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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS
Comey speaks out, Comey: Trump Morally Unfit To Be President, Trump Wouldn't Criticize Putin Even In Private, James Comey Portrays The President As A Serial Liar Untethered To The Truth, James Comey Responding To Criticism About His Handling Of The Hillary Clinton E- Mail Investigation, How Will The President Respond To Comey's Revelations. Aired: 12-1a ET
Aired April 16, 2018 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: And welcome back to our Special Report. Comey speaks out, the fired FBI director suggesting tonight that President Trump may be compromised by the Russians and that there is, "some evidence, he obstructed justice." I'm Pamela Brown.
JIM SCIUTTO, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: And I'm Jim Sciutto. We are following all the breaking news from Comey's first television interview since he was fired and his blistering criticism of Mr. Trump as, "morally unfit to be President."
And this hour, we are standing by for the release of a second interview with Comey. We're told it will cover some additional new ground. We have a team of correspondents, analysts and political commentators joining us now.
One of the most remarkable moments of the interview was just a big picture, really takedown of the President. Comey saying that he is not fit for the office. Let's have a listen.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Is Donald Trump unfit to be President?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Yes. But not in the way I often hear people talk about it. I don't buy the stuff about him being mentally incompetent or the early stages of dementia. He strikes me as a person of above intelligence who is tracking conversations and knows what's going on. I don't think he is medically unfit to be President. I think he is morally unfit to be President.
GROUP: Black lives matter.
COMEY: A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they're pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person is not fit to be President of the United States on moral grounds.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: Truly remarkable words there. Phil Mudd, you have served in
government in senior positions. Have you seen a person who served at that high a level dismissing a President's fitness for office?
PHILIP MUDD, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL, CIA: I can't remember anything like this. It makes me a bit uncomfortable. There is two pieces of this. What James Comey thinks as a private citizen, he is welcome to his thoughts, as we all are. I think there is a lot of people who serve at the bureau, me included who wince a little bit because if you have a narrative that says when this investigation was initiated, it was initiated by people who have a perspective that says this President doesn't deserve to be in power.
People are going to look at this interview and say, "Well, there is a deep state out there. There are people like Jim Comey who believe this," and that's going to feed the narrative that says the basis for this investigation is from people like that who want the President out.
I respect his opinion as an American citizen, but I think it's going to feed a narrative that the White House is (inaudible)...
EVAN PEREZ, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Hey, Phil, I think there is a counterpoint to that, and I think if you listen to what Comey is saying, I think what he is trying to tell you, what he is telegraphing out there is that this guy is not doing this stuff because he is crazy. This is purposeful. He's got intent. If there is obstruction, he did it on purpose.
I think that there is subtext that you hear coming from him. In other words, he is trying to say like all you people who think that Donald Trump is just doing this because he is just throwing stuff at the wall, he is saying this is all purposeful. That's what I think see trying to telegraph.
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR TRUMP ADVISOR: Let me say this, if he is telegraphing things, one thing that he is clearly telegraphing is that he has become a political figure. He started off in the interview in saying that he was very proud, all of his family went to the Resistance March or the Women's March, which was largely an anti-Trump march.
So, to me he has become a political figure and the importance of that and I'll say my daughter went also, you know...
KINGSTON: You know, trying to -- but the truth of the matter is, he is a political figure. Why is that important...
SCIUTTO: Political because he has criticized the President?
KINGSTON: Because he has dabbled in and out of it and he has just become a lightning rod. (CROSSTALK)
BROWN: He drew the ire of both Hillary Clinton's side and Donald Trump's side. This is someone who...
KINGSTON: Yes, but you know, both sides -- both sides used him politically. The Democrats did not like him when he was going after Hillary and the Republicans...
BROWN: How he is a partisan? How he is he a partisan? Explain that.
KINGSTON: Well, as I said when you say proudly, the first thing in an interview, and it was totally irrelevant.
BROWN: And your daughter went. Are you a Democrat...
BROWN: ... because (inaudible)...
KINGSTON: You know, my daughter went, I'm confessing this on the world stage...
BROWN: But you're trying to make a point that he is a partisan...
KINGSTON: I think no one would accuse me of being objective or nonpartisan.
KINGSTON: But here is my point, very important, and I learned this from Hillary Clinton when she has accused the Republicans of the right wing conspiracy. She took White Whitewater and made it a political issue.
He has taken this investigation and made it more political and in our tribal society because of that, people are going to...
SYMONE SANDERS, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR BERNIE SANDERS: If I may...
SCIUTTO: The President himself has attacked entire institutions, right, as political if they have criticized. I mean, he said that about the intelligence community. He said that about the FBI. Is the President guilty of the same kind of...
KINGSTON: Well, I don't know, you've got people like Lisa Page and Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe and Weisman who are very anti-Trump and I would say political along the way...
SANDERS: By the way, there are a lot of anti-Clinton people in the FBI.
KINGSTON: But I might feel -- I like the days that Phil Mudd was referring to when particularly people in the military, people who are wearing the uniform, people in the CIA and the FBI, they obvious had their own opinions, but you did not know what they were.
And here is a guy immediately while there's kind of fresh blood on the track, goes out and writes a book. Why couldn't he have waited five years? He did because wanted to the (inaudible)...
SANDERS: Because five years from now, nobody would buy that book as my agents would say. Look, I think...
SANDERS: There is nobody who is going to buy that book in five years. I want to offer a counter. I actually do not think James Comey is partisan or political. I actually think James Comey doesn't have a political bone in his body.
Hence why we are getting such conflicting and confusing messages. In one breath, he says you know, "I didn't have any political calculations when I made these decisions," and in another breath he says, "And I thought Hillary Clinton was going to win, so I thought it would be important." And in one breath, he says he wants to, you know, he wants to have a good working with relationship with the President, but he also knows he probably shouldn't be at dinner.
Like when I saw that part of the interview where former Director Comey noted that he got a phone call and he thought it would be a group situation at dinner, so he went. It immediately struck me that as a veteran of the FBI, as a veteran of law enforcement, James Comey didn't have any one of his staff members call over to the White House staff to find out what the particulars were of this dinner to in fact uphold the independence of the FBI.
So, I actually just think he doesn't have a political bone in his body. That's why he is botching this all together.
SCIUTTO: Abby Phillip, you cover the White House of course, we have not heard from the President yet, although I imagine that we will, I mean, he preemptively struck as we said before. How is the President receiving this criticism, morally unfit, treats women like pieces of meat, phrases like that coming from Comey's mouth? ABBY PHILLIP, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, the President is
not surprised by my of this. I mean, I think he has been so angry with Comey for so long that this is just icing on the cake.
The issue for the President right now and for his staff really is that he has been here for the last several days, has had a lot of time to watch this coverage, to digest it, to stew on it. Tomorrow morning he is going to be doing the same thing and it's going to be pretty challenging for them to keep a lid on really a President who is overflowing with anger toward Comey.
But, I think also, we've seen him become much more comfortable with his own justification for getting rid of him all together. And I think some of Comey's interview really fed into some of the feeling that the President had that he was wrongly criticized for firing him, but Comey has proven that he did things for political reasons, that he botched various issues throughout the last year and prior to that, and that the President had every right to fire him because he just simply wasn't doing a good job.
I mean, I think the fact that Democrats and Republicans are finding things in this interview to criticize Comey for is going to be one of those things that gives the President a little bit of a boost going into Monday.
SCIUTTO: Michael Zeldin, Comey responding to that because George Stephanopoulos asked him questions along these lines. His answer was perhaps, I'm just a flawed human being who was do this, made some mistakes along the way, but you know, my interest was in doing my best to do my job. As you heard that, did you buy that as an explanation?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO ROBERT MUELLER: Well, I think that he believes that he was doing the best he should do under very difficult circumstances. I for one felt that the July 5th press conference where he said critical things about Hillary Clinton but decided not to prosecute her was wrong and against Justice Department policy.
I felt when he wrote the letter to Congress in October to say, "We are reopening it." It was wrong and against Justice Department policy and were there not a Russia investigation and a new administration were to come in and saw that, they might say, you know, "This is a fellow we might want to replace or discipline in some way because that is not acceptable behavior."
Now, we fast forward to the current interview, and he is explaining his thought process. And you know, fine. But I think it was just wrong of an issue at the outset...
ZELDIN: ... it was wrong. So, what I found interesting mostly, and everyone has been talking about it is, what did he tell us in this interview that portends where Mueller may be going? What are the pieces of law that we learned here? And we learned a couple of things that I think are interesting. One is the contradiction between the request for loyalty and the
denial of that request by the President. The second is letting things go.
ZELDIN: And clearing the Oval Office, and his sense that this is intentional behavior to obstruct an investigation. The next is the pretext that he saw of the firing, which when he was fired, I think Rosenstein wrote a very compelling letter...
PEREZ: About his handling of the Clinton e-mail.
ZELDIN: Which I think was a compelling letter and it could be a basis for firing, but then the President goes and says to the Foreign Minister of Russia in the Oval Office, (inaudible), I did it because of Russia. That's an intentional act on the President potentially to obstruct. So, he gave us something...
BROWN: How important that his state of mind, the witness' state of mind versus the President's actual state of mind?
ZELDIN: Well, but the witness speaks to the President's state of mind. So, I think that there are a couple of things here that Comey told us which says this is what I told Mueller and you, Mueller, have to look into this to see whether or not this amounts to obstruction of justice...
SCIUTTO: It's a great point and no one has covered this investigation more closely than you, but as you were hearing him there, I mean, in effect, we can expect what he said on the air tonight is at a minimum, what he has told the Special Counsel, I imagine with more detail and under oath, but describing that meeting about Michael Flynn, he said he felt he is asking me to drop the criminal investigation of his now former national security adviser.
Based on the folks you speak to, how serious a conversation, how seriously is Mueller looking into that?
PEREZ: I think, I mean, I think that's a very important part of what Mueller is looking at as far as the obstruction of justice part of this investigation, but I think if you look at it, you also start looking at a pattern, right?
You look at the other -- the one-on-one dinner where he essentially -- he has already told Comey -- the President has already told Comey that he is going to stay on as FBI Director. He has a tenured term after all, but there was no expectation that he was going to leave. But then he starts being transactional, and it turns into almost a bit of a shakedown, at least the way Comey describes it.
I think, if you add that with the context of the other meeting where he tells, you know, can you find a way to drop this thing with regards to Flynn, you start seeing a bit of a pattern and then you also notice that Comey thinks all of this is a President who is acting -- he says he's got above average intelligence that he is doing these things quite intentionally, so he's not just doing stuff because he is a little crazy. He is doing stuff because he intends to do these.
ZELDIN: May I add one thing to that, which is the other thing that I think that Comey said compellingly was that in the course of these meetings that we've just been talking about, I felt so concerned as to go back home and immediately write contemporaneously memorandum.
Now he leaked one and that's unacceptable, but...
SCIUTTO: But not illegal, is it?
ZELDIN: No, not illegal. Not illegal. He has a First Amendment right to do that. It was an unclassified memo, he shouldn't have done it in my estimation, but he did do it, but the point is that he told us, "I was so concerned, my state of mind, witness state of mind that I wrote contemporaneous memos right then and there no memorialize those conversations."
So, if in fact when those memos go to Mueller, which they have, and he has to assess credibility of witness. Witness one, Comey. Witness two, President, and you have these contemporaneous memos, then I think what we saw here from Comey was a compelling state of mind about what was going on which was to him concerning, and I think that's going to be important to Mueller's evaluation of who is telling the truth about these situations that we've been talking about.
KINGSTON: But couldn't you argue also that he was a fired spurned employee which is what motivated him right now...
ZELDIN: No, excuse me, Jack, just one second, not at the time he wrote the memos.
KINGSTON: Then, I would say Mr. Comey, you said in this interview tonight that you thought the President was a liar. The first -- the very first meeting, why didn't you quit right then? If you're such a high integrity, the higher calling or whatever the name of your book is, which I probably won't read, but...
ZELDIN: Oh, you should read it. There's some stuff that you might be able to use.
KINGSTON: Okay, then I'll look at it.
KINGSTON: We'll have a book club.
KINGSTON: But here's my point, if he is so great, if he is such a Christ figure, why did he not quit right then and there? Because everybody knew by January 2017 that Trump was the man who...
PEREZ: In one of his meetings in the book, he describes in one of his last meetings with President Obama, he tells President Obama that he is dreading the next four years, so I think to your point, again, you might want the read the book there is stuff in there that will tell you about a little bit about his state of mind...
PEREZ: ... going into this and I think it's relevant.
BROWN: All right, we've got to go because we're just getting our first excerpt from the new interview -- the new interview that James Comey did, and in it, he reveals what's the President told him about Vladimir Putin and what he wouldn't say.
We have more right after this break.
We have more breaking news right now. A second interview with James Comey just released. The fired FBI Director revealing what the President said to him about Russia and Vladimir Putin and as we read through this, Jim, this "USA Today" interview he did, he is really doubling down on this notion that he believes that the President was possibly compromised by the Russians which is one of the key parts of the dossier that the President has reportedly said is unverified and simply untrue?
SCIUTTO: That's right and one piece of evidence here is he describes the way Donald Trump will not criticize Vladimir Putin even in private. We have an excerpt from the interview here, "At least in my experience, he won't criticize Vladimir Putin, even in private. I can understand why a President might not want to criticize publicly another leader. In the interest of relationship, but privately? Sitting with the person in charge of countering the Russian threat to the United States? Privately not being willing to do that, that always struck me."
Jack Kingston, can you help us and help our viewers understand why the President won't go there with the leader of a foreign adversary in Vladimir Putin?
KINGSTON: Well, I think the President actually did want to have decent working relationships with Russia...
KINGSTON: ... we're sorry about really John Kerry as with respect Syria, and now we saw this weekend you know, that hasn't worked and so we unleashed again on Syria.
SCIUTTO: But before this weekend, there was an enormous amount of evidence of Russian aggression and misbehavior towards the United States -- election interference, invasion of Ukraine, buzzing US warships. I mean, we're 14 months into this presidency, why wouldn't the President...
KINGSTON: Well, as you know, moving NATO troops in the Baltic states is a big thing, asking NATO nations to pony up more, and doing joint exercises on the Poland border, those are all things that Russia doesn't like, and not to mention expelling the oligarchs and...
SCIUTTO: I don't think...
BROWN: ... yes...
SCIUTTO: But personally, why is the President so reluctant in your view? The President is not shy, as you know, about criticizing many individuals of all stripes and parties. Why not Vladimir Putin?
KINGSTON: I think actually it might be something just a little more superficial than anything nefarious. It might be that he just stubbornly doesn't want to do it because people are saying, "Why don't you say something critical about it?" You know, but if you listen to Pence's comments yesterday, they were pretty doggone tough. I don't remember...
SANDERS: But not the President...
KINGSTON: The Vice President doesn't speak alone. Let's remember that.
PHILLIP: Also worth saying also, Jack that we also know based on the reporting that the President has been reluctant to do all of those things that you just mentioned, all of those tough measures that this administration has put forward, his aides are telling reporters he has been reluctant to go there, and that's been pretty consistent.
The President himself with his own words, with his own mouth, whenever he is given the opportunity has always resisted criticizing Putin with a rare exception in a tweet recently when he used Putin's name for the first time ever in a tweet.
I mean, this is the President of the United States...
SCIUTTO: He did quickly follow up that tweet by saying, "But, by the way..."
BROWN: Let's listen to Comey in his own words when he was asked about this notion of believing the President is compromised by the Russian. Here is what he told ABC.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?
COMEY: I think it's possible. I don't know. These are more words I never thought I would utter about the President of the United States, but it's possible.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's stunning. You can't say for certain that the President of the United States is not compromised by the Russians.
COMEY: Yes, 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 I dealt with, but I can't. It's possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Phil Mudd, your reaction?
MUDD: Time-out here. He has a -- that is -- Comey has a powerful message here and the message based on facts is if you're the President of the United States coming into office after briefings from across the intelligence community about interference in American election, the first thing you do is look at your National Security Adviser, presuming before he gets fired and say, "You need to host a series of meetings..." that is Homeland Security -- let me get real boring, Pamela. Homeland security, FBI, CIA, "... and report to me every 15 days, 30 days about how going into midterms you're going to protect us."
Show me one instance, and Comey talks about this. He talks about the fact that he did not have substantive engagements with the President about Russia. Show me one instance where the President has directed National Security Council to meet.
The problem I have here, and you see this throughout the interview, throughout the week and in the book is the difference between reporting of facts and what Jim Comey thinks. I think this. I judge this. I believe this. He is morally unfit.
When he is on ground where he says the President didn't do this and therefore he was acting un-presidentially, I think he is fine. I think too often he slips into saying I've got a personal view on this, and I think that colors the entire...
PEREZ: In the interview, with the "USA Today" interview just posted, he goes a little further than the ABC interview. He suggests that you know, there might be finances, there might be obviously the golden shower tape as we now know it. But you know, that it's beyond things, beyond that, beyond the stuff that we see in the dossier which might be things having to do with finances and business and, again, to your point, Phil, I think there is no proof of any of this, that Comey offers in the interviews. And certainly in the book, it seems to be a little bit more of
ruminations based on...
BROWN: It is an important distinction to make a claim on that statement...
SCIUTTO: Let me ask a question, so you're the President. Imagine you're the President. You have just received a briefing from the nation's senior most intelligence officials, not just James Comey, but Jim Clapper, Mike Rogers, the others. They've just told you Russia has interfered in this election and the reaction according to Comey, but this is also corroborated by others who were in the room was not what are we going to do about this as a country? It was, according to James Comey, how are we going to spin this to our favor?
KINGSTON: Well, I would do what Phil just said in terms of bringing the alphabet soup in, of all the responsible agencies and I might not do it right then and there.
SCIUTTO: Are you disappointed that your President did not do that in these circumstances?
KINGSTON: No, I don't because I've got to tell you, I just can't give James Comey much credibility at all. Let me say this...
BROWN: Which by the way, it's been corroborated by others...
SCIUTTO: By Jim Clapper...
KINGSTON: But let me say and not to pick on Jim Clapper, but I was on the Defense Appropriations Committee. We had a lot of classified briefings. Mr. Clapper did tell the Senate, "Mr. Chairman..."
KINGSTON: You know, I am just saying not everybody is infallible here.
BROWN: ... because he's clearly been more focused on how it impacted the legitimacy of this presidency.
KINGSTON: Let me say this though, he is the head of the FBI. For him to say they might have something on the President, a very, very serious statement. I would agree, everybody would agree on that. If people believed James Comey tomorrow, the stock market will drop 500 points. It's not going to. The reason why it's not, it goes back to my point
earlier. He is a political figure. He is mad, disgruntled employee who was fired and who by the way had a chance to bow out in January, but he hung on until he was fired and the point he is doesn't have credibility.
SANDERS: You know what, I think...
BROWN: It's a tenure term...
KINGSTON: And this interview, though, the first thing he said, the President said I understand you've been at it a while. If you want to...
BROWN: He got the job. He wanted to stay in the job, right?
KINGSTON: But if the President was so repugnant to him he would have left.
SCIUTTO: Quick final thought.
SANDERS: Look, this assertion that James Comey is some political figure, I do believe is incorrect. look, I am extremely concerned that in hearing about what the Russians did in detail, Donald Trump was more concerned with his campaign image and spinning it for the polls or the cameras than he was about our actual democracy.
And I think that's what folks are going to take from this interview.
SCIUTTO: Good thought there's. James Comey portrays the President as a serial liar untethered to the truth. We're going to talk about that just after this break.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us tonight. We're back with our Special Report. Comey speaking out. The fired FBI director sounding disdainful at President Trump in a new interview tonight calling him morally unfit and portraying him as a serial liar.
Comey says that he believes there is some evidence that Mr. Trump obstructed justice, and that it is possible that he has been compromised by Russians. Really remarkable charges for the former FBI Director to make, but really, this obstruction of justice question comes up frequently and relates to specific conversations that Comey had one-on-one with the President.
I want to get to his descriptions of one of those right now and then we'll talk about it. Have a listen.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Should you have said, Mr. President, I can't discuss this. But you're doing something improper.
COMEY: Maybe. Although if he didn't know he was doing something improper, why did he kick out the Attorney General and the Vice President of the United States and the leaders of the intelligence community? Why am I alone if he doesn't know the nature of the request? But it's possible that in the moment, you know, another person would have said, "Sir, you can't ask me that. That's a criminal investigation that could be obstruction of justice."
STEPHANOPOULOS: Was President Trump obstructing justice?
COMEY: Possibly. I mean, there is certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: So, Michael Zeldin, you know a thing or two about the law. He is describing an encounter there where the President has kicked out or kindly asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave the room as well as Mike Pence and said, "Can you let the Michael Flynn investigation go?"
Comey says specifically, he felt the President was giving him a direction to end the criminal investigation. Is that obstruction of justice?
ZELDIN: No, not in and of itself. It is evidence of the President's state of mind in the clearing of the room, and then you look at the exact words that the President said, which was, "I hope you can see a way to let this go."
Now, there is case law that says, "I hope you can see your way to let this go," and that's found to be obstructionist behavior. There is case law that says I hope which is aspirational and not obstructive behavior.
So, what Mueller has to do is a look at the evidence of that meeting, speak to the parties there, determine what Comey felt, look at the memorandum that Comey wrote right after it, speak to Jeff Sessions and Mike Pence, to say what did they learn about this? See whether or not the President spoke to Michael Flynn about this. What is Flynn testifying about? What he heard about the meeting? Did the President hypothetically say to Flynn, hey, don't worry. I asked Comey, we're all good."
All of those things factor into the composite of what will be the evidence that Mueller have to make the determination now with respect to obstruction, but not in and of itself.
BROWN: I want to bring in Evan -- I want to bring in Evan in on that point because what is important that he is a credible witness, that is something that more will look at. Given what we heard from James Comey tonight in that interview, the interview in "USA Today," in the book Evan, and elsewhere, is he a credible witness? Has his story been consistent from the beginning?
PEREZ: Yes, I mean, I think he is a credible witness. I mean, I think there is -- there are some problems with him. Obviously, if he ever -- if there was ever a trial against someone and James Comey is brought before to be a witness on the stand, I think there is plenty of stuff here that people like Jack and so on would point to and say he is somebody who had grudge against the President.
But I think his story is consistent, and I think like a lot of people, what comes across is that he is a man who is trying to wrestle with how to deal with a very unconventional President, and so that's some of what comes across here in the book and in some of the interviews. And so, you certainly get a sense of you know, he admits that perhaps telling the President that he wasn't personally under investigation may have been a mistake because after that, Trump was after him to say that in public, and he was refusing to say that.
So, I think there are parts of Comey's story that certainly are -- you can attack it, but I think he is consistent. He is somebody who served three different Presidents, and I think because of that, he comes across as somebody who is at least trying to do the honest thing.
PHILLIP: I think his justification for his...
PHILLIP: ... own actions are some of the most problematic parts of his interviews and the book, when he goes back and forth about what he did what he did. But I think what makes -- what Comey does in this book is it establishes himself as someone who recalls the events that actually occurred in an accurate fashion.
And he compares that to the President who has a very public record of telling -- retelling things incorrectly or telling lies or using falsehoods in an aggressive offensive way.
So, Comey himself is setting himself up as someone who at the very least, even if you don't agree with why he did what he did, recalls the things that he experienced in an accurate way.
SCIUTTO: Michael Zeldin, contemporaneous notes. He comes out of that room. He makes a conscious decision to sit down and say, "I'm going to take it down word for word as I remember it." Are those evidence in an investigation?
ZELDIN: Yes, sure, sure. A witness is called and say what did you recall? Did you take contemporaneous notes? They can be used as evidence of his recollection of it. Sometimes, he needed to refresh your recollection. Sometimes, his past recollection recorded different evidentiary methods by which things get. But yes, they're probative of whether the witness is truth telling when he presents his testimony orally.
KINGSTON: But he also testified before Congress that the President had not tried to interfere with the FBI investigation, which is totally contrary to what he is saying happened in private.
ZELDIN: It's not exactly that way, Jack, but assuming hypothetically it was that way, then that would be something that on cross-examine he would be presented with, but the point that Jim is asking is when you have a conversation with somebody and you make contemporaneous notes of it because you're concerned what is being said to you as potentially implicating law violations, it's important piece of evidence.
PHILLIP: He told other people about this conversation.
KINGSTON: But what I'm just saying, his testimony -- his sworn testimony contradicted this. What I would do, if I was on the other side is try to prove that he is not credible and I'm just saying his testimony contradicts what he said privately and that wasn't the only case of that.
You know the thing that struck me though, Jim, as...
PHILLIP: To be more specific in terms of how conflicted...
KINGSTON: He testified before Congress that the President had not interfered with the FBI investigation of Flynn that is contrary for him -- to him saying he tried to lean on me about...
PHILLIP: Did he actually interfere or did he try to interfere? Those are two different things. I mean, it's not semantics, it's a real thing. I mean, if he testified the President did not interfere with the investigation, that is one thing. Did the President attempt to interfere and attempt to do that? That's what he talks at length about.
KINGSTON: You know, I'd also...
SCIUTTO: You know, I think we have to see the quote.
KINGSTON: Yes, I was trying to see if there was a -- I don't have the quote, but I know that he did testify. It was in May when he did that, but I would also call to attention of the judge or whoever was looking at him, that this is a guy who said he never leaked and he did leak and he only admitted it after it was caught and known that he did leak...
BROWN: Now hold on, he wouldn't know the details that he gave it to the professor or...
KINGSTON: He testified that he never leaked.
SCIUTTO: It's not illegal to leak unclassified information.
KINGSTON: But you testify that you don't leak and then later you say, well, I leaked. Don't call somebody else a liar. I'll take Comey in the memos over your leaks.
BROWN: James Comey responding to criticism about his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. Does he think he crossed the line? We'll discuss.
BROWN: Well, tonight James Comey is defending his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, pushing back at Clinton who said she felt like Comey stuck a knife in her back. And I want to talk more about this. But let's go actually listen to Comey directly from this FBI -- from this ABC interview, take a listen.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: They say this crossed a line.
COMEY: Yes, I've heard a lot of that. What I would hope is that they would by reading the book come with me to October 28th. Tell me what you would do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your critics say this is a clear, clear, clear double standard. You revealed information about Hillary Clinton. You concealed information about Donald Trump that elected Donald Trump.
COMEY: Take a step back and stare at the two cases and the posture they were in. The Hillary Clinton e-mail case was public and the counterintelligence investigation is trying to figure out whether a small group of people -- not Donald Trump. We were not investigating Donald Trump, whether this small group of Americans was coordinating anything with the Russians. We had just started the investigation, didn't know whether he had anything.
So, it would have been brutally unfair to those people to talk about it and it would have jeopardized the investigation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What did it feel like to be James Comey in the last ten days that of campaign after you sent the letter?
COMEY: It sucked. I walked around vaguely sick to my stomach, feeling beaten down. I felt like I was totally alone. That everybody hated me and that there wasn't a way out because it really was the right thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: All right. So, there is a lot to digest here. A lot to
digest and this has been one of the questions that is constantly raised. Why did James Comey handle the two investigations differently? Symone?
SANDERS: Look, James Comey clearly thought that he knew best, okay? James Comey put in his self-righteous hat from the moment that he sashayed out on to a press conference, July 5th, and he did the same exact thing October 28th.
I frankly don't care how James Comey felt. I don't care that the last ten days sucked for him. He thought that he knew best, that he knew better. He bucked procedure at every single turn and he clearly had some type of investment here in terms of the Clinton e-mail investigation.
It just makes no sense to me, as a regular person listening, why you can justify talking about Hillary Clinton, especially on October 28th when you really didn't know what those e-mails said.
BROWN: That's a fair question. Why didn't you investigate a little bit more before you came out publicly just before...
PHILLIP: And he seemed to undermine himself in that same answer he said of the Russia investigation or the investigation into Trump campaign associates...
PHILLIP: ... they didn't know what they had at that time and he said he thought it would be unfair to reveal information about this investigation, not knowing if it would lead anywhere. That's exactly the position he was in with those Clinton e-mails that had popped up.
It turned out that if there was nothing in them and he didn't know anything about them at the time that he decided to come forward. So, you know, Comey is going back and forth on a lot of this stuff, but it doesn't make sense to a lot of people watching because the same explanation can be used and also, the Clinton investigation was not public.
Just because people knew about it didn't mean that that portion of the investigation was a public thing. So, the idea that it warranted being revealed is just...
SANDERS: He clearly treated Hillary Clinton differently because he's...
SCIUTTO: There are a lot of moments in this interview where James Comey is -- you know, he portrays himself as tortured over this decision. Almost like Hamlet, you know, sitting there, you know, should have I done this or done that? But FBI policy was pretty straight forward, was it not? That you don't publicize the status of these investigations, particularly in that time period close to election. Had he fallen back on protocol, it would have been a simple decision.
PEREZ: I think the moment of semi-honesty that he has in the book, and certainly in the interviews where he talks a little bit about the fact that he was aware that he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. And look, everybody did. President Obama, people in the White House, some of what they did...
PHILLIP: People in the Trump...
SANDERS: Donald Trump.
PEREZ: Right. people in the Trump campaign, I mean, we know people in the Trump campaign who were looking for jobs, not you, Jack, but people who were looking for jobs because they assumed he was going to lose.
So, look, everybody thought she was going win, but the thing is not everybody is the FBI Director. Not everybody is bound by the way they're supposed to do business which is not supposed to pay attention to what the polls say. And I think this is where he is sort of little bit of out of body experience where he is semi admitting to things we all know that he did.
And I think, again, this is the first draft of his confessional. I think over time he is going to be a little more honest with himself as to why some of the mistakes he made and there are mistakes.
BROWN: He hasn't been able at this much time to ruminate, think about it, say definitively on a lot of these things, this was a mistake...
SANDERS: The audacity...
KINGSTON: One of the things though that struck me is there was a kind of a softball tone to this whole thing and this is where Stephanopoulos should have asked him, wait a minute, you spent, I think...
SCIUTTO: He did ask...
KINGSTON: No, he spent something like 10 minutes trashing Hillary Clinton on July 5th, and then he says, "But she was extremely careless." How could you say that's against the FBI rule? They do not trash talk a private person. That's one of their rules. The other thing is on October 28th, Lanny Davis has pointed this out, he had told Congress earlier that if we find something new, we will look into it.
He did not say, as Symone said, he did not say, we're going to sashay out and have a big press conference about it. He did not have to do that. At that point, I think it was Comey all about me.
SCIUTTO: It was simple, it would have been very simple for him to stick with practice. right. Phil Mudd, you served in the FBI.
MUDD: Give me a break. I spent four and a half years in the Hoover building. Two things you figure out within five days, where is the coffee and you don't talk about ongoing investigations. Forget about 10 days before the election.
The mistake he made was in the summer time. A, he talked about the investigation, and B, he trashed an American citizen after that he said the investigation is closed. I don't care if you're Republican or Democrat, you don't trash a citizen after the case is closed.
When you go to close out, when you go to fall, after that initial mistake, he is in trouble. If he doesn't say anything, somebody is going to say, "Well, you said it was closed and we figured out ten days before the election it is now open."
If you say something, you get to where you are today. The answer is simple. Here is the coffee and don't acknowledge an open investigation. That's it.
ZELDIN: You know though, the thing you can't miss when you look at all of this was that as I said at the outset, I think that the July 5th press conference was unfortunate and violative of privilege, of practice; same with October, even worst so...
Rosenstein comes in. He writes this memo, and he says, "This is a reason to let this guy go." If the President had only kept his mouth shut and said I'm acting on the advice of my Attorney General, my Deputy Attorney General. I am letting the FBI Director go because of the breach of protocols, we wouldn't even be here.
ZELDIN: But he had to come out and say, you know what? I think that was...
PEREZ: He had to rub it in. He had to bring Sergey Kislyak and the Russian Foreign Minister. Called him a nut job into the Oval Office.
ZELDIN: But the point was, he said the reason I fired him was because of Russia and that is what the whole reason we're here tonight.
SCIUTTO: And something that this Special Counsel certainly is extremely...
SCIUTTO: ... figure...
ZELDIN: Exactly right.
SCIUTTO: ... obstruction of justice.
ZELDIN: That's exactly right.
SCIUTTO: Well, now that we have heard from James Comey, it is certainly only a matter of time before the President explodes on Twitter. We're going to talk about Mr. Trump, his reaction to everything Comey said about him tonight.
Tonight we got a first taste of what James Comey has to say about President Trump. This just the beginning of the fired FBI director's media blitz. The big question now, of course, is how will the President respond.
Abby Philip, you cover the President, should we expect a tweet storm in the morning?
PHILLIP: I'm sure there will be something. I mean, the President just spent the weekend trying to message and test some new labels for James Comey trying to figure out exactly how to go at the problem that he sees in James Comey.
But here is why I think this is going to be hard for the President. Comey has made it easy for a lot of Democrats to say that he hurt Hillary. A lot of Republicans that say that he's done things against Trump and the President this weekend accused him of trying to want to get a job in the Hillary Clinton administration by restarting the investigation before the election.
So, the President is having a hard time squaring the facts here. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If Comey wanted a job, he wouldn't have done something that a lot of Democrats say cost Hillary the election just on the eve.
SCIUTTO: And the President -- Democrats...
SCIUTTO: ... certainly not happy with a lot of his decisions, which Comey you know, struggled with, he says in the interview, throughout the campaign.
PEREZ: Right. I think, but I think what you're seeing is what happens when people decide to fight Trump with the same tactics that President Trump uses, you know, candidate Trump and President Trump.
And I think that over the next week, two weeks of the book tour, you're going to see perhaps some diminishment of James Comey. I certainly -- people inside the FBI that I talk to, I think they're all cringing, they're all bracing for the fact this is bad for everybody, including Comey and perhaps even the bureau. SCIUTTO: Well, in just a few days, Jake Tapper is going to be able to
sit down with Comey for the former FBI Director's very first cable news interview since President Trump fired him. You can see it Thursday on "The Lead" at four o'clock Eastern Time with Jake Tapper here on CNN.
That is it for our Special Report tonight with Pamela Brown. Thanks so much for joining us, staying up late. The news is going to continue right now. You're on CNN.