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Interview with Alberto Gonzalez; British PM Meeting with Queen Elizabeth After Losing Majority; Comey's Calculation Versus Trump's Unpredictability; Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 9, 2017 - 07:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So we're trying to get you a broad range of perspective. You had the Democratic senator there who ran for president with Hillary Clinton. Now we're going to give you former attorney general Alberto Gonzalez. What did he think mattered in that testimony? Where does he think it goes? Next.


CUOMO: All right. So there are a lot of different things you could pull out of this Comey testimony and what he said and how it was heard by lawmakers and what may happen next. For instance, the situation from Comey's perspective with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russia's ambassador to the United States. Fired FBI Director Comey apparently disclosing details in a closed hearing yesterday. He said he didn't want to talk about it in public testimony which, of course, added a lot of weight to what he might think and tell senators about Sessions maybe having a third meeting with the Russian ambassador.

Let's bring in former AG Alberto Gonzalez. Currently the dean at Belmont University College of Law and the author of "True Faith and Allegiance: A Story of Service and Sacrifice in War and Peace."

[07:35:06] Always good to have you on, sir.


CUOMO: So Comey says Sessions, another meeting with the Russian ambassador. I have to talk to you about it in private. All the eyebrows popped out. Comey says thereafter, yes, you know, there are concerns about the attorney general's role and his recusal behavior in the Russia probe, and that he needed to tell Sessions, don't leave the room when the president asked you to leave the room so he can talk to me. That's wrong. What do you make of all that?

GONZALEZ: Well, let me just say, I thought Jim's testimony was compelling and I thought it was very credible. I will say however that, you know, when I was the attorney general Senator Mark Prior from Arkansas went on the Senate floor and called me a liar. And after a lengthy investigation by the Depart of Justice inspector general, the finding was that I had not lied. And so saying it doesn't make it so. I will just say that. CUOMO: OK.

GONZALEZ: With respect to Jeff Sessions, you know, as the attorney general, you have -- as a senator, you have multiple meetings all the time. Sometimes you lose track of a meeting. And as to whether or not there was an additional meeting here, again there's a lot of speculation about what was said behind closed doors. We'll just have to wait and see, and see what the facts, the context of a possible third meeting, the explanation by senator -- by General Sessions, to the extent there was an additional meeting that wasn't disclose disclosed. So there's a lot of information that we still have to learn here before reaching any conclusions as to whether or not there's a serious issue for the attorney general here.

CUOMO: What about this other question? Would you have left the room if the president said he wanted to talk to the director of the FBI and he didn't want you around?

GONZALEZ: If that is the directive of the president yes, I would have left the room but I would have sure asked the director of the FBI, tell me what was the purpose of your conversation. Your obligation as the attorney general is to protect the department, including the FBI. And so if that incident occurred yes, at the direction of the president, I would have left the room, of course, but I would have found out what was going on.

And if I did not make -- take that affirmative step, I believe James Comey had an obligation to make sure that the attorney general or someone within the line of leadership was aware of the fact that he was feeling so much pressure that he knew immediately after the first meeting with the president during the transition -- president-elect during the transition that he was going to document every conversation at every meeting. That is a very serious evidence of the fact that you feel very, very threatened by interactions with the president and if you feel that kind of pressure, by golly, you have an obligation to notify your superiors.

But yes, I think this is a situation where the attorney general had the obligation to find out what is going on because his job is to protect the FBI, protect the Department of Justice.

CUOMO: Comey says he did both. He recorded it because he was worried, he went up the chain, but didn't trust the chain. What did you make of that?

GONZALEZ: Well, my recollection is that January 27th conversation where there was discussion about loyalty. That happened on January 27th. If my memory is correct, Sally Yates was not fired until January 30th. So for a period of time, he could have gone to Sally Yates, the acting attorney general.


CUOMO: He says he did.

GONZALEZ: If he did not trust -- CUOMO: He says he went to different people on in the DOJ. He said he

did have conversations, but he certainly didn't come out about it. You think he didn't do enough?

GONZALEZ: I don't think he did enough and I'm not aware -- certainly in the written testimony or in his oral testimony as to who he had conversations with. I know he had conversations with Boente, the acting deputy attorney general but as a read this --


CUOMO: Dana Boente and Sessions, he said he talked to.

GONZALEZ: But Sessions' conversation was only that please do not let me go into a situation where I am alone with the president of the United States. He did not explain his concerns specifically.

CUOMO: That sounds like a concern, doesn't it, though, if he's asking -- say you don't leave me alone?

GONZALEZ: Of course.

CUOMO: He probably said why, right?

GONZALEZ: Well, I don't know. He didn't say that. But as the attorney general, if my FBI director is saying that, I'm going to find out why.

CUOMO: Right.

GONZALEZ: And with respect to Dana Boente. As I read the written testimony, I think what he was saying -- conveyed to Boente was that the president of the United States has asked that the FBI disclose that he is not the target of the investigation. I don't think that he told Boente that he had all these concerns about these communications with the president of the United States. But again there is a lot of information we just don't know here.

CUOMO: Right. It's still early. You're right. The idea of this trifecta of I want you to be loyalty to me -- I want you to be loyal to me, I want you to drop the probe, I hope you can do that, and then firing him when he doesn't do it. Those three steps of behavior, you're concerned?

GONZALEZ: Yes. And I think that gives Bob Mueller something to look at. But let's look at what's been revealed publicly. It appears to me that he had that one conversation about Michael Flynn.

[07:40:06] He had multiple conversations about disclosure of the fact that he was not the president, was not under investigation. It is possible that the president fired Jim Comey not because he wouldn't drop the investigation of Michael Flynn, not because of the overall Russian investigation, but because he would not disclose the fact that he, the president, was not under investigation. If that is the reason for the firing, it seems to me it's a little more difficult case to make with respect to obstruction of justice. But Bob Mueller is going to get to the bottom of this and find out exactly what happened.

CUOMO: Alberto Gonzalez, we appreciate your perspective. Thank you for being on NEW DAY as always.

GONZALEZ: Thanks for having me.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Chris, this other story. What the stunning result in Britain means for Prime Minister Theresa May and the future of Brexit.


CAMEROTA: We do have some breaking news. British Prime Minister Theresa May is at Buckingham Palace right there. I believe we're looking at the aerials of this meeting.

She is there to meet with Queen Elizabeth to ask for the Queen's permission to form a government. This comes after a stunning defeat with the May's Conservative Party losing its majority in parliament. May's rivals are now calling for her to resign.

CNN's Phil Black is live in London with more for us -- Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, so a short time ago Theresa May left 10 Downing Street here behind us, has traveled to Buckingham Palace where she's meeting with the Queen, as you say, following the usual procedure of seeking the monarch's permission to form the next government.

[07:45:12] The thing that makes this so unusual is that she is attempting to do so having lost her commanding majority of seats in the House of Parliament. That is usually what determines the right of a party leader to form a government here. Now we know that she'd pulled a few seats short of achieving this. It is likely that she will be able to come to an arrangement with a minor party. Expected to be the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, and then together that would give the prime minister a working majority in parliament. But we don't know what the formal nature of that agreement between the two parties will be.

Whatever the result here, and assuming that Theresa May is able to continue as prime minister, the Conservative Party continue to be able to continue in government, the result is so different to what Theresa May wanted. She went into this election to increase majority, to get her stronger mandate. That has proved a political gamble which she has ultimately lost -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: But, Phil, what does this mean for the Brexit negotiations next week?

BLACK: Well, by Theresa May's own logic, she said every vote for her and her party, her constituency which she and her party won in addition to what they used to have would give her a stronger hand in the coming Brexit negotiations. These are the talks that will determine the terms by which Britain leaves the European Union and what the future relationship between Britain and the European Union will look like. Trade talks, security, these sorts of things. She wanted the strongest possible hand. So by her own logic, she now has a much weaker hand in continuing these talks.

These talks are set to begin in less than two weeks. A little later this month, the whole dynamic surrounding them will now take on a very different feel. Theresa May will be struggling to maintain her authority, her dignity, if you like, in terms of leading her own party and that will no doubt have a tremendous impact on her ability to get what she wants when she is trying to negotiate with the European Union as well.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, Phil, so many shifting political dynamics everywhere really in the world. Thank you very much for the update. They have just gotten in the car. That is Theresa May. The prime minister just now leaving Buckingham Palace. We're not sure obviously what was said, what the Queen decided there in their meeting there. But obviously we expect Theresa May to explain herself and explain her thinking and what the next steps are for the people of Britain and certainly with the Brexit negotiations coming up.

CAMEROTA: All right. We have some other headlines to get to now. Accused NSA leaker Reality Winner pleading not guilty in federal court to revealing classified information. But according to the criminal complaint, an FBI agent says the 25-year-old admitted that she printed classified information and mailed it to an online news outlet. The judge denying her bail after prosecutors suggested that Winner may have more classified material.

CUOMO: Bill Cosby facing his words in court in his sexual offense trial. A detective read part of the embattled comedian's interview with police from back in 2005 over accusations he drugged and assaulted Andrea Constand. In it, Cosby did admit to giving Constand Benadryl and touching her. He said the pair never had sex and had a romantic relationship prior to the incident. Constand adamantly denies Cosby's account, claiming he drugged and assaulted her. Cosby is not expected to take the stand and has pleaded not guilty.

CAMEROTA: Chris, you have to see this dramatic video out of from New Jersey. Here's a 67-year-old woman. Oh, my goodness.

CUOMO: Whoops.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my -- what? Oh my gosh. She was walking down the street texting. She pulled out her cell phone. She hit into that metal cellar door, as you see. She falls eight feet to the floor below. People quickly gather around the door and call for help. The woman was taken to the hospital. Fortunately she was not seriously hurt.

There is a lesson here for all of us. TWI. Wait --

CUOMO: What is that?

CAMEROTA: Texting while -- TWW. Texting while walking. CUOMO: Texting while walking? Well, thank God she's OK. I mean,

obviously you've got to be careful about how you use your phone. But this is an extreme set of circumstances. I am shocked that she is OK after that, by the way. I feel like you wouldn't see me a while. That is a tough lady. Best to her and her family. Sorry about that.

CAMEROTA: OK. Let's all remember not to do that.

CUOMO: Jim Comey and Donald Trump each have different approaches when telling their sides of the story. If this is a credibility contest whom will you believe? It's going to come down to you if it stays a political process. Your representatives hopefully will respond to your rigor. We debate next.


[07:53:26] CUOMO: All right. Right now the British Prime Minister Theresa May is speaking, addressing the citizenry after a huge political blow. May called snap elections, parliamentary elections, early hoping to build on her lead, reinforce her control of government. It backfired. She lost the majority and now her rival party is calling for her to resign. She says she won't. Let's listen in.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: -- the United Kingdom out of the European Union. It will work to keep our nation safe and secure by delivering the change that I set out following the appalling attacks in Manchester and London, cracking down on the ideology of Islamist extremism and all those who support it, and giving the police and the authorities the powers they need to keep our country safe.

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. A country in which prosperity and opportunity are shared right across this United Kingdom. What the country needs more than ever is certainty and having secured the largest number of votes and the greatest number of seats in the general election, it is clear that only the Conservative and Unionist party has the legitimacy and ability to provide that certainty by commanding a majority in the House of Commons.

[07:55:14] As we do, we will continue to work with our friends and allies in the Democratic Unionist Party in particular. Our two parties have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years, and this gives me the confidence to believe that we will be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom. This will allow us to come together as a country and channel our energies towards a successful Brexit deal that works for everyone in this country. Securing a new partnership with the EU, which guarantees our long-term prosperity. That's what people voted for last June. That's what we will deliver. Now let's get to work.

CAMEROTA: OK. Fascinating to hear Prime Minister Theresa May there try to put the pieces back together after the election did not go her way. The gamble that she made that it would, it did not. And then we know that she just moments ago visited with the Queen to ask if she could still stay in charge to try to form this government moving towards the Brexit negotiations. Obviously the Queen says yes and that's what we're hearing.

CUOMO: Right. Well, the queen's role largely perfunctory there, right? But the political implications are real. That proposition by Theresa May, this will help the country come together, we can move forward, we're getting out of Brexit that's very much in dispute. We're going to have to see what James Corbyn, with the Labour Party, what they want out of Brexit, and clearly the divisions in that country manifesting in this snap special election.

CAMEROTA: OK. Back here at home, James Comey's stunning testimony revealed a man who some watchers saw as strategic and deliberate, versus President Trump who is often described as impulsive and unpredictable. So which approach will win politically?

Let's bring in David Frum, he's the senior editor of the "Atlantic" and Matt Schlapp, former political director to President George W. Bush and chairman of the American Conservative Union.

Gentlemen, great to have you. You are both conservatives. So it will be interesting to see how you both saw yesterday's testimony.

David Frum, what was your take away?

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, Director Comey made it clear that everything the president has said about their interaction was a lie. The word that he used again and again. All of this begins with an espionage investigation based on Russian attack against the United States with which President Trump was certainly the beneficiary and possibly with which he was complicit.

CAMEROTA: But, David Frum, hold on.

FRUM: That --

CAMEROTA: Let me just interrupt you for one second because he did -- Comey did seem to confirm the president's version that he was not the target of this investigation, that he did -- James Comey telling him three times.

FRUM: Look, it's a pretty sad exoneration for a president. Yes, the FBI director assured him in January that the president personally was not at that time a target of the larger investigation into espionage involving his campaign and his closest supporters. I don't know if I were President Trump I would be heralding that as much of a vindication to say, your enterprise was arguably complicit. You, yourself, however are not at the moment a suspect.

CAMEROTA: OK. What did you hear, Matt?

MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Yes, I mean, let's just look at what happened yesterday, which is Jim Comey had everybody who is a Trump supporter like myself, you know, a little rattled because it does seem like he doesn't have great respect for the president and he has been leaking and we've been always wondering about where these stories are coming from. And actually what the president has said in these interviews including with Lester Holt turned out to be true, which is he wasn't a subject of the investigation.

And I will say, I agree with David, it is a counter intelligence investigation about Russia's involvement in the election, which I think, and by the way, is incredibly troubling, the underlying question. But, you know, I worked at the White House, David did, too. I worked at the White House and I was caught up in some of these investigations, including the investigation where we had a special prosecutor, a special counsel.

It is so jarring and disconcerting and they say it's one of the most stressful things a human being can go through. You know, the first question I always ask in those situations is, am I a person of interest? Am I a target?


SCHLAPP: Is the heat going to come down on me?

FRUM: Yes.

SCHLAPP: It is perfectly logical for everybody involved --

FRUM: But Matt --

SCHLAPP: Let me finish.

FRUM: You can't -- you can't fire --

SCHLAPP: Let me finish. Perfectly --

FRUM: You can't fire the person whom you asked that question.

SCHLAPP: Let me finish. It's perfectly logical for every person to want to know. And in this case, David, you're wrong. And I agree with Alan Dershowitz and the lawyers I've talked to who worked in the White House Counsel's Office in the Bush administration, which was the FBI director ultimately reports to the president.

FRUM: None of that is true.

SCHLAPP: And guess what? The president has a right --

FRUM: You cannot --

SCHLAPP: The president has the right to fire the FBI director.

FRUM: Matt, that is not the same.

SCHLAPP: It is just the fact, David. And you have to accept it.

FRUM: Matt, it's not. Matt, that is not --

CAMEROTA: OK. Go ahead. Go ahead, David.

FRUM: OK. When you -- if you ask the question, am I a person of interest, you are not asking that to a person over whom you have the power to fire. That's what the president did. Am I a person of interest? If the answer is going to be anything I don't like, will you shut down this whole investigation? It's embarrassing.

SCHLAPP: He gave the answer he liked. He gave the answer he liked. He said that you are not --

FRUM: Matt. Matt.