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Political Chaos in UK After Shocking Election; Trump Calls Comey a Leaker on Twitter; Did Trump Order Comey to Stop Flynn Investigation?; Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired June 9, 2017 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:31:41] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: A shocker in the UK election. British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party lost its majority in parliament. Now her main rival is calling on May to resign.
CNN's Nic Robertson live at 10 Downing Street in London.
What a turnabout in play.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: What no one expected it, Chris. What the prime minister absolutely didn't believe was on the cards when she decided to call this snap election. She called last night for a period of stability. In about an hour's time she'll be leaving Downing Street behind me here, driving the short distance to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen. This is a formality.
She will be telling the Queen that she will form the next government. She does not have a majority. She does not have the required majority within the Conservative Party. She is expected to align herself and use the support of the Ulster Unionist, the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland. A hard-lined, pro-unionist party, she will require their help to prop up her leadership and her government.
The leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn has called this a disaster for her. Said that she should resign. We're hearing from leaders within Europe saying that as far as the Brexit negotiations, which were due to begin in 11 days, which Theresa May campaigned on, that she wanted to increase her majority to bring a strong and stable Britain, to deliver as she wanted a strong and good result from the Brexit negotiations.
All of that is up in the air. Leaders in Europe now saying they are not sure what will happen with negotiations. They will be much tougher, they'll be more unpredictable and not even clear when they'll begin. But for now, Theresa May plans to form a government, however, on top of that will she face internal pushback from her own party? Will they challenge her leadership? That's the question everyone is asking as well -- Alisyn.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Nic, as the world has learned, it is very hard to predict election results in this day and age. Thank you very much for all of that. So if James Comey's account is true, do President Trump's actions
amount to obstruction of justice? We debate next.
[06:37:46] CAMEROTA: Well, it was some gripping congressional testimony. Fired FBI director James Comey repeatedly accused the president of United States of being a liar. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray. That it was poorly led. That the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies. Plain and simple.
It's my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right. So President Trump responding on Twitter just a short time ago. He says, "Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication. And wow, Comey is a leaker."
Let's discuss with CNN political commentator and former senior communications adviser for the Trump campaign, Jason Miller, and CNN political contributor Hilary Rosen.
We have a lot to get to, guys.
Jason, I will start with you. The president is calling James Comey a leaker. James Comey says that he found some of his interactions with the president so sort of surreal and strange that he felt compelled to write it down and to as he said get it out in the public square so people could see that he was being asked to take sort of loyalty pledges and being pressed to back off the investigation. What's your response?
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think this is President Trump calling Director Comey a leaker. I think Director Comey came out himself.
CAMEROTA: He just -- but he just called him that in the tweet. I mean, he is actually calling him a leaker.
MILLER: But it's -- but he's using the exact -- he's describing exactly what Director James Comey said that he did which was try to manipulate the special counsel investigation by sending this memo to a friend at Columbia Law to then go leak it to the media. And so, I mean, this is exactly what happened. I don't think this is a game of semantics here.
But, look, the single biggest takeaway yesterday is that the president, as he mentioned in his tweet, was completely vindicated. CAMEROTA: How?
MILLER: And Director Comey backed up the fact that three separate times he told the president that he was not under investigation.
MILLER: That the president did not try to impede any of this Russia investigation.
CAMEROTA: Well, wait a second. Hold on. Hold on. He didn't say that.
[06:40:01] He said that he was not -- I think that he shared with the president that he was not the target of an investigation. That is the prerogative of the investigator to do.
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: At that time.
CAMEROTA: However, he also testified that the president was pressing him to back off the Michael Flynn investigation.
MILLER: Well, no, there is a whole lot of questions around that. First of all, the president's outside attorney has completely refuted that description of that conversation. But, I mean, this was part of the reason why I think folks on the right were so whipped up yesterday is if Director Comey felt so strongly about what happened in the supposed conversation, which, again, is disputed, why didn't he go and make it public? Why didn't he go and tell Attorney General Sessions?
MILLER: Why didn't he write a letter of resignation like he did when he had a disagreement in 2004?
CAMEROTA: Right. Well, he said all that. I mean, he did go to the deputy acting attorney general. And he says that he didn't go to Sessions because he knew Sessions was going to recuse.
But, Hilary, what did you hear in all of this?
ROSEN: Well, I think it's really important to note that on the one hand the president and his lawyer are trying to rely on things that Jim Comey did say yesterday that they think helped them. And then they are calling Comey sort of a liar on the other hand. So they can't really have it both ways.
Look, what the president experienced yesterday was somebody coming in under oath and let's remember Jim Comey thinks there might actually still be tapes in the White House of this conversation. So he has even less reason to lie. So he goes up to the Hill and the Senate Republicans believed him. They didn't challenge whether or not he was telling the truth or not. He said the president told him to let go of the Russia investigation, let's -- and the president just a few weeks ago had tweeted that Comey was a liar and he never said that about Flynn. He told him that the president tried to back off a significant number
of things. So, you know, you have this credibility fight and I think Jim Comey wins on the credibility fight.
ROSEN: I don't think there's any total vindication of the president.
CAMEROTA: OK. And make your point quickly, Jason, because I do want to move on to the Loretta Lynch matter but go ahead but go ahead, Jason.
MILLER: Yes, I was just going to say, I mean, speaking to the credibility part, this is why new polling out by the "Investors Business Daily" today says that 57 percent of Americans believe that the media is to blame for much of the hoopla surrounding this and a full 52 percent think this is a witch-hunt.
I mean, look, President Trump was not under investigation. The campaign did not coordinate with some foreign entity to influence this election. Plain and simple.
CAMEROTA: Well, we don't.
ROSEN: There is no plain and simple. We now have a special counsel.
CAMEROTA: We haven't reached the end of the investigation yet, Jason. But there are other polls. ABC News-"Washington Post" poll out has said that they don't think that the president is being forthcoming and honest.
But, Hilary, I do want to ask you about this Loretta Lynch moment because obviously that's what Republicans have seized on to say, look, it's happening on that side. That's where we should be looking about the pressure of James Comey. So let me play for what you James Comey said yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: At one point, the attorney general had directed me not to call it an investigation, but instead to call it a matter, which confused me and concerned me. But that was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude I had to step away from the department if we're to close this case credibly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK. He is talking there about the investigation into Hillary Clinton e-mails. And that attorney general he's talking about is Loretta Lynch under President Obama. So, I mean, can we conclude that James Comey was sort of under siege from both sides of people trying to press him to call things, different things, and to back off of investigations? ROSEN: I think we can conclude that James Comey actually conducted an
investigation under Loretta Lynch. She stayed away from the conclusions of those investigations and he made his own determination on Hillary Clinton's innocence. That's what we can conclude. That -- and that is not what's happened here. In this case we have direct interference by the president and the Justice Department so much so that even the attorney general and deputy attorney general said we need to bring in a special counsel to conduct a fair and independent investigation.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Jason, why do Republicans seem more fixated on this which is in the past and has -- is over? It was settled easily by the election at least. Why more fixated on Loretta Lynch than a sitting president pressing the head of the FBI to back off an investigation?
MILLER: Well, I wouldn't say that it's -- I wouldn't qualify it as saying more than, but I'd say this fits into the broader narrative of vindication for the fact that many Republicans and heck, even many independents I believe saw this political influence in the previous administration. Whether it be Lois Learner at the IRS or what was happening with Loretta Lynch in the Clinton investigation.
CAMEROTA: Sure. But why isn't this influence from this -- from this administration? Why not see this as influence?
MILLER: Because this was -- well, this was a huge bombshell that Loretta Lynch tried to influence the investigation into Secretary Clinton.
CAMEROTA: Right. Why isn't it a huge bombshell that President Trump is trying to influence an investigation?
MILLER: But he's not. He hasn't tried to impede in the investigation into --
[06:45:03] CAMEROTA: He did. He told -- according to James Comey, he told him to back off the Michael Flynn investigation.
ROSEN: He told him to back off.
MILLER: That's -- the president has disputed that account. And even so -- look, don't just take it from me. I mean, listen to legal experts.
ROSEN: The president admitted it, Jason.
MILLER: Listen to legal experts like Jonathan Turley or Alan Dershowitz who say no, there was no obstruction of justice, and so --
CAMEROTA: I'm not saying obstruction of justice. I'm saying you only believe Comey when he talks about Loretta Lynch. You don't believe him when he says the president of the United States tried to press him to back off Michael Flynn. MILLER: Well, at leave we give it to him half the time. I mean, I
think most of the media doesn't believe the president any of the time when he's speaking so at least we give him the benefit of the doubt of some of this.
CAMEROTA: There you go. That's interesting.
ROSEN: Here's the most --
CAMEROTA: Go ahead. Last word, Hilary.
ROSEN: The most distressing part for me really as an American citizen in all of this is you have the president of the United States meeting with the FBI director who was actually conducting an investigation of Russian interference in the -- in U.S. democracy. And not once, not once in those sessions did the president express any interest or concern about the Russian interference in our democracy. The only thing he wanted to do was pressure James Comey to back off of him personally and politically.
MILLER: I think that's further proof that he wasn't trying to influence or interfere with the investigation.
ROSEN: No. It's proof that he didn't care.
CAMEROTA: OK. There we go. Guys, Jason Miller, Hilary Rosen. Thank you very much.
MILLER: Thank you.
CUOMO: So on top of what you just heard, when the president asked to clear the room and asked James Comey to drop the Michael Flynn investigation, what do you think he wanted to do? James Comey says that the president wanted him to drop the probe.
What does it mean for you, for the investigation? Next.
[06:50:46] CUOMO: All right. So if you were going to crystalize whether or not the president did the right thing with James Comey with respect to the Russian interference investigation and the probe of Michael Flynn, it comes down to this moment.
When James Comey says that the president asked the attorney general and his other staffers, including his son-in-law, to clear the room and then said to Comey, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go. To letting Flynn go. He's a good guy. I hope you can let this go."
Comey then testified that he thought that was a direction.
Let's discuss with CNN national security commentator and former Intel chairman Mike Rogers and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.
My guess is neither of you see it that way.
Phil Mudd, let's start with you. Comey says that's how he took it. You don't. Make the case.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think it's a request. An order is go back and drop the case. If I'm sitting in Comey's chair and the president of the United States says, I hope you can do this, one thing is I'm thinking exactly as Comey did. There's eventually going to be a reckoning day. When that reckoning day comes and these words go public, is the public going to view that as an order? Do I view it as -- my answer is no, an order is go do this.
If George Tenet, the former CIA director whom I worked for, said, Phil, go back to your office and I hope you can do this, I know what he wants me to do. But he didn't tell me to do it. An order is go do it. And that's not what the president said.
CUOMO: So, Mike Rogers, he clears the room, says this. Comey thinks that this is what he wants him to do. And I don't know why he wouldn't think at least he wanted him to do it, he then fires him for not doing it. And yet you're comfortable concluding it wasn't his intent to meddle and it wasn't a direction.
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's completely inappropriate. But to rise to the level of obstruction of justice is a pretty serious event.
CUOMO: But I don't think we have to go there yet.
ROGERS: But you'd also have to look at the totality of it.
CUOMO: What I'm saying is, let's just deal with inappropriate. Let's just deal with the totality and we'll leave the legalities to later. When you look at everything that Comey said, what do you see in the pattern of conduct from the president?
ROGERS: Well, again, I just -- I think the whole thing was inappropriate for the president to --
CUOMO: What does that mean inappropriate? Like -- that seems like a nothing word. It's like when my kid uses bathroom words. I say that's inappropriate, but I'm not really going to do anything about it.
ROGERS: Well, again, I -- listen, we're trying to convict someone based on one set of testimony. And I do think that Comey was compelling in his testimony. I mean, I think it was a bad day for the president yesterday. And they've set it up to be the FBI versus the White House. And I'll guarantee you who's going to lose that. And that's the White House. And I think this is a terrible spot for them to be in, even though I think they put themselves in this spot, number one.
But when you're talking about -- again it doesn't mean criminal. And I'm not sure what word you're looking for, Chris. But if you're going to say that this is a criminal act, there has to be a lot more information and you'd have to go back and look at the totality of all the seven to nine meetings which is clearly an indication that he had an interest in this.
ROGERS: And you look at all of that information, including talking to people around the president and all of that in an investigation. But what I heard yesterday there was no aha moment other than you kind of slap your head and go, what was the president thinking? I mean, that is just inappropriate.
CUOMO: Well, I want to keep it on that level for a couple of reasons. The main one is, Mueller is looking at that. Nobody in Congress is going to decide what's legal or illegal. And in fact, you can argue they shouldn't even be looking at the president's behavior at all. They should be focusing on the interference. And the Democrats are consumed with impeachment. And the Republicans are consumed with leaks. And nobody is focusing on what matters. But what I'm saying is let Mueller have his purview.
And I want to just look at this because if it did become a political process or a political trial of the president, it will be about high crimes and misdemeanors, Phil Mudd, which means nothing. It means neither crimes nor misdemeanors. You just pick grounds where it all comes down to what's appropriate.
And what I don't get is, the Republicans are arguing what you two guys are now. I've heard it, inappropriate, whatever that means. But not that much. But then they look at Loretta Lynch. And they say her wanting to call an investigation a matter, whoa, that's obstruction. How can you believe that everything Comey said about the President Trump is meaningless but Lynch matters?
[06:55:03] MUDD: But timeout, Chris. You asked about one statement, whether the president's suggestion that he -- the statement that he hopes that Comey doesn't pursue this isn't significant. You've got to put it in context. He then goes and fires the FBI director.
You've got to take the whole package. If you want to ask me the question of what the president did deserves the attention of the Congress, my answer is yes because I've got to combine the request to drop the case with everything else that's happened.
You can't look at this stuff in isolation, Chris. By the way, the Lynch thing is goofy. It's not significant. We don't do matters at the FBI. We do preliminary investigations and full field investigations. Anybody who served at the bureau looks at what she said yesterday, and said you've got to be kidding me. But if we're going to spend time on one sentence from the former attorney general, I agree it's goofy, it's not worth our time. CUOMO: By the way, I did say everything that Comey said about the
president yesterday. I did give you the full context. But I take your high judgment in stride.
Mike Rogers, what do you say to your brother and sister Republicans who say, no, Lynch is the obstruction. Everything that Comey said -- again, Phil, everything that Comey said about what transpired with the president doesn't impress me. What do you say to someone who holds both of those views?
ROGERS: Well, again, I mean, if you're looking at this as a legal matter, I agree completely with Phil Mudd. The fact that the attorney general wanted to change the terminology, but not interfere with the investigation, again I think it's inappropriate. But I don't believe that it rose to any level of criminal activity. And, you know, this is -- when you're starting to throw criminal action around on significant public actors, you better be accurate and you better be right on both sides.
CUOMO: Right. I just don't know why it has to be criminal?
ROGERS: On both sides.
CUOMO: Even if the Democrats, even if they somehow magically wound up in a situation where they were trying to impeach the president for real, it wouldn't be about criminality. High crimes and misdemeanors is not a criminal standard, it's political standard. So that's why I'm saying leave that to Mueller. It's all going to be about him.
Gentlemen, I appreciate the perspective as always. And by gentlemen, I mean you, Mike.
ROGERS: This is a fine welcome back, Chris. Thank you.
CUOMO: It's always good to have you. We missed you. I was happy that you were going to be there. I was happy you were in consideration. You're a quality man with great credentials. We need you here as well. It's good to have you.
ROGERS: Thanks for lowering your standards and letting me back, Chris.
CUOMO: No, no. That's a high standard. The other guy.
CAMEROTA: Yes. And you're kind of good, too, Phil. Thanks so much, guys.
CUOMO: Likeable enough.
CAMEROTA: Right. Likeable enough.
James Comey claims he was fired as FBI director over the Russian investigation. So what is the political fallout? We hear from former attorney general Alberto Gonzalez ahead.