Return to Transcripts main page

EARLY START

Trump Reacting to Comey Memos; Giuliani Joins Trump Legal Team; Florida Deputies Ambushed During Lunch; $1 Billion Fine for Wells Fargo. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 20, 2018 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, though, April 20, 5:00 a.m. in the East, noon in Moscow, 6:00 p.m. in Seoul. We will be live in both of those cities.

[05:00:02] President Trump up late last night, tweeting his reaction to the classified versions of the Comey memos provided to Congress. The president wrote: James Comey memos just out and show clearly that there was no collusion and no obstruction. Also, he leaked classified information. Wow. Will the witch hunt continue?

The critics may find the last part of that assertion questionable.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Many of the memos obtained by CNN were written by then-FBI Director Comey, just hours or even minutes after seven different conversations with President Trump. The memos backed up much of what Comey has already said publicly, and add some remarkable new details.

More now from CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, the memos are out and they almost read like unedited pages from Comey's book, providing a glimpse into how Comey interacted with the president despite the so-called cloud of the Russia investigation hanging over them, discussions of loyalty. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn and just a clear sense that those salacious rumors about Trump's visit to Moscow in 2013 really got under his skin, at least according to Comey.

Now, in one of the unclassified memos, it includes this now famous conversation where Trump allegedly told Comey, quote, I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.

But there's also new information, including a claim, that President Trump told Comey at a dinner at the White House back in January of 2017 that he had, quote, serious reservations about Michael Flynn's judgment. And that former chief of staff Reince Priebus actually asked Comey if Flynn was under investigation just days before Flynn was fired.

Now, almost immediately, lawmakers jumped on this news with Democrats like Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeting that the release of these Comey memos are just further proof of Trump's contempt for the rule of law. But Republicans say the memos are more indicative of what they don't say and they actually prove that former Director Comey never felt obstructed and that he never wrote that he felt threatened -- Dave, Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Laura. Thank you for that.

As for the salacious details that she just mentioned, those details about Mr. Trump's visit to Moscow that bothered him so much, here is just one excerpt.

He then went on at great length explaining he has nothing to do with Russia. This is Comey speaking of Trump. Has a letter from the largest law firm in D.C. saying he has got no income from Russia. Was not involved with hookers in Russia. Can you imagine me, hookers? I have a beautiful wife. It has been very painful.

BRIGGS: In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Comey admits he has no evidence President Trump was compromised by the Russians. He says he thinks it's unlikely the Kremlin has something on the president, but he claims it's possible and he says there are two reasons why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: One, the president is constantly bringing it up with me to deny it and in my experience as an investigator, it's not an iron clad rule, but it's striking thing when someone constantly brings something up something to deny that you did not ask about. And, second, I have been struck in my encounters with him that he wouldn't criticize Vladimir Putin even in private, which struck me as odd. Now, those aren't definitive, those aren't conclusive facts, but I'm not -- the reason I'm saying it's possible is there are things that lead my common sense to believe it's possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: James Comey talking to Jake Tapper about the case against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Moments before the interview, the Justice Department's inspector general sent his findings on McCabe to the U.S. attorney's office in Washington for possible prosecution. McCabe is accused of lying to internal investigators. Comey was cautious with his comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If they ultimately bring a case against Andrew McCabe, would you be a witness?

COMEY: Potentially. I don't know if the reporting is accurate. I know it's CNN reporting. But I don't know it of my own accord. But sure, given that the I.G.'s report reflects interactions with Andrew McCabe with me and other senior executives, I could will be a witness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Shortly thereafter, this tweet from President Trump: James Comey just threw Andrew McCabe under the bus. Inspector general's report on McCabe is a disaster for both of them, getting a little/lot of their own medicine.

BRIGGS: Rudy Giuliani joining President Trump's personal legal team. The former U.S. attorney and New York City mayor tells CNN he will be helping push the Russia investigation to a conclusion. Giuliani says he's known Robert Mueller a long time. He says he'll ask the special counsel for a list what he needs and that checking off that list might go as quickly as a couple of weeks.

Giuliani says the president has never indicated to him any intention to fire Mueller because he knows it would be, quote, counterproductive. Giuliani telling CNN, Bob is the best we can do, though, adding Mueller is fair.

ROMANS: All right. Sources tell CNN Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein informed Trump last week that Trump is not a target of the investigation of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Rosenstein was not referring to the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, that's separate. But Mueller's team has also told Mr. Trump's lawyers the president is not a target of their Russia probe either.

[05:05:04] The Justice Department says Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months in New York because of his business dealings.

BRIGGS: All right. Joining us here this morning, CNN political analyst Brian Karem of "Sentinel" newspapers.

ROMANS: Good morning. Good to see you. Welcome to the early morning.

BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I've had my coffee. Thank you.

BRIGGS: You're going to need a lot to unpack all we had to discuss.

KAREM: You cover a lot in the last two minutes.

BRIGGS: Yes, let's set aside higher loyalty and talk about these 15 pages released, leaked 45 minutes after the memos were sent to Congress. What's your broad take away when you go through the memos from the former FBI Director James Comey?

KAREM: Well, the broad takeaway is if you refer to the president's tweet about throwing someone under the bus, that comes from the guy who throws people under the bus and backs over them a couple of times. Maybe he knows what he is talking about.

But honestly, in those memos, Comey defends McCabe. I mean, he does a lot of defense of McCabe. There's a lot of talk the hookers which is the salacious stuff that everybody likes to talk about and then, of course, there's --

BRIGGS: But hang on, let me interrupt you there, you say a lot of people like to talk about it? No one likes to talk about it more than the president if you believe these memos.

(CROSSTALK)

BRIGGS: Time and time again.

KAREM: He returns to it. There is also another tell about the president. He talks about -- Comey talked about, you know, lunching and talking with him, and the president never asked him an open-ended question. He always controlled the way the conversation. That is typical of Donald Trump. I mean, he wants to control all events.

So, he is controlling the conversation the entire time. Two different people, as you said earlier, you will never see. I mean, one very precise, one very imprecise.

ROMANS: Right.

KAREM: But the scariest part of that is, again, I think his commitment to total war against the free press.

ROMANS: Let's talk about that, because in these memos from Comey, this is an excerpt on page 10. I said something about it being difficult and he replied that we need to go after the reporters and refer to the fact that 10 or 15 years ago, we put them in jail to find out what they know and it worked. He mentioned Judy Miller by name. I explained that I was a fan of pursuing leaks aggressively, but they're going after reporters was tricky for legal reasons and because DOJ tends to approach it conservatively.

I said something about the value of putting a head on a pike as a message. He replied by saying it may involve putting reporters in jail. They spend a couple of days in jail, make a new friend and they are ready to talk.

This is a White House at war with the free press which is a hallmark of American democracy.

KAREM: And let me tell you something, I love Judy. Judy is a friend of mine. She's a member of the First Jail Birds Club, of which I'm a member. There's about 14 of us who've gone to jail for the First Amendment. I'm one of them.

And, Mr. President, no, you don't put me in jail for a couple of days and I talk. That's not the way it works. In fact, I won't talk and that's the way it works.

ROMANS: Right.

KAREM: He has a whole misunderstanding of what it is to have a confidential source. He has a whole misunderstanding of what it is to have free press. He doesn't want a free press.

So, as a guy who has gone to jail, no. Your ideas are strictly wrong. They are bad. They won't work.

BRIGGS: This is Recep Erdogan type of authoritarian stuff when we talk about locking up journalists.

KAREM: Scary stuff.

BRIGGS: But let's talk about some of the things Laura Jarrett reported there, that the president acknowledged to Comey that he had, quote, serious reservations about Mike Flynn's judgment. This is his national security adviser. Also that Reince Priebus, the chief of staff then, asked if there was a FISA warrant out on Mike Flynn.

Why then did the president in your estimation name him his national security adviser and stand by him?

KAREM: Because he wanted only the best people.

Simple fact of the matter is, former President Obama warned him about Flynn. Everyone did. I think at some point in time if you remember, put it in historical context, you know, it was only a year and a half ago. But if you put that in context, no one expected this guy to win.

ROMANS: Right.

KAREM: And a lot of the Republicans didn't back the president.

So, he had a transition team. He was trying to find people. I think the simple fact of the matter is with Flynn, it's like, who do we got, who do we got? Flynn.

BRIGGS: Who is loyal?

KAREM: Yes, who I do have who would come onboard? I don't think it was ever a case of them vetting the guy and going, hey, he is the best guy for the job. I think it was a member of them vetting and going, all right, look, we got him and he likes us. Let's take him.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: And politically speaking, it's really a Rorschach test because Republicans say, hey, it proves the president is innocent. Democrats say the exact opposite.

We'll get more on that in the next half hour.

ROMANS: Brian, nice to see you.

KAREM: Good to be seeing you.

ROMANS: All right. Nine minutes past the hour.

Wells Fargo facing $1 billion in fines for selling unnecessary products to customers. Sources say the penalty could be announced today. We're expecting it today. A joint settlement with the consumer financial protection bureau and the office of the comptroller of the currency.

The fine is punishment forcing 570,000 clients to buy car insurance, car insurance they did not need and then charging mortgage borrowers unfair fees. Wells Fargo declined to comment. But this is another blow to the reputation. It is recovering from the sales scandal two years ago. The bank opened 3.5 million accounts without their customers' knowledge.

[05:10:04] That along with other abuses prompted unprecedented action from the Federal Reserve in February. It barred Wells Fargo from growing any bigger until it cleans up its act. And this settlement will be the toughest action yet by the Trump administration against a big bank. It is note worthy for a CFPB under Acting Director Mick Mulvaney.

As a congressman, Mulvaney tried to abolish this consumer protection agency. And under his leadership, the agency has delayed payday loan rules and weakened the fair lending division. So, this is getting a lot of surprise quite frankly that they've come down so hard on Wells Fargo.

BRIGGS: Certainly some relief.

OK. Two Florida sheriff's officers dead this morning, ambushed as they sat in the restaurant eating lunch. You will hear from the sheriff, next.

ROMANS: And President Putin said to be ready to meet with President Trump. We'll go live to Moscow, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:15:09] BRIGGS: Russia's foreign minister saying this morning that President Putin is ready for a meeting with President Trump.

CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley live for us in Moscow with the very latest.

Good morning, Sam.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.

This is an interesting development coming from Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, essentially responding in a public forum to what was a private invitation from Donald Trump back in March to Vladimir Putin before the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria and before the airstrikes against Syria, of course, a very tight Russian ally and really what he is doing here, Dave, is trying to muddy the water and create friction perhaps between the United States and United Kingdom which is locked in a very bitter exchange of words and anger over the use of chemical weapons on British soil. Indeed, the British parliament has already set up a super committee to try to investigate, monitor what they consider to be Russian assault on the United Kingdom.

So, this movement, been choosing this moment, Sergei Lavrov saying, well, yes, Putin will be up for the meeting at the White House. The response is no kidding. But it's not a formal invitation. There is no planning behind it. And indeed, there is no secretary of state in the United States yet for these sorts of formal arrangements to be made -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Sam Kiley live for us in Moscow, this morning -- thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Sixteen minutes past the hour. Two sheriff deputies ambushed and killed in a restaurant in a small town 50 miles west of Gainesville, Florida. Police say 30-year-old Sergeant Noah Ramirez and 25-year-old deputy Taylor Lindsey were eating lunch yesterday in Trenton when a gunman walked up to the restaurant window and opened fire.

Deputies responding to the scene found the shooter identified as 59- year-old John Hubert Highnote dead outside the business. No official word on the possible motive, but the sheriff has some suspicions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT SCHULTZ, SHERIFF, GILCHRIST COUNTY: What do you expect happens when you demonize law enforcement to the extent it's been demonized with every type of hate and every type of putdown that you can think of, these only thing these men were guilty of were protecting you and me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The sheriff calls his two fallen deputies the best of the best.

BRIGGS: President Trump will not attend the funeral for former First Lady Barbara Bush. The White House says First Lady Melania Trump will attend the service without the president to avoid disruptions and show respect. The first lady's family and friends -- former Presidents Clinton and Obama and their wives will attend the funeral. Former President Carter and his wife Rosalynn sent regrets. More than 1,500 people expected to attend the private funeral. There is a public viewing at St. Martin's Church in Houston.

ROMANS: All right. The San Antonio Spurs playing with heavy hearts without their coach. It showed. Lindsay Czarniak has the latest in this morning's "Bleacher Report". That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:22:37] BRIGGS: All right. Heavy hearts in San Antonio as the spurs were without their leader Gregg Popovich after his wife Erin passed away on Wednesday.

ROMANS: Lindsay Czarniak has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey there.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, guys.

Yes, Warriors coach Steve Kerr had mentioned pre-game Popovich's wife death was unexpected. And so, the Spurs goal last night clearly was to avoid losing a third game in the series. But focusing just was not easy. Spurs star Tony Parker shed light on the impact Erin Popovich had on the team and on him personally.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY PARKER, JOINED SPURS WHEN HE WAS 19 YEARS OLD: She was a great lady. I always saw them like, you know, mom and dad. You know, every knows that, because I arrived when I was 19. And it was very, very emotional.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CZARNIAK: So, Gregg Popovich did not coach last night, remaining with his family. Assistant coach Ettore Messina filled in. There's no noticeable tribute, just a heavy weight of sadness around the team. Fans acknowledging what was going on. The Spurs would lose the game 110-97. They fall behind three games to none in the series. But after the game, the focus remained on the Popovich family. Not basketball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PARKER: It is hard to think about that for me personally right now, because there are other stuff bigger than basketball.

STEVE KERR, WARRIORS COACH: Very difficult time, obviously, for Pop and his family. But for all of us who love Pop and loved Erin and feel for the whole family. So, it is a difficult day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CZARNIAK: No timetable yet on the return of Coach Popovich.

Now, elsewhere in the NBA, the Sixers Joel Embiid was back. No question he was the force on the floor last night for Philadelphia, both in impact and attire with the mask and goggles. No worries. Embiid would come back, he scored 23 points in his post-season debut to lead the Sixers to 128-108 win.

But oh that mask and Embiid's message to his opponent about it. Listen about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEL EMBIID, SIXERS: Little did they know I have about 50 of them, so it's going to take much more than that to get me out of the series. It will be a nightmare for them, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CZARNIAK: Strong words. He's not going anywhere.

Hey, look at this, to baseball. Reining world series champ the Astros not looking the part of it. Evan Gattis which looked like the routine double play, but you saw that play out, he wanders the wrong way of first base.

[05:25:05] He said he was so mad he could not think straight after that play. The Astros would go on to win 9-2.

I always think about how many time it takes athletes to cool down after something like that.

BRIGGS: I was going to say, maybe it's early in the season. Maybe they are not in full swing. I'm not sure.

CZARNIAK: Maybe it was an off day.

BRIGGS: NFL schedule is out. Eagles in the opener, right?

CZARNIAK: Kicking it off. Yes.

BRIGGS: Kicking it off.

CZARNIAK: Exciting things.

ROMANS: Lindsay, thank you so much.

James Comey says he has no evidence, but why does he believe it is possible that President Trump may have been compromised by the Russians?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: It's a striking thing when someone constantly brings up something to deny that you did not ask about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: You will hear more from the fired FBI director, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight: President Trump tweeting his reaction to the James Comey memos just turned over to Congress and immediately leaked to the media.

ROMANS: Rudy Giuliani joins the Trump legal team, telling CNN he plans to give the Mueller investigation a little push.