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CUOMO PRIME TIME
Sources: Mueller Interested In Questioning Trump On Comey, Flynn; WAPO: Trump Asked Acting FBI Director McCabe Who He Voted For; Sources: Trump Inclined To Allow Nunes Memo To Be Released; Trump Denies FBI Director Wray Threatened To Resign; Senate Intel Chair Defends FBI: Says Missing Texts A Technical Glitch; Exclusive: New Signs Gates May Be Negotiating With Mueller's Team. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 23, 2018 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:02] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That's it for us. Thanks for watching 360. Time to hand it over to Chris Cuomo for "Cuomo Prime Time". Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Anderson. Thank you very much. There are two big breaking headlines in the Russia investigation tonight. We're going to talk with a reporter at the center of the story. It is time to get after it, my friends. I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Prime Time".
A lot of developments in the Russia investigation, there may be more news during the show. We will keep you informed. Let's bring in the reporter who broke the news about Mueller's effort to question the president. His name is Josh Dawsey, and he covers the White House for "The Washington Post". He's also a CNN Political Analyst. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks for having me.
CUOMO: I want to talk to you about the headlines about what Mueller wants. But you had another scoop that I just have to ask about first. What is your reporting about what happened when President Trump met the acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, after Comey was gone?
DAWSEY: Right. Our reporting indicates that after Comey is out, President Trump summons Andrew McCabe, then the acting FBI director to the Oval Office. In the Oval Office, he asked him who he voted for in the 2016 election, startling McCabe. McCabe says I didn't vote. He then proceeds to berate McCabe over political donations that is why the State Senate candidate in Virginia took from Terry Mcauliffe tied to the Clintons. It was a pretty unusual conversation that didn't last very long.
Later he came in to be interviewed for FBI director, and he didn't get the job. What our sources have indicated to us is what makes it so unusual is that the president does not tend to ask, you know, civilian employees about their political affiliations or how they feel. But the president, who was concerned he was putting this guy in charge of the FBI, wanted to know what's your partisan status? Where are you on end of grid?
CUOMO: So what was the reporting about how this was taken? Was Trump joking? Was this a jocular conversation? How did he respond to McCabe saying he didn't vote?
DAWSEY: No. It was not joking. He was very clear that he was unhappy with the political donations his wife took. My colleagues, Ellen Nakashima and (INAUDIBLE) figured out today in reporting this that this conversation is also of interest to Bob Mueller, who is trying to discern essentially, Chris, whether there's a pattern of behavior from the president that would, you know, indicate obstruction whether it was indicate obstruction around any of his people and why in various situations the president seems to have acted the way he did.
CUOMO: Once again the president getting in his own way at a minimum. All right, that leads us to the other headlines. You have reported that Mueller is, indeed, looking to interview the president. Time frame?
DAWSEY: We're expecting in probably the next couple of months. They've begun negotiations with the president's lawyer and have said to the president's lawyers that the questions will likely focus on the firing of National Security Adviser Mike Flynn early in the administration and the firing of James Comey later in the spring. They want to know what the president was thinking, the preceding events, what happened after the firing, how the president explained it to people around him, and trying to figure out if there's any pattern of conduct as I said.
They've also begun asking witnesses about repeated efforts to oust Jeff Sessions. As we've reported, there were several times that the president wanted Jeff Sessions to resign. He has shamed him on Twitter, had allies call for his resignation and Mueller's team is interested, why was the president so interested in firing his attorney general? The president obviously has raged about the recusal, he said Jeff Sessions should not have recused himself. But what we're seeing really is this number of events where the president made pretty controversial decisions and kind of what matters from what our sources indicate is his state of mind and why he did these things.
CUOMO: The irony is that the president hates the Russia probe because he thinks it's bad for him, but it is consistently his efforts with regard to the Russia probe that keeps drawing the attention of the special counsel, who again was only appointed because, in large part, what the president did with his move on Comey. Mr. Dawsey, thank you for the headlines.
DAWSEY: Thanks for having me.
CUOMO: You have fueled the show. Appreciate it.
DAWSEY: Thank you.
CUOMO: So tonight we're going to have two former White House lawyers standing by, James Schultz and Norman Eisen. These are the types of guests we need on this investigation. If you haven't been in the White House and you don't know the law, your opinion is just not worth that much.
But first let's dig into the facts that's the mandate of this show. I know you're getting very different takes on what these developments mean. One side says it is proof that Trump has trouble coming his way. The other side says it's only proof of a conspiracy against the president, and that's why they are hell bent on finding missing texts from FBI agents, which by the way is a worthy pursuit.
Still, with all the spin as usual, the truth is a victim. So let's go through the questions and what we know, all right? Does Mueller interviewing the big shots, Comey, Sessions -- does that mean he's wrapping up? At best, maybe. Why? Because there's a method at play for these prosecutors, and there often is. They may be tying up one area of interest but still have other angles of pursuit. And, remember, he could always bring people back more than once. So what about the president?
[21:05:17] Well, first, in no small irony, despite the incessant efforts of the president to smear the Russia investigation and tirades about how there is corruption everywhere in our Justice Department, which is not true, the president says he's not worried.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you concerned about what the Attorney General told the Special Counsel?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm not at all concerned.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you talk to him about it?
TRUMP: No, I didn't, but I'm not at all concerned. Thank you all very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Who's head is that? Two key points of confusion. Is the president being investigated? By all indications, yes. But you'll hear, wait a minute. Jim Comey told him he was not under investigation. This is also true. Comey admitted it. But remember the timing, OK? It's irrelevant what Comey told him because it was firing Comey and a series of other moves like asking the acting head of the FBI who he voted for, to arguably influence the investigation -- it is those moves that led the special counsel and the behavior is likely being probed now for evidence of obstruction of justice.
Now you get the push from the other side, which could be equally distracting and confusing. The Comey firing, the Flynn move, the pushing up on Sessions and Rosenstein, et cetera. This is a pattern. It's clear. It's obstruction. Maybe not under the law when it comes to a president. This will be much debated even on the show tonight.
But here's my take. There's a question as to whether or not a president can obstruct a process he has authority over in the constitution. And even if so, there is an additional question as to what a president would have to do to reach the level of criminality. It's different than it is for you and me most likely in this context.
And then lastly, there's a question unique to a sitting president. Can you indict one? That's an open question.
Now, one last key point, would Mueller and his team, when they're interviewing these people, why do they go for so long? Isn't that proof that they found something bad? No. Why? A prosecutor has a double mandate. They're supposed to be looking for proof you did something wrong, inculpatory evidence, that's called, and proof that there was nothing done wrong, exculpatory evidence. They should be looking for both, and that takes time. It means long interviews.
And then you have the biggest consideration of all, the big magilla for the special counsel. He needs to find not just evidence of a crime that would satisfy a blogger or a pundit, but a judge or a jury. That bar is higher than you might think. I know it's not as satisfying, but it's the truth.
All right, so let's dive into all of this with CNN Legal Commentator James Schultz, a Former Trump White House lawyer, and CNN Contributor Norman Eisen, a Former Obama White House lawyer who loves almost as a hobby to tell me I'm wrong.
Norm Eisen, James Schultz, it's good to have you both.
So Norm, you heard my analysis on this. The headlines of the special counsel wanting to sit down with the president, that he's already spoken to Sessions and Comey, what does that mean to you in terms of significance of timing?
NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I want to thank you for having me back, Chris, despite my hobby. And what it means to me is that Mueller is moving with speed to address the obstruction questions as to the president. Those are serious questions. When anybody in the United States interferes with an investigation with corrupt intent, they can be prosecuted for obstruction. The theory that public officials are exempt has been rejected by circuit after circuit. We don't know the answer yet as to President Trump. There's only one --
CUOMO: Why do you say it's been rejected circuit after circuit when it's not relevant because it doesn't deal with the president? The whole question is about the president. He's in charge of investigations. The DOJ is under him. Theoretically he could start and stop any investigation he wants to, no?
EISEN: Chris, that theory has also been rejected, for example, in the Morrison v. Olson case which tried to -- the executive claim that powers were being taken away from them, the powers you describe for a special prosecutor. No. Nobody in the United States is above the law, including the president. And the question that Bob Mueller is going to answer -- he's going to look the president in the eye. He's going to see what comes out of his mouth, and he's going to decide did the president act with corrupt intent. And if the president did act with corrupt intent, he's going to be held accountable. But we don't know the answer to that question yet. That's why the interview has to happen. There's a lot of evidence, however.
EISEN: James Schultz, I love the passive indifference on your face right now. I want to know your take on what Counselor Eisen is saying, and I also want your take on how you would prep the president in terms of is this an interview that he takes? Probably yes. Under what circumstances? What's your double take here?
[21:10:19] JAMES SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: So I agree with Norm in that this is coming to a speedy conclusion and that Bob Mueller is looking to conclude the obstruction portion of this investigation. And I also believe that Bob Mueller is going to look the president in the eye and try to see if there was corrupt intent on his part because there needed to be corrupt intent.
I disagree on the issue of whether the president can be indicted or not, but that's nonetheless not all that important because you're going to look at if Mueller comes up with a report that's going to be issued presumably to Congress, then Congress could act by and through impeachment proceedings if they felt like that was necessary. The bottom line is, is that there's been no -- there's been no -- the president has not been identified as a target of any investigation publicly that we know of. The president of the United States has cooperated with this investigation. The White House has cooperated with this investigation. They want to bring it to a speedy conclusion. He's said time and time again that he'll be interviewed. If I was advising the president, I wrote suggest that he be interviewed.
CUOMO: Under oath?
SCHULTZ: Subject to parameters. Maybe some -- maybe some written questions.
CUOMO: Under oath?
SCHULTZ: And then answers before Mueller. And the under oath portion, Robert Mueller is an FBI agent.
CUOMO: So it doesn't matter?
SCHULTZ: You can't lie to an FBI when they're questioning you.
CUOMO: But can you cut a deal before you go into that interview that, you know, not just that it's not going to be under oath but that you aren't exposed to that kind of criminality?
SCHULTZ: Sure. I'm certain you could cut whatever -- there are a number of options in terms of cutting deals. I think for the president's sake, he's got to go in, and he's got to show the American people that he's telling the truth, that he did not obstruct justice in this matter.
CUOMO: He didn't have corrupt intent. You both used that term. Always a safe assumption that I don't know what you mean. Norm Eisen, corrupt intent, what does that mean?
EISEN: Corrupt intent means that you're doing something for a wrong purpose. It literally, when you instruct a jury, Chris, the jury is told was the reason that the defendant committed the action evil, wrong, or bad? Examples -- if President Trump -- and there's a lot of evidence of this, Chris, because there's so many efforts to cover things up and to change stories. If President Trump fired Jim Comey after demanding his loyalty, after demanding that Comey see his way clear to let Flynn go, if he did it to protect Flynn because Flynn had something damaging about the president, if he did it to protect a family member, if the president did it to protect himself, corrupt intent. If the president --
CUOMO: Wait. Hold on. James, do you agree on those examples? Is that corrupt intent?
SCHULTZ: I think it depends on the circumstances surrounding it.
CUOMO: These circumstances. These circumstances. That's what we're talking about with the president in this investigation.
SCHULTZ: Oh, there's been cover-ups, there's been this, there's been that. Norm tries to make this into something that it's not, much like the news media has done time and time again.
CUOMO: James, don't paint me with that brush. You saw how I laid it out tonight. I'm trying to keep it very fair on these types of legal issues because we don't know which way it breaks. We're not looking in --
EISEN: I wasn't painting with a brush with you, Chris.
CUOMO: I feel painted. Let me ask you one other thing, James, while I have you. Where is the subtle legal mind and the man of conscious, who says to the president in a moment like when McCabe walks into his office and he asks him, who did you vote for, where is that man or woman who rushes up to the president's side and says, no, no, no, you don't ask something like that, don't do that, don't do that right now, not with this person, not after you got rid of Comey. Don't do that. It looks bad. Who is that person and why aren't they saying those things?
SCHULTZ: The president has had multiple advisers over time giving him advice on what he can and can't say. He was elected as a Republican president, and when he's choosing officials in his administration, there's nothing wrong with him asking whether they are Republican or Democrat or not or knowing their party affiliation. That's part of the process. That's part of selecting Republicans or Democrats. We're not talking about career positions here. We're talking about the president's cabinet. He's going to want folks that are like- minded.
CUOMO: Even in the Department of Justice when there's an ongoing investigation?
SCHULTZ: Look, the FBI director is an appointee of the president. So the president can choose the FBI director and fire the FBI director if he so chooses.
[21:15:04] CUOMO: You were in there. Do you think they're nervous?
SCHULTZ: I'm not going to talk about when I was in there and what happened while I was in there.
CUOMO: Norm will.
EISEN: I'll answer. I was -- James --
CUOMO: James, go ahead.
EISEN: James and I --
CUOMO: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. I'll give you the last word. Norm, I'll give you the last word. Hold on a second.
EISEN: OK. I'm sorry.
CUOMO: James, go ahead. Make your point.
SCHULTZ: No, let Norm go.
CUOMO: No, no, no.
SCHULTZ: He's talking over --
CUOMO: -- you were there. What do you think they're thinking?
SCHULTZ: I said that the -- there's one person in there that's not nervous. He said he's not nervous. That's the president of the United States, and that's the person that's rumored to be interviewed very soon.
EISEN: Like over 2,000 other times, Chris, that was a lie by the president of the United States. Of course he's nervous. And James can't answer it because he just worked there. Of course they're all nervous. The president of the United States has tremendous exposure. He's facing a trap, Chris. If he tells the truth, he may prove corrupt intent and expose himself to consequences. If he lies, he's liable under false statements liability. So it's a terrible situation.
My job in the White House, in the Obama White House, my nickname was Mr. No. I was that guy who said no. Trump desperately needs that, and he's facing an agonizing choice. And there, the last thing I'll say, I have to disagree with James as much as I admire his loyalty to the president. There's a tremendous amount of evidence, Chris. There's the demand to Comey for loyalty. There's the request to Comey, can you see your way to letting this thing go? There's the firing. There's the effort on the plane to cover up.
SCHULTZ: All in dispute. Everything you're talking about is in dispute.
EISEN: All obstruction evidence.
CUOMO: All in dispute as James Schultz says at the end of the day, it's all up to what the prosecutor thinks. Gentlemen, very helpful. Thank you.
EISEN: Thanks, Chris.
CUOMO: Lots of moving pieces tonight in the Russia investigation. What does that mean for the investigations on the Hill? Remember, you've got the political, and then you have the criminal.
Up next, we'll go one-on-one with Congressman Mike Quigley from the House Intelligence Committee. What's his take? Good to see you, Congressman.
[21:20:36] CUOMO: All right. It's a big night. We're following breaking news in the Russia investigation. "The Washington Post" first to report tonight that Special Counsel Bob Mueller does want to question President Trump about the firings of FBI Director Jim Comey and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. CNN's sources confirm this information.
Now, one of the main things you guys were asking me about on Twitter @chriscuomo, obviously, if you don't know, is, man, there's so many names and, you know, who is and is not in this situation? I'm confused. Fair point, all right. And you can just weigh in on Instagram and Twitter after it. Let me know how it's going.
So, we did this. Thought it might help. Let me know if doesn't, OK? On your left or on your right all the way over there, you have the four people who have been indicted and/or are waiting for trial, right? You've got Manafort and his partner, Gates. OK, you have Papadopoulos, and you have Flynn, all right. So they are there. There's no news regarding them tonight.
Up at the top, of course, we have Kate McKinnon. Look at this head spin around, like that. I'm sorry there, Bob Mueller. Are you OK? All right, he's good. So, he's obviously the special counsel. You knew that already.
This is really where we're focused. We now know that the special counsel has interviewed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Former Director of the FBI Jim Comey, and Hope Hicks in December. Obviously she has been there the whole time in the Trump administration. She's his communications guru, very close to the president, key interview for the special counsel. That has happened. What hasn't happened, you got the president. You have Jared Kushner and Ivanka obviously, the daughter. They have not been spoken to. The news now is that the president is intended to be interviewed. We don't have details for them.
This is relevant only inasmuch as that's now 15 people in and around the Trump administration who have been interviewed by this special counsel. That's a big witness list, OK?
So these are the heads. Hopefully that's helpful in terms of what the different categories are. Already in the soup, been interviewed. This is what we're waiting on, all right.
So now let's get some perspective on what this all means. Let's go one-on-one with Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. And you were listening to James Schultz and Norm Eisen and my asking them about the disposition of the president and where his head is, where the White House staff's heads are on this investigation, and you say you know the answer. What is it?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I'll just add to what they had to say. If I'm the president's attorneys, I'm nervous because you talked about someone he listens to. I don't think we've watched in a year anyone he listens to. I don't know that he has a personality that actually listens. I think there's a degree of narcissism there, what he just knows best. And you've seen him live on press conferences. He's literally all over the place. I did criminal defense ten years. I cannot imagine a worse client to have to try to prepare for the kind of scrutiny he would be under Mr. Mueller's questioning.
The second part of that I would add to what they said, why they should be nervous, you saw General Flynn's picture there. General Flynn had tremendous exposure, yet he only pled guilty in his deal, an agreement to cooperate, to one single count. There is no way in the world a man as knowledgeable and aware of all these issues, as Mr. Mueller only pleads him to one count, unless he knows he's very valuable and very valuable at the highest levels of the White House. So if I'm their attorney or if I'm the president, he ought to be nervous.
CUOMO: One pushback on that. The president, you're right, does not take political advice that readily apparently. Even just the most recent example from "The Washington Post" tonight about him asking Andrew McCabe, you know, who did you vote for and berating him about contributions to his wife. Yes, James Schultz is right, when you're interviewing someone, you can ask about their political affiliation if you want, I suppose, in this political context. But the way he did it was ill advised.
However, I have seen a deposition that the president was part of, and he did the dance well in the deposition, Congressman. He did his I don't recall's. He did the, look, can you ask me again? You know, let me get back to you on that. He played the game well in that deposition. [21:24:58] QUIGLEY: A little bit different situation in a deposition than an inquiry from M. Mueller. I believe, as you suggested, that he's going to know that he can't lie about that, and he's going to be pressed on these. I will tell you that is -- what you describe is the number one problem we face in the House investigation. I mean Mr. Sessions just for example, clearly the most forgetful person to ever serve in his position. I don't recall, I don't remember, not to the best of my recollection. I don't know if he would have known how he got to the Capitol that day if he was asked that. And worse than that, when we asked for a subpoena to force these questions, our Republican colleagues refused to do that, especially when he was asked the most pertinent question by my colleague, Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat. Did the president ever ask you to do anything that would impair this investigation? Mr. Sessions refused to answer that question.
CUOMO: On what grounds?
QUIGLEY: He just refused to answer that question.
CUOMO: I thought it was on executive privilege. Wasn't it on a potential exercise of executive privilege by the White House?
QUIGLEY: Now you stated it the way we're sort of understanding it. The president hasn't exerted the executive privilege yet, and the manner in which it is being talked about, which is sort of a maybe, is really in effect a de facto gag order of monumental elements, right? Steve Bannon said, I'm not going to answer questions after I left the campaign. Why? Because the White House told me not to.
CUOMO: Did he actually say that, or did you guys -- did he actually say that to you guys, that the White House told him not to answer questions?
QUIGLEY: White House counsel told him not to, exactly.
CUOMO: And do you believe the same about Corey Lewandowski?
QUIGLEY: I believe the same is true -- absolutely. You know, the circumstances, and I was part of that questioning, Mr. Lewandowski, I believe was told by the highest level of the White House not to answer any questions after the campaign. Now, that is a breathtaking scope and breadth of executive privilege.
And, again, they haven't even exerted it. So we're going to have to take on that challenge. There is never going to be a credible investigation from Congress if we are going to allow the White House to exert a nonexistent privilege at that level.
CUOMO: Well, luckily you have the courts for recourse, and they can figure it out. Let's talk about concerns on the other side of the ball. The memo that should be released, done by the staff of Devin Nunes and supposedly showing abuses of FISA. Have you seen the memo?
QUIGLEY: Yes, I'm not going to talk about whether -- what the underlying documents are. What I would tell you is this. Boy, is it being ginned up. It is full of sound and fury, and I would tell you with all due respect, it signifies nothing. And remember --
CUOMO: That's what they said about the dossier on Trump. Why not release it so that people can decide?
QUIGLEY: Well, let's talk about what we just mentioned, and that's that memo. It is based on highly classified material. It was only intended for the ranking Democrat and the chairman and select staff to see, under agreement by those gentlemen and the Department of Justice and the FBI. So the Republicans have violated that on a partisan vote, and it is factually incorrect --
CUOMO: What's so sensitive, not specifically, but what could be so sensitive that the American people can't see it and with respect to what the basis was for a FISA warrant to surveil someone in connection with Russian interference?
QUIGLEY: Well, you're asking someone who has served on the House select committee on intelligence why something could be so important that we can't share it with everyone. You know very well that there are sources and methods that are extraordinarily important to keep safe. So, A, we can continue to get that material and, B, that we protect our sources.
CUOMO: All right.
QUIGLEY: So that has always been there. That agreement, that level of trust has always been there for a reason. This would be the first time we violate that, and that is a Rubicon, as I mentioned in that debate, that we certainly don't want to cross.
CUOMO: All right.
QUIGLEY: I think this is the worst partisan divergence from accepted procedures we've witnessed since I've been there.
CUOMO: One other quick thing. I'm sorry that I kept moving in there, but I'm tight on time. The search for the texts between the two FBI former members of the Russia investigation that disappeared apparently, months' worth of them, that does not smell good. Do you have concerns about that?
QUIGLEY: Look, I think here's how you should analyze this. People who work for the FBI have a right to their own personal beliefs. We heard during the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation that there were members of the FBI who didn't like her. Shock, surprise. As long as they can do their job appropriately, let them continue. Clearly, Mr. Mueller found out about something that he didn't like. An FBI agent had texted, and he removed that agent. He did the responsible thing. We have to be very wary of an extraordinary game of deflection here by my colleagues on the Republican side. They are desperate. They are they nervous, just as I have talked about the White House being, how far this investigation has gone. It has gotten into the Oval Office, and they're panicked.
[21:30:38] CUOMO: Well, but fair point is that it fuels suspicion about how the job is being done when the texts go missing. That's why I asked the question. Congressman, thank you very much for being on.
QUIGLEY: Release the text, that's fine. But let's get to the truth on the more important points.
CUOMO: You got to find them first. They say they're missing. But thank you very much, Congressman. Appreciate it.
Also, new tonight, President Trump denies that FBI Director Christopher Wray ever threatened in any way to quit. He said it's not remotely true. But was he pressured to fire his deputy? And did you hear what Trump asked the acting head of the FBI when he interviewed him? What he said and what it could mean to prosecutors, next.
CUOMO: President Trump insists everything is fine at the FBI. He is also the master of the mixed message, and this is a case in point. Raj Shah, deputy press secretary, said just last night, "Politically motivated senior leaders including former Director (James) Comey and others he empowered, have tainted the agency's reputation for unbiased pursuit of justice. The President appointed Chris Wray because he is a man of true character and integrity, and the right choice to clean up the misconduct at the highest levels of the FBI." Doesn't sound like it's all OK to me.
[21:35:18] And there is the legitimate question about the missing texts between former members of the Russia investigation, members of the FBI. What is less legitimate is what a source says to CNN and Axios reported separately, pressure by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the president's hand-picked director, Christopher Wray, to remove Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who is retiring soon anyway. Now, that pressure, if true, allegedly prompted Wray to threaten to quit, which Mr. Trump denies. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Christopher Wray threaten to resign?
TRUMP: No, he didn't at all. He did not. He did not even a little bit. Nope. And he's going to do a good job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Not even a little bit. Let's take this one-on-one with CNN's Senior National Security Analyst Lisa Monaco. She was chief of staff to Bob Mueller when he was at the FBI as director. She also served as Homeland Security Adviser to President Obama. Always good to see you.
LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to see you Chris.
CUOMO: All right, so much to discuss. All right, so let's talk about the headlines, all right? Bob Mueller, special counsel, does want to interview the president in the near future. Surprising, no. Why?
MONACO: No, not at all. And that's because if reports that we've seen are true that Bob Mueller and his team are investigating obstruction of justice, including conversations with Jim Comey over potentially leaving the Mike Flynn matter and letting that go by the wayside, that means the president is a witness in a potential obstruction of justice investigation. So it makes total sense that Bob Mueller and his team would want to interview the president because he's a witness.
Now, to be clear, the president -- this president, like any president, is not just any witness. He's got a big job, so it's also not surprising that his lawyers, as reports indicate today, may be trying to negotiate the terms of any interview, and that makes sense as well.
CUOMO: And it could be a matter where the special counsel is looking just to get a sense of it. Just because he's interviewing the president doesn't mean he thinks there was obstruction of justice. He could talk to him to confirm his suspicions there was not obstruction of justice.
MONACO: Look, the special counsel, first and foremost, he and his team are charged with finding facts, --
MONACO: -- and they're charged with finding facts and applying those facts to law and --
CUOMO: Inculpatory and exculpatory, things that show proof of a crime and show proof of no crime.
MONACO: Exactly right. Finding facts, finding the truth, finding out what happened. And they are charged with following the law and the facts wherever they may lead. But that means interviewing witnesses to events, a whole range of events, looking at documents, examining those documents, interviewing witnesses in light of those documents and what other witnesses say.
Remember, Mike Flynn has pleaded guilty and is now cooperating, if reports can be credited, with the investigation. So he likely has told them a whole range of things that now is going to spawn another avenues of investigation.
CUOMO: So now the deeper question. The FBI, is there a lefty problem? Do you think they're going to find proof that this memo is out there about FISA abuses and what the basis was for warrants, these texts that are missing, the behavior of senior staff, that it was politically motivated, they were out to help Clinton, and they were out to hurt Trump?
MONACO: Look, I think what people need to understand about the FBI is first and foremost, it is not like every other agency of the federal government. It occupies a unique position. And importantly, as an independent investigator for prosecutors and Department of Justice, and importantly there is only one individual in the FBI who serves at the pleasure of the president, meaning is a political appointee, and that's the FBI director. Everybody else in an organization of some 30,000-plus professionals is a career civil servant. And my experience after working in the FBI for a number of years, being a prosecutor and assistant U.S attorney, working day in and day out with agents is not that there's a lefty problem.
CUOMO: So people have their political feelings. You don't think it gets in the way of the job, but that takes us to those texts between Strzok, I think you say his name, and someone else who was part of the counsel team, part of the Russia investigation. There are texts negative towards the president and then a big block of them go missing. What does that mean?
MONACO: Well, look, what I've seen about that reporting is a few things. One, we only know about any texts -- we're even in this environment because there's an investigation by the inspector general, --
[21:40:06] CUOMO: Right.
MONACO: -- an independent inspector general of the Justice Department. So that's point one. We know that there existed any texts and in fact that Bob Mueller removed Pete Strzok immediately upon finding what appeared to be inappropriately texts, immediately removed him from the investigation.
CUOMO: So there was a check and there was accountability.
MONACO: Exactly right, and that's an independent inspector general investigation. The other thing that we're seeing in reports -- again, I'm basing this based on public reports. I don't have access to any other information, is that there were some 50,000 texts in total exchanged between these individuals and have been turned over. There is some amount that is -- that were not captured as a result of -- and this is, by the way, coming from a letter that the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs provided to the Hill. So this is Justice Department recounting of the facts here. That there was some number of texts that were not captured in the new phones when they whether updated and given to the agents.
So the question I have in my mind is, is this just an issue with Strzok and Page's phones, or was this true of all the phones that got updated for the agents?
CUOMO: That's an important question. We're going to have to find out the answer. Lisa Monaco, appreciate it. Thank you.
MONACO: Thanks for having me here.
CUOMO: -- on set. It's nice to have somebody here.
MONACO: Good to be with you.
CUOMO: All right, let's take all of this into round one of tonight's "Great Debate". We have CNN Senior Political Commentator and Former Senator from Pennsylvania, Mr. Rick Santorum, a Republican of course. And Former Democratic Senator from California, Barbara Boxer. It's good to have you both.
So let's start with the headline, the president having spoken to Comey, to Sessions, to Hope Hicks, now certainly over a dozen of people. Now he wants to speak to the president. Barbara Boxer, what does this mean to you in terms of where this investigation is headed?
BARBARA BOXER (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, the scandal is moving directly to Donald Trump. And, you know, there's so much back and forth, but we have to just take a deep breath. What happened is we all know that Russia interfered in the election. We all know they favored Donald Trump, and the question is what did the Trump team do about it? Did they work with them? And is there a cover-up? And, you know, I have no idea what Mueller has, but there's many people speaking to him. But I do know what we, the public -- what we know. You've laid that out with a lot of your guests tonight. And we certainly know that Comey was fired to, "take the pressure off Trump." How do we know that? Because Trump told the Russians in the Oval Office, and there's proof of that, that he wanted the pressure lifted off of him. And the story just goes into a circle after that. But to me, it's pretty straightforward, and I think the president has a lot to answer for.
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMETATOR: Well, I just think that this is sort of the next logical step in the investigation. I think everyone anticipated at some point the president was going to be questioned. He was certainly -- he's certainly, you know, someone who is part of -- was part of the campaign, part of the process as Barbara described of, you know, after the campaign and some of the personnel moves. And I think Bob Mueller wants to get to the bottom as to why those things happened.
But I think Barbara actually highlighted it correctly, that the focus of this investigation was about Russia's involvement in the election and whether the Trump campaign colluded. And I think that's the point that seems to be obscured here because everything we're talking about now has really nothing to do with the Russians' involvement in the campaign. It's about how did the Trump White House handle the interaction with the FBI. Not that that's not important, but it does go to the broader question as to, you know, why we're viewing this special counsel if there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of evidence being produced about collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
CUOMO: How do we know what evidence is being produced --
SANTORUM: Because a lot has leaked out. That's why.
CUOMO: That's actually not fair. Mueller's team has been pretty tight in terms of what's coming out of that. We didn't know that he interviewed Hope Hicks. I mean they've been pretty good, much better than you guys are when it comes to how you --
SANTORUM: We're former Congressmen, please. CUOMO: But Barbara Boxer, respond. Do you believe that this is a distinction --
CUOMO: -- that is meaningful, that going after Trump for how he behaved about the investigation is not relevant to what happened with Russian interference?
BOXER: Well, you know, when Rick sort of agreed with me, which --
SANTORUM: Through you?
BOXER: -- is wonderful.
SANTORUM: You, OK?
BOXER: We've been at each other for many, many years. But what he left out is the last thing I said, which is cover-up. And that's the big issue here.
You know, Mueller knows that Russia did intervene, and now why did Trump fire Comey? Because he was getting close to this issue of coordination. And we all know about the meeting, that infamous meeting in Trump Tower, where in fact the Trump family was thrilled to go to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, and the president, according to everything we know, actually got involved in writing some kind of a defense of that meeting, saying it was all about adoption.
[21:45:26] So this is what we know. Imagine what Mueller knows. There's Papadopoulos singing in his ear. You've got Flynn. You've got all the other people that you pointed out have already talked. So, you know, the issue is the cover-up here. And that's where I think the president is in trouble.
CUOMO: You have concerns about a cover-up, Rick Santorum?
SANTORUM: Look, yes. I mean do I have concerns about a cover-up? I mean as we all know, we've been around Washington for a long time, and looked at our history. It's always about the cover. It' very rarely is there anything -- real smokey gun about what's being investigated in the first place. And I think that certainly seems to be the case here that, you know, Barbara talks about what we don't know. Well, that's right. We don't know. And --
CUOMO: But you are assuming in the unknown that there's nothing there.
SANTORUM: Well, again, I mean, with all due respect about leaks, I mean there's been tons of leaks coming out, and some of them have taken a while, but they've gotten out about, you know, who's testified and what's being accused. And we really haven't seen anything except this one meeting. If that's what they're hanging their hat on, that doesn't seem to be a whole lot to me. To talk about collusion, you have one meeting that went nowhere. So I think, you know, what I think Donald Trump is upset about is that, you know, all of this investigation, all of this money, all this attention to this investigation, and what we seem to be going down to, which a lot of these special prosecutors do, is instead of saying, well, you know, we're going to prosecute you on how you conducted yourself in the investigation, not what happened that was actually the reason for the investigation.
CUOMO: Well, if how you conduct yourself in the investigation is connected to the investigation itself, it becomes more germane. There's more to discuss.
SANTORUM: If there was no crime in the first place, I can understand why the president is frustrated.
BOXER: Well, I wouldn't leap to that conclusion there was no crime.
CUOMO: Senator there's -- I hear you.
BOXER: It's a crime to coordinate your campaign with the Russians.
SANTORUM: I agree if that happened.
BOXER: When I said we don't know, I said we don't know what Mueller knows.
BOXER: But we do know what the public knows. And you can lay it out chapter and verse, and it doesn't look good.
CUOMO: I hear you.
BOXER: Donald Trump, he told the Russians, the pressure is on. I got to take it off. I fired Comey.
CUOMO: I hear you. There's more to discuss. Let's take a quick break so we can come back and discuss other existing issues that go to the investigation and the concerns about that investigation.
There's also a lot of breaking news in the Russia investigation. So we'll take a second round, but first a break.
[21:51:19] CUOMO: All right. We have more break news. There are new signs tonight that Rick Gates, OK, a Trump staffer, worked with Manafort. That he may be negotiating with Mueller's team. Why? Well, CNN has learned that the former Trump campaign aid has added a prominent white collar attorney to his defense team who has been seen in Mueller's offices multiple times, signaling that his approach to the not guilty plea could be changing. This news comes on the same day that we learn that Bob Mueller does indeed wants to question Mr. President Trump, not a big shocker, expected to come in the next few weeks. And our exclusive CNN poll says, American's overwhelmingly believe the president should cooperate. Almost eight in 10 say he should testify under oath if asked to do so. It's a big if. Including majorities across party lines. Seventy eight percent say Trump ought to testify, including 95 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents and 59 percent of Republicans.
All right, let's bring back the senators. Santorum and Boxer are here.
Now, Rick, why does this matter? It matters because it's not as you much of a nothing bigger as you were suggesting. You have Flynn. He's talking to the special counsel. He cut a deal. We have Manafort. We don't know yet. We have Papadopoulos. He's talking to the special counsel.
So the special counsel had things on them, Flynn and Papadopoulos specifically lying about contacts with Russians. So we don't have nothing. Now we have Gates maybe bringing in a lawyer that shows he may want to work with a special counsel. Why would the special counsel cut deals with people who have nothing to offer because there is nothing there?
SANTORUM: Well, in the case of Gates, it may be an issue quite unrelated to the Russian collusion in the election. I mean, you know, suggested collusion in the election, maybe about activities before they even worked with the Trump campaign. So I think that's most of the speculation is around Manafort and Gates. It really has very little to do with Trump, and a lot more to do with things outside the Trump campaign.
But, look, I'm not suggesting that there aren't things to be investigated. There are obviously things to be investigated. But I am not candidly that concerned that we're going to find a lot of evidence of collusion between the Russian.
Look, I agree with Barbara, the Russians tried to influence the election. You know, let's call out the press. The Russians tried to influence every election since the Cold War. And, by the way, we try to influence their election. We try to influence -- Barack Obama tried to influence the Israeli election. He was very upfront about it. So the idea that government try to --
CUOMO: So is it --
CUOMO: -- all fair play to you, Rick?
SANTORUM: Well, I mean, did you criticize President Obama for trying to defeat Netanyahu and doing it? I didn't see this network or many networks do that.
CUOMO: So Rick, so let me get this straight. So you are OK with Russians trying to influence our democracy.
SANTORUM: I'm not OK with it. But it's not great news.
CUOMO: Because America is bad too, is that what you are saying?
SANTORUM: No, no. I'm -- well, I don't think Israel is bad. Why would the president of United States try to influence the Israeli election? Look, United States as other countries do, try to have -- through their foreign policy try to influence behavior another countries. That's not new.
CUOMO: It's doesn't make it OK that Russia did this and is still doing it. #Schumershutdown, #releasethememo. Russian bots are all those hash tags, because they like fomenting division among Americans and it's working Senator Boxer.
BOXER: Well, I'm stunned. I am stunned to see my Republican friend who always was a hawk, now all of a sudden, oh, big deal. Russia. Russia is our adversary. They are against us in places, hot spots all over the world from Syria and many other places. They are not our friends. They are out adversary. And you need to step back and ask, why is it that they preferred Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and why is it that they are still, as Chris points out, going after Democrats? Because they suddenly feel they can control this Trump administration and the question is what do they have on Donald Trump?
[21:55:36] CUOMO: All right, senator.
BOXER: And this is all a part of this investigation.
CUOMO: True. But we don't know the answers. But as we get more information, we will chew on it for sure. Rick Santorum, Barbara Boxer, thanks to you both. Appreciate it.
All right, up next, our "Final Fact". Stick around for that, please. First I got to figure it out.
CUOMO: All right, a quick three, number one, you have to find out whether or not other texts between FBI are missing and not just the two between the two who are in the Mueller investigation.
Two, if this memo, that the Republicans have, is so important to how we surveil, the American people need to see it.
And three, remember, a special prosecutor isn't just charged with finding evidence of a crime, he is also and his team charged with finding proof that there was no crime. Be opened to both possibilities.
OK. That's it. Those are "The Final Fact" and questions. Thanks for joining us tonight.
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