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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
House Intel Requests Any Trump Tapes By June 23. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired June 9, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Based on what you know, did Comey in your view break the law?
[16:30:02] EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, because he didn't release classified information. It's plain and simple in this case. And I think Comey was doing something that he thought was necessary for the public interest, and Donald Trump is going to, of course, claim that he was doing something unlawful or untoward, and I just don't think he's going to get much traction with that.
Those conversations are not classified. You can call them leaks, but you can't call them unauthorized or illegal disclosures.
SCIUTTO: The legal standards in the courts right up to the Supreme Court is that it serves -- that leaks can serve a public interest. In your view, did Comey's leaks meet that standard?
MCMULLIN: Oh, absolutely they did. I mean, you have the president of the United States claiming one thing about very important conversations that he had with Jim Comey about -- about the investigation and about his -- about the president's desire allegedly to stop or not the investigation, at least into Flynn.
So, these are -- you know, the president was making claims about the investigation. Comey wanted to correct the record. The American people have got to know either now or in a timely manner what is happening and what happened in the past. The status of these investigations to the extent that it can be known publicly without jeopardizing the integrity of those investigations, and -- and Mr. Comey did not compromise any of that.
He shared information that was unclassified. It doesn't go beyond the rest of the investigation into what Russia did, whether there was collusion, et cetera. This is just about the president's engagement with Comey.
SCIUTTO: I want to play an exchange between Senator Feinstein and Comey yesterday. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Why didn't you stop and say, Mr. President, this is wrong, I cannot discuss this with you? JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: That's a great question. Maybe if
I were stronger, I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in, and the only thing I can think to say, because I was playing in my mind, because I got to remember every word he said. It was playing in my mind, what should my response be, and that's why I very carefully chose the words.
Look, I've seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: There are Comey critics today, I'm sure you've heard him, many of them Republicans saying he was in effect a coward for not standing up to Trump. Did he have an obligation, in your view, to tell the president to his face in that moment that the request was wrong?
MCMULLIN: Look, I think the bigger issue here is just think about what Comey has been through for the last couple of years. This man has been caught between a rock and a hard place, having to investigate the two major party candidates at a time when I believe frankly many of our elected officials are not living up to their obligation to serve of first the public interest.
He has been in an impossible situation. In that circumstance in particular talking to the president, he sits there before the president with two roles, if you will. One as a subordinate to the president, an adviser on -- in a way in some issues and in another way an investigator looking into the president's campaign and potentially more.
So, I think Comey, as others have said that, Comey didn't view the president as an honorable man. I think that's fair. The president has a long track record of not telling the truth.
And so, Comey is sitting there and the president starts to say something that potentially could count as obstruction of justice it, and I think he went into collection mode. He went into evidence collection mode, and he let the man talk. He let the president talk, and I think that was the right judgment because Comey could have advised the president that what he was doing wasn't right.
But many people have tried to give the president similar advice in other circumstances, and it goes in one ear and out the other. So, I think what James Comey did in simply listening to the president if that's what he did and reporting it properly as it appears he did was the right thing to do.
SCIUTTO: You heard Paul Ryan, Speaker Paul Ryan say that the president is in his words new to this, and he wasn't steeped in the protocols established in relationships between the DOJ and the White House. Do you accept that explanation?
MCMULLIN: Absolutely not. President Trump, he's just that, our president. He has an obligation to familiarize himself with the laws and expectations and duties of that role. If he hasn't done it already, then that's on him. It is his responsibility.
Any of us who have jobs or who aspire to have jobs, we know that if we take on a responsibility, you know, it's our duty to -- to learn what it is and how to execute it. First and foremost would be the president, the commander in chief, and if he hasn't done that, that's on him, and really I'm sad to see some Republican leader, not all Republican leaders, but some Republican leaders, including Paul Ryan now, make these kinds of excuses, however weak they are, for the president.
SCIUTTO: Final question. In a word based on what you've know and seen so far, has the president committed obstruction of justice?
[16:35:02] MCMULLIN: Well, I would point out that I'm not an attorney, and so, I'd caveat with that, but I would focus on the same thing that Comey focused on yesterday. Comey I think tried to focus attention at least in the end of his testimony on the fact that he was fired because President Trump didn't like something about the way the Russia investigation was -- was being executed by Comey.
He was fired because of the Russia investigation. He has said that himself publicly. Everything else that we're learning about what he said about Flynn and the loyalty request and all of that, I see as very important and part -- part of the puzzle but ancillary. The main thing still remains that Donald Trump fired the man leading the investigation into his own campaign.
SCIUTTO: Evan McMullin, thanks very much.
MCMULLIN: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: The president has retained his personal lawyer to oversee his response to the Russia investigation. Is that actually helping him? That's next.
And in little as 20 years, erosion and rising sea levels could swallow this island community. We'll take a tour of this vanishing island coming up.
[16:40:23] SCIUTTO: Welcome back.
In continuing with the politics lead, we've just learned that the House Intelligence Committee has set a June 23rd deadline for Comey's memos and any White House tapes of their conversations.
Here with me now to discuss all this is my political roundtable. I want to, if I can, for the group play the president's response to this key question of are there Oval Office tapes? Let's listen again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: You seem to be hinting that there are recordings of those conversations. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not hinting
anything. I'll tell you about it over a very short period of time, OK? OK, do you have a question here?
REPORTER: When will you tell us about the recording?
TRUMP: Over a fairly short period of time.
REPORTER: Tomorrow, now?
Are there tapes, sir?
TRUMP: You're going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: I mean, two questions really. One is why not answer now, but the other key one, do you think he was telegraphing there that there are no tapes?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is so classic Trump. Every time he wants to push something controversial, he has a distinct formula, starts that make a wild claim. Step two, use some kind of hearsay to back it up. Step three, the promise of more to come. Evidence will be forthcoming.
It's what he did with President Obama's birth certificate. He always gets to this step. It's a delay tactic but it also keeps the media's attention on him and he's in control of the story while we're raising questions.
RUTH MARCUS, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's definitely a way of keeping attention. But he's the president of the United States. I actually think he's really got enough attention on him even without this, and I'm not really sure what vaguely suggesting, but then un- suggesting that there are tapes that he probably wouldn't want out anyway, I'm not sure what he has to gain from this. So, it's a very odd strategy.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And in fairness, something else could happen next week or in a couple hours that would take our attention off of it.
SCIUTTO: What do you mean if something is going to happen?
Olivier, I mean --
MARCUS: We're going to forget about the tapes.
SCIUTTO: The House Intel Committee is, in effect, has thrown down a marker here, they said by June 23rd, if there are tapes, fess up.
OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Yes, let's see how the White House responds to that, first of all. I mean, I'm not sure how that struggle within these two co-equal branches is going to play out. You know, I was going to add to this tape notion. You can add the tapes to the long list of things where we can't get a straight answer.
Does he believe climate change is real, and that human activity contributes to it? Can't really get an answer.
Is he playing golf on the weekends? Can't really get an answer. We see on various social sites that he is playing golf.
KNOX: Does he have confidence in his attorney general? Forty-eight hours it took for them to finally say that, of course, he does. So, we can just add this to the long pile of issues where we can't get a really -- a straight issue.
MARCUS: But, Olivier, there's one difference, which is that on this one, there is somebody who is capable of getting us a straight yes or no answer. If it's not the House Intelligence Committee or Congress, it's the special counsel. He can find out is there -- are there tapes? If so, deliver them and we know how that one ends.
SCIUTTO: Well, the other thing, the special counsel, because the president -- the headline here is the president offered to testify under oath 100 percent he said which assuming Robert Mueller wants -- takes him up on that and assuming the president follows through on this, he'll have to sit there and answer those questions under oath. Not the same as a White House press conference or Twitter feed.
MARCUS: Yes, but I 100 percent that that will never happen.
CARPENTER: I think we have to revisit the idea that he uses these tactics to delay. What is he doing right now? And I think this has been very much missed by people watching what the White House is doing. He is pre-judging the investigation, the many investigations every step of the way.
The first words out of his mouth today no obstruction. No collusion and then straight discrediting James Comey. They are trying to pre- judge this thing as long as they can string it out and bring public opinion their way because at the end of the day, this is a political argument to Republicans on the Hill to advantage Trump.
OLIVIER: The tapes also take our attention off. The fundamental dichotomy here is it's Jim Comey's word against the president. By talking about the tapes, we're holding out the possibility that there's some objective source of information that would definitively say who was right, instead of having us look at, well, former FBI director, president known for embellishing the truth.
KUCINICH: But it isn't just James Comey and Donald Trump. He apparently asked the DNI. He apparently asked Admiral Rogers. He's asked --
SCIUTTO: That's a possibility in the previous hearing that they did not clear up frankly.
KUCINICH: No, they didn't, and we don't know what they said in closed session. But there are other examples in reports of him playing the same game with his other officials. So, it's not just one person, and once we know the answer to that, because assuming that eventually that will come out, I think a lot of this will be clear. It's just how long is that going to take.
SCIUTTO: The other game that he played is in effect is cherry-picking from Comey's testimony saying, you know, I'm vindicated. Let's throw up this tweet which came before the press conference. He said, despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication and wow, Comey is a leaker.
In other words, he's calling Comey a liar, so everything he said, except the thing that he said about me not being under investigation. That's true. The rest is garbage.
MARCUS: Right. All the things I like that Comey said are definitely true. All the things I don't like that Comey said are total and complete lies. About which Comey,if you credit this, invent it had before he was fired, before he knew he was going to be fired, made up this story, wrote it in memos to the file and made up a story that actually wasn't as good as you would want to make up if you were making up a story, because if you were making up a story and then you would say and then the president ordered me to drop the case against Flynn, drop it, he said. but that's not Comey's testimony. So in a he said -- it's he said, he said verse and the memos said, and there's no lawyer on planet who wants to have Donald Trump on the stand on his side versus Jim Comey on his side.
SCIUTTO: It's not only the President who is doing this kind of cherry picking saying we're vindicated, blah, blah, blah, meanwhile, Comey's a leaker and liar, et cetera. It's many Republicans, it's many lawmakers, Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee. You could hear that in the questions that they asked.
CARPENTER: They are trying to find a way to make what Trump is saying be true. You can see them trying to struggle with that, but at the same time they are not going out on that limb. They are saying maybe he just didn't know better. They know better. Listen, to believe that he didn't know better, Donald Trump knew what was right and wrong when he was king against Hillary Clinton. He knew it was wrong when Bill Clinton got on that plane and talked to Loretta Lynch. He knew that was wrong. So clearly he should have also known it was wrong when he approached James Comey in the same fashion but right now we're not supposed to believe that, tie that together, because Republicans are so desperate to try to find a way out of this. But the evidence is piling up, and given their posture now, given that this has only gone on for a couple of months, I don't think they will have anywhere else to go.
SCIUTTO: Every week we, I, my colleagues ask the question, are Republicans getting worried to the degree where that thin blue line, as it were, breaks up, that they start to lose their confidence in him and start to come out, and you have heard it from a handful, but really the same handful, we've heard like the Ben Sasses of the world. Speaker Ryan, right -- he's just new at it, everything is fine. By the way, let's talk tax cuts.
KUCINICH: Well, because that's what's going to get them re-elected in their district is tax cuts, you know. If a health care bill that people actually like goes through. I mean, things like that are more tangible to people's lives than the Russia investigation outside of D.C. and New York. That said, if -- you know, come close to 2018 nothing got done and we're still talking about Russia, I think you're going to see a lot more Republicans cast Trump aside.
SCIUTTO: Right, it comes down to self-preservation.
KUCINICH: And everything -- and everything hinges on Mueller. We don't know when he going to comes back.
SCIUTTO: What could-what could Mueller said? I mean, listen, short of I charge the President with obstruction of justice, right? I mean, you can also have a -- because throughout this investigation, people -- it's all been in the eyes of the beholder, right? I mean, you know, the firing of Jim Comey was -- you know, a lightning event for Democrats. Republicans, like, it's -- you know, you can have the same situation with Mueller --
OLIVIER KNOX, YAHOO! NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's been true in past crises. It's true. I mean, a lot of Nixon's base stuck with him, a lot of Reagan's base stuck with him, Clinton got more popular during his crisis. It's a fairly possible that's going to happen, but that when you have Bob Mueller looking into these very, very weighty issues, if he comes back as sort of this neutral widely well-regarded arbiter and says, yes, I have found evidence of this bad behavior, that behavior, I think that changes the dynamic a little bit rather than have it be the Democrats or say the news media suggesting that there's something there.
SCIUTTO: Does it change the dynamic?
CARPENTER: I'm trying to think what it would really take. Listen, Republicans have been into the wilderness for a long time. They are desperate for legislative victories like you would not believe. They'll stick with him as long it is a takes, but I do think if this rises seriously to a national security issue, where they lied about things that could potentially have national security implications that get to our electoral process, I mean, if it gets to that level, Republicans will --
MARCUS: I think to assess where Republicans are and where they will be, we have to understand that we've just begun and Mueller has just begun most significantly to figure out what the facts are. The facts are not likely to get -- they may not get very much worse for Donald Trump, but they could get a lot worse and probably not going to get better. So if the facts develop in a bad way for him, all his friends fall off eventually.
SCIUTTO: Exactly. (INAUDIBLE) his agenda. That's exactly -- Ruth, Amanda, Jackie, Olivier, thanks very much. Next up, in our "EARTH MATTERS SERIES," we visited a vanishing island for a special lead investigation.
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Coming up on THE LEAD, we travel to an American island on the front lines of climate change, so what do they think about President Trump and their future?
[16:50:00] SCIUTTO: We're back now with our "BURIED LEAD" which is what we call stories that aren't getting enough attention. A small island town off the Virginia coast is at risk of literally being washed away. Some 450 people could lose their homes as the waters of Chesapeake Bay are edging dangerously close to their community. In today's "EARTH MATTERS", we're taking you to the Tangier Island, Virginia where residents, most of them loyal Trump supporters, are pleading with the President to save their town. CNN's Jennifer Gray has more.
JAMES ESKRIDGE, TANGIER MAYOR: We're running out of land to give up. We don't have to tell them to (INAUDIBLE)
GRAY: Residents of Tangier, Virginia, don't have time to wait for Washington to debate climate change.
BRUCE CLARK GORDY, TANGIER RESIDENT: I agree with science, but our problem is to our community is eroding away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's always in the back of your mind.
GRAY: They live fewer than 100 miles from the White House on an island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, population about 450, area, just 1.3 square miles and shrinking. During severe weather such as Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the island is buried under feet of water. The army corps of engineers tells CNN, erosion and rising sea levels alone will make this historic crabbing community uninhabitable in as little as 20 years, adding, that quote, "a major storm event striking the island directly could cause abandonment sooner." It's a heartbreaking prospect rejected by many locals whose families have been living and fishing off the island since the18th century.
[16:55:31] ESKRIDGE: What I tell our citizens as Mayor, do not lose hope.
GRAY: In a small room in the old town clinic Mayor James "Ooker" Eskridge meets daily with fellow life-long residents to discuss the island's fate.
GRAY: There are people out there that say we'll just move. Why do you live here?
GORDY: That's a silly statement for the (INAUDIBLE), silly statement. You don't just leave your home. ESKRIDGE: We've savable right now. We've savable right now. Yes,
Donald Trump, if you see this, I mean, whatever you can do, we welcome any help you can give us.
GRAY: Donald Trump received 87 percent of the island's Presidential votes last November. Some of Tangier's locals say they care lows about his controversial view on climate change and more about his views on infrastructure.
ESKRIDGE: He's cutting the regulations.
GORDY: I believe he's concerned about our safety.
GRAY: The army corps of engineers will begin building a jetty to protect the harbor here next year but the rest of the island will need a far larger and more expensive barrier to survive.
ESKRIDGE: He's going to cut down (INAUDIBLE) takes to study something. We've been studied to death. We just need something done.
GRAY: Mapping data shows how rapidly the shoreline has waned in the past and without significant intervention, the small American town will continue to disappear into the bay at the rate of 16 feet a year in some places. So what could Tangier Island look like for future generations if the predictions do come true? Well, we're about to find out at a place called the Uppards. Carol Pruitt Moore is a seventh-generation islander. She takes the short boat ride from the main island every day to walk along an abandoned shoreline and reflect on the past. As recently as the 1920s the entire community lived right here. We're only about a mile and a half from Tangier and this is all that's left of the Uppards. What do you think about when you come here every day and take your walk?
CAROL PRUITT-MOORE, TANGIER 7TH GENERATION RESIDENT: Well, I mean, you know, like when I find pieces of glass and pottery, I try to imagine the people who may have used them and, you know, what their lives were like. I'm sure they never thought -- you know, we'd have to leave Uppards because it's their home. If we don't get help, it's going to be like Uppards, just memory.
Her name was Polly Parks, she died 1913. I
GRAY: It wasn't many years after this that the entire community was under. The one of your fears has got to be as somebody like you one day walking around Tangier picking up pieces of glass wondering about your life.
MOORE: Oh yes. Picking up my life.
GRAY: Sea level rise isn't just affecting Tangier and its 450 locals. With many larger waterfront cities such as Miami and New Orleans threatened by climate change, convincing outsiders this small town is worth saving is a challenge.
EARL SWIFT, TANGIER JOURNALIST: It seems to me that the decisions we as a country make about whether or not to save this place will inform how we deal with much bigger problems in cities like Norfolk and New Orleans and Miami and New York City.
GRAY: Earl Swift is a journalist working on a book about Tangier's climate plight. He lives part-time on the island researching life here where residents say they refuse to be climate change refugees.
SWIFT: If you make the decision that whether or not you save a place is simply a function of headcount, then Tangier doesn't have a chance. You can't make it cost effective. You know, that's a dangerous slope to start sliding down if that's your chief decider is because then you find yourself having to come up with what number is the baseline. You know, I think it would be a real shame to see us get to that point.
GRAY: For now the mood on Tangier is optimistic with some welcoming the new President's late kin.
ESKRIDGE: I love Trump as much as any family member I've got.
GRAY: And hoping his view on climate change won't prevent funding for their future.
If you could say anything to him or his administration today, what would it be?
ESKRIDGE: I would say-
GORDY: Build us a wall.
ESKRIDGE: Yes, build us a wall. They talk about a wall. We'll take a wall. We'd like that wall all the way around Tangier. We'd love a wall.
GRAY: Jennifer Gray, CNN, Tangier Island, Virginia.
SCIUTTO: Fascinating story, our thanks to Jennifer Gray. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jimsciuto or tweet the show at @theleadcnn. And tune in this Sunday morning for "STATE OF THE UNION" with guest Senators Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jim Sciutto. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer. He is, as you would expect him to be, in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, willing to testify. After James Comey's incriminating testimony, President Trump says he's 100 percent ready to tell his side of the story under oath.