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Senators Grill Sessions On Russia & Comey Firing; Sessions Refuses To Talk About His Talks With Trump; Cosby Turning Heads; Police Investigating Shooting In Virginia. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired June 14, 2017 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:30:00] SEN. ANGUS KING, (I) MAINE, COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES: That Comey's a nut job. I fired him and now the pressure's off." That certainly raises serious questions about was the firing an effort to impede or derail the investigation and we're going to have to get to the bottom of that, and Jeff Sessions didn't help us yesterday.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: We only have 30 seconds left but, you know, Sen. Tom Cotton -- you heard his suggestion yesterday. I'll just paraphrase it for you. Basically, that it is wildly fantastical to think that among all of these bystanders and witnesses at some hotel, that they were scheming about some sort of collusion between Russia to try to elect Donald Trump and that that's just -- it's beyond the pale for them. What do you say about the notion that this -- you're creating fantastical scenarios?
KING: Well, one of the most fantastical things is the Russian government spending a year and one-half to infiltrate and undermine our democratic process. I wouldn't have dreamed that that was going to happen a few years ago. That's a -- but we're living in a world where we have to consider those possibilities. Now, whether Jeff Sessions was involved in some kind of coordination, he says absolutely not and that may be the case. I'll let that testimony ride for now. But that doesn't eliminate Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Carter Page, and other people that we don't even know. I don't know -- we don't know whether there was any coordination. We do know what the Russians did and we do know that it was intended to help the Trump campaign.
KING: We know that from the Intelligence Community without any doubt, and so the only open question -- there are two open questions.
KING: The investigation and whether there was some effort to derail the investigation.
CAMEROTA: Senator Angus King, thank you very much. Always nice to talk to you on NEW DAY.
KING: Thank you, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: We have more lawmakers coming up. Senators Kamala Harris and Al Franken will join us. They are instrumental, obviously, in all of this questioning. Also, Congressman Adam Schiff, whom I just mentioned, and Republican Chris Stewart, so stick around for all of that -- Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. So, the A.G.'s testimony, Jeff Sessions, is raising a lot of questions about when you have to answer questions in front of a congressional committee. His reason for not answering. We've heard some political discussion about it but what is the legal basis for what he said? Is there one? We've got a former A.G. named Alberto Gonzales and he knows that answer, next.
[07:36:30] CUOMO: The top law enforcement official of the United States of America is Jeff Sessions and he frustrated Democratic senators by refusing to answer questions. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's conceivable that that occurred. I just don't remember it. But I still do not recall it. Not to my recollection. I don't have any recollection of 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 do not recall any of those individuals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: And, by the way, that wasn't the real reason for the frustration. It was the attorney general citing a kind of confused notion of privilege for not answering. So, let's discuss the legal basis with former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Gonzales is currently the dean at Belmont University College of Law and the author of "True Faith and Allegiance: A Story of Service and Sacrifice in War and Peace." It is good to have you on the show as always, Dean.
ROBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEAN, BELMONT UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW: Chris, it's always a pleasure to be with you.
CUOMO: So, does the A.G. have a legal basis for saying I'm not going to answer because I want to preserve the president's right to claim immunity of these same conversations?
GONZALES: Well, there are certainly a category of conversations, certainly with the president, that do enjoy constitutional protections, but there is -- there is a normal process in which that -- those communications are protected and as a typical matter, you know, generally you go into a hearing with instructions from the White House as to what kind of conversations the president is going assert executive privilege.
I understand the frustration here but it seems to me what Congress should do now is simply write a letter to the attorney general saying OK, here are the questions we want you to provide an answer to. Either assert privilege, or answer the question, or suffer the consequences. From my perspective, it is inevitable that these questions will have to be answered.
Republicans may not have the will to force this beyond a letter to the attorney general, but Bob Mueller certainly has the will and I think at the end of the day this battleground -- the battleground will be fought over the investigation by the special counsel. Robert Mueller's going to want to know the answers to these questions. He is going to ask these questions and at that point the White House may assert privilege. But the case law is quite clear that in the face of a criminal investigation, that executive privilege claim is likely to fail.
CUOMO: Right, and look, we saw that with Eric Holder also, and interestingly, then-Senator Jeff Sessions back in 2014, January of that year. He felt very comfortable asking Eric Holder, then-A.G., to answer questions about conversations with the President of the United States on that sensitive matter, so that leads to this question. Don't you think that A.G. Sessions knows that this is a bogus immunity claim that he's making and there is no real legal basis, and he was just dodging questions?
GONZALES: Well, again, these communications -- these types of communications do enjoy constitutional protection.
CUOMO: Right, but that protection has to be invoked by the executive. I mean, I know you know this, Dean, so forgive me, in all due deference --
GONZALES: Yes, no question about it.
CUOMO: -- but he knows that that didn't happen. He said the president didn't tell me not to talk about these things. You can't preempt it. He has to know that. This was a game.
GONZALES: Well, I can't speak as to whether it was a game. It was certainly unusual as I describe the usual process. But again, the question is will Congress or the special counsel get answers to these questions. I believe that, inevitably, that's going to happen. And so, I understand the frustration but I think at the end of the day, to the extent that these answers are relevant to an inquiry by Congress or are relevant to the investigation by the special counsel, I believe we're going to get the answers.
[07:40:15] CUOMO: All right. Two more quick things. We talked about this before but it's fresh in people's minds so let's go over it again. A.G. Gonzales is in the room. The president says "Do me a favor, get out of here, Gonzales. I want to talk to the FBI director." The president's giving you an order, you do it. We have this lingering idea of what Sessions was doing but that seems to be another hedge.
But after that conversation where you listen to the president, respect his wishes, and you leave, does A.G. Gonzales ask the FBI director, "What was that talk about?" And if he were told -- you, in this case -- "Well, he said he wanted me to lay off on the probe. I'm uncomfortable with that. I don't want to be alone with him anymore" would you have gone to the president about it? GONZALES: First of all, yes, I do believe -- I'd like to believe that I would, in fact, ask the FBI director what was that conversation about, and after being told the answer I would either have talked directly with the president -- again, that might depend on my -- on my relationship with the president, but I certainly would have had a conversation with either the chief of staff or the White House counsel to make it clear that we are very uncomfortable with these conversations. So, yes, I'd like to think that I would have had a communication back to the White House to let them know that this is very inappropriate and, quite frankly, dangerous --
GONZALES: -- for the president and the White House.
CUOMO: And lastly, how can A.G. Sessions say I've never been briefed about the Russia investigation but I know for sure that no one connected to the president colluded with Russia? How can those two things be true?
GONZALES: Well, Chris, I didn't watch all of the hearing yesterday. My understanding was is that he was making that claim with respect to himself --
GONZALES: -- and not with respect to anyone else.
CUOMO: He extended it. He extended it, Dean. He extended it.
GONZALES: That -- again, without hearing all of the conversation and the context of that answer, it's hard for me to respond. Again, it was my understanding what he was saying was that he knows that he was not involved in any kind of collusion with the Russian government.
CUOMO: And obviously, that opens the question as to whether or not he would have been aware of their efforts and that's why disclosure is important, but maybe they'll be another day with him answering questions.
GONZALES: I suspect there will be.
CUOMO: Dean Gonzales, always a pleasure. Thanks for helping us out here on NEW DAY.
GONZALES: Thanks for having me, Chris.
CUOMO: Alisyn --
CAMEROTA: OK, another story we're covering, Bill Cosby. His fate is still in the air at this hour but he did something unusual as he left court yesterday. We have a live report on all of it ahead.
[07:46:42] CAMEROTA: OK, another severe weather update for you. The Plains and the Upper Midwest bracing for yet another round of severe storms, including the possibility of more tornadoes, so listen up as we get to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. He tracking all of the latest for us. Sounds dangerous, Chad.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Twelve tornadoes yesterday, over 200 independent reports of wind damage across the country. This weather is brought to you by Xyzal, the allergy medicine for continuous 24- hour allergy relief. Here's the severe weather today, centered on Chicago. If you're flying through there today get ready for some airport delays because they will be there around 2:00 or 3:00 along with the thunderstorms.
So, here's the weather yesterday in New York City. Let's just back up for a minute. It was 101 degrees at LaGuardia yesterday. Newark got to 99. Unheard of temperatures for this time of year, well above the record-high temperatures. Cooling down today, but not Phoenix. I know it's early out there, Phoenix, but look at the temperatures, Chris -- 119 by the weekend. Way above normal out there. So, the heat's leaving the East but going to the West.
CUOMO: Chad, appreciate it, my friend. Keep us in the loop.
So, another big story for you this morning. No verdict yet in comedian Bill Cosby's aggravated indecent assault trial. The jury returning for a third day of deliberations this morning. So, what does the duration of the deliberations say about a potential outcome? CNN's Jean Casarez has been on this story from the start. She's outside the courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania. It's not uncommon that people see the length of deliberation as some kind of measurement of doubt but you have complexity in the law here and how the facts apply. Fair point, no?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's true, the law is very complex here. There are three charges of aggravated indecent assault. They each have different elements because they are different parts of the intoxication, the unconsciousness, and inability to consent.
But Chris, I was in that courtroom last night. It was about 9:15 at night. The judge wanted them to deliberate until 9:30. Apparently, they sent a note. They said we're exhausted. So, they come in and I'm watching them. They were so tired, serious -- they didn't crack a smile. The judge tried to sort of joke with them a little bit saying, "Oh, I bet tonight on the way back you're not going to want to talk to each other." No reaction, they just stared at him, just like that. So they got up, they left. They're going to be back here today.
But they had so many questions yesterday and it was really focused on Bill Cosby's deposition testimony from 2005. The testimony from the Canadian police officer that first got the statement from Andrea Constand. Credibility -- that's what this case is all about. And I do want to tell you that accusers from all over the country are flying in because they want to be in that courtroom.
Bill Cosby confident. Listen to what Bill Cosby did last night when he met his fans outside the courthouse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL COSBY: Hey, hey, hey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CASAREZ: And, of course, that is from "FAT ALBERT" and he definitely wanted to do that to show he's fine, he's feeling good, and his representatives say he's very confident -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: And Jean, it sounded like it sort of flummoxed the crowd -- whatever they were yelling when he did that. It sounded like they sort of laughed along and were taken by surprise by his "FAT ALBERT" impersonation there.
[07:50:10] CASAREZ: I think so, too. I think you're exactly right. But he's been -- he's been lighthearted through this whole trial, also very serious.
CAMEROTA: OK, good to know. Jean, thank you very much for all the reporting from there.
Up next, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee speaks out about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' testimony. He says he has a plan to get answers.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
CAMEROTA: We do have some breaking news for you right now at this hour and we are just getting very, very scant details but it appears that something has happened at a Congressional ballgame. There was some sort of baseball or softball practice early morning in Alexandria, Virginia and we understand that there have been gunshots fired at this game.
CUOMO: Police are on the scene right now. This was the GOP baseball team, we're being told. They were practicing or preparing or playing. Maybe there's some anticipation of a game that was supposed to be scheduled for tomorrow. The suspect is said to be in custody. Who was hit, why this was done, that's still unclear at this hour but it's obviously of great concern. You have members of Congress down there. Senator Paul is on that team. We don't know who was involved or if anybody's hurt. As soon as we do we will give you more details.
CAMEROTA: Yes, there are lots of details coming in. Obviously, we will break for breaking news whenever we get those details.
Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee which, of course, is conducting its own Russia investigation. Congressman, I know you just heard our breaking news. You don't have any information, do you?
[07:55:10] REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA, RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: No, I don't. I've seen a post that may have come from one of my GOP colleagues about a shooting at a baseball practice and that there was a number of protective detail there as well as a number of my GOP colleagues. I hope and pray that everyone is OK. I remember all too vividly when Gabby Giffords was shot and I would hate to see us have to deal with another terrible tragedy like that, so it will certainly be weighing on all of us until we find out what's happened.
CAMEROTA: We hope and pray that no one was hurt, as well. So, Congressman, stay with us and we will bring you updates as soon as have them there on the ground. In the meantime, let's talk about what happened yesterday. What Attorney General Sessions did is what you suspected and feared that he would do, which is invoke executive privilege, though the president didn't do that. But, Attorney General Sessions seemed to be doing it sort of as a protective measure. So, now what?
SCHIFF: Well, now I think Congress really has to insist on getting the answers. You can't have it both ways. You're either invoking the privilege or you're not. He already clearly did not invoke the privilege but merely refused to answer questions and we're going to have to insert our institutional prerogative to get to the bottom of this. I think among the most serious questions that haven't been answered is what the attorney general knew, what he was told about the firing of James Comey. Was he aware, for example, that the letter that he wrote -- the memo that Rod Rosenstein wrote would be used as a pretext for a firing that was, in fact, all about the Russia investigation?
There's no executive privilege to hide criminality or impropriety so even if they later assert it, Congress will have to press forward and litigate. But at the end of the day we are going to get the answers to these questions.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, I'm sorry to do this in the middle of our interview, but we are getting more information about this Alexandria shooting. We can now report two Capitol police officers have been shot. We don't know the details beyond that or the level of their injuries. I will continue to bring it to you as we get more information in, and if you could do the same -- if you're getting any alerts there. Obviously, we're following this in real time and we're still praying that everyone is not badly injured.
Congressman, back to Attorney General Sessions for a moment. He seemed to be arguing that he's not supposed to reveal confidential information -- conversations that he had with the president. What's your response to that?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, first of all, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the news that's coming in and I have to say that our protective detail, our Capitol police, really do a magnificent job and some have paid for it with their lives, so I'm thinking about that detail that was on the ballfield it sounds like.
In terms of the attorney general yesterday and the next steps, you know, there are appropriate circumstances to invoke a privilege but we didn't have that here. And even when there are proper circumstances where a president can say I need to protect my confidential communications with my staff, the courts have found that that doesn't allow a shield when there's potential evidence of criminality. And here, there's some very serious allegations that the president and others may have been involved in trying to impede or obstruct the Russia investigation. If Director Comey's testimony is accurate --
SCHIFF: -- this was all about the Russia investigation. And a lot of what the director testified was corroborated --
SCHIFF: -- yesterday by the attorney general.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, I'm sorry. We're getting more information in that I need to report and to tell you about. We can report that Congressman Steve Scalise, majority whip, has been shot. This is according Mo Brooks, your colleague, an eyewitness. We understand that Steve Scalise has been shot. We don't know the extent of his injuries. Congressman, I'm so sorry to be breaking this news to you here.
SCHIFF: Well, we pray for him and his whole family and I can only hope that he wasn't grievously injured and all of our thoughts and prayers are with him and with everybody else that was on that ballfield.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, just to recap for people who are just joining us, there's something terrible unfolding in Alexandria. There was a Congressional baseball game. You can probably tell us more about that. Your Republican colleagues were there at an early morning practice or game and there was gunfire that broke out in Alexandria, Virginia. And we understand that there were two Capitol police officers shot and now we're just getting the word that Majority Whip Steve Scalise was also shot. This is according to eyewitnesses and according to one of your colleagues, Mo Brooks. Congressman, do you know anything about this baseball game?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, we have an annual baseball game between Democrats and Republicans and it raises money for charity.