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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  June 13, 2017 5:00pm-6:01pm PDT

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time you're not aware of him actually taking any calls? >> no. he's not taken any calls at this time since june 1st. >> secretary shulkin, thank you for being with me tonight. >> thank you. >> obviously not taking the place of twitter yet. don't forget, you can watch "outfront" any time anywhere on cnn go. anderson is next. >> thanks for joining us tonight. the last man in the room before the president spoke alone with fbi director james comey testified under oath, attorney general jeff sessions is seen and heard a lot as one of donald trump's closest complain advisers and is accused of being untruthful and went before the senate intelligence committee in part he said to set the record straight about a number of things, including in his words, secret innuendo being leaked about himself, the president and his whole affair. he had plenty to say about that. he had less to say to the considerable irritation of some
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committee members. we'll talk about this over the next two hours and hear from a senator who was involved in a contentious exchange. but first some of the key moments from today's testimony. >> i did not have any private meetings, nor do i recall any conversations with any russian officials at the mayflower hotel. >> has the president invoked executive privilege in the case of your testimony here today? >> he has not. >> then what is the basis of your refusal to answer these questions? >> senator kaiing, the presiden has a constitutional -- >> but the president hasn't asserted it. you said you don't have the power to exert the power of executive privilege, so what is the legal basis for your refusal to answer these questions? >> i'm protecting the right of the president to assert it if he chooses. >> to the best of your knowledge, sir, did any of these following individuals meet with russian officials at any point during the campaign, and you can say yes or no on this. paul manafort? >> i don't have any information
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that he had done so. he served as campaign chairman for a few months. >> steve bannon? >> i have no information that he did. >> general michael flynn? >> i don't recall it. >> reince priebus? >> i don't recall. >> steve miller? >> i don't recall him ever having such a conversation. >> corey lewandowski? >> i do not recall any of those individuals having any meeting with russian officials. >> carter page? >> i don't know. >> have you ever, in any of these fantastical situations, heard of a plot line so ridiculous that a sitting united states senator and an ambassador of a foreign government colluded at an open setting with hundreds of other people to pull off the greatest caper in the history? >> thank you for saying that, senator cotton. it's just like through the looking glass. i mean, what is this?
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stonewalling of any kind of unacceptable. and general sessions has acknowledged that there is no legal basis for this sto stonewalling. >> senator, i am not stonewalled. >> so i want to ask you just point blank, why did you sign the letter recommending the firing of director comey when it violated your recusal? >> it did not violate my recusal. it did not violate my recusal. that would be the answer to that, and the letter that i signed represented my views that had been formulated for some time. >> mr. chairman, just if i can finish, that answer, in my view, doesn't pass the smell test. general sessions, respectfully, you're not answering the question. >> what is the question? >> the question is, mr. comey said that there were matters with respect to the recusal that
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were problematic and he couldn't talk about them. what are they? >> why don't you tell me. there are none, senator wyden. there are none, i can tell you that for absolute certainty. you tell -- this is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and i don't appreciate it. >> that was senator ron wyden of oregon. i spoke with him shortly before we went on air. >> senator, you accused attorney general sessions of stonewalling. do you have any evidence that shows that he wasn't, in fact, following proper procedure? he claims he was following long-held policies at the department of justice. >> he refused, anderson, to address the most basic issues today, why didn't he recuse himself sooner, what did the president say to him about firing director comey. look, the bottom line is that we have had one of these trump
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officials after another and they basically say they're not going to respond to questions because they don't feel like it. >> i mean, he did take an oath to answer questions and executive privilege was not being called in, so is there any recourse, you or any other senator can take to actually get him to answer questions that he wouldn't answer, or are your hands pretty much tied? >> you certainly can take action against officials, but look, what we're going to do now is show that there's no legal basis for the stonewalling. he didn't have a claim of executive privilege. and on some of the matters, he just threw in really bizarre kinds of comments. for example, when i asked him about what director comey said, director comey said when i asked him about jeff sessions' recusal, he said, it was really problematic and he couldn't get
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into it in public. so i asked jeff sessions what was meant by that, and jeff sessions just got all riled up and started hollering about innuendos, but he didn't answer the question. the question was, why would the former fbi director find this so problematic he couldn't talk about it in public. here's my bottom line, anderson. what we learned today is the country's top legal official doesn't have much of a grasp of the law, and he certainly doesn't understand what recusal is all about. >> do you think you'll actually be able to find out whose account was accurate? was director comey accurate when he said he knew the attorney general was going to have to recuse himself based on some things which he didn't go into? >> when you have a situation like that, you know, he said/he
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said, examine the relevant facts. director comey responded to questions for several hours and didn't pass on any of them. what jeff sessions did was, in effect, pass on all of them. so when you have two officials and one of them is straight forward and lays out a lot of details and the other one just seems to duck and weave and try to figure out how to escape accountability, i think the american people are going to say, we're going with the people who offered the facts. >> today also the attorney general fortunately declared that any accusation that he had anything to do with collusion between the trump campaign and russia is a, quote, appalling and detestable lie. do you believe him? do you believe he had no hand in any possible collusion? >> well, what i can tell you is when you have someone who violates the terms of his
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recusal, you certainly have grounds to question other matters. so the point you are asking about i intend to follow up on. >> the attorney general also said that he would not participate in any effort to remove robert mueller. does hearing that give you confidence that the integrity of the independent investigation is going to be upheld? >> under normal circumstances you would say yes, but certainly when you look at the trump inner circle, they have a long track record here based on the first few months of this administration to take steps that honor the one principle above everything else, which is protect the president. >> finally, the attorney general was asked about his meeting with kislyak in his office, and he seemed unable to go into much detail of what he actually did discuss. he said it wasn't anything to do with the campaign, that it had to do with his role as a senator at the time, and yet, some of
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the major issues, as john mccain pointed out, it didn't seem like he went into them or just didn't remember. normally in a meeting like that, would there be staff sitting in taking notes? would there be any kind of account at the time of what was actually discussed? >> what i indicated at the hearing is some of these answers, anderson, just don't pass the smell test. if you're talking about meetings with a prominent russian official and he says he doesn't really remember much, he doesn't know if there are any records, this kind of thing, it just cries out for those of us who are charged with oversight to insist that we get more facts and we're going to stay at it. >> senator wyden, i appreciate your time. thank you. >> thanks for having me. i want to bring in the panel. ryan, matt, gloria, jeffrey, matthew and glen. you said that the attorney general's testimony was the white house basically having its
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cake and eating it too. >> i thought so. >> what does that mean? >> he said -- he didn't answer any questions about what donald trump said or did. but he did not cite executive privilege. he just said confidentiality which is basically a made-up legal kept that has no basis in law. >> he said long-standing justice department policy. >> that he couldn't identify in writing and is not known to me and apparently not known to many people in that hearing. so the white house got the secrecy they wanted. they got the nondisclosure of conversations involving the president, but they didn't have to take the political heat of citing executive privilege. >> gloria, executive privilege came up a lot. i want to show some of the moments where the term was thrown around. >> has the president invoked executive privilege in the case of your testimony here today? >> he has not. >> then what is the basis of
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your refusal to answer these questions? >> i am protecting the right of the president to exert it -- assert it if he chooses. >> senator feinstein, that would call for a communication between the attorney general and the president and i'm not able to comment on that. >> can you tell me, what are these long-standing d.o.j. rules that protect conversations made in the executive without invoking executive privilege? >> senator, i'm protecting the president's constitutional right. mr. chairman, i'm not able to comment on conversations with high officials within the white house. >> stonewalling of any kind of unacceptable, and general sessions has acknowledged that there is no legal basis for this stonewalling. >> i am not stonewalled. i am following the historic policies of the department of justice. >> it's the same thing, gloria, that we heard from dni coats,
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admiral rogers. rogers went in later to classify testimony, but no indication that sessions is going to do that. >> right. in fact, sessions was asked about that today and he didn't indicate that he was willing to do that. our laura jarrett asked the justice department what is the precedent that jeffrey is questioning, and they pointed to two memos from 1982. one from president reagan and the other from ted olson who was then the a.g. for the office of legal counsel, and so they set this precedent up. but it was not something that sessions could cite in the hearing. and i think that you have this pattern here of sessions, according to our reporting, jim acosta's reporting, did not go to the white house and ask whether he should assert executive privilege. the other two gentlemen said they tried to contact the white house and never got a response, if you'll recall from their testimony. so what the white house is getting is people who are just saying i'm not going to testify
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about these conversations because it makes it look like they could be damaging to the president. >> matt, if it's not executive privilege, what is it? >> well, i think what all the lawyers in the room believe it is, it feels a lot like attorney/client privilege but the president isn't the attorney general's client. so they're thinking we're having confidential communications when their tingly sense tells them they shouldn't talk about it. >> dni coats and admiral rogers. >> riekght. you see they've come up with a strategy to not answer these questions. >> congress has a constitutional right to participate and to investigate, and a tingly sense, with all due respect, is not a legal concept. but the thing is, they don't -- in the absence of contempt or some sort of coercion -- >> there's nothing they can do. >> right. >> would it have made the
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attorney general's argument stronger if he had brought with him and read aloud the d.o.j. policy he was referring to? >> of course. look at his opening statement. he was specific in the opening statement, but you expect more specificity in the opening statement than in the back and forth with senators. so there is some give and take on that, but unless the d.o.j. comes up with that kind of specificity for the tradition he cited, other than the memos that gloria mentioned, then it looks like a weak part of today's testimony. i will say though, it was all cabined around the same thing, and that was conversations with the president where you would expect them to potentially exercise executive privilege, and the tingly sense, as it's now being described, is leading somebody like general sessions who obviously is a lawyer to have that instinct. i would note that a lot of the -- you look at ron wyden
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today, and boy, he just looked like he was huffing and puffing and couldn't stand it and this was outrageous and of course this was all missing for 8 years for people like ron wyden. so there is a lot of partisanship. if this hearing like the comey hearing were structured to be purely substantive, each side would have their counsel asking the questions and it wouldn't be going from senator to senator so they can have their time shouting into the camera, and we saw some of that again today like we did with comey. this is not the ideal structure for an oversight committee to get the most information out of a hearing. general sessions did well in his opening statement, and then there was a lot to fight about after that. >> matt lewis, was today a good day for the trump administration? again, no real details came out about those conversations that obviously a lot of the democrats wanted to hear. >> yeah, i think it probably was. if you're looking at it from a political standpoint, it's probably a good day for trump,
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for the trump administration. by the way, i thought that senator heinrich had the best questions today and he made the point that said either you take executive privilege or if it's classified information you don't have to talk about it. otherwise, if you pledge to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, then you have no excuse for not answering these questions. having said that, i think that most -- in terms of the news value and the possibility that down the road -- if sessions, if attorney general sessions had answered questions with more specificity, more specifically today and he had gotten something wrong, even if he had misremembered, down the road it might have come down to haunt him. he answered very few questions, so i think politically it doesn't hurt him and it also shields him down the road. >> also, a lot of his answers were, well, i don't remember or,
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not to my knowledge, which are classic answers when -- >> it sounded like he got cornered in a hallway by some cameras. he knew he was coming, the president knew he was coming. what he kept saying was that he was trying to preserve trump's future executive privilege as if they couldn't have had a conversation about it before he came to actually testify. so it seemed like a game. it seemed like something, and he can only play this card one time but he did play it and i think that it actually harmed his credibility because it didn't really make sense to people. you're listening to this and think -- >> forgive me for interrupting, they can play it as many times as they like, as long as they have republican control of these committees. the only thing that's going to stop them from essentially stonewalling is coercion, force. you're not going to get that from republicans. >> another thing hanging over the hearing today was whether then senator sessions intentionally misled the
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judiciary committee during his confirmation hearings. i want to play a portion in question from back in january and what was said today. >> if it's true, it's obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the trump campaign communicated with the russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do? >> senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those activities. i have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign and i did not have communications with the russians. i'm unable to comment on it. >> he was asked about that today by vice chairman warner. let's play what he said. >> this is what happened. senator franken asked me a rambling question after some six hours of testimony that included dramatic new allegations that the united states intelligence
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community, the u.s. intelligence community, had advised president-elect trump, quote, that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government, close quote. i was taken aback by that explosive allegation, which he said was being reported as breaking news that very day and which i had not heard. i wanted to refute that immediately. any suggestion that i was part of such an activity. i replied quote, i replied to senator franken this way, quote, senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those activities. i have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign, and i didn't have communications with the russians and i'm unable to comment on it, close quote. that was the context in which i was asked the question, and in
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that context, my answer was a fair and correct response to the charge as i understood it. >> ryan, senator franken's put out a statement saying he doesn't buy the attorney general's explanation. >> just look at the language of the question. franken asked him about intermediaries for the russian government which is exactly what the russian ambassador is, and surrogates for the trump campaign which is exactly what jeff sessions is. even by his own explanation of the context of that question, i don't quite understand what attorney general sessions is getting at. the question was about exactly the kind of contacts that we now know he had. now, he may think they were just innocent contacts, his contacts with the russian ambassador were about issues that were totally innocent, but the question was indeed about surrogates and intermediaries. >> he has said that he wasn't meeting with the russian ambassador as a surrogate in the time. >> john mccain kind of got into that -- >> take off your surrogate hat.
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>> john mccain said i don't remember you really being that interested in foreign policy. >> and quizzed him on what specific foreign policies issued were discussed and he didn't know many. >> there was a story today in yahoo! that based on the department accounting sessions had zero meetings with foreign ambassadors up until the point he was appointed to the campaign in march and then in april he had almost 30. i understand that he could theoretically do that as a senator or as a surrogate but he said he was doing it as a senator and he previously did not do that. >> what's clear is what kislyak was doing is trying to find out about the trump campaign and its views on russia. >> we'll have the latest from the white house next and later the man who would have to make the call to fire special counsel robert mueller. rod rosenstein was asked about it and we'll see what he said
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when 360 continues.
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the president has yet to react to today's testimony. he did, however, tweet somewhat
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on the subject earlier today. quote, fake news is at an all-time high. where is their apology to me for all the incorrect stories. we're joined from the white house for the latest. the president was traveling in wisconsin during attorney general sessions' testimony. do you know if he watched it? >> he was talking about workforce development, about health care, but a source does say the president spent most of his flight to wisconsin which is 90 minutes watching attorney general jeff sessions getting peppered with questions about russia and about his conversations with the president. as much as trump may want to escape the fray here in washington, even he is style dialed in on the russia investigation. >> has the white house or anyone in the administration had any comment about the hearing today? >> no official response. there's been no official white house statement. i sfoek with a spokesperson for the president's personal lawyer earlier today who said his personal lawyer would not be putting out a statement today. it's possible we could still hear from the white house on this. they are still on their way back from wisconsin now.
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sarah huckabee sanders is with reporters. we have asked for more of a readout but so far the white house has been mum on this. >> back for a second to the attorney general's alleged meeting back in april of last year at the mayflower in washington. the key moment, if it ever occurred, some sort of exchange at a v.i.p. gathering before then sunday trump's speech. we did find this, video from a few minutes after the v.i.p. reception. in it you see the ambassador making his way to a seat down there in the front. less than a minute later you see senator sessions walk in across the front row, walk past the ambassador, saying nothing, eventually just sitting behind him. so that's the video. back with the panel. jeffrey lord, i know you appreciate the tradition of people saying they don't recall certain things. it does seem like the russian ambassador though was very forgettable to a lot of people who met with him. >> he was apparently forgettable to nancy pelosi too who said she
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never met him and then a picture shows up of the two of them at a table with other folks. seeing that video there, right before i came on the air i talked to someone who was there in the room who, along with frank buckley, had helped write that speech. so they were there sitting right behind jeff sessions. mr. buckley has a piece on another network in which he says, if i saw this, i'd say so. i saw no indication he had any conversation with the russian ambassador and he left alone. i talked with mr. terrell who says the same thing. so in other words, i mean, this is such a -- mr. buckley points out that bob woodward was there, there were reporters. this was a very public place, so to have some sort of private conversation in a conspiracy that would hardly be the place to do it. it makes no sense on the face of it. >> brian, after the -- sessions testified today, he clearly does not seem eager to go into a
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classified briefing to answer more questions about this. is there anything more the senators can do? >> if i were the democrats on this committee, mark warner who is the ranking democrat on the intelligence committee, i'd have two things i'd be following up on. i'd go to my republican counterpart, senator burr, and saying we need to change the process in which we're bringing witnesses to capitol hill. up until now they have been voluntary appearances to come up to the hill and testify. i think they need to think about issuing subpoenas. if you have a subpoena issued you have a possibility of contempt of congress situation hanging over the heads of these witnesses. >> you're saying if executive privilege isn't invoked and yet they're not answering. >> correct. if the underlying material is classified, there's no reason for them to be refusing questions. members of both parties should be taking this issue seriously. if you issue subpoenas, you can
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dangle the threat of contempt of congress charge. it's a criminal matter. if that's dangling over their head they'll think twice about refusing to answer questions. the second thing i would be doing is getting ready a legislative proposal to revisit an independent counsel law. that was in the clinton administration in the late 90s. both sides agree that that ken starr investigation ran amok and that statute elapsed in the late 90s. now you have a situation where the president can basically fire, albeit through the acting attorney general, in this case rod rosenstein, bob mueller. you have surrogates for donald trump going around floating that possibility. if that happens and mueller is gotten rid of by donald trump, we're left without any independent conducting of that investigation, we need to at least have the back-up option of an independent counsel. >> jason, what about the idea of subpoenas?
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if people are willing to come voluntarily, is that fair? >> that's what attorney general sessions did today, he came voluntarily in front of the committee. you've seen a number of people step forward and say we would like to come and testify to knock down the silliness of this entire -- >> right but they're testifying but not quite -- they're saying -- >> the national review in a very well written piece tonight writes, preserving privilege is not obstructing justice. i think it's clearly what attorney general sessions was doing here. anderson, take a step back for a second. coming into today really there were two things, two potential outcomes. number one, they would kill general sessions there in that hearing, knock him down politically and he wouldn't make it out, or he would still be standing at the end. i think across the board he is still standing. in fact, he came out with a surprising amount of vinegar and fire in his belly with his answers. he knocked away the hysteria from ka mall la harris and others who wanted to make this a
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partisan show. the single biggest takeaway, this is the end of the so-called russia hysteria that we're seeing because we're this far into it and there's still not one shred of evidence that there's been any coordinating between the campaign and a foreign entity. the biggest piece of news is the fact that we're finding out that there are investigations into multiple leaks which is a very big deal. so reality winner might -- >> get him out of the wood shed with the president? the president wasn't happy with sessions before today. today sessions didn't speculate at all about whether the president was appropriate in his conversations. he didn't discuss their conversations, so you think he's now back in the good graces of donald trump? >> i think the attorney general today was strong, decisive and gave a very clear opinion -- >> of not answering. >> i'm not going to speak for the president. i know not to speak for him unless i have permission to. but i would say watching this, as any trump supporter, i would say the attorney general did a very good job. >> senator manchin asked
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attorney general sessions about russian interference, similar to what he was asked last week. i want to play both of those clips. >> you were part of the national security team so if he would have heard something about russia and with their capabilities and our concern about what they could do to our election process, was there any conversations concerning that whatsoever? >> i don't recall it, senator manchin. >> i don't remember any conversations with the president about the russia election interference. >> did he ever ask you any questions concerning this? >> there was an initial briefing of our findings and i think there was conversation there, i don't remember it exactly, where he asked questions about what we found and what our sources were and what our confidence level. after that i don't remember anything. >> now we have two people from -- who were in the administration -- well, former fbi director and the attorney general both saying they've not heard the president expressing concern or much concern about russian interference in the election which the entire u.s. intelligence community is on
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agreement on. does that concern you? >> well, it does concern me because what our intelligence community has said uniformly and anonymously is that we had russian interference in this election and it's not going to stop. they're going to do it again. i do think that the ball -- that the needle didn't move one direction or another today or democrats or republicans, but i will say that whether or not you're talking about russia interference and attorney general sessions literally said if it occurred. we all agree it did occur, but he said if it occurred. whether or not we're talking about russian interference, talking about the ukraine, he was reminiscent about roberto gonzalez, former attorney general in 2007 with his i don't recalls. but more importantly, he looked relatively incompetent and had a huge dosage of willful ignorance. he was literally sticking his head in the staand. this is our top legal mind in the united states of america, and today he looked befuddled and incompetent.
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>> there's still the outstanding question of whether or not the president taped james comey in the oval office, which senator rubio asked the attorney general about that so let's play that. >> duo you know if the presiden records conversations in the oval office or anywhere in the white house? >> i do not. >> let me ask you this. if in fact any president was to record conversations in their official duties in the white house or the like, would there be an obligation to preserve those records? >> i don't know, senator rubio. probably so. >> it's just such an easy question to have answered. i don't know, i mean clearly nobody wants to ask the president or they have asked and haven't gotten an answer. >> i just think that's a question they probably don't want the answer to, especially the attorney general. can i go back to something that jason said. how was senator harris hysterical? i don't understand that. she was asking some tough questions. >> completely partisan's creed. >> how was that his cystericahy?
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>> from my perspective, i would say objective perspective, it didn't seem like there was any effort to try to get to a real question or get to the bottom -- >> i think she asked a lot of questions actually. she was dogged but i wouldn't say she was any more dogged than ron wyden was, would you say that? >> i have my opinion. i think she was hysterical. i don't think senator wyden was really trying to get to the bottom of answers either. >> but he wasn't hysterical and she was. i wanted to clear that up. >> i thought it was way out of bounds. this is the second hearing in a row. >> she didn't shout but even if she did, they both were asking a lot of tough questions and i think calling her hysterical is probably a little -- >> hysteria is a quality. what's that? it's just women who are usually called hysterical. >> you're being hysterical. >> yes, i'm hysterical now for example. she was asking a lot of questions and he wasn't
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forthcoming and there was a lot of frustration on the part of the senators there and it wasn't all democrats. >> in your opinion she was making a legitimate effort to get answers to questions and to hear what the attorney general was saying? >> yeah. you might not like the questions she was asking. >> you didn't view it as her talking overtop of him? >> i think he was talking over her to answer her questions. i don't think it was any more than any other senator was doing. like i said, i think senator wyden's was by far the most aggressive questioning and there isn't anything wrong with that. >> one thing that attorney general sessions does very well is, looking if your shtick is to be super polished and confident, that's a burden. you sort of have to bring it every night and deliver. if your shtick is a character of a southerner and a good old boy, then you can just be like i don't recollect that, i don't
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recall, and i think that benefits him. i think he comes across as pretty likable. it's thehysterical, it's like, i don't know, tell me. >> he was outraged today. >> he was fired up. >> you're not going to do this to me. i came here voluntarily because i want to clear my name and i recused myself from the russia investigation but not from clearing my name. >> it could also just be his -- i mean, you know, as someone whose father comes from -- people have southern accents and it's not shtick. it's actually how they talk [ talking over one another ] >> i will not be able to go to the cooper family reunion if he did not speak up. >> for him it's entertainment. >> exactly. >> one thing we've lost sight of, the most important thing, whether this was good for sessions or not, whether he performed well, the most important thing that has happened in the last week is that james comey laid out a case that a lot of former federal
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prosecutors argue is obstruction of justice. the thing i was looking for today is how much damage did that case get today from sessions who was a witness to a number of the things in the comey testimony last week. and i would say no damage at all. in fact, he corroborated -- overwhelmingly corroborated the parts of comey's testimony that he was involved with, did not contradict in any significant way any piece of it, and that is the thing to watch. far more important than the senate investigation is mueller's -- is the fbi investigation for trump. >> we're going to talk more shortly about the story that brian mentioned a moment ago, a friend of the president saying he's considering firing special counsel robert mueller. pretty much everyone has something to say about that including the deputy attorney general. we'll get into that next.
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some breaking news, the white house says president trump has no intention of firing special counsel robert mueller. in a press briefing aboard air force one with deputy press secretary sarah sanders on the way back from milwaukee, reporters asked about it. she replied and i'm quoting here, while the president has
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the right to, he has no intention to do so. deputy attorney general rod rosenstein would be the one to do it if it order came. he was in hearings on capitol hill today. brianna keilar joins us now from capitol hill with more. what did the deputy attorney general say about mueller in the special counsel today? >> anderson, rosenstein said that he would not fire mueller unless there was cause. he said there would have to be good cause, and he said it's not an action that he would take unless it was lawful and unless it was appropriate. this was something that a number of senators, including republican senator lindsey graham, pressed him on. >> do you know of any reason or cause to fire mr. mueller as of this date? >> no, i do not, sir. >> and that would be your decision if that ever happened, right? >> that's correct. >> and you're going to make it, nobody else? >> as long as i'm in this position, senator, it would be my responsibility to make that decision. >> and rosenstein also explained the process by which that would
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happen. he said that if it were to happen, he would be the one to put it in writing. so this is something that he would have to sign his name onto, anderson, and he said that if there was not good cause, that it would not matter to him what anybody says, so he really seemed to be saying that the buck stopped with him and he wasn't going to bend to any influence on this. >> did he say anything about his memo about then director of the fbi, comey? >> he did. because that was the memo that excoriated comey that he sent on to jeff sessions and that white house officials used to justify the firing of jim comey, of course until president trump mentioned that russia was on his mind what he fired james comey. rosenstein did say he was very careful not to associate himself with anything that pertained to russia. he said that when he wrote that memo, he stands by what he wrote by those criticisms, but he said the memo is about what it is about, and he said that any questions about what clearly he
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seemed to be referring to questions of obstruction of justice, anything pertaining to russia, that was going to fall under bob mueller's purview. it was very interesting, anderson, he would not say when he was told to write that memo and rosenstein would not say who told him to write the memo. >> thank you. >> a friend of president trump's was back yesterday with clarification. chris ruddy said the president was considering firing mueller. today on "new day", ruddy said he noeever spoke with the president about it but saying his attorney said over the weekend the option was there. >> i never said that the president told me. i never said i had a conversation. i never implied. as you know, i have been on cnn many times and i always speak for myself and not the president. he has his own spokesman, although i think they're in need of help from time to time. so the president's spokesman issued what i'd call a bids czar press release last night saying
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that i had not spoken to the president about it, and i said, hey, i never said i spoke to the president. interestingly enough, they never denied my underlying report. >> back with the panel. joining the conversation, cnn legal analyst paul kellen. it is true that they never denied outright that the president was considering it or thinking about it. what they said last night, sarah huckabee sanders put out a statement saying chris ruddy speaks for himself and even today that quote we just read from air force one, the question was, is potus considering whether he'll fire mueller and she answered, he has no intention to do so. she didn't say, no, he wasn't considering it. >> i think you can file this under a trial balloon that sank quickly and i think rod rosenstein really underlined today how difficult it will be to fire mueller if the president wants to do it because it is quite clear that rosenstein is
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the person who has to do it, and he said i won't do it if i don't find good cause. in other words, you're going to have to fire me and have someone else come into this job and do it, which is precisely what happened in 1973 in the saturday night massacre where elliott richardson resigned rather than fire arch bald cox. it raises the stakes if the president wants to get rid of mueller at this point it will be world war 3 and i think no one, even in the republican party, wants that. >> ken, it is interesting that the three people that we've heard from the white house or the three times we heard from the white house, they have never said, no, the president was never considering it. >> well, you know, so what? this is not a place they can go as a practical matter, and i don't think they want to try , o jeff's point. i think it's a good one to stay away from for them. mueller has a great reputation.
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there's no one i can think of in law enforcement who has worked with him who doesn't hold a high opinion of him. he's an ideal person to flesh this all out, and as long as he doesn't run amok in the ken starr mold, then i think that america is going to be better for clearing this issue up and having whatever the outcome is put before the american people on a clear basis. roa rosenstein made it clear today, he's not firing this guy unless the regulatory standard of good cause is met. look, good cause for robert mueller is a very high bar, is a very high bar, and i would say that i understand their concerns when you see the kind of smearing going on of the attorney general in light of what he had to say today and the incomplete reporting. for instance, people who say, for instance, that in the franken exchange it was about contacts with russia and it was about this, but they never mentioned collusion, right,
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ryan? are you listening, ryan? it was about collusion, and the attorney general made that about as clear as he can be, so we justreproach, he needs to
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appear to be beyond reproach. i think robert mueller will fix that. bog mul bob mueller will fix that. it's more critical that when -- what they have done surfaces and most of it will be done quietly. that it be rather obviously done professionally and not be one sided. it be balanced in terms of the consideration of all the angles. if that's the case, then the -- whatever final product, whether it's indictments or report or
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what have you could be a combination, will have greater credibility. the interview for the -- to take on the fbi director role again doesn't concern me. because of his reputation, he was a natural person to have on that list to maybe bring back. i frankly think that the fact that he was on trump's list to even interview adds to his credibility. >> thanks, everybody. appreciate it. attorney general jeff sessions in the hot seat. what he said about russia's meddling in the election. what he can't recall about his meetings with russians, what he refused to talk about. plus all the things he did say plus reaction from capitol hill when we continue. ...intelligent. ...explosive. but the true secret to his perfection... was a heart, twice the size of an average horse.
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we have been talking about today's disputed and occasionally discombobulated testimony from jeff sessions. he said he wanted to set the record straight. he called suggestions he included with russia a detestable lie. he had a lot to say about that, less to say about conversations with the reussian ambassador. you see the stonewalling or straight talk, there was plenty to see. we want to play more portions of the testimony. >> there are none. >> reporter: jeff sessions grew angry and frustrated with the continued questions about a
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possible meeting with russian ambassad ambassador. >> i don't appreciate it. i tried to give my best in truthful answers to any committee i have appeared before. i recuse myself from any investigation into the campaign for president. but i did not recuse myself from defending my honor against false allegations. >> reporter: the attorney general repeatedly rebuffed the speculation that has swirls since james comey's testimony when the fired fbi director briefed senators in a closed hearing that sessions may have met with kislyak for a third undisclosed meeting at the mayflower hotel. >> i did not have any private meetings, nor do i recall any conversations with any russian officials at the mayflower hotel. >> reporter: it was concise. when pressed by richard burr, his answer seemed less clear. >> i would have