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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Comey: Trump Lied About Me And The FBI; Comey Is "Sure" Special Counsel Looking Into Possible Obstruction; Comey: "I Took It As A Direction" By Trump To End Flynn Probe; Comey Shared His Trump Memo To Spur Special Counsel; Comey: I Believe I Was Fired Over Russia Investigation; W.H. Responds To Comey: "President Is Not A Liar"; Trump Lawyer Suggests Investigation Of Comey Memo Leak. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired June 8, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:02] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: He said this about the Trump/Russia story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I think you compare the two that Watergate pales, really in my view, and compared to what we're confronting now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that Watergate comparison made headlines tonight, reacting to James Comey's Senate testimony. And only here on CNN he took criticism of the president a little further. I spoke to him earlier this evening.
COOPER: General Clapper, as I mentioned, earlier this week you said that Watergate pales compared to what we are confronting now. I wonder from what you saw today and heard today, did it disabuse you of that notion at all?
CLAPPER: No, on the contrary it reinforced it. And just so to understand the context of my comment, what the big difference in my mind between Watergate, which I lived through, and this is the backdrop of the Russian interference in our political process as opposed to a burglary, a break-in, to me that is hugely different. And I thought Jim Comey's testimony was riveting, compelling. And to me reinforced the comparison at least in my mind between Watergate and what we confront now.
COOPER: In what way does it reinforce the seriousness of what the U.S. is confronting right now?
CLAPPER: Well, I think the director -- former Director Comey's testimony about his interactions with the president and what the president appeared to be trying to get him to do, I thought was quite damning and very disturbing.
COOPER: Have you ever seen or experienced a president acting in this way, talking in this way, interacting with a director of the FBI or other intelligence officials this way?
CLAPPER: No, I have not. Not in my experience of 50-plus years in the intelligence community.
COOPER: There have been some defenders of the president who have sort of given the explanation, "Well, the president doesn't have experience in these matters. It doesn't have -- you know, hasn't served before. May not know about the separations or to the degree that a more experienced practiced government figure would or politician would." Is that essentially that he is sort of naive to the ways of the separations that are supposed to exist? Is that -- do you put any credence in that?
CLAPPER: Well, I don't -- I'm not sure that's a valid excuse for someone who sought to be president and then to turn around and say -- and assert that he was so ill prepared for the office, which itself is kind of a damning acknowledgment.
COOPER: Former Director Comey also said that he was concerned that the president would lie about their very first meeting. And that's why he initially took those notes as soon as he left the meeting at Trump Tower.
The White House fire back saying they can "definitively say the president is not a liar." You've known Director Comey. You dealt with the president. I wonder if it comes down to a he said, he said, whose word would you trust?
CLAPPER: There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that I will -- I have and always will trust the word and the integrity of Jim Comey.
COOPER: And from what you heard today, from what's been going on over the past several months, how much concern do you have about the integrity of the U.S. institution, institutions that are the foundation of any solid democracy? I talked to General Michael Hayden several weeks ago who talked about the thin veneer of civilization and having real concerns about that?
CLAPPER: Mike Hayden is right. My concerns about the assaults that our institutions are undergoing both from external source, meaning Russia, and an internal source, I thought Jim's impassioned discourse on the real deal here, the big story is the Russian interference in our process.
And they exceeded their wildest dreams and expectations, I am sure, by the discord, doubt and the disruption they've caused in our political process. And by the way, they are emboldened now to be even more aggressive. They're not going to stop.
COOPER: You talked about threats and now you said external source, obviously Russia, and you said internal source. What is the internal source? [21:05:06] COOPER: Well, as I indicated I think the president himself is undertaken, whether intentionally or not, assaults on our institutions. And Mike Hayden is exactly right. There is a thin veneer there which can easily be jeopardized to the detriment of the country.
COOPER: So, Senator, I don't want to put words in your mouth. But, are you saying that you believe the President of the United States is a threat to democracy?
CLAPPER: Well, to our system, you know, the assaults on the institutions starting with my own, the intelligence community and his characterization of us as Nazis. The commentary he has made about the judiciary and individual judges, the assault on the bureau as examples, which are not constructive for our country.
COOPER: General Clapper, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
CLAPPER: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: A very tough words from General Clapper there. If you are just joining us now, let's quickly lay out the top story tonight. Director Comey's riveting Senate testimony, the fallout, the question, did he make the case for the president obstruction of justice? We'll get reaction momentarily from one of the senators on the intelligence community who questioned him today. But, first, here's Dana Bash with all the key moments.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth --
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The former FBI director under oath and unvarnished, called the president who fired him, a liar.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray. That it was poorly led, that the work force had lost confidence in its leaders. Those were lies, plain and simple.
BASH (voice-over): Using the L word more than once.
COMEY: I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document.
BASH (voice-over): With a flair for the dramatic he is known for, James Comey described that fateful February 14th moment in the Oval Office when President Trump kicked everyone out, but Comey, and asked him to lay off the investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
COMEY: My impression was something big is about to happen. I need to remember every single word that he spoken. My sense was the attorney general knew. He shouldn't be leaving, which is why he was lingering and I don't Mr. Kushner well, but I think he pick up on the same thing. And so I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to.
BASH (voice-over): And though Comey testified that the president did not explicitly order him to lay off Flynn, that's exactly how he took it.
COMEY: 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. I didn't obey that, but that's the way I took it.
BASH (voice-over): He came under scrutiny from lawmakers for not pushing back on the president in the moment.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Why didn't you stop and say, "Mr. President, this is wrong. I cannot discuss this with you."
COMEY: It's a great question. Maybe if I were stronger I would have.
BASH (voice-over): After he fired Comey last month, the president twitted that Comey better hope that there are no tapes about of our conversations before he start leaking to the press.
COMEY: Look, I've seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.
BASH (voice-over): Stunningly, Comey revealed that Trump's tweet prompted him to strategically deliver content of real time memos he wrote about his conversations with Trump to the press.
COMEY: I woke up in the middle of the night, on Monday night, because it didn't dawn on me originally that there might be corroboration for our conversation, there might be a taped and my judgment was I needed to get that out into the public square.
And so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. I can do it myself for a variety of reasons, but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of special counsel and so I ask a close friend of mine to do it.
BASH (voice-over): That Comey now a private citizen deliberately use the press to force the appointment of a special counsel is a stark illustration of how seasoned he is in the ways of Washington. What was not standard Washington behavior, argued Comey, was a president asking an FBI director for what he took as a loyalty pledge.
COMEY: And I could be wrong, but my common sense told me what's going on here is that he is looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay on the job.
BASH (voice-over): Throughout his nearly three-hour testimony, Comey revealed several nuggets about the FBI criminal probe now in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, like this about Flynn. SEN. RICHARD BURR, (R) CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Do you think that the president was trying to obstruct justice or just seek for a way for Mike Flynn to save face, given that he was already fired.
[21:10:05] COMEY: General Flynn at that point in time was in legal jeopardy. There was an open FBI criminal investigation of his statements in connection with the Russian contacts and the contacts themselves.
BASH (voice-over): And he hinted at information not yet known to the public about Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
COMEY: Our judgment as I recall was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself. For a variety of reasons, we also were aware of facts that I can't discussed in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in Russia related investigation problematic.
BASH (voice-over): And though Comey testified that as FBI director, he did in fact tell the president he was not being investigated. Comey revealed that he handed over his memos about his conversations with Trump to the special counsel, which could mean now the president is being investigated for obstruction of justice.
COOPER: And Dana joins us. Now, Director Comey also had some fascinating details and very damning details about then Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
COOPER: And what she asked him -- the way she asked him to not use the word investigation regarding Hillary Clinton.
BASH: It was stunning. In any other context, this probably would have been the political bomb that dropped in the hearing. But, basically, what he said and remember, of course, James Comey was criticized in a big way by Democrats and even some Republicans for the way he handled the Clinton e-mail investigation.
He said that the Obama attorney general then basically, his boss, Loretta Lynch, directed him not to call it an investigation, but instead call it a matter, which he said was confusing and he said it concerned him.
COOPER: He also said that word matter is that the word that the Clinton campaign was using to describe, so basically it was sort of the idea that the attorney general was colluding with the Clinton campaign or (inaudible) the Clinton campaign that was sympathy for them.
BASH: Exactly, which would have been completely inappropriate. And, again, this is a bomb on Lynch, but also a way for him to continue to try to restore his reputation which, you know, was damaged in a bipartisan way for the way that he handled exactly. COOPER: Although it didn't show that Director Comey in the best light because he agreed to call it a matter. He didn't stand up and say, "Oh, no, it's an investigation. I'm going to call investigators. Like, oh, yeah, you know, it makes me queasy, but I'm going to do it."
BASH: Yeah. No, that's a good point.
COOPER: Dana, thanks very much.
You heard a bit from California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein in Dana's report. I spoke with her earlier this evening.
COOPER: Senator Feinstein, what was the key takeaway in your view from Director Comey's testimony today?
FEINSTEIN: Well, my key takeaway was the FBI has lost a very good man and a very good leader. That's my key takeaway. I think it's pretty clear he refused to lay off of the Flynn investigation. He refused to raise the cloud or stop the Russia investigation. And he refused to pledge loyalty to a president and for that he got fired. And that's really too bad. That's not what this country is about. And the FBI should be separate. And it should function based on law and not based on the political nature of a presidency.
COOPER: I want to play one of your exchanges with Mr. Comey about that February 14th Oval Office meeting when Director Comey said the president asked him to drop the Flynn investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEINSTEIN: Here is the question. You're big, you're strong. I know the Oval Office and I know what happens to people when they walk in. There is a certain amount of intimidation. But why didn't you stop and say, "Mr. President, this is wrong. I cannot discuss this with you."
COMEY: That's a great question. Maybe if I were stronger I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in. And the only thing I could think to say because I was playing in my mind because I couldn't remember every word he said, I was playing in my mind what should my response be and that's why I very carefully chose the words. And, look, I've seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Should he have done more in that moment or even in the aftermath? Should he have alerted more people about it or come to Congress?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I do think he should have said, "Look, Mr. President, this is inappropriate. I can't discuss this with you. We can talk about other things, but I can't talk about this."
COOPER: Do you believe the White House has a taping system?
FEINSTEIN: I'd sure like to see it if they have it. And we may do something about trying to see if they do. But right now, I candidly just don't know.
COOPER: At one point your colleague, Republican Senator Tom Cotton, brought up past statements that you had made to CNN about not yet seeing any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians. Is that still accurate?
FEINSTEIN: Yes. It's still accurate. We're in investigative phase. We haven't gathered all the evidence. We're just beginning. And there's a lot more work to do.
[21:15:12] I know there's a rush to judgment, but it's going to take time to do it. And the fair thing is not to make a judgment until you can see all the evidence in one place, ask questions, and make judgments and come to a conclusion. And that's the only fair way to do it, in my mind, Anderson. And so I would say the same thing today about collusion that I said whatever it was a month ago or so.
COOPER: And I know you can't discuss the specifics with what Director Comey told you and your colleagues in this afternoon's classified section, can you say whether he gave you more of the detail you were looking for and if it leads you further in one direction or another?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I can say this that there was an opportunity for members to ask questions. And so members ask questions that they had, that they couldn't ask in the public session. That's really all I can say.
COOPER: Sure. Finally, you heard the president's private attorney said this afternoon that James Comey testimony was a vindication of the president. Is that how you see it? Is that a vindication of the president?
FEINSTEIN: Not at all. Not at all. I actually tend to believe Comey. And I think all of this could have been avoided and the tragedy is that the United States government and the people -- the 30,000 employees of the FBI lost a good leader over this. And I very much regret that. And I really hope the president does too.
But I'll say this, if the new nominee wants to pledge loyalty to the president and won't maintain the kind of independence that has been the hallmark of the FBI, I certainly won't vote for him when he comes before us.
COOPER: Senator Feinstein, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, bye.
COOPER: A lot to discuss with the panel, David Chalian, April Ryan, Gloria Borger, Dana Bash, Jeffrey Toobin, Professor Elizabeth Foley, Jason Miller and Paul Begala. Professor Foley, let me start with you. Was today -- I mean, the White House, they basically seem today was a good day for the president. Was it?
ELIZABETH FOLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL PROFESSOR: I think it was a good day for the president. I think that James Comey came across as sort of a quintessential Washington insider, who simultaneously sort of manages to be Mickey Avalon and spineless at the same time.
There were moments where he admitted that he wasn't standing up and giving the proper advice to the president. He was also verifying that a lot of things the president said were true. I think also interestingly he also confirmed in my mind, which I believed all along that there was no obstruction of justice here, just simply no legal case to be made for that.
COOPER: He does contradict directly when the president said, "I didn't, you know, tell him to stop the Flynn investigation." I mean, he clear believes that is what he was directed to do. And the point to loyalty the president has flat out said he didn't ask for that.
FOLEY: Yeah. I mean, look, I found it kind of interesting they were kind of debating how many angels sit on the head of a pin. You know, do they demand his honest-loyalty, his loyal-honesty, his honesty, his loyalty. I don't think any of that matters.
The president certainly has the authority under the Article II of the constitution to appoint this person with the advice (inaudible) of the Senate. He can fire him at any time for any reason, whatsoever. He can certainly demand his loyalty. And so I think it's normal for a president to demand loyalty from all of his subordinates.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Do you really do think he has the right to fire him for any reason, whatsoever?
FOLEY: Oh, absolutely.
TOOBIN: He says if you don't give $100,000, I can fire you, and that's OK.
FOLEY: Yeah. I mean, there may be a crime there that can be investigated.
TOOBIN: If I don't want any Catholics in my investigation, so I'm firing you.
TOOBIN: That's OK.
FOLEY: Yes, because there are two separate questions --
FOLEY: No. There's two separate legal questions here. One, can the president constitutionally fire the person? The answer to that is always yes, regardless of the circumstances, even if he thinks he smells bad, right?
Number two, if the president does fire him and engages in that sort behavior and we have evidence of that beyond a reasonable doubt, that could constitute a separate crime. And then the question becomes legally, can you prosecute the sitting president? I think that's legally ambiguous.
But, could that evidence amount to a high crime and misdemeanor under Article II, the suffice for impeachment? I think the answer to that is clearer, and the answer would probably be yes.
TOOBIN: Well, we disagree profoundly about this. And I think the examples I gave are indicative of how serious what's going on here. If there are crimes committed between the attorney general -- between the director of the FBI and the president, you bet that is --
FOLEY: What crime.
TOOBIN: Obstruction of justice.
FOLEY: All right, tell me, explain to me how it's obstruction of justice.
TOOBIN: When you -- it's very similar to 1972 in the same --
FOLEY: Not at all similar.
TOOBIN: -- Oval Office where the president said there is a pending investigation --
TOOBIN: -- of his full former national security adviser, and he says let him go.
[21:20:05] FOLEY: Nixon --
TOOBIN: Let him go. That's the use of the FBI for political purposes and it's unlawful and it should be prosecuted.
TOOBIN: And invest --
FOLEY: Here's the professor in me coming out.
FOLEY: There are two sets of statutes under the U.S. code under Title 18. They deal with the obstruction of pending proceedings and obstruction of investigations.
FOLEY: There's only one obstruction of investigation statute that would be arguably ethical that's Section 1510 of Title 18 of USA. That basically requires that there be an act of bribery that prevents a communication to a criminal investigator about a crime. You would agree that neither one of those elements have been satisfied.
FOLEY: OK. So then we move on to pending proceedings of obstruction of justice statute.
TOOBIN: Correct. That's the relevant one.
FOLEY: That's correct. There's 1510 and there's 1512, both have pending proceedings language in them. Pending proceedings is a legal term of art. It's defined in Section 1515.
FOLEY: And a pending proceeding is a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding in which -- for example, quasi-judicial would be an administrative agency that has subpoena power, enforcement power. The FBI does not have subpoena power so it does not qualify.
Every single court that has been asked the question, does an FBI investigation constitute a pending proceeding under the obstruction statute has answered the question, no, including the 9th Circuit, of the most liberal court in the country in 2013.
TOOBIN: Correct. And there was a grand jury proceeding in the eastern district of Virginia investigating Kelly at this moment.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
TOOBIN: So --
COOPER: I also want to bring in --
TOOBIN: -- here is your answer.
COOPER: Let me bring in some other folks.
COOPER: I know. I know. I like -- I love the detail, though. I do love the detail.
FOLEY: I'm a geek.
COOPER: Paul, clearly -- no, believe me, we're -- this is a panel of geeks. So, you know, this is called network of geeks. I mean, this is what we do. Paul, today -- I mean --
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think the president can't afford many more days this good. I disagree with the president it's a good day. OK, you stay with that.
My law schools at Denmark (ph), you know, have used to say about me, if you want to hide something from Begala, put it in a law book. He will never (inaudible). I'm not going to enter that conversation, OK. But I am a geek and I was a Watergate geek. I followed that. It was -- that was summarize tool at the little league and too young for girls and I fixated on Watergate.
So I happened to actually pause up, Jeffrey, the smoking gun tape, June 23rd, 1972. H.R. Haldeman, the chief of staff for the president says, "The way to handle this now is for us to have Walters." Vernon Walters is number two guy at the CIA called Pat Gray, the head of the FBI, and just say, "Stay the hell out of this. This is business. We don't want you to go any further on that." Nixon says, "Uh-huh."
That's all. For "uh-huh," the House Judiciary Committee voted impeachment. Nixon was force to resign. Even Barry Goldwater came down to the White House, so that's a smoking gun. You were telling the CIA to disrupt an FBI investigation. So if "uh-huh" was enough to drive Nixon out of office, what the hell did we just hear James Comey testify about today?
COOPER: And we're going to bring in John Dean a little bit later on as well as Carl Bernstein. But, Jason, I mean you clearly believe this is vindication for the president. I mean, I'm guessing.
JASON MILLER FORMER SR. COMMUNICATION ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Right.
COOPER: Call me crazy.
MILLER: Look, I think that Democrats severely over-played their hand today. I mean, we waited all day for some big shoe to drop and there just wasn't anything. And I think once folks in the media and the Democrats get done running through the recap of today's news cycle there's nowhere else for this to go. I think the biggest news on the day was the fact that Director Comey cleared the president on a number of fronts. I think that was very remarkable.
Now, there will be a few takeaways. I do think there will be additional folks looking into the director's efforts to manipulate the Justice Department by leaking out this memo to go and -- to this law school professor to then come back around. I think that needs additional scrutiny.
I think Loretta Lynch is going to have a couple of bumpy days in her future. And I think also there is going to be some additional criticisms on some of these leaks and other stories beside the director criticized "New York Times" and others for some of their reporting.
COOPER: You know, David Chalian, it's interesting the idea that, you know, there was no big shoe dropping today. In some ways, because so much of this information was reported out, had leaked out, you know, gotten by our reporters, "New York Times," "The Washington Post," and others. There was -- it was not as big of a surprise, and because to his opening statement --
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Exactly.
COOPER: -- was given out yesterday. CHALIAN: Yeah. The Senate Intelligence Committee posted it to their website yesterday, Comey wanted that released so that they could comb through and come up with questions. So a lot of the, gee whiz details already known.
But two things happened politically today that I think was really problematic for the president, which was two big negatives got reinforced, right? The FBI director over and over again called him a liar, called his administration a liar. And that was already a negative for Donald Trump. Two-thirds of the country thought he was a liar back on Election Day, two-thirds of the electorate.
Also, when Comey said, "I considered it to be a directive," that reinforce a negative that already exist, which is that a majority of the country believes that the president did interfere. So, he never want to reinforce a negative in politic. So those two things didn't go well.
[21:25:12] That being said, because there was no big new thing to chew on, no big shoe to drop, I do think this day probably wasn't as bad as it could have been for Donald Trump, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a bad day.
BORGER: Also Comey came out and said, "I was fired because of the Russia investigation." And we hadn't heard that before that he had drawn the conclusion and he said, and that is a big deal.
And he -- so you can see as you go through all his meetings and everything else that maybe he wasn't at obstruction on day one, but by the time he was fired for his Russia investigation and he wouldn't answer this question today with good reason, but you can see that he was drawing -- you know, that this is why I got fired, which was Russia, because the president said.
COOPER: April, though, I mean, plenty of the things that Director Comey said today, though, to Jason's point, you can point to and say for somebody who, you know, maybe was being portrayed as a boy scout, he clearly is a savvy, savvy, political player who has survived for a long time.
I mean, he doesn't confront Loretta Lynch, you know, when he told to use the word matter instead of investigation, doesn't confront the president directly, and yet he leaks this document as an end run in order to get a special counsel. I mean, it's like three dimensional chess.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And he was strategic in his -- the way he delivered his testimony, what he said. I mean, there were some questions. Senator Feinstein hit the nail squarely when she asked, you know, "You're a strong person, why did you not question or challenge the president at this moment?"
It was also that Loretta Lynch, I do think that, that was kind of a shoe that really drop in. And as the reporter than I am, I questioned and I called some people close to Loretta Lynch and they said they used the word matter at that time to neither confirm or deny that there was an investigation.
And then there was this other piece about, "Lordy, I wish that there was a tape." So, I called some members of the Secret Service and they actually said there is no taping devices within the White House. So -- but at the same time --
BORGER: They could have used this?
RYAN: Exactly, yes. Exactly, right. And Donald Trump is known, well, before he was president, when he was a businessman --
RYAN: -- to tape people. So his business meetings, so it is not beyond the realm of possibility. But the question is did it happen? So there were a lot of questions that I was left with, but I believe that Comey delivered a strong statement. But now as he said, he said and he said, she says, so it's a lot -- it's a long road we have to --
BASH: Don't mess with Comey. Well, I think -- I mean, I appreciate that it probably could have been worse for the White House, but any day that your spokesman says the president is not a liar. And needs to say that because the guy that he fired from the FBI says he was, multiple times, isn't a great day.
COOPER: We have much more ahead, including how the White House is reacting to all of this. And now the president is so far not reacting on Twitter at least. Later, more on James Clapper and the panels Watergate comparisons. A conversation with three people on that -- on three sides of that scandal, a prosecutor, an investigative reporter, and one of the president's men who paid the price for it.
[21:31:07] COOPER: The president as always said he's a counter puncher. Today, you can argue that he got hit. The former FBI director called him a liar, and stop (inaudible) away from accusing him of obstruction of justice, yet so far nothing directly from the president, not one single tweet.
However, there has been a reaction from his personal attorney. Jim Acosta has the latest on that. He joins us now. So, the White House claiming a victory today, explain what the president's lawyer said?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Anderson. The president was not counter-punching. He had both fists tied behind his back, you might say along with the smart phone. But the president's outside legal counsel, Marc Kasowitz, was certainly punching back.
He was making the case that the president had a good day today. But he was also trying to have it both ways, at the same time saying that Comey confirmed that the president is not a part of this Russia investigation, but at the same time, pushing back on the notion that the president insisted that Comey sign on as some kind of loyalty pledge.
But the White House -- the president's legal team really feels -- they really feel like they struck gold with his admission from James Comey that he did orchestrate the release of his memos through that Columbia professor. And you heard that from Marc Kasowitz earlier today. They called essentially the former FBI director a leaker. Here's what they had say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC KASOWITZ, PRES. TRUMP OUTSIDE COUNSEL: Today, 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, "Prompt the appointment of a special counsel."
Although Mr. Comey testified that he only leaked the memos in response to a tweet, the public record reveals that "The New York Times" was quoting from those memos the day before the referenced tweet, which belies Mr. Comey's excuse for this unauthorized disclosure of privileged information and appears to be entirely retaliatory.
We will leave it to the appropriate authorities to determine whether these leaks should be investigated, along with all of the others that are being investigated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, the president's attorney, Marc Kasowitz, has been feeling pretty good about Comey's testimony for the last 24 hours in response to that released to written testimony from Comey yesterday. We understand that Marc Kasowitz was at the Trump hotel in D.C. last night passing out cigars and claiming that the president has already won in all of this, Anderson.
COOPER: Jim, though -- I mean, if memory serves me correct, didn't Director Comey specifically say it was not classified? That Marc Kasowitz is saying one of them was classified.
ACOSTA: That's right. And there is the argument that, well, how can it be a leak if it is not classified information? And so, you did hear, you know, perhaps some legal maneuvering there from Marc Kasowitz earlier today, but no question about it.
This is not case closed for the president at all by any stretch. But, given the fact that the president was called a liar once again by James Comey during his testimony earlier today, they are feeling pretty good over here at the White House.
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks very much for that.
I was going to start (ph) at Gary Tuchman who watched (inaudible) with a focus group in Fairfield, Ohio. Gary? GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Butler County Ohio, north of Cincinnati has been very kind to Republican presidential candidates over the years. Since 2000, the Republican candidates won each time, including in 2016 with Donald Trump with 61 percent of the vote.
And with us right now are nine Trump voters here in Fairfield, Ohio at Ricks Tavern & Grille. And the reason we're here is we watch the hearing on big screen T.V. this morning and you all came back to talk to me tonight. Thank you for coming back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're welcome.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.
TUCHMAN: The first thing I want to ask you, it is a crime when you testify before Congress to lie. That is perjury. You can go to prison for it.
[21:35:07] Raise your hand if you believe James Comey lied at all. Four of you believe he lied.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yup.
TUCHMAN: Raise your hand -- he says that Donald Trump "told lies plain and simple." Raise your hand if you believe Donald Trump has lied at all about the situation? None of you believe that.
For those of you who did not raise your hands, if neither person lied, how can that be possible? They tell different things. Who didn't raise their hand? Why do you think if nobody lied, how can that have happen?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, first of all, things can be distorted and appeared like lies, and I think maybe the media might have distorted some things and --
TUCHMAN: The media?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- not getting both sides.
TUCHMAN: You raise your hand. Do you think Mr. Comey should go to jail?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that -- my impression of Comey at the beginning of this was that he was kind of L.A.-ness (ph) kind of guy, the way he went out at Martha Stewart. But as -- especially with his testimony today, he is more like an inflaming where he wants to be the next novelist. A lot of things that he came up with was seem like he's more inclined to fiction.
TUCHMAN: One of the things he testified about, he said he was in the room with President Trump. President Trump told attorney general and his son-in-law to get out. And he says, President Trump told him he hoped he can let it go, regarding the Flynn investigation. My question for you, a lot of people are arguing hope, that means he didn't order him. But if your superior, your boss or when you're little if your parents says, they hope you do something, isn't that imperative that you do it or is that necessarily not an imperative?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been manipulated by the Clintons, too, when Lynch told him to overlook the meeting with --
TUCHMAN: Let me say, though, Hillary Clinton right now is not president. I'm talking about the situation. So, when he is told, Comey from that --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- what he says.
TUCHMAN: So you don't think that Comey is telling the truth about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right?
TUCHMAN: What do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Mr. Comey should have said something at that time.
TUCHMAN: Should have said something to who, to Mr. Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At Mr. Trump.
TUCHMAN: What should he said to Mr. Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That I cannot do that. I have to go on with investigations, et cetera. And --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, be honest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to do it. And he did not do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was never asked why I didn't think he was being truthful. But I believe he didn't adequately explain why couldn't just tell Trump that this is inappropriate, or tell the chief of staff or DOJ to tell Trump. He continued on with that and couldn't adequately explain that. Its like -- you know, I feel the whole thing was wrapped around this one.
TUCHMAN: Mr. Comey says he believes he was fired because of the Russian investigation. Interestingly, Donald Trump has said, "I fired him because of Russia." Is there a problem with that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't have a problem.
TUCHMAN: Why is there no problem with that? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have a problem with that. First of all, Mr. Trump represents the United States of America. President Trump is our president and sets a standard for everything. And when he asked --
TUCHMAN: But when you say he had commented many times according to the testimony that he liked the job that Mr. Comey was doing, then all of the sudden he's fired him because he didn't like --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think he tried to be uplifting and encouraging to your "employees." But also he set Mr. Comey several opportunities to be forthright and honest with him, forthcoming with some answers that Mr. Comey kind of drop the ball on that.
TUCHMAN: And let me ask you this before we go. I think you may know the answer to this, a show of hands, how many of you feel better about Donald Trump, your president, after this hearing? How many of you feel worse about Donald Trump? I guess you all raised your hands at first time. So you think that was a success for Donald Trump and not for Mr. Comey?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
TUCHMAN: Nine Ohio voters on a historical day here in the United States of American. Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: Gary, thanks very much. And, again, thank them very much for not only watching it with you, but also coming back, long day for them. Appreciate that.
Back with the panel, Gloria Borger is here, Dana Bash, David Gregory is joining the conversation as well.
David, I mean, it's always interesting and valuable when you hear from Trump voters in an important state like that. Clearly, they saw it as a victory for the White House.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, there is certainly a constituency, and we've known this for the arguments that the president makes, which is you can't trust, you know, your lying eyes. You can't trust your lying ears. You certainly can't trust the media or the elites, or all those people conspiring against me. There are people who actually believe that.
By the way, that's the same open door that the Russians were pushing against in a way that they interfered with our election was attitudes about Hillary Clinton and about elites, and all the rest. So, you know, that's possible.
You know, there are historical parallels to this. There are a lot of people who supported Nixon through Watergate. And, no, I'm not comparing all of this fact pattern to the Watergate. What I'm comparing is how Nixon would rail against elites, would rail against the media and those conspiring against him. I think Trump lives from that playbook and there are people who support that.
BASH: And there's another playbook that I was told explicitly that the Trump team and over at the RNC getting help from them really in a robust way this week, are trying to lift from and that's Bill Clinton.
[21:40:03] And that they believe that he was sort of that and his people are masterful at keeping their base happy during the whole impeachment saga, and during Monica Lewinsky. It's probably not an accident that the president was that with the evangelicals today, warning that everything that they believe in that is under assault.
COOPER: Right, saying we're under siege.
BASH: We are under siege. You know, withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, which made a lot of people in these days happy and you can sort of look at the list of things that he has done on and on and on. It's not an accident. And that is how they are hoping to survive the mid-term elections, make sure that the House of Representatives for any potential impeachment proceedings would begin stays in Republican hands.
BORGER: And he has a new enemy. It wasn't good for the president when Republicans are fighting Republicans, because that's kind of confusing. But if it's the president fighting Jim Comey or it's the president fighting the Democrats in Congress who want to impeach him, it really is easier to rally your base than it is to say, "Oh, by the way, I'm not on the same page as Paul Ryan or the Freedom Caucus." That doesn't-- that confuses people. So in a way, this fight is something that I think Trump is probably hankering for in an odd way because it will help him with his constituency.
GREGORY: And that's-- and look there's a lot of what happened in the committee today among Republicans, too. I mean, posturing and say, "Well, this is a great day because you can't prove that he committed a crime." When they are, you know, excusing such disregard for the proper conduct of the President of the United States in dealing with an FBI director this way and insinuating himself into a criminal investigation.
And the fact that this is-- look, a lot of his supporters don't want to face up to some facts here. You know, the president wants to make this a credibility fight between him and Jim Comey. President Trump who rose to national political prominence off of a racist lie against Barack Obama, who said that Ted Cruz's father would somehow implicated on the JFK's assassination and who accused Obama of wiretapping him. I mean, come on.
BASH: Which is why you don't see any Republicans, not one Republican questioned the veracity of what James Comey was saying.
GREGORY: Right, just as his feelings in that.
BASH: (Inaudible) and nobody said what Comey was testifying too was wrong.
GREGORY: Right. BORGER: And even (inaudible) who sort to came the closest, why didn't you, you know, challenge the president, et cetera, et cetera, complemented Comey on his testimony on his writing skills --
BORGER: -- and how clear he was. Because they really couldn't challenge what he was saying directly.
GREGORY: That's the original point. If Republicans are still strongly behind the president, which they appear to be, you know, on the Hill, Republicans are not going to breakaway from him. He is demonstrated how politically important he is. And as long as that's the case, you're going to see them hold together, even though his popularity is plummeting at large among Republicans that still strong enough.
COOPER: Yeah. David Gregory, thanks so much, Gloria, Dana, as well.
A lot ahead, we all heard the Watergate comparisons being bandied about ever since the president fired Comey. Does today's testimony take us closer to or farther away from that particular stair (ph) American presidential history? I'll speak with three people who would know because they there were key figures in Watergate.
[21:45:23] COOPER: Ever since the president fired James Comey as director, there have been a lot of comparisons to Watergate. And today's testimony certainly did little to quiet those comparisons.
As we showed you earlier, yesterday former National Intelligence Director James Clapper said Watergate pales in comparison to what's going on now. I asked him about that earlier tonight. Here's another look at what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: From what you saw today and heard today, did it disabuse you of that notion at all?
CLAPPER: No, on the contrary it reinforced it. And just so to understand the context of my comment, what the big -- the big difference in my mind between Watergate, which I lived through, and this is the backdrop of the Russian interference in our political process as opposed to a burglary, a break-in. To me, that's hugely different and I thought Jim Comey's testimony was riveting, compelling and to me, reinforced the comparison at least in my mind between Watergate and what we confront now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So other comparisons up. We have three people with us who would know better than anyone, Legendary Journalist Carl Bernstein, former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean, and former Watergate Task Force Richard Ben-Veniste. Carl, is this bigger than Watergate?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think the question is bigger, I said as you know that in some ways this could be worse than Watergate because it is about undermining our electoral process by a hostile foreign power and destabilizing our most basic institutions, which are free elections.
But, also, Watergate itself was about undermining free elections, because the objective of the Nixon conspiracy was to interfere in the Democratic Party's primaries and see as Nixon's political opponent in 1972, to see George McGovern be the nominee of the Democratic Party rather than Senator Edmund Muskie who was the frontrunner.
And through a vast campaign of political espionage and sabotage, the Nixon White House succeeded in helping McGovern be the nominee. So there are those parallels except this time it's a hostile foreign power that has intruded and undermined our election process.
COOPER: Although DNI Clappers make the argument that it's both two, it's a hostile foreign power, but he also says it's a domestic force, which is the President of the United States undermining the institution.
BERNSTEIN: Well, exactly, in both cases.
COOPER: Right. John Dean, in terms of the larger arc of these kinds of investigations, where is this investigation as compared to you know, the arc of Watergate?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Very early, very early. If you go from the June 17, 1973 arrests that the Watergate -- that the Democratic National Committee -- '72, excuse me, '72to the end of the last trial which was January 1 of '75. That's about 928 days. And that first eight, 10 months, there was almost no attention to it at all other than Carl and Bob in "The Washington Post." But other than that, CBS, a few stories, but really no coverage at all.
COOPER: The people support -- I mean, supporters of Nixon, how long did -- I mean, I know -- you have often credited its Republicans who finally went to Nixon. But rank and file, you know, citizens, were they still backing Nixon all the way to the end?
DEAN: Not quite to the end. What happened is they overwhelmingly reelected him. He carried every state like Massachusetts and the District of Columbia in the '72 election. Slowly but surely there was an attrition in his support, you can see it in the polls. And it really, though, it isn't until the discovery of the tapes and the fight becomes about whether to turnover his tapes and he finally gets caught in too many lies. And then he starts losing his orders.
COOPER: And, Richard, just in terms of the interplay between the special prosecutor and congressional investigations, I mean we saw this in Iran-contra as well where, you know, all of the north gets immunity. How does that interplay work?
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, FORMER CHIEF OF THE WATERGATE TASK FORCE: Well, that's not happening again.
DEAN: Well, I had the same problem. They actually tried to -- you know, Cox tried to block my testimony.
BEN-VENISTE: It wasn't Archie Cox's finest moment, but indeed, there was tension at the beginning. And, thereafter, we were the beneficiaries of a lot of work done by the Senate Select Committee on Watergate.
[21:50:07] But as we've been saying, Watergate really puttered along. John and his friends did a good job of keeping a lid on Watergate, putting out the story, third rate burglary, et cetera. It wasn't until the Saturday Night Massacre. That was a turning point in Watergate when people began to pay attention, because something extraordinary happened.
Not only did Nixon fire the man who was investigating him, but the attorney general of the United States and the deputy attorney general resigned because they wouldn't fire Cox as Nixon had ordered.
Now, what happened to us as the members of the Watergate special prosecution force was an extraordinary military type operation, where the FBI on Nixon's orders came into our offices and took them over. Took over our files, and took over our offices.
Now, what's extraordinary about what we're dealing with and where I see a potential poor analogy is not now but this is a curtain raiser. This sets the tone for an investigation by Mueller, who is extraordinarily well qualified to lead the investigation.
But, our people thinking and talking as they are in Congress, some of them, about the possibility that in the fate of pick President Trump might fire Mueller and/or Rosenstein. What happens then? I lived through the idea of the FBI coming in and seizing our offices. It was not a happy moment.
COOPER: But -- I mean, again, Carl, you do credit Republicans with really kind of driving this.
BERNSTEIN: That is the difference so far. Yet the real heroes of Watergate, the great patriots were Republicans in the House and the Senate who did not go along with the President of the United States and said, "This is not about a Republican plot or conspiracy, this is about a criminal President of the United States and we are not going to stand for it."
Key members of the House Judiciary Committee who voted for articles of impeachment, the key members of the Senate Watergate committee, throughout the process and that's what we have not seen. Today, for instance, we look at what the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, said in defense of the indefensible today. And said, "Oh, this is -- all his talk that the president was hearing and that he was saying that Comey is just about a new guy in town and it doesn't know how to talk the ways of Washington, when in fact he's talking borderline obstruction of justice." So, there's a huge difference here. But what we have seen, and one of the reasons it was such a bad day for the President of the United States, you know, first, what Comey testified, too, he had been told and how he interpreted what the president was telling him. But, also, we get into the notion that this committee in the Senate, which we had said, "Oh, they're nothing. They're not going to do anything. They don't have the staff. They're going to go along partisan lines." It is showing that it is determined to be a serious inquiry with whatever the limitations of staff they had.
And now the president is being closed in on by the best and most competent investigator in this investigative culture, Bob Mueller, and a bipartisan committee of the Senate of the United States, which is determined to get to the bottom of what he has done.
COOPER: Carl Bernstein, John Dean, Richard Ben-Veniste, thanks so much.
More breaking news, the political drama playing out on the other side of the Atlantic. Votes are being counted in the U.K. general election. The outcome completely up in the air. It's been back-and- forth all night.
For a while, it looked like Donald Trump's ally, Prime Minister Theresa May and her conservative party were in trouble now. Things could be swing in the other way, but only just barely.
Christiane Amanpour joins us right now from London. Christiane, what is the latest?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Anderson, you've just summed it up. It has been a seesaw for a long time. It's been many hours. They've been counting the votes. The bottom line is this, Theresa May had a majority in parliament. She did not need to call an election, but she decided she was going to. And all of the press are now writing in their headlines today, "The May gamble backfires." "The May gamble has failed."
Even if she wins by a small majority, they say that this nonetheless will be very wounding. It is an extraordinary situation. And, of course, we've got the relationship with the U.S.
You know, she was the first foreign leader to meet President Trump. And she has the whole Brexit thing on her plate as well. So at this hour, very uncertain way forward here in the United Kingdom.
[21:55:13] COOPER: If Theresa May and the conservative party do not win, what sort of an impact could that have on the relationship with the U.S., and also with Brexit?
AMANPOUR: Well, it's probably not a massive relationship difference, because no matter what party is in power in the United Kingdom, that relationship with the U.S. remains, the special relationship. But especially now, much more important relationship, because they keep saying, "No matter what happens, Brexit is going to go ahead." So if the U.K. doesn't have the E.U., it will at least have the United States.
COOPER: Fascinating. Christiane Amanpour, thanks very much.
Thanks for watching "360." CNN Tonight starts right after quick break.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Two hours and 20 minutes of testimony that had America on the edge of its seat and it all comes down to this. Who do you believe? The President of the United States or the FBI director he fired? This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon live in Washington. Thanks for joining us.
James Comey repeatedly and bluntly saying under oath the president lied.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI, by saying that the organization was in disarray. That it was poorly led, that the work force had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies plain and simple.
I was honestly concern that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document.