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Comey Testimony Released Before Thursday Hearing; Comey Asked Sessions Not To Leave Me Alone With Trump; Attorney: Trump Feels "Vindicated" By Comey Remarks; Anti-Comey Political Ad Calls Him A D.C. Insider; Trump Denied Asking For Comey's Loyalty; Christie Defends Trump's New York City Conversations With Comey; Searchers Recover Bodies, Debris From Missing Plane; South Korea Military: North Fired Four Anti-Ship Missiles; 12 Killed In Attacks On Parliament, Khomeini Tomb; Iran Blames Saudi Arabia For Deadly Attacks; ISIS Claims Responsibility For Deadly Iran Attacks; Qatar Condemns Deadly Attacks In Iran's Capital. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired June 8, 2017 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:08] JOHN VAUSE, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, hours before a must-see Capitol Hill hearing, James Comey dishes on his one-on-one meetings with Donald Trump. The former FBI Director says things got, you know, awkward. Plus, ISIS claims responsibility for a rare terrorist attack inside Iran. Two symbolic sites are hit just minutes apart. And polls open next up in the U.K. after an election campaign few could have predicted. Hello and thank you for joining us. I'm John Vause. The second hour of NEWSROOM L.A. starts now.
The former Director of the FBI is hours away now from telling the Senate Intelligence Committee about his conversations with President Donald Trump. James Comey describes the meetings as very concerning, very awkward, and inappropriate. It's all in a seven-page statement Comey released the day before he testifies. Phil Mattingly reports from Washington.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Nine one-on-one interactions with President Trump, three in person, and six on the phone, detailed through FBI Director James Comey's testimony. Comey describing one meeting with the President and other counterterrorism officials in the Oval Office, where all but Comey were asked to leave the room. "I want to talk about Mike Flynn," Comey quotes the President is saying, referring to his recently fired National Security Adviser.
"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go." Comey says Trump told him, "He's a good guy. I hope you can let this go." Comey goes on to say he prepared an unclassified memo of that conversation, understanding that the President was requesting he drop any probe into Flynn. He shared that assessment with his FBI leadership team but declined to share it with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the assumption that Sessions would soon be recused.
While those details were kept closely held, Comey says the next time he spoke to Sessions, "I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me." Comey also recounts the private dinner when the President allegedly told him, "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty." Comey describes his reaction as this, "I didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other, in silence." Comey also seems to corroborate what Trump wrote in his letter firing the FBI Director, that he had first informed the President-elect on January 6th, he wasn't the target of a counterintelligence investigation. There's a point that based on Comey's recounting, aid at Trump and dominated much of their interactions after Trump assumed office.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: During the phone call he said it and then during another phone call he said it. So he said it once at dinner and then he said it twice during phone calls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you call him?
TRUMP: In one case, I called him, and one case, he called me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then did you ask him, "Am I under investigation?"
TRUMP: I actually asked him, yes. I said, "If it's possible, would you let me know, am I under investigation?" He said, "You are not under investigation."
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Comey says Trump stressed the cloud of the Russia probe was interfering with his ability to make deals for country. Trump telling Comey at one point, "We need to get that fact out." And another saying explicitly, "He hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn't being investigated." And reiterating the point in their final phone call. Trump adding this time, "Because I've been very loyal to you, very loyal. We had that thing, you know."
Comey says one of the primary reasons he wouldn't say publicly Trump wasn't under investigation was, "Because it would create a duty to correct should that change."
And from the White House perspective, at least according to President Trump's personal lawyer, "this serves as vindication" that was one of the words Marc Kasowitz used to describe this testimony. Both President Trump's personal lawyer and the Republican National Committee, kind of, de facto rapid response operation for Jim Comey's testimony focusing on a very small sliver of those seven pages of testimony.
That sliver that says just as President Trump noted, Jim Comey told him three separate times that he wasn't the target at that time of a counterintelligence investigation. But, it's very clear Jim Comey notes that was only at that time. He can't speak for the future, he can't even speak for now. So the big question now is, what do Senators actually want during this hearing itself? Well, Democrats have been preparing behind closed doors, the top Democrat on the panel, two-hour closed-door prep session getting ready for this hearing.
[01:04:58] They know what's in the testimony now. And that was by design, by request, actually, of Jim Comey. A source close to Comey saying, he wanted senators to have time with his testimony to understand where he was coming from, noting that it is a very complex narrative. But the big question now going forward is, clearly, some Republicans say not unlike the White House, that this vindicates the President. Will that message stick?
Will there be a very clear divide between Democrats who see this testimony as very damning and Republicans who see it as vindication? Well, we'll see, big event, tomorrow at Capitol Hill. Phil Mattingly, CNN, Washington.
VAUSE: Joining me now for more, Democratic Strategist Matt Littman and James Lacey, the author of Taxifornia and also a Trump supporter. Again, good to see you both. Matt, I want to start with you. Last month, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, he warned the President that he would be making a big mistake by firing the FBI Director James Comey. Could this actually be a huge miscalculation by the President?
MATHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it was a big miscalculation by the President when Schumer had that conversation with Trump, it was after Comey was fired. So it was already too late. Remember that Trump thought at that time, that firing Comey would be met with applause by the Democrats.
LITTMAN: Obviously that didn't happen. And that has led to the special counsel being appointed. So this nightmare continues for the Trump administration. But it's of Trump's own doing. He's the one who chose to fire Comey. Apparently, he fired Comey, because Comey wouldn't end this investigation.
VAUSE: So James, a miscalculation?
JAMES LACY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, I think the result has been a good one, though. I saw a poll just the other day here in California that shows that 54 percent of the people are happy that Robert Mueller is in charge of the investigation. There's only, like, 10 or 15 percent that are opposing it. So I think that the result has been that we've got a really, really good competent person that has a lot of public support and should have support on Capitol Hill to conduct the investigation.
VAUSE: Well, the President and his supporters -- the strategy now seems to be trying to discredit James Comey. A pro-Trump group released or they will release a TV spot which will play as Comey delivers his testimony. Here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As head of the FBI, James Comey put politics over protecting America. After the FBI banned terms like "Radical Islam" for political correctness, Comey allowed the dangerous practice to continue. When terror attacks were on the rise last year, Comey was consumed with election meddling. And after he testified before the U.S. Senate, Comey's own staff admitted some of his answers were flat out wrong. James Comey, just another D.C. insider only in it for himself.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: We can talk about that in a moment, because there's obviously some issues with it. But just to your point about opinion polls, James. ABC-Washington Post poll shows 61 percent believe Donald Trump fired Comey to protect himself rather than for the good of the country. And if you want to talk about the question of credibility, it could be a bigger problem for the President.
LACY: Yes. But, you know, I think that if you look at Comey realistically, he's become a political figure as opposed to a law enforcement figure. And, you know, you don't want your director of the FBI to be someone who can bounce back and forth between support from democrats and republicans, because there were different periods of time during the campaign when he was at one point, standing up and saying, that Hillary Clinton was under investigation, and then he absolved her and said that she - that they were not going to prosecute her. Then they came back and made a public announcement. I could see how political he looks to Donald Trump, and I can understand Trump's frustration when I read the statement. You know, you go through that statement, something remarkable that hasn't been talked about enough is that Comey says again and again to Trump, that three times, that he's not a target of investigation, then Trump says, "Well, why don't you say something public about it?" And Comey doesn't say, "Well, I'm not going to say something public about it. He says, "Well, I'll think about that. I'll talk to the Attorney General about it. Give me a couple of weeks." Oh, yes, and that stringing along, I think, helped create the frustration on the part of Trump that this guy was becoming a political figure.
VAUSE: He did say that he should've - I think he noted that he did not tell the President that he did not make the announcement because then he would have to make another announcement should the situation gets --
LITTMAN: Well, now, of course, they're going to have an investigation because of the obstruction. But the President asking the FBI director over and over again to drop this, basically saying, you have to be loyal to me, not to the country. And then firing the FBI director, obviously, there's now going to be -- this will be part of what Mueller is doing, this obstruction investigation.
LACY: Yes, but you have to look at the consequence. Again, Flynn was fired. And I think that from Trump's perspective, this was someone who he had taken an action against. Now, you recall that -- I think it was The Washington Post, maybe it was The New York Times, published an FBI link -- leak that said that there was no evidence that Flynn had actually violated the law. So -- there was, and so, of course, you're having an investigation, but because of this FBI leak, which was, I believe, the day before he talked to Comey and said, "I hope you can drop the investigation." You know, you have this situation.
[01:10:14] LITTMAN: You think Trump is dumber than I think he is because Trump clearly knows the difference. Trump is like a mafia boss. I mean, he's saying to the head of the FBI, "You have to be loyal to me, not to the FBI, not to justice."
VAUSE: We're talking about this question about the, you know, being asked for an oath of loyalty. You know, again, James Comey says that he was asked for that oath of loyalty. The President says that he did not ask him for that, but it was probably a good idea. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ask that question?
TRUMP: No, no, I didn't. But I don't think it would be a bad question to ask. I think, loyalty to the country, loyalty to the United States is important. You know, I mean, it depends on how you define loyalty, number one. Number two, I don't know how that got there, because I didn't ask that question.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So now, you know, loyalty to the country, loyalty to the constitution. But the FBI director, loyalty to the President, it seems that, you know, that was what the President was asking for. He doesn't understand what the importance of an independent FBI is all about.
LITTMAN: Or an independent justice department or any of the other people who testified today who he apparently discussed this with as well. You know, he seems to not realize that people work for the country, not necessarily for Donald Trump and can't do Donald Trump's bidding. But this is part of the problem. This administration hasn't filled an incredible array of jobs. They can't get anything done. Their agenda is already dead in the water. Part of it is because the way that Donald Trump perceives himself, which is this loyalty to me. Now, who's going to work in this administration?
VAUSE: Because, James, the argument being made is that, Donald Trump still thinks he's in Trump Corporation where, you know, there's no checks and balances. And as you've said, run the place as you want.
LACY: Yes, I completely understand that. But an invitation to be loyal is not a directive to violate the law. And, you saw yourself, Matt, just earlier, the President outlined what he meant by loyalty, which included to be loyal to the nation. You know, he is the President, he is --
LITTMAN: He included that -
LACY: He is the top - he is the top federal - well, but you saw it. He is the top federal official, and at the end of the day, Comey at the time he was talking to him, is a federal employee. And I think it's a fair question to ask, and I think that too much emphasis, frankly, is being put on it as some sort of an invitation to commit a crime. Because I can tell you as an attorney, it's not an invitation to commit a crime to ask someone to be loyal.
LITTMAN: It is, in this case. Donald Trump made everybody else leave the room --
LACY: Because you're subjectively connecting a request for loyalty to commit a crime.
LACY: I think you can assume -
LITTMAN: You spoke already. I'm going to talk.
LACY: All right.
LITTMAN: Donald Trump asked everybody else to leave the room so he could ask this guy one on one, "Please drop an investigation." He's the President. There's supposed to be a separation between he and the FBI director. Barack Obama never did (INAUDIBLE)
LACY: He didn't ask him to drop the investigation. He said, "I hope you would consider what you're going to do on this." That was not a direction to drop the investigation. He asked him repeatedly if you were dropping -
VAUSE: I hope you could see your way for doing this. I think was the - how you would look at this. OK. The Comey muddy explanations through all of this, you sort of touched on this, but they have a lot of explanations about the interactions between the FBI director and the President, and then we had this explanation from the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What you're seeing is a President who is now very publicly learning about the way people react to what he considers to be normal New York City conversation.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Matt, you're from New York. Is that how you guys talk out east?
LITTMAN: You know, first of all, Chris Christie, let's - just a reminder, the least popular governor in the United States, probably will find his way into the Trump administration at some point. But this is like when they used to say "locker room talk" when Trump said some terrible things before. Now, this is how people talk in New York City, it isn't. Donald Trump is now the President of the United States. It pains me to say. But he is the President of the United States.
He does understand the difference. He does want James -- he fired James Comey for a reason. The reason was that James Comey wouldn't drop this case.
VAUSE: And, you know, James, you know, Chris Christie seems to imply that, you know, Donald Trump is learning on the job, and this is sort of - you know, he's naive in a way.
LACY: The viewers need to understand that this is exactly why Donald Trump was elected President because he cuts against the whole political correctness theme. You know, Donald - and it's my turn to talk, too. Donald Trump won in 30 of 50 states. He won in 230 Congressional districts, a majority of the Congressional districts. Donald Trump won in more counties than any President has won in Presidential history since Ronald Reagan, and he did it by getting middle-class voters, people who weren't highly politically attuned. But people who are hard working to vote for him because he spoke like them.
LITTMAN: They also thought he would be competent as a CEO but it turns out that he's been completely -
[01:15:02] LACY: He's very competent. You know that consumer confidence has never been better. Your 401(k) is growing. There is -- the stock market is advancing.
LACY: He's just through rhetoric, he's able to cut to 71 percent illegal immigration have been cut back.
LITTMAN: Literally, nothing passed through Congress. The first President - is this the first President in history -
LACY: -- the senators in your party won't allow it.
LITTMAN: The Republican Senate, Republican House -
VAUSE: Answer this matter because the President was out trying to sell his infrastructure plan. And, you know, all the news networks had the countdown clocked three days to, you know, James Comey testimony, two days - one day they kind of stop. But, you know, in that - you know, where people actually live and have, you know, families and problems and issues, how much does this Russia stuff matter? And how much are a little more worried about infrastructure and jobs and -
LITTMAN: Well, I think that Donald Trump said a while ago that he could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and his supporters won't care. There's - to an extent that that's true, I think he's got this 35 percent base. But instead of -- when he first came in as President, it was about 40, 41. It's dropped six points. The level of strong support for Donald Trump amongst his supporters has also dropped. The support amongst those 35 percent has weakened. So I think people do care about this. But there is a segment that will not care. That's OK.
VAUSE: OK. Last word to Matt. Good to see you both. James and Matt, thank you for coming in.
VAUSE: Much appreciated. Well, next here on NEWSROOM L.A., North Korea is flexing its military muscles once again. Another round of missile tests. A live report in a moment. Also, ISIS claims its first ever attack on Iran, which could worsen the diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf.
[01:18:41] VAUSE: Myanmar's military says crews have found bodies and debris from the wreckage of a military aircraft that went missing with 122 people on board. The remains of three bodies, two adults, and a child have been recovered. Nine Navy ships, three aircrafts, have been searching for the plane in the Andaman Sea, south of Yangon. The flight vanished about 30 minutes after taking off from the coastal town of Myeik on Wednesday.
North Korea has fired another round of missiles. U.S. and South Korean military sources say Pyongyang fired four anti-ship missiles about 200 kilometers into the sea off North Korea's eastern coast. This is Pyongyang's fourth missile test since the South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office last month. Anna Coren joins us now with the very latest. She is live in Hong Kong. Anna, the timing is interesting, just a day earlier, the South Korean newly-elected President said he was suspending the deployment of the THAAD missile system, the anti-missile system from the U.S.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. And I think many thought that perhaps this decision by South Korea's new President, Moon Jae-in, would have somewhat placated Kim Jong-un and the North Korean regime, but that doesn't seem to be the case, as you say. Early this morning, we don't have a precise time, but North Korea did fire four cruise missiles from the east of the country. They landed in the sea off the Korean Peninsula. They traveled some 200 kilometers, reaching a maximum altitude of 2 kilometers.
[01:20:04] This is the first missile test since the United Nations issued an expansion of sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear and missile program. It's also, as you say, the fourth test since President Moon has been in power. So certainly, a test for his young presidency. These are land-to-ship missiles, and they are shorter range missiles, more precise, and can take a much smaller warhead. And this was obviously reiterated by the South Korean joint chiefs of staff which said that North Korea was there to show its precise and various missile capability. As we know, President Moon has taken a more conciliatory approach with North Korea. It wants to engage in dialogue and ease tensions and perhaps the suspension of the THAAD missile system would have had done that, or at least moved towards easing those tensions. That doesn't seem to be the case.
It is seen as a concession to China, which saw the missile system as a threat to its national security. And it is also, John, a breakaway from the United States' policy towards North Korea.
VAUSE: Anna, thank you. Anna Coren in Hong Kong bringing us up to date with the latest on that North Korean missile test.
ISIS is claiming responsibility between terror attacks in Tehran which killed at least 12 people.
Gunmen stormed into Iran's parliament on Wednesday. Opening fire, exploding a suicide bomb. Tehran's Revolution guard said Saudi Arabia supported the attackers, an allegation the Saudis deny.
At the same time, another group attacked the burial shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini who founded the modern-day Islamic Republic in 1979. CNN's Muhammad Lilac standing by at Abu Dhabi for more. So, Muhammad, terrorist attacks are rare in Iran. It has its very heavy- handed domestic security service (AUDIO GAP) this time, clearly, a lot of questions are being asked, how did they carry this out?
MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. ISIS was very quick to claim responsibility for the attack. They even put out an infographic talking about how many weapons were involved, how many of their gunmen were able to infiltrate the parliament building, as well as the Ayatollah Khomeini Mausoleum. In fact, they even put out a video that they alleged was taken by one of the gunmen during this attack, and we know this attack wasn't a quick endeavor. It actually lasted for several hours. And of course, there are questions now in Tehran about how this was able - how it was - how was it possible for this attack to be carried out in a country, that quite frankly has been, for number of years a relative island of stability in a very volatile world?
Look, you've got major conflicts and major terrorist attacks in many of the countries next-door but Iran sometimes boasted. Sometimes Iranian leaders boasted and said, "Look, our operations are -- in other countries are what is keeping us safe in Iran." Well, that veneer no longer exists because ISIS was able to pull off what was clearly a very coordinated attack. Look, John, this isn't one of those cases that we've seen in Europe, for example, where it's just a lone wolf gunmen taking matters into its own hands. This was heavily coordinated. It must be planned in advance. These attackers were able to smuggle weapons and explosives into the hearts of the Iranian capital, attacking two very symbolic targets. So, this is not a small operation by any means, this was very calculated, cold-blooded, and sophisticated.
VAUSE: Yes, you mentioned the targets, so this is clearly, you know, part of the message, I guess, which ISIS wanted to send. LILA: Well, absolutely. You know, it wasn't too long ago that ISIS put out one of its first videos in Farsi, actually, in Persian, talking about how they were about to bring the fight to Iran. Of course, ISIS has been fighting Iran-backed militias both in Syria and in Iraq. ISIS ideologically also considers Shiites to be apostates or to -- or to be nonbelievers, in other words, that they're sort of free to target and free to kill. So ideologically, ISIS and Shiite Iran are exact opposites, they're enemies. But of course, you know, this is -- this is something that has shocked a lot of Iranians that ISIS has this capability to target Iran inside Iran versus Iranian proxies that are somewhere else.
VAUSE: OK. Muhammad, thank you. Muhammad Lila with the latest in Abu Dhabi. Still with the story now, joining me now here in Los Angeles, Editor-in-Chief of the Foreign Desk Lisa Daftari. What was interestingly so, you know, it took many hours before the U.S. President issued a statement responding to this attack, he expressed condolences to the victim, but then added this, "We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism is falling victim to the evil they promote." In the past hour or so, we've heard back now after that statement from Iran's Foreign Minister on Twitter. He - this is what he wrote, "Repugnant White House statement and Senate sanctions as Iranians counterterror backed by U.S. clients. Many people reject such U.S. claims of friendship." Again, it seems common enemy does not make common new friends.
LISA DAFTARI, THE FOREIGN DESK EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Absolutely not. And I think what Donald Trump was attempting to do is exactly what he did in the New Year message that he sent to the Iranian people back in March just separate between the regime and the people, to say, "Look, we don't have diplomatic ties with Iran. They still remain the number global sponsor of terror." So, they're not all of a sudden good guys because there was an alleged ISIS attack, you know, on their territory for once. They're the ones paying for the jihad to go on in other parts of the world (INAUDIBLE)
VAUSE: And (INAUDIBLE) to Syria that Iran has been sort of financing ISIS to keep the battle away, right?