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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  June 7, 2017 9:00pm-10:01pm PDT

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and good evening from washington where the stakes frankly could not be higher. a fired fbi james comey will tell the senate that the president asked him to stop the investigation into michael flynn. they asked the attorney general to leave the room. those are two headlines of many from his opening remarks which the committee released today. it is no exaggerate they hit the
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town with seismic force pushing today apartments other intelligence committee hearings contentious combative in dhr own right off the stage. that is no testimony has been more motley anticipated nor consequential to a sitting president in decades. we'll look at the angles starting with tonight's phil mattingly. >> reporter: nine one on one interactions with president trump, three in person and six on the phone, detailing former fbi director comey's testimony. 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 advisor. 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
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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 6 he
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wasn't the target of a counter intelligence investigation. it was a point that, 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 then during another phone call he said it. so, he said it once at dinner and then he said it twice during phone calls. >> did you call him? >> in one case i called him, in one case he called me. >> did you ask, am i under investigation? >> i asked him, yes. i said, if it's possible, would you let me know, am i under investigation? he said, you are not under investigation. >> 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 point, quote, we need to get that fact out. at another, saying explicitly, he hoped i could find a way to get out that he wasn't being investigated. and reiterating the point in their final phone call, trump adding this time, because i've been very loyal to you, very
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loyal. we had that thing, you know? comey says one of the primary reasons he wouldn't say publicly trump wasn't under investigation was, quote, because it would create a duty to correct should that change. >> phil mattingly joins us now. how are the white house and donald trump react to this? >> vindication, that's what you're hearing from donald trump's personal lawyer and the national committee which is serving as the de facto rapid response operation for james comey's testimony tomorrow. anderson, when you look at it, only focused on a small sliver of those seven pages we've all been pouring over the last couple of hours. the part where they make clear multiple times jim comey told the president that as it currently stood, he was not the target of a counter intelligence investigation. as we also noted in that piece, anderson, jim comey made very clear that was at that moment and something he didn't want to say publicly because there was a chance perhaps in the future he'd have to correct that. >> you have also been talking to senators. what are their expectations for
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tomorrow's hearing? >> well, look, obviously they have all 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 is an understanding. this is a complex narrative. he wanted everybody prepared in advance of the hearing. what are they doing to prepare? well, mark warner, the top democrat on the committee, 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 layout as many facts and details saz they possibly can. one interesting note, though, the chairman of the committee, senator richard burr saying he didn't, after reading this testimony, 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.
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big panel, paul here, jason, mary catherine, jeffrey tubin, carl bernstein, david axelrod and phil mudd. you said if that isn't obstruction of justice, i don't know what is. >> i think that's true. when you look at the full scope of activity here by the president, when you see him demanding loyalty and then making the demand -- 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 that he wants real privacy? >> and jared kushner sort of lingers and he tells jared kushner to leave. >> he tells 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
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investigation, trump fires him. that's a pretty compelling case. >> catherine, is it obstruction of justice to you? >> i've been somebody who along the way has been 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 that trump had told the truth about him saying he was not under investigation. and the interesting thing to me about them meeting alone is that when you read this document, it turns out comey is the one who set the precedent for them meeting alone and that 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 that he was not under investigation personally for that. the thing that is interesting to me about that is as somebody who lays most of trump's faults at the feet of incompetence versus nefariousness, if that was the precedent that was set, i'm not at all 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
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sit down together alone and then i'm going to tell you that you're not under investigation for this part of the investigation. >> carl bernstein, do you see it as obstruction of justice? >> well, 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 important, the facts and these investigations are 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 saying obstruct
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justice in the legal sense. impede, obstruct, demean, shred the ongoing investigations into the conduct of him, his campaign, those around him, and this is more of the same, but the most devastating yet, but 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. 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 stuck his head in the door. >> yes, to say, i'm here. and he was trying to save him because he knew that you're not supposed to do this. that's what i'm thinking from working around prior
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administrations. we have at least two administrations here. 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 is a lot of smoke. when you were talking about meeting prior to at trump tower, he was president-elect. >> let me make the distinction. >> you cannot qualify that. >> do you see what i'm saying? >> no, i don't see what you're saying. what you have to understand is -- >> you yourself said this might be -- >> one at a time. listen. >> this is why comey probably came to set the parameters. and i talked to axelrod prior to and i was asking him, look, when you came into the white house, did you not get the protocol understanding about what happens, what you can and cannot do? there is a lot of stuff that's awry. he was president-elect at that time. you cannot hold him to that standard for this. >> i'm not holding him to that standard. comey made that distinction,
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trump did not. you said there is a chance they didn't know what they were doing. >> director comey made a point 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 that when the president appointed judges -- and i think when he appointed comey, the last thing he said to them after he made the appointment was this is the last time you and i are likely to be together alone in a room because he understood that there had to be a -- 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 that i would say is i think mary catherine is right, there is a case to be made for ignorance and incompetence. i think there is some of that -- >> the case is there. >> on the flynn matter it's very hard to do, and not just because of what's in the memo, but
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because 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 went out and repeated that lie 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. so, 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 the 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 to back down the investigation into michael
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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. i mean, i think if you look at it, there is a lot of unclarity from director comey's comments as to what these conversations actually entailed. keep in mind we are only hearing written commentary for one side of this conversation. we are not getting everything from both sides. but i think the fact that director comey -- i think everyone here on this panel, they would say he's very meticulous, detailed type person. if he's going to write through and write these detailed type notes and not say there is obstruction of justice and not take this to attorney general sessions, or not report this to white house counsel don mcgahn or make this public where we've seen in the past where he'd have previous press conferences, we 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 to do something. -- >> he didn't go to sessions.
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don't let me in the room with that man. >> one at a time. >> from the very beginning, 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 spectre of obstruction of justice. >> that's not his job. >> he absolutely should have said that. >> one at a time. >> he can't come back now and play the obstruction of justice game. >> it's not a game. >> what about that? if he's saying obstruction of justice at the time -- others have argued well maybe in each particular incident he didn't see it, but it's more the pattern. >> 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 conducting
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the investigation, 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 who, the head of the fbi. >> this is where i think you guys are making the huge mistake. when the president and his allies -- this is vindication, because it does vindicate this talking point trump had, three times the fbi director told me -- >> it's huge. >> it is huge. but when you give that away, you can't impeach comey on everything else. comey is -- not basically. comey is saying the president of the united states is a liar and obstructed justice. although he did confirm one thing that trump said, i think honestly, i just think you can't impugn comey's testimony when you have now embraced comey's testimony. i'll take the entirety of it. three times comey did say you are not under investigation yet. it's not the biggest news. he tried to stop the investigation.
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>> the president was proven right. >> one at a time. >> 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 9/10 of the time on everything he says. >> you're not around this town that much. >> actually the people electing him -- >> i expect the president to be right 9/10 of the time. >> we haven't heard from you. the president, according to director comey, 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 stairi staring at each other. how unusual is it for the the president of the united states to ask for loyalty? >> he didn't ask for loyalty. i'm asking you to do what i'm asking you to do. i work for the special counsel 4 1/2 years down the hall, director mueller.
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if he ever called me in and 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'll be loyal. but if there is 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 you to 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. 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
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there. >> but not only fired, on twitter talking about i hope there is not a tape of this conversation. and the question now is he versus he. who do you believe? 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, that is true. tomorrow -- >> that's silly. >> no, it's not silly. tomorrow at 12:30 -- at 10:00, let's see -- >> can i suggest maybe -- >> his own party to say, get off of twitter. mitch mcconnell. >> i think the tweets are smart. >> it is clear to me 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
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exit poll saying we know he does those things. that's a baseline. it's pretty low bar to have this part confirmed. i'm a trump critic. 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 it feels like a lot of reporters have come to a conclusion for that before they even -- >> i have been in that room 150 feet from the oval office for 20 years. so, i'm not condemning him, but i'm going to tell you this. there is a lot of smoke and there are a lot of alarm bells. >> that's media creation. it absolutely is. >> the comey's letters are media creation? i'm not going to take that, i'm sorry. you take that one. >> there is an ongoing investigation. >> nobody can hear at home. april. >> there were sources who were saying on this network and on other networks that comey was going to testify that he did not tell the president that he was -- >> those sources were wrong and
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cnn corrected that. i will also point out the vast majority -- i mean, 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 is not much new here. but what's new is he's actually confirming some startling things in the eyes i think of a lot of people on this panel. >> i think that's a big egg on the face for many in media -- >> oh, please, my face is clean. 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 -- >> i don't think people can hear this. are you talking about that from a legal standpoint? because the criminal statutes, the federal obstruction of justice statutes, my understanding there's a lot of them with, you know, it's witness tampering. >> but it is actually very similar to watergate. the watergate cover up. i mean, the june 23rd, 1973, the
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so-called smoking gun tape between hr haldeman and richard nixon was their agreement to pretend to use the cia to stop the 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. there was a break-in at the watergate. do we know that flynn has committed a crime? >> by no means. >> that's my question, i'm not a lawyer. if he hasn't committed a crime, does that make it a weaker case? >> 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 all, the president did not stop the fbi
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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, okay, maybe it looks like it could be an abuse of power, but not necessarily obstruction of justice. there is a difference. >> there is a difference and, you know, i think one of the reasons why this argument is a little -- is very unusual, 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, high crime and misdemeanor is not from title 18 of the united states code. that is a political judgment congress has to make of what is a high crime, and that's not something about parsing the
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statutes. it's about what congress thinks the president should be able to do. >> all right. we have to take a quick break. we're going to have a lot more tonight, the white house reaction and a closer look at the notion of vindication, can the president take part of comey's testimony and say vindication. later the hearing and the fire storm that erupted when they tried to get top intelligence officials to answer basic questions about the russia investigation. but when it comes to mortgages, he's less confident. fortunately, there's rocket mortgage by quicken loans. apply simply. understand fully. mortgage confidently. ♪ when it comes to heartburn... trust the brand doctors trust. nexium 24hr is the #1 choice of doctors and pharmacists for their own frequent heartburn. for all day and all night protection... banish the burn... with nexium 24hr.
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not under investigation in any russian 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 to the comey testimony, is also pushing this same line about how these opening remarks from the former fbi director corroborate what the president himself has said about having been told that he's not personally under investigation. what's interesting here is that by using parts of the 7-page document and saying that they're accurate in their defense saying the president feels vindicated because of them, it might make it a bit harder to call into question other parts of the same document. >> it is a 7-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? >> well, this is interesting. wolf blitzer got a statement from another trump attorney, michael cohen who takes issue
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with one part of this. let me let you know what he said. he said, comey's statement really today needs to be carefully scrutinized as his testimony claims the president was concerned about the dossier. he is 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 says it must be noted the dossier has been debunked even by the author himself, christopher steel. this is a bit odd, anderson, because that second sentence from michael cohen is false. the dossier has not been debunked by its author christopher steel. steel 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 that is not factually accurate. athena jones thank you for joining us. chief political reporter gloria
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borger. professor dershowitz, you say this is not obstruction of justice by the president and it actually strengthens his position against director comey. how so? >> well, first of all let's look at the big constitutional picture. the president could have told comey, you are commanded, directed to drop the prosecution against flynn. the president has the right to do that. comey acknowledges that. he says in the statement that historically, historically presidents have done that through the justice department. but in the last few years we've had a tradition of separation, but that tradition doesn't create crime. remember also 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 cast per wine berger which could have led back to the white house, to the first president bush, president bush on the eve of the trial pardoned cast per wine berger, pardoned six people and special counsel walsh said, this is outrageous,
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he's stopping the investigation. nobody said obstruction of justice. you can't 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 -- >> let me just ask you, professor. just to be clear, when, according to director comey, the president told him, quote, i hope you can let this go, discussing michael flynn in 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 that 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 have just pardoned flynn. it's over. my precedent, george bush.
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he pardoned wine berger when wine berger could have easily pointed the finger back -- >> 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 vote today impeach president nixon over it. so, yes, he could have pardoned him, but he could not obstruct justice. >> you're saying impeachment is different -- go ahead. >> impeachment is political.
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there is no judicial review of impeachment. you can impeach a president for jay walking and nobody can review that. i'm talking about was there an obstruction of justice. i have to tell you and i wonder if you agree with me, jeffrey. if you and i 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 as an expert on the constitution would be absolutely not. he didn't commit an obstruction of justice. congress, you can impeach him if you don't like what he did. if you think it's obstruction-ish or obstruction if he wasn't the president. it is 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.
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it wasn't a crime when lincoln did it. it wasn't a crime when president obama -- >> 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 and -- >> as long as he doesn't destroy tapes, as long as he doesn't fail to comply with the subpoena, as long as he exercises his constitutional authority, he cannot be prosecuted for exercising his constitutional 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 word, vindicated. >> he's vindicated because comey said that he told the president
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that he, you know, that he wasn't investigating him. >> that is his -- some of the reporting that we have -- >> we have corrected that because comey said quite clearly that he had told the president that a few times, although i am looking forward to his testimony tomorrow because i'm sure they are going to ask him to elaborate on his conversations with the president and how exactly he told him. but, so, i believe that 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 was a whole bunch of people in the room. there was -- you know, 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
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like you to see your way out of this. did the president know that he was doing something he shouldn't be doing by clearing that room? i would think so. >> professor richards, what do you make of the argument, the president has not held office before, he is maybe naive to the separations that are supposed to exist? >> well, i think that's probably right. i think most people wouldn't know about these separations. >> most people wouldn't be president of the united states. >> but 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. >> by the way -- >> he has the right -- he was fired for a different reason.
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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 a memo, and comey didn't do that. and i su expect 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 felt sorry for flynn. flynn's a good guy. it's very much like what bush -- sorry -- >> we don't know what the president actually -- we don't know -- we know -- we noah correspondeding to comey the president said the reason is flynn is a good guy. we have no idea if that is the reason or if there is 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 wine berger.
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the reason for that he may have pointed his finger at the oval office. nobody suggested -- >> maybe that's the reason here. you know, we don't know any of this and as long as you're speculating -- >> let's not go down that -- >> yeah. i would just add one thing. >> okay, very quickly. >> donald trump was asked directly in may whether he asked comey to drop the flynn investigation at a press conference and he said, no, no. >> we played that. he said he did not do that and that seems to be directly contradicted by comey. thanks, everybody. coming up today's other hearing that was quite something even by washington standards which these days are pretty high, four of the country's top intelligence chiefs faced questions from the senate intel committee for more than two hours. it got very heated at times. we'll have the headlines from that hearing next. think again.
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well, the top intelligence chiefs in the united states gather for senate intelligence hearing today ostensibly on foreign surveillance. you might imagine what dominated the question whether the president interfered in any way in their respective russia investigations. there were not a whole lot of answers. there were fire works a lot of times. here are the details.
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>> my questions deserve answers. >> reporter: in a contentious intelligence hearing today, senators from both sides of the aisle expressed frustration and at times anger at the president's intelligence chiefs. >> i do mean it -- >> 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 and 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
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illegal, immoral, inethical 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 his administration, i have never been pressured. i have never felt pressure to intervenor 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 can clear an awful lot up
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by simply saying it never happened. >> i don't share -- i do not share with the general public conversations that i have with the president. >> well, i think your unwillingness to answer a very 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? >> 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 nigh three plus years as director of the national security -- that i felt to be inappropriate nor have i felt pressured to do so. >> have you ever been asked so say something that isn't true? >> i stand by my previous statement, sir. >> reporter: coats and rogers told 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 to invoke the president's executive privilege, telling the committee only that it would be inappropriate to discuss their conversations with the president publicly. eventually infuriating independent senator angus king.
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>> 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 am aware of >> then why are you not answering -- >> because i feel it is 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 zm >> i'm not sure i have a legal basis. >> reporter: and in a rare moment, a bipartisan exasperation, even the republican chair of the committee chastised the directors closing the hearing saying congress 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 for matt, but the requirements of our oversight duties and your agencies demand it.
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>> she joins us now. you mentioned coats and rogers said they were not given directions from the white house to invoke executive privilege. is that still a possibility? >> well, they asked. it appears to still be a possibility, of course, because these 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 was a lot of sensitivity, but it wasn't -- they're saying that they weren't going to answer questions. wasn't based in that legal basis as you certainly noticed, anderson. >> yeah, all right, brianna keeler, thank you so much. back to the panel. that moment where he admits there is no legal basis and there is no executive privilege. >> it was amazing. when you're testifying before
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congress, it's not like what you feel like answering. there are legal rules that you either limit your answer, if it's covered by attorney/client privilege or executive privilege or classified information, he just didn't feel like answering. i think one of the things that's really disturbing about this is in watergate, there was a special prosecutor and there was 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 is another investigation or because they don't feel like it, i just think it's outrageous. >> andrew mccabe actually said that his conversations with --
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he didn't want to do anything that revealed his conversations that might be part of the mueller's investigation. >> you know, that's very interesting because in the past, when you think about presidents and principals and their conversations, they don't want to divulge information for fear. that's some of the things we heard during the bush years with valerie plame and scooter libby. 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 are trying to figure out what to do. congresswoman sheila jackson lee just convened a meeting of what steps could be taken, next steps. 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
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congress of the united states and its legitimate function, and they showed it in their attitude. but what's so extraordinary about it is here we have the congress of the united 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 can tell you what i would have done, and i would have said stuff it for three reasons. number one, which committee do you want me to talk to? judiciary, government affairs, intel? you want me to talk to the senate and the house? this is about partly -- not the prime of your point, but partly dysfunction of the congress. how many conversations am i going to have? have you coordinated with director mueller? how am i supposed to talk to you and go talk to the federal investigator over at the fbi? and the third and final, when i
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walk into the oval office tomorrow and the president wants to have a private conversation, are you going to talk on national tv about this? one minor point. 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 open it. you don't start by saying no pressure, but i won't say what the conversation was. >> what i thought was remarkable, there's dan coats 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 just be that they felt a sense of propriety about what they could or couldn't say. it may have been that, but it felt like there was an orchestrated play, we were going to give these answers and we're not going to go beyond these answers, even though as you point out, their first answer begged the question. >> jason, in support of the president, were those the right answers to give? >> i think rogers came across more buttoned up. coats' answer on that did not come across very well. i think he probably should have
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had a tighter answer. >> maybe because he acknowledged he didn't have any legal back up for what he said? >> the optics of that were just a bad answer. when he started off by saying he hadn't been pressured, that there hadn't been anything untoward, both he and admiral rogers both gave slightly different answers but made it very clear. they had not been 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 supposed 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.
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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 imthe government has to sometimes say, look, we can't tell you. i think hurt their own cause. >> paul, how can you protect source and methods when this president is not getting source and methods in some instances? >> it's been factually found out that he is not so how can you say you're protecting that when the president is not and president obama was in when
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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. and it's fairly inconclusive.
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>> 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? >> i mean 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 gray areas develop. let them take testimony. let's not all of us going to talking points. >> but we know that -- >> it is -- it is interesting,
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david, 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
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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 ends up -- >> 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 hint to careful listeners and believe me if he had aides or advisers who were 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.
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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 thing 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 interpreted that as the president saying make sure you continue to -- >> right. >> i think folks can't have it
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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 manafort'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, there's prima facie evidence that the president may have obstructed justice but we have a long ways to go here. >> we have a long way to go tonight. as well as we'll have more on the president's reaction in a moment. radio: scorching heat today folks, stay cool out there!
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well, we are now just hours from what might be the most highly anticipated senate hearing since clarence thomas and anita hill. today we got a seven-page preview of what director comey will say, his 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 also investigating. joining us is a member of the house committee, jim himes