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Trump Versus Comey; Will Bill Cosby Take The Stand In His Own Defense?; California Challenges President Trump's Agenda; War On Terror Ramping Up Under President Trump; Jeff Sessions To Testify Before Senate Intel Panel. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 12, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: The president's attorney weighed in on these questions -- listen.


JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: The president said he's going to address the issue of the tapes -- whether the tapes exist or not -- next week. That's a decision that the president will make in consultation with his chief lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, and the president said he'll address it next week.


CAMEROTA: OK, so will we actually find something out this week? Joining us now to discuss is former George W. Bush political director Matt Schlapp, and senior editor of "The Atlantic," David Frum. Gentlemen, nice to see you.





CAMEROTA: -- do you think that President Trump tapes his conversations inside the White House?

SCHLAPP: It's a great question and I'll be honest with you, I've asked everybody I can think of about what gets taped in the Oval Office and what doesn't. I don't think -- I think if there's a -- I do not think there are any tapes of any in-person conversations between these two gentlemen or any other folks, but I do -- I am told by a lot of people in the intelligence community that, you know, a lot of -- some conversations are taped, especially with, you know, world leaders and such --


SCHLAPP: -- and certainly listened in on, so --

CAMEROTA: But that's different.

SCHLAPP: Sure, it is different, so my guess is there's nothing here to this.

CAMEROTA: OK. So then, my next question to you again, Matt, is are you comfortable with the President of the United States threatening and suggesting something that's not true?

SCHLAPP: Well, I think if there are no tapes, I think that -- implying that there might be tapes, I think is not the right strategy to use, for sure. But once again, there is confusion -- there is a bit of confusion about what gets taped in terms of phone conversations, not meetings --


SCHLAPP: -- in the Oval Office and maybe they're tracking that down.

CAMEROTA: OK. David Frum, your thoughts on this?

FRUM: Yes, I agree with Matt. I don't think there are tapes. Donald Trump has a long history of intimating the existence of recordings in order to intimidate people. He did that with his biographer, Tim O'Brien, for example. And he will say there's a recording, you better watch out, and of course, it's untrue, as so much the president says is untrue.

It's also hard to imagine the mechanics of the taping of the president's conversations with Jim Comey. The most important conversation took place over dinner, not in the West Wing, but in the White House mansion, so recording there -- and the two were alone. So either the president was fumbling around with his record app on his smartphone or somehow the permanent civil service employees of the White House had been prevailed on to install listening devices. I find that latter hard to imagine. I think if it had happened we'd know about it by now.

CAMEROTA: But Matt, is there something troubling about not knowing when to trust what the President of the United States says?

SCHLAPP: You know, Alisyn, this is kind of a recurring theme and the fact is this. I know that there are people that are skeptical of Donald Trump and they -- you know, they're not his biggest fans. And I think that when it comes to these questions about what happened with Jim Comey or not, I think we should all -- I think all your questions are fair, including my questions about whether or not Jim Comey always tells the truth, as well.


SCHLAPP: But I think the fact is the American people are not going to -- they're going to have to look at these two gentlemen and they're going to have to make a determination. For people like me who worked with Jim Comey during the Bush years and for a lot of Democrats who have watched Jim Comey, they find him less than credible. CAMEROTA: Look, I get that before we get to Jim Comey's credibility in terms of sticking with the president's credibility, you, Matt, are skeptical.

SCHLAPP: No, no. I think the president --

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, you're the person who just said -- you just said I find it hard to believe that these tapes would exist and I don't think it's a winning strategy for him to suggest they do.

SCHLAPP: Well, I looked at his most recent tweet and he said Jim Comey better hope there are no tapes that exist. Now whether that's just a taunt at Jim Comey or not is for people to determine. I read that tweet as saying that, you know, boy, Jim Comey might be saying things that are less than the truth. And I know people -- look, I just talked to -- you had Judge Gonzalez on your show last week. We had him on our radio show over the weekend. There are a lot of people who have worked with Jim Comey --


SCHLAPP: -- who have issues with him --


SCHLAPP: -- and I think that's the point the president is trying to make.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, David, you hear -- you hear the talking points and the perspective from the other side, which is James Comey is -- can be an unreliable witness or narrator, so how can Americans and voters figure out who to believe here?

FRUM: President Trump, again, and his administration, almost within the first week by paying a $25 million settlement in a fraud case -- a case he said he would never settle. During the campaign, a Super PAC opposed to Donald Trump put together a tape -- people can see it on YouTube -- of Donald Trump saying "I never said that" followed instantly by the thing he said he never said. Donald Trump has put out just -- he -- as a former vice mayor of New York said of him, who dealt with him in a business context, "Donald Trump is so dishonest that I wouldn't believe him if his tongue were notarized."

Remember, he told us during the campaign that his business had no debt, and yet "The New York Times" discovered that there was a multi- hundred-million-dollar mortgage on one of his buildings to the Bank of China. What he meant was no American bank would lend to him and that's because they don't trust him.

[07:35:10] Donald Trump is the least trustworthy person not only ever to hold the office of the president -- that doesn't do justice to it -- he may be the least trustworthy person ever to hold federal office in our lifetime. He just lies habitually. And probably the best defense for the supporters of Donald Trump is that the president lies so much that it raises the question whether he can have any strategic plan -- SCHLAPP: Dave --

FRUM: -- in his lying. It's so compulsive and often so counterproductive that the defense would be -- it doesn't indicate --


FRUM: It doesn't indicate dishonesty, it indicates disconnection from reality.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Matt.

SCHLAPP: Yes, I think -- let's go back to the facts at hand here. I think what we're talking about is an investigation about whether -- about, you know -- with a lot of questions, including whether or not the president was a target of that investigation. I think for a lot of us who consume a lot of news on a daily basis there was certainly the impression that the FBI was investigating Donald Trump as a person --

CAMEROTA: I don't know about that.

SCHLAPP: -- and it was --

CAMEROTA: I don't know about that, Matt. I mean, I think that what we've always talked about are the people around Donald Trump. I mean, the names that we always keep hearing -- hear coming up. The Carter Pages, the Paul Manaforts, the Jeff Sessions, you know, and so --

SCHLAPP: I'm not leveling a personal charge but I'm saying I think there was an impression that was restated continually that the president was under investigation. I do think he grew frustrated over the fact --


SCHLAPP: -- that the FBI director would tell him on multiple occasions that he wasn't being investigated but, yet, there wasn't that clarity in the public.


SCHLAPP: And as we all know, these questions have a corrosive effect on someone's political standing. So, David can go through all the past but I'd like to talk about what's happening now.

CAMEROTA: All right, Matt, let's save that. We'll have an opportunity to do that, no doubt, for the rest of this week. Matt Schlapp, David Frum, thank you very much.

SCHLAPP: Thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All right. A rematch in the production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" getting the attention and sparking outrage, so does it go too far? We'll discuss, next.


[07:40:45] BERMAN: In less than two hours, lawyers representing Bill Cosby will be giving his side of the story. Cosby's defense ready to call its first witness in the comedian's indecent assault trial, but will Cosby himself take the stand? CNN's Jean Casarez has been following the trial from the beginning. She joins us now live with the details -- Jean.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, another interesting thing. When this trial started one week ago and for all of last week, we never saw a member of Bill Cosby's family -- not his daughter, not his wife. So when the defense arrives today and Bill Cosby does and they begin their case, we're all wondering will a member of his family be here?

Now, the prosecution concluded their case at the end of last week with two major witnesses. First of all, a toxicologist that testified if Andrea Constand had taken three pills of Benadryl, as she testified, that she definitely could have had the symptoms she said she had. The inability to stand, the inability to speak, double vision, and the inability to consent. Also, although Quaaludes are now illegal in the United States they are still available by prescription in Canada. And the final witness took the stand -- in Bill Cosby's deposition, the jury was told that Bill Cosby said in 2005 that "Did you given women drugs you wanted to have sex with?" "Yes." Bill Cosby says it was consensual, it was a woman he had an affair with, and it was a party drug.

Now the question is, Alisyn, who will the defense call to the stand? And remember, the defense doesn't have to prove anything. They don't have to put on any case, and the main thing the defense in this case is interested in is reasonable doubt that Bill Cosby drugged and assaulted Andrea Constand -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Jean, it will be very interesting to watch how it plays out today. Thank you very much for that reporting.

Meanwhile, this court case. Eighteen Penn State students will be in court this morning charged in connection with that hazing death of a fraternity pledge. Nineteen-year-old Timothy Piazza died after falling down a flight of stairs at a party. Some students allegedly assaulted Piazza trying, it appeared, to get him to regain consciousness. It was 12 hours before anyone called 911. Moments ago, Piazza's parents arrived at the courthouse. Prosecutors expect to play surveillance video from inside that fraternity house party at today's hearing.

BERMAN: California has turned into the center of resistance toward President Trump on issues such as climate change and immigration. CNN's Kyung Lah sat down with state leaders to find out why.


GOV. JERRY BROWN, (D) CALIFORNIA: We're not opposing for the sake of opposition. I'm opposing to uphold the truth.

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The truth, says California's governor, is what drives his opposition to President Trump. Jerry Brown, the head of the most vocal state resisting Trump --

BROWN: Thank you for being here.

LAH: -- now calling open season on the White House withdrawal of the Paris Accord. The governor continuing cooperation in a climate deal with a German government. The German Environment Minister in San Francisco instead of Washington.

BROWN: But this is very good that we're here.

LAH: That comes fresh off a weeklong trip in China where Gov. Brown signed green technology agreements, expanded climate deals, and met with President Xi Jinping in what could be mistaken for a visit by a foreign head of state.

You're the governor of the state. The president of this country has directed our policy to go a different way.

BROWN: Well, we're in a very unusual, unprecedented situation in America. We've never had a president like Donald Trump. And, in fact, he stands against the world and he won't be able to stand, I don't think, much longer.

LAH: Since Trump's election, California has been ground zero for the opposition. The overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature working on a flurry of laws, from one that makes the entire state a sanctuary for immigrants to proposing its own single-payor health care system.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: California, in many ways, is out of control.

LAH: President Trump unable to ignore the state's rebellion, pledging to pull federal funds from California if the state doesn't fall in line.

[07:45:00] TRUMP: If we have to, we'll defund.

XAVIER BECERRA, CA ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you don't get in our way, no problems. If you want to get in our way, that's where I come in.

LAH: He is Xavier Becerra, California's attorney general -- the top cop in the state brought in by Gov. Brown in part because of his two decades in Washington as a congressman, now spending much of his time in his new job filing lawsuits defending California's path away from Washington.

BECERRA: California is a forward-leaning state and it's worked. We're prepared to resist any effort to diminish the rights of the people of the state of California.

LAH: California's leaders leveraging their state's economic heft. In the last seven years, the world's sixth largest economy created more jobs than most other states.

As powerful as California is, can one state make much of a difference?

BROWN: One state can by getting other states to follow and getting other countries to join in in this coalition. Yes. If we were isolated -- California all by itself -- no, we couldn't have the impact. But we're not isolated.

LAH: A battle cry as California leads in the fight ahead. Kyung Lah, CNN, Sacramento, California.


CAMEROTA: OK, now to this headline. The latest Shakespeare in the Park play is sparking outrage. This production portrays a reimagined Julius Caesar, basically, as Donald Trump being assassinated. Several companies, including Delta and Bank of America, have pulled their support from this controversial production and the president's son Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter saying, "I wonder how much of this 'art' is funded by taxpayers? Serious question, when does 'art' become political speech and does that change things?"

BERMAN: I mean, obviously, this follow the Kathy Griffin thing so there is some sensitivity to it. I will say about Julius Caesar -- you know, every version of Julius Caesar, he dies. Like, he gets killed in every version of it.

CAMEROTA: But he's not normally wearing a blue power tie --


CAMEROTA: -- and a business suit and looking a lot like Donald Trump. I mean, what is the difference between this and what Kathy Griffin did?

BERMAN: You know, it's an interesting discussion and now you can see why the companies feel queasy with it.

CAMEROTA: I know. I mean, I don't want to put any limits on art but, I mean, haven't we established after Kathy Griffin that depicting the assassination of a U.S. president in jest is out of bounds?

BERMAN: Again, I think the question is what she did different --


BERMAN: -- than Julius Caesar, where Caesar always dies --


BERMAN: -- at the end there, but open for interpretation.

CAMEROTA: Let us know what you think.

BERMAN: U.S. troops in harm's way in more countries in the war on terror. What is President Trump's strategy? A live report from the Pentagon, next.


[07:51:13] CAMEROTA: U.S.-backed Syrian forces launching a fresh round of airstrikes, seizing parts of Raqqa. The battle comes as the U.S. military is conducting its first offensive strike in Somalia, targeting terrorists under some new powers granted by President Trump. CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more. It sounds like a very busy week. What's happening there, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. U.S. troops in harm's way in so many places under the Trump administration. In the latest, we can tell you just a short time ago it was announced a U.S. convoy in Afghanistan in an area where they're fighting ISIS came under small arms attack. No injuries there but it underscores what is happening in Somalia over the weekend, in the Horn of Africa, the first U.S. airstrikes under these expanded authorities under the Trump administration against an al Qaeda affiliate there. That al Qaeda group now armed with heavy weapons and armored vehicles.

In Syria, the fight in Raqqa -- U.S. troops will be there as advisers. But during last week there were several airstrikes there in southern Syria against forces backed by Iran and the regime. Those are forces the U.S. doesn't want to get involved with -- they want to stick with ISIS -- but airstrikes expanding there as well.

In the Philippines, U.S. special operations forces are now in the southern Philippines at the request of the government there, helping them fight ISIS. And circling back in Afghanistan we have now seen over the weekend, very sadly, three U.S. troops killed in a so-called insider attack by someone posing as an Afghan soldier. Again, in this area of eastern Afghanistan where they are fighting ISIS very heavily. Will any of this put ISIS and al Qaeda out of business? Probably not -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks so much. We want to discuss this more with CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby. Certainly, you know, the United States now actively involved in these new hotspots all around the world, Admiral, but is this, in fact, a new strategy?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST, NAVY REAR ADMIRAL (RET.), FORMER STATE DEPT. SPOKESPERSON & PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I don't know that it's a new strategy. It's certainly some more aggressive tactics and procedures being applied here but I think you need to keep this in perspective. Some of this is a continuation of the previous administration's counterterrorism efforts. We see that in Syria and Iraq. It was the previous administration that put together the 68-member-now coalition to go after ISIS. It's the same thing in the Philippines. We've had a counterterrorism presence there advising and assisting in the Philippines and so they're being moved into the south into new operations, but it's not a new thing.

Some of this is an acceleration. You've seen that in Yemen. We've seen that in Libya with the president's delegating more authorities to the Pentagon and they're able to do things a little faster, a little bit more aggressively. You're seeing that now in Afghanistan. The enemy gets a vote. We now have ISIS more actively involved in Afghanistan that we did before so our troops are now -- who were already there and a C.T. presence -- or counterterrorism presence -- are now going after ISIS more aggressively in Afghanistan.

And some of this unquestionably, John is an expansion and we've seen that over the weekend with this strike on Somalia. That is a first. That is something new. I think it's a combination of things but, clearly, they're more aggressive.

CAMEROTA: So -- but John, do you understand President Trump's strategy for fighting ISIS? I think, if memory serves, that he had promised to either release his strategy within like the first 30 days of his presidency to talk about fighting ISIS. Maybe he has done so to his generals but does it seem to you that this is just a military strategy now or is there something broader happening?

KIRBY: Yes, that's exactly my concern, Alisyn, is that -- I don't know what strategy they have. If they've developed it I don't think they've promulgated it so I won't speak to that. But when you listen to President Trump and his surrogates talk about terrorism and the threat, and the very real threat that it poses -- you hear them talk about it almost purely in militaristic terms. In very -- in very aggressive military terms.

[07:55:13] There's no discussion or very little discussion -- I think to be fair to them they have mentioned it a couple of times -- but there's very little discussion about getting at the root causes of extremism and terrorism. Working on issues of poverty and human rights and corruption overseas and that's a real problem there because this is a generational conflict. We've been at this now for at least 16 years very aggressively on the ground and we're going to be at it for a much longer time.

You cannot kill your way out of a terrorism problem. You -- we can -- we can hit these guys as often as we want and as aggressively as we want but we're never going to kill the problem of terrorism. You have to get at the root causes. And I don't see a comprehensive, cohesive -- you know, multifaceted strategy in the works right now.

BERMAN: Admiral, if I can, I want to ask you about another diplomatic hotspot in the world right now. Ironically enough, it's the United Kingdom.


BERMAN: President Trump, if you're reading "The New York Times" this morning, perhaps reconsidering a visit to the U.K. maybe because of his back-and-forth with the mayor of London. We don't know, but what would that signify to you if the President of the United States is either a) not welcome, or b) not willing to go to one of America's closest allies?

KIRBY: It's troubling. I mean, I -- this is -- this is -- as you rightly said, this is our closest ally. This is the relationship that -- the special relationship that we have here with the United Kingdom, and for the President of the United States to either not be welcome or unwilling, it's a significant thing. Now look, I do understand the timing here with the snap election and the political uncertainty. Certainly, now is probably not a good time to go for any president, even if he was beloved, until things settle down in the U.K.

But as you know, this -- it gets beyond just the snap election. There's a real tension there. There's real dislike of President Trump and I don't think that's something that anybody should be proud of, and I think we all should be concerned about the fact that our own president -- our own commander in chief, you know, may not be welcome in London.

CAMEROTA: John Kirby, great to talk to you.

KIRBY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right. We're following a lot of news so let's get to it.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: If the attorney general's office has become a political office, that's bad for us all.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Will Sessions testify in public or behind closed doors?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: The Judiciary Committee has the oversight and it is very fitting for the attorney general to appear there.

JARRETT: Some on the committee were concerned that Sessions may be trying to avoid testifying publicly.

TRUMP: No collusion, no obstruction, he's a leaker.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Lordy, I hope there are tapes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks more like an inappropriate conversation than obstruction.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: If there are tapes we should make them public right away. No more game- playing.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, June 12th, 8:00 in the East. Chris is off and John Berman joins me. Another busy day.

BERMAN: A lot going on right now.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you.

BERMAN: So, Attorney General Jeff Sessions offering to testify before the Senate Intel Committee tomorrow. He says he's ready to answer questions about Russia and James Comey's firing, but will he do it in front of cameras in an open session?

BERMAN: President Trump slamming James Comey anew, calling him "cowardly" for leaking details of their conversations. Republicans want the president to come clean about whether tapes really exist about the conversations with Comey. This, as we are seeing Republicans now attacking the special counsel, Robert Mueller. This is a new development over the weekend. We have it all covered. Let's being with CNN's Laura Jarrett live in Washington. Jeff Sessions -- we still don't know whether this testimony will be public, Laura.

JARRETT: We sure don't, John. The attorney general's agreement to appear before that Senate intelligence panel caught members bysurprise over the weekend and one big question is still unanswered. Will Sessions testify in public or behind closed doors or some combination of both? Lawmakers have been clamoring for weeks to question Sessions on everything from the firing of former FBI director James Comey to any undisclosed contacts that Sessions might have had with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Now, sources tell CNN that a number of senators are concerned that Sessions may be trying to avoid testifying in public by scrapping previously scheduled appearances in front of the Appropriation Committees on Tuesday, but members of the intel panel say if Sessions does testify they want to hear him respond to some of Comey's revelations last week.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, (R), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: One of the key things we've got to get, obviously, his side of the story related to Jim Comey. Some of the conversations that Jim Comey had with the president where Jeff Sessions was a participant there, or at least was around, and be able to get the rest of the story. Comey's statement to him of hey, I don't want to get time alone with the president again and that interaction, as well as these accusations that are flying out there about conversations that he might or might not have had with the Russians prior to the election. So we want to be able to get his side of it and get all the facts out there.


JARRETT: The chairman of the Intel Committee hasn't actually said yet whether this hearing is going to go forward tomorrow.