tv Anderson Cooper 360 CNN June 7, 2017 5:00pm-6:01pm PDT
and ultimately the country suffers. it's part of why president trump got elected, i believe, because people were fed up with the status quo. >> all right. thank you so much, senator l lieberman. good to see you. and thanks so much to all of you for joining us. "ac 360" starts now. and good evening from washington where the stakes, frankly, could not be higher. tomorrow a fired fbi director james comey will tell the senate intelligence committee the president of the united states asked him to drop the investigation of his fired national security adviser for possible improper contact with russia. he'll tell the committee the president did so after asking others, including the attorney general, to leave the room. those are just two headlines of many from his opening remarks which the committee released today. it's no exaggeration to say they hit this town with some seismic force pushing today's other intelligence committee hearings which were contentious, even combative in their own right, almost off the stage. that's because no testimony has been so hotly anticipated nor potentially so consequential to a sitting president in decades.
we'll look at all the angles and implications tonight starting with cnn's phil mattingly. >> reporter: nine one-on-one interactions with president trump. three in person and six on the phone details former fbi director james comey, describing one meeting with the president and other counterterrorism officials in the oval office where all but comey were asked to leave the room. i want to talk about mike flynn, comey quotes the president as saying. referring to his recently fired national security adviser. i hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting flynn go, comey says trump told him. he's a good guy. i hope you can let this go. comey goes on to say he prepared an unclassified memo of that conversation, understanding that the president was requesting he drop any probe into flynn. he shared that assessment with his fbi leadership team but declined to share it with attorney general jeff sessions on the assumption sessions would soon be recused.
while those details were kept closely held, comey says the next time he spoke to sessions, quote, i took the opportunity to implore the attorney general to prevent any future direct communication between the president and me. comey also recounts the private dinner when the president allegedly told him, quote, i need loyalty. i expect loyalty. comey describes his reaction as this. i didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. we simply looked at each other in silence. comey also seems to corroborate what trump wrote in his letter firing the fbi director. that he had first informed the president-elect on january 6th he wasn't the target of a counterintelligence investigation. it was a point based on comey's recounting ate at trump and dominated much of their
interactions after trump assumed office. >> during the phone call he said it and during another phone call he said it. he said it once at dinner and he said it twice during phone calls. >> did you call him? >> in one case i called him. one case he called me. >> did you ask him, am i under investigation? >> i asked him, yes. if it's possible, would you let me know, am i under investigation? he said, you are not under investigation. >> reporter: comey says trump stressed the cloud of the russia probe was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country. trump telling comey at one po t point, quote, we need to get that fact out. saying explicitly he hoped he could find a way to reiterate the point in their final phone call. trump adding this time, because i've been very loyal to you. very loyal. he had that thing, you know. comey says one of the primary reasons he wouldn't say publicly trump wasn't under investigation was, quote, the duty to correct
should that change. >> phil mattingly joins us now. how are the white house and president trump's allies reacting to this? >> reporter: vindication. that's what you're hearing are from president trump's lawyer and the republican national committee which is serving as kind of the de facto rapid response operation for james comey's testimony tomorrow. anderson, when you look at it, they're focused on a very small sliver of those seven pages we've been poring over. the part they made clear multiple times james comey told the president he was not the target of a counterintelligence investigation. as we also noted in that piece, anderson, jim comey made it clear it was something he didn't want to say publicly because there was a chance in the future he would have to correct that. >> you've been talking to senators. what are their expectations for tomorrow's hearing? >> reporter: well, look, they have been digesting the seven pages and the interesting element here is this testimony was released at the behest of jim comey. why? according to a source familiar with comey's thinking here, he wanted senators to have the time
to read this, get their heads around it. this source saying there's an understanding this is a complex narrative. he wanted everybody prepared in advance of the hearing. what are they doing to prepare? well, mash warner had a two-hour prep session according to one aide. several other democrats saying the same thing. what they want out of tomorrow is more than just this testimony. they want to lay out as many facts and details as they possibly can. one interesting note, though, the chairman of the committee, senator richard burr, saying he didn't believe he saw any wrongdoing at all. you're going to see a lot of conflicting views on what they actually saw in this testimony. some hope tomorrow from democrats that jim comey can clear up any misconceptions on the republican side and make the case for them as this investigation continues, anderson. >> certainly a big night. phil, thanks very much. paul begala is here, jechry toobin, david axelrod and phil. jeff, you said if that isn't obstruction of justice, i don't know what it is. >> and i think that's true.
when you look at the full scope of activity here by the president, when you see hem, you know, demanding loyalty and then making the demand once he's -- also, think about the scene in the oval office. it's just astonishing. he asks the vice president of the united states and the attorney general to leave. doesn't that suggest he wants real privacy? >> and jared kushner kind of lingers and then he tells jared kushner to leave. >> he wants comey alone. and what does he do? he says, can we make the investigation of michael flynn go away? repeatedly asks him, let him go. that, to me, is obstruction of justice. and the reason you know it's obstruction of justice is that when comey doesn't end the investigation, trump fires him. that's a pretty compelling case. >> mary katherine, is it obstruction of justice to you? >> i've been somebody along the way more likely to believe comey and be sympathetic of him than others and to believe him more than trump. i was most surprised to find
trump had told the truth about saying he was not under investigation. this document turns out comey is the one who set the precedent for them meetinging alone in the first meeting at trump tower. and then the subject of the conversation was that comey wanted to tell him on these personal, salacious part of the counter intelligence he was not under investigation personally for that. the thing that is interesting to me about that, as somebody who lays most of trump's faults at the feet of incompetence, if that was precedent set, i'm not that surprised he did it several more times. this does not exonerate him. why do we not talk about the fact the first meeting they had comey was like, we're going to sit down together alone and then i'm going to tell you you're not under investigation for this part of the investigation? >> do you see it as obstruction of justice? >> i think it's early in the process and i think this information is devastating to the president of the united states. >> devastating? >> devastating, but there is a
long way to go. >> why is it devastating? >> it's devastating because it shows the pattern leading to him firing comey because comey is pursuing this investigation and the president is saying don't pursue this investigation. don't pursue the flynn case. but, more importantly, the facts in this investigation is closing in on the president of the united states and at the same time we need more information. we have a sprawling investigation being conducted by a special counsel. we need more facts. we need -- i keep referring to the best obtainable version of the truth. there's gray area in here. there's been gray area all along, but nonetheless what we continually see is the president trying to impede, obstruct, and i'm not say iing obstruct in th legal sense, impede, obstruct, demean, shred the ongoing investigations into the conduct of him, his campaign, those ash around him and this is more of the same. but the most devastating yet.
we do need a lot more information, a long way to go, and we're just in the first stages of that. >> april? >> the questions loom about obstruction of justice. jeffrey may be hitting the nail squarely on the head, but there seems to be either someone who doesn't know what's going on or a clear abuse of power. and going back to that meeting that you talked about where he asked the vice president, and he asked the attorney general to leave, reince priebus even came back to save him. >> reince priebus even stuck his head in the door as if to say i'm here. he was trying to save him because he knew you're not supposed to do this. that's what i'm thinking from working around prior administrations. we have at least two administrations here. and he was trying to save him, understanding you are not supposed to be in that room alone with your fbi director. so the question now is where is
the fire because there's a lot of smoke. when you were talking about meeting prior to at trump tower he was president-elect. >> i know comey makes that distinction. i'm not sure trump makes that distinction. do you know what i'm saying? >> i don't know what you're saying. you have to understand -- >> you, yourself, said this may be an instance not knowing what they're doing and that's what i'm saying. >> this is why. comey probably came to set the parameters and i talked to axelrod prior to it and i was asking him, look, when you came into the white house, did you not get the protocol understanding of what happens, what you can and cannot do? there is a lot of stuff that's all right. he was president-elect at the time. you cannot hold him at that standard for this. >> i'm not holding him at the standard. i'm saying comey made the distinction but trump did not. >> i don't see your argument, i'm sorry. >> he only spoke alone with president obama, your former boss twice in person, never on the phone, he recalled nine one-on-one conversations with president trump in just four
months. what do you make of that? >> well, look, my recollection is when the president appointed judges, and i think when he appointed comey, the last thing he said to him after he made the appointment, this is the last time you and i are likely to be together alone in a room. he understood there had to be an independence for the fbi director, for judges, and that presidents should not have that kind of relationship with those appointees and those offices. the thing i would say is i think mary katharine is right there's a case to be made for ignorance and incompetence. >> not a flattering case. >> on the flynn matter, it's very hard to do and not just because of what's in the memo but because of what we already know. we know, for example, president obama warned him about flynn. we know the acting attorney general came to the white house and said he lied, and the vice president wept out and repeat that had lied and they didn't
tell the vice president and they didn't act for 18 days until this became public. and the next day he's calling comey in for dinner. the question is, what is it about flynn that has the president so frantic that he would delay firing him, that he would ask the fbi director in an extraordinary way not to go after him? i think that's what needs to be pursued. >> the president said -- or the president's attorney said he feels vindicated by comey's statement. the president's own comments last month contradict another part of comey's statement about letting the flynn investigation go. i want to play what he said. >> did you at any time urge former fbi director james comey in any way, shape, or form to close or back down the investigation into michael flynn? and, also, as you look back -- >> no, no. next question. >> so comey is going to refute that directly tomorrow. is that a problem for the president? >> no, i don't think so. if you look at it there's a lot
of unclarity from director comey's comments as to what these conversations actually entailed. keep in mind we're only hearing written commentary from one side of the conversation. we're not getting it from both sides. i think the fact director comey who i think everyone here on this panel and by all regards says he's meticulous, a detailed person. if he's going to write these detailed notes and not say there's obstruction of justice and not go and take this to attorney general sessions or not go and report this to white house counsel or go and make this public as we've seen in the past where he had these previous press conferences -- we even saw in his written testimony today words like compelled and instincts. so he wasn't compelled by his instincts to go and make this public and do something. again, all of this. >> he did go to sessions. >> he said don't leave me in the room with that man. >> what about obstruction of justice -- >> this has been a big deal from the very beginning. why didn't -- why didn't comey
go to sessions? he did go to sessions, and he said don't leave me alone in the room with that man. >> he didn't raise the specter of obstruction of justice. >> that's not his job. >> he absolutely should have said that. >> one at a time. >> can't come back now and try to play the obstruction of justice game. >> paul, what about that? >> it did happen. >> the others have argued, well, maybe in each particular incident he didn't see it but it's more of the pattern. how do you see it? >> i do think that's where the hearing will go tomorrow and should go. what did you do with that? when the president said to you i hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting flynn go, that does seem like very direct obstruction of justice. he went to the man and asked him to stop the investigation. that's pretty clear after making it clear that he wanted the fbi director to feel gratitude to him for keeping his job. the question is why didn't he go with that knowledge to someone?
i don't know, head of the fbi -- >> or to use that term. >> this is where i think you're making a huge mistake. when the president and his allies, this is vindication, because it does vindicate this talking point president trump has had that said three times fbi director comey. >> it's huge. >> it is huge. you can't impeach comey on everything else. comey is saying the president of the united states is a liar, and the president of the united states obstructed justice. you're saying although he did confirm one thing that trump said, honestly, i just think you can't refute comey's it testimony when you have now embraced comey's testimony. i'll take the entirety of it. i'm perfectly ready to believe that three times comey did say you're not personally under investigation. >> that's the biggest news today. >> he went and tried to stop an investigation. >> the president was proven right. >> one of the most extraordinary things i've ever heard and i think we ought to stop on it. jason, you just said the president was proven right. the president ought to be -- of the united states -- ought to be
proven right nine-tenths of the time. >> people elected him knowing that was the case. i'm a staunch critic. >> right nine-tenths of the time. >> the president asked for a loyalty pledge saying, quote, i need loyalty. i expect loyalty. there was this long, awkward silence where they're just staring at each other. how unusual is it for a president of the united states to ask the fbi director for loyalty? >> he didn't ask for loyalty. what he asked him for was i want to you do what i'm asking you to do. make this go away. if the fbi director -- i work for the special counsel for four and a half years down the hall, director mueller. if he ever called me in and s d said, phil, i want your loyalty. my first question would have been, what's wrong? why are you asking me? what did i do that led you to believe that i can't be loyal to you? the answer from the director of the fbi is, of course i will be
loyal but if there's a federal investigation where facts lead in a certain direction, i've got to follow that investigation. that conversation wasn't about loyalty. it was about do what i want to you do, and the proof of it partly is in him also asking, do you want to stay on the job? it's a ten-year term. why is the president asking if you want to stay on the job? and, second, i want you here without the attorney general, because i don't want him to hear it. >> so i'm no lawyer, much to the chagrin of my late mother, but i will -- but, you know, i could see where the president's lawyers might say, look, he did not order comey to do anything. he simply vouched for a guy who was his friend and said he hoped it worked out. the thing, jason, that makes it more insidious is the fact that he was fired. if he hadn't been fired, i think you'd have a much better case there. >> but not only fired, on twitter talking about i hope there's not a tape of this conversation. and the question now is he versus he. who do you believe? and, unfortunately, it seems like america right now is listening to comey. they're not totally believing
their president of the united states. and i'm going to say another thing tomorrow who tries to keep a grown man busy during the day to keep him distracted from something that the american public is watching so he won't tweet? that's another thing. no, no, no, no. no, no, no, that is true. tomorrow -- it's not silly. tomorrow he has a speech. >> the president will do what the president wants. >> caused his own party to say get off of twitter. mitch mcconnell. >> i think the tweets are smart. >> it is clear to me that the president is a person who acts inappropriately at times, who lies at times. i think many people actually voted for him knowing that in an exit poll said, yeah, we know those things. that's like a baseline. when you're saying it's pretty low bar to have this part confirmed, i'm a trump critic so, well, i'm actually sort of surprised by that.
i think the question is not whether he acted inappropriately but whether that amounts to an obstruction of justice. on a panel sometimes it feels a lot of report eers have already come to a conclusion about that before they've even heard him speak. >> i've been in that room 150 feet from the oval office for 20 years. i'm not condemning him, but i'm going to tell you this, there's a lot of smoke and there are a lot of alarm bells. >> you just told him -- >> that's not a media -- oh, my goodness. comey's letter is a media creation? i'm not going to take that, i'm sorry. you take that one. i'm not going to take that one. >> there is an ongoing investigation -- >> nobody can hear at home. go. >> april, there were sources who were saying on this network and on other networks that comey was going to testify that he did not it tell the president -- >> those sources were wrong and cnn corrected that. i will also point out the vast majority -- basically comey has confirmed just about everything else that we and others have been reporting now for weeks which is why some people are saying there's not much new here
but what's new is he's actually confirming some startling things in the eyes of a lot of people on this panel. >> i think it's a big egg on the face of members of the media who want this to be -- >> my face is clep. no egg. i think you're trying to spin -- republicans are trying to spin as their poll numbers are dropping watching this. people are believing the former fbi director who was fired because of -- >> you talk about you think this is obstruction of justice. are you talking about that from a legal standpoint? because the criminal statute, the federal obstruction of justice statute, my understanding there's a lot of them, witness tampering -- >> but it is actually very similar to watergate. the watergate cover-up. the june 23rd, 1973, the so-called smoking gun tape between halderman and richard nixon, was their agreement to pretend to use the cia to stop the fbi investigation of the watergate break-in.
this conversation was president trump saying to director comey stop the investigation of michael flynn. it's the use of presidential power to stop an fbi investigation for an improper purpose. >> jeff, can i ask you a question about this. there was a crime -- everybody knew there was a crime, a break-in at the watergate. do we know that flynn has commit add crime? >> by no means. >> and if he hasn't -- that's my question because i'm not a lawyer. if he hasn't committed a crime, does that make it a weaker case? >> no, not under the statute. and another question that i think a lot of people have is, well, if he didn't successfully obstruct justice is it obstruction of justice because, after you all, the president did not stop the fbi investigation. but the statute is very clear that an attempt to obstruct justice even if it's unsuccessful is obstruction of justice. >> i think it was the national review i saw someone making the argument about, okay, maybe it looks like it could be an abuse
of power but not necessarily obstruction of justice. there's a difference. >> there is a difference and, you know, i think one of the reasons this argument is a little -- is very unusual is it's far from clear constitutionally that the president, sitting president, could ever be charged with a crime. so director mueller is never going to end this by asking a grand jury to indict him. the real issue is will congress choose to investigate him for a high crime and misdemeanor, which is the standard for impeachment. that standard is not from title 18 of the united states code. that's a political judgment that congress has to make of what is a high crime and that's, you know, not something about parsing the statutes, it's about what congress thinks the president should be able to do. >> we have to take a quick break. we'll have a lot more tonight including more on the white house reaction. a closer look at this notion of vindication and how the president can take part of director comey's testimony and
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as we mentioned before the breng, the president is claiming vindication in light of director comey's opening statement in advance of tomorrow's testimony. more on that from athena jones. what more did the president's personal attorneys say? >> reporter: let me read from that statement. he said the president is pleased mr. comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports the president was not under
investigation in any shrussian probe. the president feels completely and totally vindicated. he is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda. now i should mention the republican national committee which is handling rapid response in the comey testimony is also pushing this same line about how these opening remarks from the former fbi director corroborate what the president him seven has said about having been told he's not personally under investigation. what's interesting here is that by using parts of the seven-page document and saying they're accurate, saying they're a defense and the president feels vindicated because of them, it might make it a bit harder to then call into question other parts of the same document. >> it is a seven-page statement from the director. are the president and his team acknowledging any other parts of it or responding to any other parts of it? >> reporter: well, this is interesting. our own wolf blitzer got a statement from another trump attorney, michael cohen, who takes issue with one part of
this. let me let you know what he said. he said comey's statement released today needs to be carefully scrutinized as his testimony claims the president was concerned about the dossier. he's talking there about a dossier put together by a former british intelligence officer that includes allegations about the president's ties to russia. but cohen said it must be noted the dossier has been debunked even by the author himself, christopher steele. this is a bit odd, anderson, because the second sentence from michael cohen is false. the dossier has not been debunked by its author, christopher steele. steele has said that not all of it is fully verified. we know from our reporting that some of it has been corroborated. so a little bit of an odd defense there from that second trump lawyer, michael cohen. anderson? >> strange to put out a statement that has something not factually accurate. athena jones, thank you. gloria borger, jeff toobim is back, harvard law school's alan
dershowitz, you say this actually strengthens his position against director comey. how so? >> let's look at the constitutional picture. the president could have told comey you are demanded, directed to drop the prosecution against flynn. comey acknowledges that. he says in the statement historically presidents have done that to the justice department. we've had a few years of separation. that tradition doesn't create crime. remember what the president could have done. he could have said to comey, stop this investigation. i am now pardoning flynn. that's what president bush did. in the beginning of the investigation of casper weinberger, which could have led back to the white house to the first president bush, president bush on the eve of the trial pardoned casper weinberger, pardoned six people, and special counsel said this is outrageous,
he's stopping the investigation. nobody talked about obstruction of justice. you cannot have obstruction of justice when the president exercises his constitutional authority to pardon, his constitutional authority to fire the director of the fbi or his constitutional authority to tell the director of the fbi who to prosecute, who not to prosecute. so let's get out of the weeds and let's look at the big constitutional question. >> but let me just ask you, professor, just to be clear, according to director comey the president told him, i quote, i hope you can let this it go, discussing michael flynn via the investigation. you don't believe he was trying to influence or impede any possible or further investigation of michael flynn? >> what i'm telling you is even if he did want to impede it and even if he did impede it, that is his constitutional power. he has the right to say you will not investigate flynn. the best proof of that is he could have simply said to comey stop the investigation. i've just pardoned flynn. it's over. my precedent, george bush.
he pardoned weinberger when weinberger could have easily pointed the finger back at bush. >> okay. i want to get jeffrey's take on your argument. >> respectfully i could not think alan is more wrong, and the simple response is watergate. i mean, under alan's theory -- let me finish, alan. let me finish. under your theory the president, since the fbi works for the president, he can tell them to do anything they want. well, in watergate, the president nixon and his -- they conspired, they made an agreement to stop the fbi investigation of watergate. was that a constitutional authority? no, it was a crime. several people went to jail, and the house judiciary committee voted to impeach president nixon over it. so, yes, he could have pardoned him but he cannot obstruct justice. >> you're saying impeachment is different than -- go ahead.
>> impeachment is political. there is no judicial review of impeach. you can impeach a president for jaywalking and nobody can review that. i'm talking about was there an objestruction of justice. i have to tell you, and i wonder if you would agree with me, jeffrey, if we were called as expert witnesses in an impeachment trial of president trump, and we were asked the question, has president trump committed an obstruction of justice by pardoning flynn or by firing comey or by telling comey not to investigate flynn? my answer an an expert on the constitution would be absolutely not. he didn't commit an obstruction of justice. congress can impeach imif you don't like what he did, if you think it's obstructionish or if he wasn't the president but you cannot say it's a crime. it's simply not a crime for the president to exercise his constitutional authority to pardon, to direct the fbi. it wasn't a crime when thomas jefferson directed the attorney general what to do.
it wasn't a crime when lincoln did it. it wasn't a crime when president obama -- >> i mean, alan, i think you're coming up with all sorts of interesting hypotheticals, but i think it is well established that the president of the united states cannot engage in corrupt acts, acts designed to protect his political interests and use the fbi to advance those political interests and obstruct justice. i just think that's so basic. >> as long as he doesn't destroy tapes. as long as he doesn't fail to comply with the subpoena. >> i want to bring in -- >> exercise his constitutional authority, he cannot be prosecuted for exercising his constitution authority. >> i want to bring in gloria. the president's personal attorney is focusing on the fact that, according to comey's opening statement, he is, in the president's words, vindicated. >> right. he's vindicated because comey said that he told the president
that he, you know, wasn't investigating him. and our reporting, and we've corrected that because comey said quite clearly he had told the president that a few times, although i am looking forward to his testimony tomorrow because i'm sure they're going to ask him to elaborate on his conversations with the president and how exactly he told him. but so i believe they feel vindicated to a great degree because the president was clearly concerned, first and foremost, about himself. number one. number two, the thing that i can't get out of my mind here is why is he so concerned about general flynn? i mean, he asked -- you know, he had this conversation with comey the day after flynn was fired, and he cleared the decks. there were a whole bunch of people in the room. there was the vice president was in the room, the attorney general was in the room, jared kushner was in the room. and he got them all out of the room. and then he said, you know, i'd
like you to see your way out of this. and did the president know that he was doing something he shouldn't be doing by clearing that room? i would think so. >> professor d, the president h not held office before, maybe is naive to the separations that are suppose d to exist. >> i think that's probably right. most people wouldn't know about these separations. >> although most people wouldn't be president of the united states. >> i don't think that's the argument that will succeed for president trump. i think the argument that will succeed is since he had the right to tell him to stop the investigation, he surely had the right to say, look, he's a good guy. comey agreed he's a good guy. i would request that you stop the investigation. comey said, no. comey didn't stop the investigation. he went on -- >> and he got fired for his trouble. >> right. and, by the way -- >> he has the right. he was fired for a different
reason. if you look at the comey memo, the reason he probably got fired is the president told him over and over again, i want you to make public the fact that i am not under investigation. he told it to him repeatedly. that's in the memo. and comey didn't do that. and i suspect that may be one of the reasons he was fired. the memo also says that he never asked him to stop the investigation of the russian thing, only to stop the investigation of flynn because he if felt sorry for flynn. flynn's a good guy. it's very much like what bush -- i'm sorry -- >> we don't know what the president actually -- we don't know -- we know accord iing to comey -- we know according to comey what the president said the reason is, flynn's a good guy, but we have no idea if that is actually the reason or if there's some knowledge shared between michael flynn and the president of the united states. we don't know that. >> we don't know and we don't know why president bush, who was widely admired, made the decision on the eve of trial to pardon casper weinberger when walsh said the reason for that is weinberger may have pointed
his finger at the oval office. nobody suggested that. >> maybe that's the reason here. we don't know any of this, and as long as you're speculating -- >> let's not the even go down -- >> i want to add one thing. >> okay, very quickly. >> that donald trump was asked directly in may whether he asked comey to drop the flynn investigation at a press conference. >> we played that. he said he did not do that, and that seems to be directly contradicted by comey. thanks to everybody. coming up today's other hearing that was quite something even by washington standards, which these days is pretty high, four of the country's top intelligence chiefs faced questions for more than two hours. it got very heated at times. the headlines from that hearing next. americans - 83% try to eat healthy.
top intelligence chiefs in the you states gathered for a hearing today ostensibly on foreign surveillance. what dominated was whether the president interfered in any way in their respective russian investigations. there were not a whole lot of answers. plenty of fireworks at time. brianna keilar has the details. >> my questions deserve answers. >> reporter: in a contentious intelligence hearing today -- >> and we've gotten no answer from any of you. >> reporter: senators from both sides of the aisle expressed frustration, and at times, anger at the president's intelligence chiefs. >> i do mean it in a contentious way. >> reporter: repeatedly asking the men to confirm or shoot down news reports that the president asked them to help end the russia investigation. >> if any of this is true, it would be an appalling, improper use of our intelligence
professionals. an act, if true, that could erode the public's trust in our intelligence institutions. >> reporter: yet instead of confirming or denying any specific conversations the director of the national security agency and the director of national intelligence would only answer broadly saying they had never felt pressured by the president. >> in the three-plus years that i have been the director of the national security agency, to the best of my recollection i have never been directed to do anything i believed to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate and to the best of my recollection during that same period of service i do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so. >> in my time of service, which is interacting with the president of the united states or anybody in this administration i have never been pressured, i have never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way. >> reporter: but the two intel leaders would not go further,
repeatedly stonewalling the committee on questions of whether the reported conversations with the president happened or what was said. >> you realize how simple it would simply be to say, no, that never happened? >> i think conversations between the president and myself are, for the most part -- >> you seem to apply that standard selectively. >> no, i'm not applying it selectively. i'm just saying i don't think it's appropriate -- >> you could clear a lot up by saying that didn't happen. >> i do not the share with the general public conversations that i have with the president. >> oh, i think your unwillingness to answer a very ba basic question speaks volumes. >> reporter: over and over again. >> you went back on a pledge -- >> reporter: angry senators pushed back. >> can you give me a yes or no answer, please. >> reporter: asking the men who at times shifted uncomfortably in their seats to give detailed answers. >> i've never been directed to do anything in the course of my three plus years --
>> not directed, asked. >> that i felt to be inappropriate or pressure to do so. >> have you ever been asked to say something that isn't true? >> i stand by my previous statement. >> reporter: coates and rodgers told the senators they discussed their testimony with white house counsel, but they also said they had not been given direction from the white house to refuse to answer or invoke the president's executive privilege telling the committee only it would be inappropriate to discuss their conversations with the president publicly infuriating independent senator angus king. >> i'll ask both of you the same question. why are you not answering these questions? is there an invocation by the president of the united states of executive privilege? is there or not? >> not that i'm aware of. >> then why are you not answering? >> i feel it's inappropriate, senator. >> what you feel isn't relevant, admiral. what you feel isn't the answer. you swore that oath to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. and today you are refusing to do so. what is the legal basis for your refusal to testify to this
committee? >> i'm not sure i have a legal basis. >> reporter: and in a rare moment of bipartisan exasperation even the republican chair of the committee chastised the directors closing the hearing by saying copping had a right to the truth. >> at no time should you be in a position where you come to congress without an answer. it may be in a different format, but the requirements of our oversight duties and your agencies demand it. >> and brianna joins us now. you mentioned coates and rodgers said they were not given directions from the white house to invoke executive privilege. is that still a possibility? >> reporter: well, they asked -- it appears to still be a possibility, of course, because the intel leaders technically are subject to it. they work at the behest, of course, of president trump, so they would fall under that. but their inquiries, it appears, were not answered. we have asked if executive privilege is going to be invoked. we have not heard back. they did inquire with white
house counsel about their testimony. we know that. but when it comes to this issue of executive privilege, it's still up in the air. obviously there's a lot of sensitivity but it wasn't -- they're saying they weren't going to answer questions wasn't based on that legal basis as you noticed, anderson. >> brianna keilar. back with the panel. jeff, that moment he admits there is no legal basis and no executive privilege. >> it was amazing. when you're testifying before congress, it's not like what you feel like answering. there are legal rules that you either can limit your answer, if it's covered by attorney/client privilege or executive privilege or classified information. he just didn't feel like answ answering. and i think one of the things that's really disturbing about this is that in watergate there was a special prosecutor and a congressional investigation. in iran-contra there was a special prosecutor and a congressional investigation.
the congressional investigations proceeded even though there was a prosecutor. here it sounded like all of these witnesses were saying, well, i can't answer these questions because there's a special prosecutor. congress has a right to these answers. the public has a right to these answers. and for them simply to blow off congress because there's another investigation or because they don't feel like it, i just think it's outrageous. >> senator mckay said that, conversations with -- he didn't want to do anything that revealed his conversations that might be part of mueller's investigation. >> that's very interesting because in the past when you think about presidents and their conversations, they don't want to divulge information for fear -- and that's something we heard during the bush years with valerie plame and scooter libby. they didn't want to divulge information. going back to what jeff said, it makes no sense. this is about getting to the bottom of what is what. and in the house they're trying
to figure out what to do. congresswoman sheila jackson-lee just convened a meetinging of what steps could be taken. they had constitutional lawyers, constitutional scholars as to what the judiciary committee could do in case there is found to be an abuse of power. and this session we didn't see much come out of it. but the question is, how far will they dig? what can they get from this? >> carl, how unusual was this today? >> it was an appalling moment. their absolute contempt for the copping of the united states and they showed it in their attitude. what's so extraordinary about it here we have the congress of the yunited states for a change, a committee really trying to do its job, trying to sift through facts, really being meticulous. that is a rare event, all of us would probably agree, and these guys go up there and try to stiff them. it's appalling. >> phil, do you see it the same way? >> heck no. 180 degrees different. i would have said stuff it for
three reasons. number wone, which committee do you want me to talk to -- judiciary, government affairs, intel? do you want me to talk to the senate, the house? this is about the dysfunction of the congress. how many conversations am i going to have? second, have you coordinated this with director mueller? how am i suppose d to talk to yu and then go talk to the federal investigator over at the fbi. and third and final, when i walk into the oval office tomorrow and the president wants to have a confidential conversation about an intelligence issue and he says, are you going to go talk on national tv about this? what do i tell him? one minor point, actually significant, they made a huge mistake at the outset. as soon as they said we weren't pressured but we won't talk they opened the door. you either close it or you open it. you don't start by saying no pressure but i won't explain what the conversation was. >> what i thought was remarkable there's dan coates who spent decades in the senate. he would never have accepted that answer if he were on the other side asking those questions. and he knows better.
and it made me wonder as i listened to the two of them, it may be they felt a sense of propriety about what they could or couldn't say. it may have been that. it felt there was an orchestrated play that we were going to give these answers and we were not going to go beyond these answers even though their first answer begged the question. >> jason, as a supporter of the president, were those the right answers to give? >> i think rogers came across much more buttoned up. coates' answer did not come across well. he should have had a tighter answer. >> because he acknowledged he didn't have any legal backup for what he said? >> yeah. the optics of that were just a bad answer. i think when he started off saying that he hadn't been pressured, that there hadn't been anything untoward, both he and admiral rogers gave slightly different answers but made it very clear they had not been pressured to do anything inappropriate. i thought that was good and i was surprised they didn't go a little bit further but, again, this whole thing today i thought this was suppose d to be about russia. i thought this was supposedly about trying to get to the
president about some supposed coordination between the campaign and some foreign entity. that has been thrown out. you can see why republicans look at this and feel it's a witch-hunt because they see this happen today. i thought this was about russia. >> the hearing actually was about section 7 of the surveillance act, a controversial section that allows the government to eavesdrop on foreigners not on americans but still a lot of americans have problems with it. that's what the intelligence community wants. they want that reauthorized, and that's what the hearing was about. it's been set for months. the problem, i think jerry has a good point. even though i work in the media now. more as a government official, government needs to keep secrets. people in journalism always want everything to come out. i respect that. the government needs to keep secrets about sources and methods how it obtains intelligence. i believe in executive privilege. the president has to have a right to talk to his closest aides and not have it come out. but you have to assert those rights. they deliberately said the president is not invoking
executive privilege and this is not classified but we just don't feel -- so i think they have discredited themselves and limited the very legitimate times the president has to sometimes say, look, we can't tell you. i think think hurt their own cause. >> >> it's been factually found out that he is not so how can you say you're from tekting that when the president is not and president obama was in when appropriate is when he received sources and methods. so what is it? >> that's -- that's the problem. we already have a president who in his brief tenure has apparently let the cat out of the bag about an isis source that our closest ally in the middle east israel reportedly had to the russians in the oval office. i understand that. >> i mean, executive authority doesn't cease to exist as a concept because the president learns some things and not other things. >> sources and methods is some of the most sensitive intel you
can get. >> they can assert executive authority. this is like clearly an execution problem if you're going to go there and say we weren't pressured then answer the questions or assert some sort of legal basis for not doing it. it seems to me that all the people here including comey are having a split the baby problem where they want to say, look, i wasn't compromised here but also i don't want to go too much further than that and they're all sort of landing in the middle. >> where does this go? i mean, for, you know, for someone's watching at home and here's what comey said today, where does this go? >> there's sort of two general parts of this investigation. one is the obstruction of justice in the white house after trump becomes president. you know, the comey situation here. the other part of the investigation which is really just getting started is what was the nature of the relationship between the trump campaign and the russians? and was there any inappropriate
or unlawful collusion? that's a very complicated and lengthy investigation and, you know, i wish it were all over today but that's -- >> and do the two come together? that's why we need to step back and give this have time. let them take testimony. let's not all of us going to talking points. >> but we know that -- >> it is -- it is interesting, david -- it is interesting in the comey statement that was released today according to comey the president seemed willing to, i don't know how to describe it, but basically say, look, if some satellite people related to the campaign were involved -- >> acknowledged maybe some people -- >> throwing some people under the bus if they were -- >> yeah. i think that clearly he was willing to do that. and so -- >> something he had said publicly once in a press conference i think he sort of intimated, well, may have been some other people.
>> i think sean spicer did, as well, once from the podium, separating himself, separating some of these people who are under investigation. i want to give credence to what jason said. i hope that the investigation also does ultimately focus on the larger role that russia's playing, played in our election and playing in the world right now. we saw a situation in the middle east where they fomented a crisis apparently by leaking a false document. and so, this is the world in which we live right now so there is a serious mission for congress here in addition to finding out exactly who and who was involved in this situation here. >> that's, to jason's point, though, when there are investigations, often they start out as one. with clinton, whitewater and then -- >> failed real estate deal of exposing an affair. the may 18th press conference. president santos here and
president trump said, this is exact quote. there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign but i can only speak for myself and the russians. so there in public he gave a hipt to careful listeners and believe me if he had aides or advisers colluding, they were listening. i'm going to throw you under the bus and apparently same thing to jim comey. believe me, the targets, president's not under investigation. somebody is and they're listening. they're lawyering up. and they know trump's throwing them under the bus. >> that kind of statement makes the flynn stand out because, jason, you may disagree with this, the one thing the president didn't distinguish himself for is blind loyalty to the people around him. he's throwing people under the bus right and left so why is there one guy to go to the lengths and everybody else is thrown over the side? >> i don't think they can have it both ways. make the case that the president is trying to obstruct justice
and shut this thing down or telling comey to complete the investigation and do what you need to do and i think that -- i take it -- >> which he did according to comey and described as satellites who may have done something, it would be good to know that. >> i interrupted that as the president saying make sure you continue to -- >> right. >> i think folks can't have it both ways on this. that's my point there. >> don't we need to come back to the question, though, the president himself said that he was firing the head of the fbi because of this russia thing? and that's why i keep saying, these two things are not separate. meanwhile, special prosecutor has hired former head of the fraud division of the justice department to be his assistant in one area of investigation which has to do with money, follow the money. that is going to go into the trump organization. it's going to go into the finances of the campaign. it is going to go into paul manifort's accounts.
we don't know where any of this is going and i keep coming back to that because why do we need to decide the case here? yes. the's prima facia evidence the president may have obstructed justice but we have a long ways to go high're we have a long ways to go tonight. stunning details we are expecting to hear on capitol hill tomorrow about president trump's fired fbi director james comey. as well as we'll have more on the president's reaction in a moment. and i thought, well, you need to go to the doctor. i was told that is was cancer, and i called cancer treatment centers of america. dr. nader explained that they can pinpoint the treatment. once we identified that there was this genetic abnormality in her tumor, we were able to place her on very specific therapy. our individualized care model gives each lung patient specific treatment options with innovative procedures that are changing the way we fight lung cancer. we have excellent technology that allow
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well, we are now just hours from what might be the most highly anticipated senate hearing since clarence thomas aanita hill. we have a preview of what he will say, the opening statement outlining the discomfort with the conversations with the president, the need to break precedent he says and document them and the president's efforts to get him to drop the investigation of fired national security adviser michael flynn. along with the senate, the house intelligence committee is investigating. joining us is a member of the house committee, jim himes of connecticut. based on what you heard from the opening, what you read in the opening statement, is there obstruction of justice? >> well, you know, this is ultimately a complicated question that's going to center for all the noise you're going to hear and hear a lot of noise seeing an effort being ramped up right now to damage the
credibility of jim comey, this all boils down and i'm probably not the right person on the panel to make this definitive judgment, this thing boils down to the question of whether the president intended to influence this -- to influence this investigation. it doesn't matter what comey felt at the time. you know, the comments we got out of the senate today where the dni and other says i didn't -- it matters if the president intended to influence the investigation and we have to hear the answers tomorrow from jim comey. the remarkable document, the's a lot of stuff between the lines that as we speak there are a lot of smart senate staffers who are coming up with the questions to get at when's between the lines. >> you said it painted a detailed and disturbing picture of president trump. >> at one level there's something undeniable and that point is in a society and country that values the rule of law that for generations has built structures that keep the fbi