Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Trump Contradicts Himself Says Comey Firing Unrelated To Russia; FBI's McCabe Turns Over Secret Memo On Comey Firing; Trump To Pardon Conservative Pundit Dinesh D'Souza; Kasich Urges Congress To Bypass GOP Leaders Act On DACA. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 31, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. A secret memo pulling back the curtain on the Russia investigation and offering new details about exactly why President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
Comey's former deputy, Andrew McCabe wrote the memo and turned it over to the special counsel. In it, McCabe details a meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the days after Comey's firing.
According to McCabe, Rosenstein said Trump initially wanted him to reference Russia as a justification to dismiss Comey. Rosenstein did not end up doing that. This was first reported by the "New York Times" and now this raises new questions about why Trump fired Comey and Rosenstein's role in it all.
The president already has something to say about this today tweeting this, "Not that it matters, but I never fired James Comey because of Russia, the corrupt mainstream media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true." Which, of course, requires us to cue up the NBC interview where the president said the opposite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it is an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CNN's Laura Jarrett is at the Justice Department for us with much more on this. Laura, so much to talk about the Comey memos. Now we are talking about the McCabe memo and more. What more are you hearing?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. He's following the suit of his former boss. But the reason this story matters, Kate, is it provides yet another piece of evidence potentially about the real reason that James Comey was fired. As you might remember, leading up to the firing, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote a scathing memo basically laying out all the reasons why Comey had essentially flouted DOJ protocols.
Long-standing traditions in his handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation and initially the White House used that memo by Rosenstein as justification for firing Comey. But we're now learning according to a source familiar that after Comey was fired, Rosenstein shared with a group at the Justice Department that the president had originally asked him to include the Russia investigation in his own memo on the firing of Comey.
Now, we know that Rosenstein did not do that. He stuck with the explanation on the Clinton e-mail investigation, but it raises questions about what exactly the real reason was. And we now know that this memo from McCabe, his contemporaneous notes have been turned over to the special counsel's office.
For months, the pressure on Rosenstein has been raising mostly from allies of President Trump who have said that he has somehow conflicted in this, but as we have previously reported, he did consult with the senior most career person at the Justice Department on this and he continues to oversee the probe -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Still seems amazing there is confusion over the most basic thing of why was James Comey fired? Here we go again. Laura, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Breaking news out of the White House, the president announcing another pardon, the fifth since he's taken office. This time promising to pardon a conservative author and political lightning rod.
Here is the president's tweet announcing all of this, "We'll be giving a full pardon to Dinesh D'Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government." CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House with more on this. Kaitlan, where is this coming from and lay out who is D'Souza.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Where this is coming from is a great question, Kate, which has also been a question surrounding some of the president's other pardons that he has come to mind in the recent weeks and days.
Now, Dinesh D'Souza is someone the president tweeted this rather unexpectedly, he would be giving him a full pardon. This is a conservative author and filmmaker, someone who was convicted of violating federal campaign finance laws.
Something I should note that D'Souza pleaded guilty to and said he knew he was in violation of the law because back during the Senate campaign in New York, for Wendy Long, this candidate, D'Souza donated to her but also had other people donate to her, $5,000, the maximum campaign contribution with the promise that he would reimburse him.
That's considered a straw donation, that is illegal, something that D'Souza admitted he realized when he pled guilty to these charges. The president says he was treated unfairly by the government, I should note he didn't do any jail time for this crime, he actually just was -- spent eight months living in a community center, had a $30,000 fine and few years of probation.
[11:05:12] However, the president says he was treated unfairly and that's why he's granting him a full pardon. But this pardon is notable for other reasons here, Kate. Notably that D'Souza is a very controversial figure.
He has made inflammatory comments about former President Barack Obama in his relationship with his father who is from Kenya. He's also made inflammatory comments about Adolf Hitler saying he did not hate gay people.
So certainly, someone that is going to draw a lot of attention, that the president is granting him a pardon, but this isn't the first time that the president has granted a controversial figure a pardon. He did it with Joe Arpaio and Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby.
Several people the president has done typically, Kate, presidents wait until the end of the term to pardon people like this. Typically, someone they had a relationship with or someone they're allies have lobbied them to pardon. That doesn't seem to be the case here.
Kate, the obvious question that is going to be raised here is the president sending a message to other people by pardoning people like Dinesh D'Souza, Scooter Libby, Joe Arpaio, is he sending a message to Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, to people like Michael Cohen? That's the question we're going to walk away from this pardon with here -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: A lot more questions here. Kaitlan, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. So, let's discuss it. Jamil Jaffer is here, former associate counsel in the George W. Bush White House, and CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston. Mark what do you make of this pardon? It seems out of the blue.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's certainly out of the blue, but not unexpected in the sense that nothing is ever unexpected with this president, Kate, right. A couple of things I think we should really key in on here, and Kaitlan mentioned them.
One is sending a message now to those who might be in judicial peril. Those were his former allies, those who may have information that President Trump doesn't want them to necessarily speak about.
At the end, it comes to any kind of federal charges, the bottom line is president Trump can pardon you, and he can get you off. You have to wonder if that's what we saw today.
But also, the second thing is, politically, we saw Jack Johnson, the famous boxer, who was pardoned, not necessarily political, that was just justice. But while we talk about Scooter Libby, of course, and talking about Joe Arpaio, you know, one other person who was pardoned by the president was Christian Mark Saucier. Now, who is he? He is a former Navy sailor, who was charged with taking pictures of top secret equipment on a submarine. Long story short, put it all together, Donald Trump championed that case as somebody who was unjustly targeted by the government while Hillary Clinton was able to get off and we saw him pardon this sailor just a few months ago.
BOLDUAN: Jamil, with -- as Mark laid out, with at least most of the pardons that the president offered up, folks have wondered, wondered aloud, if this is exactly what Mark lays out. Is it a signal to folks who are caught up in the Russia probe? Do you see that?
JAMIL JAFFER, FORMER ASSOCIATE COUNSEL, GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE: Well, look, the president has unfettered authority to pardon whomever he wants. It is not like Paul Manafort or anybody else in the administration, Mike Flynn or the like, don't understand the president could pardon them if he wants to.
And he showed with Joe Arpaio he can pardon them before any charges are really brought or the case is completed. So really, you know, I don't know this sends any new message to anybody and to be fair, a couple of the pardons of the five or six he's granted, wherefor justice purposes.
And the other ones you might argue they're more political, but we have seen political pardons before in the Clinton administration and the likes, this is nothing new, happens all the time. I will say that, you know, your folks are right, that it is -- it happens toward the end of the term. This is unusual in that sense. Not sure about sending a message at the end of the day to be honest with you.
BOLDUAN: Mark, let me ask you about the McCabe memo. President's response today was not that it matters, but I never fired James Comey because of Russia. Why is he trying to make this case now? Whatever happened I can fire him for whatever reason I want?
PRESTON: Well, he'll also make that case as well, but, you know, as Kaitlan had reported there at the top, we now know that there is another memo in the hand of the special counsel's office, that's written by Andrew McCabe, who was the acting deputy director of the FBI after James Comey was fired.
What is important is that the "New York Times" is reporting and CNN has corroborated some of this, that in fact as Kaitlan had said, what we have seen in that memo is that Donald Trump had asked Rod Rosenstein to add Russia to the memo, his own memo, that required the firing of James Comey.
So, the fact that, you know, Donald Trump says this never has anything to do about Russia, we heard it from his own words and now we have another corroborating source that it was said in another time.
[11:10:06] BOLDUAN: Jamil, add this all together with the other kind of developments that we have seen this week. President Trump, according to the "New York Times," asking Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal when it comes to overseeing the Russia investigation. Bob Mueller has this, he sees what and it means what for Rod Rosenstein.
JAFFER: Well, Look, I think what the Mueller investigation is concern with is was there an effort to obstruct justice, to fire Comey as part of the Russia investigation. If it was, what does it say about what the president was doing, were there other things the president was doing to prevent the investigation from going forward.
That goes beyond the alleged Russia collusion issue. But it is relevant because if the president was trying to instruct justice, that's a problem. There is a debate about whether the president can be charged with obstruction of justice at all.
Particularly when using his unfettered authority to fire cabinet level officials, but at the end of the day, it is a problem for the president and it is his own words here to Lester Holt on NBC that are tripping him up. He can say as many times as he wants, the fake news media, but he's on tape and that's a real problem for him here.
BOLDUAN: There are tapes, at least in this regard. Great to see you, guys. Thanks so much.
Right now, the Dow is dropping triple digits. Let's check in on that after the Trump administration just finally announced that they are going to go ahead with it and hit Canada, Mexico and the European Union with new tariffs on steel and aluminum. Are we headed to a trade war? We'll check in.
And he's a former Republican presidential candidate, the current governor of Ohio, calling on fellow Republicans in Congress to revolt against Republican leaders and take action once and for all on immigration. Governor John Kasich joins me next.
BOLDUAN: This should be a slam dunk, time's up, get it done. That's the message today from the Republican governor of Ohio to his fellow Republicans in Congress, asking them stage rebellion against Republican leaders to take action for DACA recipients, the some 800,000 people brought into the U.S. as children by their parents illegally.
They're now facing deportation after president Trump rescinded protections. And now, Ohio Governor John Kasich is sounding pretty fed up. Writing in "USA Today," "In fact, inaction on DACA suggests to me our current Congress given today's hyperpartisan atmosphere may be totally incapable of solving any complex problem at all."
Joining me now, Ohio Governor John Kasich. Thanks for coming in, Governor.
GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Really optimistic, isn't it? Kate, there is something very interesting happening in Washington now. You know, they can't seem to get anything done, any major effort at all, everything is political, they're all worried about their base. What you're seeing happening now is there are a group of Republicans who are getting fed up with inaction for these young people, 800,000 of whom just would be shipped out of the country for not having done anything wrong.
And what you're seeing is a rise of some leaders and new type of leader there, saying we had it, we don't want to participate with this anymore. And so, they're going about doing something called a discharge petition.
It is a way to be able to unhinge something that they feel strongly about to give these young people a chance to stay and continue to contribute in a country. And they're working with Democrats now who are also, you know, want to work with them to be able to force a vote.
Now, this say highly unusual process. I was there for 18 years and there were times when this was threatened. But what you're seeing is a group of people who said we had enough, we don't care much about the political party, we want to achieve something we think is justice. And it is a really cool thing. I wondered when it was going to happen, and now it is happening.
BOLDUAN: You might think it is a cool thing. Paul Ryan does not so much think it is a cool thing. What he says is there is no way that what they're putting out there and trying to get on the floor, no way it is going to become law. In the end, is it a stunt?
KASICH: It doesn't matter whether the president is going to sign it or not. You send it to him. Let him veto it. Let him say that he wants these 800,000 people to be shipped out of the country. The 800,000 people who -- no reason to ship them out of the country.
So, the idea that I've got to go and check with the principle to figure out whether I can say something is crazy. I've known Paul Ryan for a long time, I like Paul, on this issue. I think he's dead wrong. I think the Republican party is has gone dormant.
I don't know where the Democrats are. I can't figure out what they're for. But what I can say to you is this rise of people who are now disrupters is heartening to me. It gives me hope for the future of the Congress.
BOLDUAN: But, Governor, if it is good politics and good policy, why can't Republicans in control of both the House and the Senate get it together? I can't figure it out.
KASICH: Yes, you can, Kate. It is because they're afraid that if they do something like this, that somebody on the extreme right is going to be angry and yell at them. Part of being a political leader -- is who wrong? Are the people yelling at him wrong?
BOLDUAN: The primary.
KASICH: Of course.
BOLDUAN: But they'll get primaried. KASICH: They should cave in and do anything they can to keep their job. Kate, I would ask you, aren't there some things that might happen to you where you say I'm not putting up with this. We go into politics to try to keep our job, we go into politics to try to do something?
It is interesting, I expanded Medicaid out here, with viciously attacked by many in the Republican establishment, now I turn around and I look, and all of the states are signing up for it. It is really interesting.
Do the right thing and it will pay off. If you have to pay the price electorally, so be it at least you have your dignity. And at least you can look yourself in the mirror and feel good about yourself.
BOLDUAN: What you're saying, a lot of people are saying out in the country. I will tell you that. Let's see if members of Congress are listening because they don't think it is as clear cut as you are making it, Governor, from the outside looking in.
KASICH: Look, let them be angry at me. That's tough. Look in the mirror and figure out whether you want to provide justice to 800,000 people or put them in limbo and ship them out of the country for no reason, think about it.
[11:20:11] BOLDUAN: Let me ask you because this popped up today, and this is something that the president is talking about quite a bit. Would you consider Bob Mueller meddling, speaking of the midterm elections, would you consider Bob Mueller meddling in the midterm elections if he doesn't wrap up the investigation by November. I ask that because that's what Rudy Giuliani and the president are pushing right now.
KASICH: You have this guy Mueller, he's doing his job. Let him do his job. You have to get to the conclusion. That's the way it is. To try to say that, look, you know, people are so tired of this back and forth.
Let Mueller do his job, let him come up with a report, I hope the report vindicates the president, that's what I hope it will happen, but they need to go through all of this and figure out where they are.
You saw this guy Gowdy who I guess from South Carolina, speaking out, saying, if there was Russian interference in the election, it should be pursued, I give him a lot of credit. He's not running again. It took courage for him to say it. Let it run its course and stop politicizing this.
BOLDUAN: I'm not going to ask you about Roseanne Barr, Governor, but what played out this week does add to a pattern for the president. Racism occurs, people look to the White House leader of the country for a response. And he seems to go out of his way to just not call it out. David Duke, Charlottesville, why can't he get this right? What is your thought?
KASICH: He should condemn it. Of course, he should condemn this. I couldn't believe the stuff in the tweet. But Kate, are we surprised at the kind of nasty name calling that is happening across our country?
I mean, we are seeing a culture begin to seriously erode for our children and our grandchildren. It is happening. And this is just one other example of the fact that this is completely and totally inappropriate and abhorrent behavior. And we have seen it time and time again.
BOLDUAN: Is it fault that the culture is eroding? A lot of conservatives speak to say, you can't --
KASICH: By not condemning it -- it is all of us. By him not condemning -- of course, he should condemn t it is ridiculous. I went through this on Charlottesville, of course it should be condemned. I want us to think about the way that we behave. Let me be clear.
What she did and what she said is totally wrong. The president should have condemned it. We have to all begin to realize we're in the same boat together. And all we do is fight with one another, ultimately the boat will sink. I'm more optimistic about our young people who believe that they need to show respect to one another.
We need to respect one another. We need to realize that the lord is placed on our hearts the sense of love and compassion and humility and forgiveness and we're not seeing much of it in too much of the country today. That is what will undo our country.
That is what is a great threat is the erosion of our culture and no matter where I go, I was at Harvard a week ago talking about this very thing. And talking about the power of caring about one another.
And the reaction to that speech has been overwhelmingly positive and I even mentioned the word God. And they didn't walk out on me. It is pretty darn interesting. And if we dig down, we can get it right. And we must get it right for the health of America and what we mean to the rest of the world.
And one other thing, I see they'll put tariffs on now, on the Europeans. It is no longer America first. What we're seeing now is America alone and I don't care who you are, how powerful you are, how rich you are, how famous you are, if you go alone, you're going to fall short and that's what I'm concerned about with our country. We're losing our worldwide leadership and what we need to do to inspire free people across our globe. Glad I got that off my chest.
BOLDUAN: I'm glad you're getting a lot off your chest, though. You're thinking about these things. That's why people are saying, they're thinking about what comes when you leave the governor's office.
I do wonder with the passion I hear from you right now, if the GOP is a party that separates, deports, moves to deport DACA recipients, separates children from their parents when they cross the border illegally, puts -- slaps tariffs on our allies and rips up trade agreements, and is the party that pushes tax cuts with no regard to what it is going to do to deficits and debt, is this a party that you want to lead?
KASICH: Well, you know, I don't know where this is going to go. John Boehner apparently said in a speech today that it is now the party of the president and no longer the party of the Republicans, the Republicans are dormant.
I'm hopeful that we have done in Ohio, which is to boost the economy, to give people jobs, to make sure people who are developmentally disabled, minorities, all feels they can be included. I still believe this message can work for us.
[11:25:06] I think we're in a stupor right now. Then I look at the Democrats who are not doing so great for the midterm election and, you know why they're not doing great? I don't know what their plan is. In politics, if you don't have ideas that can be projected to help people improve their lives, you're a failure. And right now, it is like they're --
BOLDUAN: What Donald Trump has said to your brand of Republican is you're outdated, you're not the message that Republicans need.
KASICH: That's, you know, that's part of the reason why I didn't endorse him, I didn't like his tactics and I just don't agree with him. On some things I agree, but on many things, I do not agree. And I'll continue to speak out.
But what I will not do is personally attack him. That would go in contradiction to what I said earlier. Yes, I get frustrated. There are things sometimes I would like to say not just about him but about a lot of people who are in politics today or those who are in business who forget their roots and put profit ahead of any kind of a value system.
Kate, here's the thing. We got to get a grip on ourselves. Every part of this society has to get a grip on itself and raise ourselves, not lower ourselves with name calling and self-interest, we're not looking for sainthood, but what we are looking for is an opportunity to be the best of ourselves and to live a life a little bigger than ourselves. That's what life is all about.
We can't do it all the time, but we can do it a lot of the time. Political parties, philosophies, doesn't mean anything to me. What matters to me today is are you a truth seeker, are you rational and are you objective?
And then once that is decided, we can get that big team together and figure out just about anything. And, by the way, I don't know if you noticed, there was a column today I wrote in the "Wall Street Journal" about our debt.
It's $21 trillion debt going up for ten years, a trillion a year, this is going to suffocate our economy and destroy the economic future for our kids if we don't get it under control and it takes both parties and we did it before and we can do it again.
BOLDUAN: Great to have you, Governor. Been a while. You are fired up. Get a grip, America. That's the message from John Kasich today. Thanks, Governor.
KASICH: All right, thank you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
Coming up for us, much more on the new tariffs as John Kasich was just talking about. For key U.S. trade partners and how the markets, well, they don't seem to like it. That's next.