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Court Hearings over FBI Raid Seizures; Daniels to Appear at Hearings; Trump Reaction Comey Interview; Comey Hold First Interview; Comey on Clinton E-mails. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired April 16, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:10] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 7:00 p.m. in Paris, 8:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
We start with breaking news in the legal fight over Michael Cohen's records. Records that include taped conversations with an attorney representing two women who claim they had affairs with the president. The principles are arriving in court right about now. Michael Cohen, who's the president's lawyer, long-time friend, he'll be in court today as the judge prepares to decide on the material seized by the FBI from his home, his office, his hotel room and his safety deposit box. Stormy Daniels is also expected at the courthouse later today. President Trump's attorneys who have made their own arguments in the case, they will be there as well.
Our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is outside the federal courthouse in New York City.
Shimon, what is the court deciding? What could we see today? And what do the president's attorneys, who will be inside the courtroom, want?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, essentially the judge here is going to decide whether or not the FBI and the prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office here in the southern district of New York and Manhattan will have access to the information that they seize a week ago today. It was last Monday morning that they raided Michael Cohen where they removed all sorts of documents and information. The government has not been able to review any of that information because Michael Cohen's attorneys and now the president's attorneys are arguing that there's privileged material in those documents. In the case of the president, the lawyers for him are arguing in an unprecedented fashion that he should review -- the president and his lawyers should review some of that material before the government could even start to look at it. They're claiming there's information there that is privileged, that is the attorney- client privilege, and that they should have access to it.
And, Wolf, the government's position on this is that -- is from what they know, based on their investigation, which they say has been months long, they say they've gathered a lot of information regarding some of Michael Cohen's dealings for their investigation. They don't see a lot of information that would pertain to any kind of privilege with the president. In fact, the government's position has been that based on the e-mails that they have reviewed, there aren't a lot of e- mails between the president and Michael Cohen, so they don't see how privilege would apply in this case as to the president.
BLITZER: Shimon, why is Stormy Daniels in this federal courtroom today?
PROKUPECZ: Well, she's certainly the big draw here, Wolf. There's probably dozens of cameras here at this point, certainly more cameras than were here on Friday. I was here on Friday. There weren't this many people here.
But, quite honestly, it's just theater. Michael Avenatti decided that he was going to bring her here today. She certainly could be a potential witness in this case down the line, because as we've reported, the FBI and prosecutors here are investigating, are looking at that deal that Michael Cohen made with her, that hush money that was paid to her. That is part of the investigation. So down the line, we could see her, if there is a prosecution, become a witness. But as for today, she really has no role here. She's just coming purely as a spectator, Wolf.
BLITZER: Shimon, we're going to get back to you. There's going to be a lot of drama unfolding in that federal courtroom in a little while.
Shimon, thanks very much.
Now to the epic battle unfolding between a sitting president of the United States and the FBI director he fired. In his first TV interview promoting his new book, "A Higher Loyalty," James Comey unleashes scathing criticism of President Trump. And in one of the sharpest rebukes, he calls the president unfit for office, not mentally but morally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who's tracking conversations and know what's going on. I don't think he's medically unfit to be president, I think he's morally unfit to be president.
A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and threats women like they're pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insist the American people believe it, that person is not fit to be president of the United States on moral grounds. Our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are the core of this country. The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He's morally unfit to be president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And in another astonishing comment, Comey says the Russians may have dirt on the president of the United States. Listen to what he said in that ABC News interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think it's possible. I don't know. These are words I never thought I'd utter about a 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.
[13:05:03] COMEY: It is stunning. And I wish I wasn't saying it. But it's just -- 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)
BLITZER: And what about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation? Comey warns that the country will face a major crisis if President Trump tries to shut it down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: What will it mean if President Trump tries to fire Robert Mueller?
COMEY: 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)
BLITZER: President Trump fired back at James Comey today in a tweet. He accused Comey of committing, quote, many crimes, but did not elaborate.
Earlier, the president said Comey would go down as, quote, the worst FBI director in history.
Our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is traveling with the president in Hialeah, Florida, in south Florida right now.
Jeff, do we expect to hear more reaction to the Comey interview?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, Wolf, one of the central questions was, did President Trump watch that interview last evening? We have gotten an answer to that. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders telling reporters as they were flying down here to Florida that the president did indeed watch, in her words, bits and pieces of that interview. We certainly know the president firing back on social media, on Twitter, accusing James Comey, his fired FBI director, of lying to Congress, committing a crime.
But, Wolf, so far, as we stand here today in this school gymnasium in Hialeah, Florida, the president not mentioning James Comey at all, not mentioning him once. You can see him behind me here. He is sitting there and he's listening to Hispanic business leaders here. They're talking about job growth, talking about the Republican tax cuts. That's what Republicans hope he sticks to.
Of course they're trying to win the midterm elections here. So far the president not going after James Comey at all as he begins a full week in Florida. He'll be down here at his Mar-a-Lago resort for the entire week, meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
But, Wolf, no question, behind the scenes, the president, we are told, still seething about James Comey. We'll certainly be watching and getting updates from the hearing this afternoon of Michael Cohen, one of his closest long-time confidants. But so far, Wolf, the president not weighing in, at least publicly, to James Comey.
BLITZER: All right, you'll monitor and see if he says anything. And, we'll, of course, get back to you.
Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.
Let's get some insight from our panel on James Comey's bombshell interview and the president's response. We have our CNN law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell. He's making, by the way, his first appearance since the Comey interview. He was a special assistant to Comey at the FBI. We also have CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
So, Gloria, what do you think the headlines, the reaction to this -- I think it's pretty fair to say a pretty stunning interview when he says that the president of the United States is morally unfit to be president.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, you know, morally unfit does not reflect the values of this country, et cetera, et cetera. To me the headlines are the obstruction of justice, this question where Comey said it's certainly possible there's some evidence of obstruction of justice. He said it depends on intent. Obviously he's just a witness in this case. He's not prosecuting it. But that's the number one.
The second one, of course, is this notion that he could not rule out that the president had been compromised by the Russians, period. And we also know that in a later interview with "USA Today," he said, even in private, the president refuses to criticize Vladimir Putin. So you have the former director of the FBI, who is no longer investigating this case, but was and at a certain -- and raises these two issues which are, to me, sort of the key to what Mueller, the special counsel, is investigating, and we also know that Comey will be an important witness, or already has been an important witness to Bob Mueller.
BLITZER: The theory -- the fear is if the Russians do have dirt on the president of the United States, they could blackmail him, they could use that in terms of their policy negotiations.
BORGER: Right. Right. And that's what -- and Comey said in this interview, without going into too much detail about the video with the hookers in Russia, that actually he could not believe that it was this out-of-body experience, that in his first meeting -- or I believe it was his first meeting with the president, he had to actually talk to him about this piece of intelligence and how nervous that made him and how uncomfortable you can imagine that made the FBI director.
[13:10:04] BLITZER: It's amazing. You hear this kind of talk from the former director of the FBI, and you also hear a very similar kind of talk from the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. Both of these individuals have said -- have raised all these fears about the current president of the United States.
Karoun, Comey said he learned that President Trump had fired him while he was out meeting with FBI agents in California. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The room had televisions on the wall and I saw "Comey resigns" on the back screens.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Resigns?
COMEY: Yes, it said "resigns." And then that changed to, "Comey fired." And now I'm staring at it and the audience could see my face change, so they start turning around looking at the back. Then I went into a room to find out, have I been fired, because I did not expect to be fired.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's your first thought?
COMEY: That's crazy. How could that be?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Weren't you angry?
COMEY: I don't remember being angry. I thought, it's crazy to fire me. I'm leading the investigation of Russian influence and particular whether anyone in the Trump orbit had coordinated and conspired with the Russians? That makes no sense at all.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The day after you were fired, the president is meeting in the Oval Office of the Russian foreign minister. Calls you a nut job. Say that the pressure on him has been relieved. What did you think when you saw that?
COMEY: Wow was my reaction. First of all, what are the Russians doing in the Oval Office, one, as a counterintelligence person I'm thinking, that's crazy, without any Americans being present, one. And, two, the pretense is melting away. The bit about, you were fired because of how you handled the e-mail investigation is melting away. You were fired because of the Russia investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Karoun, I want your reaction to what we just saw.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, he's retelling basically the slow process of kind of coming to the reality of the situation that he thought was completely implausible before it actually happened to him, right? And that's the point at which Comey goes from being somebody who's trying to be a very impartial arbiter and saying, OK, that on its loyalty I will just deal with this. I'm' not going to react in the situation becomes I have the job to do. And it becomes very personal because he's being pushed out. And we've seen that, you know, he kind of went underground for a little while to regroup, but now we've seen this book come out where he's not really pulling any punches in terms of how he's assessing the president on multiple fronts.
I mean it's -- it's not exactly the most professional type of firing. I think that -- I mean that it's more details about what has been one of the more surprising and eyebrow-raising episodes in this. And the one that, frankly, started off this many chapters of the Russia probe story that's followed, it probably would have played out very differently had Comey stayed atop of the FBI. But, Josh knows --
BLITZER: Josh, yes, I want to talk to you about that because you're a former FBI special -- you're a former special assistant to Comey. You're a former super -- special agent, supervisory special agent over at the FBI. And you were with Comey in California when he looked up on the screen, saw CNN, "Comey fired," and then you flew back to Washington with him. Tell us about that.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: We did. But there was a lot that went on in that period of time. I mean if you think of the chaos in that moment. Now you all know, you know, these officials, these high-level principles in the intelligence community, they have a staff that travels with them. They have a communicator that keeps them in constant contact with the White House, with the national security establishment.
But the folks always assume that that nerve center back in Washington, whether it's headquarters at the FBI or the White House or somebody is going to know what's going on. We actually called back. No one knew what was going on. I actually was on the phone with one of our key officials who was on the way home and I was briefing him. We were learning it all from CNN. So it was complete chaos.
Once the decision was made that it's time to return back to Washington -- as you can all remember the freeway ride up to LAX and getting on the airplane and, you know, covered obviously on CNN, it was chaos that then turned into kind of a sobering atmosphere where it really started to sink in for the director that the dream job that he had, the pinnacle of his career -- you know, he always said, I don't want to be anything else, I don't want to do anything else, this is the dream job, came to an end a lot quicker than he thought. He still had six years left. BORGER: Did you guys call the White House or the chief of staff or the
CAMPBELL: So there was a direct coms with the White House from Comey from on the road. We were in touch with FBI headquarters and the Department of Justice. If you recall, there was this question whether Comey could even return on a government aircraft.
BORGER: Yes. Yes.
CAMPBELL: Which I could tell you, as someone who was there on the ground, it went from frustration to anger just like that when we started getting word that not only do they humiliate the FBI director, but now they're going to, you know, stick him in coach on a commercial flight back to Washington when, you know, he's dealing with all this chaos. I mean it was just mishandled, obviously, we've talked on so many different levels from a leadership perspective.
There is one interesting part, which I don't know if you remember from the interview, where Comey talks about having a glass of wine on the flight home, actually wasn't --
BORGER: I do.
BLITZER: A glass of red wine.
CAMPBELL: A glass of red wine.
BORGER: In a cup.
CAMPBELL: And -- in a cup. And I was there for part of this. And, actually, you know, the book is about leadership. But this is a real key part about leadership and telling you the person of James Comey.
He traveled all the time. And he was the kind of person that you were in a city, he would rather sit at the hotel and get room service so that his security detail could go out and enjoy the city, because if he was going to go to dinner, he'd have to take an army of, you know, eight, ten people with him.
[13:15:10] So as this started going around, I finally told him, I said, sir, you know, one glass of wine at room service costs the same as a bottle if you bring your own. And so with this trip he was supposed to overnight. And, you know, as we're flying back prematurely it dawns on him, you know what, I have this bottle of wine here. I think I'm going to relax and reflect on, you know, a great career in public service.
BLITZER: You know -- yes, he said, he drank that glass -- cup of red wine in a coffee -- in a coffee cup.
CAMPBELL: That's all we had on the airplane.
BLITZER: Yes, Styrofoam cups.
CAMPBELL: And I want the tax payers to know this, that we don't have booze on the planes and we don't have wine glasses. So the only thing that we could find was this old, dingy cup. And -- but it made do.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, that's -- stick around. There's more we need to discuss.
Comey also explaining his controversial decisions involving Hillary Clinton's e-mail investigation, including why politics played a role.
Plus, moments from now, the president's lawyer appearing in court for the first time since the FBI raids on his home and his offices.
And, Stormy Daniels, by the way, also expected to attend. We've got a live camera right out there. Stick around.
And it's -- it comes as "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting more deals Michael Cohen, the president's long-time personal attorney, had with more women.
Stay with us.
[13:20:23] BLITZER: James Comey on the record. We've heard plenty of his comments about President Trump. By the way, you're looking at live pictures from New York City right now. We're waiting to see this federal courtroom, this federal procedure get underway. The president's long-time attorney, Michael Cohen, will be there. I saw him earlier walking over towards the federal courthouse. There he is going past all the cameras, all the reporters, all the crews there waiting to catch a glimpse of him.
We're also standing by for Stormy Daniels, the former porn star, she's going to be showing up in that courtroom as well. Quite a spectacle anticipated. We have reporters, producers, cameras on the scene. We'll have full coverage of that.
But let's get back to the new Comey book right now. Comey, the former FBI director, talks about Hillary Clinton in the book as well and the reasons for his decision to reveal the existence of the investigation enter more of her e-mails only a few days before the presidential election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: 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)
BLITZER: So he sort of contradicted himself, Gloria. On the one hand he says politics plays no role at all in the decisions of the FBI. We move forward with these investigations as we see them unfolding. But then he -- you just heard him say, well, maybe the notion that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected did play a role.
BORGER: Right. And he said, if I ever start considering whose political fortune would be affected, we're done. Meaning the FBI is done. And I think what you're seeing here is this kind of therapeutic confessional from him where he talked about -- to George last night, George Stephanopoulos, about being a deeply flawed human being trying to make decisions. And when he mentioned that Hillary Clinton said I shivved (ph) her, he tried to make the case that he didn't, when, in fact, he did. And he is trying to rationalize that because it's clear his family is Democratic. His wife and kids were for Hillary Clinton. He makes -- he makes that very clear.
So listening to him last night, the Clinton people are not going to be satisfied. They say, come on, you -- you made a -- you made a huge mistake. You knew what you were doing and you did it anyway. And he doesn't deny it, but he talks about how it, quote, sucked to be him during the last ten days of the campaign because he knew he was going to get in trouble one way or another.
I don't think he completely explained his rationale in a way that would make the Clinton people feel that he was fair at all.
CAMPBELL: One -- one point, though, I would make on that is, when, you know, obviously this is a contentious issue. This cut many different ways. But, you know, when Mrs. Clinton said she felt shivved, I mean that shows some kind of intent, some kind of motive, which I know -- I mean I know for a fact, knowing Jim -- James Comey that he didn't go in making that decision intending to cause harm. You simply live your life one way.
BORGER: And he knew it (INAUDIBLE).
CAMPBELL: He knew it was a possibility. But when the -- in the FBI you can't make decisions based on what the political calculus will be.
Let me just say this, when you read the book, I mean, look at last night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, on one network you had the pope. On the other network you had Jim Comey. And what a dichotomy, because he's the first to tell you, he's not perfect, he's flawed, as we all are. And I think as you read this book --
BLITZER: Here's -- here's the problem from Comey -- that Comey raised for a whole bunch of Democrats, that he suggested ten or 11 days before the election he had to announce publicly the FBI was reopening the e-mail investigation because they found thousands, hundreds of thousands of e-mails on Anthony Weiner's laptop computer. He was married to Huma Abedin, the along-time assistant to Hillary Clinton.
And Comey said, if he wouldn't have done that, he wouldn't have done that, and she was elected -- and he assumed she would be elected president -- then maybe her election would be seen as irregular or corrupt because he didn't inform Congress and the American people that he had reopened the investigation.
CAMPBELL: Yes, definitely, Wolf. I mean there's a lot going on there. I think the one -- the one issue I would take -- one point I would take issue with is that he did announce it publicly. He went back to Congress and said, this is my letter --
BLITZER: But you know that if you -- then if you tell Congress that the investigation has been --
CAMPBELL: But that says more about this -- that says more about this town than it does James Comey.
BLITZER: Yes. I mean he's a sophisticated guy.
CAMPBELL: This says more about the swamp than it does Jim Comey.
DEMIRJIAN: But the problem right now is that you have kind of like this Shakespearean drama going on with Comey trying to like be the hero that he's not completely right because he's making a gut decision to make -- draw the line at that point instead of waiting until you've gone through the e-mails and say (ph) something else.
[13:25:05] BLITZER: The FBI never talks about investigations 11 days before a presidential election.
DEMIRJIAN: Right, I mean, but he's -- he's -- I mean considering himself trying to be, you know, the person who's setting the standards, but he's doing it an arbitrary point because he's not perfect. And, unfortunately, when the stakes are this high and you're talking about an institution that's supposed to be not -- not going -- ebbing and flowing on the back of a person, right, and making a decision, it's completely unsatisfying. But it is the reality of what we've got here, which is we've got human beings acting in each of these cases and they're, you know, thinking they're doing the right thing and they're screwing up at the same time and because it's just -- but --
BLITZER: And, you know, Josh, the other -- the other thing that deeply irritates the Democrats, as you well know, as all of us know, that, at the end of July 2016, the FBI opened a separate investigation into possible cooperation, collusion, between the Trump campaign and the Russians. And he stayed silent on that in July, August, September, October, early November. He spoke about the investigation reopening for Hillary Clinton, but he never spoke about the Trump investigation.
CAMPBELL: This is true. And what I would say to that -- and, obviously, these are very tough issues for people to deal with. I can tell you, in the FBI -- and I'm not here to defend Jim Comey. His book will defend himself. I can explain what I saw in the period of time there. I worked many investigations. I never had two investigations that worked on the same track simultaneously at the exactly same time. They're always in different, you know, states of existence. So in this case when he announced the Hillary Clinton closure, it was being closed.
When you look -- fast-forward to Donald Trump and that investigation with the campaign, the FBI didn't know what it had. And if you had come out and said, hey, we're investigating this counter-intelligence matter, the bad guys also listen in. So I think -- and I'm not defending. I understand it's very tough. Here's what I will say, though, about this book. If you look at it,
what it tells me is that it's about leadership. And one of the key areas of leadership that Jim Comey -- you know, people call him righteous and sanctimonious, but one area that he always focused on, to whatever audience, was vulnerability and having the humility to be venerable. You see that in this book.
BORGER: Well --
DEMIRJIAN: His vulnerability doesn't work that well in this situation as an excuse.
CAMPBELL: Or in this town.
DEMIRJIAN: To satisfy the fact (INAUDIBLE).
BORGER: Well, and also don't forget, as long as we're peeling the layers of the onion here, don't forget President Obama and his intelligence people going to Capitol Hill and saying, look, we know that there's something going on. The Russians are trying to hack this election. And there was a decision made, and they would blame it on the Republican leadership in Congress, who said don't make it public. Don't make it public.
So there's a lot of other stuff swirling around as if Comey drama is playing out with Hillary Clinton's.
BORGER: And -- and all -- I mean what was stunning to me was, just to put a button on this, when he talks to the president about this after the election, the president didn't care about the Russia involvement in our election. What he cared about was how they were going to make sure in a PR way that it didn't delegitimize Donald Trump's presidency.
CAMPBELL: Did you heard Kellyanne Conway this morning saying, well, if it was so important, why didn't they just offer up the information? Why did they have to be asked? As though it's not important for the new leader of the free world to show some kind of initiative and his team that would take these matters seriously.
BLITZER: Remember, President Obama as under the assumption Hillary Clinton was going to win as well, and that had an impact on their decision.
BORGER: Well, either way, as were all of us. So to be fair, yes.
BLITZER: A lot of people rendered that essential (ph).
Everybody stick around. There's more we're watching. And, Gloria, Karoun and Josh, thanks very much.
A reminder, we will be hearing much more from James Comey later this week when he sits down live with our own Jake Tapper. That's at 4:00 p.m. Eastern on "The Lead" this coming Thursday. Stick around for that as well.
And the president's lawyer gets ready to appear in a federal courtroom today, a new report suggests Michael Cohen killed the story about Donald Trump Jr. and his personal life. The new details and how this impacts today's hearing. We have details on that.
Plus, Stormy Daniels getting ready to arrive at that federal courthouse any moment. You see a live picture right there.