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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes Issues Subpoenas in Russia Investigation without Consulting Democrats; Former FBI Director James Comey to Testify Before Congress; Interview with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired June 1, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Tthe number one job in America right now, the number one job according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is a wind turbine technician. In Ohio they are building turbines. Scott Walker in Wisconsin just sent out an RFP for biodigestors. We should be building that stuff and sending it abroad. It is insane to allow China and other countries to take the lead.
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The American worker gets hurt when energy prices go up. Germany pays twice what we do for electricity because they went off and didn't use the market. We have a fracking revolution that is driving down costs.
GRANHOLM: Solar and wind are cheaper than coal. Solar and wind are cheaper than coal.
SANTORUM: But I'm talking about gas which is lowering emissions and creating jobs and --
GRANHOLM: And natural gas can be part of the mix. Don't even say that, Rick.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Last word.
GRANHOLM: I'm just saying, right now China is canceling 107 of its coal plants because -- why -- solar and wind are cheaper than coal. Same in India.
SANTORUM: It's not reliable, not consistent.
GRANHOLM: Oh, my God.
CAMEROTA: Obviously, this is a very hot debate, no pun intended, today. Thank you both for your perspective.
We're following a lot of news, so let's get right to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fired FBI director James Comey now ready to tell his side of the story. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressional investigators are examining whether
Attorney General Jeff Sessions had an additional private meeting with Russia's ambassador.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a very serious charge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The House Intelligence Committee issued seven subpoenas today related to the issue of unmasking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like they were entirely driven by Devin Nunes. It should never have been done without working with the Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president is expected to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be an economic, an environmental, a national security, and a moral disaster.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.
HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought it was a hidden message to the Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Thursday June 1st, 8:00 in the east.
And we begin with a CNN exclusive, a source telling us fired FBI director James Comey will testify before the Senate and as early as next week. The big part of the testimony, the bombshell accusations that President Trump pressured him to end the investigation into one of his top aides. The House Intel Committee also made a headline today, issuing the first subpoenas to Michael Flynn and to the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as part of their Russia probe.
CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, the embattled chairman of that committee, Devin Nunes, issuing separate subpoenas related to whether Obama officials unmasked the identities of Trump associates who were captured on surveillance of foreign officials. What happened to Nunes recusing himself?
We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House. What is the latest, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Well, people are talking about the possibility of James Comey, in his own words, talking about conversations he had with the president of the United States and the memos he wrote about those conversations, also indications the White House could bring down, saying it will now refer all questions about the Russia investigation to the president's lawyer. No indication that the president, though, is going to stop tweeting about it.
JOHNS: 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 test for 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 advisor, Michael Flynn.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the president engage in obstruction of justice?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are focused on the president's agenda, and going forward all questions on these matters will be referred to outside counsel.
JOHNS: This latest bombshell development coming as the Russia investigations are ramping up. House investigators issues 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?
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't believe so. 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 did not have communications with the Russians.
[08:05:00] JOHNS: And again when he applied for security clearance. Amid mounting pressure back in March, Sessions was forced to recuse himself from the Russian 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 counterintel people I have 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. The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.
JOHNS: And in another tweet from the president, he said he will announce his decision on the Paris climate accord this afternoon in the Rose Garden. Sources have told us CNN he is expected to withdraw the United States from that agreement. But as we all know, the president can change his mind. Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: Yes, we do know that, so please keep us posted when you hear anything from the White House. Joe, thank you very much.
Three of the seven subpoenas from the House Intel Committee deal with unmasking requests made by former Obama administration officials. Sources tell CNN that they were issued by Chairman Devin Nunes, who supposedly removed himself from the Russia investigation in early April. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with more. It looks like Devin Nunes is back.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is back, Alisyn, and this is a committee that can't agree on what they are investigating. This comes at a time when the House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes again back in the spotlight in the midst of this new controversy, raising some questions about whether or not he has even truly sidelined himself from the Russia investigation.
MALVEAUX: 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 Devin Nunes without Democratic approval. "The Wall Street Journal" says those 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 advisor 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, that he only temporarily stepped aside.
Can this investigation continue with you as chairman? REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: Why would it not?
MALVEAUX: In April Nunes announced he was temporarily putting Congressman Mike Conway in charge of the Russian 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), CALIFORNIA: I don't agree with the chairman's characterization.
MALVEAUX: The House rules state that the chairman can issue subpoenas if he consults with the minority party, the Democrats. It is clear that that did not happen in some cases. Also this morning the president now weighing in on this debate over what this committee should be looking at. The president tweeting just within the last hour saying the big story is the unmasking and surveillance of people that took place during the Obama administration. Alisyn, Chris?
CUOMO: All right, Suzanne, thank you very much. Thus guaranteeing another news cycle of appraising what the president just tweeted and whether or not the Russia probe should really just be about the unmasking and the leaks.
Let's bring in our panel, CNN political director David Chalian, CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger, and CNN political analyst Jackie Kucinich. Mr. Sanger, is the president correct that that is really the story that matters, the unmasking and surveillance, and therefore Nunes once again is doing the bidding of the White House?
DAVID SANGER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It is an interesting story, but it may be the secondary story. The core question here is what the Russians did and whether there was any collusion and so forth. The unmasking was part of the effort by the Obama administration to understand the intelligence reports we're seeing.
[08:10:01] And I can understand their confusion because even to this day, long after they've left office, four months after they've left office, we're still trying to understand what the nature of the relationship, if any, was between the Trump transition team, the Trump campaign before that, and the Russians. You can't get at that information if, in looking at the intelligence reports, the identities of those in the United States were fully masked, and that's why Susan Rice and others asked to unmask them. It's not an unusual procedure. It has happened across Republican and Democratic administrations.
The way the president phrased his tweet, though, he walked back to looking at the question of surveillance of him. I think we pretty well established at that point by both Democrats and Republicans if there was surveillance underway of members of this transition, it was incidental. It was picked up while they were talking to the Russians. Nobody has alleged yet, other than the president, that it was directed right at him.
CAMEROTA: But Jackie, how about this Devin Nunes head fake? He didn't step down. He didn't recuse himself. He's clearly quite involved. He's issuing these subpoenas.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right. And I think that if Congress was in session we'd hear a lot more outcry about that. But, you know, as David said, it does seem like that, you know, Nunes is putting his hands back in this and really trying to defend the White House and plow this other track. And in a way it's a diversion from the matter at hand, which is, you know, what Russian did to hack into the election, to try to influence the U.S. election. And, you know, this president over and other again has tried to make this more about him than it has been about the country. And the House Intelligence Committee seems more willing to acquiesce his request than, say, the Senate committee.
CUOMO: David Chalian, one of the reasons that precipitated Nunes stepping away, or whatever you want to call it, especially in light of his not stepping away, was an ethics investigation. Do you believe charge wills be added in that ethics aspect of Nunes for issuing subpoenas without apparently seeking the coordination of the ranking Democrat on the committee or working with the committee at all?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I don't know the answer to that. It's something we'll obviously look for.
CUOMO: But wouldn't that trigger the ethics consideration, the same one it did the first time?
CHALIAN: It certainly could. There is no doubt it certainly could. And we'll see what comes of that.
But what Nunes is making clear is, and I said this at the time that the -- that he stepped away. I think that the House -- I know they just issued subpoenas. I understand that there is some bipartisan work going on, but I think the House Intel Committee is not the place the country should be looking to actually get answers and results as to what Russia did to impact the American election. That is not a -- I just don't think that the American people are going to have confidence in what they're getting out of that committee mostly because of Nunes behavior but also just because of the more partisan sniping that's been going on in that committee than we are seeing on the Senate side and obviously now with the special counsel removed from the political realm a little bit more with Bob Mueller.
CAMEROTA: OK, so David Sanger, now we know James Comey has agreed to testify publically in front of the Senate Intel Committee. We understand that he is going to will be doing that next week, unless something stops him. And there is our sources that are sharing with CNN that he does plan to say that the president pressed him to back off the Michael Flynn investigation. We just had Senator Mike Lee on who said, well, I don't know I trust, basically I'm paraphrasing, what Comey is going to say because he told us that nobody tried to impede the investigation. And what he's hanging his hat on is this sentence where James Comey said on May 3rd, "I'm talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason. That would be a very big deal. It's not happened in my experience."
CUOMO: In the context of a question about the DOJ.
CAMEROTA: Correct, a question about the DOJ and Attorney General Sessions. But that is what he said. That would have been a good opening there if he had wanted to talk about President Trump trying to do something. So what's going to happen when Comey testifies?
SANGER: Well, interesting questions. So my colleagues at "The Times", at "The New York Times", revealed a few weeks ago that Comey was asked by the president to go light or, you know, walk away from the investigation in the General Michael Flynn, shortly after Flynn was dismissed as the national security advisor, and that he kept copious notes that he made sometimes in the car right as he was leaving the White House.
[08:15:07] So, obviously, there is going to be great interest in how he describes those meetings and what's in those notes.
Now, the president has an option here. He may have stepped on his own option, but he has one, which is to basically declare that these were privileged conversation, that they fall under executive privilege and that former Director Comey can't discuss them. I doubt that would hold up, given the degree that the president himself has discussed those meetings and tweeted about them.
But, you know, it really gets, Alisyn, at a critical issue. I'm not sure they fully thought through the consequences of firing Jim Comey. Had Comey still been in office, still involved in the investigation and was called in front of this committee, he could say two things, I can't talk about it while it's under investigation and I specifically can't talk about my conversations with the president, because those who work for the president don't discuss those conversations.
By letting him out, by forcing him out, he's almost freed him up to do that. It strikes me as another self-inflicted wound here.
CUOMO: The irony is the man they originally tried to hang the Comey decision on, Rosenstein, wound up appointing a special counsel, which is the one animal that the president -- yes, he could get rid of a special counsel. We saw that with Nixon, kind of. But now, it is insulated from him in a way it wouldn't have been otherwise.
CAMEROTA: There's not lack of (INAUDIBLE) on some of these things.
CUOMO: But here's a question that remains to be answered, Jackie, really any of you, if you have something on this.
Comey is going to have trouble when he testifies with the Republicans. They're going to say if this was such a big deal, where were you? You should have come out. Forget about keeping it in your diary. You should have told us if it's such a big deal. You certainly haven't been quiet in the past when there was something you wanted us to know. And it raises this question of well, then what? If he says, yes, he told me to stop. He told me to leave him alone. We just had Jerry Nadler on, the congressman, Democrat, from New York, saying that would be obstruction of justice.
Do you guys agree with that? Do you believe this is a slam dunk case for obstruction? That this is going to be a legality matter and not a political matter? Anybody think that.
CHALIAN: I don't think it's slam dunk at all on the legality of obstruction of justice.
As a political matter, I think it will indeed raise the stakes of that notion being part of this entire thing. Should -- and again this is so far down the road, Chris, but like should the Democrats win the House in 2018 and should they want to begin some sort of impeachment hearing, I would imagine then from a political matter, obstruction of justice as we saw with previous presidents who were facing impeachment, that that's one of the charges that's in there.
As a legal matter, I don't think it is slam dunk at all, but do I think whatever Comey says is going to be fodder for that? Sure.
KUCINICH: Well, there is no doubt that Bob Mueller knows what he is going to say because he wouldn't be doing this without his blessing.
CUOMO: They spoke?
KUCINICH: Well, yes, absolutely.
But the other thing I would encourage everyone to do is go back and watch Comey's testimony during the Bush administration about the -- whole thing with Ashcroft and that whole situation with Alberto Gonzalez and Andy Card. He is used to testifying under pressure. He is used to telling a compelling narrative and he's used to taking tough questions.
So, while he does need to answer a lot of the questions you said, Chris, I have a hard time believing that he won't -- he won't have answers.
CUOMO: I'm not saying it is going to stump him, I'm saying that --
CUOMO: Go ahead, David. Last word to you.
SANGER: Yes, one more on this point, which is Comey and Mueller are very close. It was Mueller to whom Comey went to for advice when he was dealing with those issues Jackie it was discussing during the Bush administration. So, they are going to be of one mind, or at least a mind meld about what it is that Comey can or cannot say without impeding the thing.
So, remember that whatever you hear, they will have talked out at some length. CAMEROTA: OK. Panel, thank you very much for all the insights.
So, the president is just hours away from revealing his decision on whether to stay with the Paris climate accord. So we're going to talk about the implications with two lawmakers, next.
[08:23:01] CUOMO: All right. One of the headlines this morning is that the House Intel Committee has issued their first subpoenas in the Russia investigation. And also, so four of them are about Flynn and President Trump's legal counsel. But three of them are related to unmasking of Trump associates. Sources say those subpoenas came from Chairman Devin Nunes, who supposedly stepped aside from the investigation weeks ago amid ethics charges, some of which went to whether or not he was dealing with the rest of his committee as he's supposed to.
Let's discuss with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He's a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
But first, Congressman, thank you for being here.
Another headline is that Jim Comey, the former director of the FBI, will testify. What do you want to hear from him if he does get in front of the Senate committee next week?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: It's pretty easy. I just want to hear what happened. I want to hear the truth. You know, it seems like everybody nowadays, every new piece of information comes through a political spectrum. If you are on one end of the spectrum, you yell at everything as fake news, and if you're on the other end of the spectrum, you yell it's the end of the world and we need an impeachment immediately.
And I think, really, there's a great deal of folks that are just sitting around now kind of worn out, just kind of every engine has been redlined, and eventually they say we just want the truth. OK, just tell us what happened and then legally we could come to our own decision.
So, I hope that Jim Comey, and I think he will. I think he's an honorable man. Whether testimony to the Senate, his testimony to Robert Mueller and the independent investigation, just tell us what happened and then we could make a determination from there what to make of that.
CUOMO: Two quick questions. One, do you believe there are legitimate questions to be asked about any potential interference, any potential collusion and the extent of Russian interference in the election? Do you believe that those are real and legitimate questions?
KINZINGER: Yes, absolutely. They are legitimate questions. There are answers we need.
I think the thing we need to keep in mind in all of us is our tendency in a hyper-partisan era is to look at everything through the lens of what it means for Republicans or Democrats or, you know, Trump or Nancy Pelosi.
[08:25:10] The truth is, one of the great things about our democracy that's made us last for so long is our faith in the institution and the ability to hold leaders, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, accountable.
KINZINGER: So, you know, look, I'm excited about a lot of the things President Trump is doing, but there are legitimate questions about the campaign and Russia and there are legitimate questions about his discussions with Jim Comey. We just need answers to that and that's it. It's real easy.
CUOMO: Well, one of the things the president was doing is calling this a witch hunt, saying that it is a hoax. That there are no legitimate questions and in fact just this morning, he said the only real story is the unmasking and the leaks. Do you agree with the president?
KINZINGER: Well, now, look, the unmasking and the leaks are a big deal. And I think to push those aside would be incorrect. Those are an issue but so is the broader investigation.
CUOMO: Why are they an issue, by the way? In this situation, why are they an issue?
KINZINGER: I think it is an issue because first off the unmasking itself, you know, the question of how do you reveal the names of United States citizens, that's very special. That's a big deal when we're dealing with NSA and how we gather intelligence that's important.
CUOMO: Is there any indication that it was done wrongly in the situation? Not in general, I get that it's a conversation --
KINZINGER: Yes. Look it's potentially. That's what we're trying to find out, too. Here's the point. Everything here is a question. Everything we need to have answers too.
And I think the idea that one hand, you know, if you are on the left, you say, we need answers to this, not that, if you're on the right, you say, we need answers to this, not that, the average American sitting around worn out saying, we just need answers to what's going on, and that's part of keeping our government accountable.
KINZINGER: There is certain areas not investigated --
CUOMO: But when you distract them --
KINZINGER: -- people lose faith in the institution.
KINZINGER: But certain things are more of a distraction than others. There has been no significant development that I'm aware of -- maybe you know something that I don't -- of where this unmasking is seen as being done inappropriately or wrongly.
We've had intel official after intel official tell us this is what you do when you are studying the Russians and it seems that an American was having an inappropriate conversation. You find out who that American was. And that's what was done here.
And I'm not saying there aren't legitimate issues there. But when the questions are used to distract from the Russia probe and what collusion there may have been and what the interference is about, then that's not an equal assessment. That's why I'm asking.
KINZINGER: Yes, I don't disagree with you. I don't disagree with you. But there is a question of how did Michael Flynn's name come up and things like that, which again we need the answers to for that.
But as far as distraction, I agree. These are all issues we need answers to. Is this a witch hunt? The answer to that question for me is no.
This is an attempt at government, Republican and Democrat, to get legitimate concerns that the American people have because I want to finish up on that with this -- because I don't care necessarily. I mean, I do as a partisan about what 2018 and 20 looks like. But my broader concern as an American and somebody that's worn the uniform and continues to is the loss of faith in the institutions of this country on both sides of the political aisle.
Rebuilding the faith of the institutions is essential to the stability of this democracy.
CUOMO: And that's why I have to ask you about Devin Nunes because if you want people to have faith in the ability of its elected officials to conduct an investigation in anything that even resembles a nonpartisan environment, how do you explain Devin Nunes who said he stepped away? Now his staff is playing with what words were used and issuing subpoenas, again reportedly without consulting the ranking party member from the other side, the ranking Democrat, which is exactly what they came after him for with ethics charges the first time when he stepped away.
How do you explain to the American people how that's OK?
KINZINGER: Well, I can't. I don't know the details. This all broke last night.
I know Devin Nunes and I happen to know him to be an honorable American, but this question I don't know the answer to. And so, I hope he reveals and comes out and discusses it. I thought he stepped away from the probe.
Congressman Rooney and Congressman Conway are leading the House Intel Committee. Both very capable people. And so, the question in terms of this, I don't know.
I have read reports that say it's legal for him to do it by just simply I guess advising the minority. I don't know the answer to that. Again, I know him to be an honorable man, but this is a question that I think he probably has to address.
CUOMO: Adam Kinzinger, thank you very much. Appreciate having you on the show as always.
KINZINGER: You bet. Any time.
CUOMO: Stay well, Congressman.
CAMEROTA: Chris, coming up: we get the other side, the Democratic side. We have a senator here to tell us what he thinks about all of these issues.