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Attorney General Sessions Plans to Testify Tomorrow; Republicans Warn Trump on Russia Probe. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired June 12, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] HARRIETTE THOMPSON, OLDEST WOMAN TO COMPLETE A MARATHON: -- and that's the whole reason I'm running.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, my gosh, so impressive.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And the race goes on for her.
CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. God bless her. John, thank you.
BERMAN: Nice to see you.
CAMEROTA: Great to work with you. Time now for CNN NEWSROOM with just Poppy Harlow.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Stealing my man again, Alisyn? OK. He better be back here --
CAMEROTA: Sorry. Tomorrow, he's yours.
HARLOW: He better be back here tomorrow morning. You guys have a great day. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. We have a lot to get to.
Hope you had a great weekend. At the White House this morning, all the President's men and women. In just a couple of hours, President Trump convenes a meeting of his cabinet members, and that includes his embattled Attorney General. Jeff Sessions is expect there.
This is the first time that the two are set to meet since those reports surfaced last week that the President has become increasingly frustrated with Sessions and the Russia probe so much so that he offered to resign.
Meantime, Sessions says he plans to testify on that topic tomorrow before the Senate Intelligence Committee, but the panel's Chairman has not yet publicly green lit that testimony and has not said if it will be public or if it will be held behind closed doors. That has a lot of people talking at the bid who want to know.
Our Justice Reporter, Laura Jarrett, is live in Washington this morning. So it's odd, Laura, because Sessions was supposed to testify in front of some different House and Senate subcommittees, instead he's sending his Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to do that. Why the switch?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, that's exactly right, Poppy. Lawmakers have been demanding for weeks to question Sessions on everything from his role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey to any undisclosed contacts that he might have had with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, but he appears to have caught members of the Intel Committee by surprise over the weekend by agreeing to come to this panel tomorrow.
And so now there is this question about whether it will be public or behind closed doors or some combination of both. And in a letter to senators over the weekend, Sessions says that he wants to address Comey's testimony from last week in the appropriate forum. And members of the Intel Committee say they have plenty of questions for him, including Comey's claim that Sessions left him alone with the President back in February.
HARLOW: And also, Laura, there is some big news developing that you're on top of out of the Capitol today. You have the Attorneys General of both Maryland and Washington, D.C., about to announce this lawsuit that they have filed against the President in just a few hours, right?
JARRETT: That's right. And these all comes down to the fact that the President retained an interest in his businesses after taking office. And so these Attorneys General in Maryland and D.C. now say that when foreign dignitaries stay at his hotel or use his golf course, that violates the constitution's Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the President from accepting payments from foreign governments without congressional consent.
You'll remember, Poppy, just hours after being sworn in, Trump got sued for this exact same issue by an ethics watchdog group named Crew, but that case has been tied up in the courts in New York.
So if a federal judge, in this case, allows it to proceed in Maryland, attorneys say one of the first steps will be to demand, through the discovery process, copies of Trump's personal tax returns to gauge the extent of his foreign business dealings, Poppy.
HARLOW: Right, there you go. There's one way I suppose, although I wonder, if they were able to do it, if it would even become public. Laura Jarrett reporting for us. We'll have more on the lawsuit when it is indeed filed and announced in just little bit. Thank you so much.
HARLOW: Meantime, this morning, first daughter, Ivanka Trump, speaks out for the first time on the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey. Just a few hours ago, she echoed her father's talking points, saying the fired FBI Director delivered a big win by confirming what Comey said that he was not under investigation in the Russia probe directly. Listen to Ivanka Trump. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, my father felt very vindicated in all the statements that he's been making and feels incredibly optimistic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: But Ivanka Trump's remarks, pretty measured in stark contrast to the President's latest broadside attack on Comey.
Let's go to Jason Carroll. He's in Washington with more. Good morning.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, Poppy. You know, the President is back to name calling. The President, not only suggested that James Comey acted illegally when he leaked his notes about their conversations. In a tweet, he called the act of leaking it, quote, "cowardly."
Comey testified the President asked him to let the investigation to former national security adviser Mike Flynn go. Trump denies that. Although, his son, Donald Trump Jr., appeared to contradict that denial in a T.V. interview.
Also, in a separate separation, former U.S. Attorney General Preet Bharara says he too had somewhat of an uncomfortable interaction with the President before he was let go. Bharara says that Trump called him in December, and it appeared to him, at least, that Trump was trying to cultivate some sort of relationship between the two. Bharara says that he was fired after he did not return another call from Trump.
[09:05:03] As for Trump's interaction with Comey, there have been calls from both sides of the aisle for Trump to turn over any tapes if the White House has them. There have been a number of GOP lawmakers who say, let the tapes do the talking.
As you know that there have been a number of people who say the President should stop talking about Comey and as you also know, the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, is about to or is in the process of completing his investigation, although Trump's legal team not able to rule out the possibility that the President could end up firing Mueller.
HARLOW: He could do so through ordering Rosenstein to do that. Jason Carroll in Washington for us. Thank you very much.
Let's discuss all of these. A lot to get to this Monday morning. Susan Page is here, the Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Alex Burns, CNN political analyst and national political reporter for "The New York Times"; and David Drucker, CNN political analyst and senior congressional reporter for "The Washington Examiner." Good morning to you all. Nice to have you here.
Let me begin with you, Susan. Let's just listen to a fellow Republican of the President, Susan Collins, when she was asked about these tapes. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: He should give a straight yes or no answer to the question of whether or not the tapes exist, and he should voluntarily turn them over, not only to the Senate Intelligence Committee, but to the Special Counsel. So I don't think a subpoena should be necessary, and I don't understand why the President just doesn't clear this matter up once and for all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: To be clear again, Susan, that's from his fellow Republican, saying, you know, just tell us, are there tapes or are there not? What do you think the political calculation is from the White House on this one right now? Why leave it so murky, to say the least?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Well, that is always a tough question when it comes to thinking about the strategy that President Trump may be following. I mean, he is leaving it kind of out there. But he faces a request from the House Intelligence Committee to produce these tapes by next week, by June 23rd, and I think every expectation is that he will provide an answer by then about whether there are tapes.
And I think that the assumption now is that there are not tapes, given the President's comment on Friday, which is, when he said to reporters, "You're going to be disappointed when you get the answer." I can tell you, we would not be disappointed if the answer was there were tapes. The disappointing answer will be there are not tapes that would definitively resolve who's telling the truth between James Comey and Donald Trump.
HARLOW: So, David, there seems to be new Republican leadership strategy from some on the Russia probe and how to message it. OK. You have them attacking Mueller.
Let me put up a tweet this morning from Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker. "Republicans are delusional if they think the Special Counsel is going to be fair. Look who he is hiring. Check FEC reports. Time to rethink."
This is a guy, who, a few weeks ago, John McCain said was a great choice for Special Counsel. Jason Chaffetz, also a Republican, called him someone with impeccable credentials. Senator Richard Burr was very complimentary of him. Why go after Mueller who served under Bush and Obama?
DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: So there's a difference between Trump partisans off the Hill and Republicans and Republican leaders on the Hill. And I don't think you're going to see anybody on the Hill on the Republican side, except for, you know, a few fringe members, who will go after Robert Mueller because they know that his integrity is unimpeachable. And it actually hurts their case to try and --
HARLOW: But Newt Gingrich knows that, too. So why do --
DRUCKER: Yes, but Newt Gingrich is an off the Hill Trump partisan who likes to be provocative and is sending the sort of message that, I think, we're going to see emerging from the Trump right out in the ether, which is, let's get Mueller and let's undercut him.
And I think that it's only a matter of time, given the patterns we've seen before, before Trump himself begins to tweet sort of asking questions about Mueller in an effort to send a message to his base that whatever this man finds, it's not to be trusted.
HARLOW: So, Alex, staying on the Russia beat for just a moment, the fact that Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in this open letter, that we all have a copy of, I was going to go in front of these House and Senate subcommittees to talk about something totally different, but all these reports that they are going to ask me, about the Russia probe. Since I recused myself, I'm going to send Rosenstein to do that instead, and then he is going to testify in front of the Senate Intel Committee, maybe publicly or maybe behind closed doors.
Increasing concern on Capitol Hill from some lawmakers that that is to avoid public testimony on Russia. How do you see it?
ALEX BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Look, I think that you have to interpret the way that Jeff Sessions is approaching this, within the context of him being a much more conventional politician than virtually anybody else that we're talking about in this Russia probe.
HARLOW: Yes, a senator for many years.
BURNS: That's right. He was a career politician, the definition basically of a career politician. And the fact that he's now serving in the Trump administration doesn't necessarily change that. So this is a guy who has been under fire the last few weeks from within the White House, from within the administration, and from without after the Comey testimony last weekend.
[09:10:01] And what a conventional politician would do under these circumstances, if they feel they have nothing to hide, is go out and try to clear their own name, right?
And that's something that, you know, Republicans in general -- we just heard Susan Collins say, I don't understand why the President wouldn't just simply put some of these questions to rest. If you're Jeff Sessions and you feel that you can put the questions to rest, there's no reason why you wouldn't do it.
DRUCKER: And substantively, we should understand -- substantively -- Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump are aligned. But temperamentally, they could not be more different.
HARLOW: Well, certainly, the reporting that Sessions, you know, offered to recuse -- recuse himself, he did recuse himself -- resign because the President was getting in the way of him being able to do his job as Attorney General with all of these statements and all of these tweets.
Something that really struck us over the weekend, Susan, and that is what another Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, said about the President and needing to keep his mouth and his tweets limited. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And I don't think what was said amounts to obstruction of justice. Now, what the President did was inappropriate, but here's what's so frustrating for Republicans like me. You may be the first president in history to go down because you can't stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that, if you just were quiet, would clear you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAGE: So, you know, this is something you're really beginning to hear from more Republicans on the Hill privately, which is the bigger threat to Donald Trump's presidency is not the Russia investigation, it's the way he's handling it. It's the way he's responding and his tendency towards self-inflicted wounds and provocative tweets that do not serve his interest, not his political interest, and over the long haul, perhaps not his legal interest either.
We're hearing more and more warning signs from people like Senator Graham and from Ari Fleischer, the former White House Press Secretary, and from others, saying, please change the manner in which you're responding to this very serious matter.
HARLOW: From an increasing number of Republicans. I will say, just one observation, with no real -- I don't know if this is the case, but you know when he didn't tweet a lot, guys, that's when he was at those nine, 10 days overseas on that trip.
And guess who was by his side the whole time? Melania Trump. And she is now living in the White House, by the way. She just moved in with Baron over the weekend. So maybe we will see a few limits to the President's tweets. We'll see.
David, let me get your read on this, just staying on the beat of Republicans criticizing the President here like Lindsey Graham said, over the weekend that we just played. You have Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma saying that his interactions with Comey, after he heard Comey testify, were, quote, "very inappropriate."
You have Susan Collins saying, release the tapes and we want to know more, questioning the President. And you have Senator Mike Lee of Utah, about Comey's testimony, saying, quote, "He doesn't strike me as someone who would lie under oath."
Is this a problem for the White House? These are all Republican senators. DRUCKER: Well, of course, it's a problem. And I think what
Republicans are trying to say subtly is, cut it out. The Republicans on the Hill have nothing to gain by taking Trump down because the voters are not going to reward them for moving against the President.
On the other hand, they need to walk this line of not completely endorsing all of this behavior because they don't know where the investigation's going to go because that could be equally detrimental to them. And so I think they're trying to support the President where they can. But where they feel they need to send a message because, privately, they are very, very concerned, they're trying to do that.
I thought Lindsey Graham's comment was very prescient. What he's trying to tell the President is, I don't think you did anything wrong. But the way you are --
HARLOW: Yes, he said that.
DRUCKER: And he's trying to encourage him by saying that, I don't believe he did anything wrong.
HARLOW: This is, of course, after the President said on Friday, a hundred percent, in response to Jonathan Karl's question, I am willing to testify under oath, come in front of Congress, which, I think, had his lawyers saying, why would you offer that up?
Yes, go ahead.
BURNS: And, look, you know, that comment from Lindsey Graham, I think, was a little bit cute in that there are plenty of Republicans who are actually deeply concerned that something that was inappropriate and potentially illegal did happen, right? But the way they are framing their conversation about the investigation, in order to be safe within a partisan context, is to say, look, Bob Mueller is the only one with the credibility to clear you.
The fact that they may privately have grave concerns about whether Mueller will clear the President is kind of irrelevant to them at this point, if they can just sort of get through a short-term conversation about the investigation and then let that investigation go where it's going to go.
HARLOW: All right. Guys, thank you very much. Susan Page, thank you as well.
We have a lot ahead. "Show us the tapes," you're hearing that, as we said, from more and more Republicans as well. If recordings of the President's conversations with Comey exists, lawmakers say, cough them up. More reaction from Capitol Hill ahead.
Plus, it would be a risky move but will Bill Cosby actually speak out in court today as his trial continues? All eyes on that.
And a shakeup at Uber? The CEO could be out temporarily, potentially a leave of absence, amid accusations that management brushed off claims of sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Reaction from Capitol Hill on Comey's testimony in the Russia investigation is pouring in. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle now calling for the president to turn over the Comey tapes if they exist.
Remember, the president is the one who brought up the potential of tapes in the first place, this as top senators on the Intelligence Committee are said to meet with Special Counsel Robert Mueller this week amid the Russia investigations.
Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with more on this. They're buzzing even more and more after what the president said in his Friday press conference, saying of course, I would testify in front of congressional committees, 100 percent, if asked. What else are you hearing?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, it's really hard to imagine that you could top last week all the anticipation and the attention around what's happening on Capitol Hill, but this is one of those weeks that could rival last week all of that around the buzz and the riveting testimony of former FBI Director James Comey.
This week it's going to be on the hot seat, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The debate that is going on right now with the Senate Intelligence Committee is whether or not first of all he should go and testify before them, what format it would take, if it's privately or publicly.
This all of this after he submitted a letter on Saturday over the weekend saying that he was canceling his appearances before the House and Senate Budgetary Committees, Appropriations Committees.
[09:20:08]To go ahead and offer himself on Tuesday to go before the Senate Intelligence Committee saying that in fact was a better venue, more appropriate to answer questions about Russia and things like that, the Comey firing, and so we will see.
There will be discussions that will be had also with Robert Mueller to see what will be the appropriate nature of this. Some real concerns from Democrats, including Mark Warner essentially believing that this is a way for him to avoid speaking publicly in a public forum.
At the same time, Poppy, you mentioned as well there is growing pressure for lawmakers to make those tapes available if they exist from President Trump and his discussions with Comey, and they are debating on just how far they will go to make that happen. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I don't think a subpoena should be necessary, and I don't understand why the president just doesn't clear this matter up, once and for all.
SENATOR JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: I hope there are recordings for Jim Comey's sake if that's out there. I doubt they're there. We've also pressed the White House to try to get a firm answer from them on that.
SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: If there aren't tapes, he should let that be known. No more game playing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Poppy, there's another committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat on that committee who are saying they, too, want a bite of Comey. They want him to testify before their committee. They say it's more appropriate because they deal with matters of whether or not the Justice Department is behaving badly or not. We'll see if that happens.
The other thing that they are pushing forward is Comey's friend, law professor who has those memos, his name Daniel Richmond. He has those memos that Comey gave to him regarding his discussions with the president.
They gave him a Friday deadline to make those memos public to turn them at least over to their committee. We expect there's going to be some movement on that later today.
HARLOW: We'll be watching. Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
Joining us now is Democratic Representative Ted Deutch of Florida. Nice to have you here, Congressman. Thanks for joining us.
REPRESENTATIVE TED DEUTCH (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS, JUDICIARY AND ETHICS COMMITTEES: It's good to be with you, Poppy. Thanks.
HARLOW: So you hear this growing chorus of Republicans as well calling for if there are tapes, show us the tapes. Do you think there are tapes?
DEUTCH: Well, I don't know if there are tapes, but it's really confusing why the president would continue to drag this out. The president called James Comey a liar and suggested there are tapes that would prove it.
It seems to me that if those tapes existed, he would have released them by now, but what you heard is a handful of Republicans saying that he should just be clear if the tapes exist, then provide them and if the tapes don't exist, tell us as much.
We need to see that turn into a loud drum beat. This is not a partisan issue, when the president of the United States talks about taping people in his White House, we have an obligation, he has an obligation to let us know whether it's accurate or not. Stop playing games. Poppy, I would just add Senator Feinstein really makes an important point. While the investigations continue into the connections between the Trump campaign, Trump White House and Russia, we now have the obstruction of justice concerns and the place where those hearings should take place is in the judiciary committee. It's true --
HARLOW: So let me ask you about that because she was asked about that on "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday by Brianna Keilar and she said look, Judiciary is made up of a lot of attorneys. We should be part of this. We should be overseeing an obstruction investigation if there is obstruction.
You, not a senator, but you sit on the House Judiciary Committee. Let's say the president did come and testify in front of you, he said he certainly displayed a willingness to on Friday in that press conference. What would you ask him?
DEUTCH: Well, I think the House Judiciary Committee is an important place for this hearing to take place and I suggested as soon as the president said he would come that he would testify under oath he should come to our committee.
And I think members should have the opportunity to ask the president of the United States of whether he is accusing James Comey of lying in all of the statements that Comey made, including the ones that he made, the writings that he made contemporaneously.
All of the discussions that he had with people who are close to him at the Justice Department about those meetings with the president, we ought to hear from the president. We also ought to hear from the attorney general. We ought to hear from the deputy attorney general as well.
HARLOW: Let me ask you about the attorney general because the Attorney General Jeff Sessions has switched, sort of flip-flopped hearings and letting his Deputy Rosenstein testify today in front of those subcommittees instead of him, and those were public and he was going to be pressed by lawmakers on the Russia probe.
He said he will testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he says that's the appropriate venue. Some Democratic members of Congress are saying that's just really a way to try to get out of testifying publicly about this. Is that how you see it?
[09:25:07]DEUTCH: Well, it certainly looks like he's trying to avoid testifying publicly, but he can't be allowed to avoid that. There are just too many questions about the attorney general, including questions arising from James Comey's testimony, acknowledgment by Comey that they expected him to recuse himself.
We need to understand whether there were additional meetings with the Russians that he didn't disclose. We need to understand why he was involved in Comey's firing, even after he said he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, when Comey was fired because of the Russia investigation. There are too many questions for the attorney general to answer publicly to try to hide and avoid those public hearings. He ought to do it, ought to be in front of the Judiciary Committee, the place that has oversight over the criminal justice system in this country.
HARLOW: We will see this testimony that he is likely to give tomorrow in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, may indeed be public, we need to find out. I think a lot of people certainly hope it is for transparency reasons. I got to ask you this, as a Democrat, you guys cannot run in 2018, 2020 on Russia. And Bernie Sanders was very critical of the party as a whole over the weekend. Here's what he said in Chicago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am often asked, I'm often asked by the media and others, how did it come about that Donald Trump the most unpopular presidential candidate in the modern history of our country won the election, and my answer is -- and my answer is that Trump didn't win the election. The Democratic Party lost the election. The Democratic Party must finally understand which side it is on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Is he right, Congressman? Do Democrats ahead of 2018, 2020, really need to reconcile these differing wings of your own party?
DEUTCH: Well, I think, Poppy, if you take a look at the Democrats in the House over the past few weeks, you see a caucus standing firmly on the side of the American people as we fought against the terrible health care plan bill that will --
BERMAN: So you're saying he's wrong? I have 45 seconds. I want to know if you think Bernie Sanders is right or wrong. Do Democrats have a problem that you need to fix?
DEUTCH: Well, what I believe is that Democrats are clearly on -- when Bernie Sanders says that the Democrats need to be on the right side, it's pretty clear if you look at everything that has transpired since this president was elected, whether it's health care or Dodd-Frank, standing up for consumers, women, standing up for the middle class and working to ensure everyone has access to a good job that is where the Democrats are.
Unfortunately, that's exactly the opposite of the message that we've heard from President Trump, that told us when he ran those were going to be his priorities, instead he's fought to repeal health care, repeal Dodd-Frank, go after consumers and working people.
That's what's been so disappointing and that's why Democrats have so much enthusiasm as we head into the challenges and battles ahead.
HARLOW: I hear you, but you could have answered the question, the exact same way before the election, you guys lost the election. Bernie Sanders is making a plea ahead of the next round of elections. We'll have you back to talk about it more, Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida, thank you.
DEUTCH: Thank you.
HARLOW: We are minutes away from the opening bell on Wall Street. A lot of eyes this morning on not a public company, that's Uber and a big public company, General Electric. Our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans is here. First on Uber, what's going on?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Uber has got a really bad reputation, and Eric Holder, the former attorney general has just finished a big internal investigation about what many called the programmer, Silicon Valley guy culture that may have led to sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, Eric Holder's team looking into that.
And last night the board of Uber has unanimously voted to accept those recommendations. We don't know exactly what that's going to mean in terms of management.
But there's a lot of chatter this morning that Travis Kalanek, the founder of this company may be out. He may be taking a leave of absence or may be changing his role entirely. Tomorrow we'll find out more what is happening there. Lot of talk about Uber. Also talking about --
HARLOW: General Electric, an iconic CEO guy who led this company for a really long time.
ROMANS: Right. A big industrial tech icon, he joined GE in 1982, he's been the CEO since 2001 and now the company is saying he will retire in August. He will be the chairman until the end of the year. He'll be stepping down August 1st.
Interesting because the stock is up about 3 percent pre-market trade. The stock has underperformed the rest of the market over the past year so you might remember Jack Welch was his predecessor, and the company got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger.