Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Comey: Trump Lied About Me and the FBI; CNN: In Classified Hearing, Comey Said Sessions May Have Had Third, Undisclosed Meeting with Russian Ambassador, Interview with Senator Angus King of Maine; Interview with Rep. Adam Schiff. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired June 8, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening from Washington, where we are just learning some of what the former director of the FBI told senators in a closed hearing this afternoon. We've got that breaking news and all the fallout from the open session in which James Comey called the president of the United States a liar. He also laid out the makings of a case, albeit a very hotly disputed one, for accusing him of a crime.
His testimony today before the Senate Intelligence Committee did many things, including making it clear that the FBI was not investigating the president when Director Comey was running the bureau. The White House is seizing on that item, however his testimony also tells a story that some argue adds up to the president obstructing justice.
Now, before going any further and hearing from legal experts who sharply differ on this question, it's worth laying down the law as it were. It's drawn from Title 18 of United States Code Section 1503 and at least two other related sections. The relevant language in condensed form reads: Whoever corruptly endeavors to influence, intimidate or impede the due administration of justice shall be punished." Keep that in mind as we go along tonight.
And to that point, here are two portions of the hearing both centered on the moment during Director Comey's Valentine's Day meeting in the Oval Office when he says the president asked him to drop the investigation of fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.
First, Idaho Republican Senator James Risch highlighting what he seems to see as Trump friendly language in Director Comey's account and Director Comey pushing back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: Thank you for that. He did not direct you to let it go.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Not in his words, no.
RISCH: He did not order you to let it go.
COMEY: Again, those words are not an order. RISCH: He said "I hope." Now, like me you probably did hundreds of
cases, maybe thousands of cases charging people with criminal offenses, and, of course, you have knowledge of the thousands of cases out there that -- where people have been charged.
Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or for that matter any other criminal offense where this -- they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?
COMEY: I don't know well enough to answer. And the reason I keep saying his words is, I took it as a direction. It is the president of the United States, with me alone, saying, I hope this --I took it as, this is what he wants me to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We're going to hear from Senator Risch shortly.
Now, here's committee vice chairman, Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, drawing attention to something he sees as potentially ominous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You're in a meeting and your direct superior the attorney general was in there as well, yet the president asked everyone to leave, including the attorney general to leave, before he brought up the matter of General Flynn. What was your impression of that type of action? Had you ever seen anything like that before?
COMEY: No. My impression was something big is about to happen. I need to remember every single word that is spoken and, again, I could be wrong. I'm 56 years old. I've seen a few things.
My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn't be leaving, which is why he was lingering and I don't know Mr. Kushner well, but I think he picked up on the same thing. And so, I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We're going to be playing you all the key moments from the hearing in the next two hours tonight. But, first, let's bring you CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, he's got the latest starting with the breaking news from the close classified session that Director Comey after the public one.
What did you learn?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Myself and my colleagues Manu Raju and Evan Perez are learning in the classified session this afternoon, that Director Comey or fired Director Comey told senators of a possible third undisclosed meeting between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. This based on intercepted Russian to Russian conversations discussing that meeting. I should note that CNN was the first to report this investigation last
week, that Congress was looking into a possible third meeting. It relates to April 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel. This helps explain a somewhat cryptic answer that Director Comey gave in the public session earlier today when asked about Attorney General Sessions. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: Our judgment, as I recall was he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia related investigation problematic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: What problematic apparently was that he did not disclose yet again a meeting with Russia's ambassador to U.S. They're still investigating that, but they have some raw intelligence this Russian to Russian intercepts that indicate to them there may have been a third private meeting.
COOPER: And in terms of the hearing today, I mean, former Director Comey when publicly reading his opening remarks, a lot of people assumed he would be reading them.
SCIUTTO: That's right. Those prepared remarks read somewhat like an affidavit. You know, it was very detailed, it was going through dates and names and times to document conversations with the president.
[20:05:02] His opening statement today which was delivered off-the- cuff, although I'm sure he prepared for it, he seemed to speak more from his heart. And it didn't take him longer than 2 1/2 minutes before he first mentioned the word "lie", accusing the president of the word lying and he went on to use that very same word many times. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: I knew that there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened not just to defend myself but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigative function. I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting. And so, I thought it really important to document.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Important to document and then he went on to give details after that famous tweet, I hope there aren't tapes of this conversation, that he then felt the need to leak the contents of those memos through a friend of his, a professor of Columbia, to get it out in the public record. And then he again, as you mentioned before on the air earlier today, with the intention of having a special counsel being appointed, which is, of course, what happened. COOPER: Right. And that was the attorney for the private attorney
for President Trump is saying -- not a press conference, made a public statement saying that those were privileged communications.
SCIUTTO: Exactly. Although we should note that the president referenced those communications himself in public statements prior.
COOPER: We'll have more on that coming up. Jim, thanks very much. So far, the president is not done what he so often does. He's not
tweeted about the day's hearings, which is frankly pretty remarkable because he often refers to himself a counter puncher and being called a liar is quite a punch. However, his personal attorney, as we said, has responded.
CNN's Sara Murray joins us now from the White House for that and more.
Did the president have any response to Comey today?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we saw a much more restrained President Trump. I mean, there were some rumors he might live-tweet the testimony, he didn't do that. He did not respond to reporters who tried to ask him about the testimony later on in the day. He did make sort of a veiled hint to it when he was speaking at a conference in front of evangelicals, essentially saying, we are all under siege, and promising that he's going to keep hunker down and keep fighting.
But I am told by Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, that the president didn't actually watch all that much of Comey's testimony today. He was in meetings through much of the morning and essentially went right from there to the speech.
Did he see clips? Of course. Will he be watching tonight? I think that's a safe bet, but he wasn't exactly glued to the television watching it in real-time earlier today, Anderson.
COOPER: As I said, I mean, the president's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, backed up his statement from yesterday that the president feels totally vindicated. He also suggested that some parts of Comey's testimony were not true.
MURRAY: That's right. So, on the one hand, he looked at Comey testimony and said the president is vindicated. Comey said the president was not under investigation when he was the FBI director. Trump's lawyer said there was no indication Trump tried to block any kind of investigation. But then he went on to hit Comey as a leaker. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK KASOWITZ, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S OUTSIDE COUNSEL: Mr. Comey also admitted that there is no evidence that a single vote changed as a result of any Russian interference. Mr. Comey's testimony also makes clear that the president never sought to impede the investigation into attempted Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Comey admitted that he leaked to friends of his purported memos of those privileged communications, one of which he testified was classified. Mr. Comey also testified that immediately after he was terminated, he authorized his friends to leak the contents of those memos to the press in order to in Mr. Comey's words, quote, prompt the appointment of a special counsel, close quote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: So, Anderson, on the one hand, they're looking at Comey as a credible witness because he said the president was not under investigation at certain points. On the other hand, they're questioning his credibility. They took issue with a number of things Comey said in his testimony. They're denying, for instance, that Trump ever demanded loyalty from James Comey and they were also denying that President Trump ever asked Comey to back off in on this investigation into former security advisor Michael Flynn.
COOPER: As we said, one of the big pieces of news was Director Comey saying he thinks that the president and his team are liars. The White House was insistent the president is not a liar.
MURRAY: Well, certainly not a good day when you have to make that statement as a White House spokesperson. That's what we saw Sarah Huckabee Sanders do today. She said the president is not a liar, that it's insulting to even bring that up. She had a pretty fierce statement on that front.
But when she was asked about something else James Comey mentioned, the prospect of whether there is a recording system in this White House, whether there are tapes of his conversation with the president, she did not answer that. She said she has no idea if there is a taping system in the White House.
You can bet, though, Anderson, that question is not going to be going away.
COOPER: Yes. Although assuming you can find out the answer.
Sara Murray, thanks very much on that.
We are fortunate to have three senators from the intelligence committee on the program tonight.
Joining us right now is Senator Angus King, independent of Maine.
[20:10:02] Before we talk, though, I want to play the key moments from his questioning today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: With regard to several of these conversations, in his interview with Lester Holt on NBC, the president said, I had dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on.
Is this an accurate statement?
COMEY: No, sir.
KING: Did you in any way initiate that dinner?
COMEY: No. He called me at my desk at lunchtime and asked me, was I free for dinner that night? He called himself and said, can you come over for dinner tonight?
KING: And then at the same interview, the president said, in one case, I called him and in one case, he called me. Is that an accurate statement?
KING: In his press conference on May 18th, the president was asked whether he urged you to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn. The president responded quote, no, no, next question.
Is that an accurate statement?
COMEY: I don't believe it is.
KING: In terms of this is comments to you about -- in response to Mr. Risch, Senator Risch, you said, he said, I hope you will hold back on that. But when you get a -- when a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like I hope or I suggest, or would you, do you take that as a directive?
COMEY: Yes. Yes. It rings in my ear as kind of, will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?
KING: I was just going to quote that in 1170, December 29, Henry II said, who will rid me of this meddlesome priest? And then the next day, he was killed. Thomas Becket, exactly the same situation. You're -- we're thinking along the same lines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And Senator Angus King joins us now.
It was interesting to hear Director Comey and you both seizing on that line from Henry II.
KING: It wasn't rehearsed, I promise. It came to me as I was listening to James Risch's question about the power of the word of the sovereign, or in this case, the president, in that kind of situation. And I had looked it up to get the date and, lo and behold, Jim Comey arrived at the same conclusion.
COOPER: So, when Senator Risch focuses on the word "hope", that the fact that it was the president saying, well, I hope you can do this, I hope, he was indicating, well, that's not a directive, that's not the president saying do this, just saying he hopes this.
COOPER: Do you buy that? I mean, if somebody who is in a powerful position, you know, looks you in the eye alone in the office and says, I hope you can do this.
KING: This isn't somebody in a powerful position. This is the president of the United States in the Oval Office with you alone. And I think Mr. Comey's response was what would be almost all of us, and this is something the president wants done. That's exactly what Henry II said when he said, will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?
COOPER: Does the -- does the intent matter? I mean, if the president was saying even as a directive, look, drop this case, cut my friend some slack, is that different than if he directed Comey to drop the case in some sort of cover-up?
KING: Well, it's hard. You know, intent is a very difficult matter. And, by the way, this whole question of what did the president do and did it rise to the level of some kind of violation of law is really squarely in the lane of the special counsel. That's what they're going to be looking at.
Our committee is a fact-finding committee. And it's part of our work but it's not the whole deal. But I think one of the most significant things that came across today was this moment. You played it with Mark Warner, where the president was in the Oval Office with a group of people, including Mr. Comey, including the attorney general and Jared Kushner and others, and the president said, everybody out, including the attorney general, closed the door, alone with Mr. Comey.
COOPER: Not only said it once, said it several times.
KING: Said it several times.
COOPER: Kushner lingered and Reince Priebus popped his head and also --
KING: We want you out. And that tells me that the president knew what he was going to be discussing had some extraordinary significance, otherwise, it would be part of meeting. And I think that makes it hard for the president to argue that -- well, I didn't really intend it and it was a casual conversation.
COOPER: The other thing that Senator Risch was making a point of was that Jim Comey should have done something either in that moment or gone to Congress or gone to somebody to warn, to raise a red flag.
KING: And I don't think that's an illegitimate point. And Comey conceded that. He said, you know, in 20/20 hindsight, perhaps I should have gone.
He did go back and talk to the top echelons at the FBI about it. He did share that information with the leadership of the FBI. He didn't share it with the attorney general because he was concerned about, I believe, where the attorney general stood in all of this. But he did share it with the FBI.
But, yes, I mean, you can say in 20/20 hindsight, he should have perhaps resigned or gone to the attorney general directly. He did spend a lot of time trying to get the attorney general and others to form a barrier, to explain to the president this wasn't really appropriate to be meeting one-on-one with the head of the FBI.
[20:15:03] COOPER: When -- I mean, how does this evolve beyond just a he said-he said? I mean, it seems like, you know, President Trump sort of teased the idea that there might be tapes. You now have the president's attorney coming up point-blank and saying, look, the president never said this stuff. You would think his attorney wouldn't say that unless he knew that there were not tapes, which would if they were revealed --
KING: Well, the easiest way to get out of that is if there are tapes to release them. Let's get that question clarified.
Apparently, the White House was equivocal on that as they were several weeks ago. Let's find out if there were tapes and if there were, let's have them. That will end this discussion.
Secondly is the question of Mr. Comey's credibility. He has a great deal of credibility, as we've heard in this hearings, and the contemporaneous memos that he wrote which are -- have probative value in a court. A contemporaneous memo is -- goes to buttress the credibility of the witness, as well as having told other people about these conversations.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Senator, isn't there another way to test who's telling the truth here, which is to see if the president said similar things to other officials in the administration? What about yesterday's hearing?
KING: That was one of my questions yesterday.
TOOBIN: Exactly. I mean, just to introduce what you were saying, you had the Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Coats, you had the head of the NSA, both of whom refused to talk about their conversations on this very subject with President Trump.
What would you like to know from them?
KING: Well, I want to know whether they had similar conversations. There's been reported there were similar conversations about their being asked by the president to somehow curtail or impede or influence the investigation. That was the purpose of my questions. They didn't answer them. I think they had no good reason --
COOPER: In fact, DNI Dan Coats acknowledged he had no real basis for not answering your question.
KING: No legal basis. It was like, you know, imagine you get home at 3:00 in the morning and your dad says, where the heck have you been, and you say, well, I find that an uncomfortable question, I don't think I'm going to answer. I mean, that was essentially what happened yesterday. That's not going to wash.
TOOBIN: But what can you do about that? I mean, you're a senator. What can -- how can you get them answer the question? KING: Director Coats left the door rather wide open by saying, I will discuss this in a closed hearing and be more forthcoming. So, we're going to make that happen. And so, we will be able to ask those questions. I think the point you're making is, if they had similar conversations about the investigation, as Mr. Comey reported, that certainly goes to buttress his position.
Now, it's important to also say, Comey was clear today that he felt what the president was doing was strictly on the Flynn investigation, not on the entire Russian investigation. Then, the question is, isn't Flynn a key part of the overall investigation? And as he eluded in his testimony in the open, if Flynn was guilty of something, a prosecutor might well use him as a witness based upon his unwillingness to go to jail, to get evidence in the remaining kind of case. You can't just read Flynn out of the case.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One of the mysteries that wasn't answered today is why the president was so energetic apparently in trying to get Comey to cut some slack for General Flynn. This isn't his habit. He's not, you know, that level -- that degree of loyalty to people around him.
Is there anything that you've learned either in the hearing today or in classified settings? I know you can't talk about specifics -- that would help explain why the president might be so invested in this notion that Flynn get off?
KING: Well, I don't think it's possible to answer that question, at least not at this stage. And again, we're now talking about a lot of the issues that the special counsel is going to -- is going to be following up. We've got all the indications are the special counsel considers this whole question of the president's relationship to the investigation as part of his investigation.
So, we're going to find out about that. But in terms of what the motivation, it could be, and it was alluded to today, it could be just the president liked General Flynn and didn't want to see him hurt. I mean, it could be something as simple as that or it could be an effort to try to impede the overall investigation.
That's the question I think the special counsel's going to have to ask.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me ask you, I know you can't talk about what's in classified settings.
KING: Yes, but you're going to ask.
BASH: No, I'm going to try to do to try to work around it and see if you can answer it. You heard Jim Sciutto reporting that you were told that Jeff Sessions had an additional meeting with the Russian ambassador, that's what James Comey told you today. I know you can't confirm that. But, broadly, even listening to the public testimony from James Comey today, how concerned are you about Jeff Sessions and his role currently as the attorney general of the United States?
[20:20:01] KING: Well, I can't comment at all on whether there was a third meeting.
BASH: No, I get that.
KING: We already know that there were several meetings, and we know that Jeff Sessions recused himself. I do think there was a question that didn't really get followed up too much today was the role Jeff Sessions played in Comey's firing.
BASH: That's what Comey was strongly hinting at in public testimony. So, are you concerned there was something inappropriate?
KING: Well, we know -- we know from the public record, I mean, the president cited Jeff Sessions recommendation in his letter firing Comey. So, there's no question Jeff Sessions was involved in that decision.
BASH: Should he have been, knowing what you know?
KING: Well, my sense is, if he recused himself, he should have recused himself and not had anything to do with that decision, depending upon what the real rationale for that decision was, and the president later said it was the Russia thing. So, it's a very -- the recusal had 20/20 vision in this case.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Again, without going -- I'm sorry. Go ahead, Gloria.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICLA ANALYST: Comey refused to say today, you know, to characterize what he saw and what he observed with the president as obstruction.
BORGER: He didn't, he was --
KING: And I think that was appropriate.
BORGER: You think that.
From what you heard about from his testimony today, do you think there is a case that can be made against the president for obstruction?
KING: Listen, that's not my job to make that call. That's all about special counsel. That's a legal question and I'm not in a position.
You're asking me to be the judge, jury and executioner here, and I'm not going to do it. I think there's a lot of information we still need. We need more information about what the president said to these other intelligence community members.
But that ultimately, that kind of -- I think it's important to make this distinction. Our committee is looking at the facts of what happened and trying to figure out how to prevent this from happening again. That's important. To me, that was one of the biggest stories of today, not the back and forth with the president. But that Comey, I love the phrase he used, this question has no fuzz
on it. It's absolutely clear what the Russians did, what they tried to do and that they're going to come back and do it again. So, that's the important question.
So, I'm going to leave to the special counsel and ultimately the legal system.
BORGER: Well, but Congress ultimately might have to decide.
KING: Well, we might, but we're a long way from that.
BERNSTEIN: The question of collusion -- Senator, the question of collusion by the campaign, without going into what classified information might be involved, are you confident that the committee is getting from the intelligence community and perhaps from witnesses the beginning of an account and being able to put together a sense of what happened in terms of possible collusion by the campaign?
KING: Yes. We have unprecedented access to intelligence documents.
BERNSTEIN: And you're getting it?
KING: And we're getting it. It's at Langley. We go out to Langley. That was the compromise with the CIA and the NSA was the documents would stay there. So, we go to the documents. But we have access to them and we are getting full cooperation from the intelligence agencies at this point and I expect that to continue.
BERNSTEIN: Is that robust to use one of the terms of part of your investigation, to the extent that you think it's producing a picture of what might have happened in a preliminary phase?
KING: I would have to say it's quite preliminary. I mean, we're interviewing witnesses. Our staff is going to interview Jared Kushner next week. I think that was announced this evening.
COOPER: That's going to be public or?
KING: No. This is a preliminary interview by the staff.
BERNSTEIN: Sebastian Gorka on your list?
KING: I'm not going to answer who specifically on our list. But let me just say that we're going to -- we're going to talk to a lot of the names you've heard and a lot of the names you haven't heard.
COOPER: Professor Turley?
JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Are you concerned at all about the fact that the former director of the FBI acknowledged he leaked these memos through a professor of Columbia? There is an argument to be made that those memos could be government property. He did it on an FBI computer. It was about stuff within his jurisdiction, within his duties as FBI director, and he leaked a major document after a president said, I really need your help dealing with leaks.
I mean, does that concern you at all?
KING: Well, number one, he wasn't -- he wasn't in the FBI when this occurred. And number two, of course, it's a legitimate question, although when you use the word "leak," it implies something is classified.
I heard the attorney say there was nothing classified about these memos. These were memos that he wrote to refresh his own recollection of an event.
I think it's a fair question. But I don't -- there's been no assertion of executive privilege by the presidency. We'll have to ask Jeff. But I don't know of why these documents, other than I think you stated it, government property perhaps, but these were his personal recollections in the FBI files.
[20:25:04] The important thing to me is we're going to get ahold of those memos.
COOPER: What's interesting about the meeting in the Oval Office where Director Comey says the president said, you know, I hope you can let Flynn go and felt this was a direction, there's a lot of Republicans who are in support of the president who are saying, well, Director Comey should have spoken up then, and putting the emphasis on Director Comey's actions as opposed to what the president himself said to Director Comey.
Do you think that's appropriate or should the focus be on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the president of the United States?
KING: I think people are free to second-guess Comey's decisions. You know, as I said to you, perhaps he should have said, Mr. President, we shouldn't be having this discussion or walked out or talked about resignation or gone to the attorney general. I mean, there are a lot of things in 20/20 hindsight we say he might have done.
I think as he testified, he was sort of stunned by this. He did go back and talk to his colleagues at the FBI, he did record it in a contemporaneous memo. But to say -- I mean, that doesn't change what the president said to him, at least he alleges the president said to him. You know, you can talk about what he should have done. You can also talk about what the president should or shouldn't have done.
AXELROD: Given the fact your committee is probing this issue of Russia's role, as you said, you're leaving the rest to the special counsel, you heard Director Comey say that he had never been asked by the president about Russia and the role that it played, other than that first meeting on January 6th, with the intelligence community representatives.
Do you think the president understands the gravity of this? Does he share your sense of gravity about what Russia was up to?
KING: I thought that was one of the most disturbing moments of the hearing this morning when Joe Manchin said, did the president ask you any questions about this? Did he express any interest in it or did he express any curiosity about what the Russians did? And the answer was, no. He did qualify it a little bit, said on January 6th, there was some discussion.
But in the eight subsequent conversations, there was never a question about what were the Russians doing and how were they doing it? And well, you all know, it's no secret. For months the president has been dismissing the whole matter as a hoax and a fake and a witch-hunt, and those kinds of things.
That is disturbing because this was an attack on our democracy. And what I think has to get across to the American people is Putin is not a Republican. He's an opportunist. He's not a Democrat.
And this could just as easily be happening in two or four years in the opposite direction. Marco Rubio on our committee gets that very clearly. And he said it a number of times, he said, look, fellows, next time, this could be us.
BORGER: Do you know if there are tapes?
KING: I do not. Boy, if you know about them, let me know.
COOPER: Senator King, we appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
KING: Thank you all very much.
COOPER: Much more ahead tonight, including the claim from the most powerful Republican in the House that the president deserves a pass because he's kind of new at all this.
Plus, why James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said that Watergate pales in comparison to what he's seeing today, and his comments on today's testimony by Director Comey and also saying he believes President Trump is a threat to the entire American political system. Details on that ahead.
[20:32:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: To say many in Washington certainly were riveted by James Comey testimony only a little bit obvious than saying Dir. Comey is just a little on the tall side.
People here held -- watch parties at local bars, every cable and broadcast network carried the hearings. You could hear it from one end to the radio dials to the other and up on Capitol Hill, at least things pretty much came to a halt until the question ended, then, came to reaction. CNN's Phil Mattingly has that, joins us now.
So, I understand you have new information Phil of -- about Jared Kushner meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee, we just heard from Angus King, he's going to meet with the staff next week, correct? PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's exactly right. Jared Kushner will meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee staff first, then he will, according to two sources familiar with the matter, provide documents to the committee, and then after that he's scheduled to meet with senators.
Now there's no expectation that any of this is going to be public but this underscores what Jared Kushner's lawyer and the White House Officials have said repeatedly. He's willing to meet with anybody who is investigating anything and talk to them about his role.
Now what are they actually looking at? Well, Anderson, CNN has reported that when it comes to Jared Kushner the issues that they're looking at or are related to a number of different issues from the campaign's digital operation, his relationship with fired National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, and the efforts, the reported efforts, to set up a back channel with Russia. All of those things are of interest to investigators. The Senate Intelligence Committee looks like they'll get their chance to talk to him soon.
COOPER: What's the reaction I mean on Capitol Hill today?
MATTINGLY: Yeah, it's a mix bag, that's actually the exact words of Sen. John Cornyn, the second rank Republican in the Senate.
Look, if you're a Democrat, at least according to Democratic senators I've spoke to, this year was a vivid illustration of everything they've been saying occurred up to this point, very damaging revelations, very severely problematic kind of disclosures, and even potential illegality.
Now, if you talk to a Republicans there were some shrugging, John McCain told me that he didn't there was anything earth shattering or shocking out of this hearing. They're trying to move on.
One thing I think is clear here, and we get this from the Kushner meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee, that both the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Anderson, and the vice chairman, Mark Warner of the Democrat, making very clear, no matter what's going on, what the reaction is, their investigation continues. They are scheduled to meet with Bob Mueller, the special counsel, next week. They are, obviously, going to be meeting with and Jared Kushner as well. Their investigation continues even though this kind of Super Bowl sort of Washington is now over.
COOPER: And what you're hearing from House leaders?
MATTINGLY: You know, what's interesting, today, the House officials were largely trying to keep their head down. They're passing a bill to largely dismantle Dodd-Frank, the financial regulation law from the Obama administration. But we did hear from Speaker Paul Ryan a defense that I heard today from a number of different Republicans. The president didn't know any better, something I pushed back on a follow-up question. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAUL RYAN, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: Of course, there needs to be a degree of independence between DOJ, FBI and the White House and the line of communications established. The president's new at this. He's new to government. And so, he probably wasn't steeped in the long running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White House. He's just new to this.
MATTINGLY: Yu said the president is new to this, he's not steeped in the ling running protocol, (inaudible) White House counsel. Why is that acceptable excuse for him?
[20:35:08] RYAN: I'm not saying it's an acceptable excuse, it's just my observation.
MATTINGLY: So there's nothing --
RYAN: It's just my observation.
MATTINGLY: There's nothing that should be corrected or --
RYAN: He's new at government and so therefore I think that he's learning as he goes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: And: Anderson, this is something you heard from multiple Republicans today, Marco Rubio saying something similar that it's up to the president's staff, they were the ones who failed here that he didn't know any better. But it's not necessarily an excuse that flies, while he\s new to this, while he's clearly not a politician, didn't have government experience going to this, even Republicans will acknowledge that what they've seen, what came out of this hearing, what came out of Jim Comey's testimony was certainly untoward. The big question now is does it go any further than that? So far we don't have those answers.
COOPER: Phil Mattingly thanks. Few lawmakers watched the hearings with greater interest than our next guest, Congressman Adam Schiff of California, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Thanks for being with us.
First of all, what do you make of that argument by Speaker Ryan, the president is new to this and maybe understandable that he doesn't understand the separation that supposed to exist?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) RANKING MEMBERS, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I don't buy that at all. I don't think you can make an argument that we hold this president to a different ethical standard unless he's suggesting that the president is new to a high ethical standards or new to a commitment to be honest with the public. That just doesn't fly. And what's more -- I found among the most powerful part of the testimony when the director said the president cleared the room, wanted the attorney general out, want everybody else out of the room. To me as a former prosecutor that says this is someone conscious that what he is about to do is wrong.
COOPER: If you're new you might say it in front of everybody.
SCHIFF: Yes. If you didn't think there was anything wrong with it, if you didn't think you needed to maintain independence from the FBI, if you didn't think there was anything problem about asking the director to drop a case involved in one of your close associates, then why clear the room.
COOPER: So those who say, look, Dir. Comey should have spoken up -- should have confronted the president immediately when the president say, well, I hope you can do this or told other people, more others than he told or gone to somebody on Capitol Hill?
SCHIFF: I agree. I think that Dir. Comey should have said, Mr. President, that's not an appropriate request, I can't do that. I'm not going to pledge loyalty for X, Y and Z reasons. I'm not going to drop this case because you ask me to. You shouldn't be asking me. That is what he should have said.
Now, whether any of us under those circumstances would have been any less stunned than him or would have acted in any way we would ideally want some of that in the situation, I can't say.
But I will say this, what I found credible about the director's testimony among other things is the fact he was willing to testify that he didn't meet some of the standards that we would want him to meet.
COOPER: The fact that he admitted that he in retrospect should have done more?
SCHIFF: That he admitted that. That he acknowledged providing these documents to this professor in New York. That he said that he was persuaded by Loretta lynch to use a word he didn't feel was the right word. So, you know, I think that adds credibility when he was willing to say, OK, I should have handled this differently. Maybe I should handle differently.
COOPER: If he should have spoken up to Pres. Trump, do you agree that he should have spoken up to Atty. Gen. Lynch at the time and say, look, I'm not -- I'm going to use the word investigation, which is what this is, not matter?
SCHIFF: Sure. I think you can certainly make the case that he should have had a different response to Loretta Lynch. He should have had a different response to the president. I think you also make the case he should have gone to someone at justice. If he couldn't go to Jeff Sessions he should have gone to the Acting Deputy A.G. But none of that mitigates the president's conduct. To me it adds credibility to Comey's testimony. He wasn't the perfect FBI Director. I had my own questions about how he exercised judgment during the Clinton investigation, but the fact that he's willing to admit some of his own failings to me, makes him more believable.
COOPER: Was anything actually learned today -- I mean anything decided, anything really advanced? SCHIFF: A lot was learned today. And, of course, a part of what may be didn't seem so shocking to people is that we knew a lot of this beforehand because of newspaper stories. We knew obviously a lot yesterday because of the detailed written statement. But when you step back from it and you realize that the former director of the FBI has just said that he felt the need to write memos about his conversations because he felt the president would lie about them, the fact the director of the FBI felt that he couldn't go to the attorney general because the attorney general was conflicted. That the president asked him to drop a criminal case against the National Security Advisor, that ought to take our breath away. And I really feel we can't get to the point where we lose our shock over this president's conduct. And I just don't accept in any way shape or form that you can dismiss it. I know he's not a politician. He knows right from wrong. And if he doesn't, he shouldn't be in that office. So I don't think that's an adequate answer.
[20:40:03] COOPER: Congressman Schiff, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
COOPER: A lot to discuss with the panel.
Kirsten we -- I haven't heard from you today. What today stands out?
KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Look, I think that if you take Dir. Comey, former Dir. Comey at his word, it certainly painted a very bad picture of Pres. Trump.
The issue is if you want to prove that Pres. Trump is criminal -- engaged in some sort of criminal activity, obstruction of justice or high crimes and misdemeanors, then you're going to need something more than just one man's testimony.
You know, if you look back on other situations with Nixon if there were no tapes there would be no impeachment. With Clinton if there was no blue dress there would no impeachment. It's not enough for one person to tell a story. So you either need that Donald Trump didn't actually taped the conversations to get those tapes. You need another person to come out and corroborate what he has said, perhaps, you know, another person saying, yes, Donald Trump told me that he said this to Comey and that was his intent. That would be the second point, yes, we have to know what the president's intent was. Because, the fact of the matter is, he's allowed to fire his director if he wants to. And the question is whether he was trying to obstruct justice. And that hasn't been proven. So, I think that there was a lot of interesting information that certainly made a case in the direction of obstruction of justice. But we're a long ways away from proving any criminal behavior.
MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Yeah, sort of the same place as Kirsten. And I think this is a mixed bag, which ever side you are on, which are the narrative you want to embrace, you could pick things out. He called the president a liar and also called himself a coward. So everybody can enjoy their part of that.
But the thing people keep landing on the idea that he needed to take notes because Pres. Trump lied or Pres. Trump might not know what these ethical lines are, I don't feel like that's new information. It is also not something that -- on its face gets you out of office, like we don't have a function for removing you from office because you lied sometimes. There has to be this other step. And I'm not sure that we got there today. We did get the news that perhaps he wasn't being investigated before but maybe now in the Mueller part of this. And I think that's important. But I'm not sure we have hit that bar at this point.
COOPER: David, all day, you really been putting a lot of emphasis on the failure by Dir. Comey at the time to stand up to the president.
DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: And, Anderson, I'll say it again. Everyone says, oh, Dir. Comey was a deer in the headlights at that point. He said in his testimony today, you heard him say, I was so taken aback by, I didn't know what to do. But, yet, he went in another time and another time and another time.
And I remind you his May 2007 testimony about -- in the Bush administration he was driving -- being driven home to have dinner with his family when he was told the attorney general and the White House chief of staff were going to see Atty. Gen. Ashcroft who was in the hospital. He thought very quickly, summoned his forces, ran quickly to the -- and laid on the tracks in fronts of Atty. Gen. Ashcroft. So this is a gentleman very quick on his feet, thinks very fast and is used to standing up to power and speaking truth to power.
COOPER: Van, what about that?
VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE MESSRY TRUTH: Standing up to Ashcroft when he's in his bed --
URBAN: He stood in front of Andy Card and Alberto Gonzales.
JONES: You said this many times. Let me tell you why I don't think it's persuasive. In that situation you have Ashcroft, you know, he's in a situation. You're doing the normal thing you would ordinarily do -- hold on a second. If want somebody who believes in the rule of law you're going to make a case, a passionate case for something you believe in. You are not facing the president of the United States who may be committing a crime right in front of you or who may just be a weirdo.
And so, part of I think -- you got to realize -- I think for ordinary people, you can try to talk your way around this stuff. If the best thing we can say about the president is that he was only called a liar and we weren't able to prove he was a criminal today, that's not a good day for the president and not why --