tv CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley CBS June 8, 2017 6:30pm-7:01pm EDT
captioning sponsored by cbs >> pelley: tonight, comey under oath. >> do you solemnly swear to tell the truth? >> pelley: the president. >> we're under siege. >> pelley: comey tells congress ending the flynn investigation was not just a threat from the president. >> you perceived it as an order. >> yes. >> the president never directed or suggested that mr. comey stop investigating anyone. >> pelley: a search for the truth. >> i've seen the tweet about tapes. lordy, i hope there are tapes. >> pelley: and a warning about the russians. >> they're coming after america. >> pelley: as congress investigates the assault on the u.s. election. >> and there clearly still remain a number of questions. >> if the president united
states said, we had that thing" i would like to know what that "thing" is. this is the "cbs evening news" with scott pelley. >> pelley: former f.b.i. director james comey told the senate intelligence commit they president trump ordered him to call off the investigation of former national security adviser michael flynn. for two and a half hours today, comey described a series of highly unusual meetings and phone calls in which mr. trump bypassed comey's boss, the attorney general, and asked comey directly to publicly clear the president of wrongdoing. a special counsel has taken over the russia investigation and could look into whether mr. trump committed obstruction of justice when he asked comey to drop the flynn inquiry and then fired comey when he did not. in perhaps a sign of the legal and political jeopardy, the president for once did not speak for himself. he left it to his lawyer to deny
all. we have extensive coverage beginning with nancy cordes. >> i was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, so i thought it really important to document. >> reporter: comey told senators that it was the president's pattern of dishonesty that prompted him to take notes. >> i knew that there might come a day when i would neepped a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the f.b.i. >> reporter: he says he wrote down everything he could remember from a january dinner where the president demanded his loyalty. >> my common sense toll me what's going on here is he's looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job. >> reporter: three weeks later, he says, the president ordered everyone but him out of a meeting in the oval office. >> had you ever seen anything like that before? >> no. my sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn't be leaving, which is why he was lingering, and i don't know mr. kushner well, but i think he picked up on the same thing. and so i knew something was
about to happen that i needed to pay very close attention to. >> reporter: once they were alone, he says, the president told him, "i hope you can see your way clear to dropping an f.b.i. investigation involving fired national security adviser michael flynn. california democrat dianne feinstein: >> why didn't you stop and say, "mr. president, this is wrong. i cannot discuss this with you." >> maybe if i were stronger, i would have. i was so stunned by the conversation that i just took it in. >> reporter: idaho republican dan richman: >> he did not direct you to let it go. >> not in his words, no. i mean, this is the president of the united states, with me alone, saying "i hope this," i took it as this is what he wants me to do. i didn't obey that, but that's the way i took it. >> reporter: oklahoma republican jame lankford argued president trump didn't say anything to comey that he hasn't said on twitter. >> quite frankly, the president
has informed around six billion people that he's not real fond of this investigation. do you think there's a difference in that? >> yes. >> okay. >> i think there's a big difference in kicking superior officers out of the oval office, looking the f.b.i. director in the eye and saying, "i hope you let this go." i think if agents, as good as they are, heard the president of the united states did that, there's a real riskave chilling effect on their work. >> reporter: president trump has disputed comey's account, even tweeting last month, "james comey better hope there are no taims of our conversations." >> lordy, i hope there are tapes. >> reporter: comey says that tweet three days after he was fired lead him to take an unusual step. he asked a friend, columbia law professor, dan richman, to share the conterchts of his memos with a "new york times" reporter. >> i thought that might prompt the apoivment a special counsel. >> so why didn't you give those to somebody yourself rather than give them through a third party? >> because i was worried the
media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point and i was actually gowght of town with my wife to hide and i worried it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach if it was i who gave it to the media. so i asked my friend, "make sure this gets out." >> reporter: comey says he resents the shifting explanations for his firing. >> the administration chose to defame me, and more importantly the f.b.i., by saying the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. those were lies, plain andicism. >> reporter: comey says he believes the real reason for his firing has to do with his handling of the russia investigation and the fact that he was unwilling, scott, to "lift the cloud," as want president repeatedly requested. >> pelley: nancy cordes in the hearing room. nancy, thank you. and major garrett it centenarian white house this evening. major. >> reporter: scott, president trump watched some of the proceedings with his lawyer and top adviser, like son-in-law
jared kushner, daughter ivanka, and chief of staff reince preibus, and in a speech to social conservatives, the president sounded defiant. >> we're under siege. you understand that. but we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever. you watch. >> reporter: later, other president's attorney marc kasowitz denied two of comey's most damning assertions. >> the president never in form or substance, directed or suggested that mr. comey stop investigating anyone. the president also never told mr. comey "i need loyalty. i expect loyalty." >> reporter: kasowitz did say comey's testimony vindicated the president's assertion that he was not under investigation. he then portrayed comey as part of a government-wide effort to undermine the administration with leaks. >> mr. comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers.
>> reporter: comey testified that he told his friend to leak his memo to the "new york times" after this may 12 presidential tweet. "comey better hope that there are no taiches our conversations." while the president himself did not tweet today, his son, donald jr. wrote, "i'm pretty sure that comey's testimony put his own character on trial." during an off-camera briefing at the white house, deputy press secretary sarah huckabee sanders was asked if the president was a liar. >> i can definitively say the president's not a liar. and i think it's, frankly, insulting that that question would be asked." >> reporter: sanders would not say if the president tapes oval office conversations. this was her response when asked to check: >> i'll try to look under the couches." >> reporter: sanders also said the president does, indeed, have confidence in attorney general jeff sessions. scott, that comes after two straight days in which the white house refused to answer that question. >> pelley: major garrett for us tonight. major, thank you. it was last month that the
federal investigation into all of this was turned over to an independent special counsel, former f.b.i. director robert mueller. our chief legal correspondent, jan crawford, tonight has a look at the law. >> i don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation i had with the president was an effort to obstruct. >> reporter: throughout the hearing, former director james comey was careful not to say whether he thought the president broke the law. as in this exchange with west virginia democrat joe manchin. >> do you believe this will rise to obstruction of justice? >> i don't know. that's bob mueller's job to sort that out. >> reporter: deferring to the special counsel, comey instead laid out his version of the facts, that the president, after firing national security adviser michael flynn, urged comey to drop his investigation into flynn's post-election conversations with its russian ambassador. >> i took it as a direction. >> reporter: but even if comey thought that, it's not necessarily a crime. what's key for obstruction is intent, whether the president thought firing flynn was
punishment enough, or whether he corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct, or impeeled the investigation for an improper purpose. >> i think the one overall takeaway would have to be obstruction of justice. >> reporter: scott fredricksen is a former federal prosecutor. >> the fundamentals might be there potentially, but there is more investigation in the future. >> it's not a question i can answer in an open setting, mr. chairman. >> reporter: and some of comey's testimony, like this exchange with committee chairman richard burr, bolstered the president's claims he did not obstruct. >> did the president at any time ask you to stop the f.b.i. investigation into russian involvement in the 2016 u.s. elections? >> not to my understanding, no. >> reporter: but this is more of a political matter, a sitting president has never been indicted. the constitution says impeachment is the punishment for committing high crimes and misdemeanors, which means, scott, obstrusks justice is
whatever a majority of congress says it is. >> pelley: jan crawford, thanks very much. well, coming into the comey hearing, president trump's job approval rating was 37%, close to his all-time low of 35. it's interesting to note, five other recent presidents fell lower for a time, in the 20s-- truman, nixon, carter, and both bushes. john dickerson, our chief washington correspondent and the anchor of "face the nation" is joining us right now. john, beyond the legal issues, there was a contest of character today between comey and the president. >> we mentioned those public approval numbers. that's about public opinion. as jan said, it's ultimately politicians who will make the determination here. the public puts pressure on them. how does the public know who's telling the truth? well, whose character do they judge is better? so this was a question of the president's character versus james comey's character and want white house and republican allies are attacking comey before he even opened his mouth saying that he was a showboat. the democrats had criticized him before he became their here oh, that he hurt the f.b.i.
when hillary clinton's campaign did a version of that during the campaign, mike pence, then-governor of the indiana called it the politics of personal destruction. as we heard, comey had his own character claims to make about the president, said it's in his nature to lie. but 10 at the end of the day, the president's personal lawyer had the final word on character saying comey had anonymously leaked that information and that he should be investigated for it. >> pelley: the president has called qoes comey a "nut job" ie white house. the president said that he had been vindicated, if you will, by comey, told that he was not under investigation three times. but now there's a special counsel. >> well, that's right. so the president-- comey did tell the president that back then, but suggested the president was under investigation in his testimony today. yesterday, the acting f.b.i. director also said he couldn't answer certain questions because the president was either under investigation now or will be. so the president who was putting pressure on comey to say he wasn't under investigation may have given evidence to the investigators who are now looking into him. >> pelley: john dickerson.
we'll be watching for more on all of this on "face the nation" on sunday. thank you. comey said attempts by the russians to undermine the united states are ongoing opinion he said, "we remain that shining city on the hill, and they don't like it." here's our homeland security correspondent jeff pegues. >> there should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. the russians interfered in our election. >> reporter: comey testified that in 2015, u.s. investigators detectived russian hackers were sending waves of malicious emails to governments and nonprofit organizations. committee chairman richard burr: >> what would be the estimate of how many entities out thereto russians specifically targeted? >> it's hundreds. i suppose it could be more than 1,000. but it's at least hundreds. >> reporter: as they began to investigate, u.s. intelligence agencies descroferred that some trump campaign associates were in contact with russian officials, including fired national security adviser michael flynn.
by the time comey met with the president in february in the oval office, comey says flynn was in legal jeopardy. >> there was an open f.b.i. criminal investigation of his statements in connection with the russian contacts and the contacts themselves. >> reporter: comey told his senior advisers that the president had asked him to let go of the flynn investigation, but they decide not to inform attorney general jeff sessions. >> we also are aware of facts i caernt discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a russia-related investigation problematic. >> reporter: days later, sessions recused himself from the investigation after it was revealed that he had not disclosed all of his meetings with the russian ambassador. besides flynn, the f.b.i. is now scrutinizing former campaign chairman paul manafort; former campaign adviser carter page; trump confidant, roger stone; and his son-in-law, jared kushner. arkansas senator tom cotton:
>> do you believe donald trump colluded with russia? >> that's a question i don't think i should answer in an open setting. aise said, when i left, we did not have an investigation focused on president trump. but that's a question that will be answered by the investigation, i think. >> reporter: a lawyer for michael flynn did not respond to requests for comment. scott, comey noted that during their meetings, the president did not ask him to take any action on the russian interference in the election, and comey warned that the russians would be back. >> pelley: jeff pegues, thanks. coming up on the cbs evening news, we'll get the perspective of political veteran leon panetta, and later, millions tune in to comey tv, part c-span, part super bowl. then she came to louisiana as a slave. i became curious where in africa she was from. so i took the ancestry dna test to find out more about my african roots. the ancestry dna results were really specific.
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mr. secretary, mr. comey made a lot today of the fact that the president ordered everyone out of the room before he talked to mr. comey about the investigation into michael flynn. help us understand what that means. >> well, that was a serious breach in the relationship between the president and the director of the f.b.i. it was at that point that somebody in the room should have made clear that the president ought not to be alone with the director of the f.b.i. and, obviously, no woon did, and i think that was a serious lapse in terms of good discipline at the white house. >> pelley: well, why shouldn't the president be alone with the f.b.i. director? >> well, the director of the f.b.i. is conducting investigations into national security issues, and the president should not be viewed as trying to in any way influence those kinds of investigations.
and so for that reason, at least the approach in past with other presidents has been to make very sure that the president does not have that kind of one-on-one discussion with the director of the f.b.i., particularly when the director is conducting a very sensitive investigation. that just is not done. >> pelley: what did you see in the testimony today that related to the charge of obstruction of justice? >> there's not much question that the president will be a focus of an investigation by the special counsel as to whether or not there was obstruction of justice. the testimony by director comey raised at least a pattern in the meetings and discussions with the director that raises the issue of whether or not he was trying to influence or obstruct that investigation. that will be the subject, i
think, of the special counsel's investigation. >> pelley: leon panetta of the panetta institute and former secretary of defense. thanks for being with us. >> thank you. >> pelley: and coming up, comey reveals pressure from the obama administration. okay. got it. rumor confirmed. they're playing. -what? -we gotta go. -where? -san francisco. -when? -friday. we gotta go. [ tires screech ] any airline. any hotel. any time. go where you want, when you want with no blackout dates. [ muffled music coming from club. "blue monday" by new order. cheers. ] ♪ how does it feel the travel rewards credit card from bank of america. it's travel, better connected. the travel rewards credit card from bank of america. so find a venus smooth that contours to curves, the smoother the skin, the more comfortable you are in it.
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'matter'." and again, you look back in hindsight, and you think should i have resisted harder? and i thought this isn't a hill worth dying on. and i said okay, the press is going to completely ignore it and that's what happened. when i said we opened a matter, they all reported the f.b.i. has an investigation open. and that concerned me because that language tracked the way the campaign was talking about the f.b.i.'s work, and that-- that's concerning. >> pelley: former attorney general lynch let it be known today that she chose the word "matter" because she didn't want to confirm or deny an ongoing investigation. up next, where did you watch the show that spoal the day? gave us the power to turn this
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by political theater. john blackstone now on "comey tv." >> reporter: james comey was everywhere today, watched by commuters on a san francisco bay ferry and patrons in a miami cigar bar. it was 7:00 a.m. on the west coast when the senate hearing began, but at aces bar in san francisco, the tvs were turned up and the crowd was tuned in. heidi zuhl dropped by on her way to work. >> i don't come to bars, frankly, at 7:00 on thursday mornings. >> reporter: i'm surprised. >> so-- but i wanted to see who my neighbors were, and i wanted to see how everybody reacted. >> reporter: americans seemed compelled to experience the hearing with others. a line to get into the watch party at shaw's tavern in washington, d.c. stretched down the block. the crowd at a bar in brooklyn surprised renee mass yossi. >> it's packed. me and my friends figured we'd see 10 people. instead we couldn't walk in and get a drink. >> people care big time.
>> reporter: jeff kaplan, an owner of axelrad beer garden in houst orange opened early and filled the place. >> it's as if we're all watching our government as active participants and spectators together. the weird part is it feels like we're all in it. it feels so close. >> reporter: on twitter 3.6 million tweets were sent discussing comey's testimony. in bars, uncounted millions of opinions were expressed as millions tried to make up their own minds. >> that's the american way. that's democracy. that is what it's about. >> reporter: today, a divided nation was united listening. john blackstone, cbs news, san francisco. >> pelley: and that's the cbs evening news for tonight. for all of us at cbs news all around the world, good night. captioning sponsored by cbs captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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