Return to Transcripts main page
James Comey's Memos Opens a Can of Worms; Giuliani to the Rescue; A Look at Comey's Memos; Mueller to Use Comey's Notes. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 19, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] (JOINED IN PROGRESS)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Join us for the CNN town hall, Comey, Truth, Lies and Leadership Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern. That's it for us right now. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts now. See you tomorrow.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
And here we go again. Another night of one big breaking news story after another. First on the Russia investigation, James Comey's memos about his conversations with President Trump have been turned over to Congress tonight. And CNN has obtained a copy.
Those memos are, of course, a key part of Robert Mueller's investigation. A potential obstruction of justice. And they are full of fascinating details. We're going to go through them page by page for you, and we will bring you all of it tonight.
Then, there's the president adding a big name to his legal team, I'm talking about Rudy Giuliani, that's after one legal A-lister after another turned him down. Now Giuliani one of Trump's most loyal supporters who also work with Mueller in the Justice Department tells CNN he's coming on to help push the Mueller investigation to an end, according to him, that end could come in a matter of weeks which seems a wee bit optimistic but it's exactly what President Trump wants to hear.
Also today, former FBI Director James Comey telling CNN's Jake Tapper why he thinks it's possible the Russians could have compromising information about President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: There's a reason I say it's possible. Two things struck me. One, the president's constantly bringing it up with me to deny it. And in my experience as an investigator, it's not an ironclad rule, but it's a striking thing when someone constantly brings up something to deny that you didn't ask about, and then second, I've always been struck in my encounters with him that he wouldn't criticize Vladimir Putin even in private which struck me as odd.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So, it is important to know that Comey didn't cite any actual evidence, just his gut feeling that it's possible.
Let's discuss. I want to start now, bring in CNN's Justice Reporter, Laura Jarrett with our breaking news on those Comey memos.
Laura, good evening to you. Thanks for joining us. It is breaking news tonight that CNN has obtained the Comey memos that were provided from the Justice Department to Capitol Hill. Give us the lowdown on what we're learning.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Don, the memos are detailed and they are vivid. They largely track what James Comey has told Congress on previous occasions about his interactions with President Trump and also what he says in his book that's just been released this week.
But there are some new nugget in here, including his recitation, at least, that President Trump conveyed serious reservations about the judgment of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. But we're also learning in this memo that James Comey had an interesting interaction with former chief of staff's -- chief of staff, I should say, Reince Priebus on February 8th, just days before Michael Flynn was fired.
And I want to read to you a part of the memo where Comey describes this interaction with Priebus. He says that he asked -- me, meaning Comey -- if this was, quote, "a private conversation. I replied that it was. He, that meaning Priebus, then said he wanted to ask me a question and I could decide if it was appropriate to answer. He then asked, do you have a FISA warrant on Mike Flynn? I paused for a few seconds and then said that I would answer here, but this illustrated the kind of question that had to e asked and answered through established channels."
I said the answer, blank, it's been redacted here, I then explained that the normal channel was from DOJ leadership to the White House counsel about such things. He goes on, Don, to say, I explained that it was important that communications about any particular case go through that channel to protect us, and to protect the White House from any accusations of improper influence.
Now, Don, of course, we've gotten some reaction from Capitol Hill already tonight. Democrats saying that these memos largely corroborate what James Comey has already said about loyalty pledges from the president, but we're also hearing from Republicans who say when he talks about lifting the Russia cloud, he's really referring to, meaning the president, is referring to the cloud of salacious allegations. Not trying to do anything improper with lifting the larger Russia investigation, Don.
LEMON: So, Laura, Mueller's team didn't object to this?
JARRETT: No. In fact, I'm told, Don, according to a source familiar that the Justice Department consulted with the special counsel's team prior to releasing these memos to Congress and the special counsel did not object.
LEMON: All right. Laura, thank you very much. And as Laura said, there's -- we got the memos here. There's lots -- I don't know if we can get a wide shot here. But I have them all on my desk and we're going to go through them. It's a lot to get through. And we have a lot of people assembled here to get us through all these memos. We have them highlighted. We have folks who are reading them. We will tell you exactly what they mean.
I want to bring in now CNN's Chris Cillizza and Pamela Brown. Also law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell.
[22:05:00] OK. So, there's lots to get to here. Here we go. This is a Thursday night. Josh, the president talks about Michael Flynn a number of times, so I want to read this. He says, "He then returned to the topic of mike Flynn saying that Flynn is a good guy and has been through a lot. He misled the vice president but he didn't do anything wrong in the call. He said, I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go, he is a good guy. I hope you can let this go. I replied by saying I agree, I think he's a good guy but said no more."
This sounds like what he has been saying all along and what's been reported earlier about this. You think this supports Comey's claims that the president pressured him?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think it does. I want us to take a step back as we look through these memos. And I've been looking through them as well. There's something in the intelligence community within the FBI that we call circular reporting. And that is when you have sources of information that turn out to come from the same source, that doesn't necessarily mean that you now have an additional way to validate what was said.
So I want us to keep in mind here although we've heard some of this report before from Jim Comey, these are Jim's Comey -- Jim Comey's notes that we're reading. So it's not as though there's an additional source.
Where they are extremely valuable is if we look at them, think about the time and place that they were written. These are contemporaneous notes that were filed directly after the meetings with the president and some of these White House officials which I think give credence, you know, under our system of justice that someone who documents these types of meetings, these are valuable in the sense that they provide that possibly corroborating information.
The one thing that strikes me, you asked about Mike Flynn, not only the sense you have the president saying, you know, not the directly, hey, dismiss this investigation, but kind of working up to it, working around it, if you will, but as Laura mentioned a second ago, me, as a former FBI agent, the most striking thing that I found in these memos so far, you know, beyond simply let's get rid of this investigation is the fact that you have the White House chief of staff asking the FBI director whether one of his colleagues, the national security adviser, is a subject of a FISA order. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act order, which is beyond inappropriate.
And you know, one of the arguments that we've seen from this administration was that, you know, you have a lot of outsiders that come in, they don't really know the government. This was Reince Priebus, this is someone who is a Washington insider. He should have known better.
LEMON: OK. So I'm looking at another one, and this is for you, Chris, OK.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Sure.
LEMON: And I have to say this phrase because it's a quote from the president. Comey writes that he also brought up the Steele dossier using the phrase, "golden showers thing." We're seeing Comey's own words about how much that detail bothered the president.
CILLIZZA: Yes. I'm glad the show airs after 10 p.m. and my children are in bed, Don. You know, look, he brings it up on more than one occasion. I skimmed through the Comey memos. I haven't read all it, but I skimmed it. It brings it up on two occasions.
We know that this is something that irritates him. Now, let's -- let's argue one side of it which is I think it is uniquely possible that for whatever reason, the first lady, as Jim Comey writes, Donald Trump believes that the first lady, Melania Trump, is annoyed, is bothered. This irritates her and Donald Trump wants to eliminate all doubt there.
And so maybe that's the motivation, but whatever the motivation is, he's quite clearly focused on this and I do think Laura mentioned this, but I do think to my big takeaway from that Comey interview with Jake earlier today was Comey making the point which was he just -- he, Donald Trump -- just kept bringing up the Russia stuff.
The answer yesterday at the press conference with Shinzo Abe that no collusion, no collusion, no collusion. It's clearly something that really bothers him. Has bothered him. Continues to bother him. The why, I know some people roll their eyes and say we know.
CILLIZZA: I would say we don't know based on the facts but we do know it bothers him.
LEMON: OK, so, listen, let me ask you just this about -- you can understand how this might bother someone's wife.
LEMON: Any husband would be concerned about that, but I think it's sort of weird in the phrasing where he says, if she even believes this 1 percent if it's not true, then, you know -- but you can understand why he's concerned about his wife and, I mean, this is really salacious. CILLIZZA: That's right. I think it would be -- I mean, yes, Comey
writes in the book that he found it odd that that conversation was happening and that the comments on the husband/wife dynamic with Melania and Donald Trump.
CILLIZZA: I will not go into that, I learned long ago not to judge other people's marriages and relationships. So I do think -- I think we have to say this is a possibility that for whatever reason he wants to lock this up from a third party to say this did not happen, this is personally making it difficult for my life, my wife is bothered by this.
LEMON: Got it.
CILLIZZA: I want to get this resolved.
[22:09:58] LEMON: OK. Pamela, let's bring you in now because we also in this memo, where we talks about the hooker thing, it says, "The president says the hooker thing is non-sent but -- nonsense but that Putin had told him we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world."
So we don't know when that supposed conversation took place, Pamela, between Donald Trump and Putin, but we know that they talked and the president was -- president-elect, when he was elected in November of 2016, as president January of 2017, it seems outlandish that this would have come up in those conversations. What do you make of this?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a little confusing if they only had two conversations. They didn't know each other that well and that Putin allegedly is saying that Russia has the most beautiful hookers in the world.
I don't know if it's getting conflated with what was said in an interview that Putin did with Bloomberg where he mentioned something to that effect. It's a little bit confusing. A little bit odd, obviously, in terms of why that would ever come up in a conversation and what context. There's a lot that sort of make you raise your eyebrows here.
Also just reading through this, Don, seeing just the chaotic nature of these conversations between James Comey and the president when they were on one-on-one, I mean, James Comey described it as jigsaw puzzle in a way with pieces picked up then discarded then returned to where you had the president bringing up, you know, Putin's comments on one hand and then bringing up the inauguration and the crowd size on the other hand. The extraordinary luxury of the White House, his young son's height, the viciousness of the campaign. All of this within a pretty short timeframe.
What struck me, too, in reading this is the first meeting they had that dinner at the White House just one-on-one, even though the president appeared to meander and talk about all these different issues, he circled back to the loyalty question. He brought it up. Comey claims that he didn't give any sort of signal, didn't nod, do anything.
Then they went and talked about these different issues and the president circled back to it toward the end of the dinner. It's clear based on Comey's account of things that this is something that the president wanted to reach an agreement on with Comey, Don?
LEMON: Listen, Josh, there was a comment of the nature from Vladimir Putin in an interview with Bloomberg in January of 2017. And here's the quote. It says "Trump is a grown man and secondly, he is someone who has been involved with beauty contests for many years and has met the most beautiful women in the world. I find it hard to believe that he rushed to some hotel to meet girls of loose morals, although ours are undoubtedly the best in the world."
And Josh, as you answer this, you're the former assistant, I should note, to Comey. But what do you make of that comment?
CAMPBELL: Wow. What can you say? You know, I hearken back to recent book from Mike Isikoff and David Corn, "Russian Roulette" where they talk about, you know, then-citizen Trump, who was trying to court Putin, and court his those who were around him, in order to, you know, work on possible business dealings and obviously the Miss Universe pageant and I think this shows that, you know, this is a different world. This isn't the type of government, you know, buttoned-up people that we're used to. There's a lot of -- lot of extraneous, you know, details there to put it lightly.
LEMON: Yes. To put it lightly. Pamela, back to you, OK?
LEMON: We're going to continue to go through this. One of the conversations, one of Comey's memos here describing the private dinner with the president at the White House, Comey describes it this way. He said, "The conversation which was pleasant at all times was chaotic with topics touch left and then return to later making it very difficult to recount in a linear fashion." That sounds a lot like -- that sounds like the President Trump we know.
BROWN: It is. I mean, this is the president that you see out on the stump. This is by all accounts from sources I speak to the president behind closed doors who really can't stay on topic, one topic for a very long time. He'll go from one thing to the next thing in a matter of seconds.
And then it appears that that was the case in his conversation with James Comey. But what's also clear here is that while he seemed to bounce around on all these different topics there were some things that he wanted to convey to James Comey, as I brought up earlier, the whole idea of a loyalty oath.
Also what I thought was interesting is the Michael Flynn situation, you know, in this first dinner that they had, he brings up Michael Flynn seemingly unprompted and saying that he has a real issue with his judgment, that he doesn't have good judgment which really struck me. It's the first I've ever heard that. But then fast forward to the other meeting that the two had in the
Oval office, where then the president allegedly according to Comey is asking him to let the Flynn investigation go. And so, sort of confusing on how that squares, why he was so fixated on wanting Comey to let the Flynn investigation go. But then on the other hand he seems to really question his own national security adviser at the time questioning his judgment, Don.
CAMPBELL: Hey, Don, can I just add.
CAMPBELL: You know, from some inside, you know, color here, as far as hearing Comey tell me about some of these encounters, you know, he said that he was always very uncomfortable because it was so exhausting.
[22:14:59] Put yourself in the situation of the FBI director. Most of us we sit there and talk to people, we'll actively listen and nod. But he said there are so many topics here that cam at you scattershot that any nod may be you, you know, basically agreeing with what's being said without even knowing it.
CAMPBELL: So, which is a very unique individual.
LEMON: Well, that's what -- I want to say also, Chris, let me--
CILLIZZA: Yes, go ahead.
LEMON: Chris, this is your turn to respond and this is similar to what Josh was saying because a detail in the description here remarkable, he goes on to talk about the conversations. He said "It really was conversation jigsaw puzzle, as jigsaw puzzle, he said, in a way, with pieces picked up then discarded then returned to." Go on, Chris.
CILLIZZA: Yes. Well, so, I think what you see here brought -- in that quote and then more broadly, number one, the ring of truth, right? We know, as you point out, Don, anyone who's ever watched Donald Trump speak publicly, whether you like him or don't like him, he goes from Electoral College to North Korea in three sentences. He did it yesterday. That's point one.
Point two, Donald Trump is someone who is really, really, really into sort of freelancing. He's someone who came into politics, he had never done it before, and he trusts his gut. He just talks.
CILLIZZA: He's up against someone, and I don't mean to paint it adversarial because I don't think it was to start. But he's up against someone in Comey, who this is not his first rodeo. Jim Comey from the start was taking contemporaneous notes. Donald Trump is all over the place. He's talking. He's on the subject, he's on that subject.
Jim Comey is documenting those conversations so, yes, Josh made this point earlier, this is still just Jim Comey's story fleshed out a little bit but largely the story he's been telling consistent with what he said.
But my gosh, compared to the Donald Trump story that's been all over the map, he fired Comey because of the Rosenstein memo, no, it was because of Russia, no, it was -- I mean, there are so many shifting explanations over here and then on the other side it's not only the same story, but it's documented contemporaneously.
CILLIZZA: It's sort of a mismatch.
LEMON: Pamela, I need to get to the break. Can you stay on the other side. I'm going to keep you guys.
LEMON: We're going to continue to go through all of this. And Josh, it's good to have you here being the former special assistant to Comey, you can offer some insight that other folks can't. So, stick around, everyone.
When we come back, more of what we're learning tonight from the Comey memos and what they could mean for Robert Mueller's investigation of potential obstruction of justice.
[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news tonight. New details from James Comey's memos about his conversations with President Trump. They have been turned over to Congress tonight and CNN has obtained a copy. And we've got more details now. We have all the details for you.
Back with Chris Cillizza, Pamela Brown, and Josh Campbell.
Pamela, you were making a point in response to sort of, I think it was about the scattershot nature of this conversation.
BROWN: Yes. And just, you know, when in the memo it says that he was talking about Reince Priebus during the first dinner, he allegedly according to Comey said Reince doesn't know we're having dinner, and then go -- and then at the end as they're walking out says, Reince knows we're having dinner. So completely contradicted himself, if Comey's account was true. And you know, it's just that scattershot nature of how the president
operates and talks about things. Also just as I'm reading through this as we all are, some things are sticking out to me, on one of the pages it talks about Trump brings up the fact that he told O'Reilly, we are killers like Russia is.
Russia seems to be continually brought up in these conversations with Comey, and apparently, the president asked Comey, you think my answer was good, right? Comey responded I think it was fine except the killers part. Comey making the point that we're not the kind of killers that Putin is and the way that Comey perceived it, the president did not like his answer to that. He said the president paused noticeably. I don't know what to make of it. But he clearly noticed I had directly criticized him.
It is interesting, though, to see, while the president was sort bringing up all these different issues, ad all over the place bouncing around, it was closer the Russia bit, the cloud of the Russia investigation as he put it was top of mind and really still is to this day. It's something that still irks him a great deal, Don.
LEMON: Josh, in addition to the meetings Comey makes note, it's on multiple calls with the president, and I got to question for you but let me just read. This is one, it's dated March 1st, 2017.
And he said just called to check in and see how I'm doing. Talking about the president, Comey says. I said I'm doing great. Have a lot going on. I added that Jeff Sessions has hit the ground running with a great speech on violent crime. He talked about Sessions a bit. Then last night's speech. He said heard I'm doing great. He says heard I'm doing great. Hope I take good care of myself and come by to say hello when I'm at the White House. That's it.
Is the president supposed to be calling the FBI director and why would that make Comey uncomfortable?
CAMPBELL: Well, that particular memo if I'm referring to the right one was bizarre in the sense that Comey I believe is about to board a helicopter to fly. And he said you have a call from the president.
So, obviously, when you get a call from the president, everything stops. And you know, he returned to the car, silence inside the cabin of the vehicle, and made the call. And said the president just wanted to shoot the breeze and kind of see how he was doing which is obviously, you know, a nice thing. You know, you want to call and see how someone's doing.
But unfortunately, in the United States, in our system, that's one of the norms that we operate under, that there is this distance between the White House, between the president, and the nation's chief law enforcement officer. And usually, the Department of Justice will serve as that buffer.
And you know, in fact, Comey actually mentions that whenever Reince Priebus, I think, you know, inappropriately asked the question about the FISA order on Flynn, Comey says, look, there are established channels for how the White House talks to me and if you want to, you know, ask a question, there's a process that you go through. You're supposed to keep the FBI and the Department of Justice at arm's length. We are, you know, essentially an independent organization.
So, I think that's one of the -- that essentially gone by the wayside. And again, it's not -- it's not necessarily a criticism for someone coming to Washington who's not aware of that. Because, you know, if you're running a company, for example, you're going to want to call and check in your division--
LEMON: You took the words out of my mouth.
CAMPBELL: -- to check in the system, but in government it's not appropriate.
LEMON: Yes. I was going to ask Chris, I mean, how much of this can be choked up to, you know, not being a politician, not knowing how government works but as we say, as us laypeople say, you can't claim ignorance of the law. He should know how these things work, he should have people around him telling him that, advising him.
[22:24:56] CILLIZZA: Right. I mean, think it's understandable at some level he comes in, in his experience to Josh' point he' in the business world, and so he, that's his first thought. But the business world and government are not -- being the head of a company and being the president are not the same thing. There are different rules quite literally to that.
CILLIZZA: And I think that's one thing. The Comey memos make this clear. But I think we've seen time after time, Donald Trump has never made the transition to head of company where everyone works for you. You call whoever you want. You fire who you want. You'll give people raises. You don't. To government. He's never really understood that. You have time and again he doesn't understand why Jeff Sessions recused himself.
CILLIZZA: He sees the Jeff Sessions recusal on Russia as a direct shot at him. He hurt me. Those are Donald -- why would he do this to me?
CILLIZZA: He violates these boundaries over and over again and, yes, some of that, Don, is because he's newish to this. But you only get that for so long. You have to learn--
LEMON: But still.
CILLIZZA: -- these things.
LEMON: Yes. But your advisers should be telling you this--
CILLIZZA: A hundred percent.
LEMON: A hundred percent.
CILLIZZA: He doesn't listen.
CILLIZZA: The advisers are -- I guarantee you, Don, people, at least in the beginning, people said, you know, Mr. President, there's, you know, some written rules, some unwritten rules, here are some of them. He does what he wants to do. We know that is the case over and over again. It's why his legal team, for example, has been gone through and gone through and recycled and recycled because they tell him stuff. He does what he wants to do.
LEMON: Pamela, listen, I have more question. But listen, I have some notes that I made from going through this. I'm just going to say, McCabe, he talks about McCabe. He talks about the you-know-what showers. And his Russian hookers. Then he talks about the investigation.
He talks about McCabe again. He talks about loyalty. Talks about McCabe again. He talks about Russian hookers again, then he talks about his accusers. Then he talks about loyalty and he ask about non- investigation. He talks about not letting Flynn go. And that's just a couple notes.
BROWN: A pattern.
LEMON: He keeps return to his same old standard lines and standard concerns which would draw people to some sort of conclusion, why is he so worried about this?
BROWN: Right. I mean, like I was saying, you know, he can be all over the place with topics but there is some calculation in terms of what he wants to return to discuss. And of them is McCabe. And as you point that the fired deputy director of the FBI, it is clear that the president was concerned that McCabe was the deputy director and that the president had gone after him and his wife during the campaign--
LEMON: Let me read the quote, Pamela. I want to read it.
LEMON: Let's see. He says, he asks -- at dinner, whether my deputy had a problem with him and recounting how hard he had been on the campaign trail saying the number-two guy at the FBI took a million dollars from the Clintons. I again explained that Andy McCabe was a pro. He asks whether he had ever mentioned to me the campaign attacks. I said never, and again explained that he was a true pro, you would come to value him. And then he goes on to -- go on.
BROWN: Right. So what's fascinating about this, is what it appears here, Don, is the president is concerned that because he criticized McCabe and his wife on the campaign trail, that maybe McCabe had it out for him as deputy FBI director. At least that's the way that I read this with the president continually bringing it up asking Comey if McCabe ever mentioned the campaign attacks to him.
It appears that the president was hung up on this and just concerned that this is someone who's a number two at the FBI, I criticized them, are they going to sort of retaliate or go after me? And that never let up. I mean, the president continually tweeted about McCabe, targeting him.
I was told every single time that the president talked to Comey essentially, he brought up Andy McCabe. And every time the president met with Andy McCabe, himself, that he brought up his wife and the donations from Terry McAuliffe.
LEMON: Yes. And that, so that was in the meeting and then there's a phone call and he says about McCabe, he says has the conversation ended? He said he hadn't brought up the McCabe thing because I had said, I had said he was an honorable guy. Note, I think he meant that he hadn't brought it up in this conversation, but he could have meant something else. I repeated that he was.
He then said he hadn't brought it up but that McAuliffe is close to the Clintons and had given him money but I said it was he's an honorable guy, repeated that he, Andy, was an honorable person. So there you go, keeps bringing it up.
CAMPBELL: Yes. And Don, if I could just say, I think it's interesting, you know, as we step back and again look at these, and these are, you know, obviously the opinions, the observations of one person. The question that the viewers are going to ask as we move forward, it will be interesting to see, you know, when the morning comes and we start seeing the tweets kind of what the responses are going to be to some of these.
CAMPBELL: Again, you know, the American public will have to decide. This is -- this is the he said/he said issue, right? I mean, absent any of these tapes we talked about which I don't think exist. I mean, it's going to come down to who do you believe? The credibility of Jim Comey or the president?
[22:30:03] LEMON: Or the president. I got to get to the break. All right. So thank you, all. We'll get back if we need you three.
When we come back, more of our breaking news. New details from the Comey memos tonight. CNN has obtained a copy and we're going through it for you page by page. Don't go anywhere.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Here's our breaking news tonight. There are new details from the memos that former FBI Director James Comey wrote about his conversations with President Trump. And we're learning from those memos and what they could mean for the Mueller investigation.
I want to bring in now Caroline Polisi, a federal and white collar criminal defense attorney. Also Jack Quinn is here, former White House counsel to President Clinton. And Michael Moore, a former U.S. attorney. So glad to have you all on. Thank you for coming in.
And by the way, if you look at where Caroline and I are sitting, I had them all out on my desk here. There's a lot of stuff, so don't mind the mess. We're going to go through all of this. Thank you for coming in, thanks for helping us. So let's talk more about these memos. What do you -- what do you think of this? Do you support Comey's, do you think they support Comey's previous testimony, Caroline?
CAROLINE POLISI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I 100 percent think there's really no bombshells in here, nothing inconsistent with his prior testimony before the Senate intelligence committee. So I do think he gets sort of a credibility star on that point.
Again, you know, from a legal standpoint, I don't know if, you know, if it goes far enough to get to an obstruction case, just based on what we knew before. You know, it seems all pretty innocuous in terms of the question of to let the Flynn thing go. It doesn't go any further than the testimony that we heard from him before nor does the potential, you know, the closed-door meeting, the loyalty oath, it doesn't really get you over the goal post when it comes to an obstruction of justice charge.
[22:35:05] LEMON: OK, Michael, how much, how much stock do you put in contemporaneous notes?
MICHAEL MOORE, PARTNER, POPE MCGLAMRY: A lot of stock. I mean, I think it does go to back up Comey's statements and this is sort of a practice of a good federal investigator. They're used to taking notes and making reports as they go. This is classic investigative method for the FBI and I think it backs up what he said.
I think what's interesting, let me say this about the obstruction charge, when I read through the memos, it seems to tell me almost a tale of how the president started talking about Comey's job, did he want to stay, how long did -- what did he want to do, how'd he want to be there? And he kind of eases his way around as he talks about Flynn and some other things.
So if you read him in isolation, I agree. I don't know if it's all there. Even if you read them together it might not be all be there. But it seems to me that me that it was a skillful move by the president to try to elicit some promise from Comey or some statement from Comey knowing that his job was on the line.
LEMON: OK, Jack, let's go through some of this. Because he writes, Comey writes about his private meeting with President Trump in memos and here's what he says in part. He says, "He replied that he need loyalty and expected loyalty. I did not reply or even nod or change my facial expression which he noted because he came back to it later."
So the president said he expected loyalty. You heard what Michael just said. And he brings it up again with Comey. How significant is that?
JACK QUINN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: Look, you know, it's evidence of a state of mind. I agree with your other guest here. This does not make a case, but it's all interesting. It's part of a pile of interesting information about the president's state of mind. But there's no clear obstruction case in and of itself in these things.
There are a bunch of interesting tidbits in here. For example, Reince Priebus asking if there's a FISA warrant on Flynn.
QUINN: Why does he ned that information, what's his need to know about that?
LEMON: OK. Let me read the quote. He then asked do you have a FISA order on Mike Flynn? I paused for a few seconds and said I would answer here -- and then said that I would answer here but that this illustrated the kind of question that had to be asked and answered through established channels. Should he have answered that question?
QUINN: Are I think he should not have answered that question. Again, I think the initial question back to him, is what's your need to know? By the same token, the curious comment by Jared Kushner when he just steps -- comes by and says hello to Comey, and makes a comment about the challenges of the e-mail investigation.
My immediate thought on reading that was, you know, this is guy who's saying don't look here, it was just weird. You know, my final and overriding comment on this whole thing is that I hope Rudy Giuliani gets hold of this team and takes the ball away from the House Republicans who wanted to get all of this released.
QUINN: This is unbelievable. Anybody up there who thought this was going to tarnish James Comey and enhance the president's position in this thing, you know, is just clueless. This is crazy that they wanted this out there.
LEMON: So, Caroline, I know you want to weigh in, and we will because I want to get you on the other side of the break. I'm going to keep you guys. Everybody stay with me. More details to come tonight in the Comey memos as we go through them for you.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So here's our breaking news tonight. New details from the Comey memos and what they'll mean in the Mueller investigation. Plus, President Trump tapping Rudy Giuliani to join his legal team.
Back with me now, Caroline Polisi, Jack Quinn, and Michael Moore. Jack, I thought you made a very good point on the other side of the break, Republicans in Washington thought this would bolster the president's side of the story. You don't think that's the case, and this should be a warning to them?
QUINN: It's -- look, it's just honestly, I'm aghast that they thought this was going to be helpful to the president and undermine Comey, therefore, the FBI, therefore, special counsel Mueller. It -- I just -- I can't get over the fact that they made this calculation. I'm sure the president's not going to be sitting up tonight writing thank you letters to them.
LEMON: OK. Fair enough. Caroline, we've been combing through the James Comey memos. And I want to read. This is another one for you, it says, "At various times he talked about the inauguration and crowd size, the campaign and his effective use of free media, earned media, the extraordinary luxury of the White House which he favorably compared to Mar-a-Lago. His many activates during the -- or activities during the day and week.
His young son's height, the viciousness of the campaign, where I interjected about Adams and Jefferson. He said he had been given a book about it which was upstairs. How he had not been mocking a handicap reporter and not assaulted -- had not assaulted any of the women claimed he did, reviewing in detail several of the allegations and many other things. I will attempt to recount in some detail only those parts that related to some, in some way to my work."
Wow. He took very specific notes.
POLISI: He did.
LEMON: He keeps going on about things he's concerned about. I didn't do that to those women, the crowd sizes were huge.
POLISI: Right. The thought I just keep coming back to is why are we all reading this? I mean, why do we get this insider's perspective at this point?
LEMON: Do we need to hear this?
POLISI: I don't need to hear that. I mean, you know, from a legal perspective, again, there's nothing in that quote that, you know, raises, you know, my eyebrows. I think it's interesting that Trump feels the need to defend himself to James Comey. And the question is whether or not that's sort of a typical relationship that you'd want to have between the president and the director of the FBI. I don't think it's appropriate.
[22:44:54] LEMON: Well, Michael, I mean, it's kind of like, that's what therapists are for. So let me -- Comey writes in his memo, this is about another time, when he then started talking about, he says, "started talking about all the women who had falsely accused him of grabbing them, particular mention of a stripper who said he grabbed her, gave me the sense he was defending himself to me.
I responded that we were not investigating him and the stuff might be totally made up, but it was being said out of Russia and our job was to protect the president from efforts to coerce him. I said we try to understand what the Russians are doing and what they might do. I added that I also wanted him to know this in case it came out in the media."
What's that tell you, Michael?
MOORE: Well, I mean, this is a guy who's pretty clearly just fascinated with his own fame, you know. When I read the memo, what it tells me especially when you hear the discussions and the things that he asked whether they were the lewd discussions or whatever they were, this is a guy who's never accepted that the presidency is not on loan to him.
In fact, the president is supposed to be on loan to that position. And to that office. And everything he's talked to the FBI director about, everything he's talked about the memo, whether it's his fascination with the crowd size, or whether or not he can convince his wife that he wasn't having a party with some Russian hookers in Moscow, it's always about him.
And the fascination of what people think about him, and how he rights a wrong, and how he's been harmed by the media and everybody else and these ladies who accused him of this, that and the other.
So, it tells me that Comey took great notes. It tells me -- in his mind, he went out and he dictated this thing out or typed it out. Again, it bolsters Comey's credibility. These are notes that are contemporaneously made at the time the conversation happened or very close thereafter and it does nothing but bolster the position that we've already head from Jim Comey.
No great bombshells. There's some details that we didn't know, but I don't see anything in there that necessarily sets us all on fire tonight.
LEMON: Very good question asked by my panelist, why are we seeing these things and does it really bolster -- here are the Comey memos. Thank you very much. This is the Comey memo. His memo, his contemporaneous notes. We're going to keep going through them for you and we'll be right back.
MOORE: Thank you, Don.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: And we're back and we're bringing you the breaking news tonight. James Comey's memos about his conversations with President Trump now in the hands of Congress and tonight CNN's obtained them as well.
And I want to bring in former Republican Congressman David Jolly of Florida, CNN's Political Commentators, Alice Stewart and Kevin Madden.
Good evening. So much to talk about, so little time. But let's do this. Kevin, let's start with you. What do you make of these? KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, I try to
look at it through two lenses, I think the investigation lens and then the political lens. And on the investigation side or the legal side, it doesn't seem like there's very much new in there and nothing that's really going to change or alter the trajectory of the special counsel investigation or even any of the oversight investigations up on Capitol Hill.
There are a lot of new details, but there is not a whole lot that would make me think that it's going to change much. I think on the political side, you know, you have to ask yourself does this really change the minds of people who are dug in as partisans on this, and I would say absolutely not. I think if you're a--
LEMON: I'm not sure what will, Kevin.
MADDEN: Yes, that true. That's very true. But I think if you're a Republican you're going to look at this and say hey, this just proves this is nothing burger, and if you're a partisan Democrat you're going to say, look, this shows that this is a president who is fixated on this investigation into the Steele dossier and some of the details in it. But if you're in the middle somewhere and you haven't made up your mind this is not going to do any of that.
LEMON: I'm not sure if Congressman Jolly agrees on that. I mean, listen, I've had the legal guys on, the law folks on in the block before you and one of them said, listen, I don't know why the Republicans in Washington would want this coming out because it certainly does not help the president's case. David, do you -- what do you -- do you agree with Kevin or do yu agree with James Comey's report?
DAVID JOLLY, (R) FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: I respect Kevin's analysis. It's a fair judgment. But I think the take away from this is the fact that Vladimir Putin told Donald Trump that they have beautiful Russian hookers, and the question tonight is, how does any Evangelical stay with Donald Trump in this moment?
And this is one of the phenomena of Donald Trump's presidency to be honest, that someone who pledges family values is burdened by all of this curricular and extra marital activities, and tonight we learn this memo comes out that suggests there are beautiful Russian hookers that Donald Trump is somehow entranced by.
You can't get away from that. And Don, look, fine it's not a legal issue. Maybe it's a political issue. But at the end of the day this is 2018, and we're living through an environment in the United States of America where the president of the United States is compromised both likely criminally but also morally.
LEMON: So, Alice, we don't know if that conversation ever took place but why would the president say it did?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Clearly, I mean, this is something that he had on his mind quite often. I mean, repeatedly there were outlines in these memos about the president bringing up to James Comey about trying to lift the cloud on what happened at the Russia hotel room or didn't happen with regard to the Russian hookers, and we all know the other activities. And these came up repeatedly.
And more than anything the president wanted to make sure and lift the cloud because he didn't want Melania to be thinking that there was some truth to this. And a lot of, as Kevin said, a lot of this we heard before about the Russian hookers, about the president's dire need for loyalty from James Comey and about his request to have him take it easy on Mike Flynn about how he really didn't like Andrew McCabe from day one. But what I found--
LEMON: So, Alice. Sorry, sorry.
STEWART: -- what I found. Let me just--
LEMON: Go ahead.
STEWART: No. The one thing that I thought was new that, it was really an insight into how the president feels about reporters is the effort that they went into and talked repeatedly about leaks, and instead of going after the people that are leaking the information, the president and Comey wanted to go more after reporters.
[22:54:58] Comey specifically said we need to put a head on a pike to send a message, and the president said we need to put, maybe put some reporters in jail for a few days to send a message and talk to Jeff Sessions about that. He even brought up Judith Miller who was a reporter involved in the Scooter Libby case.
So I think this was something I felt new and it really gives an idea of how the president views leaks and specifically pointing the finger at reporters as opposed to the leaker.
LEMON: Yes, which is very interesting because her source was Scooter Libby, Judith Miller.
LEMON: So, listen, hey quick, real quick, Kevin, what do you think of what Congressman Jolly said about -- I've got 20 seconds -- about what he said about the Evangelicals?
MADDEN: Yes. Look, Evangelicals have not really left this president. I don't think any of the details revealed in this are going to shake them. I think they take this as a binary choice between a president who's going to appoint chief justices like Gorsuch, and then they're willing to look the other way with some of these personal -- some of these problems that the president has or personal defects.
LEMON: OK. I got to run. Thank you all. I appreciate it.
STEWART: Thanks, Don. LEMON: We're going to be back with the Comey memos right after this. Don't go anywhere.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. It is 11 p.m. here on the East Coast live with huge breaking news.
James Comey's memos about his conversations with President Trump.