Return to Transcripts main page


James Comey: Trump Would Face Obstruction If Not President; Facebook Slams Co-Founder's Call To "Break Up" The Company; Girlfriend Of College Shooting Hero Honors Him. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 10, 2019 - 07:30   ET



[07:30:29] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

Former FBI director James Comey speaking out in an exclusive CNN town hall two years after being fired by President Trump. Comey is now weighing in on whether he thinks Mr. Trump obstructed justice.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": So in your opinion, there was corrupt intent, at least in several of those episodes by President Trump?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: It sure looks that way from the reports -- the factual recitation.

COOPER: If -- you know, there are now, what -- it's -- I think it's up to 800 former federal prosecutors who have worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations who have signed a statement saying that Mueller's findings would have produced obstruction charges against President Trump if he weren't president. Do you agree?

COMEY: Yes, I agree.

COOPER: No doubt?

COMEY: No doubt.


CAMEROTA: All right. Joining us now is Josh Campbell, former FBI supervisory special agent and CNN law enforcement analyst. He worked with both Robert Mueller and James Comey. You are the perfect guest for us this morning, Josh.

So what did you hear last night in James Comey's tone and in the substance of what he said?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, FORMER SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: Well, I think what was most interesting is that what he's been saying all along has essentially now been validated by Robert Mueller's investigation. And you have to also focus on the fact that this is the one person,

thus far, that we've heard who was on the receiving end of this alleged obstructive behavior and now he's telling his story.

We know that he told in his book and then he went -- you know, described that the president directed him to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, for example. And then we all know when that didn't happen, the president actually terminated the person who was investigating him.

So I think the one main takeaway is that he's been ahead of the curve in my judgment all along. It's just now we have people that are now coming to his -- you know, agreeing with what he's been saying, to include over some 800 federal prosecutors now, as we've been reporting.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What I heard is two things, really -- the analytical and then the impressionistic.

The analytical, which was very interesting, is when you have this very-accomplished lawyer telling us he believes there was obstruction. And he wasn't even directly talking about the part where he was fired. He was talking about the various McGahn episodes and other things.

So --

CAMEROTA: Just stuff in the Mueller report, yes.

BERMAN: And a deputy -- and a former deputy attorney general. James Comey sees clear obstruction and violations of the crime.

And then there was the impressionistic. Then it was where he was critical of the character of some of the people now in the public spotlight, one of whom is Rod Rosenstein, who just stepped down as the deputy attorney general -- Rod Rosenstein, yesterday.

I want to play you what he said about Rosenstein.


COMEY: I think people like that -- like Rod Rosenstein, who are people of accomplishment but not real sterling character -- strong character -- find themselves trapped. And so they start to make little compromises to stay on the team. Echo his words, use the term "spying", talk about collusion or just be silent thinking that's what I need to do to survive. And in the process, he has eaten their soul.


BERMAN: Not strong character, Josh. That's harsh.

CAMPBELL: It is harsh and again, coming from someone who worked with these people. Obviously, there's no love lost between the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and James Comey. We know that Rosenstein was instrumental in what appears to be this pretext to his firing, writing this memo about the Hillary Clinton investigation. And also what was interesting -- and we've heard this before -- is

that prior to Jim Comey being fired and Rosenstein playing that role -- you go back in time when Rod Rosenstein was still a U.S. attorney there in Maryland, he actually invited Jim Comey to come speak to a group of his attorneys to talk about leadership and he heralded Comey as this great leader who made these tough decisions in this case and then now, is playing a role in his firing. So if you're Jim Comey that has to sting a little bit.

And again, I think he's surveying the landscape. This is someone who I know, having personally worked for him, that is very closely moored to his values and orbits any situation -- again, trying to determine what is the most ethical thing to do in this situation.

And when he looks across the landscape and he sees people who essentially stick their finger in the wind and make a decision based on what's in their best interest personally, that has to grate on him. And I think that's what we're hearing.

CAMEROTA: That leads us to Attorney General Bill Barr and how some people now see him as not so much of straight shooter and as kind of a nakedly partisan person, which has apparently caught some people by surprise.

So here is James Comey on Bill Barr.


COMEY: I think he acted in a way that's less than honorable in the way he described it in writing and described it during a press conference, and continues to talk as if he's the president's lawyer. That is not the attorney general's job.

It doesn't make me happy to say this but I think he has lost most of his reputation with the way he's conducted himself.


[07:35:00] BERMAN: And there's that manner of speaking again -- less than honorable, not sterling characters. The Comey-ish metric it sounds like, Josh.

CAMPBELL: Yes, it certainly does. And you know, what I think is at play here is that there have been a lot of critics of the attorney general. Essentially, what Comey is saying has been echoed by many, many experts since we -- you know, folks have been watching his behavior.

But one thing that's interesting about Jim Comey is, if you remember, he actually came out of the gate giving Barr the benefit of the doubt and he took a lot of heat for that, saying wait, pump the brakes. This is someone who is an institutionalist who served our country for decades. Let's wait and see.

And for him now to look at the behavior and then make that assessment that he thinks that this is less than honorable, I think that's interesting.

And again, he's not a partisan coming out of the gate saying I was against him all along. He's saying I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Now, it appears as though the attorney general has let us all down and is essentially serving as the president's lawyer -- defense counsel.

That, again, grates on someone who used to be in a very senior position inside the Justice Department where you're independent, you're apolitical, you're not on the president's side.

BERMAN: Can we just play one more exchange because I think you need to explain this to us. It's when James Comey suggests or doesn't rule out that the Russians have something on President Trump -- listen.


COOPER: Do you think the Russians have leverage over President Trump?

COMEY: I don't know the answer to that.

COOPER: Do you think it's possible?



BERMAN: So he changes -- he chooses his words so carefully there, Josh, and he's trying to send a message. He could have just said -- you know, look, I don't know. I didn't see any evidence of it -- which is a very different answer than yes, it's possible.

CAMPBELL: Yes. Well, I agree with you it's a different answer but I think that he was asked the question -- you know, what do you believe?

And again, if you were him -- and he's described this before that this pattern of behavior from the time that he sat in Trump Tower briefing the Trump team on the Russian threat and their main focus wasn't on how to protect the country, it was on how it impacted them personally -- again, this is his -- these are his words -- that would raise eyebrows.

You fast-forward to, again, the president trying to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn as it related to his connections to the Russians. And then, the president firing him over the Russia investigation. I don't know how you stare at those set of facts and don't have that question in your mind. Is the president operating with some type of corrupt intent or malfeasance as it relates to his relationship with Russia?

And again, he's asked the question, do you think it's possible? He said, yes, it's possible.

CAMEROTA: Josh Campbell, thank you very much --

CAMPBELL: Thank you. CAMEROTA: -- for giving us all of this insight this morning.


BERMAN: All right.

New this morning, Facebook is slamming its co-founder after he called for regulators to break up the social media giant. In a "New York Times" op-ed, Chris Hughes says Mark Zuckerberg has unchecked power and says Facebook is now a powerful monopoly.

CNN tech reporter Brian Fung live in Washington with the very latest on this. A little intramural battle, it seems, Brian.

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: Absolutely. This is kind of an extraordinary statement targeting one of Facebook's key members -- key co-founders here.

Let's take a look at what Facebook's statement said.

Facebook said it "...accepts that with success comes accountability. But you don't enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company. Accountability of tech companies can only be achieved through the painstaking introduction of new rules for the Internet."

Now, this is obviously coming on the heels of an op-ed that takes aim at Facebook for being a monopoly, essentially arguing that Facebook has become so powerful now that it has been able to crowd out other competitors and should be broken up.

Chris Hughes, the former co-founder of Facebook, has clearly thought a lot about his role in the company and what it has led to. And he clearly feels a little bit of guilt about it given how much money that he has made in his -- with his two percent stake in the company. He now has divested from Facebook and no longer is invested in any social media companies, he says.

But yesterday, he was on NBC talking a little bit about how Facebook has sacrificed some of its principles in favor of growth objective. And let's take a look at what he said.


CHRIS HUGHES, CO-FOUNDER, FACEBOOK, ENTREPRENEUR: I'm angry at Mark and I'm angry at a lot of Facebook's leadership for taking something that held so much promise and could have been so amazing and sacrificing quality, security, stability for clicks.


FUNG: Well -- so this is -- comes at a very sensitive for Facebook, obviously. We're awaiting a multibillion-dollar potential fine from the Federal Trade Commission as Facebook wraps its investigation with that agency about its privacy practices.

BERMAN: All right, Brian Fung for us. Thank you very much for that report, Brian.

A quick programming note. Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes -- you heard him just there -- he joins Kate Bolduan at 11:00 Eastern time right here on CNN.

CAMEROTA: That will be very interesting to hear him speak so candidly.

All right. Meanwhile, the college student who was killed last week while tackling a gunman on his campus has been hailed as a hero.

[07:40:03] Riley Howell's girlfriend joins us to tell us more about this very special young man.



LAUREN WESTMORELAND, RILEY HOWELL'S GIRLFRIEND: From now on, when the sun shines warm and gently on my face, I will know that it's you holding me in spirit, just as you did in our life.


CAMEROTA: That's the girlfriend of Riley Howell, the college student who was killed as he stopped the gunman who opened fire at the University of North Carolina last week.

Lauren Westmoreland joins us now, along with her brother Matthew Westmoreland, who was also close to Riley. Guys, thank you so much for being here. We can only imagine how painful a week that you have had since Riley was killed.

Lauren, we just -- the more that we hear about him, the more that we know how special Riley was. You guys were together for five and a half years. You were talking about someday getting married.

[07:45:07] So just tell us about this guy that you loved and knew so well.

L. WESTMORELAND: Well, I just -- I don't know. Like, I always -- people ask me that question, what was your favorite thing about him? What was your -- you know, best story that you had with him? And I just think that there were too many for me to ever count.

And it's just a lot of things that now I'm thinking about a lot of all these memories that we've had and it's been really helpful to kind of get me through this a little bit day-by-day.

But he was just one of the most -- he was the most wonderful person I've ever met. And I think about that every day, how accepting he was of me and everybody that I made him meet -- you know, all my friends, all of my family members.

And all of his family members were so wonderful to me and they still are. And I just -- I could see definitely -- like meeting them -- where he got his personality from and kind of just like who he was as a person. He was just the most genuine and amazing person I ever knew. So, I don't know.

CAMEROTA: Riley -- Matthew, when you met Riley for the first time, through your sister Lauren, is it true that he picked you up?

MATTHEW WESTMORELAND, BROTHER OF LAUREN WESTMORELAND: I'm sure it happened the first time. It definitely happened every time since then whenever I would come home from school.

CAMEROTA: That's quite an icebreaker --


CAMEROTA: -- just picking up and lifting up the --


CAMEROTA: -- not small brother of your girlfriend.

M. WESTMORELAND: No, I'm substantially bigger than him, so -- and he would lift me off my feet, yes.

CAMEROTA: And so -- I mean, I think that what that story --

M. WESTMORELAND: He was always excited.

CAMEROTA: What that story gets to is that he was a physically confident person.

And so, Lauren, when you heard that it was he who rushed the gunman as the gunman opened fire, did that surprise you?

L. WESTMORELAND: No. It was something that I was trying not to think about until I knew for sure, and it was a lot of kind of like sitting there waiting, wondering, hoping that he wasn't scared or anything like that when it happened. And then just like as soon as his parents told me that that's what happened, I was like, of course -- of course, that's what happened.

And I heard, apparently, that the shooter, I guess, had -- thought he had internal injuries. And, Riley has tackled me before and I can definitely assure you that that was most likely true.

He just -- I don't know. I knew that he would do something like that to save or protect other people. And with us, it was always playful. And then this time, it was something that he did to ensure that other people would be safe, and I knew that that would happen.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Matthew, your thoughts on that?

M. WESTMORELAND: Well, I just feel the same way. It was -- again, I was trying not to think about that. I didn't want that to be the case but I knew if he was -- if he was in the same room I knew what he would do. It played out exactly the same way in my head.


CAMEROTA: I know that you all have been obviously dealing with your own deep grief this week, but are you aware that this has happened again? Are you aware that in Colorado, this time another student -- a senior in high school had to tackle and take down a gunman who opened fire in his classroom and lost his life in the process?

M. WESTMORELAND: Yes, painfully aware. And not only that but almost a week to the hour from when it happened to Riley. So --


M. WESTMORELAND: Yes, it's difficult and we know what they're going through. We definitely understand.

CAMEROTA: I mean, Lauren --


CAMEROTA: -- I guess I'm just wondering if this is -- from where you sit, is this -- is this our new normal? Is this our new normal where there are so many guns in the hands of unhinged people that it's going to take very special people like Riley, like Kendrick Castillo -- that's what we're going to rely on, our classmates to lose their lives and take down these gunmen?

L. WESTMORELAND: All I can say is that I hope and I just -- it shouldn't be. It shouldn't be the fact that I'm sitting here thinking that maybe what Riley did is what people are going to have to start doing. I don't like to think about the fact that someone else had to do the same thing.

I mean, it's -- at the same time, it's like heroic but we still needed him here and that kind of thing. And there should never have been a scenario in which they had to lay down their lives, especially not one so young who still had their whole life left to live.

I think that this should be something that is taken care of before it ever comes to something like this. I just -- I don't ever want to have anyone else deal with what I did when I walked out of my last exam of the year. It's supposed to be a happy moment and I had to look at all these texts, phone calls asking me if Riley was OK.

[07:50:09] If I'd heard from him. There was a shooting at Charlotte, you know. Have you heard from him?

And I'm sure it was the same thing for Kendrick Castillo's parents that day and I'm sure that it was just as horrifying a realization in night or day that they had to go through. And no one should ever have to go through that, ever.


CAMEROTA: How do you two move forward from this?

M. WESTMORELAND: Well, we're -- both of our families -- ours and -- the Westmorelands and the Howells are -- we're putting together a foundation. We have it all organized. Donations are ready -- the

And the mission with that is to -- because it's all we can do. It's what we can do right now is take action to help families who are going through this. So now, only a week later there's another family who needs help.

And not every family gets the media attention and eventually, that does die down and when all the cameras go away and the news has left town, there is left with -- you know, silence in their house. And we want to be there for them when that happens --


M. WESTMORELAND: -- because that's all we can do right now.


M. WESTMORELAND: We want people to feel like they can actually do something and this is their way they can do that.

L. WESTMORELAND: And it's kind of -- yes -- sorry.

CAMEROTA: Yes, understood. And the -- I should let people know The Riley Howell Foundation benefits organizations that support victims of gun violence so that they don't feel alone in their --


CAMEROTA: -- horrible moment of grief, like you all are experiencing right now. And that is really generous, obviously, of you guys to be thinking of other people already and knowing that this is going to happen again.

Lauren and Matthew Westmoreland, thank you very much for talking with us this morning and we're so sorry.

M. WESTMORELAND: Thank you for having us.


CAMEROTA: So, one more time, here's a picture of this American hero. It's Riley Howell.

And we'll be right back.


[07:56:30] BERMAN: The police force in Freeport, Texas has gone beyond the call of duty to make a little girl's dying wish come true.

CNN's Ed Lavandera introduces us to honorary officer Abigail Arias.


ROMMEL ARIAS, UNCLE OF ABIGAIL ARIAS: The tattoo I'm getting is the Freeport Police Department badge. Get it on straight.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rommel Arias wants to always carry the shield of his hero, a Freeport, Texas police officer, badge number 758 -- an officer on a mission fighting bad guys.

ROMMEL ARIAS: What's your number?


ROMMEL ARIAS: Seven fifty-eight?

I wanted to put that 758 as her -- because that's her actual badge number, and it's actually in her handwriting.

BRYAN KLEVENS, OWNER, PRISON BREAK TATTOOS: Guess who's writing this badge number is?

A. ARIAS: Mine.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): The ink honors his niece, Officer Abigail Arias.

KLEVENS: It's pretty cool, huh?

A. ARIAS: That looks like you.

KLEVENS: Better, yes?

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The newest 6-year-old boot-struttin', cowboy hat-wearing Freeport police officer.


I promise --

A. ARIAS: I promise --

GARIVEY: -- to protect --

A. ARIAS: -- to protect --

GARIVEY: -- and serve --

LAVANDERA (voice-over): In February, Abigail was sworn in as a police officer by Chief Raymond Garivey. It was her dream.

GARIVEY: You couldn't have picked a better role model to put on that uniform and represent law enforcement in general and first responders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the police uniform help you fight the bad guys?

A. ARIAS: Yes, sir. It keeps me brave.

GARIVEY: When she wears it, she wears it with pride, she wears it with dignity. She respects it the way we should respect it.

On top of that, she's fighting something that you and I are not fighting.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The dream is actually a dying wish. Abigail is battling a rare cancer that has spread through her body.

GARIVEY: I'm just blessed that we were the chosen ones to be able to do her lifelong dream of wanting to be a police officer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her cancer right now is terminal. It derived from the kidney and it's a rare cancer but it is common in kids.

GARIVEY: She's fighting for her life.

A. ARIAS: So the bad guys are in my lungs.

ROMMEL ARIAS: Her cancers are called the bad guys and if you ask her, she'll tell you that the bad guys are still in there.

KLEVENS: Oh, my goodness. What do you do with those?

A. ARIAS: I'm going to arrest people.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Bryan Klevens is the owner of Prison Break Tattoos. He calls it a safe haven for first responders. He's seen it all here, but this work of art left him in tears.

KLEVENS: Never in my six years have I had someone come in to memorialize a child that's still here with us. Something's giving her strength.

ROMMEL ARIAS: Now that I've got your badge, I'm always going to be fighting the bad guys with you. We're going to beat them bad guys, baby -- yes? You know I love you, right? You're the strongest, toughest little kid I know.

KLEVENS: We have to pray that she beats this.

GARIVEY: She has work to do here. I know he wants her up there but we're going to be a little selfish today. We need her here.

Lord, here we are in this special place with this special little angel.

It's like a shield for me, too, man, you know -- and it's -- to be able to know that I'm doing this for her and that I have a piece of her for the rest of my life.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): It's a permanent badge of honor.

A. ARIAS: Where we going next, daddy?

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Houston, Texas.


CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, that is a beautiful, beautiful story.

OK, NEW DAY continues right now.