Return to Transcripts main page


Trump to take Questions; Mueller to Depose Trump; Trump and Comey Trade Accusations; Theory on Why Trump Cleared Room; Leaking of Comey Memo. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 9, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:09] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin, live here in Washington, D.C., for special coverage of President Trump's first news conference in 22 days, and the first time he's facing the media since that blockbuster testimony from the now fired FBI Director James Comey.

Director Comey said under oath yesterday morning that President Trump lied multiple times about him and about the FBI being in quoted disarray. But today the president volleyed the liar label the other way. Early this morning he tweeted this, quote, "despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication and, wow, Comey is a leaker."

The vindication that the president is referring to is the fact that Comey confirmed he did tell President Trump he was not under investigation within this whole Russia probe. And the leak piece goes to Director Comey's admission that he did leak this one memo that detailed how the president told him he, quote, "hoped Comey could let the investigation of the fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn go."

Moments ago, one of the senators who - actually, he's not on the senate Intel Committee, but he's a Senator from Rhode Island, he's a Democrat, Senator Reed, told CNN that the special counsel leading the Russia investigation may actually depose the president.


SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: I think Director Comey made a strong impression. As you noted, he did so under oath. The president, I think, if he's willing to insist upon his position, that should also be made under oath, not through an attorney or through tweets.

I think that's ultimately what will happen, because in the course of these investigations, but particularly with Special Prosecutor Mueller, since part of this, as was indicated yesterday, goes to the rationale behind the firing of Mr. Comey and the rationale of trying to deflect, if not stop, the investigation of General Flynn, it involves, in some degree, the president. So I would expect at some point, not right away, but at some point that Mr. Mueller would feel he has to depose the president.


BALDWIN: So that's significant. We'll get into that. Again, Senator Reed, not on Senate Intel, but like Senator McCain was there yesterday and was able to question Director Comey.

Sara Murray is up with us first today. She's live there at the White House ahead of this big news conference with the president and the president of Romania.

It's a two and two. What do we expect to hear from President Trump?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Brooke, it will be really interesting to watch the president's tone today. Obviously yesterday he was pretty reserved while this testimony was happening. He did not tweet until this morning, which is extremely restrained for this president. And when he did finally tweet, he, obviously, lashed out. He called James Comey a liar. So I think we want to look for which sort of version of President Trump do we get today. Does he lash out against James Comey in front of the cameras? Does he say, flat out, he believes Comey lied, or does he focus on the leaking and insist that Comey is a leaker and sort of try to go that route?

But I think the other interesting question, Brooke, is if this White House believes, if President Trump's personal lawyer believes that Comey was lying, well, is there a recorded system in the White House or not? Can the White House prove President Trump's side of the story? This is a question that administration officials would not answer yesterday. So it will be interesting to see if the president himself gets that question after sort of floating that out there in the ether on Twitter. He refused to basically say anything else about it since then. But, obviously, it's not something that people are going to just drop, especially considering the fact that this is an ongoing investigation. And if those tapes do exist, we've already had calls from members of Congress to see them.

BALDWIN: Well, it should be an easy question to answer because they ought to know whether they were recording people at the White House or not.

Sara Murray, thank you so much.

What are some of the other bigger questions for the president ahead of this news conference? Let's go to our CNN senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter.

You've got a list of five questions, my friend. And let me guess, at the top of that, are there tapes?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Sara Murray's question right there.


STELTER: Number one on my list as well, are there any recordings of any conversations the president's had in the White House with Comey or anybody else? Maybe that can be put to rest today.

Number two on my list, Brooke, is again about Comey. It's about what Senator Reed was just talking about. Comey testified under oath. So will the president testify under oath. And at what point would he do that?

Number tree, also building on the hearings from yesterday, there's reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions possibly had a third unreported meeting with the Russian ambassador. Is that true? And, if so, are you going to fire Jeff Sessions? I think Jeff Sessions' fate is crucial today.

My fourth on this list, Brooke, is about Comey and Russia. Comey said yesterday there is no doubt Russia attacked the United States last year and they will be back. The president, according to Comey, did not seem interested in asking questions about that. So what is the president doing today to protect America and to ensure the elections are safe in the future.

[14:05:10] And then number five, Brooke, I thought it was important on this list to get beyond Comey and beyond Russia. A lot of Americans say they've tuned this out. They care about the president's promises on jobs. Well, so far, the president has not lived up to his promise of 20 - I think it was, what, 25 million jobs in ten years. That comes out to about 208 million jobs a month. So far, the economy is averaging under 200,000 jobs a month since Inauguration Day. So, what is he doing today in order to fulfill that promise?

Now, as you know, Brooke, normally at these pressers, it's a joint press conference, so usually two questions from American reporters, two questions from Romanian reporters, in this case. We will see how many questions the president fields and, most importantly, what he actually answers.

BALDWIN: Do we know yet, quickly, Brian, who he'll be calling on?

STELTER: No idea. And I'm very curious to see if he looks for soft balls or maybe news outlets that are willing to ask him tough questions.

BALDWIN: Brian Stelter, thank you so much. Live pictures from the White House, awaiting this joint news conference. We just saw the arrival there in the front of the West Wing with the Romanian president. So, stay tuned. Obviously, we'll be taking the president live.

With me to discuss all of this and more, William Brangham. He's a correspondent for PBS "Newshour," Karoun Demirjian, she's a congressional correspondent for "The Washington Post" and David Drucker is a CNN political analyst and a senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner."

My goodness, what - just a quiet week in Washington. So glad I swung by.


So let's just begin with - we saw, you know, within the opening statements yesterday from Director Comey throwing the lie - the lying word around. This morning the volley back from the president of the United States. I mean do we assume he was going to punch back this morning? Everyone sort of waited with bated breath during the testimony yesterday.

BRANGHAM: I certainly would have guessed that he would come out this way. I think anyone that knows Jim Comey knows him, that he is - he's a survivor. He's a smart, political player. You don't -

BALDWIN: But the president - the president's tweet where he says, "despite so many false statements and lies," pops it right back at him.

BRANGHAM: I - I think that was totally to be expected and I think everyone thought it was surprising we hadn't heard it the day before.

BALDWIN: Karoun.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, yes, except for there was that countdown clock this morning. I think everybody was hoping he might take a few more minutes just to beat his own record. But, no, it would have been very surprising if the president had let that entire episode, very dramatic, very high- profile pass without weighing in at all. And it's - I mean he - there is one tweet about it, right? In past episodes we've seen several tweets or a string of tweets.

BALDWIN: It's kinds of a big deal, though, if he's inferring that the former director of the FBI was lying to Congress, meaning that would be a felony, David Drucker.


BALDWIN: A big deal.

DRUCKER: Interesting to say the least. You know, looking at the president's tweet this morning, I was trying to figure out if he was still hyper focused on this idea that he was not under investigation. I mean when you look at this whole incident that he has created that didn't have to happen, it's all stemmed from the fact that he took it as a personal affront -


DRUCKER: As he tends to take things personally, that he would be under investigation for colluding with the Russians, which would de- legitimatize his entire presidency. That's how he has seen it.

And so when I read that tweet, he didn't specifically say, Comey lied about all of these different things he said, and I wonder, and maybe he'll address this in the news conference, if he just meant, for everybody who said I was under investigation and I colluded with the Russians, those were all lies.

BALDWIN: OK, but can we just be real? I mean, right, he's going to get two questions from the Romanians, two questions from American journalists. We don't know who he's going to be calling on. I mean just staying with you, do you - how does he address it? I mean other than the tweet this morning, didn't say anything to the press pool at the White House yesterday, said nothing at the infrastructure speech today.

DRUCKER: But this is the kind of thing that he actually wants to address and likes to address. I mean when you look at when President Trump has really opened up about what he thinks and how he feels, fighting back against what he sees as personal attacks and everything with him is personal. You know, a lot of us, I think we look at this as, well, you're the president of the United States, so you're going to take a lot of political incoming. Some of it's going to be fair. Some of it's not. Some of it's going to be a little out of bounds, but Trump takes it all as a personal attack against Donald Trump, not just President Trump, and that's why I'm wondering -

BALDWIN: But he's lawyered up. We talked about this outside counsel, Mr. Kasowitz, who we heard from yesterday. Do you think he will exercise discipline in answering the questions from the press?

DEMIRJIAN: I think that he's got - since it's only a limited amount of questions, there's certainly - if there's going to be a time for him to exercise discipline, this would be it. If he can just kind of hold himself together for a few minutes, it's over.

But it's interesting, just to go back to your point that you were making, that, you know, there's this two-sided response that's coming out right now for Comey. One is that they're trying to question his integrity basically, which is what the president's tweet speaks to, which is what his lawyer's statement speaks to. But the other part of it is actually saying, congratulations, Comey, for keeping such detailed notes that if we take your notes of what the president said, he said, I hope you can put this Flynn matter to rest, but not, you better put this Flynn matter to rest. So they're both complimenting Comey and yet also trying to discredit him at the same time and basically taking that and meeting in the middle and saying, if you - even if you take him at his word, we're home free.

DRUCKER: And you can't have it both ways. I mean, don't forget. You know, so either Comey is credible and the things that the president and his team liked are credible and we can take them honestly, or he's not credible and that would put everything in question. They are trying to have it both ways. They can't. I think the big tell is going to be, who does he call on in a news conference. That will tell you what he wants to talk about and what he plans to say.

[14:10:18] BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

What about - I really wanted to talk to you in particular because of your outstanding interview you did with Benjamin Wittes some weeks ago for PBS, the good -

BRANGHAM: This is a friend of Comey's.

BALDWIN: This is a friend of Comey's. And so it's a multi-layered interview. I want to play just one quick sound bite and we'll talk on the other side. Essentially setting up how he felt, how he being Director Comey, in the room with the president. Roll it.


BENJAMIN WITTES, FRIEND OF FIRED FBI DIRECTOR JAMES COMEY: He really spent an enormous amount of energy in the period in which both he and Trump were in office trying to protect the FBI from political interference from the White House.

BRANGHAM: You describe Comey's concerns as, quote, "improper contacts and interferences from a group of people, he," Comey, "did not regard as honorable." What gave you that sense that he didn't view these people as honorable people?

WITTES: It was written on every line in his face. It was evident in the disapproving tone that he took when he described them.

BRANGHAM: Including the president?

WITTES: Oh, very much so. The color of the wallpaper was that these were not honorable people and that protecting the FBI from them was his day's - day job.


BALDWIN: So he didn't want to be in the room alone with the president of the United States. That was clear in that interview with Benjamin Wittes. And that's obviously why he was explaining he took such meticulous notes.

Let me play one other piece of sound because we've now heard from Senator Susan Collins, who put forth this theory as far as why alone versus not.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The first interaction that the president had with Mr. Comey in early January at Trump Tower, it was the FBI director who cleared the room so that he could have a one-on- one discussion with the president about that salacious dossier. And I wondered if perhaps that made the president think that whenever there's some sensitive conversation to be had with the FBI director, that it should be one-on-one.


BALDWIN: Plausible theory?

BRANGHAM: I don't really know. That may be one indication that the president thought, oh, if I'm talking with Comey about something sensitive, it should just be me and him, but -

BALDWIN: Because Comey did it in the first meeting he's thinking perhaps.

BRANGHAM: Absolutely. I think the thing that's really interesting is that the Ben Wittes point adds to what we have now is a pretty good body of evidence of the repeated instances where Comey has made it clear that he was very uncomfortable with the pressure that he felt coming from the White House, coming from the president with regards to this investigation. And that - that just sets up a very contradictory set of statements. We have Comey on the one hand saying, he felt the pressure, he asked me for loyalty, he said, drop the Flynn investigation. And we have Comey saying this on the record, under oath, whereas from the president we don't really have that. So we don't have his side of the story yet. And until we do, I think that's still the open question is, what was the president thinking in those instances.

BALDWIN: But hearing Susan Collins, you know, not necessarily defending, and I think that was really interesting listening to the senators, Republican senators yesterday, none of whom discredited anything Comey said or disputed it, that so far I haven't seen a Republican senator totally turn on the president, which I think is a big piece to watch.

DEMIRJIAN: I think a lot of it is actually going to depend on what they hear from other people who are not Jim Comey. (INAUDIBLE) have an open mind. There were many Republican senators who are saying, nothing to see here, nothing in the way of obstruction of justice. He basically cleared the president's name. Look, he didn't even say -

BALDWIN: Speaker Ryan essentially saying he's an outside -

DEMIRJIAN: Oh, he's a new guy. (INAUDIBLE). You've got to give him a pass for screwing things up at the outset.

BALDWIN: He's a knew guy in town.

DEMIRJIAN: And also that a lot of them are pointing out, look, he didn't even really say very much about Russian collusion, and isn't that what we're here for. And if he's not talking about that, then isn't this over?

But for the Republican Senators who did not go that far, for the ones like Collins, for the ones like Marco Rubio who are saying, I'm not going to pass judgment on this yet, what's going to matter for them a lot is if there's anybody else that tells a similar story to Comey, because right now this is -

BALDWIN: Corroboration.

DEMIRJIAN: Well, but it's he said versus he said between Trump and Comey. But as we've reported and others have reported, there were other conversations with other chiefs of the intelligence community, Dan Coats, that apparently there was a similar conversation that happened between Trump and Coats to influence Coats to influence Comey to get the FBI to drop the investigation. Mike Rogers, the head of the NSA. Now, they were in front of the committee the day before Comey was on Wednesday and they would not answer any questions about their conversations with the president or their conversations with the former FBI director.


DEMIRJIAN: But if behind closed doors, which they said they were willing to talk more behind closed doors, if they do and if their stories sound a lot like Comey's story, then I think you're going to have some of these senators say, wait a second, wait a second, there might be actually something more here that we have to not dismiss in terms of -

[14:15:13] BALDWIN: And also Reince Priebus and Jeff Sessions and others who are -

DEMIRJIAN: Right. Exactly.

BALDWIN: Like, you know, looking out the door or, you know, all of them need to speak up to get to the facts.

Thank you all so very much for swinging by CNN. I appreciate it.

Again, we're just watching and waiting to hear from the president of the United States. Live pictures there outside on this beautiful Friday afternoon here in Washington. President Trump will be facing the media, answering hopefully tough questions for the first time since he and Director Comey have now called one another essentially liars.

Also, one question we're asking is, was it illegal for Director Comey to leak one of his memos about his conversations with the president? There are two sides when you look at this. The president's team is planning to file a complaint over that leak.

And a rising star in the Democratic Party dropping multiple f-bombs today when talking about President Trump. Hear what senator Kristin Gillibrand had to say.


[14:20:22] KLAUS LOHANNIS, ROMANIAN PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. President. It's a great pleasure and honor for me to be here. And I'm looking forward to our discussions and our partnership.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, it's been a great partnership. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you.



TRUMP: Surprising.


TRUMP: I'll be making a statement pretty soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you. TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.





BALDWIN: Oh, we just wanted to play out the tail end. That was obviously the president of the United States sitting with the Romanian president. We'll be seeing the two of them momentarily giving a news conference to press there at the White House.

But when the president said "surprising," that was in reference to one question. He was asked about the British Prime Minister Theresa May's conservative party loss in the wee hours of this morning over in the U.K. And so perhaps he'll be asked about that at that news conference momentarily. Remember, it was Theresa May who was the first world leader to visit the White House after the president became the president.

After former FBI Director James Comey's candid testimony, sources tell CNN that President Trump's personal lawyer plans to file a complaint against Comey. This is what he said right after Thursday's hearing.


MARC KASOWITZ, OUTSIDE COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: It is overwhelmingly clear that there have been and continue to be those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications. Mr. Comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers.


BALDWIN: So this comes after Director Comey testified that he leaked this one memo of his conversations with the president, leaked it to a friend, a law professor over at Columbia University, because he feared the president might eventually lie about their meetings.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The president tweeted on Friday, after I got fired, that I better hope there's not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night, because it didn't dawn on me originally, that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might be a tape. And my judgment was, I needed to get that out into the public square. And so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. I didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons. But I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. And so I asked a close friend of mine to do it.


BALDWIN: Let's talk about this. I've got CNN legal analyst Mark Geragos and James Gagliano is a CNN law enforcement analyst and retired FBI supervisory special agent.

So, gentlemen, Mark, to you first, just, you know, Comey's releasing this memo to this friend of his, which was ultimately printed in "The New York Times." Illegal or not?

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's not illegal. I've scoured, even though I always say there isn't a code - a person walking around who the U.S. attorney can't indict for some federal felony, I can't think of any federal felony that would be violated here. The second part of what Marc Kasowitz said, though, was somewhat interesting. He said "privileged." Remember that the president, up until recently, didn't announce that he wasn't going to assert executive privilege.


GERAGOS: He's the one who holds the privilege, not Comey. So Comey releasing the memo to a friend before he had been told there was no assertion of privilege, that is potentially, and it's a real stretch, an ethical violation, but there's not illegal about it.

BALDWIN: But, James Gagliano, you say no. You say the leak was totally wrong?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I do, Brooke. And I have been full-throated in my defense of this FBI director on CNN. I have - I have lauded his actions. I've certainly lauded his character. I defended the decision-making process and good and decent folks on both sides of the issue can come down and have a strong argument either way.

Where I think the FBI director lost the moral high ground yesterday, after he gave such an impassioned opening statement and literally had most of us - I was - I was choked up listening to him defend the institution, the apolitical nature of the FBI and defending us, those still on the job and those like me who are retired. He lost the moral high ground because a leak is such a benign term. It is the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. And I know I'm certainly not going to argue legal aspects with Mark. He knows the law far better than I do. But there are processes and protocols in place.

I'm retired from the FBI. If I'd like to write a book, I have to get the Department of Justice to sign off on my own intellectual property. What the FBI director did was take a document and the - and the ideas that were contained within those four corners, and he didn't even go to "The New York Times" himself. He shared it with a surrogate. I don't understand it. I don't understand why he claimed that there were various reasons why now. I'm sure they're personal reasons. But, to me, it diminished a man who 99.9 percent of America looked at and said, whether we agree with his actions or not, he's an honest, decent, moral man and we're not questioning his character or his words. [14:25:36] BALDWIN: But -- OK. I'm just trying to understand the full

picture. And so on the legality of this, let me, Mark, pose this to you. I mean at this point he's a private citizen. You know, yes, he could have, you know, walked over to the - to the press, who was camped out in his driveway, as he discussed yesterday morning, but he gave to it to his friend who ultimately leaked it to "The New York Times." Does it matter - you know, he said it wasn't a classified memo. He's a private citizen. Is that - you know, I know you're saying it's not wrong, but the fact that he's a private citizen, does that matter, Mark?

GERAGOS: Yes, it matters because, if he was still employed at the Department of Justice, they would be able, if they actually wanted to, to do something to him that would have teeth in it. It is - and as long as we're assuming there's no classified information, it's not a violation of whatever the code section is, 641. But the fact remains that if he leaked that information and it was privileged or he did not have permission at that point, then there's an ethical issue. I don't disagree that he loses the moral high ground, but that's a different question than, number one, is it illegal, number two, is it unethical? Moral high ground is something else.

BALDWIN: But is that not - is that not, you know, wanting to influence the investigation in some way because here he is, yes, he's a private citizen, but he talked about how he wanted to create this outside pressure so that ultimately a special counsel would be appointed, which is precisely what happened.

GERAGOS: Yes. And that doesn't - there's nothing illegal about trying to create a discourse which is going to force a special counsel. In fact, yes, I mean that isn't illegal. That isn't necessarily unethical. We can debate the morality of it.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, James.

GAGLIANO: Brooke, if I can just add here, again, it goes to the explanation as well. The FBI director laid out his explanation as, I woke up on that Monday, after hearing about the president's tweet on Saturday regarding whether or not there were tapes, and I felt like I needed to do this to compel somebody, somebody in the government, to appoint a special prosecutor. The FBI director has a direct channel to the White House, to Capitol Hill, to the Department of Justice. And if he's dissatisfied with a particular person, there are circuitous routes that you can get done what needs to get done but still within, still within the lane that's keeping a private, personal conversation and a document that belonged to the Department of Justice outside of the media realm.

BALDWIN: All right. Well, and regard just quickly to this complaint that apparently the Trump outside counsel has filed, it's really nothing because they don't have power over the DOJ, and the DOJ can't do anything other than file a memo because Comey no longer works at the DOJ.

Gentlemen, thank you, James Gagliano and Mark Geragos. We are moments away from this White House news conference. Will President Trump directly respond on camera in minutes to James Comey? The president is about to take a couple of questions at this news conference alongside the Romanian president. This is one day after the former FBI director testified that the president lied and defamed him.

Also ahead, does Attorney General Jeff Sessions have a Russia problem? Director Comey suggesting there are undisclosed details about the A.G. that he could not discuss in that open forum yesterday. Might there be fallout? We'll discuss.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN special live coverage.