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Comey on E-mail Probe Announcement; Comey Breaks Silence; Comey on Trump Dossier; Trump and Comey Exchange Insults. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired April 16, 2018 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:32:56] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The Bush family is surrounding former First Lady Barbara Bush as her health deteriorates. A family source tells CNN, the 92-year-old is not seeking further hospital treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure. She is opting, instead, for comfort care in her Texas home.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, at least one person has died after two tornados were reported in Greensboro, North Carolina. There's a line of severe storms spreading across the state. It happened on Sunday. It brought down trees, power lines, hurt homes, hurt people. Officials say the one fatality was caused by a tree falling on top of the victim's car.
CAMEROTA: More protests expected today at a Philadelphia Starbucks where two black men were arrested last week for sitting down, failing to order, and refusing to leave. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is in the city this morning to apologize to those men face-to-face. He says police should never have been called by the staff. The men are also expected to meet with Philadelphia's mayor and police commissioner.
CUOMO: Fired FBI Director James Comey revealing what led him to reopen the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe just days before the 2016 election.
Let's discuss how his rationale was accepted or rejected by the Clinton campaign team. We have her former campaign manager, Robby Mook, next.
[06:38:17] CUOMO: All right, so, look, the book with Jim Comey and his interview is not all about Donald Trump. A lot of it has to do with Hillary Clinton. And the former director is standing by his decision to reopen the e-mail investigation, though he did acknowledge that politics played a factor in his decision.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: But I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. And so I'm sure that it -- that it was a factor. Like I said, I don't remember spelling it out, but it had to have been, that -- that she's going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she'll be illegitimate the moment she's elected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Joining us now is CNN political commentator and Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager, Robby Mook.
ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm glad he's out there talking about this. I'm particularly glad that he is being forthright about how much pulling, the prevailing wisdom about the election played in his decision. I think that that's important that that's acknowledged.
I also think that it is important to take out Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump sometimes on this and just ask in general, should the FBI have gotten involved the way they did? Should they have broken precedent in this way? I obviously feel like the answer is no, and I wish he'd be a little bit more forthright in that respect. But I'm glad we're having this discussion because what matters at the end of the day is that this doesn't happen again.
CUOMO: Do you know anything from the Democratic ranks of who told Jim Comey that it was OK to usurp the attorney general position of deciding whether or not to prosecute?
MOOK: I don't know. And I'm not totally satisfied with his explanation about why he thought he could do that. It wasn't -- it wasn't just that he took -- that he felt like he could alone take these unprecedented steps, it's that he took them at all. I mean there are clear, written protocols that say you cannot get involved. And when it came to Donald Trump, he was asked by members of Congress themselves, what's going on with Donald Trump? Are you investigating? He said, I can't talk about that.
[06:40:19] CUOMO: But he says the distinction is everybody knew what we were doing with Clinton and who was involved. With Trump, I couldn't talk about it because I didn't want the people who we were looking at to know.
MOOK: And this is why I believe these protocols matter a lot. They're there to say, everybody gets treated the same and we're not going to get involved in any election. We're not going to take a side. And I think -- I don't -- look, I don't blame Comey. I think he's an honest person. I think he was trying to do what he thought is right. But I think he really started to conflate in his mind what makes the FBI look good and what is justice. And I think, as a result, one candidate was treated unfairly.
CUOMO: The feelings about Hillary Clinton and Jim Comey are mentioned in the book and the interview as well. Here's a portion of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: Hillary Clinton wrote in her book, I shived (ph) her. That sound like I was trying to knife somebody. I was out to get her. And it's an illustration of our polarization here that you've got the Trump camp, which I guess thinks I was trying to save Hillary Clinton. I would hope both camps will read this and I hope see a deeply flawed human surrounded by other flawed humans trying to make decisions with an eye not on politics but on those higher values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: He goes on to say, she may write or think that I'm an idiot, but at least she'll think I'm an honest idiot.
MOOK: And I don't question his motivations. And, by the way, there are a lot of important revelations in this book about Donald Trump, and I'm glad that they're there. But the point from my perspective is, he made a mistake. I don't think this was the right decision.
Guess what, I made a lot of mistakes. A lot of other people made a lot of mistakes on this campaign. In large part, just like James Comey, because people thought Hillary was going to win. I think a lot of voters didn't turn out because they thought Hillary was going to win. I think they voted for a different candidate because they thought Hillary was going to win. So all of us did things we wish we hadn't done or we would have done differently. And, again, the important takeaway here for me is, the FBI just should not get involved in the future. And it certainly shouldn't conflate its own reputation with what's best.
CUOMO: You talked to Hillary Clinton yesterday, I understand. Did she watch last night? Will she read the book?
MOOK: I don't know. We'll have to -- we'll have to see. I think she would probably take the same attitude as me, which is, it's good we're having this conversation. And what matters is not trying to get bogged down in 2016 but moving forward. We have not invented a time machine for campaigns yet. We do a lot of technology. If we could do a time machine and go back and change things, maybe we could focus on 2016. But we should focus on moving forward.
CUOMO: When you create that machine, is one of the first things you would dial up her decision to have that server?
MOOK: Look, she has said herself, this was a mistake and she shouldn't have done it. And that's why, again, I don't think we should get in a blame game about this person did this, that person did that. I think it's about saying, what do we need to do better and different in the future.
CUOMO: Do you say to members of the Democratic Party and those who had an affinity for Hillary Clinton, stop blaming Jim Comey for costing us the election, that's not why we lost, if you're not about the blame game?
MOOK: I think that James Comey made a mistake. I think I made mistakes. I've spent time with people in the party talking about mistakes that I made. And so I think it's productive to have these discussions, particularly as we think about, how do we win this race in 2020. But playing the blame game, trying to point to one thing, this was 70,000 votes across three states. A little bit more than that.
CUOMO: That's why I asked.
MOOK: Anything could have made a difference. Anything. And so trying to choose one thing --
CUOMO: So if Hillary Clinton had no server and just an Gmail account or whatever that was going through regular Google, do you think she's president of the United States?
MOOK: I think that, to be honest with you, I think if it wasn't this, it could have been Benghazi. It could have been other things. The Republicans were relentless about picking something, turning it into more than it was and --- and beating on it every single day.
And I think because a lot of people thought she'd win, we almost sort of excused blowing small things into big things. I mean let's not -- let's remind ourselves, think of everything that's wrong with Donald Trump. Think of all the things he might have done that were illegal, and we're dealing with that today. I think if maybe we'd spent more time on those things during the election, some voters would have chosen differently. But we'll never know.
CUOMO: Hindsight's 20/20.
CUOMO: Robby Mook, thank you for your take on this.
MOOK: Thank you so much.
CUOMO: Appreciate it.
CAMEROTA: OK, Chris.
How will President Trump respond to the accusations by James Comey? The president's allies are already on the attack. That's next.
[06:48:44] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Did you tell him that the Steele dossier had been financed by his political opponents?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: No. I didn't -- I didn't think I used the Steele dossier. I just talked about additional material. STEPHANOPOULOS: But did he have a right to know that?
COMEY: That it had been financed by his political opponents? I don't know the answer to that. It wasn't necessary for my goal, which was to alert him that we had this information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right, that was fired FBI Director James Comey talking about the moment that he briefed then President-elect Trump on the so- called Steele dossier and his own decision not to tell Mr. Trump that it was funded but his opposition.
So joining us now is former FBI Special Agent and former House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers. He is a CNN national security commentator.
Mike, great to see you.
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Alisyn, great to see you.
CAMEROTA: Before we get to the larger issues of just what a remarkable moment in history this is watching this battle between the former FBI head and the president, about that, should he have told President- elect Trump of the origin of that Steele dossier and who paid for it?
ROGERS: You know, I don't know, it depends on where the investigation was. I don't know if that was necessarily relevant to the time and the conversation. At some point he probably should have been briefed that. But, again, this was -- this was still an ongoing investigation at that point. This -- that's why -- I'll tell you what, Alisyn, when this is over, I think America is going to need a healthy dose of therapy. I really do.
[06:50:03] CAMEROTA: What do you mean when this is over? How about right now?
ROGERS: Oh, my God, there's just still too much more to come, I think.
CAMEROTA: Oh, my -- well, OK, so let's talk about the larger issue. How remarkable is it for you as someone who worked with James Comey, as a former FBI agent, to watch this play out and to have our former chief law enforcement officer talk about the president in these terms?
ROGERS: Yes, I have to tell you, I'm -- I was really disappointed. I have known Jim Comey to be a decent and honorable man. I worked with him as chairman. Never had any issue. Would never question his voracity.
But to have the FBI director in the middle of an investigation even speculate that the president may have committed a crime, he wasn't quite sure, I just thought really damages both his brand and the FBI brand, which where you don't --
CAMEROTA: So why is he doing that? ROGERS: You don't want police officers going out and saying, well, I don't think that person's morally fit, so I'm going to put handcuffs on. You -- that's not what the law enforcement is supposed to do. And so him, as director, making those kinds of allegations and comparisons, I mean, listen, Trump laid the bait out there. He attacked him personally. He was -- it was certainly, I thought, actions and activities unbecoming of the office of the president, no doubt. But Jim Comey last night I thought took the bait and that's what disappointed me.
CAMEROTA: So -- and why do you think he did that?
ROGERS: You know, clearly the guy was fired in a -- you know, I can't think of a more horrific way to fire somebody who had given honorable service to his country. So I think he took that personal. I think he still is trying to shake off this notion that here -- I'm a guy that, you know, believes I was doing everything right. And to get treated this way I think was unconscionable. And I think you saw that come out on TV.
Here's the thing, Alisyn, and this is why I was disappointed that the former director decided to come out the way he did, is it gives legs to everybody who now wants to condemn the FBI as a political organization or an organization that decided they were going to investigate the president because they didn't like him or they didn't like his morals. None of that is where the FBI is or should be. And I think it highlighted the mistakes that Director Comey made early in this where he tip-toed into politics and tip-toed out. And I'm sure he thought he was doing the right thing, but I think it just highlighted the mistakes that he made and the fact that we now have two boys in the school yard calling each other names I think is horrifically unproductive.
CUOMO: And so as a former investigator, what do you think Comey's biggest mistakes were?
ROGERS: Well, I think in the very beginning -- I disagreed when he came out and said there's nothing to see here in the Clinton investigation. I didn't think that was his place. I disagreed when he came back out and said, oops, we think we found something. We have to investigate it again. And then I disagreed with him the third time when he came out and said, no, nothing -- we didn't find anything here. I thought all of that and last night in his interview he said he was doing this from some notion he had politics on his mind. I just -- the FBI needs to stay out of all of that.
And, again, he also -- this notion that he believes the president is morally unfit. We're all going to come to that conclusion in the voting booth. I don't want the FBI deciding on an investigation because I think somebody is morally unfit. I just think that's a dangerous precedent. And so those are the big mistakes.
And then having the director, who is actively -- was actively engaged in the investigation speculate last night on live TV, well, the president may have committed a crime here, I just thought that was awful and very unbecoming of an FBI director. And, candidly, like I said, I know Jim Comey. He is a decent and
honorable man. I think his emotions got the better of him in this.
CAMEROTA: And then, I mean, speaking of unbecoming, of course there is the response from the White House and the president saying slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack. He is not smart. He will go down as the worst FBI director in history by far. By the way, that's not even the most insulting tweet that I could have read.
And what do you think of the president of the United States going after James Comey? Is there a trickle down kind of ripple effect across all of the FBI?
ROGERS: Listen, I think this pejorative nature of the president's tweets has got to end. I -- and, again, that's what I meant by -- you know, the president laid it out there. He was very pejorative. He was very mean. There was animus in his texts and tweets about James Comey. And all of it was awful. And I -- I still believe to this day that is actions and activities unbecoming of the office of the president of the United States. Don't go after an individual. The president's -- don't -- you don't even got to get me started. My blood pressure is going up already.
But for the FBI director to react, I think James Comey took that bait. He shouldn't do it. I -- you know, we know what we're going to get with the president and his tweets. The director needed to be bigger than that. I -- unfortunately last night he was not. And so, again, it looks like two kids in the school yard hurling insults at each other. And I -- I just -- that is not helpful to what is really important here, Alisyn.
[06:55:09] We know the Russians are trying to influence the 2018 elections. We know that. The FBI director -- or, excuse me, all of the intelligence community has agreed that, said on public record it's happening. Now that's all going to get lost one more time. And it gives the Russians a seam of which they are very good at finding.
CAMEROTA: Mike Rogers, you say that everybody might need therapy. And may I suggest a long vacation for you as well.
Thank you very much for coming on with your perspective and your raised blood pressure.
ROGERS: Thanks, Alisyn.
CUOMO: All right, so another angle this morning.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are weighing in on Jim Comey's explosive interview. Their take on some of the harsh criticisms about the president, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think he's morally unfit to be president.
[07:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?
COMEY: I think it's possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Former Director Comey has a God complex.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've always found him to be very credible.