Return to Transcripts main page


Comey to Testify about Trump Pressure; Trump Urges Page Testimony; Spicer Holds Off Camera Briefing; Man Arrested in Trump Hotel. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 31, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to hear from Sean Spicer soon as well. The news continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you so much.

Good to be with you. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

Any moment now we'll be hearing from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer as we get breaking news on the now fired FBI Director James Comey. Here's what we're now hearing, that Comey will testify publicly in the Senate as early as next week, and his testimony is expected to confirm that President Trump pressured him to end his investigation into the president's fired national security adviser. So think about that for a second if, in fact, that happens next week.

And in an usual and unexplained move, the Trump administration has deciding to keep today's press briefing off camera. We will have audio, no visuals. We expect Spicer will face a firing squad of questions from reporters on this Comey breaking news, the hunt from a new FBI director, sending additional troops to Afghanistan, and whether to pull out of the Paris Accord, this climate change agreement, that nearly every nation on earth has signed on to.

But, let's begin with the Comey news. Let me bring in Eric Lichtblau with the exclusive reporting. Also I have - CNN assistant managing editor from our Washington bureau, that's Eric. Along with him I have David Chalian, CNN political director, and James Galliano, CNN law enforcement analyst and retired FBI supervisory special agent.

So, guys, Eric, beginning with you, this is your reporting. This is public testimony. Tell me more about what exactly he will say.

ERIC LICHTBLAU, CNN ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, WASHINGTON BUREAU: Well, there have been some uncertainty really for a few weeks about whether Comey would be allowed to testify, ever since a special counsel, Bob Mueller, was named. There was concern that Mueller would effectively quash it because of fear of what he said publically, bleed into the criminal investigation. But what I'm told is that Comey and Mueller have now talked privately a number of times and have worked out the - basically the parameters of this for Comey to testify publicly, which I'm told he's very eager to do. I don't expect that he will talk about the collusion investigation

itself, which, obviously, is at the heart of the investigation. But I'm told that he will talk about the rather tense confrontations that he had with the president over this investigation, including, if you remember, the suggestion from Trump at a private one-on-one meeting that he let go of the investigation to Michael Flynn, the fired national security adviser. So public testimony from Comey about his exchanges with the president, which, of course, some Democrats see as obstruction of justice, will be quite a dramatic moment.

BALDWIN: Let me stay on that very final point of yours, and, David Chalian, you're so good at just, you know, underscoring the significance of this. I mean we can't pass over how significant you would have the former FBI director testifying that the man in the Oval Office, the president of the United States, said to him, drop the investigation into me and General Flynn.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, pop your popcorn, Brooke, it is going to be really, really compelling. I don't think we're going to - I don't think we will have seen congressional testimony quite like this maybe since Anita Hill hearings in terms of gathering the county around a moment that is potentially defining for the presidency. And so I do think it's going to be huge.

Also, remember, Brooke, it is - it is FBI Director Comey who had very dramatic testimony before Congress several years back about the bedside moment with John Ashcroft, then attorney general, and his battle with the Bush White House over renewing some surveillance techniques. But he told a tale at that testimony that captivated everyone. He has a real ability to sort of use his performance before the cameras, which we know he likes to do, to real drive home his take on an event. So if I were Donald Trump, I would be a little concerned that Jim Comey is about to be able to sort of sear into the mind of the American public these encounters he had with the president.

BALDWIN: So you mentioned his, you know, performance abilities in front of the cameras. I mean just a couple weeks ago he was sitting there, you know, testifying for a committee on Capitol Hill. And, James Galliano, to you. You made a point before we came on TV about that because of a point he made then, which is what?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, he testified - the director testified on May 8th, the day before that he was fired, and he was asked specifically, has anyone pressured you to stand down this investigation, has anybody depleted your resources? And he said definitively, Brooke, no. Now these supposed memos, or electronic communications as they would be called in the FBI, that seem to dispute that, that he was actually - he received pressure from the Trump administration, and in particular the president himself, seemed to stand in stark contrast there. I agree with David, I think that we're setting ourself up for a very surreal hearing and riveting testimony.

[14:05:11] BALDWIN: Stay with me, all of you, please, because we have more breaking news now, because there is backlash erupting after, we're told, the president is expected to pull out of this Paris climate deal, the global effort aimed at battling climate change. We'll talk all about that.

Also, is the president giving out his cell phone number to world leaders? New concerns about security.

And a man arrested inside the Trump Hotel in Washington with two guns and 90 rounds of ammunition. We're getting word that he was making possible threats against the president.


BALDWIN: All right, let's pick up on the conversation we had a moment ago. Eric Lichtblau, David Chalian, James Gagliano all with me on this breaking news on how we've now learned that the fired FBI director, James Comey, will testify public, as early as next week, in front of the Senate confirming - this is all Eric's great reporting - confirming the bombshell accusations that President Trump pressured him to end his investigation into General Flynn's ties with Russia.

Eric, tell me what else - I know you said he's already spoken with the special counsel, with Bob Mueller, on parameters of what he can and can't say. What else might he be able to discuss?

[14:10:08] LICHTBLAU: Well, I think he'll be asked many questions and be willing to answer many questions about all of his exchanges, which we understand were multiple, with the president about the investigation. I think that will - that will be the focus. If you recall, when Trump fired Comey, he put out sort of an odd statement, to be honest, that said - that thanked him for telling him three separate times that he was not under investigation, even while he was firing him. And, you know, people on the FBI side say that there were no such assurances.

So I think that Comey will walk a fine line of sorts without getting into the evidence that the FBI has gathered now over these last months since the investigation was opened now last July, not getting into that beyond what's already come out publicly, but discussing the outside forces, namely from the president, as to - as to what happen. This supposed request from Trump, for instance, to would he have his loyalty if he kept him on the job. I'm sure he'll be asked about that. The - the one-on-one meeting where he was allegedly asked to pressure - asked to drop the Flynn investigation, and odd one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office after the president had the vice president and the attorney general, Mike Flynn and Jeff Sessions, leave the room so he could talk to Comey, by Comey's account.

BALDWIN: Right. Right.

LICHTBLAU: So I would expect things like that will be the focus.

BALDWIN: You know, so much has come out publicly, the memos, we've heard from the Comey friend, the memorialization of these meetings, David Chalian, but what's the one thing you'll really be listening for?

CHALIAN: I really want to hear if Jim Comey believed in his gut that when the president was talking to him on these few occasions where he wrote down memos about it, if he believed that the president was trying to squash, quash, the Russian investigation. That - that - I want to know what was going through Jim Comey's mind when he - when the president reportedly said, you can let this Flynn thing go now. That - that is what I most -

BALDWIN: Like you're asking did he - did he - did he really mean it? Was it side chat or it was a legit directive?

CHALIAN: Right. Was it an offhanded comment or did that actually sort of shake Jim Comey in his bones that there was something really askew about the president trying to meddle in this.

LICHTBLAU: And I think, Brooke, if I can add -


LICHTBLAU: That as James points out, he will have to answer for some of the possible contradictions or discrepancies. You know, why is he only saying these things after he was fired if he just the day before indicated there had been no outside pressure? How does he square those two thing? And why didn't he go to someone other than his own aides if he felt that had been threatened in some way? So I think there will be some semi critical question. I don't think this will all be a - you know, a walk down the runway for Comey.


And then, David, what's interesting, also, is that this testimony will really focus on the actions once the president took office instead of what happened during the campaign.

CHALIAN: Right. I mean he's talked about what happened during the campaign quite a bit. He's been up to Capitol Hill testifying about his actions in the Clinton e-mail investigation and then sort of the reveal of the public investigation about the Russia collusion. But as was being said before, that is the part that is going to be walled off by Mueller, one would assume, so that we probably aren't going to delve too much into that.

BALDWIN: What about - let me just bring up Carter Page here because the president was at it again on Twitter, and if we have the tweet, guys, throw it up on the screen, where essentially the president this morning, you know, urging Carter Page to testify. And this is - this is the name, Carter Page, who's been talking a lot recently, but this is someone who, you know, the White House has downplayed. I think at one point they even said he was a hanger-on, David, and now they're saying - I'm just confused because now it sounds like - I mean you laugh but, you know, they downplayed his role so much, now the president is asking for him to testify. I'm confused.

CHALIAN: Right, now he is the defender in chief. And so, you know, this person that, remember how this all started, Donald Trump announced his foreign policy advising team to "The Washington Post" in an editorial board meeting and touted Carter Page's name as part of that team. That is how Carter Page sort of first entered the lexicon of the 2016 election. And I'm not at all suggesting that Carter Page was central to the

Trump campaign. And by all accounts he wasn't. But then the White House had acted like, once Donald Trump had taken over and the controversy continued to brew, that they had never even heard of him. And now the president is using him to, you know, embrace him as like the big defender who's - the Democrats aren't allowing to tell the real truth that there's no there there, is what Donald Trump believes Carter Page would say. It just seems odd that you would try to, you know, promote somebody who you've acted like you didn't even know.

[14:15:06] BALDWIN: Eric, what do you think?

LICHTBLAU: Well, Carter Page is an interesting figure that, as you say, the Trump camp has tried to distance itself from for many, many months now. He was one of the first people to be identified, even really before there was an investigation, because he had done business in Russia, he had - he had given a speech in Moscow, and it turns out he had also been under investigation several years ago for possible contacts with Russian intelligence officials. So when his name surfaced as a Trump adviser even briefly, he was really an unknown figure publicly, that - that is really what got a lot of this going. His name last year surfaced as someone with Russian ties long before anyone else in the Trump camp. Whether or not that turns out to be anything or not, you know, will be - will be one of the focuses of the investigation.

BALDWIN: So questions maybe about Carter Page, questions about clearly this breaking news on James Comey testifying next week will all be likely thrown at Sean Spicer in a matter of minutes in this - in this briefing at the White House.

But, David, it's audio-only. Why are they doing this?

CHALIAN: Well, you would - you know, we had seen the reporting in the last week or two that part of this Trump White House trying to get its arm arms around a communications strategy might be to limit or diminish the daily press briefing from podium on camera. This is not the first time they've done an audio-only briefing, but it has clearly not been, as you know from covering so many Spicer briefings here during your show, Brooke, it has not been all that common for this White House to do.

Clearly, they are trying to diminish the role of the podium a little bit while they stand up some other alternate communications strategy for the Russian investigation, and then the rest of the work of the White House. We'll see if that works. I don't know what the White House is going to feel after today, the difference between having Sean on camera and Sean on audio live on the air, but we'll - we'll see what news gets made in the briefing.

BALDWIN: We'll take it live. Your eyes won't be deceiving you. You will not be seeing Sean Spicer. You'll be hearing from Sean Spicer and you'll be hearing all those questions thrown at him from the White House press corps. So we're going to take that live any moment now.

Thank you so much, all of you. We'll stand by for that. Also ahead, the anger that's erupting over President Trump expected to

pull the U.S. out of this Paris climate deal. What are the consequence if, in fact, he does that? What's the real impact?

And, a man arrested inside the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., with two guns and 90 rounds of ammunition. Those details, next.


[14:22:11] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

A man armed with a gun walked into the Trump Hotel today in Washington, D.C., after reportedly making threats against the president. He was immediately arrested when officers say they spotted him, gun exposed. When they then searched his car, they found another gun and a lot of ammunition. Police say they knew he was coming because of a tip.


CHIEF PETER NEWSHAM, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE: At approximately 12:30 this morning, MPD and the U.S. Secret Service, almost simultaneously, received information from the Pennsylvania State Police Department that an individual adult male was traveling to the District of Columbia, possibly the Trump Hotel, armed with weapons. Pennsylvania State Police had received this information from a tip and they acted very quickly to share that information with us. They provided - Pennsylvania State provided the suspect's name and a description of the vehicle.


BALDWIN: CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett is following this one for us from Washington.

Laura Jarrett, who is this man?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Brooke, the suspect is 43-year- old Brian Moles. And as you heard the police chief say, he allegedly travelled from Pennsylvania to D.C. armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, an unlicensed handgun and dozens of rounds of unregistered ammunition. But this tipster warned police about his plans and so they managed to arrest Moles at Trump's D.C. hotel earlier this morning.

Now, D.C. police would not comment at that press conference that you saw on his motive, but a law enforcement source tells us that Moles allegedly stated in cell phone messages to that tipster that he, quote, "wanted to get close to Trump" and be wanted to be like Timothy McVeigh. An obviously chilling reference to the man who bombed the Oklahoma City federal building back in 1995.

Now, I should point out, that Secret Service says in a statement that at no time were any protectees, meaning the president, at risk, and D.C. Police said earlier that they don't have enough information to charge Moles with making any direct threats against the president. And we are also told that Moles is cooperating with authorities and that he is expected to make his first appearance in court sometime later in the week, Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Laura, thank you.

JARRETT: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Let's get back to our breaking news.

Backlash erupting after we're told the president is expected to pull out of the Paris climate deal. The global effort aimed at battling climate change. We've got a couple of voices on that.

[14:24:39] Also, is the president giving out his cell phone number to world leaders? New concerns about security. We'll discuss. Stay with me


BALDWIN: Welcome back.

Any moment now the White House will be holding a press briefing, but the Trump administration has decided to keep the press briefing off camera today. We do expect for the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, to be grilled on everything from potentially sending in additional troops into Afghanistan, to this bombshell new report that the fired FBI director, James Comey, will testifying publically as early as next week up on Capitol Hill that President Trump pressured him to end his investigation into the president's fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.

And then there's this today, the president tweeting, quote, "I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days. Make America great again."

[14:29:48] Just to be clear, the Paris agreement aims to commit nearly every country to lowering planet warming greenhouse gas emissions and slow the effects of climate change. And we're not hearing the president is leaning toward leaving this agreement.