Return to Transcripts main page


Ryan Defends Trump: "He's Just New To This"; Political Turmoil In U.K. After Shocking Election; Trump Claims "Complete Vindication" From "Leaker" Comey; Trump's Lawyer to File Complaint against Comey; Trump Attacks "False Statements and Lies"; Sessions, Kushner Face Senate Next Week. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 9, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- Donald Trump wrote, "Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication and, wow," -- all caps -- "Comey is a leaker."

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: False statements and lies. If that is referring directly to James Comey and Comey lied during his explosive testimony on Capitol Hill, that would be perjury. So what exactly is the President's version of events?

And one more question that should be really easy to answer -- in fact, it should have already been answered -- are there actual tapes of their conversations? We could find out today. Why? Because the President takes part in a news conference this afternoon, the first time he has answered questions in weeks.

Let's go to the White House. Our Joe Johns is there.

And, Joe, good morning to you. You just got some breaking news about how Donald Trump's personal lawyer is going to respond to all of this, the action he says he'll take.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. The indication is that the pursuit of Jim Comey now begins less than 24 hours after his dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill.

A source familiar with the situation telling CNN that the attorney for the President, the personal attorney who has been with him for so long, Marc Kasowitz, does intend to file complaints with the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as the Department of Justice Inspector General against Jim Comey focusing in on Comey's testimony yesterday that he did give information contained in one of his memos to a friend, an acquaintance, who, in turn, gave that information to the news media.

So the administration, including the President's tweet this morning, clearly casting Jim Comey as a leaker. Now, there are a couple questions that still have to be answered on all of this. Number one, Jim Comey, no longer a government employee, which suggests that the Department of Justice would have limited authority over him. There is also a question about what would be the right form for these complaints to take. Probably another question relates to executive privilege. The

President did not assert executive privilege over the testimony of Jim Comey. They made a point of saying that very publically, saying they wanted to get all the information out as quickly as possible that the intelligence committee wanted to hear.

So all of these things raise questions about how effective a complaint against Jim Comey in these forms would be. We're looking today to see the President in the Rose Garden with the President of Romania. And at that time, there may be an opportunity to get a couple of questions to him about all this. Back to you.

HARLOW: Just a couple.

BERMAN: Yes. It will be interesting to hear what he says about tapes, if there are, in fact, any tapes. And his Twitter account at work overnight, also his lawyer. Will the President speak up about this? Joe Johns, thanks so much.

A lot of the action now moves behind closed doors, congressional committees due to hear from key players in the coming days. CNN's Phil Mattingly, live on Capitol Hill with that.

Good morning, Phil.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Look, vindication may be the word of the day. People might have thought yesterday was kind of peak Russia probe. It's not. And I think that's the reality here, is there are still a lot of things to occur, a lot of the investigation still to take place. And you just need to look kind of at what happened in closed session yesterday in the classified briefing when Jim Comey spoke to the Senate Intelligence Committee to recognize why.

In that briefing, according to sources, Jim Comey made clear that they have raw intelligence of intercepts between Russian officials that discussed Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, having a third undisclosed meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Now, it's worth nothing, the Senate Intelligence Committee has been looking into this issue according to sources. It is also worth noting the Justice Department, where Jeff Sessions currently works, says and has said repeatedly, a third meeting in April of last year did not actually occur. But Jeff sessions will testify publically, next week in the Senate. Different committee, but certain that these questions will come up.

And when it comes to the Senate Intelligence Committee, guys, it is worth noting that, again, while this was a very, very big hearing yesterday, they are still very hard at work. They obviously got documents subpoenaed from fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Next week, they will meet with Bob Mueller to discuss kind of how to deconflict their investigations and also, according to some members, to discuss those memos that Jim Comey talked about, had his testimony about, and has given to Bob Mueller, that members also want to see.

And, guys, one more crucial element here and one more big name. Jared Kushner, as soon as next week, will meet behind closed doors with Senate Intelligence Committee staff.

Now, there are a number of issues that Senate investigators have been looking into related to Jared Kushner -- his role in the campaign's digital operation, his relationship with fired national security adviser Michael Flynn, and also reports that he worked to set up a back channel with Russian officials.

Now, Jared Kushner's lawyers have been very clear. He is happy to speak with anybody whenever they can set that up. And that looks like it will be coming to bear next week, talking to Senate intelligence investigating staff.

[09:05:06] Now, what happens next after that? Well, according to sources, he will then submit documents or will be requested to submit personal documents. Then after that, he would meet with Senate Intelligence Committee members, the senators themselves.

Now, the big question, guys, is, will any of this be public? At this point, that's unclear. But this idea that things came to an end yesterday or yesterday was kind of a big finish to things just isn't accurate. There is a lot of steps to come and that's just in Congress, not to mention the federal investigation that's still ongoing.

So, guys, a lot to pay attention to. We're keeping a very close eye on Capitol Hill next week. This investigation is still moving forward, full bore. Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee have made that clear.

HARLOW: It means you, Phil Mattingly, don't get a day off for a really long time, by the way.


HARLOW: Thank you for the reporting.

Joining us now is our panel. David Swerdlick is a CNN political commentator and assistant editor for "The Washington Post." Salena Zito is CNN contributor and reporter for "The Washington Examiner." Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News. And Paul Callan, our CNN legal analyst extraordinaire and senior trial counsel for Callan Legal.

So, Counselor, to you, is this all just smoke from Marc Kasowitz? Because we're just looking at some of the guidance here, the Department of Justice has limited jurisdiction over a former employee. The most they can do is note it in his file, and he's not working there anymore.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Poppy, I'm not surprised that Kasowitz is aggressively going after Comey. I mean, after all, Comey called the President a liar, an unethical person. BERMAN: Not us.

CALLAN: He essentially hinted that he might, in fact, be a criminal and said he's basically a sneak. So all of these things were really stunning charges against the President. However, Comey was a civilian at the time the information was allegedly leaked, so the Justice Department has no jurisdiction for an investigation.

And the final thing that makes no sense is you want to put an end to these investigations if you are the President of the United States. Kasowitz now says, let's start another one with the Inspector General and the Justice Department? That would be an insane tactic to help the President. It would hurt the President.

HARLOW: Well, it actually is their tactic and that's what they're doing.

BERMAN: They're doing it right now. That's just one new development this morning.

Errol Louis, the other new development is we've heard from the President after a very long Twitter draught where he says false statements and lies. Now, if he is talking about James Comey and his testimony yesterday, he's accusing the former FBI Director of perjury, you know, a felony.

Lying before Congress, it is a bad thing. You can't do it. If that is what he is saying, doesn't the President have to make clear what he thinks James Comey is lying about, and should the President lay out his case under oath somewhere?

ERROL LOUIS, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS NY1: Ah, there is a very good case that that question may come up at the press conference today, I imagine. But, look, keep in mind that one of the extraordinary parts of yesterday's testimony was that Comey comes forward, former FBI Director under oath, says the President is a liar. Says it five times, as you pointed out.

Nobody on the panel, even the Republicans, jumps to the President's defense and says, I won't have you say that. The President is not a liar. In fact, the only person who said that was his spokesperson, and it's demonstrably not true. The President has lied repeatedly. There are whole Web sites that are devoted to it because it has happened so often.

So I understand his tactic of trying to sort of discredit Comey, maybe even accuse him of perjury, accuse him of doing all kinds of different things. But in a swearing contest, so to speak, whether it is under oath or not, nobody is going to choose the President over James Comey.

HARLOW: Salena, surrogates of the President and the President himself are trying to have it both ways, right? I believe Director Comey when he said that I wasn't under investigation. See, I was right. Look, he said it. But no, wait, all the other stuff he said that I don't agree with, that is false. So is he to be believed or is he not to be believed? And why does this White House think they can have it both ways?



ZITO: Probably because, you know, it's natural to point to the thing that makes you look good, and it is natural to say, but everything else isn't true. I think the larger problem, as I talk to people outside of Washington, not just Trump supporters but voters across the board, Comey is at a disadvantage with voters because people that supported Hillary did not like him and people that supported Trump did not like him.

So you have people watching all of this play out and they look at Comey -- you know, and I've talked to a lot of them. They say they respect his service. They respect his law enforcement credentials. But they also look at him as a creature of Washington. And that, in the court of public opinion, makes nobody look good at the end of yesterday.

BERMAN: Obviously, he proved that he is an adept creature of Washington.


ZITO: Yes.

BERMAN: He knows how to use the press. He knows how to use documents to get what he wants there.

ZITO: Yes.

[09:09:58] BERMAN: David Swerdlick, I want you to respond to one thing Errol said and maybe expand it a little bit. Errol said, you know, the President has lied here. Insofar as it relates to the testimony yesterday, whether or not he lied, you know, is James Comey's word against his.


BERMAN: It's depending on who you believe and who's case you can prove. Errol makes the case that no Republican stood up to defend the President in that case yesterday.

On the other hand, I did not see any Republicans on that panel go after the President's case, in a way. They all seemed very willing to believe the President's side of the arguments. I didn't see any members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republicans, flip, in other words. Is that a fair interpretation?

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that's a fair interpretation, John.

Republicans yesterday, as you say, wanted to respect Comey and give him credit for testifying under oath. You've heard several of them make comments to that effect, both before and after the hearing. But they didn't break with the President on the Republican narrative or the White House narrative that the problem is not what the White House is doing, but the problem is leaks. The problem is, you know, media distractions, et cetera, et cetera.

And I think that they're sticking to that for the time being because, as we've seen since President Trump became the nominee and since he was inaugurated, that Republicans see that he has, as Salena said, the support of a core component of the Republican base. That, even though he has low approval ratings, they're really not that much lower than they were on Inauguration Day.

Gallup, he was at 37 yesterday, but he was at 45 on Inauguration Day. Until those core voters break from Trump, I don't think you'll see Republicans break, en masse anyway, from Trump.

HARLOW: Paul Callan, the President may have damaged himself or may have been damaged politically yesterday. Maybe. That depends, you know, if it hurts his base at all. Was he damaged legally?

CALLAN: I don't --

HARLOW: On the obstruction question.

CALLAN: No. I think he took some hard political hits, but I don't think a criminal case, particularly the case that we all are looking at and had been looking at, is there obstruction of justice here?

Comey said some things that help an obstruction case. He said, I perceived what he said to me as a direction to drop the investigation. But he also conceded that the President only said that he hoped that he would drop it. And he also conceded that the FBI would have continued with the investigation regardless of what happened to him.

I think, in the end, that is fatal to the obstruction case, unless new evidence arises. So in that sense, it probably was a good day for the President in terms of the likelihood of an obstruction charge.

BERMAN: Again, we get to the argument about whether this is more legal or whether this is more political, which brings me back to the tweet from today, Errol Louis. The President sticking his finger in the eye of James Comey, again, at least publicly on Twitter, which has proved problematic for him in the past --

HARLOW: Right, exactly, with the memo.

BERMAN: -- to say the least, we learned yesterday, right?

LOUIS: Right.

BOLDUAN: Last time he did that, James Comey released a memo which caused the appointment of a Special Counsel.

LOUIS: Well, that's right, but that is the Trump style, not just him on Twitter but as we saw with his attorney, Kasowitz, who was in such a hurry, he misspelled the word, "president," you know, in his memo. And even this sort of forward attack on Comey, counter attack, punch back, call him a liar, say whatever you have to, that is the style.

BERMAN: Do you think he'll say that out loud today in the Rose Garden?

LOUIS: I would not be at all surprised if he made reckless, unsubstantiated charges. It is very much the Trump style to show his supporters that he's going to fight back, to serve as a warning to anybody else -- you come at me, we're going to throw everything at you, facts be damned. This is what we've come to expect over the years.

HARLOW: Salena, our Phil Mattingly questioning House Speaker Paul Ryan yesterday, he's like, the President's new at this. You know, I mean, he's new at this. And then Mattingly says, is it an excuse? He said, I didn't say it's an excuse, but I mean -- that was his answer. Does that sit OK with people, that the President is new at this --

ZITO: Actually --

HARLOW: -- so he shouldn't meet privately or ask these things of the FBI Director? He just didn't know better?

ZITO: There is a lot of people that believe that. Look, we have to remember that one of the core reasons that this man was elected President of the United States was because he was not a slick politician, that he was kind of tough talking. He was kind of blunt.

And in a lot of ways, despite being a billionaire and having a tower made out of gold with his name on it, he talked in a similar way to the way people talk, you know, in the country. And the people project when they look at someone, right?

So they put themselves in that position, and they say, well, Christ, I mean, I might have said it like that. I wouldn't have known any better. I wouldn't have known not to say that. And, so, I think that's the problem.

That's the thing that we see happening with his supporters. They voted for him because he wasn't a politician. He acted like a nonpolitician with the guy they think, Comey, who is a very slick politician. And they are going to side back with the President on this.

[09:15:03] SWERDLICK: Poppy, can I just jump in on that real quick?


BERMAN: Go ahead, David.

SWERDLICK: I was going to say, you know, Salena, has her finger on the pulse of Trump voters and I think everything she is saying is right. Here is two problems, though, for the administration.

One is part of the reason that the administration has gotten itself embroiled in so many of these controversies is because President Trump is not a career politician. I don't buy Speaker Ryan's idea that this is OK because he is new at this.

My point is simply that, the first word in career politician, Poppy and John, is career. This has not been his career and so he is not practiced at not digging himself deeper in all of these holes.

The other problem I think for the administration here is with this aggressive legal behavior that Errol talked about a moment ago, that's been the M.O. of Trump and the Trump organization throughout.

The difference is that he's been used to dealing asymmetrically with people who don't have his resources and people who are sort of flunkies. James Comey, love him or hate him, is not a flunky and has resources and has a strategy here that he's initiating.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. David Swerdlick, Salena Zito, Errol Louis, Paul Callan, thank you all so much.

What makes James Comey queasy? Actually, a growing list of things, apparently. One of them being told what word to use when describing the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail server. Why that part of his testimony is red meat for Republicans this morning.

HARLOW: And President Trump may feel in his words completely vindicated after yesterday. Should he? Do other Republicans see it that way?

And a British bombshell, this morning, the U.K. wakes up to a stunning new reality. Wait until you hear what happened overnight in this election.



BERMAN: All right. This morning political chaos in the United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Theresa May saw her big gamble go bust.

HARLOW: The special election that she called to shore up her power and the power of the Conservative Party didn't exactly go that way. They lost their majority. This is despite her leading by 20 points in the polls.

Let's head across the pond to London. Our international correspondent, Phil Black is there, and our CNN international anchor, Max Foster.

Phil, this is a stunning result and it has essentially really big implications for the future of the U.K., for Brexit, for all of it. What happened?

PHIL BLACK, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you hit the key point there, Poppy and John. You have to remember to understand just how bad this is for Prime Minister Theresa May. She didn't need to do this. She didn't need to call this election. It was her choice. She could have kept governing for several years. It was her desire to try and increase the majority in parliament. Instead, the result is she has no majority in parliament on her own for her own Conservative Party.

So there are now a lot of questions about her future and her ability to form a government, about her government if she's able to keep one and its ability to keep negotiating with the European Union as it seeks to leave the European Union.

What we have heard from Prime Minister Theresa May so far is her insistence essentially that it is business as normal. She hasn't really acknowledged just how terrible this is, not publicly at least.

Take a listen now to some of the comments she made a sort time ago outside here at 10 Downing Street.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The government I lead will put fairness and opportunity at the heart of everything we do so that we will fulfill the promise of Brexit together. And over the next five years, build a country in which no one and no community is left behind.


BLACK: So what we haven't heard from Theresa May so far is any humility, the fact that she got this wrong, took a political gamble and it's come back and slapped her on the face and nor has she yet acknowledged that the result could in some way be a rejection of her leadership or her policies on key issues like Brexit.

She's trying to maintain the status quo, business as usual, but of course, from here that simply can't be the case. So a lot of uncertainty and a lot of stuff yet to play out -- John, Poppy.

BERMAN: And of course she's got to put together a government which is not something that happens in the United States. She has got to build some kind of coalition to present she could have majority or near majority in parliament.

Phil, it's still early, is there any sense of what went wrong? Was she just a bad campaigner? Was it an anti-Brexit thing or was it the terror attacks for the last few weeks?

BLACK: All of those to some degree, John. No doubt she went into this with such a huge lead in the polls around 20 percent. That's what tempted her to try this. But then from the outset, she proved to not be a particularly good campaigner. She often looked awkward and stilted.

May-bot has become her nickname according to many of her critics. A lot of her policy announcements didn't go over well. She had to roll some of them back, change them mid-campaign. Meanwhile, her main opposition, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who started with very low expectations kind of rolled along quite comfortably, was attracting very big crowds to rallies.

And while he hasn't come close to securing government today, he has crucially stopped his main opposition that is Theresa May and her Conservative Party, from keeping their own majority within the parliament.

So he's taking all of this very much as a win. So all of those factors together have combined to produce for Theresa May a really disastrous result.

BERMAN: All right, Phil Black for us in London. Thanks so much. Dramatic moments this morning over there.

HARLOW: The polls were wrong. Can you believe it?

BERMAN: The exit polls actually got out fairly quickly.

HARLOW: Right, but she had such a lead going in, they thought.

BERMAN: The early polls had her with a big lead, but there was a wave weaving into Election Day, which showed a closing.

HARLOW: She asked for it. She got it. We'll have more of that in the next hour.

But next for us right here, President Trump says he's been totally and completely vindicated. We're wondering do his fellow Republican lawmakers agree with that or do they still see a cloud hanging over this White House? Next.



HARLOW: So this morning, Democrats feeling embolden and Republicans are feeling the same way. It is really about who you trust more, the president or his former FBI director.

BERMAN: All right, joining us now, Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts. Senator, thank you so much for being with us. After what was almost the longest Twitter drought of his presidency, we did hear from President Trump a short time ago.

Let me read you what he wrote on Twitter. He said "Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication. And, wow, Comey is a leaker." So total and complete vindication, do you see it like that?

SENATOR ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No. It is not at all complete and total vindication. What we learned was, number one, that the president at a dinner with Comey asked him if he would be loyal to the president, which is like Don Carlione asking Clamenza (ph) if he would be loyal to him in the "Godfather" that's not a question. That's an order.

Secondly, the president then ordered out of oval office the attorney general and then everyone else in that meeting and asked Comey to stay behind and then privately asked him, would he let the General Flynn investi --