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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
FBI Director to Testify About Trump Meetings; President Trump Attacks Mayor of London; Trump's Tweetstorms. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired June 5, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But because much of this could be important to the special counsel investigation, it's hard to predict just how far he will go.
One thing we do know, though, it doesn't appear the president is going to stand in his way.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: President Trump will not assert executive privilege regarding James Comey's scheduled testimony.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): And the senators are ready to grill James Comey on Thursday.
QUESTION: What's the big question that you have for the FBI director?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: The question that's being asked by West Virginians is, if you knew or if you thought there was obstruction of justice, why didn't you act on it?
GALLAGHER: Looking for clarification on a memo written by Comey in which sources say the former FBI director recounts that Trump allegedly urged him to go easy on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, while a source with knowledge of Comey's thinking tells CNN Comey was -- quote -- "disturbed by his interactions with the president," but he felt that he had the situation under control. Everyone is waiting to see if Comey reached the same conclusion himself.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The tone, the exact words that were spoken and the context are so important. And that is what we lack right now. And we can only get that by talking to those directly involved.
GALLAGHER: In the meantime, the White House isn't commenting on the Russia investigation itself, now referring questions to outside counsel, but the Trump team certainly has no problem talking about Comey.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: People should also look at the Rod Rosenstein memo again to see what the problem was in the department with FBI Director Jim Comey. Rosenstein clearly points out that the integrity and the morale were down. And he clearly points out said that Comey had tried to usurp the power of the attorney general.
GALLAGHER: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will likely be asked about the man he recommended be fired on Wednesday, when he appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss wiretapping authority.
Now, Rosenstein told the Associated Press Friday that if he became the subject of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, Rosenstein would recuse himself from oversight of Mueller. Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the election is expansive and could look at the firing of Comey.
Senator Mark Warner telling Jake Tapper on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" that, while Comey may seem like the headliner, there's a full docket of key players to be questioned this week about their interactions with the president.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: One of the questions we will have, not only for Director Comey on Thursday, but on Wednesday for Director of National Intelligence Coats and NSA, National Security -- NSA Director Admiral Rogers, I'm going to want to ask them, because there have been reports that the president also talked to both of them in terms of asking them to downplay the Russian investigation.
GALLAGHER: And that's not all. Tomorrow is the deadline for former NSA Michael Flynn to start turning over the documents and records in response to a set of subpoenas from the committee, so quite the to-do list for Congress this weekend in regards to the Russia probe -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much.
Lots to talk about with our panel today.
Let me start with you, Alice Stewart.
This morning, Kellyanne Conway pointing to Comey having to -- quote -- "scurry" to correct his testimony last time having to do with Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner, part of the strategy, it seems, to try to discredit, to undermine Comey's credibility.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's a mistake, because while Republicans and Democrats alike can disagree on how Comey has handled the situation, no one is really questioning his honesty or his character and integrity.
And that's what's going to see him through this. I think it was very wise on the part of the White House to say that they are not going to try and exercise executive privilege with this case, because that makes it appear as though they have something to hide. So, I think it's good. Let Comey testify and get the facts out there, get the full information, and let's get this Russia probe behind the administration and get them back on offense driving their message.
TAPPER: How aggressive do you think we're going to hear criticisms of Comey from the White House and its allies?
MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I do think you can see it's starting already and it seems that the calculation that they have made is, it would be a bad move strategically to try to stop this, but we can try to undercut it and talking about things that he's done in the past, revisiting some of these issues, the Democratic opposition to him and such and forth.
So, even before we see him testify, I think there will be a questioning of kind of his past and his background.
TAPPER: And we will hear that a lot, Karen. We're going to hear a lot about how Democrats lambasted Comey all throughout the summer and fall of 2016.
KAREN TUMULTY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes. I suspect the Democrats are going to be pretty quiet here, and they are going to let Jim Comey just spin it out as he intends to.
And don't forget that he is a very, very practiced, very experienced at testifying in front of Congress.
We have seen him up on the Hill over and over again. He always gets his message through, and he's a very effective witness.
TAPPER: One of the things, I suspect a lot of the Russia testimony will not be shared in open hearing. I think it will be probably for the closed hearing, but the obstruction of justice questions, I think will probably we will hear a lot about that, the meetings that Comey had with President Trump, whether or not in retrospect he feels that maybe it was obstruction of justice, even if at the time he did not.
STEWART: Well, it's kind of hard to question whether or not those conversations were had, given that we know that Donald Trump has mentioned them and even referred to them in writing, talking about I appreciate you telling me three times I'm not under investigation.
So, unfortunately, again, this is another situation where it's a self- inflicted wound on the part of the president. But we will see. We will see what Comey has to say, but more than anything I think the more information on this probe we can get out there, the better.
TAPPER: Go ahead.
TUMULTY: Well, I think though that what they are going to come after him with is they're going to say, well, if you felt this way at the time, they why didn't you say something at the time? Why didn't you resign at the time? But judging from what we have heard from Comey's allies, his version is going to be, I thought I had brushed it back, and certainly all of that changed when he got fired.
TAPPER: Yes. It seems from a conversation I had with a Comey friend, it seems that they think that the act of firing him is part of the obstruction in itself, not just the conversations.
But I want to change the subject a bit, speaking of self-inflicted wounds, which Alice just brought up. Let's talk about the president's teams which none other than George Conway, Kellyanne Conway's husband and a respected conservative lawyer in town, pointed out in a tweet it undermines the president's own legal argument before the U.S. Supreme Court by calling it a ban, by saying that the watered-down version is politically correct, et cetera.
TALEV: George Conway's tweet, I'm assuming you felt this way, too, was incredibly surprising to a lot of us who follow this sort of thing.
And he's since come back and expressed his ongoing support for the president, but you see it in everything from the president's treatment of the mayor of London to all of the Comey-related issues and now to the travel ban as well.
I got an unsolicited e-mail from a group that does like online betting or whatever today talking about what the odds are already for whether the president tweets on Thursday and whether he uses a word like fake or Comey or whatever. So, this has become an entire like separate cottage industry.
Is President Trump going to step on his own message via Twitter? This is something we will all be watching, whether it deals with the travel ban on the path to the Supreme Court or what we hear and see from the president on Thursday outside of official events.
TAPPER: It's not surprising that George Conway would reaffirm his support for the president. But that's the whole point of why it's important. George Conway supports the president. He wants him to succeed. And it's almost like an act of intervention for him to send out a tweet like that.
TUMULTY: Right, and George Conway was up for a very big job in the Justice Department at one point.
He's a skilled lawyer, and, by the way, he's not exactly a frequent tweeter either.
TUMULTY: So the fact that he would go to the very medium that the president uses to voice it...
TALEV: Beg him to stop.
TUMULTY: And, again, "The Washington Post" had a story today saying that this -- you know, these tweets could really undercut the president's legal arguments, and George Conway retweeted that had with "Good analysis."
STEWART: George's comment is one that you would expect to hear in a meeting, an attorney-client privileged confidential meeting, but people realize the best way to communicate with Donald Trump is on Twitter, unfortunately.
TAPPER: And this is one of the issues that I tried to get into at the top of the show, which is there are a lot of people who love admire and want President Trump to succeed, and they are so frustrated by his inability to control his impulses to send out tweets about every negative emotion he has at that very moment.
TALEV: The problem is, to some extent, is that the tweets are not consistent. In one of them, he will have a tweet explaining what really happened with Jim Comey, and then, you know, weeks later, it will be a tweet that completely undercuts the previous tweet or what he sent the administration out to say.
Travel ban is an obvious example of that. It's a ban. It's not a ban. It's a ban again. It's not just going public with things that maybe would be better left unsaid, but it's the inconsistency about those messages that's created some of the legal, you know, concerns about either building a case for something affirmatively or bolstering against an accusation that you have done something.
STEWART: And I think more than anything, what this does, it takes away from their ability to drive their message. When they do have legislative accomplishments -- today, they had great announcements with regard to electronic, with regard to the VA and also with air traffic controls.
STEWART: Those are great messages. Drive that.
TAPPER: Right. It's infrastructure week.
STEWART: Certainly, and reinforce that on Twitter. Unfortunately, again, he takes the communications shop off-message.
TAPPER: And the other thing, Karen, the great piece by Susan Glasser in "Politico" magazine this week about how President Trump surprised members of his own national security staff by going before NATO and not affirming his belief in Article 5 of NATO, which is an attack on one is an attack on all.
The European allies wanted to hear that from him, because he had said things to the contrary. And you have this report in Politico suggesting top people thought he was going to do it and were surprised that they didn't.
TUMULTY: It was in the speech, according to Susan Glasser, a really terrific reporter at Politico.
And he did not say that part of the speech. This not only -- this contradicts actually what they were saying in real time during the trip as well, and I think it really undercuts the credibility of the president's national security team, which really has been seen as kind of the single strongest part of the administration. It's a very important story.
TAPPER: People really respect General Mattis, H.R. McMaster. Rex Tillerson gets a lot of plaudits. And for them, not only to be disobeyed, but maybe even in some way out of the loop on this decision is a big deal.
TALEV: Yes. At the time, I was on this nine-day trip.
And at the time that his speech occurred, that NATO speech, we all noticed it. I remember, we were like an audible gasp that the speech is over and we're all in this filing center saying, he didn't say -- he didn't actually reaffirm Article 5, did he? Nobody heard it. Nobody could hear it.
Everybody calling the NSC for clarification, what happened? And the messaging at the time from the communications shop at the White House was, no, absolutely, that was an affirmation of Article 5. So, to see...
TAPPER: Right, his presence.
TALEV: Yes, his presence there.
TAPPER: No, that's what they were actually saying.
STEWART: They didn't deny it. They didn't...
TALEV: And the sort of brief messaging like after the 2001 attacks, you know, Article 5 was invoked.
TALEV: But there was the obvious not the rest of it you would expect which is, and, you know, you can always count on the U.S. to be there for you. That's the part that never happened, right?
And at the time, it was like don't make such a mountain out of a molehill. It's not a big deal. But maybe it was.
TAPPER: Yes. Yes. Tell our allies in Europe.
Alice Stewart, Margaret Talev, Karen Tumulty, thank you so much, one and all.
Be sure to tune in Thursday CNN for special coverage of James Comey's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up, amid alleged ties to terrorism, five Arab nations cut ties with the Qatar, home to one of the largest concentrations of American military personnel in the entire Middle East -- what this diplomatic rift might mean in the fight against ISIS.
And then terrorists can't recruit if people can't see the propaganda. The computer scientist who claims he's invented a system to wipe extremist content from social media, but do social media companies want to hear it?
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: Welcome back. Turning to our "NATIONAL LEAD". Orlando, Florida Police say that a disgruntled former employee at an R.V. accessories business returned there this morning with a gun. Five people were shot and killed before the gunman turned the weapon upon himself. The Orange County Sheriff identified the killer as John Robert Neuman Jr. Police say he targeted his victims and had a negative relationship with at least one of them before he was fired in April. The oldest victim of this rampage was 69 years old, the youngest was 44. They were Robert Snyder, Brenda Montanez-Crespo, Kevin Clark, Jeffrey Roberts and Kevin Lawson. Eight others were inside the buildings when the shooting happened. Investigator saying Neuman had no ties that they've been able to discern to any terrorist group.
More in our "WORLD LEAD" now, a diplomatic rift in the Middle East, so far a total of six countries have cut ties with Qatar. Five Arab nations, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Yemen, plus the Maldives suspended diplomatic relations with Qatar for supporting terrorism. They say Qatar is a key U.S. ally in the region and host one of the largest U.S. military bases in the mid-east with more than 10,000 U.S. troops. Let's bring in CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr. And Barbara, I guess the simple question, why does the U.S. have a base in the country that all these other Arab nations say is supporting terrorism?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, for years now Jake, the U.S. has been in Qatar because it offers them one key thing, access to one of the world's largest military air bases from which the U.S. can operate, but now commercial air traffic is cut off, television broadcasters cut off and, of course, the next question is where will it all go from here?
STARR: Just as the U.S.-led coalition is approaching Raqqa, ISIS' self-declared capital and is almost ready to declare victory over ISIS in Mosul, the worst diplomatic crisis in years has erupted across the Middle East with several of the U.S.' closest military allies. At least six nations, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Yemen and the Maldives have cut off relations with Qatar over claims it is supporting terrorism and is too close to Iran which makes the U.S. led coalition to fight ISIS a bit more tricky. REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I think what we're witnessing is a growing list of some irritants in the region that have been there for some time and obviously they have now bubbled up to a level that countries have decided they needed to take action.
STARR: So far there's no indication the thousands of U.S. troops stationed in Qatar or their military operations will be impacted. U.S. officials say Qatar is home to thousands of U.S. troops and is vital because the U.S. conducts air operations out of Al Udeid Air Base and runs an Op-Center coordinating all air combat missions over Iraq and Syria. Defense Secretary James Mattis says the war against ISIS won't be affected.
JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES DEFENSE SECRETARY: I'm confident there will be no implications coming out of this diplomatic situation at all.
STARR: Mattis also taking the opportunity to slam Iran's efforts in the region.
MATTIS: I believe Iran's actions speak louder than anyone's words.
STARR: But a move against Qatar is a problem for Trump administration which wants an anti-Iran coalition.
JON ALTERMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Our whole strategy towards deterring Iran and maintaining the security of the Gulf has been about getting the Arab militaries to work together and where we are now. The Arab militaries are farther than it had been in years in years.
[16:50:09] STARR: Leaving President Trump who met with Gulf Leaders just days ago with uncertainty about the next military moves on all sides.
ALTERMAN: If you're Jim Mattis with good relations throughout the Gulf looking at a preeminent security threat coming out of Iran, life just got an awful lot more complicated in the last couple of days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: Actually one of the biggest decisions is a big economic decision. Will these countries now participate in the scheduled 2022 World Cup that is to be held in Qatar? The Ministry of Foreign Affairs there issued a statement today saying all of this international action against its government was unwarranted. Jake?
TAPPER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much.
He developed an algorithm to combat online child pornography and now he's using the same technology to identify and remove Extremist Islamist content posted by terrorists. Could this be a key to stopping ISIS from recruiting more young people? Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. Turning to our "TECH LEAD" today, prominent social media companies are being accused of allowing terrorists to spread their extremist messages and planned terrorist attack online. Over the weekend, British Prime Minister Theresa May called for tightening internet regulation. G7 nations are also pressuring tech companies to purge extremist content. A leading computer scientist who created an algorithm to detect and block child pornography which was utilized and works now claims he's created a similar algorithm to detect and block extremist terrorist contents such as tweets or video messages from ISIS. So why are Twitter and Facebook and Google and others not using it? Joining me now to discuss this is a Doctor Hany Farid, he's a professor at Dartmouth College and a Senior Adviser to the Counter- Extremism Project. Doctor, thanks so much for joining us. So you say your mechanism (INAUDIBLE) can detect and block extremist content in the same general way we combat malware and child pornography. Explain how it works.
HANY FARID, DARTMOUTH COLLEGE PROFESSOR: Right. So the way we dealt with the child pornography problem back in 2008, 2009 is we realize that we have this huge stash of known child pornography images and we know that that content continually gets redistributed. So what we do is we reach into those images and we extract out a distinct digital signature very much like human DNA and that signature is stable over the lifetime of the medium, and so what that means is that we can sit at the pipe of a Facebook or Twitter or Youtube or Google and every image, every video, every audio recording that comes in, we grab its signature, we compare it to a database of known bad content and we filter it out. And we do that, by the way, with malware, we do it with viruses, we do it with spam. We have mechanisms to filter out things that we know are harmful to the internet and we simply have to deploy the technology at this point.
TAPPER: So you have offered this mechanism for free to top tech companies, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Microsoft, but we're told they have yet to use it. Now we reach now to the companies today, they told us they're using their own tools as well as working amongst themselves. Do you think what they are doing now is enough to stop the spread of this potentially terrorist content?
FARID: Yes. That's a good question. We just saw a report from the E.U. last week that showed that more than 50 percent of the reports were takedown notices to these companies are not being satisfied. So if they have technology to solve this problem, why is the content so easily available? So I'm not buying the story. If the technology is there, fantastic. If it's our technology, somebody else's technology, we don't care. This is not a money-making adventure. We want to develop technology that allows the Internet to be open and free and accessible while mitigating the harm and I don't think that they are doing enough to mitigate the harm and we're seeing that in a very real way.
TAPPER: Your technology was used and works to combat kiddie porn, to combat that horrible epidemic of child pornography. Why would they not take your algorithm for free as you're offering and use it to try to stop this problem? FARID: I think that's the right question to ask, and I don't have a good answer for that. I mean, we have been asking these companies for years, for decades to do more, to mitigate the harm of what is happening on their network. I can tell you in the child pornography space it took years and years and years of pressure. It took years and years and years of pressure from the legislators, from advertisers and from the media and for the public for them to act. Left to their own devices they don't want to filter out this content, it is not in their interests. So I think it's incredibly important that we keep having these conversations because I think it's frankly not in their financial interest to do it. Their entire business model leverages user content, taking down content is bad for them and I think it's really as simple as that, and without external pressure, we saw the same - we see the same things playing out in the extremism space and the child pornography space. They simply won't ask until they are forced to.
TAPPER: And so, you think the pressure needs to come from the public and from public officials perhaps?
FARID: Right, and you saw this. You saw this a few weeks ago when advertisers fled Google en masse because Google was not doing enough to control the way people's advertising were being pushed online and what did Google do in response? They said we are going to develop technology to do this.
FARID: So, they knew the problem was there before but they chose not to do anything about it.
TAPPER: Doctor Hany Farid, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. That's it for THE LEAD I'm Jake Tapper, I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".
WOLF BLITZER, THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, breaking news, lashing out.