Return to Transcripts main page
One Dead, Eight Injured After Van Hits Crowd Near London Mosque; Lawyer: Trump "Not Under Investigation" Despite Tweets; Trump Repeatedly Calls Russia Probe a "Witch Hunt"; Interview wtih Rep. Jim Himes. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired June 19, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:22] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning everyone and welcome to your "New Day." We do begin with breaking news for you. At least one man is dead, eight others hurt after a van plows into Muslim worshippers near a mosque in North London. Police are treating this as a terror attack.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: An interesting aspect here is that the victims became the first responders and held their attacker until authorities arrived. This is the third vehicle attack in the U.K. in the last four months. This is the first one in the U.K. that apparently targeted Muslims specifically.
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaking about the attack just moments ago. Let's begin our coverage there. CNN's Phil Black live at the scene in North London. Phil?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning. We have exclusive video of the man that witnesses say was responsible for this attack. This video was shot just moments after they say he drove a white van through a crowd of people that had just emerged from a mosque in the earliest hours of Monday morning. It was just after midnight. These people had just emerged from the mosque observing prayers, observing the holy month of Ramadan.
They say he swerved directly, plowed through these people. There were witnesses who watched this unfold. They didn't just watch, they got involve. They (inaudible) this guy out of the vehicle and wrestled him to the ground.
They say he resisted fiercely, punching, biting, swearing saying, repeatedly things like, you deserve this, you guys deserve this. As you say a short time ago, the British Prime Minister Theresa May talked about this attack in Downing Street. Here's a little of what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Today, we come together as we have done before, to condemn this act and to state once again that hate red and evil of this kind will never succeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: Police were very quick to say they're treating this as a terror attack because it looks and feels so similar to other recent attacks in the city. It is the third attack in which a vehicle has been used as a weapon. The local community is in no doubt they believe they would specifically targeted in this case. Chris and Alisyn, back to you.
CUOMO: All right, Phil, appreciate it. We'll check back with you a little bit. For more on the story, let's bring in the panels. CNN Counterterrorism Analyst Phil Mudd and CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen. It's good to have you both here.
Phil Mudd, take us through the assessment of what happened here? What are you looking at?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Couple of things. You look at what happened and why it happened. And people are confusing the two over the past 12 hours. We know that someone evidently by his own words targeted a Muslim community outside London. There's a quick translation of that to assume that it's a terror attack.
People on the investigator's side don't make that assumption initially. Terrorism involves motive. What was he thinking? Was he psychologically impaired? Even simple questions like, did he have an ex-girlfriend who is in the area at the mosque, that leads into the discussion about whether it's terrorism. We should know that today.
But you've got to differentiate in the investigation initially whether we think it was terrorism. I believe it was. And whether we know it was a terror or hate crime attack, we're not certain yet. But as the prime minister suggested, I think we'll know very quickly.
CAMEROTA: And Peter, there's another important distinction. This is not -- it appears what the others were in the past throw or four months in London, Islamic extremism. This is the opposite, this is retaliation perhaps and the target were Muslims coming out of breaking the fast for Ramadan.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, clearly, yes. Terrorism is the intentional target of civilians by entities other than a state and this -- fit this attack definition very well. We saw in this country very recently not far from where I'm sitting in Virginia what was really a terrorist attack on the congressional Republicans by somebody who had, you know, violent anti-Trump kind of views.
So, you know, terrorism takes on all sorts of political hues. And the fact we're seeing what appeared to be -- or is in fact an anti-Muslim terrorist attack shouldn't necessarily be entirely surprising. Britain, after all, has a fairly vibrant sort of neo-Nazi, far right wing, extremist groups. There's a British nationalist party (inaudible).
One of the things I point out here is why they tend (inaudible) mosque. There more than a thousand other mosques in the United Kingdom. Why this mosque? And I would have as a guess this is a highly symbolic target for the perpetrator.
[07:05:02] The Finsbury Park Mosque has been tie to quite a number of extremists in the past, (inaudible) has changed, you know, its leadership in recent years. But the fact is, trying to put yourself in the mind of the perpetrator, why this mosque. And I would submit it is because of its well-known, high-profile kind of -- you know, the fact that it's hosted quite a number of Islamist militants in the past.
CUOMO: Well, he is alive. They will be able to speak to him. So hopefully that curiosity will be satisfied.
How about the how here, Phil? We said that this is the third, fourth vehicle-motivated crime of this sort. Is that about simple convenience, or is there something else's solving?
MUDD: No, I think it is about simple convenience. But it is as you're suggesting the evolution of terror. Back after 9/11 when we're sitting around the threat table, Chris, Al Qaeda was focused on replicating the 9/11 event because they wanted to recruit more followers and because they wanted to raise more funds among people who wanted to see another spectacular event.
As we see terrorist themselves sort of devolve away from centrally- directed operations, you're seeing not only the Islamist as we've seen in London and in the recent month or two theses kind of weapon, but you're seeing copycaters on the other side say it's easier than getting a weapon in Europe, it's easier than hijacking an aircraft, why not just get a car and mow down people. It's the sort of simplification and terror, and a long way from where we were 16 years ago after 9/11.
CAMEROTA: And again, Peter, and I hear you, terror is terror, an attack where you mow down civilians obviously causes terror. However, this does appear to be different in that, if he did not take his inspiration or directions from ISIS. If this is somebody who was mad about the other attacks, yet taking a page from the same play book in terms of weapon.
BERGEN: I mean, I think, you know, the political violence comes in all sorts of stripes. It can be far left, far right. It can be Islamist. It can be neo-Nazi.
I mean, we've seen a lot of this in this country. Dylann Roof of course who killed nine people at an African-American church was a neo- Nazi. I would say that's an act of terrorism. He isn't being charged with terrorism for reasons that involve the fact that he wasn't formally allied to a designated terrorist group which is designated by the State Department.
But the fact is these kinds of attacks are terrorism. Whether they're prosecuted as terrorism or not, they're prosecuted as a hate crime or simply as murder. When we look at these kinds of attacks, they're clearly terrorism.
CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Obviously, we'll continue to follow all of the developments.
CUOMO: All right, now to our other top story. Listen, it makes sense that the special counsel might be looking at the president's firing of the FBI director. What does not make sense is all the spin that's coming out about that from the president of the United States and now his lawyer, the two contradicting each other in the latest effort to delegitimize the Russia investigation. CNN's Joe johns live at the White House with more. Joe?
JOE JOHNS, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. A familiar form of damage control and it started with a presidential tweet. The president's legal team trying to clear up any confusion about whether the president believes he's a subject or target of an investigation, though the special counsel apparently is essentially looking to see whether there's enough evidence to start an obstruction of justice investigation.
JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: The president is not under investigation.
The president is not under investigation.
The president is not and has not been under investigation.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump's personal legal team denying that he's the target of a probe despite the president's own tweet, seemingly acknowledging that he is being investigated for firing FBI Director James Comey, taking a swipe at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who appointed the special counsel and characterizing the purported investigation as a witch hunt.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Trump has a compulsion to counterattack and is very pugnacious. I don't think it serves him well. I don't think the tweet helped him.
JOHNS (voice-over): The president's attorney Jay Sekulow offering this explanation.
SEKULOW: That tweet was in response to a Washington Post story that ran with five unnamed sources, without identifying the agencies they represented, saying that the special counsel had broadened out his investigation to include the president.
JOHNS (voice-over): Before appearing to blame social media for the misunderstanding.
SEKULOW: It was 141 characters. There's a limitation on Twitter as we all know. And the president has very effective utilization of social media.
JOHNS: Sekulow conceding in a different interview that he could not know for sure.
SEKULOW: No one has notified us that he is. I can't read people's minds. But I can tell you this, we have not been notified there's investigation of the president of the United States.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It is in the best interest of the president and this country to have a full investigation.
JOHNS (voice-over): Despite the confusion prompted by Friday's tweet, the president continues to attack the special counsel's investigation.
[07:10:01] REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What's happening here is the president wants to take down Bob Mueller. They're essentially engaging in a scorched earth litigation strategy that is beginning with trying to discredit the prosecutor.
JOHNS (voice-over): The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee insisting Sunday that the Russia investigation is just beginning.
SCHIFF: I think there is evidence. I'm not prepared to say that there's proof you can take to a jury, but I can say there is enough that we ought to be investigating.
JOHNS: Jay Sekulow also said in the week ahead the president might address whether there are recordings of any conversations he had with the fired FBI Director James Comey. Chris and Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: OK, that would be interesting if we hear more about that this week. Thank you Joe.
Let's bring in our political panel to discuss all this. We have CNN Political Analyst David Gregory and John Avlon, and associate editor and columnist at RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard. Great to see all of you.
David Gregory, it's not just the tweet that is causing confusion about whether or not President Trump is under investigation. It's Jay Sekulow's own words yesterday which contradict each other. So let me just play that for you for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Should we take that tweet from the president as confirmation that the president is under investigation?
SEKULOW: Let me be clear. The president is not under investigation.
Now, he's being investigated by the Department of Justice because the special counsel under special counsel regulations reports to the Department of Justice, not an independent counsel. So he's being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general and deputy attorney general recommended him to take by the agency who recommended the termination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Do you understand whether he's being investigated or not?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A lot of gymnastics here. Look, we have a president who in all of his unusual behavior provides an open window into what he's thinking and into what's going on. He told us rather directly, via his favorite mode of communication that he's being investigated and he doesn't like it and he doesn't think it's fair. And he thinks that people are conflicted who are doing so.
So the president's lawyers can go out and spin all of this and try to make up for the fact that they have in the president a client who is talking, who should not be talking because he's fighting this as a political war. The president's real value in fighting the politics of this, undermining those who are coming after him, undermining those who are investigating this. He never takes on the underlying offense which is Russia's interference with our election. But he wants to take on all-comers to suggest that this is an impure process, that this is a left wing process, conspiracy in cahoots with the media. That's how I think he hopes he will ultimately undermine credibility in this over time, whatever the outcome is.
CUOMO: And also, John, we got a little bit of instance here of the media getting caught up in the con trail of the jet, right? I mean, everybody is getting caught up in the noise and the contradiction and the tweet versus the lawyer. This is a nontroversy. The idea of whether or not Comey -- you know, that situation is being looked at by Mueller is almost a forgone conclusion.
Mueller would be remiss not to be looking at it. The idea that the president's counsel can't read anybody's mind and hasn't been notified, that's not the standard. All they have to do is pick up the phone and they would know in one phone call whether or not the president is a subject or a target of any type of probe.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. But the problem is, that given that fact, the logical conclusion that Jay Sekulow tried to spin sort of desperately this weekend an absurdity. And among other things, it proves he's not very good at his job because he couldn't keep consistent. But he's got a tough job. All the president's lawyers do.
I mean, they're tearing their hair out over the president's tweets. Because whether he's fighting a political war or P.R. war, he keeps undercutting his own legal counsel, his own Justice Department on a whole wide array of subjects. But Sekulow was spinning through out desperately and didn't have a very good weekend depending the president.
CAMEROTA: But A.B. we -- hold on a second here because this is I think an important distinction. The president is not the target of an investigation or wasn't until recently.
CUOMO: Well, that's a big distinction --
CAMEROTA: We have been told that.
CUOMO: -- because -- right. But what Comey was looking at and now what Mueller is looking at are very different. Because when Comey told the president, you're not the subject of the investigation, I don't know what he told him.
CAMEROTA: I think Comey testified to that.
CUOMO: But he was very nuanced about how he talked to the president and why. I'm not exactly sure why Comey was so nuanced. But this is different, A.B. because I think your question is, well, what's Mueller doing? Mueller is looking at whether or not the president and his actions with Comey, what that means which is different than what Comey was looking. Comey wasn't examining his own removal.
[07:15:01] CAMEROTA: But my question was actually simpler than that which is, the president had not been a target. And Comey told him that but maybe something has now changed according to the president's tweet.
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, in Trump world, as we know, we all are speaking English here and we all use the same nouns. But what's true on Friday, they don't want you to believe is true on Monday. And so that's why I actually think that the president, who thinks that Jay Sekulow does a great job defending him on T.V., just why he sort of elevated him in his legal team that he has, probably agreed that he should go out and say he's not under investigation because probably people close to the president told him on Friday night and Saturday it's not a great idea to talk about being under investigation.
There is a difference between being a real target in an investigation and just being wrapped up in the gathering of facts. But it's not just what he told James Comey. The problem for President Trump is he also got two other intelligence officials that we know of, DNI Dan Coats and Admiral Rogers, into these discussions about whether or not you could sort of pull back on Michael Flynn and that kind of thing. If there are two or three more -- I mean, we don't know what we don't know. And so it's not fair to say there's no evidence --
CUOMO: We do know but look, I think that this is a meaningful distinction. You can't compare what Comey told the president to his current situation with Mueller. They're apples and oranges.
STODDARD: Right, exactly.
CUOMO: Mueller --
GREGORY: But Mueller is looking at everything.
CUOMO: That's the point.
GREGORY: We're in a position where we are working with what (inaudible) we have that are in the public domain and then reporting that is based on talking to investigators, others close to Mueller, others in the Justice Department. But what we can know for sure is that Mueller was put in place because there was an existing investigation into this broad question of Russian collusion. And then the president has taken actions to potentially impede that investigation --
CUOMO: And he's going to look at that, too. In miss testimony, Joe Manchin said to Comey, do you believe this rises to obstruction of justice? Comey says, I don't know, that's Bob Mueller's job to sort out. He then says, I'm sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there when he got fired and whether there's an offense.
GREGORY: (Inaudible) that the president has been uniquely concerned about whether he is in legal jeopardy. That's not an unfair concern. But as the president, what he seems to gloss over is that this entire investigation of his campaign, of those within his orbit or him, himself, at all is going to impact him and trust in his administration. But he continues to look at it so narrowly and so do his lawyers which continues to get him in so much trouble.
CAMEROTA: OK, so let's stop being Alice in Wonderland for a moment and get back through the looking glass, and talk about something real that we know it's happening, though it's in secret and we also don't know much about it. And that is the Senate's Republicans health care plan that should be revealed soon. Democrats say they are prepared to obstruct this. From what they know, the scant details they have, they think it's dangerous.
AVLON: Well -- and even Republican senators say they're troubled by the process that this has been done entirely behind closed doors. You know, hypocrisy is the unforgivable sin in politics. And even though -- even the Trump era and everything has got so technical are the fact that this is being conducted entirely behind closed doors, echoes all the Republicans' complaints and concerns about the way ObamaCare was done.
So even Republicans have trouble. Mitch McConnell doesn't have that many Republican votes he can lose. So he realizes this is a delicate dance he can do. But this sends all the wrong signals with no transparency about the substance of a bill with massive impact on the American people.
CAMEORTA: OK. Panel, thank you very much for helping us parse all of that.
CUOMO: Health care matter, Russia investigation matters, every bit as much after what happened during our election. And this question surrounding the president and his people. Important as well, Trump's attorney, Jay Sekulow, caught up in the maelstrom of spin. He's going to be on the show. We're going to put the questions to him about what matters to you.
CAMEROTA: OK, so what should you believe? President Donald Trump's tweets or what his attorney says? We asked a member of the House Intelligence Committee which one to go with, next.
[07:23:16] CAMEROTA: The president has repeatedly called the Russia probe a, quote, witch hunt. He's also tweeted this, "After seven months of investigations and committee hearings about my, quote, collusion with the Russians, nobody has been able to show any proof. Sad."
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thank you so much for being here.
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good morning Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: You know, there's a question about whether or not the president himself is being investigated by Bob Mueller. Do you know the answer to that?
HIMES: I don't, for a couple reasons. Number one, the FBI investigation, the Department of Justice investigation is independent of the congressional investigations, as it should be. The second thing is and I sort of marvel at the amount of conversation about whether the president is under investigation or not.
You know, we know from Jim Comey's investigation back in March that there is an investigation into the possibility of -- and I use that word advisedly, the possibility of links or connections, collusion between the Russian effort and the Trump campaign.
CAMEROTA: That's people around him. Don't you think there's a difference if the president of the United States is actually being investigated to, random, as he calls them satellites around him?
HIMES: Well, maybe it starts with the people around him. And I want to be clear here, there's -- you know, Comey told apparently the president three times that he wasn't personally under investigation. But think about how an investigation works.
It starts with evidence of a phone call. It starts with paperwork. It starts with interviews. You have no idea where that investigation is going to lead. So my point is simply that there's no way to know until an investigation is done who, if anyone, may have been either under investigation or possibly accused of wrongdoing.
[07:25:08] CAMEROTA: The Washington Post has reported that the president is being investigated. And then he was -- his lawyer, his legal team, Jay Sekulow, was asked about that this weekend, and his answers were confusing. He said different things on different shows, sometimes within the same interview. But here is how he explained it to Chris Wallace. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: But you don't know that he isn't under investigation now, do you?
SEKULOW: Well, no one has notified us that he is. So I can't read people's minds, but I can tell you this, that we have not been notified that there's an investigation of the president of the United States. So that nothing has changed in that regard since James Comey's testimony. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: So final point on this, would they know if he were being investigated?
HIMES: Not necessarily. I mean, again, it's not the practice of law enforcement to tell the subject of investigations, unless they have to, that they're under investigation. But look, you can surmise -- I mean, one of the really frustrating things here is that you've got just growing levels of investigation, right.
We started with the Russia hack. Then we go into the question of whether there was any collusion yet to be determined. And of course, the president's actions, his own actions in firing Comey and admitting that part of the reason he fired him was to get the pressure of the Russia investigation lifted. You know, none of us know for sure, but it would be sort of odd if Bob Mueller weren't asking the question, can an obstruction case be made here?
CAMEROTA: One of the things that you have asked for is you want to know definitively if there are audio tapes from the Oval Office or the White House, if the president has taped over his conversations with James Comey. Have those been turned over to you or have you got an answer on that?
HIMES: They have not been turned over but the House Intelligence Committee has asked those tapes, if they exist, be produced.
CAMEROTA: And when do you get the answer to that? When is the deadline on producing?
HIMES: Well, if I recall correctly, the letter that was sent requesting those tapes had a late June deadline.
CAMEROTA: I think June 23rd, so that's this week. Any word -- do you believe there really are audio tapes?
HIMES: you know, I have no idea. Again, you know, all I have to go on is the president's tweets which are -- what's the right way to characterize the president's tweets, uncertain and confusing. So he makes reference to the possibility that there are tapes. You hear that in the past there have been recording devices in the Oval Office. So we'll see.
CAMEROTA: Jay Sekulow says something will be announced this week about that. So stay tuned for that.
Also. You're looking at -- you also wanted James Comey' memos. His memos that he took, contemporaneously be turned over. Have you gotten those?
HIMES: We have not yet got those memos. And my understanding is that there might be some hesitancy on the part of the FBI to produce those. And I would assume that if there were hesitancy, it would be because there would be an active investigation that involves the use of those memos as part of a Department of Justice investigation. So, again, we're going to have to see whether those get produced or not.
CAMEROTA: OK. So where is the House Intel Committee now on all of this? How far out are you to being able to conclude definitive things?
HIMES: We are a ways yet from being able to conclude anything really. We're under way. You know, we've got Jay Johnson coming before the committee I believed next week. Interviews are being scheduled, documents are being reviewed.
I spent three hours on Friday reviewing documents. So we're a long way from a conclusion. And that's a really important point. I mean, I was very sad to see Devin Nunes, the chairman in California at a political meeting saying that he's satisfied himself, you know, that there were no links, no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian effort.
You know, I know, since I'm a member of that investigation, that he does not have the basis on which to make that claim. And it troubles me because from the president to Devin Nunes to quite frankly Democrats on my side who are presuming an outcome, we just don't know. And this is serious enough that people should stay quiet until we have enough evidence, until these investigations have gotten to the point where you can form a conclusion.
CAMEROTA: But, you know, you do hear from people, from the RNC chair, to the president on down, you had seven months -- they say you had almost a year, what's taking so long? Why can't you say anything definitively yet?
HIMES: Well, on the congressional side, we haven't had seven months. The congressional investigations of course have been under way since January or February, so that's a couple of months. Now, Comey suggested that the FBI investigation which started with -- remember, seven months refers to the Russian hack which is where it started. You know, long ago, well over a year ago the FBI had evidence there was a Russian hack. So I think this notion that this has been going on too long is just crazy.
Look, this is -- we're talking about the very core of our democracy here. So I really wish people would take a step back and say let's do this right rather than doing it quickly. Unless whether you're the president of the United States, the head of the RNC or activist Democrat, let's stay quiet on what may be the outcome. Look, putting a thought out there about what the outcome may be, if you're not actually Bob Mueller or inside the FBI, all you're doing is putting your own credibility at risk.
CAMEROTA: OK, Congressman Jim Himes, thank you very much. Great to have you here.
HIMES: Thanks Alisyn. Chris?
CUOMO: All right, so we have the investigation and then we have this parallel political process of talking about the investigation, as we were just hearing in that segment. This is a particularly difficult task for the surrogates and now the attorney of the president. What is the right way to defend these tweets and still keep the public informed? We have a debate for you, next.