tv CNN Newsroom With John Berman and Poppy Harlow CNN May 12, 2017 6:00am-7:01am PDT
this is cnn breaking news. >> good morning, everyone. the breaking news this morning, the president of the united states just threatened a man he hired as fbi director. there will be people saying this is donald trump being donald trump. he says things on twitter. but this is the commander in chief threatening a man who is leading an investigation into the president's own campaign, an investigation that is still ongoing. the president just wrote james comey better hope there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press. i want to bring in jessica in our washington bureau. this has to do with apparently calls for pledges of loyalty and also claims from the president that he was assured by the fbi
director that he wasn't under investigation. >> and these tweets threaten to further erode the relationship between president trump and the fbi. president trump coming out on the attack and threatening the former fbi director james comey saying he better hope there are no tapes of our conversation before he starts leaking to the press. the differences in those conversations in that dinner meeting they had earlier this year. but of course we know that the fbi director was really well respected at the fbi. i heard it from a few of the fbi agents i spoke with and we heard it from the acting director when he testified yesterday. he said that director james comey was very well respected, very well received and despite the white house saying morale at the fbi is low, we know in fact morale at the fbi was high. many people respected james comey. so it is unclear at this point why the president is coming out
on the attack, especially in light of the fact he was considering the president visiting fbi headquarters today. we know plans are in place for him to go over to the headquarters. they have been making preparations for that at the bureau. but two officials telling us those plans were scrapped because of the timing of this and now the timing of these tweets, the optics of this and the relationship between the president and the fbi seems to continue to erode. the president not doing himself any favors with these tweets. >> how will this be received by the current eastbound membmembe. honesty is an unreasonable expectation. that is a message by the president this morning after the message released by the white house about why the fbi director was fired were proven to be untrue. as a active president with lots of things happen, it is not
possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with about your sit. maybe we should cancel all future press briefings. you could do that. another choice would be to cancel lies. this was the white house on wednesday on the issue of who first decided to fire james comey. >> the white house decided on his own. >> absolutely. >> is it true that the president decided to fire james comey and he asked the justice department to put together a letter for that firing. >> no. >> so this was the vice president of the united states that same day. >> the president took strong and decisive leadership here to put the safety and security of the american people first by accepting the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to
remove director comey. >> now this is the new official presidential version from last night. >> i was going to fire comey. my decision. it was not -- >> you had made the decision before they came out. >> i was going to fire comey. i was going to fire regardless of recommendation. >> happy friday, everyone. a phrase coined by the president. joe johns for us at the white house. joe, this has been really an incredible unprecedented week of attempted clean ups at the white house to really explain why they said things that really were not true. >> that's absolutely right. and there has been a lot of cleaning up to do. the truth of it is, especially in early administrations and i have been through four of them in and out the white house from time to time, you do have a problem with coordination of the message between, say, the president of the united states, the higher up officials and the people who are actually talking
to the media. but the problem with the president suggesting getting a briefs and statements is one of the things that distinguishes these systems around the world is the appearance of transparency and openness that comes from a senior aid taking daily or almost daily briefings and questions from the media. so that's clearly a problem. but this administration certainly has been working very hard to change the dynamic between the press shop, the president and the news media who cover the president very closely. this is another example. not clear at all the extent to which the president really wants to do that. but i guess we're just going to have to see. one other note. i did check in with the people in the press shop here about the president's tweet relating
essentially to, you know, what the president wrote saying that maybe comey needs to be careful if there are any recordings of the conversations. checked in with them and the press shop certainly did not want to weigh in, telling me i don't think other things i think it is what it is and i don't think there is anything to add beyond what he said. so the administration's kmub case shop at this juncture being very careful not to go further than the president in his tweets. >> it is what it is, john. but it isn't what they say, at least it wasn't on wednesday. important points to make. joe johns for the white house. thank you very, very much. joining me now chris cillizza, arel lewis, and the former fbi special agent, a cnn contributor and professor of law.
>> let's break this into two parts and separate the politics of this for a moment and take a moment to recognize that the president of the united states did threaten james comey saying you better hope that our conversations were not taped. you know, mary ellen, you worked at the fbi for, what, 28 years. how will that message be received within the fbi? >> not well. not well at all. because the agents and all the staff of the fbi would look at that and take it very personally because they all are very supportive of mr. comey still. so that will not set well with them. >> and to you, steve, you know, what line was crossed? there has been all this talk about is the president obstructing justice? did he obstruct justice by firing james comey. did he cross a line by asking james comey to dinner. am i being investigated and now today threatening the fbi
director that he fired here. >> there are two different statutes to talk about. thanks to president trump's tweets this morning, we will be talking about the intimidation statute. the fact that we are having the conversation is pretty prepros trous and the larger problem is the transparent and comprehensive violation of this much stronger norm that the white house doesn't interview in criminal investigations, a norm that exists exactly for this circumstance so that we could think whether the justice department and the fbi are carrying out a criminal investigation, they are doing it for legal rather than political reasons. >> there are laws and then there are norms and sometimes norms are what this country grew on over the last couple centuries. you're nodding your head in agreement. i think this is an important moment because people will say
this is donald trump being donald trump. he uses twitter to communicate with his base. but threatening a former fbi director and then suggesting that honesty is too high of a standard all within five minutes, those are very significant statements that we have to take on and recognize as meaningful. >> john, one of those statements in a month would be a huge story. two of them in the space of -- in the time it takes me to walk outside this building and get a tea is really, really -- we have to mark it. i think you're right. i think it is difficult with donald trump because he does so many uncon vaengsal things and revels in it. it is hard to see the forest between the trees. but floating the idea of getting rid of the press briefing, let's see if he just said that or that's an omen of something. remember they talked about
during the transition in the run up to the presidency there was some talk of changing the way in which the press briefing was done. the comey one i think is more troubling. this is the sitting president of the united states 72 hours after he fired the fbi director for unclear reasons but largely because he wasn't enough of a company guy. threatening him with silence. this is the stuff of movies. outlandish people that people say that will never happen, except it's happening. >> in the safety of the united states not threatened by movies. these two stories come together on this important point. the dinner between the fbi director and the president on january 27th, okay? the president claims that the fbi director told him that he wasn't under investigation. now the fbi director through
reporting on thursday, we understand that the fbi director was asked to declare his loyalty to the president. donald trump has one version of events. james comey appears to have a different version of events. the president of the united states not giving us a lot of reasons to believe his version when there has been so many untruths in the white house this week. >> well, that's right. plus donald trump does not want to get into a squaring contest with james comey or anybody else. he refuses to back down from that. his word is questionable to say the least. in conversations with a normal person, you could say there is room for ambiguity. if he said something along the signs of, you're not under investigation at this time. when you see the threat, though, behind it, it tells you there is something else going on there. i would like everybody to remember what we learned in the schoolyard, that it is sort of bullies with empty threats are
the ones who make those threats. it is out of frustration and powerlessness and i think that's where the president is coming from. >> bullies deep ton't typicallyy guy who is are 68 . the loyalty pledge. donald trump apparently firing james comey among other reasons because he would not declare his loyalty to the president. when you were at the fbi, did anyone ask you to declare your loyalty to anything other than the constitution? >> no, i was never asked that question other than the commitment to the united states and had that question been asked, it really would have raised some serious red flags because the question comes from not a need to be loyal in the righteous way, but a commitment to someone that may cause me to
have to step over lines which would be acceptable. so there is loyalty and then there is the need to practically own someone. this for me was raised a tremendous red flag. >> steve, go ahead. were you talking. >> there is another point which you bring up. there are plenty of actors in this unfolding, yet serious drama right now. one of them is rod rosenstein, who we have learn willed go to capitol hill to brief senators in a closed door meeting next week about his role in the firing of james comey. of course, remember, the white house first claimed it was all based on a recommendation from rod rosenstein. this turns out not to be true. yesterday you say either rosenstein didn't realize he was going to get played or he did. the former makes him seem like a fool. the latter comes off much worse.
explain. >> i think the real question is why does someone like deter rosenstein, someone who has been around the block, why does he write that memo if he even suspects that it is going to be appropriated the way it was. and if he does write that memo knowing it is going to be used as cover for a decision the president makes, is rosenstein then complicit in this entire matter. this this is the most important point, yes, all of this noise, all of the inconsistencies from the white house are alarming, but let's not forget what this is all about. this is about the underlying investigation into what role, if any, the russian government played in the election. president trump is not going to be able to make that go away. does the deputy attorney general pick up the threat and run with it to prove his independence or does the focus shift to capitol
hill and put the ball squarely in congress's court. >> and chris the last question to you. the president is threatening the fbi director james comey. i don't know whether james comey has been leaking since he's been fired. but there have been a lot of stories coming from people who know james comey over the last few days who are providing information and filling in the blanks here. you know washington. you know how things get shaken loose. i have to imagine the president shaking james comey would only cause it to shake more leaves. >> oh, my gosh yes. the other thing my guess here is that trump threatened james comey and with the weird quote, there are tapes, which is an odd thing to throw out there given the week that we've had and the comparisons to nixon and the
saturday night massacre. but it would like it more likely in my mind that comey would speak out. you have donald trump calling him a show boat, blow hard, you know, a show pony and then basically saying you know what we talked about. better not -- i mean, really raising questions about a guy who might not be the every person's favorite fbi director ever, but was certainly someone that people said this guy is a credible, serious person for the job. if you're james comey, i don't know how you don't say something in the wake of this because you're watching the president of the united states drag your name through the mud. >> just a quick last word here as we end this remarkable week, smart move for the president to bring up tapes, harkening back to watergate? >> of course not. you take the watergate overlay and put it on top of it, i was tweeting out that at this point in the watergate investigation,
about 60 plus % didn't think there was anything serious about it. so we seem to be marching down a very familiar path here. >> all right, guys. thank you all so much for being with us. a lot of breaking news to cover this morning. so many mixed messages. the president defending those mixed messages, threatening to cancel the press briefings. we will talk to two men who might very well have been press secretaries under different circumstances. what do they make of what's going on. and then caught in the middle of this controversy, the deputy attorney general of the united states apparently unhappy about how he's being portrayed. rod rosenstein called to capitol hill to give his version of events of what happened. we are going to speak to someone who knows him well. you too, unnecessary er visits. and hey, unmanaged depression, don't get too comfortable. we're talking to you, cost inefficiencies and data without insights. and fragmented care- stop getting in the way of patient recovery
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he's issuing a bold defense of inaccuratety. he wrote on twitter this, the very active presidnt with lots of things happens, it is impossible for my surrogates to stand up at the podium with perfect accuracy. i'm not sure perfect is the right standard there. occasional would be a welcome development. to discuss this, the former communication director for marco rubio and tim miller, who is a communications director. one disclaimer. they worked hard to beat donald trump. but i take it they will get along very, very well. brian first to you. you know, perfect accuracy. is that a fair standard? is the president being straightforward. >> we should expect the best out of every white house as far back as we were born. this suggestion is no standard
at all. i think the story of the first hyundundred days. we should expect as accurate as possible statements from the white house and trump seems to be saying no, that's not going to be possible. >> tim miller to you, how would you grade the communications office of the white house? >> oh, boy. their boss has left with them a tough task. he is a ten-point plan guy and all communications directors are going to spin it because their boss is so unconventional. when they came out on tuesday and said that james comey had been fired because a career burr cat had made this oo suggestion
to the president and the president said good point, ron, i'm going to fire comey now, that's prepros trous and insulting to us to come out with that kind of lie. and i think that is the crux of the problem here. it is not a communication strategy problem. it is the fact that it was just such a bold and ridiculous lie they were trying to sell. >> it is possible that sara hh huckabee sanders didn't know. >> that rosenstein was the reason why comey was fired? come on. >> if if she did not think so, then he was lying. alex, go ahead. nicole wallace, the commune tigss director under george bush says he claims if you know you are saying things that are not
true -- you work for the american people here. do you owe it to yourself and to the country to not say it. >> you are only as effective as your credibility. once you rue wib credin credibi are not an effective spokesperson. i worked at the white house and i had a similar. it is my own credibility. it is my own name that's at stake. and, so, when president trump sends his surrogates out, the president knows he's ruining their credibility and ruining his own credibility which matters in the long term. this made this week harder. because he lied during the first hundred days, when they came out and said this is why we're hiring comey, a lot of people
didn't believe them because they have just a record of being dishonest. i don't know how you correct it. >> alex and tim both say this is not a communications problem, this is about the substance. it is like if i open a restaurant, john, and the restaurant has a rat infestation and i say the problem is the marketing, the sign outside. if i put a sign outside, the restaurant will be fine. no, the problem is the rats and i think that is the take-away i experienced this week is it is not about what the trump's aids are saying or even the vice president is saying. it is what the president himself was thinking. by the way, i am never going to open a restaurant. >> this is not -- even if it's the underlying problem, you know, the policy is wrong or the way the president handles something is wrong. i actually think this is a case
where the communications are at fall. there are legitimate reasons to fire comey and i think if the administration had had a concrete roll-out plan where they leaked out in advance the president is considering this and built a public case for it, by the time it happened it was graceful. nobody was surprised, we would be in a very different world than we are right now where they announced it with no thought into the roll-out. that has made this crisis so much worse for trump. and his tweets this morning are not going to play out well. >> it is important what alex said there is he thinks firing comey was perfectly fine in itself. as someone yelled at by you, you don't necessarily think reporters are always the best people in the world and you often don't like the way that we do things. are the press briefings important? do you think it is important to have reporters there asking
questions of the press secretary? >> i always yelled at you in good spirit, don, when you messed things up, which you did with regularity. of course it is important to have these briefings. yesterday i sort of said we might not necessarily have to have these briefings if the press secretary is not going to know or say what the truth is. and if the president is going to continue to undermine them. so it is important to have these, but it is important to have press briefings where they are basing what they are saying in facts and truths. obviously you are going to spin and put the best face on an argument you can. but when you say one thing and 20 minutes later the president goes on nbc and says exactly the opposite and he does that consistently, it starts to wonder like what is the point. why are we asking sara huk by
these questions. >> great to have you with us. thank you very, very much. you can yell at me any time, tim. the deputy attorney general reportedly telling the white house to set the record straight on his role in the firing of james comey. this as lawmakers push to learn more about rosenstein's role. he is headed to capitol hill. we are live there in a moment. this mother's day create a gift from the heart that could only come from the pandora boutique at jared. a world of pandora... including exclusive pieces designed just for jared. ready to be mixed, matched and stacked with help from jared's own pandora expert. the one gift that speaks volumes, you'll both treasure forever. that's why he went to jared. are you one sneeze away from being voted out of the carpool? try zyrtec® it's starts working hard at hour one
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all right. we are learning this morning about a contentious meeting on capitol hill next week. rod rosenstein being summoned for a closed door meeting with all u.s. senators to explain his role in the firing of james comey. on capitol hill with the very latest. >> reporter: john, there are a lot of questions to rosenstein and members of congress are not satisfied at this time. we saw yesterday rosenstein was
here on the hill. it was is surprise visit with a small group of senators to explain the future of fbi's investigation, the integrity of that investigation. we have seen numerous democrats coming forward as recently as this morning, just within the last hour on our air. representatives couplings asking for him to appoint a special counsel independent of the white house and justice to take the lead on this investigation. some democrats calling for his recusal. but what we're going to see next week is rosenstein has been invited to meet behind closed doors to get the whole picture. republicans and democrats want to know what was behind comey's firing and what is the state of the fbi's investigation as it moves forward? this among a lot of skepticism over yesterday's testimony of the active fbi director. that active fbi director saying he did not believe that the
white house would influence or continue to influence the fbi's investigation. some people on the house side, namely the top democrat, adam schiff doubt that. >> i don't think you can say so categorically, he's made no effort to interfere. i think the firing was all about the russia investigation. i'm certain what mccabe said is true, the president isn't calling agents working on the investigation or trying to interfere with the day-to-day operation of the investigation, but nonetheless, he fired the top cop on that investigation, and i think no one believes this was about hillary clinton's e-mails. i think it was all about the russia case. >> so john, he will go to the senate next week. rosenstein going before full senate expected to happen next week.
but also the fact that james comey, the fired fbi director has been called to meet before the senate intelligence committee again in a closed session not open to the public. but of course we will be trying to get as much information as possible and get to you the very significant meeting in terms of what happened over comey's firing and where the investigation goes from here. >> you bet we'll try to find out what happens between those closed doors. thank you very much. joining me now is someone that worked with rod rosenstein at the attorney's office in maryland. megan brown thank you for being with us. you say the deputy attorney general is unflappable with rock solid ethics. what do you mean? >> he has been in high profile and different situations and his knee nor and ethics give me a lot of confidence that he's going to be a smooth shape sailing through this storm. people who are questioning his integrity and ethics don't know
him and i think he's the right person to be at the department at this time. >> so you called this a storm. knowing what you know right now, being at the secenter of this storm? >> i don't think it's fair to him to speculate on how he feels. he will do what's right for the department and that's to me what was so gratifying. he's had an amazing career of 27 years or so with the department, career civil servant and i, like many lawyers, was really gratified that he was willing to step up. i'm not going to speculate as to what he might be feeling or any of that. it's quite a dtumultuous time. >> ythat's fair. how about your friend rod
rosenstein. if the deputy attorney general was asked to do something he felt uncomfort with or his statements were used in a way he was uncomfortable with, would you tell him to stay in the job? >> i would tell him he needs to continue as he has done to continue to do what is best for the department. i have no doubt when he thinks about tasks that he has to do to carry out the tasks for the department, he is going to do the right thing. so far be it for me to advise him. he's far more seasoned and experienced, but i would say he is very safe trusting his gut, which has led him very well for several decades in government service through some choppy waters and i think he is going to do the right thing at the end of the day. >> there are reports. cnn is reporting he was unhappy with the way that the messages of this was handled from the white house. the wall street journal saying he said look, you can't pin this
on me. >> whit sounds like he is goingo take positions he believes in and not cower to pressure outside or people's expectations about what he could do. whatever he has done, he believes in and i think he will stick up for himself. but more importantly for the department because what i have learned from rod starting from when i was an intern for him longer ago than i care to admit, he cared about his mission, which is far broader than whatever is on the front page of the new york times. >> last question. the washington post had a quote about the memo written by rod rosenstein. she said it surprised me that a guy like rod rosenstein would pull thing out of the newspaper and quote them in terms of somebody else's opinion of comey. it means to me we have to have
him in and talk to him because, wow, i could have written it. if you look at the memo, it was a lot of clips. she says that doesn't rise to the level of professionalism she would like to see. your response. >> i think that we don't know what circumstances prompted the drafting of the memo. i believe rod wrote it himself. i believe rod believes in what he wrote and i don't think it is unreasonab unreasonable, despite what others have said. but we don't know the mission that he was put to. we don't know the purpose that he was putting memo to. so to second guess and monday morning quarterback the drafting of that memo. >> that's a great point, we don't know. that's being the senators will ask next week behind closed doors. great to talk to you for perspective on your friend
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all right. new this morning the kremlin is weighing in on the last 48 hours in washington, calling the u.s. emotionally obsessed with russia. even going as far as to suggest that it is a phase that eventually fade. nic robertson joins us right now. russia referring to the united states as a pet you lent. >> president putin says it is a pity that the united states continues this way. russia has over things on its agenda. it is not interfering in u.s. domestic affairs. this is classic stuff from the kremlin, this is deflect and deny. deny any involvement in the hacking that has been done
multiple times but deflect the core of the issue is about by calling this an obsession, by saying that it will fade over time, that it's a pity the united states is so focussed on russia in this way. this is a way of sort of deflecting away from the core issue here, which is that russia has had a hand in effecting the way that the united states democracy is working. what we're hearing from the kremlin right here is what we've heard before. they like to move on and focus on other things. and in a way, all of this chaos certainly works for them because you take the issue of syria, for example. russia is pretty much getting its own way about what it wants to do there right now. so all this chaos and confusion, the priorities that he is talking about here, the issues they want to get on with, syria
is one of them and they're sort of getting on quite well by themselves. >> nic robertson for us. thank you very, very much. the attorney general of the united states, jeff sessions, he, too, caught up in the firestorm over the firing of james comey. new ethics questions being raised about his role. did he violate promises he made? we're moments away from hearing from the attorney general himself. stay with us. you might not ever just stand there, looking at it. you may never even sit in the back seat. yeah, but maybe you should. ♪ (laughter) ♪
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award for his support of law enforcement. it does come as there are new questions, ethics questions, surrounding him over the firing of james comey. remember, he allegedly recused himself from all things having to do with russia. also new this morning, a major shift in policy with really huge ramifications about prosecuting certain crimes. i want to get right to cnn justice reporter laura jarrett live at the justice department for us. laura. >> reporter: hey, there, john. so, the attorney general announced this morning sweeping, new changes to how his justice department is going to handle all federal criminal cases from now on, directing prosecutors, as you say, to charge the most serious offense that they can prove, which essentially means whatever offense has the longest prison sentence. now, this announcement was expected for some time and really comes as no surprise, but it solidifies sessions' position on these criminal cases, and perhaps most importantly, revokes obama-era policies that
sought to avoid charging drug offenses -- sought to avoid charging sentences that would trigger mandatory minimums, especially in the drug context. now, we are told that u.s. attorneys across the country received this directive last night. they will be the ones on the ground in charge of implementing it, and we will hear from the attorney general himself later this morning at the justice department on all of this and more, john. >> all right. we'll be waiting to hear that. laura jarrett for us outside the justice department, thank you so much. next hour, a colorado mother will walk free from the church where she spent the last 86 days to avoid deportation. immigration officials granted jeanette vizguerra a temporary stay until 2019. she moved into this denver church in february for fear she would be deported from her children -- separated from her children, who are u.s. citizens, because she is undocumented. [ speaking spanish ] >> translator: i need to fight for and defend what i think is
right and just, and the right thing to do is to be with my kids. >> this woman was named one of "time" magazine's 100 most influential people last month for her battle in her decades of activism for immigrants' rights. president trump this morning threatening the former fbi director, threatening to cancel white house briefings. and what is he defending? inaccuracy! it's friday. we'll be right back. i try hard to get a great shape. this i can do, easily. benefiber® healthy shape is a clear, taste-free, 100% natural daily fiber... that's clinically proven to help me feel fuller longer. benefiber® healthy shape. this i can do!
show me top artist. show me the top hot 100 artist. they give awards for being hot and 100 years old? we'll take 2! [ laughing ] xfinity x1 gives you exclusive access to the best of the billboard music awards just by using your voice. the billboard music awards. sunday, may 21st eight seven central only on abc. good morning, everyone. i'm john berman. the breaking news this morning, the president of the united states is threatening the man he fired as fbi director. now, that was a move that some critics called obstruction of justice. this new move, this new threat is one that one legal analyst just told us could be construed as witness intimidation. the president wrote "james comey
better hope there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" want to bring in cnn's jessica schneider. she is in washington for us. and jessica, this has to do with conflicting stories about what james comey told the president about russia investigations and whether or not the president asked for a pledge of loyalty. >> right. so, the president now coming out on the attack. and really, john, the twitter tirade seems to be coming out at the exact wrong time. a few of the fbi agents i've spoken with are upset that director comey was fired. we've seen some of them take to instagram and facebook to change their profile pictures as well. all of these people that we've spoken with respected james comey, and now this tweet from the president, it kind of threatens to further erode trump's velsion happy with the rank and file and even the leadership at the fbi. we know from acting director andrew mccabe's testimony on capitol hill yesterday that james comey had broad support at the fbi and that contrary to white house account, morale was strong at the bureau. and the president's tweets, interestingly, come on the same day that there were indications that he might visit fbi headquarters here in washington.
we know that the bureau had been prepping for the visit, complete with location scouted outside, but of course, two officials told our jeff zeleny at the white house, they realize that the timing would be bad for a visit today, that he wouldn't, the president, would not have been well received. and of course, now after this tweet, john, that icy reception seems to be a lot more likely than ever. john? >> all right, jessica schneider for us in washington. thank you so much. we have more breaking news this morning. truth is too much to ask. that's according to the president of the united states. he's justifying the changing stories from the white house on the firing of james comey, stories that turned out to be wrong. he says, as a very active president with lots of things happening, it's not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy. maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all press briefings and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy? and joe johns, the thing