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James Comey Breaks His Silence In First Interview; Rep. Charlie Dent On Possible Trump Obstructed Justice In Talks About Flynn; Rep. Jim Himes Discusses The Possibility Russians Had Leverage Over Trump; Pacers Stun Cavaliers In Game One Of NBA Playoffs, 98-80. Aired 7:30- 8a ET
Aired April 16, 2018 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:30:00] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, "THE OATH", STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: -- Comey's resentment is certainly understandable.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The sin of pride -- deadly sin. Is Comey guilty of that -- the feel of -- the need to justify himself when Rosenstein happened, leaking the information? The need to do what, in his opinion, was saving the reputation of the FBI but doing something unprecedented in coming out about the Clinton investigation twice in a way that certainly compromised the election. Not the result but certainly, the campaign itself.
Is that pride?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, SENIOR LECTURER, YALE UNIVERSITY, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: It's definitely an extreme of one of the virtues, I'm sure.
You know, he -- what I say is that his inner Boy Scout gets the best of him, where he believes -- I think is what you're saying is that he knows better -- and I guess it is a form of pride -- than everybody else. And sometimes sticking to your principles is good. I'm glad that he didn't shut down the Flynn investigation because he knew that would be wrong.
On the other hand, taking it upon himself -- Jeffrey and I were discussing this before. To take on a job that really wasn't for the FBI to do because he believed that the Department of Justice was just conflicted and he alone could be the one to save it, I think that was the original sin that led to these -- all these domino affects later that makes it difficult for him to now justify.
TOOBIN: And I agree with that. And also, his explanation of why he upended the campaign on October 28th is, to me, completely unpersuasive -- the idea that he somehow had to save Hillary Clinton's legitimacy if she was elected because she was ahead in the polls. FBI directors should not be acting based on political polls.
I mean, he injected himself into the campaign against all the traditions of the Department of Justice, which is supposed to stay out of political campaigns at the last minute. I find his whole explanation to that deeply unpersuasive and I think pride, arrogance, sanctimony is one of the explanations, as you raise.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you very much.
TOOBIN: All right.
CAMEROTA: Asha, thank you --
CAMEROTA: -- very much.
CUOMO: All right. There's a lot, as Alisyn was saying, in this interview and we have a lot more ahead in terms of how's it being processed, how are people going to react to this? What about lawmakers? There's a lot in this interview for them to think about.
We're going to talk about all this with Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, next.
[07:36:20] CUOMO: Did President Trump try to obstruct justice by telling fired FBI director James Comey to let go of the Michael Flynn investigation? Comey describing that moment in his first interview. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: He had said he's a good guy, I hope you can let it go. I just said I agree he's a good guy. And there was a brief pause and then, the meeting was over.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, "ABC NEWS": Should you have said Mr. President, I can't discuss this. 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 I should -- 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, it's certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Joining us now is Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.
Do you agree with the former head of the FBI that there is possibly obstruction of justice on the basis of what he just described and that there is evidence of the same?
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R-PA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND V.A. SUBCOMMITTEE: Well, it's possible. Certainly, it's possible that there was obstruction but that's for Director Mueller to decide. Let him -- let him find that out.
I've got to tell you Chris, I was a bit disappointed and unsettled by that interview that I -- that I saw last night.
Director Comey is a good and honorable public servant. I thought it was terrible the way he was fired several months ago.
And it just seems to me that the politics was taken into account with some the decision-making that Director Comey took on. He was instead of acting as director of the FBI, he was acting as the attorney general.
His original mistake, in my view, was publicly giving his opinion in July of 2016. Then he compounded that mistake again when he reopened the case. He should have just followed FBI protocols and guidelines and let Attorney General Lynch make the decisions even though she fouled her own nest when she had that meeting with President Clinton on the tarmac.
CUOMO: So now we have a situation where the president, in part because of Jim Comey and in part because of a lot of other things -- he doesn't like this investigation that Mueller is doing. He wants to end it. We hear more and more about that.
Do you believe that you need to do something to protect the special counsel?
Did you see that editorial in "The New York Times" today? They took out a full page to say that if the president moves on Mueller, they worry about the democracy.
DENT: Well, Chris, I've introduced a companion measure to the legislation that Senators Tillis, Coons, Graham, and Booker introduced to protect the special prosecutor -- I, along with Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont. I do believe we need to protect the special prosecutor.
It would be a terrible mistake for the president to fire him. It would be bad for the president, it would be bad for Republicans in Congress in the midterms, and most of all, it would be bad for the American people.
And so, I think he really should think very hard about this. It would be a self-destructive act to do that and it would set off a political crisis if he were to fire Mueller.
CUOMO: Well, here's the problem with the practicality. I hear you. I've heard that echoed by various members of your party and the other party. And yet, I also hear from everybody, except you and a couple of others, well, we don't need to do anything about it because he won't do this. Isn't that being a little bit naive? I get the calculation. The calculation is, from certainly people in your party, I don't want to be on record something to stop the president from doing something. I don't want to be sideways with him.
But what if he does make a move Mueller? It will be too late for legislation such as yours to make a difference.
[07:40:05] DENT: Well, I do believe we should act and I think that has -- I think one area where we have made a mistake in Congress, I think, is that we've not provided enough robust oversight on the president on some of these issues. And not just on this matter, but I'm talking on issues like trade -- take trade -- and we should be looking at that progressively.
CUOMO: Of unilateral military action with a state actor and a sovereign that isn't attacking us at the time.
DENT: Well, but I -- well, that's a -- that's a more complex issue.
But certainly on the trade issue where many of us have had very real objections to the president's policy on the tariffs, and we should push back and we should --
CUOMO: Well, you should, seeing how you gave him the statutory authority to put these tariffs in place on the basis of national security interests, a case he never made to an open Congress or to the American people.
How'd he get away with that?
DENT: That's correct. Then -- well look, I've been pushing back very hard on this. I think Congress has to reassert itself on the matter of trade. I believe that we should set up some kind of a process by which Congress should be allowed to vote in the event that the country were to pull out -- the president were to pull out of a trade agreement -- a bilateral trade agreement which the Congress would have voted on to let us into in the first place.
So there's things that we should be doing to provide greater oversight and more of a check on the president when we need to. Support him when he's on the right track, but check him when he's moving in a direction that we disagree with.
CUOMO: And some of this stuff isn't even about President Trump. I mean, what I'm talking about in terms of the bombing in Syria, you guys have the legislative, legal, and constitutional duty to weigh in on that question and you don't. You guys roll over, administration after administration and I just don't understand why.
DENT: Well, I said during the Obama administration and this administration as well, we need a new AUMF (Authorization to Use Military Force).
CUOMO: But then nothing happens. Charlie, I hear it from you and handful of others but nobody ever brings it up on the floor. It never gets debated.
DENT: And I know why because the Democrats want to have much greater constraints on the commander in chief, the Republicans want fewer constraints and we can -- we probably can never get to a majority vote. I think that's the reason why the leadership doesn't bring it up.
CUOMO: At least debate it. Let the people know --
CUOMO: -- that there's some transparency and accountability.
Charlie Dent, I appreciate your candor in making the case to the American people. Let's see if you can get your legislation through because as we both know, if the president does a make a move that effectively takes Mueller out of his job it will be too late for legislation to fix it.
Thank you for joining us though, sir, as always.
DENT: Thank you, Chris.
CUOMO: Alisyn --
DENT: Good to be with you.
CAMEROTA: All right.
Fired FBI director James Comey leaving open the possibility that President Trump can be blackmailed by Russia. How concerning is this?
Democratic Congressman Jim Himes joins us next.
[07:46:27] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOLOUS: 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'd utter about a President of the United States, but it's possible.
STEPHANOPOLOUS: 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 just -- it's the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Fired FBI director James Comey says it's possible that Russia has dirt on the president. What does that mean? Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes. He's a member of
the House Intelligence Committee. Great to have you here, Congressman.
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good morning, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: So, it's possible? I mean, that is so broad as to my ear to almost be meaningless.
How do you hear that from James Comey?
HIMES: Well, I don't think anybody knows. I think Jim Comey is being honest. You know, there are suggestions in the Steele memorandum -- the Steele dossier. You know, there's a possibility.
Interestingly, Alisyn, what -- there's another layer to this which is it doesn't really matter if the Russians have something on the president if the president worries that they do. So if the president misbehaved either in Moscow or if he's got some business deal that's a little questionable, it doesn't really matter whether the Russians know that because the president will worry that the Russians know that.
CAMEROTA: You said on Friday that people will quote "rot in hell for besmirching the integrity of James Comey and Robert Mueller." Now that you've heard the James Comey interview, is there anything that you think he did wrong?
HIMES: Well, I was clear about that in the interview where I got a little heated about the character assassination that the Republicans and that the president is doing to two very good men, Mueller and Comey.
And I was clear in saying that I actually think it was a mistake for then-director Comey to come out and talk about the Clinton investigation. He didn't talk about the Trump investigation and look, there's a credible case to be made that he -- that he seriously affected the election, maybe even elected Donald Trump. But that doesn't make him dishonest.
CAMEROTA: So why can't critics go -- OK. So -- but, I mean, critics can go after his judgment.
HIMES: Absolutely. No, I would agree that his judgment in deciding to break the protocol of the Justice Department in that instance was wrong. There is a long gap between an error of judgment in a very difficult situation. This was tough. I mean, don't think this was an easy decision for him.
And then, saying that the man is, if I can quote the president, a liar -- I mean, that's just a -- I don't anybody believes Jim Comey is a liar. I think a lot of people think he made a misjudgment but I don't think anybody believes that either Jim Comey or Bob Mueller are anything other than men of integrity. CAMEROTA: As a member of the House Intel Committee, as you are, do you think that the firing of James Comey, from everything that you've heard now, does amount to an obstruction of justice for the president?
HIMES: I think it's three-quarters of the way there. I mean, look, the president fired him and then he told the Russians in the Oval Office that he had had a great pressure relieved. And then, he told the media that he would have done it anyway in order to take away the pressure of the investigation.
CAMEROTA: So what part are you still waiting to hear?
HIMES: Well, you know, I think -- I'm not a lawyer. I think if the case were strong enough, Mueller will make that case. And look, I mean, it's not just the firing of Comey, right? It's the suggestion that FBI director Comey should go light on his national security adviser, right?
And so look, Mueller's doing his work. We'll find out what else there is.
CAMEROTA: So, about Michael Cohen. Do you feel that the search of Michael Cohen's home, and his office, and whatever FBI agents seized -- do you feel, as someone who has looked into the evidence, that something is now shifting into a different, higher gear?
HIMES: Well, remember, on our side -- on the House side, we were not looking into the president's business dealings. That was not in the mandate of our investigation.
[07:50:02] But it is very clear -- look, if -- I understand why the president is worried here. From what I understand about Michael Cohen, this guy was Donald Trump's fixer. God only knows what is in those files.
And look, we've got a reckoning. Obviously, if there's -- if there's criminality in the -- in those files, that's one thing. But, you know, this is a little bit reminiscent of the Clinton administration where we started an investigation in one place, a land deal in Arkansas, and wound up in a very, very different place.
And I actually think -- look, though I am no fan of this president -- I've been a tough critic of it -- of the president -- unless there's very serious evidence of criminality between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, the Southern District of New York should be careful on how they handle any of that information.
CAMEROTA: Do you think that's a greater legal threat, from where you sit, to the president?
HIMES: Well, people who understand these things a good deal better than I do -- lawyers and prosecutors -- tell me that yes, it is because again, Michael Cohen has years of cleaning up the messes of this president and God only knows, as I said before, what is in -- what is in those files. I mean, think back on what Mueller's doing. Mueller is sort of examining whether there is so-called collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Collusion is not a crime.
Conspiracy is a crime and conspiracy is a fairly well-defined crime. And we don't know yet because we don't know what Mueller has, whether he's going to find a crime occurred. My guess is there's probably a lot more fertile ground for the Southern District of New York and Michael Cohen's doings than perhaps Bob Mueller has.
CAMEROTA: Back to James Comey for a second. Do you think that he should have weighed in on things like the president's looks -- his impressions of the president's looks when he first saw him? His impressions of the president's hair and -- as well as the unverified more salacious stuff in the dossier?
HIMES: Well, you know, it's a -- that's a good question. I mean, I sort of wonder when he's talking about the president's hair or the president's skin color whether that's not sort of something that perhaps the book publishers value more than Jim Comey naturally does.
Again, I think most people think he's a man of integrity, very focused on the substance. Whatever his judgment may have been on the -- on -- the dossier's a different matter, right? I mean, it --
CAMEROTA: I mean the salacious parts of it.
HIMES: Yes --
CAMEROTA: I mean, he didn't have to answer those questions. He didn't have to include that stuff.
HIMES: Well, he answered questions he was asked. I didn't hear a lot of discussion of the more salacious aspects of the dossier. Look, the dossier remains exactly what it is, an unverified set of notions produced by a very credible source, so that still remains one of the big question marks in this whole investigation.
CAMEROTA: All right. Congressman Jim Himes, thank you very much for being here. Always great to see you in the studio.
HIMES: Thank you, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Chris --
CUOMO: And we're only at the beginning when it comes to Jim Comey's media blitz. Allies of the president are ramping up attacks on his credibility. It seems to be pretty well thought out.
So, what are we going to see from the president today? Is he going to directly attack Jim Comey? Let's discuss, next.
[07:57:15] CUOMO: The NBA Playoffs are underway -- already a surprise. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers did something that they haven't done in a long time.
Lindsay Czarniak has more in the "Bleacher Report." What did they do?
LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, guys, don't worry. LeBron has a name for this. It's called a feel-out game, OK, where players not used to that playoff experience, they get a big taste of how different it is to really play on this stage, and it was a bit of rude awakening.
And now, LeBron finds himself in unfamiliar territory behind in the first round of the playoffs thanks, of course, to the Pacers. And it happened at home, which is so bizarre for Cleveland, in Cleveland.
Indiana's Victor Oladipo has been hot all season and he kept it going. He scored 32 points in the 98-80 victory.
Until last night, LeBron had never lost the first game in the first round. Cleveland fans were hitting the exits early -- you can see them there leaving. But LeBron says please look at history before you hit the panic button.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: I'm down 0-1 in the first round and I'll be down 3-1 in the finals. So I'm the last guy to ask about how you're going to feel the next couple of days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CZARNIAK: So that's LeBron's way of saying just chill out please, everybody.
King James and the Cavs trying to even the series at home in game two on Wednesday.
CUOMO: Big deal --
CZARNIAK: Huge deal.
CUOMO: -- to be down in his first game. It's a very different team than the one that came back from 3-1 in the finals.
CZARNIAK: It is. They're young -- they're very young so he's got to find a way to will them, you know?
CUOMO: Thank you. Good to have you on the set.
CAMEROTA: And he seems -- and I mean, I like that.
CZARNIAK: Yes, oh --
CAMEROTA: Just every day, no sweat.
CZARNIAK: He is -- he's a sports star. Not too high, not too low. Even keel and you're good. Exactly, right?
CAMEROTA: Yes. Great to have you here.
CZARNIAK: Thank you, guys. Great to be here.
CAMEROTA: Yes, welcome.
CUOMO: All right. So, guess what? It's 8:00 in the morning and there's a ton of news, so let's get after it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: I mean, it's certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: James Comey is a self- admitted leaker.
TOOBIN: I just think it's a completely devastating account of the president's behavior.
COMEY: So I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Jim Comey now complains that President Trump is untethered from the truth.
CUOMO: Cohen's going to be in court today.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: I think it's a serious matter, there's no question because Mr. Cohen's name keeps coming up.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: She wants to ensure that she is heard.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The purpose of our actions is to establish a strong deterrent against the production of chemical weapons.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: President Trump is not a king, he's a president. He's supposed to come to Congress.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We, of course, know that our work in Syria is not done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, April 16th, now 8:00 in the east.
Fired FBI director Jim Comey making his witness, criticizing the president who fired him. There's a new interview and Jim Comey says that the president is morally unfit to be president and a stain on those around him.