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Source: Comey to Testify about Trump Confrontations; Sources: Nunes Behind 'Unmasking' Subpoenas; Trump to Announce Decision on Climate Deal Today. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired June 1, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: All questions on these matters will be referred to outside counsel.
[07:00:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seven new subpoenas issued by the House Intelligence Committee. Three were issued unilaterally by Chairman Devon Nunes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did them even though he recused himself.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Congressional investigators are examining whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions had an additional meeting with Russia's ambassador.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not have communications with the Russians.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: If it's true, it's extremely disturbing.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president is poised to pull the U.S. out of the historic climate accord.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If he does withdraw that would be a definitive statement by the president that believes climate change is a hoax.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone.
Welcome to your NEW DAY. CNN first to report that fired FBI director James Comey will testify before the Senate as early as next week; and he's expected to level bombshell accusations that President Trump pressured him to end the investigation into one of his top aides.
Meanwhile the House Intelligence Committee issuing seven subpoenas in the Russian probe, four of them from Michael Flynn and the president's attorney, Michael Cohen.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Now, the chairman of the committee is Devon Nunes. You may remember that he said that he was stepping away, and he named somebody else to oversee the work of the committee because of the mess that he had gotten himself in by apparently playing a role for the White House in what was supposed to be a nonpartisan investigation.
But guess what? He's back. He signed three subpoenas that go, not to the substance of Flynn and anybody else around the president, but to the unmasking, and he subpoenas Obama administration officials about that.
Now this raises huge questions, just not about Nunes and his impartiality but what it means for the investigation. All this as President Trump is telling us that he's going to make a major announcement in just hours on the Paris Climate Accords. The speculation is that he's going to pull the plug.
We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN Joe Johns live at the White House -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
This has the potential to be extraordinary. even explosive testimony on Capitol Hill. The former FBI director, James Comey, in his own words talking about the conversations he had with the president of the United States and the memos he wrote about those conversations.
Meanwhile, the White House this morning showing signs of hunkering down referring 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 referred 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.
SESSIONS: 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.
[07:05:03] JOHNS: The president also tweeted that he will announce his decision on the Paris Climate Accord in the Rose Garden this afternoon here at the White House. Sources tell CNN he is expected to withdraw the United States from that agreement, but as we all know, it's not final until it comes out of the president's mouth -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Good point, Joe. Thank you very much.
The House Intelligence Committee also issued three subpoenas seeking information about unmasking requests made by former Obama administration officials. Those subpoenas came from Chairman Devon Nunes, who had supposedly stepped aside from the Russia investigation.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with more. So how does this work, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a great deal of uncertainty, Alisyn, now that the House Intelligence Committee can really, whether or not they're going to be able to do a nonpartisan investigation. That is because the chairman, Devon Nunes, now in the center of yet another controversy; and it is raising questions whether or not he has truly sidelined himself from this Russia 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 former CIA director 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: Last month, CNN learned that Nunes was still reviewing classified intelligence related to the Russia investigation and that also, in a private committee meeting, Republicans were stressing that Nunes still had subpoena power.
But under House rules, the chairman is allowed to issue subpoenas but only in consultation with the minority party in certain circumstances. That did not happen -- Alisyn, Chris.
CAMEROTA: Suzanne, thank you for all of that reporting.
So let's discuss it. We want to bring in our panel. We have CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger; associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics, A.B. Stoddard; and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.
David, let me start with you. These seven new subpoenas, four for the ties to Russia looking into those. Three for unmasking, those three unilaterally issued by Congressman Devon Nunes, who is supposed to have stepped aside. What should we be focused on here?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think a couple of things, Alisyn. The first is Nunes reinserting himself in this investigation. It sounds to me like they are cutting it a little bit fine by saying that this was separate from the Russian investigation.
If it's separate, it's got to be because he's pursuing something else. And my guess is -- and this is only a guess -- that it's the leaks, something else that he has talked about frequently.
So by going after who unmasked the information, he may be trying to figure out who it was who revealed to reporters and others elements of these details. And of course, this is where the White House and many in the Republican Party want to move this investigation away from the substance of what the Russian contacts were, whether they added up to anything and towards the question of how the information got leaked out.
Now wouldn't surprise you that reporters here will argue that the publication of these details are really what have driven both the congressional and for you the criminal investigation.
CUOMO: All right. So you have the politics at play, which is Nunes falsely saying that he would step away, clearly not, and once again acting, as far as we know, without coordination of the rest of the committee. So that's on Nunes, who seems pretty determined to become employee of the month for the White House, all right? And this is the second demonstration of that.
You then you have the substance of it, and we'll go to Phil Mudd about that. Nunes's case would be unmasking matters. It goes to how we surveil American citizens and the ethics of these leaks, and now politics is at play there. What is your concern about the genuineness of that interest?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, he should be interested in that. Let's be clear. This is not about looking at unmasking. This is about diverting attention from a more substantial question.
He's on a committee that's looking at how Russians meddled in an American election. And he's issuing subpoenas for how an intelligence process works that's unrelated to that meddling? You've got to be kidding me.
CUOMO: The president of the United States says you are full of it, Phil Mudd. He just tweeted: "The big story..."
CAMEROTA: He's not using Phil's name exclusively.
CUOMO: Not yet.
MUDD: My name is not mud.
CUOMO: "The big story is the unmasking and surveillance of people that took place during the Obama administration." Phil Mudd, are you hiding from the real story?
MUDD: Let's have a conversation with the president, because he doesn't understand how government works.
We unmasked all the time when I was at the FBI. Last I checked, that was George W. Bush.
They're asking people from the Trump -- pardon me, from the Obama administration to come speak. Why not ask people from multiple administrations?
If you're looking at intelligence that suggests that somebody outside government is interfering in the president's ability to set foreign policy it is not only the right or the authority it is the responsibility of the national security adviser, in this case Susan Rice, to say, "What's going on here?" I hope to current national security adviser would do the same thing.
You have to do that if you're the national security adviser. Who's interfering in conversations with the Russians? Who's having side conversations -- maybe Jared Kushner -- with them about subverting American sanctions? Perfectly appropriate.
CAMEROTA: OK, A.B., that leads us to James Comey. He, we understand, will be testifying in an open session at the Senate Intelligence Committee. And CNN has learned that he does plan to say that he was pressed by President Trump to back off the Michael Flynn investigation. If that proves true, if he really does testify and isn't stopped by somebody, if he really does say that about the Michael Flynn investigation, where does that leave Congress? What do they do with that information?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR/COLUMNIST, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, I think actually it's what Robert Mueller, the special counsel, will do with that information. I think that Robert Mueller is allowing James Comey to come and tell the story publicly, because he believes it's in the public interest that there's such pressing questions about those meetings in which President Trump asked the former FBI director for loyalty; and then he simultaneously documented this in memos when he left those meetings or phone calls.
But it's become an issue that the public should have answers to. He obviously could be doing this in private. But they're choosing a public forum and Robert Mueller is working with James Comey closely what exactly he can and cannot talk about. He's restrained from talking about the details of the Russian investigation, but he wants to talk about whether or not the president tried to impede his investigation, slow it down, stop it.
What I think will be interesting is sort of the outcome and the impact of what he says. He will face many questions from Republicans. Why did he testify recently, as the FBI director, that he was not pressured to stop or slow any of this investigation? Why did he not share his memos more widely, particularly with Andrew McCabe, then deputy director of the FBI? Why did he not just take this to the members of Congress like Chairman Burr in the Senate, Chairman Warner in the Senate intel who were investigating this or their House counterparts? Why did he choose to do this the way he did it?
And so he will come under some tough interrogation from Republicans, and we'll have to wait to see what his answers are, to see how sort of damaging this might be to President Trump or how sort of explosive a revelation it might be after his testimony.
CUOMO: Those are some tough questions for Comey also, about why he didn't do more if it was such a big deal. Except for the first one. It will go to, he was being asked about the DOJ impeding any of his efforts not the president. He could have offered it up.
David Sanger, though, to A.B.'s last point, which is about what would the political damage be, this is going to be a political question. We just had Senator Mike Lee on with a big smile on his face saying, "Yes, I don't think that Comey is going to testify that he was pressured, because he would have quit."
No curiosity about what it would mean if the president did make that request. And isn't that just a reflection of the naked partisanship that's at play here?
SANGER: Well, there's a lot of naked partisanship. And I think that A.B. made a very good point, which is you have to separate out what Comey knew about the investigation itself, which he's not likely to talk about, and what happened in the conversations with the president.
[07:15:12] But follow that thread for just a minute, Chris. If Comey was still in office, and he was asked about his conversations with the president, what would he say? He'd say, "Look, I serve the president. We have an agreement and an understanding and a tradition in this country that we don't discuss the conversations between the president and those who work for him."
By firing him, President Trump actually managed to loosen up what it is that Comey could say.
Now, what is it that the president could do between now and then to stop that? He could attempt to invoke executive privilege and prohibit Comey from discussing...
CUOMO: Even with all the talking he's been doing about it himself? Wouldn't that somewhat eviscerate the authority of the immunity? SANGER: Chris, you've honed in rightly on just that. So the president has the authority to do this.
Now if he did it, it would obviously would start up a firestorm. And you make the -- just the right point, which is he may have undercut his own ability to do this with the tweets and with his own comments about why he fired Comey.
So, you know, all of -- what's happened is that President Trump has created the conditions under which Comey can actually go out and discuss these conversations.
CAMEROTA: That's pretty fascinating.
SANGER: That's pretty remarkable.
CAMEROTA: It is remarkable. But I mean, the president has never been known to shy away from a firestorm, even one that he creates. So we will see what happens over the course of the next days.
Panel, thank you very much.
CUOMO: He did it -- he did it just minutes ago. That's why he needs to watch NEW DAY, because it seems that the president is, and again, just tweeted that "The big story is the unmasking and surveillance of people that took place during the Obama administration."
So once again, he has invited a news cycle to justify what questions are before this Russia probe. That's what will happen.
CAMEROTA: All right. Another big story: should the U.S. stay in or pull out of the Paris climate deal? President Trump is set to announce his decision in just hours. We discuss the implications either way next.
[07:21:15] CUOMO: All right. So one of the big things that's going to happen today is the president says he's going to announce his decision on the Paris Climate Accord from the White House Rose Garden this afternoon.
So what is this climate accord? Well, the agreement involved 195 countries, and it aimed to lower greenhouse gas emissions through a collective of unilateral promises. Right? Each country saying, "We're going to try to lower our own emissions." The greenhouse gases are those that are put into the atmosphere when people burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.
The hope for the pact was to keep the world's average temperature from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius, which is about 4 degrees Fahrenheit, by the end of the century. And it was largely symbolic. Right? Because if we could really control the temperature of the world, we might not be in this situation.
So the nations got to set their own goals in this understanding. Under President Obama, the U.S. pledged to lower greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25 percent by 2025. The U.S. also pledged -- and this is a big part of why Trump doesn't like the deal -- $3 billion to help poorer countries tackle climate change.
Now, it should be noted there's no penalty. This isn't a treaty. So if the U.S. or any country doesn't achieve its goal or wants to leave, there are procedures in place to walk away. So that's like the basic -- Alisyn, those are the basic things of what this deal did. But it also did a lot of political things. Right? It created a lot of leverage for policy going forward, and the risk is if you're not part of the deal, you're part of the leverage.
CAMEROTA: So let's talk about whether the U.S. should stay or go. And we have a panel of experts with different opinions. So let's bring in CNN senior economic analyst Steven Moore. He worked as an advisor to the Trump campaign. CNN senior military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, who worked in the State Department when America agreed to this Paris deal. And CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar.
Great to see all of you.
Rana, make your case for why the U.S. should stay in.
RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, you know, my case is really an economic case. You can talk about the warming of the planet and, you know, the moral implications of this, the social implications.
But the fact is that green tech is one of the fastest growing and most strategic industries around. I mean, that's why you're seeing folks like Elon Musk and Tim Cook, the head of Apple, coming out and saying please stay in this agreement. This is where our competitiveness is going to come from. If you look at fossil fuels, they actually don't employ huge numbers of people, and those cuts have been coming over decades. These are not...
CAMEROTA: The president says that staying in would shrink the U.S. GDP by something like $2.5 trillion.
FOROOHAR: Yes. I don't see that math. I'll be very interested to hear that explained in more detail.
You know, if you look at just the coal industry, for example, which you know, that's his base, these are people that voted for him. Jobs in the coal industry were being cut dramatically even before the EPA was created in the 1970s. Those jobs were changing because of technology that, you know, got out of us pick and axe coal mining and strip mining. These jobs are not coming back. They have been fundamentally changed.
Yet, you have this other industry that really is growing. I mean, look at China. They're employing eight times as many people in the solar industry. They're much more competitive. This is an area we should grab and grow.
CUOMO: Steven Moore, can you help the president out here in terms of why this is a bad deal for America?
STEVEN MOORE, CNN SENOR ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, look, I mean, our studies show very clearly, I mean, it's a huge economic loser for the United States. We have right now the lowest priced electricity in the world. Our costs are much lower than they are in Europe and some of these Asian countries that have gone, quote, "green."
And that's because, you know, look, to say that solar and wind power are the fuels of the future, how do we know that? And if it's the case why does the government have to get involved in this?
We are at -- in the beginning stages of a shale, oil and gas that has completely changed the energy landscape. My goodness. You know, you talk about wind and solar. Wind and solar costs are five to ten times higher than the cost from natural gas. So we should use our natural gas.
[07:25:12] And by the way, I went to a lot of these coal towns across America, and I saw the devastation that these regulations have been put in place in states like Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio. I think that's a reason why, frankly, Hillary Clinton lost the election, because liberals think that they can -- all of these manufacturing workers, steelworkers, coal workers are going to lose their jobs and be sacrificed to the altar of global warming. We should put jobs first, because that's what voters clearly voted for, jobs and economic growth.
CAMEROTA: So Steven, you think that by pulling out, we will be able to restore coal industry jobs?
MOORE: Look, I don't know what the future is. I think what's funny is to -- for anyone to say, "We know what the future of energy is."
If I were sitting in this chair eight or ten years ago, and I told you that we were going to have the biggest oil and gas boom in the history of this country, nobody would have believed it. Even people in the industry itself wouldn't have believe it. Yet, it did happen.
We had the shale revolution that has completely changed the face of the -- of the energy industry.
I think one other point. You know, if the liberals were really concerned about global warming and changing the temperature of the earth, then they should be celebrating the natural gas revolution. Natural gas is a clean burning fuel. And yet these groups like the Sierra Club are against even fracking the natural gas, which is reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
CAMEROTA: OK. John Kirby, your thoughts.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: First, I normally don't get involved in economic issues. It's not my forte. But according to the World Bank, for a million dollars invested in clean energy technology, that million dollars creates two to three numbers of jobs, two to three times the number of jobs that the same million dollars invested in fossil fuel would. So I do think that there is a future here for clean energy, but that
is not my forte.
Let me focus on national security. The Pentagon back in July of 2015 issued a pretty lengthy report about the damages of climate change and the effect that that's going to have on our national security: creating famine, creating drought, creating instability and insecurity around the world as temperatures rise and water levels rise with it.
If the president really wants to rebuild the military, he's going to have to -- excuse me -- spend a whole lot more money on defense spending in the future years, if we pull out of this agreement and ignore the very real implications of climate change on -- on just national security around the world. We're going to need a bigger military, a lot more ships, lot more troops deployed in a lot more dangerous places.
MOORE: Let me say something in response to that. I mean, people think that this climate change deal is going to have anything to do what the global temperature is going to be 20, 50 and 100 years from now. I bet most people don't understand, because Chris, you said, when you were talking about the deal, that it was going to change the temperature by 2 Celsius or something. That's not even close to the truth.
Even if we -- even if we do this deal by the year 2100, the change in the global temperature would be .2 degrees. So we're going to spend trillions and trillions of dollars of money that could be spent on clean water and health on something that's not going to change the global temperature virtually at all? I mean, what is the point of all this?
KIRBY: We are the second -- we are the second biggest emitter. If we pull out and we cede leadership to China and others, there will be very little transparency and accountability on the countries meeting these standards.
Let me tell you something: the deal's going forward. If he pulls out, it's not like these other countries aren't going to keep pursuing it.
CAMEROTA: That's right.
KIRBY: We can argue all we want about the 2 degrees Celsius or not. But climate change is happening. If we pull out, the other countries will move forward. China will take over as the leader.
FOROOHAR: That's right.
MOORE: I don't understand what you mean. What do you mean that they're going to move forward? Right now China -- hold on. China and India, which actually are part of the Paris Accord agreement, they are building dozens and dozens of coal plants. They're not going to abide by this agreement. They're -- watch what they do, not what they say.
FOROOHAR: You know.
MOORE: They are investing in coal, big time.
CUOMO: Gentlemen, let Rana get in.
FOROOHAR: It's amazing. You know, the truth is the agreement will move ahead. You're already seeing China and Europe reaffirming their pact...
MOORE: They are not. They're not doing that.
FOROOHAR: They are saying we'll work more closely together on standards, on...
MOORE: But then why is China building all these coal plants?
FOROOHAR: China certainly has plenty of coal plants. Absolutely. It also has one of the most strategically important green energy sectors in the world.
KIRBY: That's right.
FOROOHAR: And it's growing that. Again, we can argue all we want, and people come at different sides of climate change. The science is there. We know it's happening.
But it really is an economic argument. I mean, I think that this point about jobs...
FOROOHAR: Come on, Steven, the jobs of the future are in smart energy; they're not in fossil fuel. Fossil fuels use a lot of capital...
MOORE: We have 500 years' worth of coal. We have 200 years' worth of oil and gas. We have more coal and oil and gas than any other country in the world.
CUOMO: Steve, why does Rex Tillerson want to stay in the deal, and why does Exxon want to stay in the deal?
KIRBY: And the CEOs of 300 other countries.
MOORE: I think it's a PR campaign by these companies, that they want to act as if they're good citizens.
FOROOHAR: Oh, my gosh.
MOORE: But look, let's not forget: this is a totally voluntary deal.