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Source: Comey to Testify about Trump Confrontations; Nunes Behind 'Unmasking' Subpoenas; Trump to Announce Decision on Climate Deal Today. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired June 1, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Fired FBI director James Comey ready to tell his side of the story.
[05:58:01] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Congressional investigators are examining whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions had an additional private meeting with Russia's ambassador.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We meet a lot of people, so...
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: It's a very serious charge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The House Intelligence Committee issued seven subpoenas today, three related to the tissue of unmasking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like they were entirely driven by Devon Nunes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should never have been done without working with the Democrats.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president is expected to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be an economic and environmental, a national security and a moral disaster.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATES: I thought it was a hidden message to the Russians.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY, June 1, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here is our starting line. A CNN exclusive. A source tells CNN that fired FBI Director James Comey will testify before the Senate as early as next week. The big topic will be those bombshell accusations that President Trump
pressured him to end the investigation into one of his top aides. The House Intelligence Committee issuing seven subpoenas for its Russian probe, four of them for Michael Flynn and the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The embattled chairman of that committee, Devon Nunes, issuing three separate subpoenas for his own investigation into whether former Obama officials unmasked the identities of Trump associates captured on surveillance of foreign officials. So what happened to Nunes recusing himself from this probe?
And in just a few hours, President Trump will reveal to the world his decision on whether to pull out from the Paris Climate Accord. So we have it all covered for you.
Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns. He is live at the White House. What's the latest, Joe?
JOHNS: Good morning, Alisyn.
It could be just a matter of days before the Congress gets to hear from FBI director James Comey in his own words about conversations he had with the president and memos he wrote about those conversations before he was fired.
Meanwhile, the White House indicating from now on it's going to refer all questions about the Russia investigation to the president's lawyer.
JOHNS (voice-over): Fired FBI director James Comey now ready to tell his side of the story. First, getting a legal green light from special counsel Robert Mueller, his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee could come as early as next week.
A source tells CNN that Comey appears eager to discuss details about tense private interactions he had with President Trump, which he documented in memos, including a dinner where he says the president asked him for a loyalty pledge. And an Oval Office meeting where Comey says President Trump pressured him to drop the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the president engage in obstruction of justice?
SPICER: We are focused on the president's agenda and all -- going forward all questions on these matters will be addressed to outside counsel.
JOHNS: This latest bombshell development coming as the Russian investigations are ramping up. House investigators issuing their first subpoenas to Flynn and President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, seeking their testimony and business records. Congressional investigators are examining whether Attorney General
Jeff Sessions had another undisclosed meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, this time at a reception that Sessions and Kislyak attended in April when then-candidate Trump delivered his first major foreign policy address at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you met with any other Russian officials or folks connected to the Russian government since you endorsed Donald Trump?
SESSIONS: I don't believe so. I -- you know, we meet a lot of people. So...
JOHNS: Sessions failing to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador twice before, under oath, during his confirmation hearing.
SESSION: I didn't have -- not have communications with the Russians.
JOHNS: And again when he applied for a security clearance. Amid mounting pressure back in March, Sessions was forced to recuse himself from the Russia probe. The Justice Department defending Sessions, denying any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton leveling a sharp accusation, suggesting Russia did not act alone in their election interference.
CLINTON: The Russians, in my opinion, and based on the intel and counter-intel people I've talked to could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided.
JOHNS: The president reviving his favorite nickname for his former rival on Twitter.
All this as the White House offered a bizarre response to the president's bewildering "covfefe" Twitter typo that was left online for hours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did it stay up so long? Is no one watching this?
SPICER: No, I think the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.
JOHNS: This afternoon in the Rose Garden, the president is expected to announce his decision on the Paris climate agreement. Sources have told CNN he's prepared to withdraw the U.S. from the deal, but as we've learned before, nothing is final until it comes out of the president's mouth -- Alisyn and Chris.
CAMEROTA: Joe, thank you very much.
Three subpoenas issued by the House Intel Committee to seek information about unmasking requests made by Obama administration officials. Those subpoenas came from Chairman Devon Nunes, who supposedly stepped aside from this Russian investigation.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with more. So how does that work? Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's the question, really, because that House intelligence chairman, Devon Nunes, is really now at the center of yet another controversy, and it is raising some serious questions about whether or not he has truly sidelined himself from this Russian investigation.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): The new dispute stems from seven new subpoenas issued by the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, four of them seeking testimony and documents from former national security adviser Michael Flynn and President Trump's private attorney, Michael Cohen. They were approved by both parties for their Russia meddling probe.
But the three others were issued unilaterally by Chairman Devon Nunes without Democratic approval. The "Wall Street Journal" says those subpoenas were issued to the FBI, CIA and NSA for information about alleged unmasking by former Obama administration officials, seeking details about exactly what led to the unveiling of the names of Trump aides who were in contact with Russian officials and were caught up in surveillance of foreign officials: former national security adviser Susan Rice, former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power, and John Brennan all named in the subpoenas.
A senior aide claims Nunes was acting separately from the Russia investigation, and his aides stress Nunes never entirely recused himself, but he only temporarily stepped aside.
MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can this investigation continue as you as chairman?
REP. DEVON NUNES (R-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Why would it not?
MALVEAUX: In April, Nunes announced he was temporarily putting Congressman Mike Conway in charge of the Russia probe. Nunes faced a firestorm of criticism about how he handled classified materials when he obtained documents during a secret White House meeting without telling Democrats on his own committee.
NUNES: I have seen intelligence reports that clearly show that the president-elect and his team were, I guess, at least monitored.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I don't agree with the chairman's characterization.
MALVEAUX: And last month CNN learned that Nunes was still reviewing classified intelligence related to the Russian investigation. Also, in a private committee meeting, that there were Republicans who were stressing that Nunes still had subpoena power. Now the House rules state that the chairman can issue subpoena, but only with consulting minority party -- Alisyn, Chris.
CUOMO: And this is the problem with a political inquiry, is that politics will be played. Suzanne, thank you very much.
Let's bring in the panel: CNN political analysts Maggie Haberman and John Avlon; and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.
[06:05:07] Maggie, the difference between recusal and stepping aside temporarily seems to be purely semantical, despite what the Nunes staffer says.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: (SNEEZES)
CUOMO: Bless you. Although I do take that as an editorial comment.
AVLON: I do. I meant that.
CUOMO: So doing a little bit of digging. Right? Other than a little bit of an illegal distinction, which is where recusal is usually where someone is making the suggestion that you need to step away and what that process is where a judge or a juror steps away.
In this political context it is self-perpetuating and, just like with Sessions, Sessions didn't go through a process to remove himself in the investigation. He said, "I'm going to have to step away." Said it publicly. Put somebody else in there, and then we carry forward. How is Nunes any different?
CAMEROTA: I think it's exactly the same. To your point, this is the problem with the political inquiry and why it is that people have been calling for an independent commission, something that would be, theoretically, more outside of politics.
Look, I mean, you had a headline, which was Nunes steps aside or recuses. I don't even remember what the headlines were. You had the same thing about Sessions. Neither of them has been exactly true.
And so in the case of Nunes, this has been a pet issue, I would say, for the Trump administration for several weeks now, is this unmasking issue. The president put it forward in a meeting, in an interview with my colleague, Glenn Thrush, something about Susan Rice. I think you're going to see a huge focus on her.
There are legitimate questions about how intelligence is handled in this country, and that doesn't -- that pre-dates this administration, or pre-dates the Obama administration.
But when it is put forward in sort of this parallel track to the Russian investigation, it's going to be hard for people not to see it as an effort to distract from Russia.
CAMEROTA: Also, John, we know that Nunes and Sessions did not step aside. I mean, they may have briefly, but they're back.
AVLON: Well, Sessions enough so that his deputy was able to put Miller in place.
CAMEROTA: Yes, but he was involved in Comey. AVLON: As we now learned, which I think if you really parse the
sequence of events that came out after the Trump meeting, it's clear he's not totally hands off here.
The Nunes thing, I think, is particularly problematic, though, and insulting for this reason. Nunes kept, keeps on basically parroting White House talking points in his actions on this committee.
Right, there are two core points. You see surrogates in the White House itself constantly pushing. First of all, it's deflection. It's not us. Let's look at what they did, the Obama administration. At issues the leaks. The issue is the unmasking. If you've got a member of Congress who's been entrusted with that role pursuing those talking points in action, as well as on air. But cameras were put in his face. That's a sign of a corrupt inquiry, unfortunately.
CUOMO: Let's put up Phil Mudd's face for a second.
CAMEROTA: This is our graphic.
CUOMO: You see? You see Phil Mudd's face? That tells you everything about how he feels about these subpoenas for the unmasking. Explain to people why you look the way you do, Phil.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: To say that -- to say that this is a political exercise is polite. This is a freak show.
Maggie nailed it. There are two issues here. One of primary concern to the American people. That is what happened during an American presidential election and how were Americans involved? How do we move forward and protect an election, particularly a presidential election, in 2020? Because the message to Moscow now is intervene and it's fine. Not only is it fine; we will continue to work with you.
There's stories today about giving back those Russian facilities in the United States that were sanctioned by President Obama just months ago. Unbelievable.
Meanwhile, you have a secondary issue at best, and that is how does U.S. intelligence community handle information when a U.S. citizen is named? Devon Nunes decides that, instead of being a politician for America, he's like a two-headed goat at the freak show.
Let me tell you how normal this is, Chris. If you are the national security adviser several months ago in the waning months of the Obama administration, your responsibility is to execute policy on Russia. That includes sanctions. You get a piece of intelligence that says an American citizen is interfering by having secret conversations with the Russians that presumably discuss sanctions, and you think it's worth investigating why the national security adviser wants to know which American citizen is doing that? That's a freak show; it's not a political side show.
CAMEROTA: So Maggie, the next step is that James Comey is going to testify in front of the Senate Intel Committee, we understand. And we have sources that have told CNN that he plans to say publicly that, yes, President Trump did pressure him to back off the Michael Flynn investigation. What -- where would that leave us? If that happens, then what?
HABERMAN: Well, I think a couple of things. I think, No. 1, he would be making that -- that statement, presumably under oath, so I think that it gives it a different patina, as opposed to, you know, what people close to him say and so forth. And I think that that video of that testimony could be very striking, No. 1.
No. 2, I think it is almost guaranteed -- and I know we're not in the predictions business, but this doesn't really feel like I'm going out on a limb here. I think you will see, potentially, a very active President Trump Twitter feed in response to that. I think it is going to be like waving a red flag in front of a bull. And I think that is a nightmare scenario for the president's lawyers, who are trying to figure out how to contain this.
CUOMO: Look what we already saw. Yesterday the president, you know, "covfefe" -- how do you say "covfefe" aside -- the reason why I kept pointing to the Carter Page tweet is because of exactly what we learned today.
He took Carter Page, the president of the United States, review his feed, a man who says he doesn't know, all of a sudden, took ownership of his entire story and said that he can blow this case out of the water. A man he says he doesn't know. He gives that endorsement to his story.
And he in no small way suggests that Comey and Brennan were lying or misleading in their testimony and called this once again a witch-hunt.
So if Comey gets up there and says exactly what we believe he's going to say, now he's going to be in complete opposition with the president of the United States.
AVLON: And not only does that become a high-profile nightmare for the president's lawyers, as Maggie said, it makes it much more difficult to argue executive privilege when it comes to the privacy of some of these conversations that have come out.
Clearly Comey was working tightly with Mueller, but it was when the leak with the meeting with the Russians with the president ran down the former head of the FBI that Comey put himself forward. There seems to be a pattern of obstruction of justice the president is removing legal arguments his team can use on his behalf.
CAMEROTA: What if the president exercises executive privilege before Comey shows up, Phil Mudd, and thereby Comey can't testify?
MUDD: I mean, utter cowardice that would be. The president of the United States has burst this bubble, as we just have been talking about. Maligning the FBI director and maligned this investigation. When he chooses to do that publicly, if he going to use his power to say the guy he's just maligned is not allowed to speak? J
Look, Jim Comey is not going to speak about the investigation of individuals who are involved, potentially in colluding with the Russians. He's going to talk about what happened many months later. That is a conversation with the president that's not private. Because the president's already spoken about it.
The second thing, I'd say, is don't tell me he's interfering with the investigation. I guarantee you he's not going to discuss Carter Page. He's not going to discuss Paul Manafort. He's going to discuss what the president did to impede that investigation months earlier. So he's going to have to speak sooner or later. The only question is, when he has to take his medicine, I don't know see why the president would try to interfere unless he's a coward.
CUOMO: Comment and a question. First of all, legally, asking for privilege to keep things private, well-recognized. There's a lot of law out there that gives the president that power. There are two checks on it in this situation.
One is disclosing the conversations yourself, which goes to the Twitter feed. If the president is already talking about the substance and content of these conversations, how can he then ask for a privilege on it?
Also Mueller. The ability of the DOJ to supersede the rights of that immunity is also well-documented, so Mueller could probably compel testimony out of Comey anyway. But of course, him going to Congress first removes that legal battle for Mueller.
Now the question: why are you so righteous about the unmasking, Phil Mudd, when from the American perspective, don't we have a right to know if these names that are supposed to be kept private are made public for political purposes? And that's the ostensible, the apparent motivation for these subpoenas.
MUDD: Well, I think that a conversation about how America collects intelligence on foreigners, and when that involves an American citizen, how does that information get revealed? Perfectly appropriate.
There's two issues here. No. 1 is, how much time and an investigation that's more critical that has Russian meddling in an American election do we need to spend on the second issue. This should be separate and apart.
And when Nunes steps in today, after saying he was going to step out of the investigation, my question is why is he doing it? It seems purely political.
The second issue we have to look at is separating out this issue of unmasking and the issue of leaking. I don't think the Congress can investigate leaking, because people are going to get up on the stand and say, "I didn't do anything. That's the FBI's job."
So let's be clear about lanes in the road and about muddying up a Russian investigation with unmasking, which should be totally separate. CAMEROTA: OK, panel. Thank you very much. We'll check back with all
of you. But in a matter of hours, President Trump will announce his decision on the Paris Climate Accord. World leaders urging him to stay in the agreement. Will he? We discuss that next.
[06:18:13] CAMEROTA: In just hours, President Trump will make a major announcement about whether the U.S. will stay in the Paris Climate Accord. So what is the accord? Well, the pact was made with 195 countries. It aims to reduce greenhouse emissions. It attempts to cap global warming at 2 degrees Celsius. This is a nonbinding, and there are no penalties if the goals are not met. It's hard to say all that.
Let's bring back our panel. We have Maggie Haberman and John Avlon and bring in CNN political analyst David Drucker.
So, Maggie, the signs suggest that the president is going to pull out of the Paris accord but, you know, he's unpredictable. Anything could happen.
HABERMAN: I'm so glad we spent two days on President Trump's unpredictability on rolling out announcements, and he manages once again to get us to all buy into "will he or won't he?" In some sort of a crisis.
CAMEROTA: Because you think that's a contest that's not really true; he's really going to pull out.
HABERMAN: I think he is. I think that he's been -- so I talked to one administration official last night who said yes, he is planning on pulling out of this agreement. And I said, "Could it change?" And the person started laughing and said, "Of course." I mean, because this is -- this is how he approaches things.
That said, I do think he is going to pull out. I don't know what the withdrawal is going to look like. I think a lot of this is going to be how he describes what he wants to do, how he defines the terms of leaving.
The one thing that I think is unlikely is a plan that the legislative affairs office had been talking about, which was kicking it over to the Senate to have them ratify it, where it would not pass, and it would basically just be a poison pill that they were handing over.
Look, for the president, this is seen as fulfilling a campaign promise. And I think this is where he's been for a very long time, which is, you know, he doesn't believe in it; he doesn't see the point. He thinks it's questionable science. And I think we've seen that over again.
This is a nonbinding agreement. Right? So I think what the implications are, are something that needs to be thought about. What it actually, really means. But symbolically, it is going to send a strong message. [06:20:11] CUOMO: I mean, this as the, you know, the -- as the second
step after the Kyoto agreement, which was a real agreement. This was different. Obama did this, I think, by executive mandate. This wasn't something that he had to go the Senate about. So pulling out is really easy.
David Drucker, the -- you know, whether global warming is a hoax, the scientific community has decided Donald Trump goes back and forth on it, depending on what he wants in that moment, but the money was a big part of his factor here also, right? The United States was pledging about a billion dollars to help smaller economies deal with their own emission output, and he didn't like that.
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think, Chris, this is always where a lot of Republican voters have been -- even Republicans that aren't that high on Donald Trump, might not have voted for him and don't like what they see from him -- is that they've always been skeptical of these international agreements where they feel like the U.S., meaning us, the American taxpayer, would be carrying the lion's share of the burden here to making up for what's going on from an environmental standpoint in developing economies. They don't have the same environmental regulations that we do. And so they've always been suspicious how it would hit us in the pocketbook. And that's why, even for this sort of upscale suburban Republican that we've been focusing on because of what they could mean for the 2018 elections that believes that climate change, manmade climate change is a real thing that needs to be dealt with.
I don't think they're going to be all that upset by the fact that Trump pulls out of Paris. He campaigned on doing so, and they voted for him anyway. In fact, almost any other Republican who might have been president, other than Donald Trump, probably would have done something similar.
AVLON: David, hold on. There are a bunch of problems with what you just said, with due respect.
First of all, Mitt Romney himself, who was the previous Republican nominee tweeted yesterday if America pulls out of the Paris Accord it would be a loss of American leadership. So there's far from consensus at a high Republican level about this, Mitt Romney being an example.
Example No. 2 is that a recent poll that the Atlantic shows a majority of Americans support staying in the Paris accord including a majority of Republicans and Trump supporters.
CAMEROTA: We have those polls.
AVLON: So -- so let's not blow past that in the name of something else.
DRUCKER: I've also seen polling that shows a majority of people who voted for Donald Trump would be happy to exit the Paris accord. The polling has been inconsistent, because it hasn't polled the issue consistently.
AVLON: So let's not consider it a fait accomplit.
DRUCKER: There is a -- I didn't say they don't care. I said they're suspicious of international agreements. They're worried it could hit them in the pocketbook.
So you have Trump voters in places where energy development and exploration is a big deal throughout the south and are going to be happy with this. They will be happy with this. Then suburban upscale Republicans who do believe in manmade climate change they think it's a problem. They're not convinced this will do anything about it, and they're not convinced countries like China and other developing economies with huge pollution problems are going to do what is required, and it's all going to fall on us.
So I say there are consequences to this, but it doesn't mean that the Republican Party is going to look at this and revolt.
AVLON: The polling shows that this is -- there is broad support for the Paris accord. You can cherry pick different parts. Yes, there's a historic resistance -- there's a historic resistance to international accords on the part of the Republican base.
But I think the larger question is if his secretary of state, who used to run ExxonMobil, is concerned about climate change. If his daughter and family are lobbying, is the pope hands him an encyclical on climate change, who is he catering to here? What part of the base? Why is Scott Bannon and -- Scott -- Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt winning this debate against so much countervailing evidence, as well as much popular opinion? That's a real question.
CAMEROTA: OK. That's a good question. Maggie, what's the answer?
CUOMO: Well, and just to put some meat on the bones of what John is saying, put up the graphic of who within the administration that's close to the president.
All right, so you have his daughter. You know, you take that for what it's worth. But we know that he listens to his kids. Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state. And remember, he was the head of Exxon. OK? So there are two different points of emphasis there. And Rick Perry, the energy secretary, all saying you should stay in this. And again, you have Mitt Romney. You have China. And you have Russia, ironically, saying it's a problem if the U.S. leaves this accord.
And then leave is Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt. So this seems to be a base play. Right?
HABERMAN: That's correct. Look, what you are seeing is a president who is embattled politically on a lot of different fronts. And whenever that happens he is most receptive with arguments that are going to play with his core voters and this is one of them.
This is not -- by the way, his core voters is not the Republican base writ large. It is a section of the Republican base, and that is to whom this is going to appeal. And I think that he has never been planning on making a huge change.
To be very fair to the president, when he came to "The New York Times" after he was elected, he came to our offices, and he talked about the Paris Accord. And he said he was going to listen to both sides. He said he hadn't made up his mind. But he was really clear where his head was. And I don't think this is a substantial difference.
[06:25:16] CUOMO: And there's another factor here that should not be ignored. This is easy for the president to do. Withdrawing from this is not like TPP. It doesn't really put any new set of obligations on him. It doesn't really figure out for him how to spend money.
CUOMO: In fact, with the executive orders that he signed, many people say he has, de facto, withdrawn.
AVLON: And this is a real problem for -- yes he's removing Obama's legacies but part of Obama relying so much on executive orders and other things that are easy to undo.
CAMEROTA: Panel thank you very much for the lively debate.
CUOMO: All right. So racism once again rearing its ugly head. A noose found inside the National Museum of American -- African-American History in Washington. Why was it there? What does it mean? We have the latest on the investigation next.