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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Comey: Trump Said Of Flynn, "I Hope You Can Let This Go"; Comey: Trump Said "I Need Loyalty, I Expect Loyalty"; Trump Attorney: President Feels "Totally Vindicated."; Comey: Trump Said Of Flynn, "I Hope You Can Let This Go". Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 7, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] ERIN BURNETT, CNN OUTFRONT HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news: fired FBI Director Jim Comey's bombshell testimony saying the President pressured him demanding loyalty, asking what should be done to lift the cloud over his Presidency. But the national's top - nation's top intelligence chiefs refusing to answer questions about their conversations with the President, why are they stonewalling tonight? And Republicans, pleading with Trump to stay off Twitter during Comey's testimony. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news: the stunning testimony of the former FBI Director, James Comey. Here is Comey's first-person account of his meetings and conversations with the President. I've got it right here, it's six pages. These are contacts laid out in this document that Comey felt "compelled the documents," something he had not done in the past. He said there were nine one-on-one conversations with the President in four months which, by the way, compares to two conversations with President of Obama in three and a half years.
Comey writes about a dinner with the President. Comey expected other guests, but it was just the two of them. And at that dinner, Comey writes in here that the President made "an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship." And at that dinner, Comey, then said Trump made things "very awkward," his words, when the President said, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." One Democratic Senator tonight says, some of Comey's testimony rises to almost Watergate-level, but the President is also claiming victory tonight.
Trump's personal lawyer representing him on the Russia investigation Marc Kasowitz says - and I quote him, "The President feels completely and totally vindicated." We're covering this breaking story from every angle. We begin with Jim Sciutto, out front tonight. And Jim, in every way-this is stunning, to get this testimony a day in advance, to have it be so, you know, personally written.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. One way it's stunning, Director Comey - fired Director Comey directly contradicts the President. On May 18th, just two and half weeks ago, the President was asked if in any way, shape, or form, those exact words he tried to interfere with the investigation of Michael Flynn. He said "no" twice, and next question. In his testimony, his written testimony, Director Comey - fired Director Comey, lays out in great detail very much the opposite case, saying that the President asked him to stop that investigation.
SCIUTTO: On the crucial question of whether the President attempted to influence ongoing FBI investigations, Comey said the President told him, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go. To getting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." Comey makes clear "I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador." In his letter, firing the FBI Director, the President said that Comey had told him three times that he himself was not under investigation. He repeated that claim in an interview with NBC.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS HOST: Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey, you write: "I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation." Why did you put that in there?
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: Because he told me that. I mean, he told me.
SCIUTTO: And in his written testimony, Comey, largely confirms those occasions. But said, they were specifically about whether the President was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. First, on January 6th, when Comey went to Trump Tower to brief the President-elect on a dossier of allegations involving Mr. Trump; first reported by CNN. Comey says that "during our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-elect Trump's reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance that he was not under FBI counterintelligence probe.
The second time, in a dinner, on January 27th, Comey says the President told him he was considering ordering an investigation into the dossier. Comey says, "I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren't." And in a March 30th phone call, Comey, "explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him, I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, we need to get that fact out."
The dossier, in particular, attracted the President's attention. "He said he had nothing to do with Russia, have not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to lift the cloud." The President, Comey says, was also very interested in establishing his loyalty. In their January 27th dinner, Comey said, President Trump told him "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty." Comey went on, I didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. He said, he told Trump finally, "You will always get honesty from me," to which the President responded, "that's what I want. Honest loyalty."
(END VIDEOTAPE) [19:05:18] SCIUTTO: Comey left some not so subtle clues for
investigators sprinkled throughout his written testimony. One, he describes his memos-describing those meetings with the President as unclassified saying that in his view, there's no legal reason they should not be made public. And he also lists people like Vice President Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who were witnesses to events that he described. For instance, him asking - the President asking them to leave before he had a private one-on-one with Comey in the oval office. In effect, that I've spoken to people involved in the investigation, lining up possible witnesses to be called by the Special Counsels, and others who are now investigating this. Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Jim, thank you very much. And now, let's go to Sara Murray, she's in Covington, Kentucky, which is near where the President spoke earlier today. And Sara, the White House coming out with a very clear response to this tonight.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it was interesting to watch this play out because the President was here. He was speaking and essentially as soon as he left this stage that is when this testimony dropped. Now, we have not heard from the President directly on this. But we have heard from his Special Counsel, Mark Kasowitz, as you pointed out, that the President feels completely and totally vindicated. That was the message from Mark Kasowitz. But from the White House's perspective, they are directing everything to the Special Counsel, or they are directing it to Republican National Committees.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, actually, pointed to a statement from the RNC Chairwoman today also defending Trump, also saying he feels totally vindicated. This is a little bit of an unusual relationship to see the Republican National Committee sort of playing the rapid response effort for the White House. Because, the White House could be at the center of this investigation and so they sort of felt better setting up this arrangement, allowing the Republican National Committee to sort of spearhead this response. And that's what we're going to continue to see when he testifies on the Hill tomorrow, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you very much. And now, let's go to a member of the Intelligence Committee, Republican Senator Susan Collins. And Senator, it's nice to have you on the show. Thank you. You just heard, the President feels completely and totally vindicated. Do you agree?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I think that's a bit of a stretch. I do believe that the President's statement that he was told on three separate occasions that he was not under investigation has been proven to be correct. Mr. Comey clearly delineates those three occasions in his testimony.
BURNETT: Yes, he absolutely did. Now, I want to ask you, when you said that you think that's a bit of a stretch-just to ask you about some other parts here of the testimony that we have. You know, of course, the FBI Director serves a ten-year term, expressly so that the Director is not a political arm of a President, of any President. Comey says the President did something highly inappropriate. He says the President asked him to dinner, a dinner that the FBI Director thought would include others but it didn't. It was just he and the President.
And Comey writes, Senator, "My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting and the pretext that this was the first discussion about my position meant that the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship." Comey then continues to say that, "The President said, I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." As for Comey, he says, "I didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence." Senator, do you think the President was right to do this, to ask for the FBI Director's loyalty?
COLLINS: No, I don't. It was clearly inappropriate for the President to ask for a loyalty pledge from the Director of the FBI. I think perhaps this reflects a lack of understanding and appreciation, on the President's part, of the role of the FBI and his lack of understandings and appreciation for separations of duties and responsibilities. It was clearly inappropriate.
BURNETT: It could have, of course, been a lack of understanding but the President was actually asked whether he asked for a loyalty pledge and he was definitive. I want to play for you the exchange; it was with Jeanine Pirro on Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: People suggest that the question that apparently the New York Times is selling that you asked Comey whether or not you had his loyalty, was possibly inappropriate. Could you see how they would take that?
TRUMP: No, I don't think. I read that article. I don't think it's inappropriate, number one.
PIRRO: Did you ask that question?
TRUMP: No. No, I didn't. But I don't think it would be a bad question to ask. I think loyalty to the country, loyalty to the United States is important. You know, I mean, it depends on how you define loyalty: number one. And number two: I don't know how that got there because I didn't ask that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:10:15] BURNETT: Which, of course, the FBI Director is saying that he did. I mean, Senator, who do you believe, and how significant is it that they are - I mean, one of them is not telling the truth, it would appear.
COLLINS: Well, clearly, there's - there are great disagreements on what the President meant, or he is certainly contradicting the testimony that we're going to hear. And this is an issue that we need to learn more about. I can't imagine circumstances under which it's appropriate for a President of the United States to demand loyalty from an FBI Director. That's just not the way our system works.
BURNETT: So, you will be asking the FBI Director questions tomorrow. You've now had the chance that, perhaps, unexpected chance, right? We never get testimony a day in the advance. You've had a chance to read it. What are the key questions that you, Senator Collins, will be asking Director Comey tomorrow?
COLLINS: Well, I want to know more about the conversation that Mr. Comey had with the President regarding Michael Flynn. He appears to say in his testimony that he interpreted it as a request that he end the investigation. I'm curious what his response was. I'd want to know more about the context, the exact word that was said, that is an important point.
BURNETT: Have you seen the memos yet, and do you still hope that you will get them? The complete memos upon, which, this system is based.
COLLINS: I have not seen the memos, and to the best of my knowledge they have not been turned over to the committee. I firmly believe that we do have the right to see those memos, particularly, now that Mr. Comey has testified personally at - or after his testimony tomorrow. I think we should have them in advance of his testimony, but I see no reason for them to be withheld.
BURNETT: It certainly would seem not. I mean, if he's going to give a summary of them, he should give them out, so you can interpret yourself as to what they say versus his summary of them. There was another important hearing before your committee today, the nation's top intelligence chiefs-they were all there, Senator. But I have to say, they were not really answering questions, and it was incredibly frustrating when they were asked about their conversations with the President. Let me just give a quick play here for everyone watching.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: I don't believe it's appropriate for me to address that in a public session.
MICHAEL ROGERS, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY DIRECTOR: You're not going to discuss the specifics of conversation with the President of the United States-
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Our default position is that when there's a just part of the investigation, we do not discuss it publicly.
ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION DIRECTOR: It would not be appropriate for me, sir, to discuss issues that are potentially within the purview of the Special Counsel's investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You, of course, also have an investigation. It's an important one. Do you feel frustrated? I mean, why do they even bother to show up if they're going to say that? How do you feel about that? COLLINS: Well, first of all, there was no assertion of executive
privilege. And that's - I don't understand why these individuals did not answer all of our questions today. If the Special Counsel, Bob Mueller, had put constraints on them or if the President had made the mistake of asserting executive privilege, then I would have understood their failure to respond. I did ask about whether there were conversations with the White House about executive privilege, and it appears that there were. But that they were not resolved, so they were in this limbo where they apparently did not feel comfortable responding to the questions. But I personally believe that they should have responded.
BURNETT: All right. Senator Collins, it's a pleasure. Thank you so much.
COLLINS: Thank you, Erin.
[19:14:07] BURNETT: And next, Comey's blockbuster testimony. We're going to break down what he wrote, so you can see each of these crucial lines; what he is saying. Plus, Democrats, charging that Comey's statement is further evidence that the President tried to obstruct justice. Did he or not? And former Senator, Joe Liebermann, he was one of the leading candidates, but the President said this himself, to replace Comey as Director of the FBI. Did Trump ever ask him for a loyalty pledge? You'll see his answer because he's OUTFRONT, tonight.
[19:18:10] BURNETT: Breaking news, live pictures right there of Capitol Hill. That is where the fired FBI Director Jim Comey will testify hours from now. Comey reveals in his prepared remarks that the President of the United States, President Trump asked him about his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Comey says that the President said, quote, "Flynn, he is a good guy, I hope you can let this go," referring the FBI Director says, to the -- any investigation into Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador.
OUTFRONT now, former adviser to four Presidents, including Nixon And Clinton, David Gergen; former FBI special agent, James Gagliano; two political analysts Gloria Borger; our Senior Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; and former White House Nixon Counsel, John Dean. All right, we have the people here that need to be here to understand this. This is a crucial moment in this investigation, the most crucial moment perhaps thus far. Jeffrey, when you read through these prepared remarks, it is six single-spaced pages, going through meeting after meeting after meeting. Does this to you look like Obstruction of Justice or not?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It does because it tells a story. It's not just one isolated incident. It's a demand for loyalty not just where -- not just to -- not to the Constitution, not to the FBI but a demand for loyalty to the President. Comey dodges that but it's clear that he is looking for response from Comey and he has a demand and that demand is made over and over again, vindicate me, vindicate me. And finally, on February 14th, he says drop the investigation of Mike Flynn. That February 14th meeting, if it's believed if Comey's testimony is accurate --
TOOBIN: Is frankly a smoking gun in my view. And the capper is when Comey does not drop the investigation, he gets fired. That's Obstruction of Justice.
BURNETT: John Dean?
[19:20:11] JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE NIXON COUNSEL: It looks like obstruction to me. First of all, the most striking thing is that Comey's norm of late has not been to use prepared statements. He's obviously carefully prepared this statement and it reflects that it is just the tip of the iceberg of this investigation, that he has worked with his colleagues and kept them briefed throughout the drill because he probably was alarmed and did see problems and knew indeed he might be a witness. Indeed he -- right after a conversation went to his laptop and typed up the conversation which is fairly remarkable. So --
DEAN: We see us a man who's acting like he knew he might be a witness and I'm --
BURNETT: So -- I'm sorry David, but let me just ask you about the point that he just made, John Dean. First of all, both of our lawyers here now are, you know, are saying they believe this was Obstruction of Justice. What John's referring to is the --
TOOBIN: But John has an advantage because John was convicted of obstruction of justice, so he knows.
BURNETT: There is that, which I know you say without bias.
TOOBIN: No. it's true.
BURNETT: I mean, yes, yes. David, what John is referring to though is how compelled, how pressured Jim Comey felt from the second he met the President, OK. The very first face-to-face meeting he had with the President of the United States of this meeting, Comey writes here, "I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-elect in a memo to ensure accuracy. I began to type on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting, creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations from Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This has not been my practice in the past." Which, of course, as we point out in the beginning of the program, nine meetings with the President-elect in a few months, just two with President Obama in three and a half years. How significant is the fact that he went down after that first meeting and did that in the FBI vehicle?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: It's highly significant because it's contemporaneous recollections. And in addition, he went to Sessions and said never leave me in a room alone with the President and if Sessions, you know, verifies that, that really speaks to the veracity of the whole report. I must say -- first of all, Jim Comey did do a couple of favors for the White House today. One very importantly he released this early. And I think the fact there have been leaks, we'll talk more about this. But the fact that there has been some leaks, has taken some of the bombshell quality out of this. This confirms a lot of what has been said --
BURNETT: The irony of the President who wants to crush all the leakers is benefitting from the leakers.
GERGEN: Well, exactly. And three times he told the President you're not under personal investigation on this. That's important. But I think the fact that he -- his gut instinct right from the beginning was I can't trust this guy. He's trying to use me. This sounds fishy. It sounds suspicious. And I think tomorrow is going to be very important. How he does characterizes what he went through.
BURNETT: And he does say, by the way, he uses the word instinct. So, as I just quoted to Senator Collins, my instinct told me the one-on- one setting meant that he'd ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.
GERGEN: It shows a clear pattern of trying to influence, to interfering with the investigation, whether that amounts to -- other lawyers may dispute the question of obstruction but it's a clear pattern.
BURNETT: So Gloria, let me ask you because David just mentioned, though, something crucial here that does vindicate the President, right? He had been questioned about this. Did the FBI Director tell him he was under investigation? He said three times the FBI Director said that he was not. There have been reports that said that Jim Comey would say that that wasn't true. But he did, he came out and said yes indeed. He did tell the President each of those times that he was not under investigation.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, he stated it directly in his written testimony and my colleagues and I were reported last night that in fact, Comey would dispute, that he had actually told them three times and instead would offer a more nuanced explanation. In his written testimony today, he did not do that. We have corrected our story online to reflect this written testimony. We are all looking forward to seeing how under questioning from Senators, Comey actually gives the details of his personal conversations with the President and how exactly he spoke to him about the lack of an investigation, because I'm sure the Senators are going to want to question him more about it.
BURNETT: Yes, and James, this does, of course, raise the question here for the FBI Director. He felt so -- as we read the quote, "So compelled" to go document this right away but not compelled enough to share it more broadly or to raise a flag to anybody. That is still a crucial question for the former FBI Director to answer.
[19:25:10] JAMES GAGLIANO, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: We're going to go ahead and stipulate so Jim Comey's probe. Nobody questions that. I read this and I literally wanted to rinse myself off afterwards. I felt completely disgusted, beginning with that first awkward handshake that we saw on camera when Director Comey and the President met and it started as a handshake, turned into a half hug. You could tell how uncomfortable Director Comey was. I went through this line by line. The only problem I had with Director Comey's actions, I've spoken on CNN air many times about people on both sides of the issue can come down and say, hey, we disagree or we supported how he handled it. My question is why didn't he go to his superiors? And I think this explains why. He knew that Attorney General Sessions had recused himself. He knew the folks were only going to be there for a short period of time and he was concerned about influencing the Russian collusion investigation. He didn't want his agents or prosecutors.
BURNETT: He said he didn't want them to be afraid to go ahead. So he said nothing.
BURNETT: Right? And he does explain that.
BURNETT: And you buy that?
GAGLIANO: I do buy that only because as you look through this document, this statement for the record and as David pointed out, this is uncommon for this to be released before he testifies tomorrow. This is a testimonial document. In 25 years in the FBI, I was forbidden from putting my opinion into a testimony or document. This is rightful opinion.
BURNETT: Oh it is. He says my instinct. I felt pop.
GERGEN: There's another point. He did go to his superior at one point.
GERGEN: He goes to Attorney General Sessions and says don't leave me alone in the room. The weirdness of that is that he excuses Vice President Pence, Attorney General Sessions from the room. Talk about consciousness of guilt.
BURNETT: So --
GERGEN: Why couldn't he talk in front of him? Because he knew what he was doing was inappropriate.
BURNETT: Let me just -- I just want to read the quote because I think the word -- Comey is not a guy who uses insane verbs, OK, except for in this case so let me read it. "Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President's concern about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me." Implore is the word he used. He goes ahead and lays out a couple more phone calls between he and the President. The President did not heed that advice if he received it from the Attorney General.
BORGER: This also portrayed someone in James Comey who felt like he couldn't go to anybody. He said as he wrote in his testimony he didn't want to, quote, "Infect the investigation," so he had to wall off the people who were doing the investigating. He goes to his superiors. He goes to Sessions. He goes to Bente and he doesn't get an answer about what to do. So it portrays this picture of James Comey as sort of trying to figure out what the right thing to do is here and there seems to be very few people he can confide in except his leadership team with whom he entrusted, you know, his notes and his memories of these meetings.
DEAN: I think it's very important that he shared it with his leadership team. As Gloria's just pointed out because that has become a contemporaneous telling to other people about what's happening. This isn't made up after the fact after he was fired. He told people then. But would you expand on your sentence about you felt like you had to rinse off?
BURNETT: I was going to ask that. Was it James Comey that made you want to rinse off as President of the United States?
TOOBIN: No, no. The division of a small table in the green room with the President and the FBI Director seated there having a quiet luncheon with two Navy stewards waiting on them and Director Comey feeling uncomfortable, awkward, knowing they should not be in that meeting.
BURNETT: This is the loyalty pledge when the President asked for the loyalty pledge.
TOOBIN: Yes. And Erin, do this for 48 years and David you can certainly speak to this, 48 years, FBI Director Hoover pulled puppet strings and had Presidents on their heels. We now have a President attempting to put an FBI Director on his heels.
BURNETT: So let me ask, because when it comes to Obstruction of Justice, which I know John and Jeffrey Toobin agree on, I want to read the quote for you all about what Jim Comey says happened with the Flynn investigation. All right. Just to get your full analysis. This is obviously going to be one of the most crucial parts of this along with, of course, the loyalty pledge and the President not being under investigation. Here it is. "I had understood," writes Comey, the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with Russian Ambassador in December. I did not understand the president to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to just be focusing on what had happened with Flynn's departure.
Jeffrey Toobin, taking all that in context, what do you see?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's like saying, you know, I mean -- forget the analogy. He's saying drop this investigation. He --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
TOOBIN: And this is -- you know, the incredible power that a president can have and, you know, again, I defer to John on Watergate. But the whole Watergate cover-up -- you know, the June 23rd, 1973 tape, which John was not present for is H.R. Haldeman and Nixon saying, how can we use the CIA to get the FBI to stop investigating the Watergate break-in?
This is trying to stop the FBI from investigating his close associates. That's what Trump is doing.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree with that.
BURNETT: So, John, I mean, do you take its -- take all of this to mean that as well, given, of course, that Comey did say in here that he was willing to assure the president that the president himself was not under investigation. So, if he wasn't under investigation, how could he be obstructing that or do you see the Flynn thing as enough to do that?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I also -- you have to look at this statement in a larger context and that is the firing of Jim Comey.
DEAN: And what was said by the president and the reason for it, that he wanted to stop the investigation.
Also, I think we ought to clarify -- and I don't know the answer to this -- but I don't think Comey released this statement. Typically, the Senate has rules for their committees.
BORGER: He did want it released.
DEAN: It was the Senate committee that released it.
BORGER: Well, he asked for it to be released.
DEAN: Oh, he did?
BORGER: He did want it to be released. And, actually, it's a very smart thing to do because --
DEAN: Yes, it is.
BORGER: -- because he was pre-tweeting the president, if you want to look at it that way.
BORGER: And I think, you know, it shows you how clever he is.
I think what will be interesting tomorrow to see is how he answers questions about was this obstruction. I mean, because we've been told in our reporting that he's just going to be a fact witness. And you see that in his written testimony today. This reads like his diary in a way.
BURNETT: It does.
BORGER: And he is a fact witness. And I don't think Comey is going to make any judgment about obstruction, which he's going to say, you know, this is a political --
BORGER: -- this is a political decision and he's not going to make a political decision nor is he going to make a legal argument.
GERGEN: I agree. I don't think he'll say it's obstruction, but I think he'll say it's a clear pattern and why he was so suspicious right from the beginning. After all, he never took a note on his two meetings with the former president over eight years. And here he is, you know, having -- taking notes from the beginning. He has to address issues like that.
DEAN: He'll also lose his credibility if he starts drawing conclusions.
DEAN: If he is a fact witness, he's much stronger staying with the facts and not drawing conclusions. I think that's another reason why he'll stay there.
BURNETT: All right. I appreciate all of your time.
And I want to go straight now OUTFRONT to a member of the House Intelligence Committee also investigating Russia's involvement in the election in the Trump campaign, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier is with me.
Congresswoman, nice to have you back on the show.
You just heard Jeffrey Toobin and John Dean, of course, the former Nixon White House counsel. They both believe that this six-page document from the former FBI director adds up to obstruction of justice.
Do you believe that also?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I think it's very close to obstruction of justice. I think we need more evidence, certainly. The question is, did he have the mens rea? Did he have a guilty mind? And I think you can make that conclusion when you hear that he asked everyone to leave the room so that he can talk privately with Jim Comey, especially the A.G. and his son-in-law, and then, having the one-on-one dinner again with nobody else. I mean, he clearly was attempting to persuade James Comey in a setting where no one else could hear him.
BURNETT: And he goes into great detail on that. He says who was standing by the grandfather clock, by the edge of the door. If you ascribe accuracy to great detail in his memory, that is all in here in this memo.
Congresswoman, in Comey's statement, he writes about several meetings, OK? One of them on January 6th. At that time, that this is the first time he met him, is the briefing with the president-elect at Trump Tower. And he writes that he remained alone with President-elect Trump to brief him on sensitive information, obviously talking about that dossier. OK?
So, this is -- this is what we have here. The very first time they meet, the FBI Director Comey meets privately with the president-elect because the FBI director chooses to do so, right? He says he and senior intelligence officials decided this is the way to do it.
[19:35:02] Did Comey set the precedent for Trump to believe that private one-on-one meetings with the FBI director were OK?
SPEIER: No. I think he was doing it because he didn't want to embarrass the president. That's certainly what his statement suggests and it was an consensus of all of the persons within the intelligence community that he do it because he was staying on and they were all leaving. So I don't think he was setting a precedent.
Furthermore, you know --
BURNETT: Right. No, I understand what you're saying. I'm not -- I'm not disagreeing with that. That's what the FBI director says.
I'm saying, could Trump have intercepted it as the FBI director wanted to meet one-on-one with me, so when I want to meet with him one-on- one, it's fine, right? He's not a guy who comes from Washington or who understands how these things work.
SPEIER: Well, that's part of the problem. I mean, everyone who has had any engagement with the government knows that there's three separate branches of government and certainly me as a member of Congress would never attempt to influence a court proceeding or a judge. So, I think here what we have is a lot of smoke coming, billowing out of the White House and there's probably fire as well.
BURNETT: So you do think there's probably fire.
Now, let me ask you on that note about this, because we also learn in this testimony tonight that Comey did tell the president three times, twice in January, once in March, that the president of the United States was not personally under investigation. Talking about March specifically, Comey wrote, I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump.
The president's outside attorney says the president tonight feels totally and completely vindicated, Congresswoman Speier, in no doubt in part because of statements like that. Has he been --
SPEIER: Well --
BURNETT: He wasn't under investigation.
SPEIER: He wasn't under investigation in terms of whether or not Trump operatives were in collusion with the Russians in terms of trying to influence the election. The question really before us, is the president -- has the president obstructed justice by hounding, literally hounding the then-Director James Comey about dropping the investigation of Flynn?
It's also interesting to remember, when Flynn first offered himself up to the two committees to tell his story, he says, I have a story to tell.
SPEIER: And soon thereafter, you had the president wanting very much to have the investigation dropped on Flynn.
But there was also something else he said that was really interesting that we need to follow up on. He says, I know there's other problems with Flynn.
SPEIER: So --
BURNETT: Comey says the president said that. We don't know and Comey did not say whether they discussed those. So, that will be a big line of questioning tomorrow.
SPEIER: That will be as well (ph).
BURNETT: Congresswoman Speier, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.
SPEIER: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, Republicans making a plea to the president to please not tweet during Comey's testimony.
And Joe Lieberman, the man who was really the frontrunner to replace Comey, the president said so himself, is on our show, and he will tell you what he sees in this testimony tonight.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:41:56]BURNETT: Breaking news tonight: Republicans have a new message for the president -- put away your phone during fired FBI Director Jim Comey's testimony. The fears that the president could create much bigger problems on what will be a very, very important day.
Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill tonight.
And, Ryan, Republicans are worried this evening.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are, Erin. And this isn't the first time Republicans have given this kind of advice to President Trump. But it takes on new scope when you consider that there is some reporting that the president may actually consider live- tweeting during James Comey's testimony tomorrow.
And his fellow Republicans are urging him not to do that. Take a look at what Richard Burr had to say. He's the chair of the Senate Intel Committee. He's going to be presiding over this hearing tomorrow.
He said, quote: I wish he'd do something else. It's not going to change the testimony.
Then there was Jeff Flake, who is the senator from Arizona. He said: There is some speculation that the president may live tweet. It would not be a good idea. I think anyone would tell him that.
Also, Bob Corker from Tennessee suggested that the president really shouldn't be talking about Comey at all. Instead, he should be talking about his agenda. And that seems to be a broader theme among Republicans. They still believe that the president can win on some of these big issues like tax reform and health care and infrastructure.
But if he spends automatic of his time defending himself from the Russian investigation and from what James Comey has to say, that's less time than he's spent focusing on that agenda, and there are many Republicans here on Capitol Hill, Erin, that would much prefer he focus on his agenda instead.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Ryan.
And OUTFRONT now, former Republican Congressman Jack Kingston, also a former senior adviser for the Trump campaign, and Van Jones, former special advisor to President Obama.
Congressman, you've already made your point of view clear on the Twitter issue. You would hope he'd have better things to do.
I want to start here with this issue of a loyalty pledge. I don't know if you heard earlier on the program, we opened up with somebody who's going to be in the room, Republican Senator Susan Collins. She said in terms of whether this document vindicated the president, I think that's a bit of a stretch. She's worried about the issues with the Flynn investigation and she's worried about loyalty that she point-blank said is inappropriate. What do you say, Congressman Kingston, the president of the United
States saying, I need loyalty, I expect loyalty? That is what the FBI director said happened. Is it OK?
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, 2016 TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, number one, if we assume that this is true and for the sake of this question we are going to assume that it's true. I think the next question would be, loyalty to what? It's incomplete the way Comey has outlined it.
The president can say, I expect loyalty. Loyalty to the truth, loyalty to an investigation, loyalty to the United States of America. I think all that is appropriate.
I think that had he said, I want you to be loyal to me, and that's paramount to anything else, then that would have been a different matter. But Comey is not saying that.
BURNETT: So, Congressman, let me just -- let me just interject here, just so that we can get the context here, because here's what Comey said. He said my instincts told me that the one-on-one setting and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, that the dinner was at least in part an effort to ask, to make -- to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship, this concerns me greatly given the FBI's traditionally independent status in the executive branch.
[19:45:13] He then continues to say a few moments later, the president said, I need loyalty, I expect loyalty -- which the FBI director says was followed by a long and awkward silence.
It's clear the FBI director took it as a personal pledge of loyalty.
KINGSTON: Well, let's say this, though. This is the world according to James Comey and somebody who's already had his testimony go back and be corrected the last time he testified before the Senate. So, he's not exactly always accurate.
And again, this is a defensive statement, something that he has written to sort of clear himself. If he really -- and this is what I don't understand -- if he says I didn't want to be in the room alone with him. I felt like I had to run out to the limousine immediately and type what he said.
BURNETT: That's what when he says.
KINGSTON: Why didn't -- why didn't he say something back in February or why didn't he say something in front of the Senate committee in May that, hey, I believe I was intimidated, I believe there was obstruction, I believe there was an attempt to obstruct me?
You know, he sat on this information since January 6th. If he felt that uncomfortable, he had nearly six months -- or five months, clearly, to say something about it.
BURNETT: He did tell his inner circle, of course. He did -- he did ask the attorney general.
KINGSTON: But that doesn't count.
BURNETT: He did ask the attorney general, implored him to say the president couldn't have anymore direct contact with him. Van?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think this kind of speaks for itself. It looks like honestly Donald Trump spent some dime watching "Godfather" movies or something. Maybe he should have been watching "West Wing". This is not the way that presidents are supposed to act. And I think he knew that because he wants to have a conversation by himself.
BURNETT: This is the loyalty pledge we're talking about?
JONES: The loyalty pledge, that -- I just think that he didn't understand how this thing is supposed to work. I think you have to give Comey some credit. He's in a tough situation. You do have somebody who's coming into the White House from the private sector.
JONES: They don't have that government background, and he has said in the past and it makes a lot of sense, I got to put some training wheels on this guy, I got to figure out how to keep this guy, you know, inside the four corners of how we do things around here.
It would have been very, very bad for him to take a meeting like that and run out and call a press conference or do something terrible. And so, he's -- the president has put him in a terrible situation. He's trying to navigate it, but he is taking notes right away, contemporaneous notes. And anybody knows in a court of law, that has tremendous weight. Tremendous weight.
KINGSTON: But, Van, he had all the time in the world to say something to somebody. I don't buy that it's his judgment again that he can't go to DOJ --
KINGSTON: He needs to go to everybody, said, listen, I think this guy's trying to intimidate me. I think there's obstruction going on here. I don't want to have any part of this administration. But instead, he hung out.
JONES: Congressman --
KINGSTON: And do you believe that he would have quit?
BURNETT: Look, Congressman, he did say he spoke about all of this with FBI senior leadership. And that they chose --
KINGSTON: Senior leadership, but he answers the DOJ. His boss is the DOJ and he should have gone to the DOJ.
BURNETT: Well, he said he thought that Jeff Sessions was going to be recusing himself from this --
KINGSTON: How would he know that?
BURNETT: Two weeks later, Jeff Sessions did.
KINGSTON: But how would he know that, Erin?
BURNETT: Well, I guess his judgment accurate, right, because he did.
KINGSTON: I think he's going back and he's rewriting that. That's in his testimony. Remember, that's not in his memo. We have yet to see the memo. If this memo said, I know what's going to happen in two weeks, Jeff Sessions is going to recuse himself, but he did not know that at the time. I'd love to see a memo where he predicted that.
JONES: Erin, so, here's the thing -- the Trump supporters are now having to put themselves in a situation where they just want the American people to believe stuff that doesn't make sense.
Let's just make this a normal situation. Suppose you had a CEO and something happened in the CEO's office and the head of the HR department started investigating what's going on in the CEO's office and the CEO brought that hr director in and said stop it. She doesn't do it and the boss fires her.
Everybody in the company knows what's going on with that. You had a mayor that had a police chief that she appointed.
KINGSTON: Not --
JONES: And the police chief is investigating her campaign, and the mayor -- let me just finish -- and the mayor fires the police chief. So, listen, if this were happening in any other situation, no Trump supporter, no Democrat, no Republican would say this is normal.
This is not normal. It does not make sense and something is shady going on.
BURNETT: Congressman Kingston, what do you make of the fact that John Dean and Jeffrey Toobin, both their read of this, putting all these facts together, facts according to Jim Comey, their read is that this is obstruction of justice. At this point, they weren't saying it's close to or we're almost there. It was it is.
KINGSTON: They're lawyers. Lawyers have opinions. That's what they get paid to do. There's plenty of lawyers who are going to say absolutely not.
And we'll have that opportunity tomorrow, by the way. But let me say this, again, Comey said three times that Trump was not the focus of the investigation. Now, why would Trump turn around and fire him if that was the reason that he wanted to stop the investigation? The reason why he was fired is because of incompetence.
[19:50:01] Think about Feinstein's statements about him. Think about Schumer, think about Hank Johnson. Think about all the Democrats all fall that were saying he has no credibility anymore. He needs to pack his bags. That's what Hank Johnson did.
BURNETT: Then, he should have done it on the day he came in the White House.
KINGSTON: No, if he had done it then, he would have -- there's no good time to fire this guy. But all I could say the Democrats all were on one page that he was incompetent and needed to go until he was actually fired.
BURNETT: Final word, Van, because you got the first word --
JONES: No, Trump himself -- look, Trump himself said that he was worried about the investigation. You can't come back and say, oh, we already --
KINGSTON: Only as it respects to national security.
JONES: Trump himself -- Trump himself took that card away from you when he said the reason he fired this guy was he was thinking about this Russia investigation. And so, I think they're doing damage to the country. I think it's doing damage to the country.
KINGSTON: Van, because that was taking too long, 11 months and we still don't have anything.
BURNETT: I will hit pause.
JONES: When we try to ask people to believe stuff that doesn't make any sense.
BURNETT: I will hit pause. You, of course, will be here tomorrow night. Thank you both.
And next: Trump and loyalty. What did he ask Joe Lieberman, who was the front-runner, to replace Jim Comey as the head of the FBI? Did he ask him for a loyalty pledge? He's going to tell you. He's my guest next.
BURNETT: Breaking news: just hours away from fired FBI Director Jim Comey's must watch testimony before Congress. Comey will take hours of questions from senators on Capitol Hill.
And OUTFRONT now is the man who was one of President Trump's top picks to succeed Comey, former senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee, Joe Lieberman, also national co-chair of the No Labels, a group dedicated to ending partisan gridlock, which, of course, we are afflicted with.
And wonderful to see you, Senator. I appreciate you taking the time.
JOE LIEBERMAN, WITHDREW FROM FBI DIRECTOR CONSIDERATION: Thanks, Erin. Good to be with you.
BURNETT: So, look, the world is going to be watching Jim Comey tomorrow.
BURNETT: You have seen his prepared remarks that are going to kick off the session. What's the bottom line for you?
LIEBERMAN: Before I get to the bottom line, I should say by way of disclosure, and I hope not invalidating everything else I say, that I'm a member of the law firm, Kasowitz, Benson & Torres, that the president and his campaign committee have retained to represent on these matters. So --
[19:55:13] BURNETT: Right, Marc Kasowitz, which is why you actually withdrew your name from consideration.
LIEBERMAN: Yes, exactly right.
BURNETT: Because of Marc Kasowitz.
LIEBERMAN: So, two things. The first is that in essentially validating President Trump's claim that he, Comey, said to him, the president, that he's not a subject of the investigation. You have both of them agreeing on something and that effectively means at least when Comey was involved that there was not evidence that the president was involved in any potential collusion with Russia or anybody in his campaign that assisted their interference in the campaign.
On the other matters, of course, based on the prepared testimony, former Director Comey has made some serious allegations. Kind of interesting, I don't remember in my 24 years in the Senate, and I was involved in a lot of investigative hearings, ever having testimony released the day before. Because one of the things it does, it gets it out there, but it also gives the members of the committee that he'll be before tomorrow overnight to really sharpen their questions and you might say cross-examination.
BURNETT: Comey also writes in his statement that Trump said to him during a dinner, a one-on-one dinner that Comey obviously thought was not going to be one-on-one and then it was, he felt uncomfortable. Trump said, quote, I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.
Now, you met with the president when you were one of his top picks to be the replacement for Jim Comey. Did he make any demand like that to you?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I don't want to talk about the conversations between me and the president during that period of time in any detail. But I can say he did not make any demand like that at all. BURNETT: Nothing like that at all?
LIEBERMAN: In fact, you might say the contrary.
BURNETT: Are you concerned when you read the words about loyalty?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I'm concerned about that and other things. But, I mean, I think you've got to be fair here and say, those are now allegations by Director Comey.
LIEBERMAN: What happened in two-person conversations, they are serious allegations, and I'm sure that he'll be questioned on them in great detail tomorrow.
BURNETT: What else concerns you the most in here?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I mean, the most serious allegation is the statement by Director Comey that the president asked him essentially not to pursue the investigation of General Flynn, the former national security adviser. I mean, again, we'll see what happens. I'm sure they'll ask him, why didn't you do something about it then?
BURNETT: Right, of course.
LIEBERMAN: And, of course, the president, I presume, will say that he never said anything like that.
BURNETT: Right. Twenty-four years in the Senate. If you were sitting there now, would you view that statement -- obviously, it's an allegation, but if it were true, would you view it as obstruction of justice?
LIEBERMAN: Not yet. I mean, not yet, really, because we've got to see what the testimony -- this is a prepared statement. There's going to be a very aggressive questioning tomorrow. And then, in fairness, there is another side --
BURNETT: And --
LIEBERMAN: -- who (ph) is the president.
BURNETT: Of course. Now, you have a new op-ed you have put on CNN.com.
BURNETT: And you're talking about partisanship, which fits with your role now at No Labels. And you write, in part, quote: By all means, Congress should carry out its functions of investigating important matters such as Russian covert activities and the possible illegal unmasking and leaking of classified information. But these investigations cannot be allowed to take a car already moving at only five miles an hour and grind it to a halt.
BURNETT: If Congress is so distracted by these investigations and, let's be honest, they are focused on it --
BURNETT: -- obsessively so, should they stop looking into the Russia issue and just leave this to Mueller?
LIEBERMAN: No. I mean, I would never say that to Congress. Although Mueller provides an independent, very credible place through which a lot of these investigations will occur, and they would occur outside of the public glare of Congress. But I would never say -- these are important questions particularly the fact that everybody seems to it agree on that Russia tried to affect the outcome of the election.
But what I'm saying is, my friends in Congress, you've got to do two things at once. If you're going to investigate, investigate. But don't stop legislating.
I mean, there's still a lot of families in the country that have seen their standard of living dropped, the infrastructure is crumbling, the economic growth is weak. We need to you do tax reform. We need you to do infrastructure. And to do that you've got to come together.
And now, the opposite is happening. The Republicans don't seem to be able to agree with each other. The Democrats are in a resistance and, ultimately, the country suffers.
It's part of why President Trump got elected, I believe, because people were fed up with the status quo.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much, Senator Lieberman. Good to see you.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Erin. Great to see you.
BURNETT: And thanks so much to all of you for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.