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James Comey Continues Criticism of Trump; Comey Criticized for Trivial Material in Book; Sean Hannity Under Fire for Failing to Disclose He's Client Michael Cohen; White House Walks Back Announced New Sanctions on Russia. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 17, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] CARRIE JOHNSON, WASHINGTON JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: He said if that had leaked out and Hillary Clinton had won the election, it might have cast doubt on her legitimacy as president of the United States and he did not want that to happen. What Comey has not absorbed is a lot of people in the Hillary Clinton campaign and others think the FBI's injection on that political issue so close to the election damaged the FBI's integrity and its reputation, something that may take years for the FBI to recover from.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: In a previous interview, he commented previously on President Obama and how he was critical of him, two separate interviews, a "60 Minutes" interview and a FOX News interview, how the former president said there is no "there" there, and he critical of that. At the same time, Carrie, you have this fired FBI director commenting on a very active Mueller investigation, right? He brings up obstruction in one case, he is a central figure in these interviews, and you asked him about that. What did he say?

JOHNSON: I did. I said, you know, Mr. Comey, you were a great prosecutor when you were the U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York and in Virginia. If you were prosecuting this case, how would you feel if one of your witnesses was out there writing books and doing media blitz? He said, I'm not concerned about it because I've locked in my testimony, I've talked to Congress about this, I've written memos, I've been consistent. As long as I tell the truth and don't make stuff up, everything will be fine. Comey said he's not sure if he'll ever being asked to testify in some type of proceedings, whether a criminal trial or an impeachment trial or something else.

I have to tell you, Brooke, people inside the Justice Department are a little uncomfortable about the notion that a witness in an obstruction investigation is out there so much like Comey is right now.

BALDWIN: It's an excellent question you asked. It was a fair question.

Carrie Johnson, of NPR, thank you very much.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BALDWIN: In addition, some critics have described parts of Comey's new books trivial, instances when he talks about the president's hair and the size of his hands. Comey says he wrote those things with the advice of his editors.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR (voice over): I'm not making fun of the president. I'm trying to be an author, which I've never been before in my life. But while I'm typing, I can hear my editor's voice ringing in my head, bring the reader with you, show them inside your head, bring them with you. By the way, not that this matters, but I found his hands to be above average in size. I'm not making fun of the man. I'm trying to tell the reader what's in my head.


BALDWIN: Judith Regan is with me. She is a book publisher, an editor, and knows all about this whole process.

It's such a pleasure to have you on and to meet you. Thank you so much.

The notion that he's thinking -- these are his comments, he's thinking about being an author.

JUDITH REGAN, BOOK PUBLISHER & EDITOR: Well, he did write the book himself, so I'm not surprised that he said that. And I think it's petty to criticize him for that. A lot of new authors tend to overdo it in those kinds of details. They tend to overexplain and over- describe things. And I don't think it's unusual. I really don't. And certainly with respect to his hand and his hair and all of those things and his skin color and the white goggle marks --


REGAN: But those things have been talked about in the media, and I can well imagine his editor said to him it would be a great thing to talk about because here we are talk about it and it gives his book more conversation.

BALDWIN: So you used the word petty a second ago. A lot of critics are saying for this man who is seen as this north star, guiding light, that he did not need to comment on that.

REGAN: I think it's certainly the norm in our discussion about it today. Given the fact that all of those things have been discussed ad nauseam in the media, it's not unusual he would discuss those things himself in his book.

BALDWIN: OK. How about the fact that so many of the year's best sellers in terms of books are all about Trump? You have "Fire & Fury," "The Art of the Deal," the Hillary coms director, "1984" folded in there. As a publisher, is that a good thing?

REGAN: It's a sad thing for people who don't publish political books because the truth is that Donald Trump and the subject of Donald Trump has really sucked the oxygen out of publishing business in the last year or two. It's very difficult for anyone writing a nonfiction book, about any other subject, to get any other attention at all. It's been very, very challenging, not just as a publisher, but the authors out there who are spending years writing these non-fiction narratives and they get no attention because everyone is focused on Trump all the time when --


BALDWIN: When does that change?

REGAN: It changed when he started to run. It changed when he started to get a lot of attention.


BALDWIN: When does it change --

REGAN: When does it change?


REGAN: The other way?


[14:35:02] REGAN: I don't know. I don't have a crystal ball. But I think Donald Trump should write a book about marketing because he knows how to keep the reality show going. He's very good at it. If he had been James Comey's editor, he certainly would have told him to talk about his hands and his feet and everything else.

BALDWIN: Judith Regan, a pleasure. Thank you so very much.

REGAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next here, Sean Hannity under fire after failing to disclose he's also a client of Trump attorney, Michael Cohen. Those details ahead.

And why did President Trump put a stop on these additional Russian sanctions announced by the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley? A top White House aides now says that Haley, quote, "got ahead of the curve." That's not typically her style. What happened?

We'll be right back.


[14:39:54] BALDWIN: Breaking news here at the top of the hour. The Southwest plane that took off from LaGuardia, was supposed to be headed to Dallas, had to be diverted and make an emergency landing in Philadelphia, because at some point, we believe, one of the engines exploded, the shrapnel from the engine was believed the fuselage hit a window, blew it out. One person ended up going to the hospital. We just got an update from officials on this. Roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: We transported one patient in critical condition to a local hospital. We will not be releasing anything about patient outcome at this time. We also assessed 12 other patients and treated seven patients for minor injuries, although none of those were transported to the hospital.

Our firefighters provided foam due to the risk of a fuel leak and applied that agent for some time. We still have one fire department vehicle on scene supporting our partners with airport.

I have to say thank to you the airport and the police department and all the other partners, including all the airlines here at PHL, who have really come together to help us deal with this tragic incident.


BALDWIN: We are awaiting an update from the NTSB. They will be giving a briefing at the top of the hour. We'll take that for you when it happens.

Meanwhile, the most stunning moment in the court hearing involving the president's attorney happened when Michael Cohen's attorneys were ordered by the judge to name Cohen's third mystery. Client. The announcement of the name Sean Hannity caused gasps in the courtroom. The FOX News host is not only a supporter of the president, but Hannity has been a vocal critic of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his entire investigation.

On the day Cohen's office, home and hotel were searched, Hannity used his show as a platform to blast those FBI raids, never mentioning the fact that, oh, by the way, Cohen was also his lawyer.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, HANNITY: You think Hillary Clinton's attorneys had their offices raided during this e-mail investigation? Not a chance.

Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump campaign. This is now officially an all-hands-on-deck effort to totally malign and, if possible, impeach the president of the United States.


BALDWIN: Hannity has downplayed his attorney/client relationship with Michael Cohen, arguing he had brief legal conversations with Cohen, claiming he never paid legal fees, nor was he billed. And I think he said he paid him ten bucks at some point.

With me now to discuss, CNN media analyst, Bill Carter.

Bill, we now have a statement from FOX News on Sean Hannity. Quote, "While FOX News was unaware of Sean Hannity's informal relationship with Michael Cohen and was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday, we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean, and he continues to have our full support."

There's a lot in there.


BALDWIN: Your first response?

CARTER: My first response is I'm not gasping.

BALDWIN: You're not showing your shocked face.

CARTER: It isn't quite the same as hearing his name in court. The interesting part is they acknowledge he did not tell them.

BALDWIN: Unaware about this relationship.

CARTER: He didn't think it was important to tell his bosses, even though he was covering this story, that he had in fact some sort of business relationship with a very prominent figure in the story. He didn't think it was important to do that. Most people who work at any news organizations know they must do that, that's absolutely essential in their job. It doesn't mean he necessarily would have to stop covering it, but he certainly would have to let his boss know and his viewers know. He didn't acknowledge it to them either.

BALDWIN: Are there no rules at FOX?

CARTER: There always been a different sort of philosophy at FOX at how they approach things and they've underscored it with Trump. They have basically gone all in on Trump. Because their audience is all in on Trump. They're not going to back off. And Hannity's their biggest player. What would they do? Suspend him? Give him some sort of a fine? I don't know what they would do. Other places have in fact suspended people. Keith Olbermann was suspended because he gave a donation. He was a pundit. He had a point of view. He was not allowed to do that because a serious news organization says you can't be that in the tank for somebody that you're covering and, in this case, they apparently do case.

BALDWIN: Do you think viewers will care?

CARTER: I don't think the FOX viewers care. The FOX viewers probably think it's great that he's got a close relationship with the president and that he had some sort of business arrangement with Cohen and when Cohen is indicted, assuming he is indicted, Hannity will be on the air denouncing that, even though he has a business relationship. He may say he wasn't his lawyer, he didn't have a legal deal with him, but for some reason they didn't want his name out. So whatever is in the documentation may -- there may be something more to say about Sean Hannity at that point.

[14:45:04] BALDWIN: Let me flip the script on this whole scenario and play out -- let's say it was a president Hillary Clinton and president Hillary Clinton's personal attorney was under criminal investigation and let's say that her personal lawyer represents Rachel Maddow and Maddow doesn't go on air and disclose it but goes on TV every night and attacks this whole investigation. So Hannity, this conspiracy theory peddler would be like it's cool?

CARTER: No, he would obviously attack it. By the way, MSNBC would surely suspend her for that and say you broke our rules. They don't have the same rules at FOX. Because FOX is not strictly a journalism organization. It is for want of a better word, a propaganda organization. They're pushing a point of view. They don't adhere to the rules that every journalist adheres to. There may be people that are very embarrassed by this. There probably are. But at the top of that organization, and particularly Rupert Murdoch is very close with Donald Trump, I don't think it's going to bother him at all.

BALDWIN: What about this past Sunday, Brett Baier was playing golf with Donald Trump, and this is one of their serious journalists at FOX. Where's --


CARTER: Where's the line in that? I don't think any journalist -- I used to work at "The New York Times." If someone said you're playing golf with Donald Trump, that would be a serious problem. At FOX, everything that they're doing with Trump looks like it's state TV now. We're just putting out his point of view, we're supporting whatever he does. And he doesn't have any rules, generally speaking, so they don't have any rules either.

BALDWIN: State TV, reminds me of what we heard from Ted Koppel. We'll play that for you next hour.

Bill Carter, thank you very much.

CARTER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up, did Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, quote, "get ahead of the curve," when she announced new sanctions on Russia? A top White House aide just said she did.


[14:51:47] BALDWIN: The White House walking back a new round of sanctions on Russia. The president's top economic counsel, Larry Kudlow, saying Nikki Haley got ahead of the curve when she made this announcement on Sunday.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn't already. And they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons used.


BALDWIN: Kudlow, the National Economic Council chairman, says Haley, quote, "May have been confused about the plan."

With me now, Steve Hall, CNN national security analyst and former CIA chief, Russia operations.

Steve, nice to have you on. Welcome.


BALDWIN: It has been reported that Ambassador Haley normally runs comments that she's going to make by the president directly and for Larry Kudlow to say she got ahead of the curve but that additional sanctions are under consideration, what does that tell you?

HALL: There's a couple of things. First, there is sort of the standard disarray that I think you often times see in this administration. One part of the administration saying one thing, the president coming out and saying another, sometimes tweeting. Vis-a- vis Russia that's not always necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it's good to keep the Russians guessing, sometimes it's good for them to know precisely where you're going with this, but for our allies, it's extremely difficult to know what U.S. policy is and, indeed, whether or not there is a policy. To me, it looks like more of this general disarray that we've seen often in this administration -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Unrelated to that, but as a former CIA chief of Russia operations, I'm sure you've been paying attention to the James Comey interviews. In part of one of his interviews, he said he could not rule out the possibilities that the Russians have dirt on President Trump. To be clear, it sounded like he had no proof. But he went out there and said that. Do you think he should have gone there or is what he said concerning to you?

HALL: Well, it's concerning to me on a couple of different levels. There is a sort of political question here with regard to I've heard pundits saying Comey ought not be saying those things. But getting to issue of whether the Russians have material on Donald Trump, that is also something that must concern our allies when they see this sort of flailing about for some sort of Russia policy, when they try to figure out where is Trump going, where is the president of the United States going with his Russia policy? When you have these contradictions, these inconsistencies with the ambassador to the U.N., I think a valid question is lurking in the back of people's minds, to include former Director Comey, is some of Trump's behavior influenced by the possibility that the Russians have information on him which would be very, very damaging to him personally or to his administration. It's a valid question.

[14:55:01] BALDWIN: Steve Hall, thank you very much.

HALL: Sure.

BALDWIN: We are on our breaking news as well this afternoon. This packed Southwest jet grounded, emergency landing, midair scare. One passenger is in critical condition. The NTSB is set to hold a news conference moments from now. We will also hear from another passenger who can tell us what the heck happened.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.


[14:59:50] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We have live pictures of the president of the United States standing at his Florida home. That is Mar-a-Lago. That is the Japanese flag. We are just about to see the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pull up. Here is the car. We'll stay on the picture. He --