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AT THIS HOUR
Trump: "I Am Being Investigated For Firing" Comey; NYT: Trump Transition Team Ordered To Save Russia Records; Trump Lashes Out Over Russia Investigation Again; Deputy AG Has Said He Would Recuse Himself If Necessary; Hospital: Scalise Improving But Still Critical. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired June 16, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR with Kate Bolduan" starts now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, John. Thank you, Poppy. Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are following breaking news. President Trump on fire this morning, confirming in a statement on Twitter that he is under investigation, while appearing to attack his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.
Let me read you the president's statement. Here it is, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director! Witch hunt."
That man that the president is alluding to, it seems, is tasked with overseeing the Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, of course, and that investigation is now expanding.
We have a lot to get to. So, we've got CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider. She is standing by, but first let's get over to the White House. Athena Jones is there. Athena, what is going on here? What is all -- what is this all about? What are you hearing from the White House?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. Well, we have seen a series of tweets from the president this morning, starting just before 8:00. He sent out four tweets on this subject in the last hour or so. The White House isn't commenting on this specific tweet, not explaining exactly why the president -- they say he does believe that he's under investigation, but they're not saying why.
For instance, has he been directly informed that he is, or is he basing this on recent reports? They are referring all questions about the Russia-related matters to the president's outside legal team, as they've been doing now for several weeks.
But my colleague, Jeff Zeleny, did speak with a White House official who says that this latest tweet storm is by design. This official says "It's a sign the president is taking matters into his own hands." That's a quote. We've heard a lot's made of the president believing that he is his own best messenger. We've heard White House officials echo that statement or similar statements quite a bit in recent weeks, and we know from this official that the president has been advised of the legal ramifications of making these sorts of statements on Twitter.
But the president feels this is a political fight and a fight that he's going to fight. They believe, the president and a few of his advisers believe that the political fight right now over this Russia investigation is more urgent than any potential legal ramifications down the road.
So, the president is feeling under siege and he is doing what he has long done, including during his professional career, which is not shy away from a fight. That is why we're seeing these tweets and why there's certainly a suggestion that we're going to continue to see more, that he's not going to take the advice of many and stop doing this -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Let's see what comes next, I guess is all we can say then, Athena. Great to see you. Thank you so much.
So, now to that investigation that the president is talking so much about this morning and where it's headed right now. CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, she's following all that.
So, Jessica, "The New York Times" is reporting that members of the president's transition team, that they've been ordered to preserve documents related to the Russia investigation now. What does all that mean?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kate, it really indicates that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is moving full steam ahead with this investigation, looking at several different investigative angles.
So the latest focus here seems to be members of the transition team. They have been alerted by the transition's general counsel to preserve all documents and material, both electronic and physical, all of it that may be related to the Russia probe. That's according to "The New York Times."
So the memo also details specific people whose background records should be saved. Those people include former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, his business partner, Rick Gates. That's a name we haven't heard tied up in all this before.
Also, former Foreign Policy Adviser Carter Page, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and also Informal Adviser Roger Stone. So, the memo, it also orders that records should be saved that detail foreign travel by transition or campaign officials. So, these transition team members being put on alert now, Kate, to save all of these documents.
BOLDUAN: And also, over at the Justice Department, what are you hearing about this kind of bizarre statement that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general that he put out overnight, seeming to discredit anonymous sources? Do we know what report he was trying to shoot down?
SCHNEIDER: Well, people are sort of scratching their heads about it. This is the statement right now that Rod Rosenstein issued late last night. It really warned Americans not to accept as true stories based on anonymous officials.
So, a bit of a head-scratcher there. It was a sharp statement, and it seemed to go to the heart of some of the complaints that the president has voiced about leaks and anonymous sources.
However, Rosenstein did not explain why he issued this statement, and a Justice Department official tells CNN the White House itself did not order the statement. So, the question is why was it issued?
Well, the timing is sort of interesting here. It came right after the "Washington Post" released a story that the business dealings of Jared Kushner are being investigated by Special Counsel Mueller as part of the Russia probe.
[11:05:07]But really, you know, the details of this story aren't exactly new since CNN did report last month that Kushner's business activities were of interest. So, Rosenstein's sudden statement there, it seemed to lash out at media outlets about using anonymous sources but really still unclear as to what exactly prompted this.
It's really unprecedented for a Justice Department official to really make this statement with an unclear motive. And in addition, Kate, this morning there are some rumblings that Rod Rosenstein is considering recusing himself from the Russia investigation. That's a report that was just out.
However, Rod Rosenstein did say in a June 3rd interview with the "Associated Press" that he would recuse himself, if it came to the point that Mueller's investigation included the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
So, we know that Rod Rosenstein has previously said he would recuse himself, some rumblings that he's considering that, but nothing definite yet. So we're looking into that and seeing what transpires on that end as well -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: So, if when it gets there, Rod Rosenstein says he will recuse himself.
SCHNEIDER: If it comes to that point, right.
BOLDUAN: If it comes to that point. And we have reporting from the "Washington Post" that that is actually -- they are investigating obstruction of justice. CNN's reporting is not there, just that we are gathering --
BOLDUAN: -- that Mueller is gathering information to see if a full- blown investigation into obstruction is warranted. So that is an important element there. Jessica, a lot going on in your end. Thank you so much for bringing it all to me.
Let's get to it. Let's parse it up. Asha Rangappa is with us right now, a former FBI special agent and associate dean at Yale Law School. Nick Akerman is here, former assistant special prosecutor during the Watergate investigation, and CNN political director, David Chalian.
Legal and politics completely intertwined at this very moment. David, on the two-year anniversary of the president announcing his candidacy, that he would be running, he is not spending the morning talking about how he took on Washington and won.
He is spending the morning talking about the Russia investigation, confirming he's under investigation, and that it is by design is what we're hearing. What is going on here?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, so, sometimes it all happens at such warp speed, Kate, that we forget to --
BOLDUAN: Every day!
CHALIAN: -- take note of what just happened this morning. The president of the United States fully admitted and reported publicly that he is under investigation for possible obstruction of justice for firing the FBI director who was charged with overseeing the investigation into his campaign. So, that is just astonishing, of course, in and of itself that Trump is out there after months and months getting to say --
BOLDUAN: That he wasn't.
CHALIAN: I'm not under investigation, I'm not under investigation, Comey, you've got to get out there and say I'm not under investigation. By the way, when I fire you, I'm going to say, you told me three times I'm not under investigation. Trump considers that total vindication. And as you noted, on the two-year anniversary of him coming down the escalator in Trump Tower, he says to the country, I'm under investigation.
BOLDUAN: And that's what's gotten us here today. So, Nick, weigh in on this. And if we're all following this, follow the bouncing ball on this one when it comes to the firing of James Comey. It appears now that the president is going back to the original line and reasoning offered by the White House and so many of why the president fired James Comey was because of Rod Rosenstein's recommendation that was written, despite the fact, of course, that he --
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: He's completely said the opposite. He said --
BOLDUAN: He has said the opposite. The president tweeting this this morning. Does that impact the investigation?
AKERMAN: It doesn't impact the investigation at all. What's going to happen is, I think ultimately, Rod Rosenstein is a witness here, because they're going to want to know -- Mueller's office is going to want to know all the facts surrounding what happened with this memo and how it was used as a pretext in connection, which was obviously a pretext, because the president admitted that he was going to fire him anyway.
BOLDUAN: So you think while it's not there yet, you think it is inevitable that Rod Rosenstein will have to recuse because it is inevitable that the firing will be investigated?
AKERMAN: Absolutely, because it is one act of the obstruction, the firing of James Comey, trying to get rid of the person who was in charge of the investigation. So, I think it's inevitable that Rod Rosenstein is going to be a witness to the circumstances surrounding that.
Why did he write the memo? What was he told about the memo? What did he think it would be used for? When did that happen? And he was only on the job two weeks when Comey was fired, so he didn't have a lot of time to get involved in this.
BOLDUAN: Do you think -- putting aside what we've heard from Rod Rosenstein saying that he would need to recuse and he knows that he would if the investigation would go there -- do you think the tweet by the president seeming to attack him, do you think that moves Rod Rosenstein any closer or further away from this recusal?
[11:10:02]ASHA RANGAPPA, ASSOCIATE DEAN AT YALE LAW SCHOOL: Well, I agree with Nick that Rod Rosenstein is kind of in a position where he will get to a point where he needs to recuse himself, because he will be the one ultimately making the decision on whether to pursue the recommendations that Mueller gives him.
RANGAPPA: I think the tweets are more relevant in that President Trump's worst witness is becoming himself. We've already seen in a noncriminal context with the travel ban litigation that his tweets have been used against him to determine his intent. They will almost certainly be used against him in a criminal context.
And his lawyer at this point needs to take his phone, smash it into a million pieces and not let him get another one, because I think he's really hurting his case. He needs to understand that it's not just the court of public opinion, it's now a court of law that needs to matter, and his lawyers should really be doing the speaking for him.
BOLDUAN: There is a long history and storied history of phones and smashing and hammering of phones in this political environment, so I maybe would say that maybe Donald Trump should not take a hammer to the phone. But to the point Asha raises, Nick, let me ask you, do you think -- if you are Marc Kasowitz this morning, what are you doing?
AKERMAN: I'd be having a total fit! I mean, this is exactly what I would have told this guy not to do. No statements, no public statements. Whatever you do, just don't say anything, because he winds up contradicting what he said on national TV. He contradicts what he said to Lester Holt.
You can use all of these statements against him in a court of law. I mean, everybody knows that just from the Miranda warnings. Anything you say will be used against you. Absolutely is going to happen here.
BOLDUAN: But this seems to be, from Jeff Zeleny's great reporting, David, this seems to be a calculation that the president has made and accepts, because from Jeff's great reporting today, what's behind all these tweets and the president speaking out when nobody else is supposed to be talking about the Russia investigation? This is a political fight and he's going to fight it. He has been advised, Jeff reports, of the legal ramifications, but they think the political fight is more urgent. The legal one will come later.
CHALIAN: Yes, I mean, this is President Trump sticking to what worked for him politically electorally to get the job that he has.
BOLDUAN: Isn't it a bit of a different ball game now, David?
CHALIAN: It is a different ball game. He is in legal jeopardy, clearly. He acknowledged that. No doubt it's a different ball game from that perspective. No doubt it's a different ball game because he is president of the United States.
But imagine being Donald Trump. You fought the impossible political fight in the way you did it, and you got the presidency of the United States. Why would you think that fighting that kind of brawler mentality with your Twitter and your supporters and get out there and beat back your opponents, why would you think that won't help you win this battle?
And you could imagine how consumed he would be that his entire presidency -- how consumed in frustration he would be that his entire presidency is this issue now and that he can't get anything else done.
BOLDUAN: Yes, when it comes down to it, go to what works, if you don't know where to go next, and that may be what's happening right now. Asha, Nick, David, thanks, guys. A lot to get to, as David said.
Coming up for us, keeping a campaign promise and issuing a major blow to Obama's Cuba policy. President Trump heading to Miami right now, where he is expected to announce major changes to Cuba/U.S. relations. We will bring you President Trump live when he begins.
Plus, a powerful and emotional night in our nation's capital. Democrats and Republicans coming together in a rare show of unity in Washington, showing their support for injured colleague, Steve Scalise. An update on his condition, ahead.
And we are now in day five of deliberations in the Bill Cosby trial over sexual assault. Is today the day we will get a verdict, or will the jury remain deadlocked? The latest from the high drama in the court, coming up.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:17:54]
BOLDUAN: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise remains in critical condition today after another day of surgery from the gunshot wound that he suffered in an ambush earlier this week. Hospital officials in D.C. do say that his condition, though, has improved over the last 24 hours, which is welcomed news to everyone.
Particularly his colleagues, who in a rare show of bipartisan unity came together on the field and off for the congressional charity baseball game last night that went on, despite the ambush at the Republican practice this week.
Democrats, they won the game, 11-2, I believe, handed over the trophy to the Republican manager, Joe Barton. You're seeing it right there, in order to give it to Congressman Scalise. They're placing it in his office for when he returns.
Another show of lawmakers putting their differences aside, a historic first, two joint interviews on CNN of House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: It's a tough age. It's a partisan, polarized country. What we're trying to do is tone down the rhetoric, lead by example, and show people, we can disagree with one another, we can have different ideas without being vitriolic, without going to such extremes.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We're all close to Steve Scalise. He's a lovely person. But this game is a game where we always come to have fun, root for everybody, do our very best and hope our team wins. Tonight, we're all Team Scalise.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We'd ought to be able to have big, robust debates in this country without having this level of animosity that a lot of people feel.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: If we can still, despite the rhetoric, work together in areas where we can work together in the Senate, as the cooling saucer, helping bring people together a little bit, that's a very good thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Joining me now, a member of the Democratic congressional baseball team, Congressman Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania. Congressman, thanks so much for coming in.
REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D-PA), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Happy to.
BOLDUAN: Thank you. How would you describe what it was like to be there last night?
BOYLE: It was very special, Kate, to be a part of it, especially the pregame ceremony. And really, I think the highlight for me -- well, there were two.
[11:20:01]First was when Steve Scalise at the end of the player introductions, Steve Scalise was introduced as the last player, and we all looked up at the screen at a picture of him, and he got a standing ovation from the crowd, an extended one.
And then the other one was when the Capitol Police officer, one of the heroes from the incident a couple days ago, was actually out on the field with us in crutches. Had the opportunity to embrace him after the player introductions and say thank you to him for his heroism, saved the lives of my colleagues. Those are two highlights I'll take away and never forget.
BOLDUAN: Have you noticed a real difference in the capitol since that shooting took place? There's been a lot of conversation, of course, Congressman, of the things need to change, and the rhetoric needs to tone down. Have you felt a difference?
BOYLE: Yes, there's no question. Really, the last 48 hours, you can sense it and I think that's been pretty unanimous. Each member has felt it as well. It's a pretty dramatic thing to have experienced, especially for those of my colleagues who were there on the Republican team at the practice.
I think there are a lot of questions about, OK, how do we build on this so it's not just a short-term thing and people don't go back to old bad habits. I think that's probably the next step. For myself, I can only control what I say and how I behave. I know that it's something the last week that I will certainly not forget.
BOLDUAN: And it's an excellent point. It's how do you make it stick. I mean, we have been here, unfortunately, before, after Gabby Giffords was shot six years ago, Speaker Boehner gave a speech similar to Ryan on the House floor. How do you make it stick this time?
BOYLE: I think we all have a responsibility, those of us in Congress as leaders, the president, the media, and also constituents, too. I mean, I can tell you, even a couple days ago, shortly after the incident happened with Steve Scalise, I know on my Twitter, seeing real vitriol, less of it than you would typically see, but it's still out there.
So, I think each of us in a free and Democratic society has a responsibility to make sure that we behave in a way that's responsible and doesn't incite others. You know, I can feel strongly about an issue and speak out on it, but if you go beyond a certain line, know that that sort of rhetoric might end up leading very unstable people -- it might be the thing that pushes them over the edge.
BOLDUAN: Right. But if we're all being honest, we know that, does this really change the gridlock in Washington which has put Congress' approval rating in the tank? I mean, Republicans still want to get rid of Obamacare, just talking about health care, and Democrats still hate the Republican plan to put in its place. I mean, what does unity look like and sound like on Capitol Hill then? BOYLE: Unity doesn't mean that suddenly we all vote 100 percent on an issue, but I think it has to do in terms of the tenor and the tone of the debate, both here in Washington and also throughout the country. You know, there's another point that I want to make about this, too, is that when we talk about gridlock, a lot of times people perceive that's the system breaking down that's not working.
Remember, our founding fathers purposely designed us a system in which it was very difficult to get things done. In many ways, gridlock is the system, it is the fact that it's difficult to get a bill through a House and then work the Senate and then have agreement from the executive.
It was designed that way on purpose. If we had a parliamentary system, things would be much quicker, but our founding fathers didn't give us that, and I think for good reason.
BOLDUAN: In hearing members of Congress like yourself describe it more that way rather than it's the other side holding everything up, that might be a step in the right direction of what you're talking about, having differences, but letting it tone down and move forward. Congressman Boyle, it's great to see you. Thanks so much for coming in.
BOYLE: OK, thank you.
BOLDUAN: We are going to go back to our breaking news, forget the president's lawyers that he brought on to respond. White House officials now say that President Trump is taking matters into his own hands in the Russia investigation. The fiery political fight that he seemed to pick this morning with a member of his own administration. That's ahead.
Plus, we'll hear from the president very soon, the president in his own words, when he touches down in Miami, Florida, taking on U.S. policy with Cuba. What's the big change and what all will he say when he takes to the microphone? We're going to bring that to you live. Stay with us.
BOLDUAN: Do you remember where you were two years ago today? Two years ago, actually, to this very hour? Let me remind you. This marks the two-year anniversary of Donald Trump's historic ride down the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for president. How much has changed and oh how much has remained exactly the same.
Let's get to it right now. Here with me, Kerstin Powers, CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist, Alice Conan, a former communications director for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, now a partner at Firehouse Strategies, and Alex Burns, CNN political analyst and national political reporter for "The New York Times."
Alex Burns, thoughts two years later. How much has changed and how much has remained the same?
ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I was actually at that announcement two years ago at this hour and I remember thinking at the time that I really had to enjoy myself writing that story because we weren't sure how long that campaign was going to last.
Now here we are two years in and there's clearly no end in sight. I do think reflecting back on that announcement speech, that was not the speech of somebody who was preparing for a long-haul campaign for the presidency, let alone to actually serve as president, and the style that you are seeing reflected in his tweets today and his public remarks today. I think you can draw a straight line from there to here.