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Collins talks Comey Testimony; Credibility of Testimony; Trump's Legal Team to File Complaint; Aired 8:30-9a ET
Aired June 9, 2017 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:33:05] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: One of the more impressive exchanging, let's say, during James Comey's Senate testimony was when he revealed he asked a friend to leak his memos. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Did you show copies of your memos to anyone outside of the Department of Justice?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Yes.
COLLINS: And to whom did you show copies?
COMEY: I asked - 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Joining us now is the senator you just saw there, Republican Susan Collins of Maine.
Senator, thank you for joining us after that big day.
What was your big takeaway from the Comey testimony?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Well, there were several. One was that it was clear that the president asked Mr. Comey to do an inappropriate action, and that was to drop the investigation of General Michael Flynn. That was clearly inappropriate. It crossed a boundary that the president should not have crossed.
And, second, I'm still perplexed as to why Mr. Comey did not say to the president at the time, Mr. President, you can't ask me to do that. That's not the way our system works. Or at least, in hindsight, have a call made from the Justice Department to the White House Counsel talking about what had happened.
And third, Mr. Comey's testimony established that he was deeply troubled by his interactions with the president, but that the president was not under investigation as of May 9th, when Mr. Comey was fired.
[08:35:15] CUOMO: Why does that - why is that relevant to you, the last part?
COLLINS: It's relevant to me in two ways. One is that our investigation before the Senate Intelligence Committee, it's a broad investigation into Russian interference in our election last fall, about which we have considerable evidence, and whether or not either President Trump and/or members of his campaign staff had direct contacts with the Russians that led to collusion or collaboration in this effort. So the fact that the president was not under investigation by no means exonerates his aides. It no - by no means ends the issue because the special counsel will be continuing the investigation.
CUOMO: On the matters that involved dialogue between the president and the former FBI director, whom are you inclined to believe at this point?
COLLINS: I found Mr. Comey's testimony to be credible, candid and thorough. That doesn't mean that he's right in every detail that he's remembering. It doesn't necessarily mean his interpretations are accurate. But he testified under oath, and I do believe that he's an individual of integrity who would not deliberately lie under oath.
CUOMO: That would mean that the president is lying to the American people about his efforts to meddle in the Flynn probe.
COLLINS: Well, I'm not sure that we can reach definitive conclusions, but I tend to place more credence in testimony that's given under oath.
CUOMO: What about your level of concern about what Comey said about Jeff Sessions, his concerns about the legitimacy of the recusal, his concerns about trust in Sessions when he was confronted by the president and what he could do about it to go up the chain, as you guys were talking about, and his need to talk to you in a private session about why he thought Sessions would have to recuse himself?
COLLINS: First of all, let me say that Jeff Sessions clearly made the right decision to recuse himself and he did so promptly. But there remain a number of questions about his own interactions with the Russians. We, on the Intelligence Committee, want to know the answers to those questions and we have begun to request information from the attorney general to allow us to get to the bottom of that. And I'm sure the special counsel, in his investigation, will want to know as well.
CUOMO: Two other quick things.
COLLINS: I -
CUOMO: Go ahead, senator, unless you have something to add. COLLINS: I - I will note that the attorney general this morning put
out a press release disputing what happened, and that's why it's so important that we get to the bottom of it.
CUOMO: The word inappropriate keeps being used, and I keep asking whether or not that's a word that will ever carry any accountability. It seems like a word that's used when nothing will really be done about whatever that action is. If it was inappropriate, but not illegal, does the president have anything to be concerned about?
COLLINS: Well, he does. I think this reflects the fact that this is the first president in our history who has had neither a military nor a political background. And I think he just does not fully understand or appreciate the boundaries and that it is totally wrong - I'll go beyond inappropriate, it is wrong for the president of the United States to tell or imply to an FBI director that an investigation should not go forward. That's -
CUOMO: But how could he not know when he asked the A.G. and his son- in-law and others to leave. And when they tried to re-enter, told them to leave so he could talk to Comey? I mean doesn't that tell you everything you needed to know about whether or not the president was being - acting in ignorance or acting with complete intentionality?
COLLINS: Not necessarily, and here's why. 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 wonder 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, because he had two subsequent one-on-one meetings, as well as other phone calls, with the FBI director. That doesn't make it right, but ironically perhaps the FBI's actions in that first meeting sent a signal to the president that that is how their interactions should take place.
[08:40:38] But the point is, by now he certainly should know better. And over several months' time, he should know better.
CUOMO: Senator Collins, appreciate your take on this situation and we enjoyed watching your questioning yesterday. It was helpful to the American people.
COLLINS: Thank you very much, Chris.
CUOMO: All right, be well, senator.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: A very interesting theory that she just said there.
CUOMO: That is a good one. That is entirely true (ph).
CAMEROTA: That is - we hadn't heard that yet in the past two days.
CUOMO: Now, there is some facts to build into it, is that, well, when the president said to people, get out, I want to talk to Comey -
CUOMO: That's it. When Comey was delivering information about the dossier -
CAMEROTA: Asked for privacy with the president, yes.
CUOMO: There was a group involved and it was Comey who was designated to talk about the dossier. So it's a little different contextually -
CUOMO: But maybe Collins is right.
CAMEROTA: Maybe the president doesn't understand that nuance that you just spelled out. All right, we'll talk more about that.
But there's been a stunning outcome in the U.K. British Prime Minister Theresa May's election gamble has backfired. What does this mean for her ability to lead through Brexit?
[08:45:45] CAMEROTA: Time for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."
President Trump breaking his Twitter silence, calling out James Comey's Senate testimony, saying that Comey's statements were lies and calling Comey a, quote, "leaker." Comey told Congress under oath repeated that the president and his administration has lied about why Comey was fired.
CUOMO: Now, after his public testimony, former FBI Director James Comey briefed senators privately, telling them Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have had an undisclosed third meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
CAMEROTA: British Prime Minister Theresa May announcing she will form a minority government after her conservative party lost its majority in parliament. May says Brexit talks are set to begin in ten days.
CUOMO: Two Americans accused of working as terrorists operatives. The men, one from New York, the other from Michigan, are charged with providing material support to Hezbollah. Both recruits had military training in Lebanon.
CAMEROTA: Accused NSA leaker Reality Winner pleading not guilty to revealing classified information. But in the criminal complaint, an FBI agent says Winner admitted that she printed classified information and mailed it to an online news outlet.
CUOMO: For more on the "Five Things to Know," you can go to newdaycnn.com for the latest.
CAMEROTA: So, listen to this story. He wanted to lead kids in Detroit to a more promising path. So this week's CNN Hero, Khali Sweeney, used his entire life savings to open a gym where kids can get free tutoring and dinner and be active.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KHALI SWEENEY, CNN HERO: I've been shot at multiple times. He shot 26 rounds at the car. There was a reason that he didn't hit me. It was for me to be here for these kids.
I've been there. So when they hear from me, they're like, OK, he's not sugar coating it. No mentors. No positive role models. You're putting them in a position to be ready for prison or the county morgue. I don't see bad kids. I see a kid who hasn't been heard yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: To see Coach Khali's entire story, go to cnnheroes.com. And while you're there, nominate someone that you think should be a 2017 CNN Hero.
CUOMO: All right, so the fight is on. We have breaking details about what President Trump's legal team plans to do next. That's "The Bottom Line," ahead.
[08:51:49] CUOMO: Jim Comey called President Trump a liar during his testimony. This morning, President Trump is firing back in two ways. One, Twitter, "despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication, and, wow, Comey is a leaker." And then the second way, CNN has just learned the president's legal team is planning to file a complaint against Comey in connection with the former FBI head's memos that he leaked to the media.
Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN political director David Chalian.
Don't say you're not a lawyer, because you've got to play one right now. What do you make of the president saying, I'm going to sue you, basically? He's going to send a complaint to the inspector general. What could the potential outcome of that be?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, the inspector general at the Department of Justice and the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe, and this is all related to Comey describing, after he was fired, getting those memos to his friend, the Columbia University law professor, asking him to put them in a report - you know, give that content, describe that content to a reporter to get that in the public domain to launch a special prosecutor. He had a clear goal of what he wanted to do with those memos.
What I think this is, when you see this latest headline you just said about them now going to file a complaint, add that to what we've heard this morning, this is some of the most aggressive coordinated pushback from team Trump I would say since he's taken office. And I - and, obviously, the president, the tweet you read joined in the fray today as well, pushing back, calling Comey a liar and a leaker. You had Corey Lewandowski, the former campaign manager, out over morning television trying to damage Comey's credibility, and now the outside legal team saying they're going to file this complaint. This is all an attempt to try to knock Comey down. And that is clearly their strategy here and they're doing it in a more coordinated and aggressive fashion than they have to date.
CAMEROTA: But what did Comey do illegally? I mean what did Comey do that was wrong? That wasn't classified information that he gave to a friend. He was no longer in the government. He was a private citizen. What - what are the - what's the legal underpinning here?
CHALIAN: Yes, it's not clear he did anything wrong. Filing - you don't have to be right to file a complaint, as you know. Donald Trump is famous for that, right? So it is not clear that this would go the way that the Kasowitz team and the Trump team would want this to go. But it is a P.R. strategy. So there may be no legal underpinning - I know Chris doesn't want me to say I'm not a lawyer, but I'm not, so I - I can't speak to that. But -
CUOMO: I am. Don't worry about it. I mean what's interesting is they picked an avenue that will probably - and not 100 percent on this because it has to - I don't know what the rules are specific to the I.G., but will probably insulate the president from being deposed. If he had filed a defamation suit, let's say, you know, you're lying about me lying, so I'm going to sue you.
CUOMO: I'll probably be deposed and I doubt President Trump wants to go down that road.
CHALIAN: Ys, I doubt that, too. Although it seems to me, Chris, I - I don't know how the president is going to be totally insulated from being deposed at the end of the day when the Mueller investigation is all said and done, especially if -
CUOMO: Well, talking to Mueller is different. I'm saying like deposed in a way where we would find out about it.
CHALIAN: Oh, well, I - it seems to me if Mueller does do, as Jim Comey suggested yesterday, that he sort of expects him to do, which is, to take up an obstruction of justice investigation here, it seems to me that at some point Mueller is going to need to depose Donald Trump.
[08:55:10] CAMEROTA: So what's your big takeaway from yesterday, David?
CHALIAN: Well, this is one, seeing now an aggressive pushback - and perhaps this is the Trump team trying to say, Mr. President, you were off Twitter that whole day, we've got your back, we can show you how aggressively we can push back on this. I think that is clear that they're trying to talk to the president as well. We'll hear from him this afternoon and we'll see if he keeps up this discipline of just this one tweet right now.
My other big takeaway is a Sessions fall-out. There are lots of questions now for Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, to answer. One, was there a third Kislyak meeting or not that never got reported? Two, when you - as Comey described, you lingering in the Oval Office, did you have in your mind that it was inappropriate for the FBI director and the president to have a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office? Is that why you were lingering? We need to hear Sessions' side of that story, especially because the president and the White House still will not offer the president's competence in Sessions specifically. As far as - they will only go as far to say that the president has full confidence in the full cabinet. Sessions is, of course, included in that. But they will not say specifically for Sessions that the president has - that he has the president's confidence.
CAMEROTA: David Chalian, thank you very much for "The Bottom Line."
CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.
CUOMO: Good points. Good points. Thank you for being with us.
All right, CNN "Newsroom" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman is going to pick up right after this break.
Stay with CNN.
CAMEROTA: Have a great weekend.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman.
New this morning, did the president just accuse the former FBI director of a felony? And, if so, is he willing to go under oath to prove it? A short while ago, after one of the longest Twitter doubts of his presidency, Donald Trump wrote, "despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication. And, WOW, Comey is a leaker."
[09:00:10] HARLOW: False statements and lies.