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Comey on Rosenstein Firing; Comey Asked about Impeachment; Augment Against Cohen Search; Avenatti on Cohen Indictment; Macon Takes Credit; Protesters at Starbucks; Barbara Bush in Failing Health. Aired 9:30-10a
Aired April 16, 2018 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:31:38] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Fired FBI Director James Comey does not think special counsel will be fired. Now, James Comey tells ABC News, and I quote, I think given his experience with me -- he's referring to Rod Rosenstein -- that he has an opportunity in overseeing Bob Mueller to restore some of his professional reputation, and I am highly confident that he would refuse to abide that order, referencing an order to fire Bob Mueller.
My next guest is not highly confident Mueller's job is secure. Congressman Jerry Nadler is a Democrat of New York and member of the all-important House Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, thank you, again, for being here.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Good morning.
CABRERA: I know you had a chance to watch James Comey's interview with ABC. What do you see as the biggest headline there?
NADLER: Well, most of what he said we knew. I -- to me the biggest headline is that when he and others informed the president-elect a couple of days before the inauguration of the Russian attack on our democratic system and of the fact that the Russians make him -- would -- could continue this, that Trump -- the reaction of Trump and people around him was entirely political. What does this mean for me? How does this effect the -- how people see the legitimacy of my election, with no thought and no comment on, what do we do to protect the country against the continuing attack from the Russians? What do we do to protect our democracy? In other words, completely political reaction, no reaction on the part of the president-elect of the United States to a threat to the United States.
CABRERA: Now, I know you have introduced a bill to protect the special counsel, Bob Mueller, who is investigating the Russia election meddling. Comey was asked about the possibility of the president moving to try to fire Robert Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: What will it mean if President Trump tries to fire Robert Mueller?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: It would, I hope, set off alarm bells that this is his most serious attack yet on the rule of law. And it would be something that our entire country -- again, Democrats and Republicans, that is higher than all the normal fights about policy, and it would be to the everlasting shame of partisans if they were unable to see that higher level and to protect it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Congressman, I spoke with your colleague, a Republican in the House, Charlie Dent, this weekend, and he is on board with legislation to protect Robert Mueller. Are you finding more Republicans who are prepared to take this action?
NADLER: A few in the Senate. I don't know too many in the House. The Republican leadership in both houses are saying, well, that won't happen. He won't fire Mueller. It's not a problem. But it may very well be. And it would be a catastrophe for the country if Mueller were fired or if Rosenstein were fired because Rosenstein's replacement could either fire Mueller or could put the investigation in a straightjacket. He could quietly, without even knowing about it, tell Mueller, don't fire -- don't follow this line of inquiry, don't look into that, do look into this, whatever. He could control it without knowing about it.
The president, you know, apparently thinks he's above the law and no man can be above the law. No person can be above the law. And that's what's really at stake here. Are we still a country of laws?
And the other thing that's at stake, you know, the president said he drew a red line. Mueller shouldn't look into this or that. Shouldn't look into his personal dealings. Well, a person under investigation has no power or right to draw a red line. If the prosecutors or the investigators think that a person may have broken the law in this respect, they are duty bound to look into that. And no man can be his own judge. And that's what the president seems to be demanding. And if he were to fire Mueller and try to stop the investigation, that would be a real crisis in American democracy.
[09:35:20] CABRERA: And there's been the talk of potential impeachment of this president. Again, waiting to see what the investigation ends up concluding.
But Comey was asked about whether the president should be impeached. Here's his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I'll tell you, I'll give you a strange answer, I hope not because I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they're duty bound to do directly. People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Do you agree, congressman?
NADLER: Yes and no. I think he misses the point. Impeachment is a -- is intended by the Constitution to be a political act, not a judicial act, and it's intended to be a defense of the Constitution and of American liberty. You impeach a president if the evidence is -- only if the evidence is overwhelming, obviously, of impeachable offenses. But impeachable offenses are things that threaten the Constitution order, threaten the separation of powers, seek to aggrandize power to the presidency and threaten liberty. If that was --
CABRERA: Are we there yet with this president?
NADLER: I don't know that we're there yet and we certainly don't have the evidence yet. We're going to have to wait and see what the prosecutor comes up with and so forth. But if you got to that point, you would be duty bound to do an impeachment. God willing we'll -- we should -- hopefully we'll never get to that point. But if you got to that point where you must defend the Constitution and defend liberty, then you have to do that, whether you like it politically or not.
CABRERA: Congressman Jerry Nadler, thank you so much for being here. Good to have you on.
NADLER: Thank you.
CABRERA: Well, James Comey will sit down with our own Jake Tapper for a live interview. This airs on Thursday here on CNN on "The Lead." That's at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, again, right here on CNN.
Now, Michael Cohen, the president's personal attorney, heads to port today. He is fighting to stop federal prosecutors from looking at material seized from his home and office. And President Trump's legal team is siding with Cohen over the Justice Department.
[09:41:45] CABRERA: The legal team for Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal lawyer, has just about 30 minutes to hand over Cohen's client list to a federal judge. Now, Cohen was seen leaving his hotel in New York just this morning. The judge wants his client list before a hearing this afternoon on whether material the FBI seized during raids last week is protected by attorney/client privilege. President Trump's legal team siding with Cohen and going against his own Justice Department in this fight. They filed papers last night demanding the right to look at all the material first.
CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is following all the developments. He's joining us now.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, yes, that's right, Ana, basically these documents that the attorneys for the president filed last night -- last night puts him in the middle of this criminal investigation. Now the FBI and the Department of Justice revealing on Friday that Michael Cohen is under criminal investigation. The president, in his filing last night, is arguing that because Michael Cohen was his attorney, the materials that were seized in that raid, the government should be restricted in viewing any of it because of privilege concerns. And essentially what the president is asking for is that his attorneys and that he be able to review the materials that the FBI seized and then make a decision as to what the FBI and the Department of Justice and prosecutors here in New York should have access to.
CABRERA: We also know adult film star Stormy Daniels will be at the hearing today. Explain.
PROKUPECZ: Right. So it's more theater than anything else here, Ana, with Stormy Daniels coming to court. Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, on Friday said he was thinking about having her appear. She will be there simply as a spectator. She has no real sort of way of speaking about this today or doing anything in court. Just merely there, her presence as a spectator.
Now, of course, she has interest in the outcome of this criminal investigation because of the hush money that was paid to her. So, in that sense, she does have some -- some stake in this. She is interested in the outcome. Of course she could potentially be a witness in any criminal investigation because, as we've reported, part of the FBI's investigation is looking into some of that hush money.
And also, as you'll recall then on Friday, our Gloria Borger was reporting that audio recordings possibly were seized by the FBI where there were recorded conversations between Stormy Daniels' former attorney and Michael Cohen about the potential hush money that was paid to her.
CABRERA: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, we know you will be following this very closely. Thanks for that.
Joining us now, former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman.
Thank you for coming in, Daniel.
So we've got Cohen in court. We've got Stormy Daniels in court. I want you to listen to what Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, said just this weekend on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Well, I strongly believe that within the next 90 days we're going to see an unsealing of an indictment against Mr. Cohen for a host of very serious offenses. And I believe, Jake, that is going to be a significant domino that's going to fall in connection with this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So he's predicting an indictment in the next 90 days. How do you see this playing out?
DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think Michael Cohen will be indicted. I don't know if 90 days, that time frame, makes the most sense given --
[09:45:08] CABRERA: Without looking at the evidence, though, what gives you that confidence?
GOLDMAN: Well, a couple of things. Having reviewed the government's filings in this case, they've already obtained e-mail search warrants on Michael Cohen's e-mails and they're already going through the privilege review process that they outlined to the court in this most recent motion practice. So they are already aware of a lot of what Michael Cohen has been up to through his e-mails. And that most likely was the trigger for getting the additional search warrants. And in order to get those additional search warrant, there's a very high bar of evidence. They're not going to make such a spectacle and a raid like this if they don't believe that there is something very serious going on and if they believe that Michael Cohen has committed federal crimes.
CABRERA: As Shimon was telling us, President Trump's attorneys also are a part of this case and they filed their own response this weekend arguing that prosecutors shouldn't have access to the files seized from Cohen. They say any rush to review these files by a third party or a tank team because of attorney/client privilege, quote, makes clear that the taint team will not zealously protect the president's privilege. What do you think of this argument?
GOLDMAN: I think it's a bad argument. I think it's an argument that will likely fail. This is a process that is used in numerous cases. Just like President Trump is not above the law, lawyers are not above the law. And they -- the Department of Justice had to go through a process to show that a subpoena is insufficient to get the materials that they need and that's why they need a search warrant.
What President Trump is effectively arguing, and he even said that his lawyers said that in the motion papers is, we should treat this as a subpoena. But there's a reason it's not being treated as a subpoena and there's a process in place to make sure that his privilege is protected, that a court is going to have to sign off on any documents that are used in the investigation and ultimately the U.S. attorney's office bears the risk because it's called a taint team for a reason. If the investigation is tainted by privileged documents, that is a whole mess for the U.S. attorney's office.
CABRERA: I also want to get your take on our new reporting that another attorney has turned down the president's opportunity or offer to join his legal team when it comes to the Russia investigation. Now, that makes about a half dozen attorneys just in the past month or so who have sort of abandoned ship.
I'm curious what you think of the president's tweet on this. He says, I have many -- too many lawyers and they are probably wondering when their offices and even homes are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers taken. All lawyers are deflated and concerned.
Is the president right?
GOLDMAN: He's not right about all lawyers being deflated and he's not right about the attorney-client privilege. He may be right about having a lot of lawyers, but it doesn't seem that way given what we know about his defense team for the Russia investigation.
CABRERA: Right, we know of two at this point, Jay Sekulow, who's representing him personally, and then, of course, we have Ty Cobb, who's a member of the White House Counsel.
GOLDMAN: And then he has his lawyer in the southern district Michael Cohen case. But, look, there -- it is a valid concern that there are conflicts of interest. The question is whether those conflicts arise because lawyers have other witnesses involved in this investigation, which would prohibit them from representing Donald Trump. That was the problem with Joe diGenova and Victoria Toesing, or the conflicts of interest that they have other clients or employees who don't want them representing Donald Trump. That's the big question. We don't know the answer from the outside.
CABRERA: Would you be eager to join the president's legal team?
GOLDMAN: No. I think that Donald Trump is a very difficult client. And in many respects, he is, through his tweets and through other things that he does, he views himself as his own lawyer. And that's just a very difficult position to be in if you are representing someone.
His tweets do not help him. And if he doesn't realize that, he should read the U.S. attorney's briefing in the southern district of New York where they cite his tweets and other public comments that people have made, including the fact that he said that he doesn't know anything about the Stormy Daniels payment. That was cited by the government as a reflection of the fact that Michael Cohen was not representing him in that matter and therefore the privilege does not apply.
CABRERA: It's a classic case of your words can come back to haunt you.
Thank you so much for joining us, Daniel Goldman.
GOLDMAN: Thank you.
CABRERA: We are watching other news this morning as well.
French President Emanuel Macron says he is the one who convinced President Trump to keep U.S. troops in Syria, even as the White House says the president's position, quote, has not changed.
Joining us live, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
[09:50:02] So, Barbara, fill us in.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning.
By all accounts what the French president is taking about is the portion of the U.S. effort in Syria to fight ISIS, not the air strikes against Assad's chemical weapons attacks that we all saw over the weekend. After the Macron statements came to light, in fact, you're right, the White House coming out very strongly, pushing back against the French president.
Let me read you a short statement from the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders. She says the U.S. mission has not changed. The president has been clear that he wants U.S. forces to come home quickly, as quickly as possible. We are determined to completely crush ISIS and create the conditions that will prevent its return. In addition, we expect our regional allies and partners to take greater responsibility both militarily and financially for securing the region.
So, we know, number one, the president wants troops home from Syria in the fight against ISIS. The Pentagon has convinced him to let them stay long enough to defeat ISIS in Syria. But when they do come home, that timeline still very much open, when will the U.S. declare success against ISIS? We don't know. And this morning, clearly, still watching the other part of the equation to see if Assad begins to move again with his chemical weapons.
CABRERA: All right, Barbara Starr reporting from the Pentagon, thank you.
This morning, the Bush family is rallying around their matriarch. We'll tell you why coming up.
[09:55:58] CABRERA: New this morning, Starbucks says the two African- American men arrested at a Philadelphia store last week have agreed to meet with the company's CEO. A racial firestorm was what set off the reaction after the two men were arrested for trespassing. Police say they were called by an employee after the two refused to leave the store. Protesters have been filling this local Starbucks this morning. This after weekend protests kicked off once footage of the arrests went viral.
Our Alex Marquardt is joining us now with more on this story.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana.
We understand there were around 100 people protesting at the Rittenhouse Square Starbucks, which is where this incident took place last Thursday. They said they saw the apology from the Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, but they don't want this apology to mean that this goes away.
So, for his part, the CEO, Kevin Johnson, he has called this whole incident reprehensible. He says that he will be meeting -- he hopes to be meeting with these two men later this week while he happens to be in Philadelphia. And he personally apologized this morning on ABC's "Good Morning America." Let's take a listen to that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN JOHNSON, CEO, STARBUCKS: I'll say the circumstances surrounding the incident and the outcome in our store on Thursday were reprehensible. They were wrong. And for that I personally apologize to the two gentlemen that visited our store. Now, certainly, you know, it's my responsibility to understand what happened and what led to that, and ensure that we fix it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: So he says they want to fix it. Starbucks CEO Johnson notes that they have 28,000 stores around the world with varying guidelines. He says that they are going to be doing more training with store managers, not just on those guidelines, but on unconscious bias as well.
Now, just to recap, this incident happened on Thursday when two African-American men went into the Starbucks to meet a friend of theirs. They were not buying anything. They were not using the facilities. They asked to use the restroom. They were told by the manager that they would not be allowed to because they were not paying customers. And that's when the manager placed a 911 call accusing these two men of trespassing.
The police showed up. They were -- they asked the two men to leave. The men said that they would not. Now, the police commissioner for Philadelphia saying that his officers did absolutely nothing wrong. He says that they politely asked the two men to leave. But when they said no, they were arrested without incident for trespassing.
But, Ana, I just want to bring up the initial tweet from the woman who shot this video because it really goes to the core of all of this. Melissa Delpino (ph) wrote, the police were called because these men hadn't ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white people are wondering why it's never happened to us when we do the same thing.
And that really is what this is all about, Ana.
CABRERA: That's why it's hit such a nerve around the country.
CABRERA: Thank you so much, Alex Marquardt, for that story.
Meantime, another first family is on many minds today. The Bush family is now surrounding former First Lady Barbara Bush. A family source tells CNN, the 92-year-old is in failing health. She wants to be cared for at home now instead of going back to the hospital.
And joining us live from Houston, CNN correspondent Nick Valencia.
Nick, what more can you tell us about Barbara Bush's condition?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Ana.
We did reach out to the Bush family to try to get an update on Barbara Bush this morning, but all we have to go on is what was released last night by a spokesman saying that she is in failing health and she's decided to not seek additional medical treatment. She doesn't want to go back to the hospital. Instead, she's now focused on comfort and care in what appears to be the final days of her life. And she has been in failing health for quite some time, battling a life- threatening illness of COPD and congestive heart failure. And if you remember, it was last year, shortly after George Sr. was hospitalized here in Houston, she was also hospitalized, eventually released. It appears now that she is focused, though, on getting comfort and care in what now appears to be her final days.
CABRERA: Nick Valencia, we know you'll continue to keep us updated. Thank you very much for that.
[10:00:01] Hello, again. I'm Ana Cabrera, in today for John and Poppy. Great to have you with us on this Monday.
And this morning it is getting fiery.