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FBI Seized Recorded Conversations; Pompeo Confirmation Hearings; Comey Tell-All Book Out; Need for New AUMF; Interview With Sen. Tim Kaine. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired April 13, 2018 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:31:53] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so we understand the president is going to receive an intelligence briefing today as the White House insists that no final decision has been made on how to respond to the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria. The president appears to be softening his talk about retaliation. You remember just a day or so ago the president was tweeting Russia directly saying missiles, quote, will be coming. The president tweeted in part that a response could happen, quote, very soon or not soon at all.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump reevaluating his decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. The White House confirms that he has asked U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow to look into reentering TPP. The president withdrew from TPP during his first week in office claiming it was unfair to American farmers and workers.
CUOMO: President Trump ordering a review of the U.S. Postal Service operations and finances. The executive order was signed last night. It comes just weeks after he president publicly railed against Amazon claiming the online retailer does not pay its fair share of postage. The task force is going to be led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and it's going to include the attorney general and labor secretary.
CAMEROTA: President Trump's allies concerned the FBI may have seized recorded conversations when they raided the home and office of Michael Cohen. If there are tapes, what could be on those? We dig in, next.
[06:37:17] CUOMO: All right, there are new clues on what the FBI may have seized in its search of Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, his office, the hotel room where he and his family were staying. Sources telling CNN, Cohen recorded phone conversations during the campaign. It could be on his cell phones or computers. And they were seized by the FBI this week.
Back with us, John Avlon, David Gregory.
David, how's it hit you?
DAVID GREGORY, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, this could go to explain and I guess provide more backup for what the FBI was doing and why this was approved by the Justice Department and the southern district of New York.
As I made -- I made this point earlier. You know, if you're making a case, there's lots of spokes here. They could be looking at bank fraud, wiring fraud, maybe as part of making a larger case, or maybe just to go after Michael Cohen, because that's where the evidence takes them.
You know, prosecutors do bring bank fraud and wire fraud cases. If he claims preposterously, ask any lawyer, whether he, out of his own pocket, paid $130,000 to pay off the porn star so that she wouldn't tell about her affair with the candidate who was going to become president, did he put on his application for the loan that he says he took out on his house that it's to pay hush money to the porn star?
CUOMO: You don't have to do that, though, David. I mean a HELOC --
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You don't have to justify what --
CUOMO: No, a HELOC -- I'm sorry, a home equity line of credit, it's your home, it's your equity.
CUOMO: The bank makes a decision about how much equity you have and how much they want to lend against it and then you --
CAMEROTA: Yes. I have a question.
CUOMO: You don't tell them how you want to use the money.
CAMEROTA: When you're setting up an LLC, as he did, do you have to justify what you're setting up the LLC for?
CUOMO: You have to give it a stated purpose.
CAMEROTA: Maybe that is --
GREGORY: Well, but you're saying -- but you're saying he if -- if he -- if he put an alternate explanation that wasn't true, that that's not an issue?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
CUOMO: I'm saying that when you have a HELOC -- no, no, no, this --
CAMEROTA: Getting dogged (ph) out?
CUOMO: This matters because a lot of people are saying exactly what we're discussing right now, David, thank you for bringing it up.
AVLON: Let's clarify --
CUOMO: It's your money when you have a line of credit on your home.
GREGORY: Right. CUOMO: You use it for whatever you want. You just have to repay it with the (INAUDIBLE), you know, with the interest rate. It's not like applying for a loan as we would notionally think about it.
AVLON: Right. I -- and I think the clarification helpful. The point David's making, of course, is that there's a long -- there's a -- there's a pattern of shady behavior --
CUOMO: I get it.
AVLON: That we're being told is utterly normal in the course of business when we call common sensely (ph) know it's not.
The presence of potential tapes, if Michael Cohen indeed was taping conversations over the course of the campaign, which appears to have been a best practice or at least a common threat within the Trump organization, that's problematic. Why? You've got a primary source document they can't spin their way out of. They can't do a he said/she said.
And, two, Michael Cohen is an incredibly devoted, loyal enforcer and secret keeper to President and then candidate Trump. And he was very unvarnished in his language and tactics. And if those things are caught on tape, well, you live by the tape, you die by the tape, we found with Nixon, and we may see history repeating itself, but it's not going to look good odds are.
[06:40:11] GREGORY: Well, and what I'm saying is, and we're speculating about what they're after. But the point is that there could be a case -- maybe there's evidence that they have of some kind of bank, wire fraud, campaign finance violations.
GREGORY: These are cases that they would bring and that they would make. It may not have anything to do directly with President Trump. That may be part of this investigation.
CUOMO: Yes. No, David's straight on.
GREGORY: That's the point I make.
CUOMO: Straight on, David, because it's the right point to make.
CAMEROTA: All right, let's move on to Mike Pompeo. As you know, he is on the verge perhaps of becoming secretary of state. But it's questionable now as to whether or not the nomination is in trouble. Some Democrats are more on the fence than we knew.
Here's a moment of one of his hearings where he was asked about his position on Iran. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: Iran wasn't racing to a weapon before the deal. There is no indication that I'm aware of that if the deal no longer existed that they would immediately turn racing to create a nuclear weapon today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Awfully sanguine, John Avlon.
AVLON: It just -- it's jaw-dropping to me that he's that sanguine about the prospect of Iran getting a nuclear bomb, when so much partisan heat has been directed at the Obama's for the deal they made, falsely (ph) saying that it will accelerate the process to a nuclear weapon.
Also, this is -- you know, this is incredibly germane to being secretary of state. The deal -- the deadline that Trump -- President Trump has set up happens to largely overlap in mid-May with the North Korea deal, which also would require some kind of international enforcement. So this is just jaw dropping on five fronts. And it's one of the hurdles Pompeo's facing.
On committee, he's got Rand Paul, Republican, libertarians, saying not going to support him, and two Democrats looking unlikely to support him. That creates a math problem. McConnell could override it, but Pompeo's a -- you know, it's unprecedented to have a secretary of state, you know, not -- not be confirmed. But this looks like a tougher confirmation than we've seen in a while.
CUOMO: David, do you think he helped or hurt himself?
GREGORY: Well, I think -- I think he's part of a -- I think he's a pawn in a larger fight here. I mean he's controversial in and of himself, but he's -- he's part of a lot of -- a larger battle where this is an opportunity for Democrats, you know, to take their frustration out on President Trump and raise concerns about his foreign policy, about the Mueller investigation and all the rest. I think Pompeo has an opportunity here to be a very effective member of President Trump's team, very effective for the country despite, you know, some of his views that people may disagree with. He's a secretary of state who would be on the same page with this president and the rest of the world would know that, which would be more effective than his predecessor.
And, you know, you look at an issue like the Iran deal. This has been controversial from the start. So there's going to be, you know, arguments on both sides of this.
GREGORY: I don't know that that should be determinative.
AVLON: And Democrats will have to answer if they vote against him, putting the State Department without someone at its head at a time of maximum international peril.
CAMEROTA: All right, David Gregory, John Avlon, thank you very much.
So, what do Democrats think about James Comey's explosive tell-all book? Hillary Clinton's former running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, joins us next.
[06:47:12] CUOMO: All right, the war is on. The former FBI director, Jim Comey, blasting Donald Trump's presidential leadership in excerpts from his explosive tell-all book. This is going to launch a lot of back and forth. And it's also a great opportunity for Alisyn and I to do one of the things we enjoy most, dramatic readings. Here are some excerpts for you.
CAMEROTA: All right, here's the first one. The president is unethical and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.
He's not mincing words here.
CUOMO: No. But I think I can do better on the dramatic.
CAMEROTA: Oh, OK.
CUOMO: You're being way too journalistic.
CAMEROTA: You're right.
CUOMO: Comey goes on to say, he's like a mafia boss in his demand for loyalty --
CAMEROTA: (INAUDIBLE) --
CUOMO: Writing, Trump gave him, quote, flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control.
CAMEROTA: Shouldn't you do this with an accent?
CUOMO: The loyalty oaths. He doesn't have one. I do. The U.S. versus them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.
CAMEROTA: I think you missed a Tony Soprano moment -- opportunity there.
CUOMO: But Comey doesn't sound like that. I'm in his voice.
CAMEROTA: I see. I gotcha.
CUOMO: You've got to stay in character.
CAMEROTA: The motivation. I understand. We are, obviously, making light of some of this. It's a bombshell. And James Comey, I mean, he includes some juicy tidbits.
CUOMO: He does.
CAMEROTA: I think that some might say are heady or are salacious. But also, I mean, to have the former head of the FBI, a man like James Comey, who was known as a straight shooter --
CAMEROTA: Talk about the president being untethered to the truth --
CAMEROTA: And unethical. The president of the United States.
CAMEROTA: I mean there's no way to see this other than as a bombshell.
CUOMO: Unprecedented. Unprecedented. But the reason this is an OK aspect of the book to play with this way is that that's how it's going to be taken in. This is the heat part of the book. The light part of the book, what it sheds on the investigation and what it means going forward, that will be dealt with, with deadly seriousness.
All right, so, joining us now is Hillary Clinton's former running mate, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, an important morning to have you on. Thank you for joining us.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Absolutely, Chris. Good to be with you guys.
CUOMO: So from what you understand about the book so far, what is of interest to you, sir?
KAINE: Just the excerpts that I've read, the -- this untethered to truth line just, you know, has a complete ring of truth to it based on what we've seen in the first 15, 16 months of the administration. And also I thought it was interesting that Director Comey is sort of analogizing the Trump team to like mob folks that he's prosecuted. I've always thought it was interesting, Chris, in this investigation about Russian collusion, it kind of sounds like an espionage case, but all -- I've always thought of these guys, they're a little more like mob types than spies because the bling, the braggadocio, the, you know, over opulent kind of glitzy stuff. I mean, so when Comey talked about it as a little bit like a mob organization, that also has a ring of truth to it.
[06:50:17] CUOMO: One more beat on this, if you would indulge me, senator, and then I want to move on to what's going on with the confirmation process and you know what I'm going to ask you about in terms of the Syrian conflict.
KAINE: I do indeed.
CUOMO: So the usefulness of this book. Everybody will take it in through their own lens of what they're looking for in it. What is your bar for satisfaction?
KAINE: Well, you know, you were leading in with an interesting way. I'm sure there will be heat. The question will -- is, will there be light? There will be some juicy excerpts, I'm sure. But, look, we're in a tough time right now. We're grappling with this Mueller investigation. Even today, the president is announcing that he's going to pardon Scooter Libby. Why pardon Scooter Libby today? People have forgot about Scooter Libby. The pardoning of somebody who is convicted of obstruction for justice, working in the White House, I think is more about sending a message to people today than it is about a case that's 10 years old.
So we're in a very, very challenging time right now. And I don't know if the book will offer us, you know, who are in the House and Senate any guidance about what we have to do, but it may -- it may help the American public understand the completely unprecedented times we're living in and the high stakes that our institutions stand up and defend the values of the country against some significant internal crisis.
CUOMO: We'll see. And, of course, Comey's handcuffed by confidentiality and classified information with an ongoing investigation.
CUOMO: So we'll see how much light there can be in it at this point.
So, senator, Mike Pompeo, up for confirmation. Interesting politics involved here. Maybe they take it out of committee, put it to a vote on the floor. That's going to be a little inside baseball for people.
There's a bigger headline. So after all of the attacks from the right and some of them with great justification that, boy, you shouldn't have done this Iran deal because they're going to make this bomb anyway. It's too weak. They can get around it. This is a bad deal. Mike Pompeo gets up there and says, I have no reason to believe that they are in any rush to create any kind of nuclear device, deal or no deal. Jaw dropper.
KAINE: It was a -- you know, it was funny, Chris, that was my thought during his testimony yesterday. It was a jaw dropper. He said, a, that before the deal was done, Iran wasn't rushing to a deal and he doesn't think they're likely to rush -- rush to a bomb and he doesn't think they're likely to. And he also said he completely accepts the notion that Iran is actually complying with the deal. Those were both pretty big headline moments, although I think there were other aspects of the testimony that got a little more -- got a little more attention. But those were the light-producing moments of the hearing, if you will.
CUOMO: Do you think he helped himself or hurt himself?
KAINE: You know, here is his challenge with me. Every Democrat on the committee had voted against Mike Pompeo for CIA director except for Jean Shaheen and me.
KAINE: I voted for him to head the CIA and don't -- don't wish I had that vote back. I think he has a background in intel and has been a good -- solid manager there.
But what I really doubted going into the hearing is, where is this guy's predisposition toward diplomacy. I said during the hearing, you know, a lot of people said they didn't like the Iran deal. You were the only one saying I don't like the deal. And, oh, by the way, it's only going to take 2,000 bombing runs to wipe out Iran's nuclear capacity. I just don't see much evidence of diplomacy in Mike Pompeo. And especially with this president, I think the secretary of state should be somebody who really has a lean toward diplomacy.
CUOMO: Does Tim Kaine know how he's going to vote?
KAINE: I'm still weighing it. But, I'll tell you, I walked in with serious questions and they weren't -- they weren't really laid to rest yesterday by his testimony.
CUOMO: Senator Shaheen. What do you know about where she is?
KAINE: You know, I think -- I think Jean has some similar concerns to mine. I would let her speak for herself. I haven't talked to her since the hearing was over about what she's thinking right now.
CUOMO: All right. Of course it's the red state Democrats we're going to have to watch because they have a different set of politics involved in this potential vote than you and Shaheen.
Let me ask you this -- well, not Shaheen so much, you.
So, the AUMF, Paul Ryan says the president does not need to come to Congress to bomb Syria. Where in the AUMF, which, by the way, doesn't supersede the war Powers Act by definition within its own language.
KAINE: Right. Right.
CUOMO: Where is this an attack on a terrorist organization that is a direct threat to the United States? Who in Congress is going to stand up and say, Mr. President, please formulate your plans. You cannot execute them without our vote of authorization?
KAINE: Paul Ryan is wrong. I'm going to stand up and have been saying, if the president launches missile strikes against Syria without coming to Congress, it's illegal. It is illegal because we've given the president, through the 2001 and '02 AUMFs the power to fight against non-state terrorist organizations if they can be somehow connected to the bombing of 9/11. [06:55:06] But Syria, as a nation, was not connected to the bombing of
9/11. Syria has not declared war on the United States. There's no international legal justification for carrying out a war on Syrian soil.
Is Bashar al Assad a dictator? Absolutely. Should we use tough action, including military action, to stop him from using chemical weapons against civilians? We sure should. But not without a vote of Congress.
And so you will see in the next -- I think likely today or in the next couple of days, Senator Corker, the chair of the foreign relations committee and I, have been working on a new authorization that would try to clarify the U.S. military actions against non-state terrorist groups, but specify that that authorization does not apply to military action against a sovereign nation.
CUOMO: There are a lot of risks involved. This -- everybody's got to be weighed and measured on this one, senator.
CUOMO: We'll stay on it. Thank you for joining us. We'll have you back on this.
KAINE: OK. Thanks, Chris. Take care.
CUOMO: Be well.
CAMEROTA: We'll have much more ahead on James Comey's explosive tell- all book. How will President Trump respond?