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Report: Trump on Presence of Tapes -- You Will Know Shortly; Trump Says Be Willing to Testify 100 Percent Under Oath; Trump Says There Was No Collusion or Obstruction. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired June 9, 2017 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] NORMAN EISNER, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR: First of all, we hear today, Brooke, that there are no tapes because if Trump is willing to swear to what happened, I believe Jim Comey. And, therefore, there must be no tapes. It's going to be a he said/he said situation. Bare knuckle. That does create problems for the special counsel because you don't like to bring in an obstruction case based only on two witnesses. You want some corroboration. However, the Comey memos are corroborated and, of course, there's an obstruction case here. In the United States, no man is above the law.
The obstruction statute provides that if you act with corruptive intent, you can be prosecuted. That statute must be read to affect the President's decision making. Look, the President couldn't take a bribe from Vladimir Putin to fire Jim Comey. That would be a violation of the bribery statute. He can't corruptly order Comey to cease and desist from an investigation in order to benefit a friend or himself and there's plenty of case law to that effect. So, I think we're seeing another moment in what is going to be a very long process of --
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: But the President says -- but the President says he will testify in front of that special counsel and we just got a preview of what he's going to say. There is a clear dispute over what the President says he's going to say and what we heard from Mr. Comey yesterday.
DAVID RIVKIN, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: And can I just make a point, it is not a he said/he said. The President exercises the totality of investigatory and prosecutorial in the United States. He can no more commit obstruction than he can conspire against himself.
BALDWIN: How is it not a he said/he said when Jim Comey testified under oath one thing and we would have the President testifying under oath saying something totally separate?
RIVKIN: Listen to me.
BALDWIN: I am listening to you, sir.
RIVKIN: There's no legal cause of action here. Whatever interpretation you have. Even if you assume that President Trump ordered directly for Comey to cease this particular investigation, he had full authority to do so. Absolutely true. It cannot be an obstruction of justice. I know you're obsessing about he said/he said. It's not about the facts. It's about the law. Mr. Eisen is utterly wrong.
BALDWIN: Sir, I'm obsessed with the facts. That's where I am.
RIVKIN: This obstruction of justice charge, no matter what the interpretation of what was said there.
BALDWIN: Mr. Ambassador, let me just have you weigh in on that.
EISEN: l I must respectfully disagree with David.
RIVKIN: Good luck.
EISEN: The majority of legal experts agree that the President has the authority to act but not corruptly, not in violation of the criminal law. Those are limits on his behavior. To me, it's an extraordinary assertion that the President could behave corruptly in office and could, on David's theory, take a bribe in order to --
RIVKIN: We're not talking about the bribe. Don't go there.
EISEN: David, please don't interrupt me. It's the equivalent. Corrupt intend to obstruct or corruptly obstructing a bribe. The criminal law bounds what a President can do and, importantly, the President is like every American. None of us are above the law.
RIVKIN: It's not about being above the law. This is the typical exaggeration of a proposition.
BALDWIN: Let's listen again to the exchange. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I want to get back to James Comey's testimony. You suggested he didn't tell the truth in everything he said. He did say under oath that you told him to -- you said you hoped the Flynn --
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I didn't say that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So, he lied about that?
TRUMP: Well, I didn't say that. I will tell you, I didn't say that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And did he ask you to pledge --
TRUMP: And there would be nothing wrong if I did say it according to everybody that I've read today but I did not say that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And did he ask for a pledge of loyalty from you?
TRUMP: No, he did not.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So, he said those things under oath. Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of the events? TRUMP: 100 percent. I didn't say under oath -- I hardly know the
man. I'm not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance. Who would do that, ask a man to pledge under oath. Think of it. I hardly know the man. It doesn't make sense. I didn't say that and I didn't say the other.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that --
TRUMP: I would be glad to tell you him that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And you seem to be hinting that there are not --
TRUMP: I'm not hinting. I'll tell you it over a short period of time. OK. Do you have a question here?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When will you tell us about the tapes?
TRUMP: Over a short period of time.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are there tapes, sir?
TRUMP: You're going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer. Don't worry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[15:35:00] BALDWIN: Michael Zeldin is sitting here and how do you see it?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO EX-FBI DIRECTOR MUELLER: If the debate between David and Norman is can the President of the United States be indicted, that is an open question legally. Some people say he can be. Others say he cannot be. The point is not whether or not he'll be indicted in -- by a grand jury. The question is whether obstructionist behavior, if proven, can be referred to the House of Representatives as a high crime and misdemeanor for consideration in an impeachment proceeding. If he behaves in an obstructionist behavior, just as with Nixon and Bill Clinton lying under oath would deemed to be obstruction of justice, referred charged, sent to the Senate, that can follow here with President Trump. He is not immune from that process, he may not be indictable. That's debatable. But I don't think that is dispositive of what could be the outcome for President if he in fact obstructed justice.
BALDWIN: David, let me give you a chance. I want to hear from you again.
RIVKIN: None of the statutory provisions apply here. But beyond that, as a constitutional matter -- I'm not saying that the President cannot obstruct justice. He can if he's intimidating a witness or impeding a judicial process. But giving an order -- and it was not that -- to stop an investigation or commence an investigation is entirely within his discretion. It can never, ever, no matter what the facts are, be obstruction of justice. Whoever alleges otherwise is wrong.
BALDWIN: Let's listen to more of this exchange with the white house.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But I wondered if you could tell us in person, sir, why you feel that his testimony vindicated you when it's really boiling down to his word against your word and if you could also tell us, sir, do tapes exist of your conversations with him?
TRUMP: Well, I'll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future but in the meantime, no collusion, no obstruction, he's a leaker. But we want to get back to running our great country. Jobs, trade deficits, we want them to disappear fast, North Korea, big problem, Middle East, a big problem. So that's what I am focused on. That's what I have been focused on. But yesterday, no collusion, no obstruction. We're doing very well. That was an excuse by the Democrats who feel they shouldn't have lost because it's almost impossible for the Democrats to lose the electoral college, as you know. You have to win up the whole east coast as a Republican and that's just what we did. So, it was just an excuse but we were very, very happy and, frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said. And some of the things that he said just weren't true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's talk tapes with Mark Selverstone, the chair of the Presidential Recordings Program at the University of Virginia. Mark, I read your piece in "The Atlantic" some time ago where you go through Presidents in our history's past and for reasons x, y or z they've wired the white house until Nixon. Do we have -- has there been in anyone since?
[15:40:00] MARK SELVERSTONE, CHAIR, PRESIDENTIAL RECORDINGS PROGRAM, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Boy, we don't think there's been any one since. Perhaps the closest that we'd have to something like that are the video conferences that took place in the Obama and Clinton and Bush years and the question is whether they were archived and if they were, they'd be subject to the same jurisdiction as the tapes and perhaps there could be a Presidential video conference project that we conduct like the recordings program. But, no, we don't think anybody taped like those Presidents did from Franklin Roosevelt through Richard Nixon.
BALDWIN: And quickly, your interpretation of the President saying on the tapes, that that will come out in some time, in the near future.
SELVERSTONE: Well, it's hard to know what he means by that. In the past, all the Presidents themselves were involved in the implementation of the taping system. They were knowledgeable of what was going on and they were the ones who said, look, we need to do this. I'm going to hardly speculate on where things are now but it's perhaps conceivable that the President may say he has no knowledge of the taping system whereas others may. System. They were knowledgeable of what was going on and they were the ones who said, look, we need to do this. I'm going to hardly speculate on where things are now but it's perhaps conceivable that the President may say he has no knowledge of the taping system whereas others may. As we know in the Nixon case, it wasn't the President himself who acknowledged the existence of a taping system. It was Alexander Butterfield. So, the answer may not come from President Trump himself. It may come from somebody else.
BALDWIN: Uh-huh. Mark, thank you so much, for this historic perspective. Coming back to the studio here in D.C., we all noticed and we're hanging on the President's every word where he was saying no obstruction, no collusion, Middle East is a big problem. It was like not even complete sentences.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He was missing a verb or an article or two here and there. But I think that certainly you got the gist of where he was going, which is, I think that this is a -- you know, a B.S. investigation. I want to focus on other issues. Remember -- I'm trying to, you know, put the context into some of those sentences. But I think the most important thing we shouldn't lose sight of is he said that as President of the United States he is so confident in his version of events that he will go under oath with the special prosecutor and, you know, the legal ramifications aside, he's trying to send a political message to his supporters, don't believe all those people, look how confident I am in my version of the story that I'm willing to do that.
You better believe me and not them. Remember, they're the people trying to put us down and undermine us and all of the things that have worked over the past two plus years with his base but what they want to do is make sure the ceiling doesn't slip any more than it has. It is still in okay shape. Easygoing into the midterm election. Just talking purely political here. Where a lot of these house races, you know, and a lot of these house members are in really, really red states and if there are problems, you're going to start to see it slip more there.
BALDWIN: June 20th. Georgia.
Presidential historian Doug Brinkley joining us now to talk more about all things Trump and Comey, there is this epic battle right now between the President and the former FBI director.
DOUG BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, there's no question about that. This was marketed as a press conference and it was really a pseudo-press conference. I mean, it has had very little to do with, you know, countries like Romania pay for supplements in foreign affairs in "The Wall Street Journal" for information, you know, kind of promotion for tourism this was. When it boils down, Donald Trump had his line ready. He wanted to be the sound bite. No collusion, no obstruction. He's a leaker. But the way he said "leaker" about Comey tells you where the white house is moving on this.
They are going to tar and feather James Comey as being a Reality Winner number two. This is a white house trying to purge leakers out of it and now they found out Comey was one and he's been fired and Reality Winner has been fired. That's going to be their defense. If there's a big news making thing that came out of this, I think it's that you're seeing Donald Trump backtrack on the idea that there are tapes of the conversation. He didn't -- still, he left a bit of a mystery but one can feel him sort of taking that tweet back.
[15:45:00] BALDWIN: Significant, though, that he did say in the exchange with john carl essentially, yes, I will testify, will do so under oath.
BALDWIN: And historic perspective, Doug, modern Presidents testifying under oath. How many? Put it in context for me.
BRINKLEY: Well, it's -- I do think that was an important moment. And then he added -- he said, I'm going to say exactly to Mueller what I've just told you. Meaning, you know, hey, there's nothing there. If he puts that under oath in a private testimony. But remember when Bill Clinton and the Lewinsky scandal, it was a dangerous moment. Bill Clinton thought he was going to get out of things. We mock him for saying it all depends on what the definition of "is" is. In a lot of ways President Trump is saying it's the definition of what "hope" is. I hope there's no problem with Flynn essentially. And Trump is going to say, hope, of course, he's a good guy, part of my campaign. I'm not politically correct. I use the word hope but he's going to try to use that the way Clinton did with what "is" is. In Clinton's case, it was Monica Lewinsky's blue dress and in Watergate you have the white house tapes. We don't have that kind of smoking gun evidence at this juncture.
BALDWIN: On the hope note, Michael, quickly to you, the word "hope" that the President has used, you better hope there are no tapes in the tweet about Comey and "I hope you see your way to let it go on Flynn," the word "hope," does that make a difference? How do you interpret that?
ZELDIN: The way Comey interpreted it was, hope was not hope like aspirational. It was I can look, here's my order.
BALDWIN: Like if I'm your mother and I say, I hope you brush your teeth. That's like, brush your teeth.
ZELDIN: That's right. Or Don Corleone says to the movie producer, I hope you see it my way and then ends up with a horse head in his bed. It's interesting to me, from wearing my prosecutor's hat, when he said, better hope there are no tapes, that's a threat, as I would read it if I were still a prosecutor. And then when he picks up the same words as, I hope you will drop the investigation, I read those things, I would argue to a jury or anybody else who was trying to be persuaded, those words are not benign but they are directives and that undermines the notion that professor Brinkley just said with respect to it being just a passing word of no legal consequence.
BALDWIN: Here is one more headline from today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm committing the United States to Article 5 and certainly we are there to protect and that's one of the reasons I want people to make sure we have a very, very strong force by paying the kind of money necessary to have that force. But, yes, absolutely I'd be committed to Article 5.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: David Sanger, that was the whole question on do you see Russia as a threat to countries like Romania, which Dana mentioned earlier, that was the artful dodge.
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. So, he avoided the question of Russia. He inserted here a corrective for the speech that he gave when he was at NATO where he had taken out a sentence about Article 5, as was reported in politico, where he was supposed to make a commitment and Article 5 is the part of the NATO treaty that says an attack on one is an attack on all. So rather than refer to Russia as a threat, he simply says, I'm committed to the NATO project. He then at another point made the argument that money is pouring into NATO.
BALDWIN: He said because of our actions -- I know where you're going -- because of our actions, money is starting to pour into NATO. Is that true?
SANGER: All of the financial officials of NATO and I'm sure we'll be doing this by the end of the day to ask them if money is pouring in. That's not how the system works. What the countries who are members of NATO committed to was to spend upwards of 2 percent of their GDP over a period of years that ends sometime in the early 20s and to reach that limit. And that's to build up their own military. These are not dues paid to a country club. These are what you end up spending on your own military. And then he went into a bid about how they owe arrears. The commitment was only made two years ago. So, they don't actually -- the commitment isn't binding. The commitment is an aspirational one. So, to make the argument that they owe more money to the institution fundamentally misunderstands this. He's been through this discussion and correction several times now.
BALDWIN: OK. Let's hit pause. When we come back, we're going to all have a conversation about a Democratic senator who dropped the f-bomb not once but twice talking today about the President, we'll be right back.
[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, NEW YORK: Has he kept any of these promises? No? [ bleep ] no.
Even though we as Democrats are on the right side of almost all issues, many hard-working families just haven't felt that we've been fighting for them. Fundamentally if we are not helping people, we should go the [ bleep ] home.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: OK. So that was New York Senator, Democrat, Kirsten Gillibrand, the personal democracy forum at NYU. The crowd was students. Dana Bash is who gets to talk about this with me. The f- bomb. I mean, listen, like we work in a newsroom.
BASH: Right. We're not pollyanna.
[15:55:00] BALDWIN: But to say that on stage as a sitting U.S. senator.
BASH: I know.
BALDWIN: Is that crossing the line?
BASH: I was surprised to hear her do it. She clearly -- first of all, she's a New Yorker who kind of knew her audience. As you said, she was speaking to students, and what I would like to know and I haven't been able to reach her is whether or not this was just kind of in the moment or whether this was something that she planned. It's hard to imagine she planned it, but, yeah, this is -- this is -- we've had a lot of firsts this week, and I think you can put that right on the list.
BALDWIN: She -- she -- she's known to have colorful language, is that the right way to say if?
BALDWIN: Again, it's just one thing between two gals and to sit on stage. I don't care how old your audience is.
BASH: I don't think this is a gender thing and I'll say that now because you don't usually lather -- I hear a lot of men in the Senate cursing in private, just like women, but they don't do it in public, so I -- I think that that is why that this is so jarring, not because of the fact that she's a woman, but because she's a United States senator doing that. Look, she wanted to make a point, and guess what, she did. Right or wrong, she got her message out. We're talking about it, and we probably wouldn't be talking about what she said had she not done it in that way. Not making an excuse.
BALDWIN: We don't have time and we can say bad ass on CNN.
Your "Bad Ass Women" series on CNN digital, if people want to learn about all these amazing women here in Washington you've been featuring. Where do we find it?
BASH: Cnn.com/badasswomen. We launched it this week. Up on the website all month, and hopefully we'll be showing it intermittently on tv, but there are a lot of very, very strong, accomplished, barrier- breaking women in Washington right now and we decided to highlight it. It's all inspirational, bipartisan, cross-generational. Will make you feel good.
BALDWIN: Hosted by the bad ass woman herself, Miss Dana Bash. Congratulations to you. BASH: Back at you, sister.
BALDWIN: We'll be right back. We'll continue our special coverage live from Washington on what we've just heard from the President of the United States speaking in the rose garden on tapes, on director Comey. A lot is happening. We'll be right back.