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Republicans Worry About Turmoil; Women in Politics Profiles; Comey Set to Testify Thursday; Cosby Sexual Offense Trial Day Two. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 6, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:28] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, today Republicans are on edge, there's the White House on defense and the president's Twitter page on overdrive. Health care reform, pretty much stalled. So is tax reform. And reports that Republicans are worried that turmoil at the White House - in fact Republicans in the White House are worried that turmoil at the White House could put the agenda in jeopardy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Not making this any easier, President Trump still needs to hire more than 1,000 people to run the government after nearly five months in office.

Joining us now, chief business correspondent Christine Romans is back and our chief political correspondent Dana Bash is here, both bad-ass women of Washington.


HARLOW: You'll get that in a moment when we get to that part.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's a deep tease.

HARLOW: It's a deep tease.

Christine, the president tweets, "they're obstructionists."


HARLOW: But the latest reporting is there are only five current nominees that are waiting - awaiting a vote in Washington.

ROMANS: There's a lot of work to do. You know, this is a guy who's famous for saying "you're fired," but really he needs to be saying "you're hired," and a lot more. I mean to run the government there are almost 1,200 executive level posts that need to be approved by the Senate. So far, you guys, just 40 have been confirmed. That's a hiring gap of more than 1,100 jobs. Eleven hundred jobs to run the government.

The president blames Democrats. You're right, Poppy, he tweeted this, that approving his people is taking forever. He's right that the confirmation is taking slightly longer than past presidents. I can show you approval has taken on average now 43 days. You compare that with Obama's picks, the previous record, at 32.

But the bigger problem is simply a lack of nominees. Far newer at this time of his young presidency than his predecessors for a bunch of reasons. A brutal vetting process by the White House. The never Trump filter. If you've criticized President Trump in the past, you're not going to get invited on here. And disagreements between top administration officials over appointees. They're stalemates in some cases.

Some examples. Let me show you, the Department of Energy, Trump has nominated just three people. Remember, this is the place that has the nuclear codes. By this time in the Obama and Bush administrations, ten had been nominated and the majority confirmed. The State Department, just 14 nominations there. Compare that to about 40 for previous presidents. And the president has promised to start tax reform, yet the Department of Treasury only has one confirmed nomination, and they have a herculean effort there. A once in a generation chance to do tax reform, but the desks are empty.

BERMAN: Yes, the business of government, in some cases, not happening or happening very, very slowly.

And there was sort of a remarkable statement from Mark Shore (ph), who runs legislative affairs for the White House, spoke to reporters yesterday. Sara Murray was there and reports that Mark Shore said, "there's no doubt that keeping members focused on investigations detracts from our legislative agenda and detracts from what we're trying to deliver to the American people." That's a White House official saying that the turmoil is getting in the way of what he's trying to do.

BASH: And he is speaking candidly. He is - he is right. You and I were talking about how surprising it was for him to say that publically. It's not the first time we have seen, even in the past, you know, 48 hours people saying things publically and I was told explicitly to remember how this president consumes information on Twitter, on television and that -

HARLOW: Right.

BASH: And that, you know, we know this from the campaign, to get messages to the president, many people find it easier to do it through media than by walking into the Oval Office or doing it through appropriate channels.

But I will also tell you that, I mean, Republican after Republican who were so excited for this president to be inaugurated because they could finally do these things, tax reform, Obamacare repeal and so forth, they are ripping their hair out because not just the investigations but that he sends the whole agenda off kilter with a single tweet in the morning.

[09:35:02] HARLOW: I mean you've got - you say they're using the media. You've got Senator John Cornyn, the number two ranking Senate Republican, saying this is - you know, his Twitter habit is getting the best of him essentially.

BASH: Yes.

HARLOW: You have Tom Cotton on "The Axe Files," CNN podcast,, saying he's concerned about the president's Twitter habit. Does it matter, Dana, if more and more Republicans start criticizing the president on this? Does it matter for him in actuality or is it just embarrassing for him?

BASH: I don't - I don't think he feels embarrassed because if he did he wouldn't tweet, right? And, again, to what I was saying before, these are people now coming - coming out in public. These messages were - were and have been given very clearly eye to eye to the president from leaders at the highest levels in Congress -

BERMAN: Right.

BASH: Republican leaders.

BERMAN: Mostly he says, I won this way, I'm going to keep on doing it.

You have a very exciting series coming up here. The title of it is the "Bad-ass Women of Washington," which I have to say caught my attention. Here's a clip.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I became mayor as a product of assassination of the mayor being killed and the first openly gay public official being killed by a friend and colleague of mine.

BASH (voice-over): That friend was Dan White, who shot and killed Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in America.

BASH (on camera): I've seen reports that you said that you always think, maybe I could have stopped it.

FEINSTEIN: I was a friend of Dan's, and I tried, to some extent, to mentor him and, oh, I never really talk about this. Dan had resigned and then wanted the seat back. And so he had an appointment with the mayor. And he walked into the office and he shot him a number of times. The door to the office opened and he came in. I heard the door slam. I heard the shots. I smelled the cordite. He whisked by. I walked down the line of supervisor's offices and found Harvey Milk. Put my finger in a bullet hole trying to get a pulse. It was the first person I'd ever seen shot to death.


BERMAN: I've got to say, I've never actually heard her talk by that, reveal that much about that moment.

BASH: She really does, yes.

BERMAN: What more can we expect from this series? BASH: Well, you just played some of Dianne Feinstein's and she - she

has a lot of candid moments. Also opening today is Elaine Chao. She is the president's transportation secretary, one of the few actually who has been nominated and confirmed and is very much at work. She was an immigrant girl, age eight, came here on a cargo ship from Taiwan. She's - she's - her family is Chinese. And she talks about that and about her vulnerability and being teased as a kid and trying to assimilate into American culture. And then talks about the fact that she never had children and her regrets and her message to women about the need to think about that. T hose are just two. Seven all together. Both sides of the aisle. And then one for the military. Highest- ranking woman ever to graduate from West Point, Three Star General Nadja West.

HARLOW: Wow. Wow.

BERMAN: I've got to say, I can't wait for this. All right, Dana Bash, Christine Romans, thanks so much.

ROMANS: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys.

BERMAN: The almost self-titled "Bad-ass Women of Washington" series -

HARLOW: Congrats, Dana.

BERMAN: Featuring seven women across the political spectrum, that debuts now. Please visit to take a look at this.

HARLOW: If that doesn't get you there -

BERMAN: I got to - I got to say that so many times. It's like a gift.

HARLOW: If that doesn't get you there, I don't know what will.

All right, coming up for us, James Comey will testify, but exactly what will he say about those conversations with the president? Up next, we are joined by one senator who has called his firing of Comey Nixonian. What he hopes Comey will say on - when he testifies.


[09:42:58] HARLOW: Forty-eight hours from now, fired FBI Director James Comey will be in the hot seat. The White House has confirmed the president will not try to block his testimony by exerting executive privilege.

BERMAN: Yes, the fired FBI director probably now preparing exactly what he will and will not say. A source tells CNN that Comey is not expected to discuss the Russian probe in depth.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us. Executive privilege out of the picture. The director testifying on

Thursday now. The Senate Intelligence chair says that he will have wide latitude to discuss his conversations with the president. What are you hoping to hear?

SEN. BOB CASEY (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, just an accounting of these conversations, John. I think they're critically important because there is no question based upon the reporting by a number of news organizations about the interactions between then Director Comey and the president, that alone is interference in an investigation. Totally inappropriate. There shouldn't have been a single meeting. Once someone is investigating you or your administration, you can't meet with them. You can't meet with them for lunch. You can't meet with them for any reason in my judgment because if you meet with them, even if you don't discuss the investigation, and apparently this was an instance where they did discuss the investigation, we'll hear more about that from Director Comey, but even if you talked about the weather, just the meeting itself creates the appearance of impropriety, which, as you know, is as important sometimes as the impropriety itself. So I want to hear - in listening to the testimony, I'd like to hear about those interactions, what the president said, what the discussion was.

HARLOW: So you called when - the day that the president fired Comey, you put out a tweet that got retweeted thousands and thousands of times calling the president's firing of Comey Nixonian. A two-fold question here. First, if Comey was truly concerned about obstruction of justice, what do you believe he didn't voice any even hint of that concern when he testified in front of Congress on March 20th? And then add to that the interview that Jake Tapper did on this network just on Sunday with Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee, asked directly, do you have a smoking gun, and he said, we have, quote, "no smoking gun at this point."

[09:45:19] CASEY: Well, I think there are a couple of distinctions there. One is the - the question about what evidence do you have on the Russia probe and smoking guns and that applies to the Russia investigation. But I'm sure that Director Comey will be asked about a lot of these things, including the meeting itself or the interactions with the president.

But it's critically important I think for the American people to know that when an investigation is underway that you can't - you can't interfere. You can't - no one - no one out there, if you were arrested for suspicion of a crime or you were the subject of an investigation, no one you know would be allowed to have interactions like the president apparently has.

BERMAN: Well, but, senator - senator, but that is the open question here. Andrew McCabe, the acting director at the FBI, was asked outright -

HARLOW: Yes, has anyone -

BERMAN: When he was testifying, has anyone interfered with your investigation. He said, no. He said there was no interference. A source familiar with James Comey's thinking told our Gloria Borger that had he seen obstruction, which may be another way of saying interference, that he would have done something. You say there's no question that it existed. That very much seems to be the open question.

CASEY: No, he - here's the distinction. You could interfere in an investigation and it may not rise to the level of criminal conduct which would prove obstruction of justice. So we'll wait and see. I'm certainly not in a position to say there is obstruction of justice. But I am, and the American people are in a position to say there was interference based upon the reporting.

Now, if someone has evidence that Director Comey lied about the - that interaction, but any - any - any interaction between the president and the FBI director, once the investigation was announced in March, in my judgment is inappropriate. Now some other people may come to a different conclusion. I think it's totally inappropriate. There should be no meetings. There should be no interaction because the interaction itself might be inappropriate. But even if it's not, the appearance of impropriety here is all over this and I don't think we've seen something like this in recent American history. Most public officials would be told by everyone around them, don't even - don't even set up a meeting, let alone have the meeting. Don't even go there because it will convey - it will convey interference even if there isn't in fact interference.

HARLOW: Senator Casey, thank you for your time. We will all be watching. The world will be watching 48 hours from now. Thank you very much.

CASEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: Maybe a lot of that will be cleared up by what we hear from Director Comey tomorrow, a lot of what he's talking about.

HARLOW: It should be. Our special coverage of fired FBI Director James Comey's testimony to Congress begins Thursday morning, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

BERMAN: All right, Bill Cosby in court this morning. The former comedian faced one of the women accusing him of inappropriate conduct. His lawyers going right after her credibility.


[09:52:38] BERMAN: This morning, Bill Cosby sits in a Pennsylvania courtroom. A crucial day in his sexual offense trial. Very soon, former Temple University employee Andrea Constand is expected to take the stand.

HARLOW: Cosby accuser Kelly Johnson took the stand yesterday on day one. She's the only other accuser that is allowed to testify due to the statute of limitations. And Johnson described how she met Cosby, a lunch date that ended with Cosby offering her a pill to relax.

Jean Casarez is in Pennsylvania. She's been following this all along and has more.

Hi, Jean.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Poppy, it's day two of Bill Cosby's criminal trial. You never know who they're going to put on the stand as a witness, but yesterday the commonwealth as their first witness put on a prior bad act witness, a woman who they want to show the jury a pattern of conduct of bad acts by Bill Cosby. Her name is Kelly Johnson. We have known her as "Casey" (ph). We can now say her real name because she said it under oath in a public courtroom.

But she was the personal assistant to Bill Cosby's agent, Ed William Morris, and she says that in 1996, Bill Cosby took a very special interest in her, mentoring her, helping her with her career. He invited her for lunch at the Bellaire Hotel. She said she went. He asked her to go to a bungalow. She opened up the door, and there he was in his bath robe. She walked in. He opened up his hand. A big, white pill, saying, take this, you need to relax. She didn't want to. She wanted to leave. She said that Bill Cosby, at that point, was at the pinnacle of his career. He was the biggest client that William Morris had. She said she had to take it. She took the pill, doesn't remember much afterward, except waking up in his bed in the midst of being sexually assaulted.

It is substantially similar to what Andrea Constand, we believe she will testify to eight years later. On cross examination, the defense, very aggressive to discredit her, used facts. They had subpoenaed her HR records. She left William Morris right after that, never saying anything about Bill Cosby, but saying her own boss mistreated her in a later deposition in 1996. She said the Bellaire Hotel incident actually happened in 1990. Very strong cross examination by defense attorneys now waiting to see when the star witness for the commonwealth, Andrea Constand, will come into this courthouse and testify before the jury.

[09:55:06] John. Poppy.

BERMAN: All right, Jean Casarez, thanks so much.

Cosby faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault and he has pleaded not guilty to these charges.

All right, we have a CNN exclusive. A firsthand look at families trying to escape Mosul. Heart-wrenching stories from the front lines.


[09:59:55] BERMAN: All right, good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow.

President Trump standing his ground this morning and saying his tweets matter despite contradictory messages from inside of his own White House. This morning the president wrote, "the fake mainstream media is working so hard to try to get me not to use social media.