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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  June 13, 2017 2:08pm-3:00pm PDT

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emotional. he refused to speak about any conversations he had with president trump about the firing of the fbi director james comey or about comey's handling of the russia investigation citing confidentiality of his conversations with the president. there's certainly a lot to discuss with our correspondents and our specialists, but as we watch the senators and other leave this senate intelligence committee hearing room, i want to bring in jeffrey toobin, our senior legal analyst to get your initial reaction to what we just saw. >> well, if you cared most about what donald trump's involvement was and his -- and his motivations were for firing jim comey and his views of the russia investigation, you didn't learn very much today because attorney general sessions virtually refused to answer virtually all questions about his interactions with -- with the president. he did so without formally
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citing executive privilege referring to some confidentiality which was apparently of his own invention, and as several senators, specifically senator heinrich of new mexico, senator king of maine pressed him on like what was the basis for your refusal to answer these questions about president trump, and he kept referring to this confidentiality but not executive privilege, so i think the white house sort of had its cake and ate it, too, because they got to shut down investigation -- any inquiry into what president trump said or did but they didn't have to face the political heat of citing executive privilege, so we didn't learn much about president trump's role in all of this. >> i'm going to go to gloria borger right now. what was your reaction, gloria? >> well, very much the same as jeffrey's. i mean, this was general sessions not talking at all
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about the president, not invoking any kind of executive privilege but allowing the fact if the president wanted to sometime in the future, he would not -- he didn't want to stand in the way or get in the way of that. i think there were a lot of democrats, particularly senator heinrich, who basically said, wolf, you are obstructing our investigation, and then there was an exchange with senator wyden in which wyden came out and asked him about former fbi director james comey saying that he knew that sessions was going to recuse himself and there was another issue that was somewhat problematic, and wyden asked sessions to explain just what was problematic, and his answer was there are none. there are none. there's nothing that's problematic and then he got very
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upset and talked about secret innuendo that's being leaked out there about me and i don't appreciate it and wyden went back and forth with him and basically said that doesn't pass the smell test. so you had general sessions up there today saying all of this is completely wrong, although, you know, saying he didn't quite recall another meeting with ambassador kislyak at the mayflower. he started out a little firmer on that at the beginning of his testimony. i would argue than he was at the end of his testimony allowing that perhaps there was one in a group but he just couldn't recall it, but really defending himself here saying that he had done nothing wrong, including participating in the -- in the firing of james comey because he said that it was, of course, about comey's behavior previous to his becoming attorney general and making it very clear that in
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in his case it was not at all about russia, and he always said i'll let the president's words speak for themselves. >> john king, you and i have covered sessions for a long time. this is a side of him we hadn't often seen how angry he would get, visibly shaken at times. at one time saying these allegations against him are appalling and detestable lies. >> a visceral anger at some of his former colleagues or at least using them as the platform of news reports. let's draw a line at 2016 and 2017, essentially draw a lane campaign and transition versus administration. i think jeff sessions unless facts surface to the contrary helped himself quite a bit and rebutted the argument that he was somehow involved in any collusion with the russians. yes, gloria said he didn't have the exact details about what might have happened down pat but he said if i saw the russian ambassador it was to say hello, howry, not a meeting about we're
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linking up the campaign and colluding. i think he answered that pretty emphatically and passionately as a challenge of his trustworthiness and personal integrity and essentially saying go away and unless any evidence surfaces to the contrary he served himself well. 2017, served himself well about i never touched russia investments even before i recused myself i refused to get briefed on the russia investigation because it was a possibility i might recuse myself. that is a very cautious, very detailed-oriented, very safe and smart prosecutor if that holds up to be true. to jeffrey's point about the whole timeline of how james comey got fired, one version is the president made his decision and essentially sent jeff sessions and rod rosenstein to come up with document to support that, jeff sessions wouldn't support it. largely how you hear, the president decided i'm done. you guys give me the documentation so we can make a public case for it. jeff sessions was not very helpful there and doesn't look like he'll be very helpful saying any conversations i had
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with the president about a personnel matter or sensitive matter off-limits. >> and he suggested even if they go into closed door session and continues to answer questions, he's probably not going -- they are not going to get much more from him because he respects what he calls this confidentiality agreement that he has with the president, even though the president did not exert executive privilege. >> and we saw that in prior testimony from coats, for instance, essentially saying there -- he didn't want to talk about it, and that seemed to be what sessions was essentially saying. kind of vaguely using the cloak of executive privilege. he referred to some sort of d. oj policy. you saw senator harris from california try to draw him out and say what specific policy are you talking about? did you read it before you came to this hearing in preparation or for what the guidelines are and then he kind of vaguely said, well, no, the principle is confidentiality, and that's where you saw all the democrats really try to hone in, this idea that they can come here and talk
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about some conversations. he did, for instance, talk about conversations he had with the president about comey's firing and the memo and dianne feinstein tried to draw it out. you can talk about that part of it which is in course in writing and the argument that comey should be fired because of his behavior in 2016 but you can't talk about other conversations that you may have had with the -- with the president about comey. also they made the point that he never himself, sessions had all of these kind of problems with comey from 2016, but he never went to comey himself to talk about those problems that he saw in 2016. >> mark preston, some of the democratic senators were clearly frustrated that he kept saying i don't recall. i don't -- i can't say for sure. they seem to be concerned that maybe he was just using that to make sure there was no outright lie, for example. >> well, one thing is jeff sessions has been in the senate, had been in the senate for more than 20 years. he understands how these hearings work and he understands what tactics actually work and how you cannot answer a question
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but appear to be answering a question, and i think that's what we saw on display here. you know, there's going to be a lot of talk about the explosive exchange between ron wyden and attorney general jeff sessions. i would really interested in seeing what john mccain did at the very end when he called him out and said when you were on my committee, when you had -- headed up the strategic forces subcommittee on the armed services committee, you didn't seem interested at all in anything to do with russia. now, just for our viewers to know, what strategic forces subcommittee does, they oversee all the nuclear norses it and all the ballistic missiles, they also oversee the space program. these are all major components for the united states in its battle against -- against russia, so i thought that was an interesting way of trying to blow a hole in the whole idea that jeff sessions was meeting kislyak as a senator in september as opposed to as a trump surrogate. >> and he had already at that point been named as a top adviser to the trump campaign, something sessions declined to mention in his testimony today.
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in fact, he described himself as attending this speech as, quote, an interested person, not affiliated with the campaign, but six weeks earlier approximately he been named a top foreign policy homeland security adviser to the campaign. >> and he gave his defense for recusal even though the president, we are told, was very angry that he recused himself because that set the stage for a special counsel being appointed. >> he framed this really as a foregone conclusion. he said essentially when i began serving as attorney general, even though there was this process of meeting with top ethics officials, talking about the d. oj attorneys about this, sessions said this was going to happen no matter what which really does throw into question and doubt some of comey's doubt which suggested that there were some classified revelations that helped sessions reach that decision to recuse himself. >> go ahead, gloria. >> the interesting exchange to
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me and it's more political than anything else is something nia was touching on before which is senator reed of rhode island reading back to sessions, quotes that he had stated at the time comey made the mistakes he now says were catastrophic in terms of the hillary clinton investigation and at that time, as nia points out, at that time comey was -- i mean, sessions was not critical at all of comey. in fact, he was complimentary of comey, so, you know, what reed -- what senator reed was doing is raising are the question, well, gee, you seem to have a complete turnaround here. >> all right. >> and, you know, i think the answer, you know, i think general sessions' answer was, well, you know, in retrospect you see things differently when you're at the agency but i don't think it was his strong moment. >> everybody stand by. the ranking member of the house
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intelligence committee, democratic senator adam schiff is joining us. >> thanks so much for joining us. >> good to be with you. >> what was your reaction? what jumped out at you? >> really two things jumped out at me. the first was the degree to which the attorney general really corroborated what director comey said, that is he testified today that in fact during that meeting at the white house everyone -- he wouldn't say what the president said but they all filed out of the room. obviously that's not going to happen unless the president told everyone to leave but director comey. he also i think confirmed that he was either the last or among the very last to leave the room and did hesitate and that director comey followed up the next day and said essentially that he was uncomfortable about what took place, so he had to know because of the russia investigation that that would be what would make him uncomfortable. as he testified today it's not in and of itself improper for a
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president to talk to an fbi director, it is if it's about a pending case so the fact that the director was uncomfortable ought to have been a clear signal about why he was uncomfortable so the degree to which he corroborated comey stood out to me, but more than that the degree to which he avoided really answering questions about whether his letter, rod rosenstein's memo were a pretext and they knew they were a pretext for the comey firing, and from my perspective congress can not let those non-answers stand. we're going to go have to press to get answers, and we're going to have to force them to invoke privilege if that's what they intend to do, and i think if that privilege is being used to cloak information that would indicate whether or not obstruction was going on, we will have to pierce that privilege and do what's necessary to get that testimony. >> but you heard, congressman, attorney general sessions say he was unable to discuss what he called these private
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conversations he had with the president on any subject. he also said he was not stonewalling but just polling the policies, long-standing policies of the department of justice. do you accept that? >> no. you may get away with that once, but if the congress pursues this, you're either going to have to fish or cut bait. you'll have to claim executive privilege or you're going to have to testify, and we have the means to compel that, and if it's not done willingly, i think we should compel that. the privilege can not be used to hide any form of impropriety or illegality, and if the attorney general or the deputy attorney general knew that the president of the united states was going to fire the director and do so for improper reasons and they provided, knowingly provided essentially win droe dressing in the form of a letter or memorandum, that's improper conduct that cannot hide behind executive privilege, so i'm not saying that we know for sure that's the case, but i can stay congress i think to do its job will have to find how the. >> well, in order to compel him to tell you what he knows, would
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you potentially want to hold him in contempt of congress? >> well, i think the process would be negotiation with the white house. we're going to demand answers to this. we're going to subpoena him to come back, if necessary, and if he doesn't answer, and we're not satisfied with the claim of privilege, then we'll take whatever steps are necessary to compel. that may ultimately result in litigation, but we need to get these answers. i think ultimately bob mueller is also going to need to get these answers. part of our discussions and we expect to meet with bob mueller either later this week or next week will be what is the proper sequencing here senator what are his equities in this, and how do we coordinate these efforts? but at the end. day, both the congress, bob mueller owes the american people as to whether this attorney general and deputy were providing nothing more than a pretense for a decision, an improper decision to fire the
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director on other grounds. >> well, let me just press you. if in fact he continues to refuse to answer your questions, are you ready to go as far as to hold him in contempt of congress and then see him in court? >> well, here's the sequence i think we ought to follow. if we get to that point, ultimately the answer is yes, wolf, but i think the sequence is we go back to the white house and say we're going to need answers to these questions. are you invoking privilege or are you not. if they are not we'll invite him to come back in and if they do invoke privilege we may think we may need to litigate that. >> the attorney general, when he was asked repeatedly if he met with the russian ambassador to the united states, sergey kislyak, at the mayflower hotel here in washington, he kept saying things along these lines, like i just don't remember. i don't recall. do you think that's possible or as his critics are already
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suggesting, he's just trying not to perjure himself? >> i don't think we really know. certainly i think we need to do further investigation to find out if that's an accurate account, whether this is a lapse in recollection. a lot may depend on if there was an additional meeting, what was the nature of that meeting? where was the meeting taking place? is this something that it would be natural to forget in that it's in a broad setting, or is this a meeting that would have been recommended and documented and proved in other ways? i think we have a lot of work to do to either corroborate or disprove what the attorney general said. i don't want to pre-judge it, but neither would i want to rely completely on this testimony alen. >> bottom line, congressman. is there anything during the course of the two and a half hour hearing that you learned today that came as a surprise, information you didn't know before? >> well, the most important thing from my perspective was we know now that jim comey, that
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they were all essentially told to leave the room. that the attorney general did liquor, that he ultimately did least room are. i think the attorney general frankly took no responsibility and attempted to shift that to jim comey. but the attorney general has the responsibility i think to shield the director and protect the director's independence, but nonetheless he corroborated what comey said. he corroborated that had comey followed up with him the next day and was uncomfortable with what had taken place. that ought to set off alarm bells about that conversation. if the conversation was akin to the one the president has said took place, there would have been no reason for comey's discomfort there. would have been no reason for that conversation with sessions that sessions has now corroborated so that's what was striking to me. >> congressman adam schiff of california, thanks for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. let's get some more perspective. joining us democratic senator
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chris murphy of connecticut. i want to alert our viewers that we've invited republicans to join us as well. hopefully they will. so far we've received certain maybes down the road, but let's get your reaction to what we heard, senator. what was your immediate reactioning to what you heard the attorney general say? >> well, i agree with adam. it certainly squares with the story that james comey told to the intelligence committee, and i think it raises a number of additional questions. the idea that the attorney general didn't have any prior conversations with james comey about his job performance before firing him, well, you know, that won't ring familiar to most employers out there about the protocol you go through before letting someone go, and it also would stand to reason that did might be why the deputy attorney general had to put together in a really fast and quick manner a
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memo to create an after-the-fact justification and the fact that he's not prepared to testify completely suggests there might be something that he's hiding. deputy attorney general similarly refused to give us any information about how he put together that memo that created the justification for comey's firing. he wouldn't even tell us who he consulted in writing that memo which, again, suggests that there's a potential obstruction of justice charge here that no one wants to testify to. >> but the president himself, senator, said he would fire comey i respective of any recommendations he got from his advisers. he thought it was time for comey to go. you heard him say that. >> i did hear him say that and he certainly connected the merits of the russia case for the reasons why he let comey go, so in some way, you know, the president has already told the
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american public that his fear about where the russia investigation was going was at least a big part of the reason as to why he discharged comey, the fbi director director. the former fbi director believes that to be the reason himself, but to the extent that there were conversations happening about this between him and the attorney general that is certainly not something that congress needs to hear about. i'm doubtful as to whether a claim of executive privilege ultimately would hold up. >> were you satisfied with the attorney general's recollection of his various meetings with the russian ambassador to the united states, sergey kislyak? >> yeah, you know, i share adam's thoughts on this. it does really depend on what the nature of that meeting was. if it was a passing conversation, then maybe it stands to reason he doesn't remember it, but i'll tell you, i'm a member of the foreign relations committee. i've met with the russian ambassador a few times over the years. i remember every single one of those interactions. that's not, you know, just a minor thing when a member of the senate meets with the russian
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ambassador. listen, wolf, i'm -- i'm not sure that if there was collusion between the trump campaign and russia that the principals in that collusion were the senator from alabama and the russian ambassador to the united states, but i don't necessarily know that every member of that committee is going to believe that he didn't remember that meeting. those are pretty memorable meetings when we have them with high level russian officials like the ambassador. >> well, if there was collusion, who would be involved? >> well, you know, again, i think it's much more likely that it was individuals who might have had a more direct connection to the campaign, individuals like carter page, individuals like paul manafort, so i -- listen, i don't know what the end of this story is. i'm just not sure that it the conclusion if it existed was happening in conversations at the mayflower hotel between a senator from alabama and the
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russian ambassador. we should try to get to the bottom of what they were talking about, but i would imagine that there were other back channels that might have had the meat and substance of those conversations about collusion if they happened. >> so we've heard from comey. we've now heard from sessions. bottom line right now, where do we go from here, senator? >> well, listen, ultimately the truth will lie in the investigation that bob mueller is conducting, and so i'm pleased that he has been assembling a real a-plus team and it seems as if right now he has the bandwidth, he has the mandate from the deputy attorney general to do that. so i think we need to continue to bring witnesses before the intelligence committee. i hope they will also appear before the judiciary committee, but my belief is that it's going to be bob mueller who is going to be best positioned to ultimately get to the facts to find out whether the trump campaign really was working with the russian government to try to steal this election. >> and mueller's investigation
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clearly only just beginning. only been on the job for a few weeks. senator chris murphy, thanks very much. >> all right, thanks. john king, this is a moment right now that a lot of people are going to wonder, does it go in one direction or another direction, because a lot of people are going to emerge from the sessions testimony and say, you know, he did a pretty good job defending himself. himself, especially on the issue of collusion and as attorney general unless other facts surface on the fact that some democrats were saying was he meddling in the russia investigation before he recused himself. he was emphatic, day one, well before he recused himself he did nothing, but the conversations you had with the two democrats are interesting because the other significant thing today was rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general saying, look, i have no information that the president is really thinking about firing bob mueller but i'm the person with the authority to do that, the only person with the authority to do that and i will only do it if i see just cause to do it no matter who is it is making that ask, essentially if i think the president is making a bad ask i'm not going to do it.
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that's significant because what began as a look in 2016, first russian meddling, let's not forget that. it gets lost sometimes and a lot -- people try to bring that up, senator mccain including at the end, a foreign state player intervened aggressively in an american election and put the parties aside. that can't be forgotten. that's the congressional investigation and bob mueller's investigation, but on the political side of this it was all about what happened in 2016. was there collusion and michael flynn and paul manafort and carter page doing something inappropriate? and now this is why did the president fire james comey, and why did he have a closed meeting with james comey. what did the president do in 2017 and did he cross a very dangerous line? >> and on the big picture, john, as you point out, whether or not the russians intervened, interfered in the u.s. election,
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there's no doubt that the u.s. intelligence community, law enforcement community, is unanimous. they agree and sessions agreed as well, but we haven't heard that kind of definitive agreement from the president of the united states. >> and even sessions was i think -- and part of it, i want to be fair to senator sessions, he says he hasn't been fully briefed on it and he's not received a full briefing on the hacking on one thing that frustrates everybody, even republicans standing up to defend president trump, is where is his curiosity about this? why is he still saying it could have been russia, i guess it was russia. it could have been a 100-pound guy in his basement. president has not spoken about it it and that frustrates the hawks like tom cotton and marco rubio and john mccain. cotton who was very good for the white house, very favorable for the white house today. when you talk to people like that, they still say why is it so hard for the president. look what happened in the rose garden. romanian reporter asked is russia being an aggressive player in the europe and the president didn't answer the question, just ignored it.
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that part frankly makes republicans scratch their heads and say why. why is this so hard for him? >> i've called it a thunderous silence on the part of the president. jeffrey toobin, talk a little bit about the legal ramifications and legal aspects of executive privilege which the president is not citing in either the testimony we heard from comey or the testimony we just heard from sessions. >> well, the white house is not citing executive privilege, but it's getting the benefit of executive privilege because these witnesses, including attorney general sessions and former senator coats and the head of the nsa rogers, they are all refusing to answer questions as if the white house has exercised executive privilege, so, i mean, it's really a pretty good situation for the white house as long as the -- as congress doesn't challenge it, and one example of why that worked so much to the white house's advantage is it allows attorney general sessions today
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to say, you know, the reason i thought that james comey was fired is because, you know, he was really just too mean to hillary clinton back in the summer of 2016. now, as far as i'm aware no, one believes that, including donald trump who said to lester holt, that's not why he fired -- that's not why he fired jim comey. he fired jim comey because of the russia investigation, but because jeff sessions will not answer questions about his interaction with the president about the firing of comey, he gets to put out this story, that well, it was really because i was so offended by comey's treatment of hillary clinton. that's just preposterous. as jack reed proved by -- by pointing out that sessions supported comey behavior during the campaign, so, i mean, it's -- that's a pretty good deal for the white house >> you know, gloria, you heard -- you heard the -- the ranking democrat on the house intelligence committee, adam
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schiff, say he's not ruling out the possibility if these witnesses continue to refuse to cooperate and testify about all of their knowledge on these issues, assuming the president continues to avoid exerting executive privilege, they could be charged. they could be held in contempt of congress and go to court. >> they could find some way to compel their testimony. what was interesting about sessions today was he didn't even indicate that he would testify in closed door session about certain things. he was just unwilling to go there, and that leads me to the big elephant in the room here. if we look at the testimony of rogers and coats and rosenstein and sessions, the big elephant in the room sheer that not one of them would say in any way, shape or form whether the president's conversations with them or with comey were appropriate.
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they did not venture into that swamp because they clearly don't want to, and you see the frustration of members of congress here saying it's our job to get to the bottom of this for the american people. we're not prosecutors here. we have to find out about the president's behavior, as john king was talking about earlier, and not one of them would even say, well, this is what i think the president meant when he spoke to me. nothing. nada. nowhere. not going anywhere near donald trump, and that's why today was quite good for the white house, i would argue, but in the long run the question is are they going to be able to continue along that road given what adam schiff told you. >> wait a second, could i just say about adam schiff. you know what adam schiff is. adam schiff is a democrat. >> i've heard that. >> and adam schiff has no power. he has no power to subpoena anybody or find anybody in
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contempt. let's find one republican who is interested in finding any of these folks in contempt. i haven't seen any. >> you saw burr. >> adam schiff can talk all he wants, and i don't doubt that he's totally sincere about that, that he thinks the only way to get these people to talk is to find -- is to perhaps find them in contempt, but -- but he doesn't have the mother to do that. >> hold on, hold on, because we -- we did, jeffrey, hear a strong statement. the chairman of the senate judiciary committee, chuck grassley, told our manu raju, he's not ruling out any of those possible contingencies. he seems to be pretty frustrated himself and he's a republican. >> well, we'll see. count me as skeptical that chuck grassley is going to find anybody in the white house. >> you saw richard burr at the end try to gently encourage sessions there to say, listen, you know, we know you kind of didn't want to talk about things at this point. can you go back to the white house and see if you can get permission to talk about certain
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areas that you didn't feel like talking about today. and if you do, can you give us those things in writing, any documentation, it was kind of gentle encouragement i think, and you saw that -- you saw him do the same thing with coats as well in the previous testimony. >> it was extremely gentle and let's contrast that with the republican treatment a few years ago of former attorney general eric holder. the house republicans voted to hold him in contempt of congress when he invoked executive privilege and didn't want to turn over documents related to the fast and furious investigation. >> let me play the exchange:this is sessions talking about that oval office meeting that comey had with the president. listen to this, mark. >> we were there. i was standing there, and without repeating any conversation that took place what i do recall is i did depart and everybody else did depart and director comey was sitting in front of the president's desk
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and they were talking and i believe it was the next day that he said something and expressed concern about being left alone with the president, but that in itself is not problematic. he did not tell me at that time any details about anything that was said that was proper. i affirmed his concern that we should be following the proper guidelines of the department of justice and basically backed him up in his concerns and that he should not carry on any conversation with the president or anyone else about an investigation in a way that was not proper. >> but mark, should that meeting have caused some concern to the attorney general of the united states, the meeting, the exchange that comey had with the president? >> yeah, and he said -- he also said he didn't think it was a major problem, and in fact when he said that comey shouldn't be having those conversations, he's correct, but as comey's boss it's incumbent upon him to intercede and really provide
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blocking so that comey doesn't ever get put in that situation. now we haven't seen president trump so far tweet out what he thinks about the hearing but the rnc has put out a fund-raising e-mail with his words on his behalf. >> with whose words? >> donald trump's word and describe this as a witch-hunt and he says the losing political party is using a conspiracy theory without having a shred of evidence to derail a constitutionally elected president. he goes on to say our former fbi director cowardly used a friend to leak a government memo to the media as a political weapon, joining countless other unelected bureaucrats who leak. he says many other things. >> says it's a sabotage. trying to sabotage us. >> deep state. >> which just goes to show you how political this is, as much as our viewers done want to hear this. it is very political on both sides. not just the democrats but the republicans as well. >> to the point you originally asked marked about. general sessions said he thought director comey was a big guy,
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knew the results and had been at the judd longer than him, he was big enough hand strong enough to stand up to the president and say this is an improper consistent and that's inconsistent with a guile that's a failure and loser hand needs to be fired and that's one of the areas as we go forward how did this come about and we didn't learn much about that today because the attorney general selectively criticized comey when he wanted to, selectively praised comey when he thought it helped him and let's just say the saga continues. >> you did see, rebecca, several of the republican senators like tom cotton of arkansas, for example, they seem to be emboldened by why they heard today and they strongly came to the defense of the trump administration, and they strongly went after all of these accusations. >> senator tom cotton i think raised a really important point is that in the course of this hearing today democrats were not asking sessions by and large tough questions about his meetings or potential meetings with russians or potential collusion with russian officials. they were asking him about this
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potential obstruction of justice, with the president firing james comey. clearly this is where democrats see this going from here i think based on the questions we saw in this hearing today, and for the president and the administration, i mean, from their perspective, that's great news because all along the president has been insisting that there was no collusion between his campaign and russia, no collusion between his campaign officials and russia. sessions' testimony today would seem to confirm that. he was under oath and said i did not have these meetings. the meetings i did have weren't substantive and senator tom cotton did raise that point today. >> can i say one thing about congress as a whole. i learned washington through the legislative branch, right, through the eyes and actions of those who were in the senate in the house, not the white house but congress. i've got to tell you. what we've seen over the past two weeks with the nsa director admiral rogers and the d. ni, you know, director of national intelligence dan coats, and now the department of justice, the attorney general going to
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congress, refusing to answer questions, which is fine but not having to invoke executive privilege really -- i mean, if you are somebody outside, you're looking and saying congress is toothless. >> you know, jeffrey, i want to play a clip, jeffrey, on the whole issue of executive privilege. a very tough exchange. senator martin heinrich of new mexico had with sessions today. listen to this. >> you're invoking executive privilege. >> i'm not able to invoke executive privilege. that's the president's prerogative. >> well, my understanding is that you took an oath. you raised your right hand, here today, and you said that you would solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. and now you're not answering questions. you're impeding this investigation. so my understanding of the legal standard is that you either answer the question, that's the best outcome. you say this is classified, can't answer it here. i'll answer it in closed
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session. that's bucket number two. bucket number three is to say i'm invoking executive privilege. there is no appropriateness bucket. it is not a legal standard. can you tell me what are these long-standing d. oj rules that protect conversations made in the executive without invoking executive privilege? >> senator, i'm protecting the president's constitutional right by knots giving it away before he has a chance to -- >> you're having it bolt ways. >> and secondly i am telling the truth in answering your question in saying it's a long-standing policy of the department of justice. >> are those policies written? >> and to make sure that the president has full opportunity to decide these issues. >> can you share those policies with us. are they written down at the department of justice? >> i believe they are. >> this is the appropriateness legal standard for not answering congressional inquiries?
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>> it's my judgment that it would be inappropriate for me to answer and reveal private conversations with the president when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision. >> so, jeffrey, who got the better of that exchange? >> well, i think as a technical legal matter senator heinrich clearly got the better of it because there is no such appropriateness standard that allows a witness in the executive branch to withhold information from congress, but as a practical matter i think -- i think attorney general sessions won. did congress get the information? no. is there any consequence to either the attorney general himself or to the trump administration for saying no? not that i can see, so it's a stonewall that works. >> although i think it's worth
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noting that this is working for republicans now while they have the majority in the house and the senate, but democrats are going to use this as a political wedge, i would anticipate, in 2018. democrats will be able to go out on the campaign trail and say, look, republicans didn't demand answers of the trump administration. they are not going to hold them in contempt of congress. we will. >> and it's one of the examples of you can call it elections have consequences or you can say there's gambling in the casino and hypocrisy in politics in that, you know, the republicans didn't say anything when jeff sessions wasn't willing to answer and as rebecca noted they went to court against eric holder, the attorney general when he refused to answer questions and jeff sessions loved james comey's actions in the campaign when he was a trump campaign sauer gate and now believes james comey should be fired for the very same things. welcome to washington. >> wolf, you know, i think senator burr who is the chairman of the committee indicated that he wasn't happy today in his own way when after sessions refused to answer a lot of these
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questions he noted that admiral rogers spent almost two hours with us last night in a closed door session, hint, hint. he did it. he spoke with us, and -- and senator burr has been pretty strong on this investigation, and he is the chairman of that committee, and i agree with jeffrey that -- that, you know, democrats don't have a lot of authority or power here, but senator burr does, and i'm kind of wondering what he does because no senator likes to look toothless or like they don't have any authority or that -- or to set a precedent quite frankly where people appear before congressional committees ant don't ha -- and don't have to answer their questions. >> or order a presidential fund-raising e-mail to say he's part of a witch-hunt and is trying to sabotage the corn-of-country. >> what's impressive is senator
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burr and senator warner appear to be cooperating quite nicely. >> keep your eye on chairman burr as we progress because he's clearly getting exasperated but the question is does it reach la line? >> he just got re-elected and he has six years to worry about politics. >> and he also said he's not running for re-election. >> he's got six years, and other than john mccain and lindsey graham who are full force jumping into this, no republican wants to deal with this. burr wants to get this over with as quick as possible, whatever the outcome is, because what's happened is donald trump's administration has dragged all these republicans into the middle of this. >> you know, nia, for the past 24 hours some supporters, friends of the president, have now raised the possibility that maybe the president will fire the special counsel robert mueller, and that's caused a huge amount of commotion over these past several hours. >> that's right. chris ruddy, a good friend of the president, said that the president was thinking about this, and we know that it came
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essentially out of nowhere that he fired james comey, and in some ways it seems like ruddy's talking about this on the air would basically show to the president that this is not a good idea, right. you had so many republicans come out and say that this might be the line that he could cross to have republicans jump ship, and so we'll see. i mean, we know that the president is an avid watcher of cable news, so we'll see what his reaction is, but, again, this president, as he likes to call himself, he's flexible and unpredictable, so who knows what he could do in terms >> i'm wondering why this whole notion of firing former fbi -- 12 years fbi director, highly respected, is even being discussed right now. >> because donald trump doesn't like the investigation. but earlier by a different committee by rod rosenstein, who
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is the person who would have to execute the order to fire director mueller because sessions is recused. and the way the special counsel regulation is written, the president can't fire. he can order his subordinate and that would be rosenstein to fire him and rosenstein said today that he has seen nothing that mueller has done to justify firing and he said he would only fire him for good cause. he wouldn't just fire him because the president said so. so he is really laying town a marker, rosenstein to the president saying, look, if you want me to fire him, get ready for me to be elliott richardson or william ruk he'll houel he'l they are the ones not willing to fire cox in the midnight massacre. so i think in firing director mueller, if that's what the president wants to do, got harder today because rosenstein
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took a pretty hard line. >> sessions was complimentary to mueller as well. >> chris achieved his goal though. his goal of going on television to start a conversation in washington so the president would see and today the speaker of the house and any number of republicans said whoa, bob mueller is doing a fine job, i respect bob mule per. w why would friends do this? because friends say very much about bob mueller venting about this unaccountable investigation he has no control over much like he sounded about james comey right before he fired him. >> not just chris, but newt gingrich, a strong supporter, is raising questions about the integrity of bob mueller. >> god bless the former house speaker but this gentleman said really nice things about bob mueller only to say that he shouldn't be in that position. what hasn't been said enough about this is that newt gingrich's wife, has been
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nominated to be donald trump's embassador to the vat kin. so to see him flip-flop on this doesn't surprise me. >> and he is a guy who says democrats are attacking ken starr are irrehencible. >> details, details, details. >> right. >> the fact we're even having this conversation though that president is venting about mueller that he doesn't like the way this investigation is going and could potentially fire him as remote as that possibility is suggests to me at least that the president has not learned a lot from firing james comey and all of the fallout from that created far more problems for him than would he have had if he had just left james comey in place. you can argue now you have this obstruction of justice. it says to me that he has not learned a lot from that experience. >> speaking of venting, gloer w gloria, the president, venting, tweet being with venting at 6:35 a.m.
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later he said, fake news is at an all-time high. where is their apology to me for all of their incorrect stories. he's been busy tweeting once again. venting his own anger and frustration. >> right. he is not stopping doing that no mat whether his lawyers tell him to or not. there were tweets today also about other issues. which is what i think people in the white house would like him to tweet and talk about more and more which is jobs or health care or you know, whether infrastructure or just another topic here rather han same old, same old. i think we have to wait and see whether his attorney can have a lot of influence on him. we will see whether he does tweet about attorney general sessions' appearance today. one might think he might because
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sessions did not throw the president under the bus in any way shape or form. he was very careful. at not to talk at all about his conversations with the president. to the conster nation of the democrats on the committee. so it's just more of the same from donald trump and we will have to see whether he, there's a way for the people who are representing him to carve out some way where he can tweet. but not about anything related to russia or mueller or this investigation. >> everybody stand by. we're continuing to follow the breaking news. special coverage here in "the situation room" will continue right after this quick break. let's see, there are the wildcats 'til we die weekenders. the watch me let if fly. this i gotta try weekenders.
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then we've got the bendy... ... spendy weekenders. the tranquility awaits. hanging with our mates weekenders and the it's been quite a day... ...so glad we got away weekenders. whatever kind of weekender you are, there's a hilton for you. book your weekend break direct at hilton.com and join the weekenders. tech: when you schedule with safelite autoglass, you get a text when we're on our way. you can see exactly when we'll arrive. i'm micah with safelite. customer: thanks for coming, it's right over here. tech: giving you a few more minutes for what matters most. take care. kids singing: safeliteĀ® repair, safeliteĀ® replace.
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