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Massive Fire engulfs London Apartment Building; Sessions: Russia Collusion Claim a 'Detestable Lie'; Trump Tells Republican Senators to Get Health Care Done. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 14, 2017 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:57:06] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We do begin with breaking news for you. An inferno is engulfing a 24-story apartment building in London. As you can see on your screen, flames are shooting out the windows. And this is a fast-moving blaze. It broke out in the middle of the night. Fire officials say several people are dead. We don't have the exact numbers right now, but dozens are hurt.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Right. We're showing you pictures from the beginning part of a blaze. They've obviously been fighting it. But they're dealing with a lot of complexities here. Many of the residents are missing. People are describing watching victims jump from the buildings, hearing cries for help. CNN's Phil Black is live at the scene in West London with the breaking details -- Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, this fire started in the middle of the night, around 1 a.m. local time. And what made it so devastating, by all witness accounts, is its speed. It moved through the building incredibly quickly. And of course, at an hour when most people were at home sleeping. We understand there are 125 families living in that building.

As the fire moved through, well, of course, panic, fear set in. A lot of people realized something was going on, smelled smoke and heard the commotion and simply ran and have told us incredible stories about their flight from the building.

Other people in the neighborhood, well, they're the ones that have to witness things from a distance. Terrible things, knowing that people could very well be dying and not be able to help. Take a listen to a couple of people we spoke to earlier today who witnessed all of this unfold.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just horrific. It is so awful to see. And watching people in the windows, waving and shouting for help and screaming. And then just seeing the flats sort of engulfed in smoke.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are actual bodies there. Kids, women, men. There were bodies all there that have been a result of them jumping out and trying to save themselves. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACK: So around nine hours after the blaze first broke out, you can see that the firefighters are still trying to deal with flames within the building itself. They've made a lot progress, because through the night, the flames were leaping out of the windows for much of the night.

But even now, still burning, still smoldering. Crucially, we do not know what the human cost of all of this is. The authorities here have confirmed that people have died. They have not yet discussed numbers. They are still sweeping that building to try and determine that terrible detail -- Chris and Alisyn.

CUOMO: And we know that there's been a tremendous amount of resources and coordination trying to make it through there. We've heard different accounts from the firefighters. Phil, I'm sure you have, as well, about the hell that they're dealing with inside that building.

This is far from over. We'll check back with you. Thank you for the reporting. Stay safe.

All right. Now to our other top story this morning. Attorney General Jeff Sessions vehemently denying that he or anybody in the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. The embattled A.G. calls the accusations a "detestable lie." Democrats are accusing Sessions of stonewalling, refusing to answer questions that he could have. CNN's Athena Jones live at the White House with more -- Athena.


For all the reporting about a deteriorating relationship between President Trump and Attorney General Sessions. Sessions' loyalty to the president was on vivid display during yesterday's hearing. Sources tell CNN the president watched the hearing during the flight from Washington to his event in Milwaukee. And a White House spokeswoman says the president thinks Sessions did, quote, "a very good job."


JONES (voice-over): At times emotional...

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The suggestion that I participated in any collusion is an appalling and detestable lie.

JONES: ... at times combative.

SESSIONS: Why don't you tell me? They are none, Senator Wyden.

This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don't appreciate it.

JONES: Attorney General Jeff Sessions came out swinging at his Senate hearing Tuesday, forcefully denying any collusion with Russia to interfere in the election. SESSIONS: I have never met with or had any conversation with any

Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.

JONES: But for all the fireworks, Sessions refused to answer several key questions, despite the fact that President Trump did not invoke executive privilege. Sessions wouldn't say what he spoke with the president about before recommending the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

SESSIONS: I'm not able to discuss with you, or confirm or deny the nature of the private conversations that I may have had with the president.

JONES: Or whether the Russia probe was a factor in this decision.

SESSIONS: I'll just have to let his words speak for himself.

JONES: Sessions also silent on whether the president was upset over his refusal, a decision Sessions said he felt compelled to make, because he was an adviser to the Trump campaign. Not because of any wrongdoing.

SESSIONS: I recused myself from any investigation into the campaign for president, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations.

JONES: The attorney general blames Comey's handling of the e-mail investigation for his firing. A far cry from a year ago. Democratic senators lashing out over the attorney general's refusal to answer questions.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: I believe the American people have had it with stonewalling.

You're not answering questions. You're impeding this investigation.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: What is the basis of your refusal to answer these questions?

SESSIONS: I am protecting the right of the president to exert it -- assert it, if he chooses.

JONES: Republicans coming to Sessions' defense.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Have you ever, in any of these fantastical situations, heard of a plot line so ridiculous that a sitting United States senator and an ambassador of a foreign government colluded, at an open setting, with hundreds of other people?

JONES: Sessions confirmed Comey's account of the now-famous Oval Office meeting in February, where the president cleared the room so that he could talk to Comey alone. But Sessions downplayed its significance.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn't be leaving, which is why he was lingering.

SESSIONS: I left. It didn't seem to me to be a major problem.


JONES: It didn't seem to be a major problem, Sessions said there.

Now, one more point to add in all this. The White House said yesterday that President Trump has no intention of firing special counsel Robert Mueller, although deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say whether the president has confidence in Mueller.

Sanders also confirmed that the president interviewed Mueller about the FBI director position one day before he was named as special counsel -- Alisyn, Chris.

CAMEROTA: Athena, thank you very much.

So let's bring in our political panel to discuss all this. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory; reporter and editor at large for CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza; associate editor and columnist of Real Clear Politics, A.B. Stoddard. Great to have all of you.

David Gregory, how did the Sessions testimony go? What did you learn?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think we learned a whole lot about what they're really investigating, right, which is what did the Russians do? How did they interfere in the election? Who might have been involved? You know, sensibly, there are a lot of questions about those contacts that the attorney general had with Russian officials, the Russian ambassador, not all of which were disclosed, that raised real questions.

[06:05:06] I think the level of frustration is how the attorney general handled these questions with what's been happening about the investigation. Not the underlying offense, but how the president's conducted himself. And in that, you know, you get him at odds with the FBI director, Jim Comey, somewhat.

But basically, he's not doing two things. He's not telling us what he discussed with the president. And he's only adding to the suspicion that somehow, you know, they all came around to thinking Jim Comey was doing a bad job once this Russia investigation got heated up; and -- and that they became so outraged with this handling of the Hillary Clinton situation, which they could have dealt with far earlier.

So I think Democrats and even some Republicans come away more frustrated. And I think this is a strong defender of the president who leaves the hearing with more support among Republicans who came to his defense.

CUOMO: So A.B., the -- one of the contradictions is that Sessions says, yes, you know, the way Comey was with the Russia investigation was the problem. But he also seemed to suggest that he had never been briefed on the Russia investigation, which is really weird to hear from the A.G. How is that playing and his questionable basis for his refusal to answer questions?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR/COLUMNIST, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. That was remarkable. All along, people have been asking in these -- in these -- asking different witnesses in these hearings whether or not President Trump has been concerned privately with the Russian interference in the election, since probably, he doesn't make any remarks where he ever expresses sort of the urgency of getting to the bottom of this.

CUOMO: Except to say that it's a hoax.

STODDARD: Right. And it could be the Chinese. But for Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, to say, "No, I haven't really been briefed on it," and -- and sort of concede that it's not really of great urgency to him either was really a strange part of this.

And also, in his answers about Comey, in which he did not refute the actual account that Comey gave about the private meeting, his discomfort over it, his communication to Sessions about the discomfort. Attorney General Sessions just didn't seem to think it was a big enough deal.

And as attorney general, he's supposed to think those boundaries are really significant. And so that, in and of itself, was strange.

I think there's not a lot of consensus, Chris, on whether or not he was allowed to use this kind of esoteric criteria for preserving the right of the president to later use executive privilege at another -- at another time down the road.

CUOMO: But just logically, if that's the way it worked, then the president would never have to assert a privilege. Because nobody would ever talk.

CAMEROTA: Preemptive protection he was giving.

STODDARD: I think it became clear to both Republicans and Democrats on that committee that Jeff Sessions is very loyal to the president. He's on the outs with him. That didn't come up. But he is straining to make sure he doesn't say anything that would be, quote/unquote, "revelatory." You know, so that -- so that Trump gets more incensed with him. That's why the president was pleased.

The White House always thinks it's a good day if nothing really new is revealed. These are open sessions. We don't know where Bob Mueller is going with this investigation. And the Comey firing is really now probably at the center of it. And so it doesn't mean that, because Sessions didn't do anything to make Donald Trump upset yesterday, that the president doesn't remain in legal -- in real legal trouble. It doesn't mean that he does.

And I think everyone there, including the Republicans, you know, asking him on the committee know that there were not a lot of answers to the central question, which is how this potential obstruction of justice was playing out in the private meeting. And the other conversations they still want to hear for the answers

to, which is the conversation with Admiral Rogers and DNI Dan Coats. So there remains too many questions without answers now.

CAMEROTA: Yes. So Chris Cillizza, Sessions invoked preemptive executive privilege, and he also couldn't recall many things. So let us play the times that he said that to these senators.


SESSIONS: It's conceivable that occurred. I just don't remember it. And I still do not recall it. Not to my recollection. I don't have any recognition or even knowing he would be there. So I don't recall that.

I don't recall any such conversation.

I don't recall it, Senator.

I don't -- not recall any of those individuals.


CAMEROTA: OK. So Chris Cillizza, what was your takeaway?

CILLIZZA: I started counting the number of "I do not recalls." But then it quickly went beyond my limited math skills, because he said it a lot.

Quickly on "I do not recall," the reason he's doing this is not terribly complex. It gives him an out, in the event that discovery of something contradicts his report. He can say, "I didn't say I didn't. I said I didn't recall."

[06:10:09] My take, Sessions, I think, wanted this hearing, which we were surprised, honestly. Remember, 96 hours ago, it was surprising that he agreed to it. He wanted it, because he felt personally insulted, and he wanted to push back. Felt like his character was under attack.

The parts of that hearing, with which he got emotional or mad were all about him feeling as though people were -- many of his former colleagues were suggesting he had colluded or done something with the Russians that he didn't do.

The thing that just doesn't make any sense, if you do as A.B. noted, if you do put the Comey firing in the center of this, the logic of how he gets to firing or recommending Comey be fired makes -- it just doesn't make any sense.

In July and then in October, he praises Comey. He never meets with Comey to say he's not doing a good job. He never has any conversations except, allegedly, with Rod Rosenstein before either of them were confirmed in their jobs, about Comey.

But then all of a sudden, he's signing off on a letter related to the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. And that's after Donald Trump has told them in a meeting he's going to fire Jim Comey.

So all of that doesn't really add up. The reason that Jim Comey was fired, we know, is because Donald Trump said it. The Russia thing.

CUOMO: Right.

CILLIZZA: You know, that was the part where it was clear he was -- he and Sessions are bending over backward and then backward again to make sure that he is selling the company line and not making Donald Trump angry. But that doesn't mean it makes sense.

CUOMO: Do you remember, David, back in 2014 or too long ago when Sessions was questioning Holder at a hearing; and Holder was talking about not wanting to reveal conversations with Obama and Sessions was pushing it as a senator then?

GREGORY: That was the Fast and Furious investigation.

CUOMO: Right. And he was saying, "Well, you can talk about it. There hasn't been any privilege." And my, how it has changed so quickly. Do you think he did himself any favors; do you think he did the president any favors in kind of denying any kind of curiosity about the investigation or the events with Comey or the conversations with Comey or his odd description of the lingering? Did you think he helped anything here, or was this just, "Let me not expose any more damage"?

GREGORY: Yes, I think it's more the latter. I mean, I think it was -- it was kind of bland in that respect. And I think it invites more scrutiny, frankly. I mean, the notion, you know, he wants us to believe a couple of things at once. One, that Comey was -- was not a good leader. That it was time for a fresh start.

And yet, he was such a professional that he could handle himself against, you know, pressure by the president and then he would have confidence in that. That just seems so thin.

But I think what comes across was clearly -- is what Chris was saying. That this was a good soldier who was going in and was defending the president while basically saying, "Look, I haven't been close enough to any of this to render judgment." And I think that's what comes out of it. And it's not going to -- he comes early enough in the process that there's still going to be a lot more questions about his role and particularly his role in the firing.

CAMEROTA: People can go online and read Chris Cillizza's "Winners and Losers." And just as a tease, one of the winners are The Cranberries, because they let it...

CUOMO: Linger.

CILLIZZA: I mean, there was a lot of talk of what lingering actually meant. Did -- why did he stay? Why was he one of the few people still left in the room? I mean, this -- I know I'm dorky, but this was totally fascinating to hear from the Comey angle and then the Sessions angle. CAMEROTA: And the Cranberries angle.

CUOMO: When lingering is...

CILLIZZA: There is always the Cranberries angle.

CUOMO: When lingering becomes loitering. But you know, you do have to remember, when Sessions raised his right hand, he pledged an oath to defend the Constitution, not just the president of the United States.

All right. We have a big show for you this morning. We're going to talk to a lot of the key players in this investigation. Take a look at your screen. We've got senators King and Harris. We have senators Blumenthal and Franken.

Yes, a lot of Democrats, because it's not easy to get the Republicans on to talk about this stuff. But we do have former U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzales, and we have Congressman Schiff and Republican Chris Stewart.

CAMEROTA: OK, well, he celebrated when it passed. Now President Trump thinks the House health care bill is, quote, "mean." He's calling on Senate Republicans to craft a kinder plan. Will that play with conservatives? What is that plan? We discuss it next.


[06:18:45] CAMEROTA: So President Trump now says the GOP's House health care bill that he celebrated earlier this year is, quote, "mean." He's calling on Republican senators to spend more money on their plan to make it, quote, "generous and kind.: Not exactly what conservatives wanted to hear.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with reaction.

What is the latest, Suzanne?


Well, you might recall that May ceremony in the White House, where those House Republicans were bussed to the White House. They were celebrating their victory, signing their health care legislation, their version of it.

Well, some of those members this morning feeling more like they are now under that bus. This happened just yesterday, with the president and vice president hosting Senate Republicans when the president made it very clear that he singled them out for appreciation. This group of about a dozen or so conservatives and moderates saying that yes, they had something that was kind and generous and that needed some more money.

When the cameras were not in front of him, however, sources tell us that he went even further, calling the House Bill version "mean," also calling it a "son of a 'B'," the expletive, as you might imagine, saying that there was not enough money that was necessary to take care of people in the marketplace and protect those people?

Well, House Republicans clearly disappointed in the language, understanding this is part of the negotiation process, but also feeling burned.


[06:20:06] REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: It's one of the things where I look at the president and say, "Mr. President, we're on the same side. Help us out here. Throw us a bone. We're clearly not trying to be mean to people. Quite the opposite. We're trying to help people."


MALVEAUX: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell setting a deadline to try to push this forward on the Senate side. That deadline being before the July Fourth recess. And so you can imagine the question now is whether or not the president helped or hurt his cause in trying to move forward key legislation -- Alisyn, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Suzanne, thank you very much.

The president seems to be keenly picking up on a real disconnect here. How are you helping the people who need the help most when so many of them will lose access to care? The congressman you say there from Utah, you're going to see him on the show this morning, defending his position. Let's bring back the panel. Chris Stewart, A.B. Stoddard, David Gregory, we have a little bit of an indication of why the president may be saying what he's saying.

His disapproval has hit a new high in the Gallup daily tracking poll: 60 percent disapproval. I mean, this is something that will put him in the history books, at least for now. Do you think this is also a reflection of him wanting to deal with this disapproval and dealing with an obvious cause for it.

GREGORY: And get a tangible accomplishment on Capitol Hill. I think that's what's so important. The president, White House officials have come back and said no. Health care is not dead. It's not dormant. The president is working this issue. We're actually going to get something done that can both repeal Obamacare and replace it. When we've known that's always going to be the difficult combination.

And it does focus on how much money you're prepared to pay. You know, at the end of this process, insurance companies have to be taken care of in order for enough people to have quality and affordable health care insurance.

So that comes through subsidies or grants that are large enough to the states to allow them to fund some kind of exchange and some ability for people to afford insurance. And I think that's where the rub is between a potential Senate deal and what you have in the House. And I just don't see, at this point, where the momentum is in the Senate among conservative Republican who don't want to pay as much as was being paid under Obamacare. And that's going to be difficult when you go back around pre-existing conditions and subsidies in this House legislation.

CAMEROTA: But A.B., it's not just a political maneuver on the part of President Trump. I mean, if we believe what he has said for years, he has been much more open to universal health care or something akin to that. That's what he has always said. Everyone needs to be covered. So do we have any sense of whether or not the Senate plan is kinder and gentler?

STODDARD: Well, let's start with this. The senators who are working on this have been trying to do it without the White House, because they know exactly where this sweet spot is between the moderates and the conservatives in their chamber and how to get to the vote.

If you remove the mandate and the taxes, President Trump, you will have trouble getting everyone covered and getting coverage they can afford. That's just the crux of the argument here. And so for him to come in there in this late hour and try to tell the Senate they need to make it -- you know, they need to boost the subsidies or provide more of a safety net is not something that's likely going to help them get to 50 votes with Pence breaking the tie by the July Fourth weekend. Which is exactly what they were working towards, and there was momentum.

They had figured out sort of what they're calling a Medicaid soft landing and trying to get to a place where they could keep some of the people on board who needed some protection for Medicaid patients in their states, that kind of thing.

But President Trump is not -- I can't tell you the significance of what he does by embracing the House bill and then cutting out the legs of the moderates who voted for that bill by refusing to back them up a few weeks later. This is a real trust issue between congressional Republicans and the White House. They don't feel that he'll be there later. They're worried next year in the 2018 midterm cycle. He's going to blame them for anything that hasn't gotten done.

And yes, they do think that some time in his life he was for single payer. So there's a lot of mistrust there, and there's a lot of problems getting to some kind of a bill working with him having a change of heart.

And I'll quickly add in a -- in a Quinnipiac poll in March, he had a 60 percent disapproval with white non-college voters, who were the base of this coalition. That's dropped to 46. They're very concerned at the White House, that the health care debate has eroded support among his strongest supporters. So that concern is real. But I don't know that, if it gets you a bill at this late hour.

[06:25:04] CUOMO: Well, but it doesn't get you that voter base either if you take away their ability to get health care. And that is one of the groups that will be affected the most, especially when you get into people who are above 50 years of age. There was a big group for the president in voting for him. They're going to be exposed to big problems in the current bill.

Chris Cillizza, Virginia, the governor's race. The primary. Gillespie beating back a Trump former campaign chairman. Is this a window, in any way, what happened with Gillespie and Stewart, into the state of play between the parties in general?

CILLIZZA: Yes. That is a stunning result. Look, Ed Gillespie won. But if you told me he was going to win, beat Corey Stewart, who Donald Trump fired because he was too out there in his Virginia campaign by as small amount as he did, it's stunning.

Look, what does it tell you? I think it tells you, and you always have to be careful one -- one event is one event. But I think it suggests that Trump is not a black swan. That Trump being elected in the Republican primary is not something that is a one-off. That Corey Stewart ran very much as the Trump candidate, drain the swamp. Defending the -- against the removal of Confederate statues around the state. Unapologetically like President Trump.

For him to almost beat Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee chairman, has basically been running for this office for the last four years, is really a remarkable suggestion. That the Republican base is not un-energized, it's just the Trump wing of the base, is quite energized. And the establishment wing of the base is not. I think if you are a Republican facing a primary, establishment Republican facing a primary, today is a worrisome day for you.

CAMEROTA: OK. Very quickly.

GREGORY: I would just add that, you know, the notion that Trump is some kind of rogue wave, I think, is dissipating. That we're going to somehow go back to a Republican, even a mainstream Republican establishment that looks the way it did, I think that's not going to happen. I think you've got conservatives in the Trump wing that are still largely together, even if under some strain because of what's happening in Washington.

CAMEROTA: OK, panel. Thank you very much for all of that insight. Great to talk to you.

Meanwhile, there is a massive nationwide manhunt for two fugitives right now. Both men considered dangerous beyond belief -- that's the quote -- after they killed two guards on a prison bus and then they escaped. We have a live report on this expanding search. Police need your help, next.