Return to Transcripts main page
CNN SPECIAL REPORTS
CNN Special Report, Comey Speaks Out. Aired 11p-12m ET
Aired April 15, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:15] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: This is a CNN Special Report "Comey speaks out." Just moments ago, we heard fired FBI director James Comey unleash on President Trump calling him morally unfit to be President, a stain on the people who work for him and a liar who treats women like pieces of meat. Really, just a jarring critique of a sitting president.
Welcome to the viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Jim Sciutto.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And I'm Pamela Brown.
And Comey's first TV interview since he was fired, he says there was quote "some evidence of obstruction of justice by the President when Mr. Trump asked him to let go of his investigation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn. And he suggestions it's possible that Mr. Trump has been compromised by the Russians.
Needless to say, there is a lot to discuss following the interview with James Comey on ABC. Let's get to our correspondents, analysts and political commentators.
And Dana, I'm going to go to you first on this. Because look, we have been waiting for this interview to happen. Finally James Comey is speaking out. This is the man who used to be the head of the FBI, one of the highest offices in the government calling the President of the United States morally unfit. Your reaction?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I mean, this is something that in any other time would be seismic and I think even in this time where it's easy to kind of lose sight of things that are enormously out of balance and enormously unusual for an FBI director, even though he was fired and he has, you know, he certainly feels a sense he says of higher loyalty but retribution, let's face it, to say the things he did about a sitting President of the United States is absolutely extraordinary. Especially, as you mentioned, things like he believes that it is possible that the President did obstruct justice. Because remember, this isn't -- this is the kind of thing that a former FBI director or official does usually many years down the road. This is an active investigation --
BROWN: And he is a central witness in the obstruction of justice probe.
BASH: Exactly. SCIUTTO: Gloria Borger, you listened to James Comey here. He is a
polarizing figure, right. And in fact, he reiterates this in the interview saying that, you know, the Democrats hated him during the election and Republicans or many do are Trump supporters.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He said his life sucked, if you recall.
SCIUTTO: Yes, he did. There was colorful language.
SCIUTTO: That's a lot of colorful language at this time. But as you heard in there, is he a credible critic of the President?
BORGER: You know, it's in the eye of the beholder, obviously. I think my -- Jason Miller over there isn't going to believe that he is. But I do believe that he is somebody as a witness to this investigation, somebody who was involved directly, one on one with the President who is saying the President is lying, is lying about a bunch of things. He is lying about a conversation they had about loyalty, for example.
And when he says when he says the President is obstructing justice and he says there is evidence of it, possibly, we know he is telling that to the investigators. And the most stunning thing to me was that a question is asked about the President of the United States, do you believe that he could be compromised by the Russians. And Comey's answer is, I never thought I would say this, I never thought I would say this. But it's possible. And I mean, I think his word was, you know, what always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely. But I would have been able to say that with high confidence about any other President I dealt with but I can't, not with this President.
So when you want to look at his credibility, he is got ego. His book is full of criticism so the President perhaps shouldn't have made the size of his hands, the color of his hair, his tan, et cetera, et cetera, put that ego aside and I think the arguments he makes here about the man he is dealing with are quite persuasive.
SCIUTTO: He was a witness in the room for some of these conversations that are relevant.
And I want to bring in Evan Perez because, Evan, you covered James Comey for many years. What is the significance of him saying that I believe there is evidence of obstruction of justice and what is your overall take on the interview?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look. I think those are very important comments that he has made right there. I think they provide at least a glimmer of why the FBI investigation proceeded as it has, why Robert Mueller is doing what he is doing, why this thing is still a cloud over the presidency. I think the President is right that it is a cloud. But it is a legitimate thing that needs to be investigated.
But I will say sort of like just stepping back and I have spend time reading the book. You know, I come away from this and knowing, having known Comey and covered him for many years before he became the FBI director under President Obama.
It occurs to me that, you know, he, unfortunately, is suffering the same fate that everybody who decides to play by Donald Trump's playbook, right, using some of the same tactics, some of the cheap things, frankly. I think they are cheap to be making comments about the President's marriage, to be making comments about his tan and his tie and all that stuff, you know. I think that's what happens to you when you go there and you saw this in the campaign, people who decided to go man to man with candidate Trump ended up looking worse for it.
[23:05:49] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Isn't it --?
PEREZ: So I think my fear is that I think for Comey and I think we are going to start digesting this over the next couple weeks, he is going to come across looking worse than, I think --.
BASH: I don't want to be cynical here but let's play it straight, he is also trying to sell books and the fact that those comments are out there --
BROWN: When George Stephanopoulos asked him, you know, basically, your critics say that you are angry and that is why you would reason. He said that's not right. I mean, by all accounts, Evan, he is angry. He was upset he was fired.
PEREZ: He is very angry.
SCIUTTO: He is not the first Washington accolade to write a critical book after leaving his position.
BASH: What about the timing during the Mueller investigation when he is a central witness in the obstruction of justice probe?
SCIUTTO: Well, let's get to that question of obstruction of justice because that really gets to the core of what this investigation is about going forward. We have the advantage of Jeffrey Toobin here. You are a lawyer.
James Comey there gives a first-hand account with the meeting with the President soon after the President is elected when he says the President told him to let the Flynn investigation go. And he said he is asking me, his impression was to drop the criminal investigation of his now former national security advisor. Is that the evidence of possible obstruction of justice that he is referring to?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it is evidence of justice. I think it is obstruction of justice. I mean, I just think, you know, there is just no other way to describe what the President was doing if Comey's account of the conversation is correct.
He is trying to stop an investigation of a subordinate in the Russia investigation. I mean, and particularly when you combine it with all three meetings that Comey talks about, I think in and of itself it is obstruction of justice. It was a crime committed in the oval office.
Now, whether Comey is telling the truth, he sure looked like he was telling the truth to me. He sure has a pretty good record on such issues. But, you know, you have to look at all the evidence in the case. But I just think it's a completely devastating account of the President's behavior.
BROWN: And Laura Coates, do you see it that way?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, in part. I think that he did play, perhaps, an unpersuasive martyr in a lot of things today, particularly with the obstruction case.
See, James Comey is in an interesting position. Because for most as we have been following the entire last year and a half and using other pieces or perhaps evidence of obstruction or other things. But for many reasons here, Comey's firing is the beginning of the obstruction inquiry. And for that reason, he can't really fully tell people whether or not everything he prides himself and Donald Trump was in fact evidence of it.
And remember, we are talking about obstruction. I'm a former federal prosecutor. That was never the end game for me. If I had an obstruction case, that was but part of my underlying investigation. It would be a kin to having an armed robbery and all of a sudden charging someone with speeding away from the crime. It wouldn't be satisfy anyone in the public.
And so, it is evidence in part of that. But it's not the end game for Mueller if that is his entire probe. It would be ironic and odd if that was the end game for me. It is just not. But is it circumstantial evidence? In part.
SCIUTTO: Jason Miller, let's give you a chance to respond. Firs, if you can n the obstruction issue, but also just on your larger impression of James Comey's account to the President that you know and you work for.
JASON MILLER, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, on the first part, I think the President has been very clear. I think the people around him believe that he can fire the director any time that he wants and that there is no obstruction case here and this is ridiculous.
SCIUTTO: But how about on the Michael Flynn point is separate one. Can he tell his FBI director in the language he used, let it go ongoing criminal investigation?
MILLER: The President in the White House have given a much different account here. But I think it's rather stunning the director, former director Comey is in the middle of this. He is out there hawking books to echo on what Dana said. They also stuck further, he is out there trying to sell a movie deal.
I mean, what we saw tonight didn't feel like some hard hitting interview. I mean, this felt to me like an episode of "behind the music" where on one shoulder we have director Comey thinking do I go this way? Or then on the other shoulder was, do I go that way?
I mean, the hubris of this man to decide when he has to tell the President who is funding the dossier or when he goes and brings up or the politics that played into the fact that he brought uphill Hillary email (INAUDIBLE) just before the election. I mean, it came across to me is that former director Comey has a gag complex. And he is the only one who could decide when things are right and when they are wrong.
[23:10:23] SCIUTTO: I know part of the intention here is to turn the fire back towards to him. Comey, which is fair, he just put himself out there. He has written a book. But on the facts of this, well, his account of the facts of this conversation, if the President had asked his FBI director to let a criminal investigation go of his former national security advisor, if you, by James Comey as account, would that be obstruction of justice in your view?
MILLER: He didn't.
SCIUTTO: You are saying Comey is lying?
MILLER: I'm saying that Comey is not giving an accurate picture here. I think that what we seen from Comey, again, he is the only one who can decide when leaking is OK. He is the only one who can decide when lying is OK. I think he is completely, ethically, conflicted out of this. And it's just really stunning to me to watch this. I mean, look. To think that to him that this is now about future business income more than anything else, I think is just stunning.
COATES: It's odd you would say the idea he is a person to either decide whether lying is OK or anything else when the President had already made that judgment call on Friday about Scooter Libby and the certain assessment. So I wonder, why do you think this is the time to decide somebody is not entitled to make the judgment calls but the oval office is?
MILLER: He is the director of the FBI. Now, him to be out there leaking things intentionally so on and go on and try to push to the press to try to get a special counsel going, he lied in his testimony when he said he hadn't leaked. I mean, for a former director of the FBI, I think this, is again, the word I keep coming back to --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is why he said he had --
BORGER: This is what Mueller -- if the President does testify, this is what the special counsel is going to be asking him about.
MILLER: I think you do a good job. I have said that publicly before and I think the President does -- BORGER: Do you think he should?
MILLER: I think if he does decide to, I think he will do a great job. And I think that's part of the thing, too, when he is going to be out there in 2018 and 2020 and people are going to be asking about it, President Trump knows what he is doing. He is going to be fine if he does make the decision at the same time.
BROWN: Make sure we bring in Patti here.
SCIUTTO: You might disagree, Patti.
PATTI I SOLIS DOYLE, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON AIDE: disagree. Look. I think that many people have questions about Comey's judgment, both people on both sides of the isle. Certainly giving the letter ten days before the election. Maybe even the timing of this book. And certainly also, you know, talking about the size of his hands and all of that stuff that I think he should not have done.
But I don't think anybody really questions his honesty his, veracity, his truthfulness. He has been truthful throughout this process when he was FBI director and even when he was investigating Hillary Clinton. As painful as it was for me to hear this press conference in July, it was truthful.
PEREZ: Let me just -- I don't mean to interrupt but this is only the first version of Comey's own truth. I think Comey, you can tell from the interview, from the book I think you can tell that he is wrestling with a few things. He kind of talks a little bit about how you can't let politics over interfere in making decisions. And yet --.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And yet he did --.
PEREZ: He decides on October 28th. He is officially looking at the polls in making that decision and knew that the FBI was going to be hammered and himself, right. So I think he still working through the sort of the Catholic thing where you, you know, admit all the things that you have done. It is a confessional and it is still a working progress.
So I mean, I think you are being a little bit frankly generous with regard to whether or not this is a - this is the full truth because I think there are things we know from our reporting and that, you know, from other accounts that don't really marry up, with match up with what he says in the interview and this book.
DOYLE: But the counter to that is who are you going to believe? Comey or President Trump who I think at last count "the Washington Post" said he has 2400 untruths since he's been President. So this is going to go on for, I don't know, two weeks and it's going to be a Trump vs Comey.
SCIUTTO: In the polls, right, in opinion polls, listen. People have strong opinions about on negative and positive on both sides than the by-in-large American people tend to believe Comey's account more than the President's account. Much along the lines of many other disagreements in the country now but at least that -- by that measure --
BORGER: But why did the President ask the vice President and the attorney general to leave the room? That's an important point. You only do that when you know maybe you are going to be a naughty boy and maybe you're going to be asking a question that you shouldn't be asking and that you didn't want them to hear.
And I have to tell you one other thing that was striking to me in this and we have heard this before in all of our reporting, is that Comey wasn't asked at the very beginning what can we do about this Russia hacking into our election. Instead, it became a PR conversation so it didn't look like the President election was illegitimate. And I think if I'm the FBI director --
[23:015:18] BASH: You mean, he wasn't asked by the President.
BORGER: Yes, he wasn't asked by the President.
BROWN: What we already know is that the President has been more concerned with how the Russian medaling impacted the outcome of the election and therefore the legitimacy of his Presidency in the election meddling.
BASH: Yes, I agree with that. The other thing that's really striking and he did this a little bit in his testimony before congress, but much more so in this interview and clearly in the book is he sort of has his, maybe to continue on your confessional, he has his good angel and bad and he is still wrestling right now at least publicly with whether he did the right thing or whether somebody else would have done something differently. And the question is whether he is saying that as a way to try to not seem like he is as people are accusing him of being holier than now and the person who is, you know, has the moral compass that he sees himself that way or whether or not that's frankly a genuine internal discussion.
COATES: Well, you see - yes, the thing is about it, the idea of him wrestling with I think is absolutely right. But the justice department is structured in a way that he would never have to wrestle with it.
COATES: If the prosecutor who decides whether or not to bring a case. It's a prosecutor who goes before the cameras if they choose to sort of hold a press conference. If Loretta Lynch who would defer to the judgment of the investigators in this case, not that you hold a press conference on my behalf. If I never had an investigator come in and take over one of my cases and hold a press conference without telling me, you can leave your badge on my desk and your pension at my door because that's how that actually works. So he wrestles for no reason.
SCIUTTO: Let's get Jason.
MILLER: Yes. I just want to make one other point here in right now everything with the conversation seems to be kind of whether it's Comey versus Comey or Comey versus Trump conversation. But I think that is much broader than that. You look at the Democrats who come out and criticized former director Comey. We saw McCabe throw him under the bus pretty strongly in the IG report. Loretta Lynch had a statement out today.
SCIUTTO: Loretta Lynch was contradicting his account.
MILLER: But to put to it out today, I mean, that's clear, she wanted to get ahead of --.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, he did because she --.
MILLER: And reigns, former Hillary spokesperson came out with some --
SCIUTTO: Well, that's a good point you bring up because - and Comey refer to this in the interview that Democrats re-vowed him for his interactions. We have one sitting next to you here during the campaign, Republicans since then, and Comey raises it. Perhaps he said and I'm paraphrasing, we are flawed human beings that did our best in effect to investigate both these things. Is that a fair --?
MILLER: It is a very good point and I'm glad you asked that. Because you would think traditionally that someone is being criticized by Republicans and criticized by Democrats, they must be doing something right. What is different here is you are seeing people a lot of people looking, even seeing like a Chris Christie type. Yes, he is Republican but sort of I think has a pretty unimpeachable law and order type background, someone who has been a prosecutor than U.S. attorney, come out and say that if he had done this when he was here, he would have been fired.
I mean, I was talking to a former prosecutor earlier today who said that if you asked him six months ago, and he is a Republican, he said even though all the back and forth with Trump, he said he still would have said Comey is someone on really kind of on a different level that he would say this is the ultimate role model. He said now I can't believe --
SCIUTTO: Well, di the fact is Trump pays Comey during the election when he was investigating Hillary Clinton.
BORGER: But just because you don't believe - just because you think that he is not of high moral quality as others believe doesn't mean that he is lying.
MILLER: But, I mean --
BORGER: And that's what, you know, that's what Mueller -- that's what Mueller has to get to and, you know, the timing of the book is interesting because he is such a key witness.
MILLER: But he did lie when he was testifying. SCIUTTO: Let's bring in Jeffrey Toobin there because this is go back
to the big picture if you can for a moment, he's accusing a sitting President of being morally unfit, his term, to hold the job, another phrase. He says he treated women like pieces of meat. These are remarkable. They are jarring judgments to make about Donald Trump.
TOOBIN: Yes, they are. But in a way they are sort of the least interesting part to me of his story because, I mean, you know, those are conclusions that we can agree or disagree with. He is a witness to several key events, you know, the destruction of Hillary Clinton's campaign at the end of the October. And of course, he is a key participant in what maybe obstruction of justice by the President. I mean, he is obviously now made up his mind that he thinks Donald Trump is a terrible person and terrible President.
But, you know, that sort of conclusion while remarkable for someone, you know, in his position. You know, I think the fact that he was -- that he is in the room, that's what is really interesting to me is that, you know, he is a firsthand witness of extremely controversial events.
His conclusion, I guess, I mean, it's striking in its severity but I don't, you know, we all could have opinions whether Donald Trump is morally fit to be President. We all kind have been in the oval office as witnesses to obstruction of justice.
[23:20:39] SCIUTTO: No question. Well, it seems those interactions one on one with the President are part of the reason he reaches those conclusions but we certainly have much more to talk about here.
Coming up, James Comey on the President asking him to pledge his loyalty.
Much more of our Special Report that is right after this break.
[23:24:30] SCIUTTO: We are back now with our Special Report on all the revelations from James Comey tonight speaking out in his first television interview since he was fired by President Trump.
One of the biggest headlines from the interview we were - by discussing this is his comments on the ongoing Russia investigation in the question out there for more than a year now. Does Russia have compromising information on him? Listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think it's possible. I don't know. These are more words I never thought I would utter about a President of the United States but it's possible.
[23:25:03] STEPHANOPOULOS: That's stunning. You can't say for certain that the President of the United States is not compromised by the Russians?
COMEY: It is stunning and I wish I wasn't saying it, but it's the truth. It always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely and I would have been able to say with high confidence about any other President but I can't. It's possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Gloria Borger, as director of the FBI, he would have seen the evidence, right. So this is not a comments just out of the blue. And frankly, he is making this having left, you know, a year ago with a host of evidence that been gathered since then. But that's remarkable comment for him to make.
BORGER: It's as George Stephanopoulos said, this is stunning. There is no other way to describe it. And he is proving to all the information now that the special counsel is getting. And not only that, he you can have a President compromised by the Russians, he raises the question of obstruction, and he also says by the way that he felt like he was investigating the Costa Nosta that this was like some kind of a mob thing where the President was trying to get him into the family and make sure he was a, you know, cooperating, loyal, part of the family here.
And the notion again, and this goes back at the President being compromised potentially by the Russian, the notion that the first respond was not are you kidding me? What can we do to make sure this doesn't happen? And I want every detail, I want to know and those questions were not asked, that would make an FBI director, and you more about this than I do, that would make an FBI director raise a lot of questions.
PEREZ: No. It really when - look. I think we have the benefit of now another year of investigation, right. And we have seen certainly Michael Flynn deciding to plead guilty and specially - essentially becoming a very important witness to the special counsel. As a result of him, you can start seeing some additional people who have come forward and have given testimony to the special counsel.
So I think that what Comey is eluding to is certainly a lot of what we have now seen which is that the special counsel is following this idea that somebody, somewhere inside the campaign was doing something that may have been improper and they are trying to figure out how high that goes. And I think that's the concern that you heard in the interview, which is that maybe it's not Donald Trump himself but perhaps someone very close to him might have done something that the Russians know about and could use to compromise the administration.
BROWN: I have to say, though, I wish he spoke a little more and was asked what exactly, why do you think he was compromised versus past Presidents?
BORGER: Well, he did mentioned the tape.
BROWN: He did. He did. But I think, you know, like you said, there has been a lot out in the public sphere including the infamous dossier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
BROWN: And so, I think, I can guess, that if the President was watching this, that that would really bother him because he is basically giving credence to really what the heart of the dossier is about. The dossier that the President himself has said is unverified, has been debunked, everything like that, Jason Miller.
MILLER: Well, no. And I feel that's where we are heading a little bit toward the spot that Trump supporters frequently like myself, get put into where there is this allegation, there is some supposed coordination or collusion between the campaign and the foreign entity to which there has been zero proof has been put forwarded. And then someone like myself gets out there and says, well, there wasn't any coordination or collusion. We start playing kind of this the circular game.
But I think it's also important to point out when you take a look at former director Comey, just how far he has fallen over the past two years. I mean, two years ago, I think everyone sitting here probably would say he is one of the most unimpeachable characters that are out there and that he is on - he is up with this different plane. And now he is essentially, he has become a political figure. I mean, even his body language in the interview as he is talking about the Costa Nostra. And he is talking about the video. He is shifting around. And it just looks to me like not very believable. And I mean, he is trying to sell books. He is trying to sell movies. I think it's pretty clear what this is about.
PEREZ: Jason, the guy has millions of dollars from the hedge fund job previously. So I think he is OK. I think the book sales are really not really the motivator here. I think he has got a story to tell and I think he feels compelled to tell it, I'm not sure, you know. You can pass judgment.
MILLER: He wants to make money, too. I mean, the book deal and movie deal.
BROWN: I want to bring in Jeffrey Toobin very quickly. Because I do want to ask you about the timing of the release of this book. I think, you know, the fact that he released the book, Jeffrey Toobin, is not a surprise. But the fact that he released it right in the middle of the Mueller investigation when it hasn't wrapped up in terms of the obstruction of justice probe and the fact that Comey is a key witness in that, is it appropriate for him to be releasing the book now?
[23:30:00] TOOBIN: Well, I mean, you know, he is a private citizen. He has first amendment rights. He can do what he -- there is certainly no legal bar to him doing it. I mean, I think he exposes himself to some criticism for his timing.
You know, as someone who is a book writer myself, the notion that he is, you know, the shocking thing that he is trying to get people to write by his book and he is trying to actually put interesting stuff in there so people will, I want to read it, I mean, those don't strike me as terribly damming criticisms.
But you know, it is true that this is the middle of the investigation. But the other point that is worth pointing out is that he has been extremely consistent in his testimony before the Senate intelligence committee and in this interview and in this book compared to the President who has just, you know, made up a fantasy about, you know, that there are tapes in the oval office. There is just not -- I mean, his consistency in his story, which is most important in the way is impressive.
SCIUTTO: And his accounts - his accounts were also corroborated by their witness versus the account of that first intel briefing with the President James Clapper who is also in the room and said the same thing.
But Jeff Toobin, if I just can, I know that, you know, we can talk about, you know, another Washington poll who wants to make money off a book here. But keep in mind just he is saying that there is a possibility that Russia, a foreign adversary, that is compromising information on him. Is that not the bigger topic?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, I think, you know, you are making a very valid point which is there is a public interest in saying what James Comey is saying and saying it right now, you know. The fact that the President behaved this way. The fact that the Russians may have something on him. I mean, you know, that's why, you know, I think it is a good thing for public officials to go write books later on because they have things to say that are of importance to all of us and I'm glad to hear him say it.
BASH: Yes -no. And I want to go back to what Jeffrey said about, of course, people who write books should write interesting things. James Comey has so many interesting things to say given the obvious situation. And like the point I was making before was that it doesn't necessarily have to be the color of his skin, the size of his hands, things like that because being in a room, being a first-hand witness, having the experience he had not to mention knowledge about the investigation, that's enough to sell books.
BROWN: We'll be right back.
Still ahead, Comey talks about his discomfort during a strange and inappropriate private dinner with the President.
We will be back.
[23:36:26] BROWN: And welcome back. It is our Special Report on James Comey painting a scathing portrait of the President who fired him calling him morally unfit for the highest office in the land.
Let talk more about this remarkable interview with the former FBI director. And it's pretty extraordinary to hear from Comey's mouth about that dinner, that one-on-one dinner that we have been hearing so much about where he says the President asked him for his loyalty, that he was extremely uncomfortable.
SCIUTTO: I expect loyalty, I need loyalty.
BROWN: I need loyalty. And he came back and said I will give you honesty. And then the President said honest loyalty.
Jason Miller, what is your take on that? Was that an appropriate interaction by the President of the United States?
MILLER: Well, I'm going to side of the President here and say that I don't think the conversation went down the way that director Comey said. I will tell you the reason why. And of course, I have not discussed this with the President or anyone in the White House this supposed conversation.
The simple fact that the President Trump I know would never go and ask someone a question like this where they could just easily turn around and say no.
BROWN: He wouldn't ask him for loyalty?
MILLER: I could never see President Trump sitting down with someone and saying can I have your loyalty.
DOYLE: That he had asked that of all of his staff. He will hire people who have said negative things about --.
MILLER: I worked for him for seven months and he never, at one point, during --.
DOYLE: Well, because he already knew you were loyal.
MILLER: I mean, I worked against him in the primary. How did he know?
BROWN: Just take a step back. James Comey has been interviewed by Mueller which means if he - if this account isn't true, then he essentially publicly lied.
PEREZ: Well, you know, here is the interesting thing about that dinner. I mean, the way he describes that dinner is it is something that -- he describes it as a shake down. Now, remember, the President views the briefing in early January after the intelligence briefing where he gets told about the dossier. He viewed Comey as shaking him down. And here we are later that same month they are having this private dinner and he asks for the loyalty according to Comey and the way Comey describes it is he views it as the President attempting to shake him down because he is basically saying, you know, in exchange for your loyalty, I'm going to let you keep your job.
BROWN: And how important is that in terms of him being the key witness here and that's how he viewed it, Laura Coates?
COATES: Extremely important. Because it would be the way he proves obstruction of justice it is through intent which somebody's mental state. What they were intending or believe. So everyone's interpretation is very, very important in terms of what he meant and why he was doing it.
But you know, one way to gauge somebody's credibility who would be judging someone's mental state is whether or not they are saying things unflattering about themselves and making confession (INAUDIBLE). Remember, Comey said in that part of the interview, as well, I didn't have the guts to say to the President of the United States, I'm the FBI director, I'm ''6'8".
MILLER: Why did he quit?
COATES: Well, he was fired first. And my answer to that really is, he said he didn't have the guts to say I won't give you loyalty and that (INAUDIBLE) odd.
MILLER: He went to the press conference with regard to Secretary Clinton just before the election because he had to establish the moral, the kind of the moral fabric in which this election was going to be viewed. He thought that she was going to win. And he didn't want it to be an illegitimate presidency. I mean, he is so conflicted with this, am I right? Am I wrong? I'm the one who tell the right thing?
BROWN: This is the perfect place to wrap up because - we are going to talk about this on the other side of the break.
BROWN: Because I know we have all been waiting to talk about this. Coming up, Comey talks about that controversial handling of Hillary Clinton's email investigation. And why he knew it was a no-win situation. You won't want to miss it. Stick around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:43:41] STEPHANOPOULOS: if you knew that letter wouldn't like Donald Trump, you would still send it
COMEY: I would, down that path lies the death of the FBI as an independent force in American life. If I ever consider whose political fortunes will be affected by a decision, we are done with just another player in the tribal battle. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And we are back with our Special Report talking about James Comey's new bombshell interview that he did this evening with ABC. He is not only taking aim at President Trump, he is opening up more about the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
And here is a little bit more about what he said.
OK. So I want to bring you in, Patti, on this. Because clearly, he is trying to explain himself. Why did you talk about the Hillary Clinton email investigation publicly, not the Trump campaign investigation that had been going on? Why did you release the letter just before the election? In your view, did he give a satisfactory answer on that?
DOYLE: No, absolutely not. Here is what he said about why he didn't disclose that there was an investigation going-on on the Trump campaign during the election. Because it would have been brutally unfair to the Trump people. What about being brutally unfair to the Democratic nominee? Ten days away from the election.
You know, again, I have no reason to believe that Jim Comey is not telling the truth. And I can, if I try really hard, wrap my head around his reason of transparency for letting the letter out ten days ahead. But if that's the reason, transparency, then why not release the Trump campaign was being investigated, also?
Now, we are never going to know, unfortunately. We will never know if that letter was determining in that election. But it -- we do know that it negatively impacted the Hillary Clinton campaign. And therefore it gave a boost to the Trump campaign. And if even one Clinton voter, either stayed home or voted for Trump or voted for Stein, then that was bad judgment on the Comey part.
BASH: You know, Patti, you are talking about the difference between his approach to the Clinton investigation and the Trump investigation. What struck me was the fact that he really didn't have an answer for why and George asked the right question, why when they found out about the emails that were on Anthony Weiner's computer, which is the whole reason he released this letter, saying they are reopening the investigation. Why they didn't quickly try to figure out what it was and decide whether or not they needed to go public with it.
[23:46:27] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
BASH: But the answer is, there isn't an answer because they ended it up found out there was no there there --.
PEREZ: I think by far this is the most damaging thing that James Comey says in this book and his interviews because he both - he is trying to have it both ways. He says we cannot let politics influence us, but he also admits that the fact that she was leading in the polls did enter into his head. (CROSSTALK)
SCIUTTO: That is key. I want Jeffrey Toobin to come in on this because does that seems to have influence frankly, his and many other decisions along this campaign because part of his assumption was if I don't do this when she's President, then there will be a question about whether her election was somehow unfairly helped along.
TOOBIN: God, I thought that was bizarre and like off key and wrong. You know, I think there is this weird sort of Washington conventional wisdom that if the left is attacking you for one thing and the right is attacking you for another, you must be right because you are in the middle. But you can be wrong on both or you could be right on one and wrong on the other. And his explanation particularly for the October 28th letter is so weak. And this sort of helplessness, I had no choice. I mean, I was - you know, he had every choice in the world. And he never acknowledges the incredible strong justice department tradition of not interfering with elections.
SCIUTTO: Sorry, just to --
SCIUTTO: Jeffrey Toobin, agrees.
BORGER: Can I just say, he absolutely showed the opposite of what he said. Because what he said was if I ever start considering whose political fortunes would be affected, we are done, right. We are done. We are just another player.
MILLER: That's just what he did.
BORGER: Thank you very much, Jason. That is exactly --.
MILLER: That's exactly what the FBI is not supposed to do.
BORGER: And this is the key criticism of James Comey. I will go back to what I said before. It does not mean that he is not telling the truth in everything else.
BORGER: But there was, there were political considerations because he thought Hillary Clinton --
MILLER: He goes and picks winners and losers.
DOYLE: It makes one wonder if Trump was ahead, would he release the Trump investigation.
SCIUTTO: Hold that thought, if you can because we do have much more time to discuss this.
And still ahead, we heard from James Comey now, how is President Trump reacting to his interview? We will be back in a moment.
[23:52:52] SCIUTTO: We are back now with our Special Report. James Comey calling President Trump morally unfit to be President in this new interview. The President unleashing a preemptive strike, calling his fired FBI director slippery, a slime ball, out of whack, a terrible director of the FBI, proven leaker and liar, weak and untruthful.
Dana Bash --.
BASH: What does he really think?
SCIUTTO: Well, totally, his response is a direct fire back at James Comey.
BASH: Of course.
SCIUTTO: Which is a frequent Trump response to being attacked. Does it work?
BASH: Well, it works to help James Comey sell books, you know. I mean, for somebody who is very interested in ratings and size and how much people watch and how much people read and numbers like that, he has given James Comey a big solid here by doing this kind of thing.
SCIUTTO: Does but does it in the bigger picture as he directs fire at him. And beyond the base, does it begin to get people to ask questions, Gloria, about James Comey's credibility?
BORGER: Sure. That's exactly what the President is doing. But I would say Comey is throwing it right back at him. I mean, saying it, he felt like he was investigating the Costa Nostra again.
PEREZ: Yes. He tweeted today that the three Presidents mentioned in his book, one of them is a counterpoint to his points of leadership.
BORGER: Right. The President does not reflect the values of this country. He talks women like they are pieces of meat, et cetera, et cetera. I think he has just given it right back to him. And by the way, that doesn't do the larger argument any good, because the serious stuff that's got to be investigated about Russia and this potential collusion, et cetera, et cetera is the stuff that is in this book that is serious that needs to be and that Mueller be dealing with.
SCIUTTO: He is a witness to Robert Mueller's investigation. He swore, you know, giving sworn testimony in that investigation.
BROWN: And you have to wonder, I'm just wondering, Jason Miller, as you are watching, as you know the President very well. Assuming he watched it tonight, hard to think that he didn't, he will be briefed on it at the very least, what do you think stands out to him? MILLER: I think the fact that that there is nothing new. I think it
BROWN: Well, there was a few things. I mean, Comey says there is evidence potentially of obstruction of justice.
[23:55:03] MILLER: But I think also the President is someone who watches a lot of news, who reads a lot of newspapers. And I think as he looks around and sees all the folks in the media as well as the left and the center folks in the Democratic Party who are criticizing James Comey tonight. I think the President is probably going to call some attention to that. I think you are going to see a lot of folks on the right aside from the President take a lot of issues with the illegalities of some of the leaking and the lying that we saw.
BROWN: The leaking and the lying, though, I mean, this is a President who just on Friday pardoned Scooter Libby who leaked the name of a CIA operative and then was convicted of lying of perjury. And also this is a President who was caught lying on so many occasions. I don't know what the count. I just want to ask you this. You say James Comey is a liar. How so?
MILLER: Because he said that he didn't leak.
BROWN: He said this --
MILLER: He said he didn't leaked and he did.
SCIUTTO: No, he didn't. He said it's true, that he admitted to giving those memos --
BROWN: He did that before the memos had come out, that he has said that he had never been an anonymous source. And he did admit that he gave the memos to a friend who then leaked it.
SCIUTTO: His explanation tonight what he said and whether you accept this as sufficient, he said that there were all these news cameras at the end of my driveway, and therefore I had to leak it out via a friend.
MILLER: When he was on the hill he didn't say hey, I packaged everything up and gave it to my friend from Columbia and said let's go ahead and leak it to everyone.
PEREZ: He did say --.
COATES: This is all part of a talking narrative, a talking point because the President of the United States, most people think about the FBI they don't know every director (INAUDIBLE). He knows Christopher Wray, maybe.
This is part of a concerted effort to try and discredit the FBI and the investigative arm of DOJ as part of a larger campaign that if the ultimate investigation does not exonerate the President of the United States, that they have been discredited in some way. But I think it's quite transparent and quite a fig leaf if he is preemptively striking at that point.
BROWN: All right. Well, thank you all so much.
And just days from now Jake Tapper will sit down for Comey -- with Comey, rather, for the former FBI director's first cable news television interview since President Trump fired him. You can see it Thursday on "THE LEAD" at 4:00 p.m. eastern with Jake Tapper right here on CNN.
Still ahead, we are going to hear more from James Comey on President Trump and whether he obstructed justice.
And we are also standing by for another brand-new Comey interview releasing moments from now. Stay with us.