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Soon: Federal Court Hearing on FBI Raids of Trump Lawyer; Battle Rages Between Comey, Trump over New Book; Trump Set to Pardon Scooter Libby. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired April 13, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone, John Berman here.
We do have breaking news, an unexpected development. Any moment now, a federal court hearing to begin regarding Donald Trump's personal lawyer, the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. This is the first federal court hearing related to the FBI raid, the searches of Michael Cohen's home, hotel and office this week. We just learned about this hearing overnight.
CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, live outside the court with the details on this. Shimon, what have you learned?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. That's right, John. We learned late last night that the attorneys for Michael Cohen filed this motion. They're essentially asking a judge to not allow the government to use any of the evidence that they recovered in the search warrant on his home, on his office, and then in this hotel that he's been staying at. They're trying to get ahead of it, basically here, and that this motion, we're expected will be unsealed we think maybe today or maybe they take a few days. But at least this hearing is supposed to get underway around 10:30 a.m. and arguments from Michael Cohen's attorney explaining why the federal government should not use any of this evidence, perhaps in a grand jury proceeding or in anticipation of any criminal charges that could be filed in this case.
Now, as to Michael Cohen, we expect certainly the court staff here does expect him to appear. But we have not been able to confirm with him or his attorneys that he's actually going to show up. So, that's sort of a mystery here. But certainly, you know, plenty of news cameras here, other folks here waiting in anticipation to see exactly what is going to happen today. We may or may not get a ruling from the judge today. That's all still unclear, but certainly we'll get that news to you, we expect this to get underway around 10:30 a.m.
BERMAN: All right. 10:30 a.m., Shimon, we'll let you get into that courtroom right now because what is said out loud in there could be our first best indication of what these searches maybe all mean. Thank you so much Shimon. Appreciate it.
The other major breaking news this morning, this unprecedented battle that is playing out before our eyes over just the last few hours, the dispute between the fired FBI Director James Comey and the president of the United States. This war is now a dirty war. The fired FBI Director James Comey is talking for the first time this morning about the unverified, salacious information that was in that dossier that he discussed with then president-elect Trump back in 2017. The allegation that Russian authorities recorded Donald Trump watching prostitutes urinates on each other in a Moscow hotel suite. This is what James Comey had to say about this on ABC a little while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I said to him, sir, when he started talking about it, I may order you to investigate that. I said, sir, that's up to you, but you want to be careful about that because it might create a narrative that we're investigating you personally. And, second, it is very difficult to prove something didn't happen.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Did you believe his denial?
COMEY: Honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don't know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It is possible but I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: One of the more extraordinary statements you'll ever hear from a senior former government official. It did not take long for the president to respond and respond in anger. He called James Comey a leaker and a liar, which is ironic given some other developments. We'll talk about in a second. He also called Comey weak and an untruthful slime ball. We'll have much more on that in just a moment.
First, CNN's Evan Perez joins you right now on this very busy morning. Evan, as we hear for the first time, again in his own words out loud, James Comey with some of the answers and details in his book.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. This book is coming out next Tuesday, but already pieces of it have leaked out in news accounts and of course now, "Good Morning America" playing some of that interview. It appears that Comey is actually going a lot further in that interview and perhaps than what he said in the book, which is called "A Higher Loyalty." And look, I think the idea of this book was to talk about leadership and loyalty, but clearly there is some score settling happening here between the former FBI director and the president of the United States.
Let me set the scene a little bit to January 2017, when Comey and the Intelligence Community chiefs go to brief the incoming president about threats facing the nation. And, of course, Comey pulls him aside later at the end of the briefing and tells him about this now infamous Russia dossier and the details of this golden showers incident that was contained in that dossier.
[10:05:00] Here is how Comey describes what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COMEY: I started to tell him about the allegation was that he had been involved with prostitutes in a hotel in Moscow in 2013 during a visit for the Miss Universe pageant and that the Russians said -- had filmed the episode. And he interrupted very defensively and started talking about it. Do I look like a guy who needs hookers and I assumed he was asking that rhetorically. I didn't answer that. Then I just moved on and explained, sir, I'm not saying that we credit this, I'm not saying we believe it. We just thought it important that you know.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you tell him you thought it wasn't true or you didn't know if it was true or not?
COMEY: I never said I don't believe it, because I couldn't say one way or another.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How weird was that briefing?
COMEY: Really weird. It was almost an out of body experience for me, I was floating above myself looking down saying you are sitting here briefing the incoming president of the United States about prostitutes in Moscow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: And, John, that briefing that he had one on one with the incoming president changed everything about the relationship. Trump has said in interviews that he thought Comey was trying to shake him down. Comey has obviously a different recollection of how these events went about in their multiple interactions. And, John, I guess this book is going to be a hot seller when it finally comes out on Tuesday.
BERMAN: We will see. Evan Perez, thank you so much for those details. Thank you for that.
Again, the White House wasn't going to respond directly to this. The president wasn't going to respond directly to this. This all changed this morning perhaps after hearing James Comey speak for himself.
Kaitlan Collins at the White House with what the president has been saying. Kaitlan?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, John, I think it is a pretty much a surprise to no one that the president has responded to James Comey in this book that paints the president in a very unflattering light to say the least. And the president, of course, responding on Twitter this morning saying that, James Comey is a proven liar and leaker, he calls him an untruthful slime ball and the most notable line from his criticism of James Comey is the last sentence when he says, it was my great honor to fire James Comey.
Of course, John, we know that firing of James Comey nearly a year ago is something that the Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking at in the way, the circumstances of which he was fired. And also, of course, the firing of James Comey is what led to the appointment of the special counsel, something that plagued the president for months now. But we're seeing the president fire back, not just the president, though, also his Press Secretary Sarah Sanders who is hitting Comey for his credibility or lack thereof. She said also Kellyanne Conway who's on a driveway just behind me here at the White House this morning, saying to her, Comey seems more like a disgruntled ex- employee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: We find that Mr. Comey has a revisionist view of history and seems like a disgruntled ex- employee. After all, he was fired. Not as if he came to the conclusions that are in his book while he was on the job as FBI director, in the presence, in the company of the president and said, you know, I just must resign, I can't deal with this anymore, I must resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So, John, we're witnessing this stunning battle between the current president and the former FBI director who he fired and we know that we have not heard the last of James Comey, of course, his book hasn't officially come out yet. He has a whole book tour to do, several interviews, and have a very strong suspicion that we have not heard the last from the president on this yet either, John.
BERMAN: A shrewd prediction. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you very much.
Joining me now, CNN legal and national security analyst, former FBI special agent, Asha Rangappa and CNN political commentator, former Hillary Clinton campaign manager, Robby Mook. We're going to get to the Clinton part of this a little later in the show. Also with us, CNN political commentator, Republican Strategist, Alice Stewart.
If you will humor me, my friends, I want to play a little more from what James Comey had to say. We heard the salacious part before. There is maybe some more substance in what he has to say specifically about how the president elect's team, the incoming White House was responding to the details and the facts behind Russian meddling in the election. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: President Trump's first question was to confirm that it had no impact on the election. And then the conversation, to my surprise, moved into a PR conversation about how the Trump team would position this and what they could say about this. They actually started talking about drafting a press release with us still sitting there, and the reason that was so striking to me is that that is just not done, that the Intelligence Community does intelligence, the White House does PR, and spin.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also said you were struck by what they didn't ask.
COMEY: Very much. No one to my recollection asked so what -- what is coming next from the Russians? How might we stop it? What does the future look like? It was all what can we say about what we did and how it affects the election that we just had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Asha Rangappa, as you listen to James Comey and you've read all the excerpts that have come out, what do you think is behind what he's saying? What is his driving message here?
[10:10:08] ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The driving message is that the president didn't react the way that you would imagine the commander in chief who is in charge of protecting the country from foreign attacks would react upon learning that a hostile foreign power is claiming to have -- potentially is claiming to have leverage over the president and has also interfered with the election. Someone who is in that position would clearly be furious that Russia was trying to exercise that kind of power and had already interfered and is, I think, as Comey said, would probably be asking a lot of follow-up questions on what needs to be done to counter that threat. And that doesn't seem to be what the response was from the president.
BERMAN: Overall, when you take this bit combined with, I think, the way that James Comey writes, some of the other details here, Alice, the message seems to be that James Comey thinks that Donald Trump isn't worthy of the office of the presidency. And I think that may be the message that Donald Trump is getting from it, based on his response this morning. What do you make, Alice, of the phrase weak and unworthy slime ball?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That is the president's way of getting back and in my view from a communications standpoint he should have stayed out of it. He shouldn't have responded. He shouldn't have taken the bait when he saw Comey on television this morning. Because what that does, it sets him and his team and his communications staff up to a situation where they have to respond. If he's going to call James Comey a liar and a leaker, they're going to -- that opens the door for reporters to say what he lying about? Did these things happen? Did the allegations you were concerned with making sure that Melania believed you about, did any of that happen?
So he, unfortunately, another self-inflicted wound by weighing in and while we're talking about the salacious details, what we're hearing in the excerpts that I've read and seen, I believe James Comey's overall take was that he has concerns about this president's ability to run based on the consequences that he has set up for telling the truth, for forcing people to be loyal to him as opposed to the truth, and he personally took issue with the president encouraging him to drop the investigation against Michael Flynn. So there is a lot of angst by Comey in writing this, but he has some points that he wanted to get out for sure.
BERMAN: You bring up this subject of angst, there is a legitimate question of did James Comey, in order to make the point he wants to make about the president's worthiness or fitness for office, does he need to say all the things he said in the book, whether it be about the size of his hands or his height or this morning, again, was talking about the salacious details in the tape, and he brought up the president's wife. Listen to that part right here, if you can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: He said you know if there is even a 1 percent chance my wife thinks that's true, that's terrible. And I remember thinking, how could your wife think there is a 1 percent chance you were with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow. I'm a flawed human being, but literally zero chance that my wife would think that was true, so what kind of marriage, what kind of man does your wife think there is only a 99 percent chance you didn't do that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Robby, how do you assess James Comey's choice to say that in that way?
ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I -- far be it for me to read into James Comey's inner thinking here. Look, he has an interesting line to walk. On the one hand, I think it is important for people to call out Donald Trump for the things he does. And certainly there are some revelations in this book about things that were totally inappropriate. Unfortunately, not surprising, because this president seems to do things that are wholly inappropriate every single day.
But I think where Comey needs to be careful, is not to give the White House an out, to make this a personal spat or a disgruntled employee. Instead of a bigger issue about how fit this man is to serve in office. And, you know, I agree that -- I think the -- I think obviously, Trump's tweet this morning was a mistake. But this is a mistake he makes all the time. But I just would caution -- there is an important investigation happening, that Robert Mueller is leading. That investigation is based on facts. I think it has been very credibly conducted thus far. There are enormous revelations regarding that investigation coming today, it seems every hour. I would want to let those things be the spotlight and not James Comey and what kind of an employee he was.
BERMAN: All right. Asha, I want to get this question to you, it's a little bit of a left turn here, but we are learning that the president might be about to pardon Scooter Libby. Lewis Libby, who was the chief of staff for Dick Cheney in the Bush White House, was convicted of perjury, obstructing justice, lying to investigators, having to do with the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame, who was then a CIA operative.
[10:15:13] He may pardon Scooter Libby today. Is there irony in the fact that he will pardon Scooter Libby perhaps shortly on the same day and the same time he's accusing James Comey of being a liar and a leaker?
RANGAPPA: It is the ultimate irony, John. The president tweeted that Comey is a liar and leaker and leaked classified information. And needs to be prosecuted and that's pretty much what happened with Scooter Libby. He had interactions with various journalists in which he discussed Valerie Plame, who was a CIA operative, and then he lied about it and obstructed justice. And, you know, those are the kinds of conversations he even suggested made Andrew McCabe, you know, his talking to journalists, for example, an unfit employee. So, he's leveling allegations against people and now turning around and actually pardoning someone for that same behavior. But I think that this is supposed to be a slap at Comey, I guess, because Comey did hire -- or point the special prosecutor who investigated Libby.
BERMAN: And there is that angle also, the possible angle he's sending a message about how he feels about people convicted as subjects to special counsel investigations, who knows. Asha, Robby, Alice, thank you very much.
Much more to come with you in a little bit. We continue to follow breaking news this morning, a whole lot of it, more on the new book from James Comey, including his thoughts on the Clinton campaign and his fear of making her an illegitimate president. What does Robby Mook, her campaign manager, think about that?
And then this, we're just minutes away from a hearing related to the FBI raids on Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen. Also, we're -- following the latest developments out of the United Nations Security Council meeting happening right now. You're looking at live pictures from this meeting. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley expected to speak shortly. Stay with us.
[10:21:23] BERMAN: Happening right before our eyes, the White House versus James Comey, James Comey versus the White House, the fired FBI director calling the president unethical and untethered to the truth, the president calling James Comey an untruthful slime ball, his words.
Here to discuss Democratic Congressman Denny Heck of Washington. Congressman, thank you for being with us. I guess have to ask you to play ref this morning a little bit. The president of the United States calls the fired FBI director an untruthful slime ball, your reaction?
REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: Well, the president really only had one play in his playbook all along, and that's vicious name calling, personal insults, ad homonym. I don't think it's really worked that well for him. But I think we can all fully predict that's exactly how he's going to respond to even the slightest of criticism.
BERMAN: You say the slightest of criticism. I think it is fair to say that James Comey book, what we read of it, and what we heard from him goes beyond the slightest criticism, wouldn't you say?
HECK: Well, I agree entirely. Listen, John, I've only read a few excerpts from Director Comey's book. I may or may not get around to reading it. Frankly, I don't think anything he says in his book will be as important as what he said on March 20th, 2017, before the House Intelligence Committee, when I asked him personally why is it Americans should care about Russian interference in our elections. And he quite eloquently described how it is that America to the rest of the world is that shining city on the hill and how it is that we have to stand for free, fair, open elections that are conducted with integrity and ruled by law and that's what is at stake here. Not just for America, but for all western Democracies. That's the most important thing Jim Comey has ever said.
BERMAN: That discussion with you may have been at a higher level than talking about the salacious details in the unverified dossier or talking about the size of the president's hands or talking about the white circles he sees under his eyes. Do you think that the -- hang on, do you think he hurts his case, do you think he hurts his case?
HECK: What I think, John is that it is unfair to judge a book you haven't read yet on the basis of a few granted salacious excerpts. I've read -- I think the book should be evaluated in its entirety.
BERMAN: Then evaluate James Comey for what he said in his own words this morning on "Good Morning America" when asked about the details of that tape. He really went out of his way to say, you know what, maybe I do believe them.
HECK: Maybe I do believe what?
BERMAN: He was asked about the salacious details in the dossier.
HECK: Oh, right, right.
BERMAN: And, you know -
HECK: Well, John, we're talking about Christopher Steele who had been a reliable and trustworthy confident and informant for the FBI over some period of time. So, it is not unreasonable for the director to have concluded that there was some degree of reliability for that information.
BERMAN: Do you think it is reliable? Do you believe it? Do you think that incident happened?
HECK: I have no basis for judging other than that which is available in open sources. Christopher Steele, taken as a whole, is a fairly reliable source of information, whether or not in each and every detail that is accurate, that's not what an intelligent assessment is supposed to represent.
BERMAN: All right, we have also learned, and this is separate but related, certainly to all of this, that the White House has been preparing talking points to discredit Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general of the United States who was overseeing the Mueller investigation right now. What is your reaction to that? How real is the threat, do you think that the president would fire Rosenstein?
HECK: Well, the air is filled with that rumor and the nation's capital. Let me tell you, John. And if, in fact, he fires Rod Rosenstein and it is -- it proves out to be a predicate for either curtailing or firing Director Mueller himself, then frankly you can conclude it as nothing other than obstruction of justice.
[10:25:14] BERMAN: Obstruction of justice. You said last night to Don Lemon that the president should resign. Do you think it is fair, Republicans are suggesting, look, the Democrats take the House, it will lead to certain impeachment. Is that your fair assessment given your statement last night?
HECK: I'm not living in the world past November 6th. But let me tell you - of this year, John. But let me tell you this, those of us of a certain age remember what happened the last time since the tapes were reviewed. You can trace the resignation of Dick Nixon to the exact moment in time in the hearing when it was revealed that there were tapes being kept in the White House. Now, we have fairly reliable sources of information that Michael Cohen had tapes. We don't yet know what is on them. But this is only getting worse for the president. This is not going in a good direction. And it is not going to abate, John.
BERMAN: You say fairly reliable information. I have to let you go, we're out of time. Do you have information beyond what we have already read in the media being on the Intelligence Committee? Do you have independent information that tapes -- that Michael Cohen has tapes?
HECK: I have no independent information as to what is on the tapes.
BERMAN: Do you have independent information that tapes exist from Michael Cohen?
HECK: I have information not to the Intelligence Committee that I deem to be fairly reliable, but not with 100 percent confidence.
BERMAN: Can you give us the nature of that information?
HECK: No, sir.
BERMAN: All right. Congressman Denny Heck of Washington, we do appreciate your time. I have a sense we'll be talking to you a lot in the near future, sir.
HECK: Thank you, John.
BERMAN: All right, we're just moments away from the federal court hearing related to the FBI search of President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen. There is a question about whether there are tapes. We heard Congressman Heck talking about it. We're going to have a live update from this hearing shortly.