Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Representative Jerry Nadler; Middle East Nations Cut Ties with Qatar Over Terrorism Fears; Warriors Beat Cavaliers in Game Two. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 5, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: The president for all practical purposes has waived his executive privilege by talking about the subject matter under discussion incessantly, number one. And number two, any attempt to wait to inhibit Mr. Comey from testifying would be seen by the public, and I think rightfully so, as an attempt to obstruct justice, as an attempt to protect the president rather than to really invoke executive privilege.

Those are the two reasons we wrote in the letter, but there's a third. Normally executive privilege is invoked when someone is trying to prevent compelled testimony. Comey could invoke it by saying this was secret advice to the president and I shouldn't be compelled to testify. But when the witness wants to testify, there's a very heavy First Amendment protection. You can't invoke prior restraint unless you have the most dire circumstances, and this is almost inconceivable that the president could get away with a successful invocation of executive privilege.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Look, even though Kellyanne Conway didn't rule it out today, the "New York Times" is reporting the White House has decided not to use it. I'd be surprised, frankly, if they did. I guess until the president says no, we won't know for sure.

James Comey -- Gloria Borger was reporting that someone familiar with James Comey's thinking is saying that if he thought there was obstruction of justice during the investigation when he was still at the FBI, he would have said something. He thought he could handle the situation. In other words, he didn't see something that constituted obstruction of justice at the time. If that's what he testifies this Thursday, does that put that to bed? Does that put that issue to bed?

NADLER: I wouldn't think it would put it to bed because the question would be not whether he saw an attempt to -- well, obstruction of justice, if there was one, would consist presumably not only -- would consist of the totality of the president's asking the director of the FBI for loyalty, was asking the director of the FBI to stop an investigation, and his then firing the FBI director, which he hadn't done, obviously, before he fired him, for not being willing to stop the investigation, that totality might be an obstruction of justice.

BERMAN: And to be fair, you know, the source familiar with James Comey's thinking says he saw no individual instance of obstruction. James Comey, the person familiar with the thinking, wasn't sure about whether the totality or the pattern would constitute something separate.

You obviously were very critical of James Comey during the election. You said that President Obama should have fired --

NADLER: I did, indeed.

BERMAN: -- James Comey because of how he behaved during the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. Americans who will be sitting, you know, watching his testimony on Thursday, should they take that into account, his job performance that you believed was so poor that should get him fired? Should they take that into account when determining whether or not he's a credible witness on Thursday?

NADLER: I don't think so because no one accused him in any way of being dishonest at any point. I thought he had extremely bad judgment in the summer of -- of last year.

BERMAN: Right.

NADLER: And the fall of last year for reasons I stated at the time. I thought he should have been fired in the summer of last year for commenting on Hillary Clinton's conduct once he said he wasn't going to charge her. You don't -- you're not supposed to say, well, this person's done nothing criminal, but I think what he or she did was terrible anyway. That's not your business as a policeman or a prosecutor to say that.

You can have your opinion, but it's not proper to say any opinion of concededly legal conduct, but he wasn't dishonest. He said what he thought. He did what he thought. I thought his judgment was wrong. In the -- this year, if he was fired for the sin of being independent and of conducting an honest investigation, that would be obstruction of justice, and that's a separate question.

BERMAN: Senator Mark Warner, who's the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says he sees a lot of smoke, but just yesterday with Jake Tapper, he says he sees no -- he has seen no smoking gun. If there is a smoking gun, do you think he would have seen it at this point?

NADLER: We don't know. That's why there has to be an investigation.

BERMAN: What do you want to hear most from James Comey on Thursday?

NADLER: I want to hear what was said between him and the president and what he was thinking the president meant and what, if any, reason he was given for being fired. I mean, we know that the president initially used a pre-textual reason. They sent out the vice president and others to say that he was fired for the reasons stated in Rosenstein memo.

BERMAN: Right.

NADLER: Then he said it wasn't true. And the president said -- basically said it wasn't true. So what was going on?

BERMAN: Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York, great to have you with us. Thank you so much for your time.

NADLER: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. And of course, the testimony with James Comey in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, CNN's special coverage begins at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday. Don't miss it.

All right, a crisis in the Middle East, a nation that has been an ally to the United States, cut off by other allies from the United States. What impact could this have on U.S. troops? We'll discuss, coming up.


[10:39:21] BERMAN: All right, we have live pictures from Orlando, Florida. We're expecting a press conference very shortly from the sheriff of Orange County there.

There's been a shooting at a workplace. We are told there were multiple fatalities. That is all the information we have right now. We don't know the name of this office. We don't know how many people were killed.

We are told the situation at this time is currently stable. And again we're minutes away from getting much more information from the sheriffs there. We'll bring you that news conference when it happens.

In the meantime, a huge story coming out of the Middle East, a diplomatic crisis there, the likes of which we have not seen for some time. Six countries have cut off ties with the key U.S. ally of Qatar. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, the UAE, the Maldives and Yemen, all accuses Qatar of supporting terrorism.

[10:40:07] Now this morning Qatar is pushing back, calling the accusation unjustified and a fabrication. This move comes after the president was in Saudi Arabia speaking to leaders from all the Gulf nations, calling on all of them to crack down on terrorism, to work together to crack down on terrorism. That seems less likely this morning after this series of events.

Joining me now, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

These countries are of huge significance, Barbara, to the United States.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: They are, John, and a huge significance to the United States military especially operating in the Middle East. This is posing a dilemma for the military to try and figure out very quickly what this all means for U.S. military operations, especially in the fight against ISIS because the U.S. bases a good deal of its capability in Qatar.

They operate at that large air base known as Al Udeid. They run an operations center out of there that coordinates all the combat air operations across in the region in the fight against ISIS. None of this is being seen as anti-U.S., but still, you know, no one knows what the next steps may be here diplomatically that could make it more difficult for the U.S. to operate in Qatar.

The secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, talking about the need for everybody to take a deep breath and sit down and talk about it a little earlier today. Here's what he had to say.


REX TILLERSON, 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 the countries decided they needed to take action in an effort to have those differences addressed.

We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences.


STARR: But these differences, what are they? This is really the key to the whole thing. Many of these countries in the Gulf simply feel that Qatar, as much as it is a U.S. ally, is not doing enough in the fight against terrorism and is a little bit closer to Iran than these other Gulf countries want anybody in the region to be.

There's a lot of anti-Iranian feeling across the Gulf allies. They are pressing Qatar very hard to distance itself from Iran, and that brings us back full circle, because of course President Trump, the secretary of state, and secretary of defense Jim Mattis have been very much in the region trying to press to get Iran to back off its terrorist agenda, to back off its support for terrorism, so it's going to be a bit difficult to criticize these nations when they are saying they're trying to make the effort to pressure Iran as well -- John.

BERMAN: And again, with the U.S. military assets in Qatar, you know, fascinating to see what will happen to the flight, the takeoff and the war on terror in Syria and Iraq from Qatar. Do we have any sense that U.S. operations will be at all affected there, Barbara?

STARR: Well, you know, it's very early on. And we spoke to military officials early this morning and they acknowledged, they're still trying to figure all of this out. It's not anti-U.S., so they don't feel like they're going to get booted out of anywhere, but this is a network of U.S. operations across the region that really are intertwined. So if you can't really readily operate out of one place, let's say one of these countries says, no, you cannot land a military flight in our country because it's coming from Qatar, then you have to begin to rearrange things.

Could the U.S. rebase everything somewhere else? Yes, of course it could, but this is going to be a complication unless this all gets sorted out and everybody understands exactly what it all means for the U.S. military and by all accounts right now they are not there yet -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Thanks so much. Want to bring CNN law enforcement analyst and retired FBI supervisory

special agent James Gagliano, and former CIA analyst Nada Bakos.

You know, Nada, again, if people woke up this morning and saw that Gulf nations in the Middle East have broken ties with Qatar, I'm not sure necessarily it would have alarmed them right away but it should. I mean, this is an area of really intense and meaningful U.S. interests right now. How do you see it?

NADA BAKOS, FORMER CIA ANALYST: I agree with what Barbara was talking about with the U.S. base. I mean, this is a major base of operations for the United States. Yet to determine what that means as far as that asset, but at this point, I think Secretary Tillerson is on the right path, that he needs to encourage these countries to sit down and start talking this out. This is something that has been brewing, but this is something that needs a whole-of-region approach from the Trump administration.

I think it could be perceived by Qatar that, you know, with Trump's recent visit to Saudi Arabia, that there was a signaling that this was OK for them to do. I think at this point, the Trump administration really does need to get involved in trying to broker some of these conversations so that we can secure our own assets, including the military base in Qatar.

[10:45:09] BERMAN: James Gagliano, you know, you worked in the FBI obviously on the line here in the fight against terrorism. How key is it to have a unified front amongst these nations there?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Absolutely. I think from the diplomatic perspective, when you're in the business of building coalitions, and right now the coalition we're trying to build is the fight against ISIS, you need all those nations to line up. And any fracture or fissure in that is definitely, John, going to cause problems.

BERMAN: And this is a huge fissure. This is no minor fissure. This is cutting off relations. You know, it's really a big deal and very unknown territory where we're getting into here.

James, if I can shift gears here to FBI director James Comey testifying on Thursday. Obviously, you worked in the FBI. You know, as a former FBI agent, what do you think it is that James Comey wants to clear up in this public testimony?

GAGLIANO: John, I think, first of all, this is going to be a week of high theater. We're three days out from his testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The last time we saw James Comey in front of Congress was the day before he was fired, May 8th. And in that testimony, I've gone back and listened to that and read the transcripts, he's kind of boxed himself in.

He answered questions specifically about whether he felt that there were any pressure on -- put on by the Trump administration to stand down the Russian investigation, or any depletion of resources and he answered unequivocally no. The FBI director's got to deal with that. There are also some records that were kept, they've been referred to as memos. They're actually electronic communications. Those could be subpoenaed.

It's going to be interesting to see how far this goes in a public forum because I believe much of this is going to happen behind closed doors in executive session.

BERMAN: Although you do get the sense he wants to get some things off his chest, he wants to go public with information in a way maybe not to defend his firing, but to defend himself against claims by the president himself about the nature of the conversations, where the president has tweeted that James Comey told him that the investigation -- he was not being investigated.

GAGLIANO: John, no doubt about it, this has become personal. Now I know from hearing James Comey over the almost four years that he was the FBI director constantly speak to this -- he has put the institution of the FBI up front and said he is looking to protect that. That means he will testify honestly and openly, and he's a private citizen, so it's going to be interesting to see how this invocation of executive privilege is going to work because he doesn't work for the government anymore.

BERMAN: Well, we don't know that the White House will try to go down the executive privilege route. "The New York Times" is reporting they're leaning against it. It would be surprising at this point if they try to do it.

Nada, aside from James Comey, there is a lot of smoke or there's a lot of interest, I should say, concerning the meeting that Jared Kushner had with a Russian banker. Now I think people will say, hey, he was meeting with a banker, what's the big deal here? But we're talking about a Russian bank that's not just a bank. Explain.

BAKOS: Part of it is, is that he didn't have all the necessary disclosures when he went to apply for his security clearance, so it's not just that he was just meeting with a banker. And again, as you said, this isn't just a typical bank. I mean, this bank is also involved in a lot of Russian government operations, so they're working with, you know, quasi arm, or, you know, working with some funding mechanisms.

But you know, at this point, when you're seeing national security disclosure forms when you're applying for a security clearance, you have to put down all of the foreign contacts that you've had, and that would be a significant one that I would think would be forefront in his mind. Russia is not one of our top five allies. This would be something that you would, you know, foresee as being a problem if you didn't disclose this. So I think that in and of itself is problematic.

BERMAN: You know, if you ever filled out a form and left that off, Nada, would you get in trouble?

BAKOS: Absolutely. I cannot imagine maintaining my clearance at that point. BERMAN: James Gagliano, if you misreported on a form, would you get

in trouble?

GAGLIANO: I think if it can be proven. Again, the issue here is going to be intent, and that's going to be difficult to discern. But I would say, yes, as a government employee, that would be something that would be fraught with peril.

BERMAN: All right, James Gagliano, Nada -- Nada Bakos, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

Again, that testimony from James Comey scheduled for Thursday beginning at 10:00 a.m. CNN's special coverage begins at 9:00 a.m.

All right, the NBA Finals heading back to Cleveland and Cleveland finds itself in a 2-0 hole. LeBron James not happy about it. We'll hear from him in the "Bleacher Report," next.


[10:53:33] BERMAN: The Golden State Warriors halfway to the NBA championship after crushing the Cavaliers in game two.

Coy Wire has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning, Coy.


Golden State looking unstoppable, a perfect 14-0 in the playoffs, putting the defending champion Cavaliers on the ropes. A familiar face back on the bench, Dubs coach Steve Kerr returning for the first time in six weeks due to back pain issues. LeBron James showing respect.

This play sums up the series so far. LeBron, who has about a half a foot and 60 pounds on Steph Curry, doing anything he can to slow down the Warriors, but it's just not happening. Golden State wallops the Cavs 132-113. LeBron couldn't hide his frustration after the game when he was asked if the Cavs are going to need to defend home court coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: LeBron, do you see a case where you'll have to defend home court?

LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Well, I mean, are you a smart guy?


JAMES: Think so, right? So we don't defend home court, what happens?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes, I know. That's what I'm saying.

JAMES: I'm asking you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Well, yes. Then you guys are looking at getting swept.

JAMES: All right. So that answered your question.


WIRE: That's still trending on this morning. Game three is Wednesday night in Cleveland.

A little bit of feel-good from the sports world for you this morning. Phil Mickelson choosing family over his career, withdrawing from the upcoming U.S. Open so he can go to his daughter Amanda's high school graduation. He's foregoing the chance to pursue a career grand slam.

[10:55:04] The U.S. Open is the only major he has not yet won. He says, John, that when he looks back on life, he knows this will be a moment he'll cherish always. That's some good stuff for you this morning.

BERMAN: That is a good decision by Phil Mickelson, better than playing in a golf tournament.

All right, Coy Wire, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

We're waiting on two big live events. Moments from now the Orange County sheriffs in Florida is going to brief reporters. There's been a deadly workplace shooting there. We are told multiple fatalities. We're expecting new details moments away.

And a little bit later, we're going to see President Trump for the first time today. This is the first time we will hear from him using words out loud, rather than the tweets we've seen attacking the mayor of London. Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. We are following breaking news from London and Washington right now. New raids this morning following the terror attacks in the heart of London that left seven dead and 48 injured.