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Explosion At U.S. Embassy In Ukraine; Britain's Snap Election Underway; Gianforte Issues Apology To Reporter After Assault; Trump Attorney: President Feels "Totally Vindicated"; History Of Explosive Congressional Hearings. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired June 8, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:33:05] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, we are following breaking news. An explosion rocks the U.S. Embassy in Kiev. Police say an unidentified person threw an explosive device into the U.S. Embassy compound, of course, in the Ukrainian capital. No one was hurt. The embassy is open. Authorities are investigating the incident as a terror attack. So far, no arrests made.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It's Election Day in Britain. Polls have been open a little more than three hours. Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, the Labor Party's Jeremy Corbyn, and liberal Democratic Tim Farron are leading their parties ahead of today's vote. The snap election taking place in the wake of back-to-back terror attacks in Manchester and London.

CUOMO: Montana Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte accused of body slamming a "Guardian" reporter -- accused of it because he did it -- issued a letter apologizing to Ben Jacobs saying, "My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful. As both a candidate for office and a public official I should be held to a high standard. My treatment of you did not meet that standard." Jacobs accepted the apology. Gianforte also pledged $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. He will plead no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge.

CAMEROTA: Fascinating outcome, right? I mean, maybe he was compelled somehow to do all of that?

CUOMO: He had every reason, legally, politically, personally to issue that apology.

CAMEROTA: The apology. James Comey is preparing to testify in just hours. The White House and Republican Party are preparing their defense. What's the plan? We discuss it next.


[05:38:45] CUOMO: All right. A big thing for you to remember today with the Comey testimony -- feels legal -- feels like he's going to be in some kind of extrajudicial proceeding but he isn't. This is inherently political and that's why you're hearing so much spin. Trump's attorney read what Comey is supposedly going to say today and said the president feels completely and totally vindicated after he looked through the seven-page prepared testimony from Jim Comey. So, how will the president and his party respond to Comey? Let's bring back CNN political analyst David Gregory. Also joining us, CNN political analysts Jackie Kucinich and David Drucker. And we have the blessing this morning of knowing the answer because we hear them yapping before the testimony. Let's play Lindsey Graham and Paul Ryan, who have already put out their thoughts about what they think the impact of Comey is.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: What Comey and I think Mueller has concluded, I don't have an obstruction of justice case here. If I believe every word of what Comey said it doesn't rise to the level of obstruction of justice. What prosecutor in their right mind would allow their star witness to go out before the Senate panel of 20 senators and get beat up if you really believe he had a case? So this is the best evidence yet that in the mind of the special counsel there is no obstruction of justice case to be made against President Trump.

[05:40:10] GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, ANCHOR, MSNBC "FOR THE RECORD": Is it appropriate for the president to ask for a question of loyalty for the FBI director?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Yes -- no, I mean, obviously, I don't that is. FBI directors are supposed to be independent. That's something that's very, very critical. I think that's why we have a new person that's been announced, Wray, who seems to fit the bill for an independent prosecutor career professional type because we typically look for someone who's going to be independent but also the deposition is treated independently and this obviously crosses that.


CUOMO: And Chris Wray is independent except that he represented Gov. Chris Christie in the Bridgegate scandal, but we'll leave that to another day. David Gregory, the spin is clear before one word has been said at the hearing today. What do you make of what Lindsey Graham said -- compelling? Why would Mueller allow Comey to go out, assuming he could stop him, if he was his main guy in an obstruction case?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, "HOW'S YOUR FAITH?": Right, and Sen. Graham's a lawyer. He's making a legal argument. He's making a presumption on the part of the special counsel. We don't know where things stand. It's just an investigation that's beginning so we simply don't know. He may very well be right. You and other lawyers who will look at this will make that determination over time but, obviously, it's Bob Mueller who is most important in making that determination.

So this is a political process and, you know, I think what's important about today is not just, you know, going in that direction but it's also making a judgment about what was appropriate. Making a judgment about what the president does, how he conducts himself, how he respects or disrespects the office of the president and the independence of the Justice Department and the FBI director. I think those things become important, too. Dan Balz' writing in "The Washington Post" this morning that ultimately, this may further erode trust in President Trump and his administration. That comes with tremendous cost and that's why that's so important.

Now, to hear the president, through his lawyer, say he feels completely vindicated --


GREGORY: -- is, number one, premature, but it's not off base in that it was very important for him to know that he was not the subject of this investigation.


GREGORY: That is something that Comey represented to him. We should always point out that could have and could still change but that was important to the president and will certainly be part of the discussion today.

CAMEROTA: And Jackie, that's the one that, as you know, pundits beforehand were saying well, you know, Comey wouldn't haven't done that. Why would he have told the president? Yes, in fact, from his notes, he did tell the president on three separate occasions you're not the target of the investigation. The president wanted to know and for whatever reason, James Comey felt that he could relieve the president of that anxiety and say you're not the target of the investigation. So that's why -- that's what the White House is hanging their hat on today, saying we're vindicated. It matches our version of events.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, at this point -- I think David made a good point there. At that point he wasn't, but this is an ongoing -- this is a very nascent investigation when they were having this conversation so it doesn't really mean anything in the long run.

And the president kept on talking about this cloud here, this could there. The cloud's in his mind. He's been obsessed with this. He has -- and he's -- there's nothing actually tangible that was keeping him from pushing on with his agenda as this was going on. It's the fact that he's been preoccupied with it and I don't know that Comey's testimony today is going to actually change that because Bob Mueller is still going to be pressing on with his special investigation and these hearings are still going to be going on in the House and the Senate. So this is a very big day, this is a very important testimony, but I don't think this -- we're not going to come out tomorrow and be like well, let's put that aside.

CUOMO: Boy, it would be great to hear Comey say what Alisyn just said, that you know, I wanted to relieve his anxiety. He will get --

CAMEROTA: I think that that's -- that's what -- but, I mean, he hasn't said that.

CUOMO: He will get butchered.

CAMEROTA: What he implies in here is that he felt it was appropriate because the president asked him to say "you are not the target."

CUOMO: But the way he words it in here, you know, and everybody should read it -- then again, it's not a guarantee that this is what he's going to say today, by the way. But, you know, the way he puts it in there, David Drucker, is that in lots of different instances -- because he had a lot of them, right? I think he had nine different direct exchanges with this president, about three times what he had with President Obama during his entire tenure -- he was being acquiescent with this president, which is a word I've never heard used to describe Jim Comey before this statement in this situation. So what do you think the treatment of Comey will be by the Democrats and the Republicans today?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, I think we're going to see some hostile treatment from the Republicans and we have started to see that already with Republicans, in a sense, excusing this as Trump either being new to the process or talking like a New Yorker. And I think we're going to see a lot of that today as Republicans try and navigate through this because what blows back on Trump ultimately blows back on them.

[05:45:10] But I think as we look at this opening statement that's public and what we're going to see today it is so similar in my mind to what we saw with the Hillary Clinton press conference where Comey, in classic fashion for him, absolved Hillary Clinton of legal jeopardy but not political jeopardy, and created a huge problem for Hillary Clinton in a political sense. I think there's a lot in this opening statement and I think we will hear a lot today in terms of the loyalty aspect that will do that, and that is going to blow back on Republicans in the coming months and it's going to make it tougher for them to take tough votes on health care and tax reform, and I think that is the broader political significance of all of this.

CAMEROTA: OK, panel, thank you very much. Obviously, we'll call upon you for the next hours because today's blockbuster testimony is being called the most highly anticipated congressional hearing in decades, so we'll look back at other high-stakes hearings to see just where this one stacks up.


[05:50:20] CAMEROTA: Fired FBI director James Comey expected to deliver blockbuster testimony today before a Senate panel, but how will it stack up against other explosive congressional hearings? CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look back for us.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For airing grievances, probing issues, or political punch, congressional hearings can be explosive.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), THEN-SECRETARY OF STATE: The fact is we had four dead Americans. FOREMAN: Consider 2013's testimony on the Benghazi attack and this moment from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

CLINTON: Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?

FOREMAN: It's been that way for generations, from testimony on the sinking of the Titanic to Joe McCarthy's hunt for communists and his denunciation by Army attorney Joe Welch.

JOE WELCH, ATTORNEY: Have you no sense of decency, sir? If there is a God in heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good.

TWISTED SISTER (Singing "We're Not Gonna Take It").

FOREMAN: To a hearing on allegedly obscene music in which the lead singer of Twisted Sister argued with future vice president Al Gore.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: What does SMF stand for when it's spelled out?

DEE SNIDER, "TWISTED SISTER": It stands for the sick mother f******friends of Twisted Sister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the president know and when did he know it?

FOREMAN: The Watergate hearings proved enormously consequential for President Richard Nixon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did there come a time when you were asked to develop the capability in the White House for intelligence gathering?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Intelligence gathering? The answer would be no.

ANITA HILL: He talked about pornographic materials.

FOREMAN: Anita Hill's accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas spurred debate about sexual harassment. His denial and slamming of the committee even more talk.

CLARENCE HILL, THEN-SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: As far as I'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.

FOREMAN: Hearings that brought impeachment, corruption probes, harsh accusations against the IRS.


FOREMAN: Scathing words for cigarette makers --

REP. HENRY WAXMAN, (D) CALIFORNIA: The difference between cigarettes and Twinkies and the other products you mentioned is death.

FOREMAN: -- and outraged questions for the Secret Service.

REP. NITA LOWERY, (D) NEW YORK: We're talking about a respected member of the Secret Service who was absolutely drunk.

FOREMAN: Admittedly, congressional hearings often lead to nothing, but every now and then this unique type of political theater collides with something important and then it really can be a show worth watching. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


CAMEROTA: Absolutely. That was a fun trip down memory lane. I mean, the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas stuff, that was totally appointment viewing when it was happening.

CUOMO: It is true because it was fundamental to the selection of a Supreme Court justice so you often have an intersection of politics and law. You have that today, although I would argue not as much as people think.

CAMEROTA: You think it's much more political?

CUOMO: I think this is almost exclusively political and, in fact, I think one of the criticisms of Comey by the lawmakers and by the media after it will be that he is being inherently political in this, but it will be worth watching because there's been so much hype from both sides. So who will come out looking better? It's going to be just a matter of hours before the reckoning for the man on your screen. Remember, everybody's saying that this is going to be about President Trump and what it means for him. The man on your screen is going to face some heat today. The most important questions he faces, next.


[05:57:55] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Did you at any time urge former FBI director James Comey to close the investigation into Michael Flynn.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Comey is saying the President of the United States is a liar and the President of the United States obstructed justice.

GRAHAM: There is no evidence of obstruction of justice. All in all, a pretty good day.

SEN. RON WYDEN, (D) OREGON: That is almost a Watergate level effort to interfere with an ongoing investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has President Trump committed an obstruction of justice? Absolutely not.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: What it describes is a president who knows no limits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a lot of unclarity from Director Comey's comments. We're only hearing one side of this conversation.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: If this becomes a credibility contest, that's a contest that the president is going to lose.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: Beautiful.

CUOMO: A beautiful shot where there may be some ugly moments today on Capitol Hill. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, June 8th, 6:00 here in New York.

All eyes on Capitol Hill. Today the speculation ends. In just hours, former FBI director James Comey will testify in the mostanticipated congressional hearing in decades. Thanks to Comey releasing a copy of his remarks, which is highly unusual, we know the fired FBI director will testify President Trump asked him to drop the Flynn investigation. Pressured him to lift the cloud of Russia on his administration by saying publicly that Trump was not under investigation. Comey will also tell Congress that the president demanded loyalty, repeatedly asking him to drop the investigation.

CAMEROTA: Now, President Trump's attorney sees things very differently. He says the president feels "totally vindicated" by Comey's prepared testimony. So there are many big questions today. Do the president's actions amount to obstruction of justice and whose word will Americans believe, James Comey or President Trump? We have a lot to cover so let's begin with CNN's Jessica Schneider. She is live on Capitol Hill. Set the scene for us.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, the highly anticipated testimony made even more so by the release of James Comey's opening statements by the Senate Intelligence Committee.