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Comey Testifies in Senate; Hanging by a Thread. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired June 8, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER UNITED STATES FBI DIRECTOR: ... That the work force had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies. Plain and simple. 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)
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: The president's response?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, any reaction to Comey's testimony?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think he told the truth?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So the question, again, is a question that could decide America's future, who do you believe?
Let's get right to CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston. I'm smiling because everyone in the room is laughing at that comment. Mark Preston, political commentator, Jason Miller, chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, political commentator, Van JOnes, senior political commentator, David Axelrod, and senior politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza.
Good evening to all of you. So where shall we begin? Why don't we start with Mr. Preston who is sitting t my right here. A remarkable day in American history, Mark, don't you think? Was this the worst day do you think of this young presidency -- this president, I should say, young presidency?
MARK PRESTON, POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR, CNN: We've used that terminology a lot. Given so many things that have happened during this presidency. But I don't think it was the worst day of his presidency. I don't think it was necessarily a great day to have the former FBI director on national television across every network, laying out what he felt was intimidation by the president. I also don't think we can look at this through one prism. There are
different ways you have to look at it. Politically, legally, we just saw this past hour from Gary Tuchman's piece we were talking off camera, where his supporters still seem to be with him.
So I just think it's very complicated. And honestly, I think just that I've been saying this for the last 24 hours, and will for the next six or seven months, this is one little piece of a very big, very complicated jigsaw puzzle.
LEMON: Gloria, there's a lot to dissect here, but I want to get to this quickly and talk about the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Because the senators learned something in the closed-door meeting. What did they possibly learn today or possibly learned something?
GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, they've learned about another potential meeting between Sessions and the Russians. And we don't know anything more about that, other than what Jim Sciutto has reported.
And I think this raises questions, because as Senator Blumenthal said tonight, this could be perjury for Sessions, if this indeed turns out to be the truth. I think what Comey did today, he did it with Sessions. He left his little bread crumbs everywhere, that you could -- that you could sort of pick up on.
One of them was this question about Sessions and how he didn't feel he could go to Jeff Sessions with his issues about the president, because he knew he was going to recuse himself for this, and other reasons. And then we discovered now what the other reason was. So, you know, it could be difficult for Sessions.
LEMON: You said bread crumbs, I say little land mines. Because everyone is saying well, there wasn't, you know, there wasn't anything that was hugely explosive. But I think he did little things, like talking about this, talking about Loretta Lynch.
LEMON: And then also learning today, before we move on, that the president's son-in-law is going to meet with Senate intelligence -- members of the Senate intelligence committee as early as this month.
BORGER: Right. He's going to be -- right, he's going to be interviewed by the -- by the...
LEMON: We should say about the speed of this investigation?
BORGER: By the staff. Well, this is Congress' job. This is what they ought to be doing. The special council takes a very long time. Because the special council is talking about prosecution. And that takes a long time.
The Congress needs to shed light. And that's their job. And they are making progress. And I think, without being too polyan-ish about it, what we saw today in the Senate was very impressive. We, yes, it was a partisan and yes, democrats came at things differently from republicans, but they all asked good questions.
You didn't hear the republicans attacking Comey's veracity. You heard them asking questions about, well, if you thought this was so terrible, why didn't you say that to the president? Or why didn't you take -- but I thought today, you saw the Senate doing its job, and trying to get to the bottom of this story.
LEMON: I think today, though, was a political sort of Rorschach test of where you are.
LEMON: If you're a democrat, you saw it one way, if you're a republican you saw it the other way. And if I don't let Jason get in, he's going to leap across you.
LEMON: What did you want to say?
JASON MILLER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, a very important but critical addition to what Gloria was just talking about, additional reporting on the Sessions story from this closed-door Senate meeting, said that it was Russian-to-Russian intelligence, and that Kislyak take with a boulder size grain of salt that could have been completely blown out of proportion.
And so we have to be very quick before we rush to judgment.
MILLER: And say that's -- now Attorney General Sessions did anything untoward, that this could have been completely cooked up.
LEMON: Well, it's interesting.
MILLER: So that's a very important point.
LEMON: Who didn't meet with Kislyak? Is there anyone in this room that didn't -- I mean...
CHRIS CILLIZZA, POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNN: It's been a very busy 2016.
LEMON: It certainly did.
BORGER: He's the hardest working person in Washington.
CILLIZZA: He's also one of the most forgettable people, strangely. Because many people have forgotten with him.
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Meet with Kislyak and don't tell.
LEMON: Here's more of Comey today, and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[22:05:02] 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 concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document. That combination of things I never experienced before, but it led me to believe I've got to write it down, and I've got to write it down in a very detailed way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I mean, it really was, Chris Cillizza, the lying lie, the lying leaker, I mean, this is the battle of the words; right? The battle end up drawing.
CILLIZZA: It is. You know what's funny is, it struck me that Washington, obviously I've realize this before, but that Washington is not like the rest of the country in that...
LEMON: You don't say it.
CILLIZZA: Yes. Yes. Do you want to -- yes, we've got the breaking news up there, yes. Good. Whew! In this way, for Jim Comey, who is a -- who is part and parcel of a political world, I know he's not an elected official, but he is someone who's been around in this world for a long tie.
For him to say repeatedly, Donald Trump lied, the president is wrong, I wrote down our notes because I was worried the president would lie about it. OK. For the average person, OK, he thought he would lie so he said it. But politicians and people in the political world do not say "lie" easily. I think some of it is a reflection of the fact that Jim Comey is,
frankly, angry. I think what you heard is particularly as it relate to Trump running down his performance at the FBI, and that people were with him and he's...
LEMON: Clearly insulting -- he took it personally.
CILLIZZA: ... annoyed. Right. Well, that's point one. And point two I think is, he, look, he and Trump are oil and water. I mean, they were never going -- I'm not sure it had to go the way it went, but they are never going to get along. And I think this is a reflection of that. So I actually he is...
BORGER: But that shouldn't matter. It shouldn't matter.
CILLIZZA: It should matter. You're exactly right, it shouldn't matter. But I was surprised that he, particularly in the beginning, that was essentially his opening statement that we played, in the beginning of his testimony, he went there.
LEMON: He went -- he went as we say, he went in.
CILLIZZA: But he did not -- this was not a, like, he punched him.
LEMON: Well, I was -- that was my question, though, are you surprised that he went in? Because as I was sitting there watching it, I'm like, wow, he's going in here.
VAN JONES, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Look, I see this really differently. I spent a lot of time in Trump territory, red counties, trying to understand the Trump voters. What Trump said he was going to do was to come to this town, and he was going to put this town on its knees. He was going to tell this town what it was going to do. He was going to drain the swamp.
The big story here is that Trump is completely lost control of this town and of the narrative, and the guy he thought he had swiped off the board is basically running D.C. Basically Comey is saying, Comey don't play that. Comey don't play that. I'm not even the FBI director.
LEMON: I think people -- I think the average person at home probably doesn't understand how savvy what he did today was. Because I think...
AXELROD: Not just today, but leading up to today.
LEMON: Leading up to today. And that there's way more to come than what we saw on this.
JONES: That's what I want to get to. I think that if -- listen, if you like Donald Trump, and you have very low standards, you're happy with that, right? Because it turns out that there wasn't a huge bombshell. It just turns out he's called a liar and maybe a criminal.
But if you like Donald Trump and you have low standards, it's a happy day for you. But this is one day. And there are more days coming. And when you have multiple investigations going on, it's not the one drop of water, it's the bathtub filling up that's going to drown you.
LEMON: All right. I need to play this. Because this is Comey talking about that meeting in the Oval Office where he was, everyone else was asked to leave except for him, to talk about Flynn. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: 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 been seeing 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. I took it as a direction. This 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, two things here, David. He said he took hope as, you know, hey, this is a direction he wanted to let it go.
LEMON: And also, he indicated that Sessions probably knew better than to leave him alone, and that's why he lingered. And he told him to leave eventually.
LEMON: What do you think?
AXELROD: Kushner did the same. Look, I think it is extraordinarily unusual for an FBI director to meet alone with the president like that, for the president to kick everybody out of the room, including the attorney general for whom the FBI director works, should raise great suspicions.
[22:10:09] Now, the president denied through his lawyer that he said let it go. That will be, I'm sure, thrashed out over time.
LEMON: But can I ask you something? We all have bosses, right? You're working Corporate America. BORGER: Yes.
LEMON: If your boss brings you in and he says, David, I hope you can do better on that, or change this. What does that mean?
JONES: Do better.
LEMON: I mean.
BORGER: Do the right thing.
AXELROD: Well, I mean, let me just say this. I work for the President of the United States for two years, OK? Everybody's responsible to their boss. But the President of the United States...
LEMON: In the Oval Office.
AXELROD: ... it is a boss like nobody else's boss, in the Oval Office. And when you're called in there, and when everybody's cleared out, and this comes after several meetings in which your status is discussed, and, you know, your continuation and so on, it is very hard to -- I understand why Comey felt the way he felt.
There's another point to be made, and it goes to Van's point. Because I do think people are going to leave this thing. If you are for Trump, you will find a reason to be for Trump. If you are not for Trump, you'll probably be more reciptive to what Comey had to say today.
But what is undeniable is how flabbergasting it is that no one intervened, that the attorney general left, the vice president leaves, the chief of staff sticks his head in and gets shooed away.
Every single -- in the White House in which I worked this scene would have been, you know, it would been -- it would have been impossible. But the fact that the White House counsel was not sitting there in that meeting with the president is a reflection of a -- either a complete background -- a complete breakdown, or something worse.
LEMON: We've got more on the other side, everybody. Stick around. When we come right back, James Comey reveals what the president whispered in his ear in the blue room.
Plus, live from the U.K., there are some stunning election results coming in that Prime Minister Theresa May's political fortunes hanging by a thread. We're going to bring you the latest on that.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Extraordinary testimony today from fired FBI Director James Comey. Flat-out calling President Trump a liar.
Back now with my panel. We're going to start with Jason. Jason, I want to play Donald Trump's or the president's personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz and how he responded today. Here it is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC KASOWITZ, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Mr. Comey has now finally confirmed publicly what he repeatedly told President Trump privately. That is, that the president was not under investigation as part of any probe into Russian interference.
The president never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone, including the president never suggested that Mr. Comey, quote, "let Flynn go," close quote.
The president also never told Mr. Comey, quote, "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty," close quote. He never said it in form, and he never said it in substance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Comey is accurate in saying confirming that the president was not under investigation, but that he rejects that he, you know, what he said about the loyalty oath. So is he cherry-picking here?
MILLER: Well, I think the biggest take away was the first part about saying that the president was not under investigation.
And let's just be completely honest here. When the president put out the statement that on three separate occasions Director Comey told him that he was not under investigation, I had so many members of the media who would text or e-mail or phone call with little snickers, and joking behind the scenes that there's absolutely no way this happened.
When director Comey came out and confirmed it, that was a big deal. And not only for folks who might in the middle, this is a big deal for the republican base. It was a big deal for republicans who hoped that the president was completely accurate. But then to hear that directly from Director Comey, that was spot-on.
LEMON: So why believe that and then not believe the other thing then?
MILLER: I think look, they probably could affect...
LEMON: Here we go.
MILLER: But no, but go into the whole thing -- I mean, I just can't imagine a scenario. I think it's way too fantastic, where the president would start asking questions like, you know, will you be loyal to me. That just -- that does not sound like Donald Trump to me.
LEMON: But then it wasn't that -- but you're saying the same thing that you said from the other side, I can't imagine a scenario where the acting or the FBI director would confirm to someone that they weren't under investigation. You're saying the same thing, but. MILLER: I'm saying this is someone who knows the president and knows
how he talks and how he interacts with people. I just, I can't imagine -- so, let's put aside my personal insight into the president.
I think what was stunning today, absolutely stunning is the fact that Director Comey didn't go and take that supposed conversation about General Flynn to Attorney General Sessions. That he did not go write another letter of resignation like he did in 2004. Because he did though...
LEMON: But didn't he say, Jason, I didn't mean to cut you off. But didn't he say he couldn't -- he couldn't trust the attorney general because he thought he's going to recuse then though.
MILLER: But then -- but then he continued to have one-on-one phone calls. Now with regard to -- with the president. Now, with regard to Attorney General Sessions, he had a conversation with him. But he didn't go and bring up with this supposed allegations.
JONES: But this is not there.
MILLER: It's accurate.
JONES: I understand what you're trying to do. But I don't think it's fair. If you are the head of the FBI and you're trying to figure out what's going on, it could be the case that the president of the United States or someone in his camp is colluding with the Russians. That's got to be your main thing.
You don't want to lose that trail. You don't want to throw anything off. You've now been put in an impossible situation by the President of the United States shooing everybody out of the room, and then talking to you.
And so now we're all sitting back here saying, well, why didn't he do this, why didn't he do that? Why was he in this situation in the first place?
JONES: That is got to be where we start and we stop. He should never have been put there.
MILLER: His first meeting was at the director's request one on one.
JONES: And one other thing, and one other thing, why is -- Sessions is a weirdo.
MILLER: Man, come on. There's no need for name-calling. [22:19:57] JONES: Why would Sessions -- no. Why would Sessions sit
there -- you can answer this question. You love him so much. Why would Sessions sit there, see his subordinate be left behind, walk out the room, and then here comes his guy and he never even asked, hey, man, what happened in there?
MILLER: But Van, answer this...
JONES: But that is weird behavior.
MILLER: The first meeting -- the first meeting...
JONES: That is bizarre behavior for my subordinate. It's bizarre.
MILLER: Van, the first meeting with the president and director was a one-on-one at the director's request.
JONES: No, that...
BORGER: How about the dinner?
MILLER: The January 6th.
CILLIZZA: That's right.
MILLER: The January 6th. And even after that meeting they continued to have one-on-one phone calls. So that's -- it's completely consistent.
JONES: You're talking...
BORGER: But here's an FBI director, and you -- he tells his story in a very orderly way about how his concern grew, about his relationship with the president and what the president was saying to him.
So by the time they have that Valentine's Day meeting, he says, I remember thinking this is a disturbing development, and he shared it with his team. This is what he did. He felt, OK, I can't share it with Sessions for whatever reason. He went to the deputy attorney general who he, you know, didn't hear back from, right, or whatever that story was.
And what he did was, what a lawyer would do, is you go to your leadership team immediately and say, I've got a problem here, I've memorialized this. And he talked it out with them, what should we do.
MILLER: Why did not go to...
BORGER: This is what he -- this is why he -- but he -- because they had an ongoing counterintelligence investigation.
JONES: That's my point.
BORGER: To Van's point, that is very important.
MILLER: Yes, he said that.
BORGER: And he said, I didn't want to infect -- it was his words.
MILLER: Why didn't he resign then?
BORGER: I didn't want to -- why should he resign?
PRESTON: Why would he resign?
MILLER: Because he threatened to resign, or wrote the letter in 2004 when he had a legal disagreement with the whole Ashcroft in the hospital...
CILLIZZA: Right. But just because he doesn't have, doesn't require...
MILLER: But you understand -- but you understand what seems inconsistent.
AXELROD: Listen, I don't subscribe to the weirdo theory, so let me just separate myself.
MILLER: That's inappropriate.
AXELROD: You made that comment. But there are many explanations for why Sessions would have gotten up and left the room. Some of which would influence you not to go to him to discuss this. I do find it odd that he is -- you know, the FBI director actually works for the attorney general, and the attorney general doesn't ask the FBI director, say, what were you talking about in there?
CILLIZZA: Or with Sessions.
AXELROD: That doesn't necessarily reflect being weird. It could reflect...
CILLIZZA: But he goes to Sessions, though, and says, remember, you've got to stop Trump -- like I can't have these conversations with Trump. I found that to be fascinating, too. Because he doesn't say -- he kept talking to him on the phone.
AXELROD: So you don't (Inaudible) to me the weird thing.
CILLIZZA: No, he's still the president of the United States.
MILLER: If it was such a big deal, why didn't he insist other people were in on the phone call?
PRESTON: But you know, I think we have to look at this situation which is extremely complicated, and we're all in the weeds of it, because we understand it. It's very difficult for people who have jobs and have real lives to understand it. And I can understand the frustration.
CILLIZZA: Technically we have jobs.
PRESTON: Well, sure thing. No, no, but on a serious note. And I heard this from several republicans today. And it bears worth asking. Not just because of this situation, but for every serious situation that the president is confronted.
Where was Jeff Sessions this whole time?
JONES: I want to...
PRESTON: No, no, where was Reince Priebus during this time? Where was Steve Bannon during this time? Where was Don McGahn who was the lawyer for the White House at this time? Because as we heard from the house speaker today, listen, he's kind of learning it, right? He's just getting to understand how to work the government.
AXELROD: What about the staff?
JONES: The staff has got this...
AXELROD: The staff what I was making before.
PRESTON: Right. The staff has got to be held accountable...
LEMON: Let me ask this.
PRESTON: ... for making sure that Donald Trump...
LEMON: You don't remember who do you trust? Listen, I'm not defending James Comey, but who do you trust in that situation where you have so many people who you're not sure what their role is or where they stand on these issues?
JONES: I think this is the one thing that every ordinary person in America can understand, and this why I do think it's odd, and why I do think it's strange and why I do think it's yes, weird.
Many of us have been in situations you got your big boss and you've got your subordinate. You go into a situation, your big boss tells you to leave, and then starts talking to your subordinate. That is a very alarming, shocking moment for you, as a middle manager or anybody else.
The very, the normal thing to do is immediately, to ask your subordinate, what did the big boss say? What happened? Sessions never does that. That is the trouble.
AXELROD: The answer, Don, the answer, Don, to your question is, that there's only one person here in this story who wrote down his contemporaneous notes, went to his colleagues, reported back to them on it. That doesn't necessarily -- he could have made the whole thing up.
[22:25:02] JONES: Right.
AXELROD: He could have made it up. I guess that's the argument that you would make.
MILLER: Save it until he leaked it so when he could benefit from it.
AXELROD: No, you've got a whole bunch of witnesses who said this is what, who apparently will say, this is what he told us at the time.
LEMON: But if you're going -- if you're -- hold on. If you're going to make something up, why makeup "I hope" instead of "the president directed me to" that's what I don't understand. It's kind of wishful thinking if he's going to hit that up.
BORGER: He didn't make anything up. This is a guy who ran into the car, for heaven's sakes, after his first meeting at Trump Tower, and started typing. Because he felt that these were things he needed to memorialize and share with his team.
I think his overall goal here, if I had to guess, was he had an ongoing investigation, that he did not want to stop. He felt it was important. This is important work.
JONES: He had in his way.
BORGER: This is important work, and it would have sort of stopped it dead in its tracks. As he said today, I wasn't captain courageous. Looking back at it, should I have said to the president, maybe he said, I think it was Dianne Feinstein who said, you're big and strong.
BORGER: Why didn't you say to the president, you know, you can't stop, you can't do that? And he admitted to being sheepish.
LEMON: But don't you -- but you have interactions with your boss or with the co-worker, and it replays, why didn't I say this, I should write this down. But listen, we're talking about...
CILLIZZA: Or called right to you.
LEMON: Yes. We're talking about the truthfulness of both people in this situation. And they called each other a liar. The White House today pushing back on, you know, the president being a liar, being called a liar, saying that he can't be trusted. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, I can definitively say the president's not a liar. I think it's insulting that question would be asked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What do you think of that?
CILLIZZA: OK. First of all, I know Jason will agree to this, anytime you're in a situation, democrat or republican, in which you have to say the phrase, no, I don't think the president is a liar, tends not to be a good day. I don't think anyone thought today, I don't think Donald Trump circled his calendar and thought, today is going to be a great day for me politically speaking.
I mean, there are days, David can attest this, that any politician, there are days you know, where they can be that great, you just kind of have to get through them. The thing that bothers me a little bit about Sarah Sanders' response there, frankly, I'd be offended that you would ask that.
The former FBI director, on at least five occasions, by my count, it might have been more, but at least five occasions a few hours before she said that, had called Donald Trump a liar. It's not as though the media sort of said, you know, out of the blue, do you think Donald Trump is a liar?
CILLIZZA: So you know, when you have someone -- whatever you think of James Comey, this is someone who spent a lifetime in this -- you cannot believe, but this is someone who has a track record, who is a serious person. And who, by the way, Don, I would like to mention this, was under oath.
CILLIZZA: So there are real penalties...
(CROSSTALK) LEMON: You bring up a very good point.
CILLIZZA: ... for not telling the truth.
LEMON: The people realize that James Comey is under oath, and the president is not. I'm not saying the president is lying.
But also, I mean, Jason, that is -- you know, that tactic has been used by Trump surrogates, even on me. Why are you badgering me? Why are you lying? What do you do? And it's like, I'm not. But if you want to, you know, give someone the -- if you want to pretend that someone is doing that, it's easy to do it.
MILLER: If you're a Trump supporter...
LEMON: Why are you lying to me, Jason?
MILLER: ... and the worst thing that's coming out today...
LEMON: Do you understand, do you see what I'm saying?
MILLER: I'm just going to pretend like you didn't even say that. But if that is the worst thing that happened today is that the name liar is thrown out there, and this is a pretty darn good day.
PRESTON: He's actually right about this thing. It could have been a really, really...
BORGER: You mean -- well, as opposed to what, obstruction or what? I mean, really?
MILLER: When Director Comey came out and said that he did say to the president...
BORGER: Right. Absolutely.
MILLER: He came out and said he did not try to impede the investigation into Russia. He came out and made that clear.
BORGER: Right. He also said he didn't ask much about it.
MILLER: He even...
CILLIZZA: That he was not under investigation at the time when he left. There are things in there that you can latch on to.
MILLER: He even went the extra step. He even went the extra step and said that he couldn't point to a single vote that was changed in this election by some supposed coordination between the campaign and a foreign entity.
LEMON: No one's ever said any vote -- any votes were changed. And also, that's not the nature of the investigation from the FBI.
LEMON: Or any of the Intel, whether any votes were changed.
MILLER: But it's big...
LEMON: That's not what they look at.
MILLER: ... it's big that he came out and said all of those things. I think that was very good. And so we had some name calling today. And going into the specific things, saying that the president, you know, writing in this memo, that he might lie. Or to go through and, look, the director might not have liked some of the descriptions that were given about how he did his job.
But those are opinions. There's a difference between people having strong opinions and lying. And so there's some name calling today. Big deal.
PRESTON: Yes, but can you acknowledge that? It wasn't a good day, though? Can you acknowledge? I mean, it was a bad day. It was a bad day. It just could have been a really bad day.
MILLER: I think the dems overreached. I think there is going to be a big backlash.
LEMON: As crazy as this conversation is, I've got to move on.
[23:00:00] Up next, Comey says he released memos of conversations in response to a tweet from the president. We're going to talk about it with both a current and former member of the House intelligence committee.
Plus, a stunning election night battle in the U.K. for one of President Trump's top allies. The latest results are coming in and we're going to bring them to you.
LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news on two huge stories. James Comey's stunning Senate testimony. And the pitch battle in the U.K., the election there for Prime Minister Theresa May, one of President Trump's top allies.
CNN's senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen is live for us outside number 10 Downing Street with the very latest. Hello, Fred. First, there was a shot of the Brexit result in the U.K. And now another unexpected election result there tonight. What's going on, and will Theresa May still be the prime minister is the question? FREDERIK PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well,
that's a big question right now, Don. I can tell you, it really is a nail-biter here in the United Kingdom.
There are some projections. And they counted about half of the votes so far. There are some projections that say Theresa May might be able to hold on, but there are also others who say she will lose her majority.
[22:35:01] And that certainly is a big blow to Theresa May. Because keep in mind, that she called this election to begin with because she thought she was going to increase her majority, and there are already people who are calling on her to resign. So certainly it looks at this point, Don, that there is some political instability with one of America's closest allies here in Europe.
LEMON: And Frederik, people here in the U.S. remember that Prime Minister May came to the United States, visited President Trump, who is an extremely controversial figure in Europe. Recently, though, he attacked the mayor of London on Twitter immediately after a terror attack. What does this mean for the president here? Has he lost an ally?
PLEITGEN: Well, potentially. And certainly if Theresa May does lose this election and if indeed Jeremy Corbyn who is the man who is running against her, wins this election, then certainly, President Trump will have lost an ally here in Europe.
And you're absolutely right, there was somewhat of a Trump factor also in this election as well, especially with that Twitter spat between the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and President Trump shortly after those terror attacks took place. There are certainly a lot of people here in Britain that didn't take that very well, some of the criticism coming from President Trump.
And they felt that Theresa May was quite weak, at defending the mayor of London. Whereas, Jeremy Corbyn who was running against her was very strong in coming out against President Trump. So it would be very interesting to see, and certainly could shift the balance of power here as far as the U.S. is concerned as well.
LEMON: And Twitter causing trouble for foreign leaders as well, Frederik.
Fred, are you there? I think we lost Fred Pleitgen there. We'll get back to him. But again, it's going down to the wire. Theresa May may not be able to hold on to her seat as Prime Minister. We'll keep you updated on that. It's still not decided yet. But again, we'll bring that you to.
Now I want to turn to the breaking news right back here at home. Fired FBI Director James Comey sending shock waves across Capitol Hill. Telling a Senate panel President Trump lies.
Joining me now is Congressman Jim Himes, a Connecticut democrat who is a member of the House intelligence committee, and former Congressman Pete Hoekstra, a republican who is a former chairman of the intelligence committee.
Good evening to both of you. Thank you both for coming on.
What's your reaction first, Congressman Himes, to the former FBI director's testimony today?
JIM HIMES, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Well, a lot of these revelations, of course, it started yesterday with the release of his testimony, were pretty shocking. I mean, when you have a situation where Jim Comey is saying one thing and the president is saying, no, he's lying, you've got a really profound he said/she said.
You've got a president now where the conversation has shifted away from what happened with Russia to, is he liable to being charged with obstruction of justice? That's a pretty bad place to be.
LEMON: Based on what you heard, do you think it's obstruction of justice?
HIMES: It's too early to say. There's a lot of evidence pointing in that direction. You know, obviously, as Comey said today, that's something for Robert Mueller to do. We'll not hear a lot about Robert Mueller's investigation.
The politics of this, though, Don, and that's the other piece of this, and you know, set aside the investigation, you know, today a big win for the republicans is if you believe two things. Number one, you celebrate the fact that the president is not under criminal investigation, which he said and apparently it was true.
OK. Yes, the president is not under criminal investigation. And the other thing is, you know, the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan said today, well, you know, he did that, because he doesn't know his way around. I can't remember the exact verbiage, but he doesn't know what he's doing. So, you know, politically...
LEMON: he said sort of political neophyte or something like that.
HIMES: Yes, he didn't use the word neophyte. The point is, you know, the political message for the republicans is that they're hoping we will buy is that the president is not under criminal investigation, and he doesn't know what he's doing. That is a terrible place to be politically.
LEMON: Congressman Hoekstra, what do you make of what the public heard from Jim Comey today?
PETE HOEKSTRA, FORMER UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CHAIR: Well, I think they heard four things. They heard the former director really throw four groups of people under the bus. First, he threw Loretta Lynch and the Obama administration under the bus and really called into question the political motivations of the Justice Department during the Obama administration. Clearly, the name calling towards the President of the United States,
he threw the president under the bus. He threw the media under the bus. I don't know whether he actually used the term fake news or not, but he really called into question and accused the media of a lot of sloppy journalism.
And then fourth, what he did is he threw James Comey under the bus. This is a guy that was supposedly a strong individual. He was unable to stand up to Loretta Lynch. He didn't stand up to President Trump. And then when the rubber hit the road here, at the end when he got fired, he said, I'm going to take my notes, I'm going to give them to my former law professor, and I'm going to have them turn over this material to the New York Times.
This is stuff that he -- the Senate intelligence committee is trying to figure out how to get their hands on. So we now also established that James Comey is a leaker-in-chief.
The bottom line is, this is a loss for the American people. They're looking at the swamp and they're saying, let's see, we can't trust the Justice Department. We've got name calling going on. You know, the media's now called into question one more time. And we've got a former director of the FBI who is now also the leaker in chief.
[22:40:09] LEMON: Yes.
HOEKSTRA: And the American people are saying, come on, let's move on and let's get some issues done and resolved.
LEMON: Do you agree with that, Congressman Himes, because he's saying some pretty dire things about American institutions, and to me, this seems like -- I said this earlier -- a political Rorschach test depending on where you are politically. He saw some things that democrats didn't see, and democrats saw -- republicans saw some things that you didn't see in that. Is that your takeaway?
HIMES: Look, I completely disagree with ex-Congressman Hoekstra. What he's trying to do is what a lot of republicans are trying to do today, which is to say, well, this is just one big mess. Lots of name calling. Everybody's guilty.
Look, the fact of the matter is not a single American today saw any name calling. And yes, Jim Comey raised a profoundly disturbing question about Loretta Lynch, and why would she say, don't call it an investigation, call it a matter. That is something that anybody, again, let's get out of the political baloney we're hearing and saying that is something that is very, very serious.
But Jim Comey, and he admitted, he was totally upfront about saying, you know what, when you're standing with the President of the United States and he's threatened your job and he's told you what he wants to do, I don't know about Pete, but you know, that's a tough political moment. So what you're hearing from Mr. Hoekstra, of course, gosh, nothing
matters, it's all terrible. No, we have a situation now where the president...
HOEKSTRA: No, it's not all terrible, Jim.
HIMES: ... very clearly decided to ignore the rule of law, the tradition of the independence of the FBI. And he may very well -- I'm not prepared to say that he did, but he may very well may have obstructed justice. Whatever you say about Jim Comey or the media or Loretta Lynch, those facts are true and they're challenging.
LEMON: Go ahead, Congressman Hoekstra.
HOEKSTRA: No, I think that's not at all accurate. What this investigation was originally intended to do, and supposedly what they've been working on for, you know, 12 to 15 months, is determining exactly what the Russians were doing to try to influence the U.S. elections.
What the intelligence committees on both sides of the aisle -- or both sides of the Hill, both in the Senate and the House, their job and responsibility is to identify exactly what the Russians did, whether they were successful or not, and then come up with a recommendation in terms of how do we deal with these kinds of threats for future elections in 2018, 2020.
How do we change the rule of law to minimize these types of things? How do we strengthen our intelligence community...
LEMON: I want to get to Congressman Himes to respond.
HOEKSTRA: ... to be able to identify these threats and how we stop them in the future?
LEMON: It's interesting that he says that, Congressman, because James Comey said the president never asked him about that, about how you fix a problem especially when it comes to a foreign entity in meddling in the election.
HIMES: Well, and that's a very interesting question. Why would the President of the United States, when there are three investigations underway about Russian meddling into the election, the very core of our democratic process, why would he not ask about that.
And look, Mr. Hoekstra is exactly half right, yes. And all three investigations are looking at certainly the congressional investigations are looking at Russian meddling into our election. The part that he left out is that the FBI, the Senate and the House, this is black and white on the scope of our investigations, are also looking into what James Comey talked about in March, which is whether there were links between the Trump campaign and that Russian meddling. Now, there is no answer to that question. But that is a very, very
serious question, as serious as to the question of how and why the Russians did that. So trying to say that this is not actually about the Trump administration, is a partisan point that is not accurate to what is happening today.
LEMON: Congressmen, thank you both. I appreciate that. Unfortunately that has to be the last word.
HOEKSTRA: Thanks for...
LEMON: Coming up, when James Comey...
LEMON: Thank you very much.
Coming up, when James Comey -- was James Comey within his rights to release his own memos about the president?
[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: James Comey revealed today he asked a friend, a professor at Columbia law school, to share the contents of his Trump memo with a reporter.
Let's discuss this now with my legal experts. Adam Goldberg is here, he's a special associate counsel to President Clinton, Philip Lacovara is a counsel to Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, at least was, and Leon Jaworski, and CNN contributor John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel and author of "Conservatives without Conscience," and Ambassador James Woolsey, former director of the CIA.
It's got to be deja vu for you two, gentlemen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Always nice to be back together again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LEMON: Was Comey within his rights, John Dean, to share the contents of that memo with his friend?
JOHN DEAN, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: I think he was. We have no official secrets act in this country. He's a private citizen. It was a memo he made of a conversation that might have been considered a government document. Might also been considered a diary document. So it's hard to tell. I don't think he broke any law.
LEMON: What he did was very sadly on most counts, because he said he did it because he wanted a special prosecutor.
Phil, I have to ask you this. Comey said he did it in response to the president's tweet. Here's the tweet on May 12th, which said, "James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press." Was leaking the memo the only way to get a special prosecutor?
PHILIP LACOVARA, FORMER WATERGATE COUNSEL: I think it was one of the techniques that he thought he would have to use. Because he didn't have confidence at that point in the deputy attorney general who was then the person who seemed to have been responsible for providing the grounds for sacking him. Although it turned out later that the president admitted that the cover story was false. So I don't think Comey saw he had any other root within the normal channels to get a special counsel appointed.
LEMON: Adam, legal or illegal?
ADAM GOLDBERG, FORMER SPECIAL ASSOCIATE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Legal. I think the big problem with -- the interesting thing about that was Marc Kasowitz in his statement afterward tried to suggest that actually Comey lied in his testimony and got the time line wrong. But it was Marc Kasowitz who got the time line wrong and Comey got it right. I think it was a bad first day of crisis management for Marc Kasowitz.
LEMON: Let's listen to Kasowitz and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC KASOWITZ, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he unilaterally and surreptiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the president.
[22:49:52] The leaks of this privileged information began no later than March 2017, when friends of Mr. Comey have stated that he disclosed to them the conversations he conversation the he had with the president during their January 27th, 2017 dinner and February 14, 2007 White House meeting.
Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he leaked to friends of his reported 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."
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)
LEMON: So Jim Woolsey, the question is should the leak be investigated. But you know, to the point here made earlier by Adam, he actually did get the timeline wrong, he's pointed to the fact the New York Times detailing the Trump-Comey dinner at Trump's command for loyalty appeared on May 11, that Trump, the day before the tweet but the first New York Times story that cited the memo not just sources it appeared on March 16th. So he got the timeline wrong. Do you think that should be investigated, though?
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I agree with my three colleagues. I don't think this is a legal problem for him. But he's beginning to look like he works for the public bureau of information instead of the FBI, the wrong initials. He turned loose the memo about Hillary. He changed direction on that back several months ago. He was making public statements. He now wants to leak five documents. Maybe one classified. I heard that perhaps that's not classified. It was on a classified computer.
But it's just kind of one thing after another in terms of informing the public. And that's not normally what the bureau does or thinks it does and the reason it has such confidence for the people of the United States is that it doesn't seem to be on a P.R. twinge. It looks very much like Comey is.
LEMON: Philip, were those conversations privileged?
LACOVARA: No. The president first of all, didn't assert any executive privilege in having argued the Nixon tape case which dealt with the use of executive privilege. I think I can say confidently the conversations that Comey and the president had would not have been covered by executive privilege in any then.
LEMON: Do you think that as he is saying, you said -- you said sort of administer of information. is that...
WOOLSEY: Federal bureau of public information.
LEMON: Public information. Do you agree with that assessment of James Comey as...
LACOVARA: No, I don't think so. I think what you have here is a situation where he's just been fired and he's been accused of all sorts of misconduct or lack of effective leadership and he's exercising what I would consider to be a fairly responsible right of reply. He's entitled to defend himself in the court that the president chose to make this battle in, and that was the court of public opinion.
LEMON: You said that everything the president says, John, you said it's not privileged?
DEAN: No, it's not unless it's classified or does fall in the area of executive privilege which is pretty narrow, it's deliberative decision making sometimes will apply but certainly isn't a blanket privilege that everything he says is ex cathedra, he gets a privilege connected with it.
WOOLSEY: I would just add that Comey started this before this last round. He started with Hillary going back and forth, public statements on her. So it's not the way the bureau ought to operate. Maybe in some individual circumstances he has to take a step. I'm not saying he did anything criminal. (CROSSTALK)
LACOVARA: Of course at the time he did this he had already been fired so he wasn't in the bureau any longer. That may or may not change your point but his view was this was the only mechanism that was available to him to make sure that what actually happened came out and was part of the official record.
LEMON: Go ahead.
GOLDBERG: You know, just taking it back to his extraordinary opening statement from the FBI director saying the president defamed him. So if he was defamed we haven't had a president do that before where it's criticized and belittled him especially to the Russians.
LEMON: Yes. I want to talk of this about hope. This one specific exchange that deals with the fact that the president said I hope you can let this go instead of ordering the investigation to Comey to stand down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES RISCH, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: He did not direct you to let it go?
COMEY: Not in his words, no.
[22:55:01] RISCH: He did not order you to let it go?
COMEY: Again those words are not in order.
RISCH: No. 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 they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?
COMEY: I don't know well enough to answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So the New York Times, Adam, re-tweeted out an interesting point for this case. It says, "For instance, the eight circuit affirmed an obstruction of justice enhancement based partly on -- and I hope statement and I've been reading it here and you can see it there, it's up on the screen where someone was saying, "I hope that you don't tell anybody about the night because it was certainly, you know, would incriminate me." So what do you -- what do you make of this? Can it be based on hope?
GOLDBERG: I would multiply that by about a hundred when you're in the Oval Office and the president says something. I can recall countless things where Nixon said, he didn't give a direct order but he rather indirectly suggested what he wanted his staff what to do and staff takes that as, you know, clicks your heels, salute and go out and get it done. LEMON: Yes.
LACOVARA: You put the fact that Comey I think eloquently testified to today. What the president says he hopes subordinate does is more than just an idle speculation. But it's all irrelevant under the obstruction of justice statute which doesn't require and order to do something improper.
It only punishes the endeavor that is the attempt to influence or impede an investigation. And I think Comey said he quite reasonably understood that what the president was trying to do was to influence or impede his investigation by urging him to let Flynn go.
LEMON: In this one which was obstruction of justice he says "I hope and pray to God that you do not say anything about a weapon when you were in Iowa because it will make it worse on me and even if they promise not to prosecute -- even if they promise not to prosecute you."
LACOVARA: That's exactly right, that's the attempt to influence or impede an investigation or witness's testimony.
GOLDBERG: This is like the godfather saying, you know, I made him an offer he couldn't refuse. It wasn't really an offer. It's just like this was, it wasn't really I hope. It was a directive.
LEMON: And that's why Comey said he believed that he was ordered to do it.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. When we come right back what James Comey told senators behind closed doors after his blockbuster testimony today.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)