system works and to lead it and with the confidence of the American people and then with enough tenacity and energy to live out a 10-year term, if possible. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you.
HARLOW: All right, there you have it, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California, expressing full confidence in Robert Mueller to lead this probe. Asked whether he agrees with the president if this whole thing with special counsel is a witch hunt, he paused and he said, well, I don't believe in witches.
Let's get some more analysis from our political director, David Chalian.
Darrell Issa taking a lot of questions there. What was your takeaway, David?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, my takeaway, first of all, is that that's how a Republican sounds when they represent one of the 23 districts that Hillary Clinton won that have Republicans sitting in them. HARLOW: Yes. Yes.
CHALIAN: He did not sound like President Trump, right? Not a witch hunt.
CHALIAN: Not ridiculous. Not -- you know, there's no merit to this. He sounded quite different. He sounded not alarmist, not saying the president should be quaking in his boots, but that this process should move forward methodically, deliberately, and I thought quite interestingly what Darrell Issa said is in as broad a scope, as wide a scope as possible. That, you know, you keep hearing from the president, we heard him in the press conference yesterday, over and over again, there was no collusion.
This is not just about collusion anymore. That is where perhaps this starts, but now Mueller is going to have a much wider berth here, potential obstruction of justice and whatever else from this investigation, that's how broad the language is written in Rosenstein's initial appointment order. And so you hear from Darrell Issa, a Republican, that that is exactly what should happen.
[10:50:07] And this conversation, Poppy, about restoring the public confidence. Again, that is not something we're hearing from the White House or the most loyal Trump supporters on Capitol Hill. That's something we're hearing from a vulnerable Republican.
BERMAN: No, it's a great point. Darrell Issa is going to be one of the people that matters a lot as this goes forward.
Let's bring in Phil Mattingly. He's been standing outside there watching these members come out.
First of all, Phil, this was not a long meeting, unless it's still going on and Darrell Issa's an early departer right there. It couldn't have been more than 35 minutes or so. I'm wondering if you're picking up anything that was said inside from Congressman Issa on more than that. He seemed to say that he did have a sense that the memos that James Comey wrote are something that Rod Rosenstein addressed.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that's probably the most important thing that we heard from Darrell Issa. And I think David's right, you have to view those comments through the prism of where he comes from. He was one of the few Republicans that actually called for a special counsel rather early on in the process. He didn't walk that back. And then he called for it again. So view everything through that lens, but I do think it's important to note that he made very clear that questions were asked and they were affirmatively answered by the deputy attorney general that -- that Bob Mueller's mandate will include looking into possible obstruction, looking into possible White House influence, that he does have that latitude. And that's important for one really crucial reason, John. Going into
this meeting, several Democrats I spoke to kind of privately made clear they are uncomfortable, while they're happy that a special counsel was named, they are uncomfortable by the fact that that special counsel still resides in the Justice Department, and several of them made clear, those are the type of commitments they were going to be seeking from Mr. Rosenstein during this briefing.
So it appears they received those commitments, and I'm told that they were, by one member who just came out of the room, texted me saying there were a lot of rather fiery, intense questions, not a lot of answers, which we kind of expected on this front. But it's going to be interesting as more people come out.
As you noted, this hasn't been a very long briefing. They have House votes here in a couple of minutes, so they will be filing out. But the question just as we had yesterday after the Senate briefing, guys, is how much was he willing to answer, how much did he defer to Bob Mueller? My at least initial kind of guess here, or at least what I'm initially hearing is he deferred a lot once again, which means some members aren't going to be happy.
HARLOW: And David Chalian, to you, switching gears a little bit, he was effusive in his praise for Joe Lieberman, saying he is a great pick for FBI director, saying, you know, basically, he's not tied to his party. You've got to wonder, if 2008 were the other way around and Lieberman had switched the other way around, if Darrell Issa would be sounding like that.
CHALIAN: Exactly. And of course, Darrell Issa doesn't get a vote here at the end of the day.
CHALIAN: And in fact it's something the Senate will confirm. But yes, you're hearing a lot more praise for Joe Lieberman from Republicans than you are from Democrats necessarily. Even Dianne Feinstein on our air last night saying she really likes Joe, but wondering if this really should be out of the realm of a politician and really from the realm of somebody in the ranks.
Here's the thing, the Senate can actually get this through, FBI director nomination, without any Democratic votes, but it's part of the White House thinking about Joe Lieberman, about why he's the leading contender is to have sort of a kumbaya truly bipartisan moment that people can rally around, I think they may have miscalculated because Democrats, you know, ever since basically he left the party and he was sort of rushed out of the party by his own Democratic voters in Connecticut in that primary in 2006, have not sort of, you know, felt that Joe Lieberman is entirely one of them.
This may be more about John McCain and Lindsey Graham having influence with the White House than it is for a play for Democrats.
HARLOW: Right. As John puts it, Joe no.
BERMAN: Joe no is what Democrats are saying.
HARLOW: That's what a lot of Democrats are yelling this morning.
Gentlemen, thank you very much.
In just a few moments, former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner, whose political career ended in scandal, he will be in court.
BERMAN: Yes, he is expected, we learned, to plead guilty to transferring obscene material to a minor, which seems like a very serious charge. This is according to his law firm. Weiner married, of course, to top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. We'll have much more on this coming up.
[10:58:26] BERMAN: All right, a little bit of recovery for stocks after a midweek slide. The final trading day of the week in what has been a wild week on Wall Street.
Joining us now, CNN Money correspondent Cristina Alesci. What are we seeing here today?
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: We are seeing investors regained a little bit of confidence. And this is building off of yesterday's bump up, largely driven by two things -- good economic data. We saw jobless claims come down, good corporate earnings. Wal- Mart, the largest retailer in the world, surprised Wall Street on the upside, reported a 62 percent increase in online sales.
ALESCI: Look, this is a stark contrast from earlier in the week when volatility absolutely spiked. I think we have a chart of that. You'll see that investors got really spooked after news of the Comey memo hit, and that's what we're talking about.
Look, President Trump likes to say that he's treated unfairly, but the reality is that that is not the case on Wall Street, right? Wall Street has essentially shrugged off --
ALESCI: -- all of these negative headlines up until this point, and that chart that you just saw now may indicate that patience is starting to wear thin on Wall Street and investors may be reacting because they think it's a distraction from the real policy agenda.
HARLOW: Right. Does it mean they won't get tax reform through? If that's the case, then they are unhappy.
BERMAN: Maybe the Bob Mueller bounce we are seeing today on Friday.
All right. Cristina Alesci, thanks very much. HARLOW: Thank you.
Thank you all for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow.
BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, John. Thank you, Poppy.
Hello, everyone. I am Kate Bolduan. We begin with breaking news again. Both at the White House and on Capitol Hill.