tv Anderson Cooper 360 CNN June 13, 2017 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT
detestable lie. he had a lot to say about that. less to say about encounters with russia's ambassador. next to nothing about certain conversations with the president. it was at times fiery testimony, maddening to his critics, encouraging to his supportsers, and whether you see it as stonewalling or straight talk there was plenty to see. so right now we just want to play more extending portions of the testimony. cnn's jessica schneider has more. >> there are none. >> reporter: attorney general jeff sessions grew angry and frustrated with the continued questions about a possible meeting with russian ambassador sergey kislyak in april 2016. >> this is a secret inwendo being leaked out there about me, and i don't appreciate it. and i tried to give my best and truthful answers to my committee i've appeared before. and i recused myself from any investigation into the campaign for president. but i did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations. >> reporter: the attorney general repeatedly rebuffed the speculation that has swirled
since james comey's testimony last week 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 motel. >> i did not have any private meetings nor do i recall any conversations with any russian officials at the mayflower hotel. >> his denial was concise but when press bid chairman richard burr his answer seemed less clear. >> i would have gladly have reported the meeting, the encounter that may have occurred, that some say occurred, in the mayflower if i had remembered it or if it actually occurred, which i don't remember that it did. >> reporter: sessions remained stern and emotional as he fought back against all allegations he had improper contacts with russians during the campaign. >> and the suggestion that i participated in any collusion, that i was aware of any collusion with the russian government to hurt this country,
which i have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process is an appalling and detestable lie. >> reporter: but sessions repeatedly refused to comment on the details of his interactions and conversations with the president. >> i'm not able to comment on conversations with high officials within the white house. that would be a violation of the communications rule. >> but just so i'm understanding, does that mean -- are you claiming executive privilege here today, sir? >> i'm not claiming executive privilege because that's the presidential's power. >> what is the legal basis for your refusal to answer these questions? >> i am protecting the right of the president to exert it or assert it if he chooses, and it may be other privileges that could apply in this circumstance. >> reporter: democratic senator martin heinrich directly accused the attorney general of stonewalling the committee. >> there are two investigations here. there is a special counsel investigation. there is also a congressional investigation. and you are obstructing that
congressional delegation -- investigation by not answering these questions. >> reporter: sessions also publicly pushed back against james comey's contention that he did not respond when comey expressed concern that comey's one-on-one meeting with the president in the oval office on february 14th was inappropriate. >> i believe it was the next day that he said something, 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 improper. i affirmed his concern that we should be following the proper guidelines of the department of justice. >> reporter: sessions explained that his recusal from the russia investigation resulted after weeks of consultation with ethics officials and disclosed he did not receive any information about the probe even before his formal recusal. >> from that point, february 10th, until i announced my formal recusal on march 2nd i
was never briefed on any investigative details, did not access any information about the investigation. i received only the limited information that the department's career officials determined was necessary for me to form and make a recusal decision. >> joins us now. the attorney general -- is the attorney general or the justice department giving any additional rationale for keeping those conversations between sessions and the president confidential since president trump did not assert executive privilege? >> well, sessions himself, he didn't say anything during the testimony, but tonight the department of justice, they released two memos dating back to 1982. one from then president ronald reagan and one from then assistant attorney general ted olsen. now, a portion of one of the memos, it outlines that it is possible to withhold information while the president is considering whether or not to invoke executive privilege. but it's important to note that
attorney general sessions did not confer with the white house at all about whether the president might even consider invoking executive privilege. that's according to a senior administration official. and the memo does imply, anderson, that in order to withhold testimony the possibility of executive privilege should at least be pending before the president. anderson? >> jessica schneider, thanks very much. the attorney general's status as a former long-time colleague did not quiet skepticism some had before his testimony nor the criticism afterwards. for more on the reaction both good and bad, let's go to cnn's manu raju on capitol hill. what's latest you're hearing tonight? >> the reaction, anderson, has really come along party lines. you're hearing democrats express frustration over why not only jeff sessions wasn't able to e. are call certain key elements including whether or not he had those interactions with sergey kislyak at that meeting at the washington hotel last year but in addition this policy that he is chieting, that jeff sessions cited in terms of why he can't discuss any of these
interactions with president trump himself. but republicans on the other hand said jeff sessions did what he needed to do. they believe he was as forthcoming as he could have been and they believe this whole sessions testimony was a sideshow from the ongoing russia investigation. here's marco rubio from right after the hearing when i asked him about jeff sessions. >> do you feel like he was forthcoming in his testimony? >> i do. he looked forward to the opportunity to speak -- he is the attorney general of the united states. he's not a former member of the government. he was as forthcoming with us today as director comey would have been if he was still fbi director. >> should he have had a role in the firing? >> he's still attorney general. the fbi works on more than just the 2016 investigation. >> now, anderson, other committees do want to question jeff sessions as well including the senate judiciary committee, which has oversight over the justice department. chairman chuck grassley, the republican from iowa, telling me earlier today that he does want to hear from sessions himself before his committee as they look into the broader russia issue in their own panel going
forward, anderson. >> is there any more to come with the attorney general sessions and the senate intelligence committee? >> it's unclear at the moment. this testimony that happened today really caught the committee by surprise. sessions offered on saturday to come before this committee. on tuesday the committee was really looking forward to having other big witnesses come forward. namely the president's son-in-law jared kushner. they're planning on interviewing him sometime this month, as early as this month. they were not prepared for the sessions testimony to happen so soon. and of course sessions said today, anderson, that he probably could not disclose more in a classified setting. so it's unclear how much more information he would give to the committee even if they went behind closed doors, anderson. >> manu, thank you very much. the president has just arrived back from a trip to milwaukee. air force one there on the tarmac at joint base andrews. we'll talk more about his day shortly and the big stories swirling around him. reports he was sthig about firing special counsel mueller. joining us our political and legal panel, jeffrey toobin david axelrod, david gergen gloria borger as well as carl bernstein.
gloria you said earlier today director comey left a lot of bread crumbs out there about the attorney general. did the attorney general clarify anything, address any of the unanswered questions? >> sweep the crumbs away is what he did. first of all, the big confrontation today between senator ron wyden and sessions was about one of those bread crumbs because comey had said, well, i expected -- the question to comey was why didn't you go to sessions? and he said, well, i expected him to recuse himself because he had been in the campaign, et cetera, et cetera. and then there was another issue that was more problematic. and that's a key word. it's my least favorite word of this investigation because everything seems to be problematic these days. but he was asked about it today and he got incensed. outraged. >> he said innuendo. >> yeah, innuendo and outrage and there is nothing problematic. and then comey also sort of implied that if he was fired because of russia why did sessions have anything to do
with it because sessions is supposed to recuse himself on russia. and yet he was part of the firing and sessions today answered that question and said no, he was fired for other reasons and referred us to rod rosenstein's memo. so he did try and kind of say comey was wrong on these issues. >> david, as somebody who's worked in administrations, what do you make of sessions saying there's long-standing department of justice policy he was following by not revealing contents of the conversation with the president even though the president hasn't asked for executive privilege. >> it may be long-standing but it's the first time it's been rediscovered by any administration in years and years. some memo back in 1982 that i can't remember anyone, jeff may have a memory of this, who has employed the rationale that he did, i have to preserve the president's right to exercise executive privilege. and i would point out that the memo is 1982 from ronald reagan. when reagan had his iran contra scandal in his second term, he
waived executive privilege for everyone. he wanted it absolutely clean. he wanted all the documents out there. everything was on the table. and you know, i think the reagan precedent is actually much stronger on being transparent than it is about hiding things. >> david, as someone who worked in the white house, how do you see it? >> well, look, i think we had a little preview of this when the director of national intelligence came before the same committee and the cia director. and they -- >> nsa. >> oh, nsa director. yes. and they essentially made the same argument. and that argument will stand unless the congress is willing to test it. and, you know -- >> which despite all the kerfuffle they don't really seem to. >> i don't anticipate seeing that. i mean, look, we didn't get -- sessions went there for one reason, and that is to deny this -- the breadcrumbs, to sweep them aside as gloria said.
he did not add much to the rest of the story. and the one thing that i thought that may have been underplayed but struck me very strongly given the context of this whole thing is that he sort of kind of casually conceded that he never got a briefing on what the russians had done. this is a major -- >> and didn't remember conversations with the president, the president talking about concern over what happened. >> right. which is a continuing concern. i mean, comey said the president never asked him about it. this is a major national security issue. he's the attorney general. and apparently isn't that interested in this issue. and the president apparently isn't interested in the issue. and so when you go past all of these other questions that seems like a major concern. >> there's the president as well as the first lady at joint base andrews. excuse me, that's ivanka trump. ivanka trump and the president returning to joint base andrews, just getting off air force one
right now. jeff, was there any legal basis for the attorney general to refuse to answer these questions? >> well, he didn't offer one. it was only after the fact that they came up with this 1982 memo. but you know, i think we can have an interesting debate about executive privilege and about the legal niceties. but the fact is when you have a witness in front of the committee and he doesn't want to answer he's not going to answer. and unless you go to court to force him to answer that's the end of the story. and with the senate and house in republican hands you are not going to have litigation forcing these members, these administration officials to talk about their conversations with donald trump. and i think that's the end of the matter. >> a couple things. jeff is absolutely right about the legal side of this. but if you are not forthcoming in a series of these testimonies over time, if we see a pattern
as i think we're beginning to see, a pattern coming from the executive branch of evasion, not really answering the questions, the politics of that are pretty dreadful. >> carl, i want to play something that director comey said last week in his testimony about sessions lingering in the oval office before his one-on-one meeting with the president. let's play that. >> you were in a meeting and your direct superior the attorney general was in that meeting as well. yet the president asked everyone to leave including the attorney general to leave. before he brought up the matter of general flynn. >> my impression is something big needed to happen. i need to remember every single word that is spoken. again, i could be wrong. i'm 56 years old. i've been seeing a few things. 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.
>> carl, while attorney general sessions did corroborate that he was one of the last to leave, he refused to characterize how he interpreted it, how he perceived it's way that comey did. >> well, he tended to confirm what -- his testimony actually confirmed what comey had testified, both in terms of that meeting and the phone call from comey the next day expressing his discomfort. i think we can look at today's events, both rosenstein's testimony and sessions' testimony, as of a piece. the first piece is that it's clear that the president and those closest to him do not want us to know the facts underneath this investigation, the underlying facts about russia, russians, contacts, and their deliberations with each other. the president's deliberations with sessions. with his other aides. we are not entitled to know
those things or what we are hearing from the president and we are hearing from sessions. and from rosenstein what we heard is hugely significant because he drew a line in the sand today saying this cannot stand if mueller is fired unless there is some extraordinary cause. and that is a challenge almost to the republicans. you could hear the republicans talking about it today in private. that they no longer will defend this president if he fires mueller. so there's a line drawn in the sand and also for the first time a word i have not used on the air i think, and that is talk about impeachment among republicans if the president crosses certain lines and that they will have to look at that question. the word as everybody i think in the studio here today will confirm is being uttered if
certain lines are crossed and if these investigations go in a certain direction. >> i don't think so. >> there also is a real possibility that this investigation could go nowhere. but we need to see where these investigations are going and why it is these people are trying to keep us from knowing what happened. >> i don't know what republicans you're talking to, carl, but every republican i have talked to thinks impeachment is an absolutely absurd possibility. and i don't see how you can say today's testimony makes impeachment any more likely. i don't think it really moves the ball much -- >> no. i'm saying rosenstein -- pardon me. rosenstein drawing the line that if mueller were fired, i'm saying that is what i am hearing, if that were to happen that would be a different threshold. >> and i would argue, carl, that that's why the president's friend ruddy went out there and said this publicly, because sometimes the best way to make an argument to this president is to take it to cable television
and then have it ricochet and wind up in the oval office. and i think if the president has been musing about it and doesn't like mueller and doesn't like the fact that he's appointed some samurai to attack him as he sees it, you know, maybe one way to get to him, to say you really can't do that, is to say it publicly. and i believe that's what his actual friend may have been trying to do. >> but to carl's original point, the one thing sessions didn't do is cast any real light on the key question of the sequence of events that led to comey's firing. he said we wrote this memo, it was all about his handling of the clinton matter. he was particularly unpersuasive on that. and then on questions of his ints raxs with the president on it and what the president's motivations might be, he completely shut down. there was nothing about his testimony relative to that matter that would have shed any
light. and this of course we now suspect is something that the special counsel is looking closely at. >> i thought that was such a weak part -- hold on, carl. hold on for a second. that there was such a the idea that -- which sessions said repeatedly, which is he was fired because of his mistreatment of hillary clinton. i mean, it was preposterous. >> it goes against what the president himself said. >> senator jack reed of rhode island at the end of the hearing brought out that sessions had praised comey during the campaign for the exact acts that he later said justified his firing, which just showed that he wasn't fired because of clinton, he was fired because he was investigating russia. >> and one of the elements that of course they criticized comey for now and others have criticized him for is the revelations he made about the clinton investigation which was closed when he originally spoke
to -- and yet we hear the president was enraged that comey wouldn't speak publicly about the investigation into him or lack of investigation into him. so that is another sort of conflicting matter. >> and i think rosenstein probably believed what he wrote to the president in that memo. the question is whether he was being used, quite frankly, by the president as an excuse to fire comey and whether sessions also went along with it -- >> we've got to take a break. >> i just want to say, listen, i think we're likely to see these congressional hearings may not produce what we thought they would produce, but it's important to remember that mueller can put these people under oath and they will have to answer these kind of questions. and without the bar for exercising executive privilege is much, much higher that i criminal investigation. >> more to talk about next including reaction from the white house to this as well as late word on the story that got the town talking. carl beshstein included that he was thinking of giving special
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the future isn't silver suits anit's right now.s, think about it. we can push buttons and make cars appear out of thin air. find love anywhere. he's cute. and buy things from, well, everywhere. how? because our phones have evolved. so isn't it time our networks did too? introducing america's largest, most reliable 4g lte combined with the most wifi hotspots. it's a new kind of network. xfinity mobile. the president watched a portion of the hearings today aboard air force one on the way to a stop in milwaukee. he is back in washington right now. we showed you him arriving just a short time ago with ivanka trump. cnn's jeff zeleny joins us from the town that made schlitz famous. jeff, late tonight the white house offered some thoughts on jeff sessions' testimony. what did they say? >> they did indeed, anderson.
wisconsin to change the subject, to talk about jobs, the economy. he was trying to desperately get beyond this cloud that's been hanging over the white house. of course, i am told by someone who is on that plane with him that he watched it for the entire 94 minutes that he flew from andrews to here in milwaukee earlier this afternoon. he went about his business here holding three events and just flew back. this was on his mind here. also going back tonight, sarah huckabee sanders would not say if this president has confidence in his special counselor robert mueller. she would not answer that question. >> before the president left for wisconsin today, he made a surprising comment about the healthcare bill that passed the house last month. they celebrated. what did he say? >> he did. this was the first time that he has talked about health care in more than a month, about six weeks or so. he had 13 republican senators over to the white house to talk about what was going on with the health care bill. he acknowledged that the house passed health care bill was mean and mean spirited. he said the senate bill should be more generous. this is interesting on several levels. he was working so hard for this house bill. of course, it was met with fierce opposition in the senate. he was urging senators to be more generous. when he got to here in wisconsin, he didn't sound all that optimistic about the
prospects for urgent passage of this. he said hopefully the senate can get it done at some point. we know mitch mcconnell had been talking about a july 4th passage of this. at this point, that seems very, very unlikely. his comments about the house bill certainly so interesting because, of course, this has to go back to the house again before he can ever, ever sign this into law. >> jeff zeleny, thanks for reporting. back with the panel. joining-u jeffrey lord, brian fallon, jeffrey miller, and christine flynn. jeff, what about the president saying to the senators who were there that it was mean? this is the same bill that he celebrated in the rose garden. >> the first thing a president has to do in getting through legislation i'm sure david would agree is get something through first. then you work from there. i don't know what the reference was in particular to what he saw as mean here. but it's not out of line with things he said over time, that he just didn't want to have people in the streets and people have to have health care, et cetera. so i don't think it's out of line. i'd just be interested to know
what specifically it is there and if they can fix it. >> jeff makes a good point. it's not necessarily out of line with things he said during the campaign. it may be out of line with the visual of him celebrating in the rose garden seeming to back what happened in the house. is it? >> of course, i wasn't with the president when he did or didn't say this today. the only thing mean is if we don't take action to repeal and replace obamacare and it continues to implode the way we're seeing it. i think there's a point that jeffrey touched on a bit here, the fact that the messaging wasn't right with the house bill coming out after they passed it. i think one of the things that both the white house -- >> what does that mean? the messaging. >> well, the messaging -- they haven't yet gone out and defined who exactly is going to be helped by this bill. and also they're making it very clear who's going to be hurt if they don't repeal and replace obamacare. and this is very important. it's upwards of a sixth or seventh of our economy. and it's something that this president is promising he's going to do. and i believe he will go and do it. they need to make a better point here on who exactly they're
helping. and i think that's probably what the president was trying to get to. >> that is absurd, absurd. absurd. i need to say it again. the man stood with a whole bunch of other white men, but when you pulled the camera out there was a woman or two, celebrating. if he thought was the bill was mean or he didn't know the messaging or didn't know who it helps -- we know a lot of people it hurts, women being high on the list, why did he go celebrate? and now he gets to fully flip the position, throw his colleagues in the house under the bus that i don't understand how a leader of the party would do that, and now you're saying he's like having some intellectual thought process. there's no intellectual thought process. this is just like crazy town has moved into the white house. thank you. >> could you go over that again? >> many of the republicans that walk the plank in order to get this through the house and get it over the senate are from red republican-leaning districts where now their democratic challengers that are going to be running in these districts are going to be able to say not only
is this proposal opposed by the aarp, not only would it raise your costs and kick 24 million people off the insurance rolls, but president trump himself called it mean. and so the appeal of that message will now reach not just democratic voters that will be enthused to turn out in the red leaning districts, not just independents that we're seeing register disapproval but even some republicans now that might actually -- >> what about to jeff's point that this is a way of pushing the senate to enact changes? >> here is the thing, john cornyn has gone around in the last couple weeks and talked about how their bill is going to be about 80% the same as the house bill. so he's actually condemned the senate proposal before we've even seen it by talking about how bad the house bill is. the senate republicans are not likely to deviate -- >> we should point out, i think that -- >> if they don't get this fixed, as you look at a third of the counties around the country have one provider. we're seeing open a weekly basis state after state with having
providers -- >> part of the reason, this has been written about in some of the recent decisions by insurance companies, is they say the uncertainty that's been created by whether the administration is going to go forward with the commitment to provide subsidies makes it impossible for them to plan properly. so the administration is back door undermining these markets even as they -- they're like arsonists who light the fire and then race in with the fire engine and say we're going to save it. >> saying the argument it's collapsing on its own weight is not true. the -- >> there were problems in the exchanges that could be fixed. but what's happening now is the uncertainty is accelerating those problems. but just let me say -- and i actually want to hear what you have to say about this. i think there's something else going on here, though. i think that the president, the reason he had a celebration in the rose garden is because he had failed -- they had failed to pass the bill. he was so hard up to have a
victory. and he had a victory. and the contents didn't really matter that much. and he actually used superlatives to describe that bill. it wasn't just a celebration. but he used superlatives leading up to the vote about that bill. and now he wants to get it through the senate. he wants a win. he sees himself as a winner. this is a little bit like the cabinet meeting yesterday. he wants victories. he wants wins. the content doesn't matter. but the content does matter to millions of americans. >> and i think he understands that this bill as written would hurt his base to a degree. and i think he understands the politics of that. but a couple of other things are going on here. yes, he wants a win. and he also said we need a bill that's more generous, it's more kind, whatever language it was. that you have to spend more money on it. the point is, if they spend more money on the senate bill, it's not going to -- they have to
save the same amount of money as the house bill or they can't pass it under these rules. >> more than 50 votes. >> right. it's a problem for them. because if the president is now gone out there and dumped all over something he applauded and asked for something more generous, he can't get it if he wants to save the same amount of money. which he has to do. >> he might just think about not cutting taxes for the rich as much. that would make a difference. i think also the republican party, especially in the senate, is really sensitive to the fact that only 20% to 25% of the people in the country support the house bill. and donald trump's disapproval rating today at gallup hit 60%. so if you're looking at it as a republican, you say we've got to put some more money into this. look especially at the governor of ohio. he had anthem pull out and anthem said we would probably be here if you were continuing to provide the subsidies. he is under a lot of pressure from the governors now to do something that's going to be
more generous and more popular. >> from the policy standpoint, it's almost impossible for the senate bill to have -- to be that much more generous than the house approach because of exactly the point david made, because of the extent of the tax cuts that they're providing to the wealthiest americans. the subsidies are not going to be generous enough for people to get affordable coverage. and they're talking about maybe extending out the medicaid expansion. but at the end of the day medicaid enrollees are going to suffer too. >> they barely got through the bill through the house. the question is if it becomes more generous can you get the house to go along? that's a tough -- >> providing economic growth. >> that's why it would -- they should combine the health care bill with the tax cut bill and get something that's going to go and help the economy. they could do it. if we go and take significant action on the corporate tax, do something for tax cuts for the middle class, combine that with -- where we actually go and repeal and replace and do something, actually save this health care system before it goes off a cliff, i think it
would be a real winner and i think the pront would be a lot more excited to go out on the road and sell this. >> the white house is trying to move away from the russia investigation. is bringing the conversation back to health care a good way to do it? >> healthcare has not been a winner for the president. as was said by david, only 20 to 25% of americans think this is a good idea. this is not a winner. i think him pushing this out now in this very disloyal way -- a man who honors loyalty to his republicans in the house really sends not just a bad substantive message to americans but it reminds them he is not a loyal guy. it reminds them that he doesn't have a clear policy agenda. it reminds them that he at best is a scattered thinker and has forgotten the needs of people like coal miners who he promised they wouldn't lose their black lung coverage. so i think all of this just reminds people on substance and beyond what they don't like more and more about this president. >> coal mine opened in
pennsylvania this last week. >> and when those men and women get black rung, they will not be covered under the new health care act. so yes, it's great to have a job. it's also good to not have your job kill you. and we could do both in america. >> is the problem that this white house had on health care, is it a messaging issue as jason pointed out? >> no, i think actually the happiest person in washington to have all this focus on russia and with the sessions hearing today is mitch mcconnell because right now he's going through a very disorderly process. it is very hard for him to get 51 votes even under the reconciliation rules that let him do it under a simple majority. it's hard for him to herd the cats in his caucus behind a controversial proposal that has a 20% approval rating. he is able do it behind the scenes with little scrutiny in the back door manner. that's the way he likes it. to david's point they want a victory but they don't want too much scrutiny on the substance because the substance is a loser. >> and if i were the president right now, i wouldn't be throwing house republicans under the bus. by the way. given what's going on with russia investigations and
everything else, you are going to need to be able to rally your troops behind you and not let them think, well, okay, i was loyal to you but you are not being loyal to me. you could -- >> nancy pelosi during the house debate on this famously said you are being asked to walk the plank for something that will never become law and it will be tattooed on your forehead. i'm sure those words are sort of bouncing around in their heads right now. >> we have to take a quick break. coming up, a new report says the president's lawyer in the russia investigation has been going around saying he was behind the firing of the u.s. attorney preet bharara. we're going to hear from the reporter next. i've found a permanent escape from monotony. together, we are perfectly balanced. our senses awake. our hearts racing as one. i know this is sudden, but they say...if you love something
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well, as you know, the president has hired a personal lawyer in the russia investigation. his name is marc kasowitz. he is the one that responded on the president's behalf to former fbi director james comey's senate testimony. now a new report in pro publica says he's also been going around boasting that he was central to the firing of u.s. attorney preet bharara back in march. bharara refused to resign. he was then fired. joining us now is pro publica reporter justin elliott.
so what exactly is kasowitz going around saying? >> as kasowitz has described his role as advising trump to fire bharara, he told one person that he told trump that you need to get rid of preet bharara because he's going to get you. >> he's going to get the president? >> that is kasowitz's account of it that he's given privately. and of course the central sort of mystery here to remember is preet bharara who was at the time probably the most prominent prosecutor in the country, met with president-elect trump at trump tower back in november. trump told him he was going to keep him in the job. then fast-forward five months to march. bharara is fired by trump. the white house has never explained what was going on there. and there's a whole bunch of interesting issues there. one is that bharara's office, the southern district of new york, had an open investigation into a trump cabinet member tom price. >> who's the health and human services secretary. >> right. there's an investigation one of my colleagues reported into some of his stock trades when he was in congress.
>> about whether he benefited from stocks that he had bought that he then went out and basically was sort of trying to adjust legislation based on it. >> exactly. so the southern district has been investigating tom price. preet was fired during that investigation after trump had told him previously he was going to stay on. we still have never gotten an explanation for why bharara was fired. and, by the way, trump has not nominated anyone to replace him although one of the names of people that's been floated is one of marc kasowitz's partners at his law firm in new york 37. >> donald trump's businesses are in the southern district. >> right. the trump organization obviously is headquartered in the southern district although i don't know that there's been any reported investigations of the trump organization by the southern district. but the southern district is also reportedly investigating fox news in connection made -- in connection with payments made to women who accused the network of sexual harassment. there's investigation into deutsche bank, which obviously
is -- has a long-time relationship with trump as his lender. so this is the most important district in the country. and we still haven't had an explanation for why bharara was fired. >> and burr responded to your article in a tweet this morning. i want to put it on the screen. he tweeteded, "jeesh. i haven't even had my covfefe yet." >> i think bharara doesn't know yes was fired still. and adding to the mystery trump hasn't nominated anyone to this job still. >> your report also says that kasowitz has privately told people that the president asked him to be his attorney general? >> right. so kasowitz, who has represented trump in his business matters -- >> for a long time. >> yeah. the firm represented trump in one of his bankruptcies in the trump university case, now in the russia investigation. in kasowitz's account he now seems to be advising trump on public policy matters, which also i think raises all kinds of potential conflicts.
kasowitz's firm is a good size firm, around 300 lawyers there. they have all kinds of corporate clients with business for the government. they have a lobbying practice in washington. so kasowitz is not a government employee. until now he seemed to only be trump's personal lawyer. if he is now sort of advising the administration on that as public policy you can imagine there's all kinds of potential conflicts. >> is it possible that -- this sounds like your reporting is based on people who have heard him talking about things. is it possible he's just bragging and not saying things which are true? >> that is possible. he does -- my colleague and i have spoken to many people that know him and he does have a reputation for being sort of a brash bragging guy. so you know, i think the only people -- it's a very small group of people who know what his conversations with trump have been. but this is how he has described them to other people. >> fascinating report. jeff elliott, thanks so much. from pro publica. justin's going to stay with us. i want to bring in the rest of the panel.
could the president have broken any laws with how he fired preet bharara or violated ethical standards? >> i don't think so. it's customary for most -- for basically all the u.s. attorneys to turn over in the course of a new administration. what's unusual about the preet bharara story is that he told him -- the president-elect told bharara in november he was keeping him and then for some reason changed his mind. preet bharara has said that there was this sort of weird courtship by phone similar to the one comey described which suddenly ended when bharara did not reciprocate, which ended with his firing, all of which is peculiar. but i can't imagine that it's illegal in any sense. >> ken, if this is true, does it reinforce the narrative that if you're even perceived as a threat the president will come after you? or how do you perceive it? >> certainly it is traditional to see the turnover in the u.s.
attorneys. and i wouldn't call it traditional with president trump but i don't think any of us see it as unusual anymore when he reverses himself on something like this. and so i don't have any qualms about that other than the qualms i might have about how he reverses himself frequently. there's no legal issue here. i do think given that it's one of the two most important districts along with the eastern district of virginia, which handles a lot of the espionage, national security cases, southern district of new york handles a lot of the finance cases. i think they should be priorities for getting a u.s. attorney nominated and approved by the senate as quickly as possible. but i do agree that when anybody fails to show signs of loyalty that they are imperilled with this president. >> kirsten, how much weight do you give marc kasowitz's story? because bharara himself said on sunday when he was interviewed on nbc he was told the president
was trying to cultivate some kind of a relationship. that's the term he used. >> i think he -- i guess you'd need another person to corroborate this because this is a person who brags a lot, so you don't know how much credence you can give to it. but i do think the connection of him saying this was a deja vu watching the comey -- what happened with comey, that trump had basically had a lot of unusual phone calls and the same kind of inappropriate contact up to the point that he actually didn't return one of the president's phone calls because he checked with other lawyers and they said this is inappropriate. and the president seems to have then fired him after that. there is something i think that's important in light of the broader investigation. >> well, anderson, can i jump in here? you know, cnn ran a story on tan jere island in the middle of the chesapeake bay recently and on their need for a sea wall. well, donald trump called the
mayor of tangier island yesterday. they had a conversation, completely unscheduled. and i think this is just something that he does. so let's not read too much into the fact that he jumps on the phone with people who he's had a thought about. he does it on the positive. it's hard to argue with him calling the mayor of tangier island where they're threatened by erosion and promising to help deal with it and calling even the u.s. attorney from southern district of new york and engauging in a conversation sort of what appears to be on the spur of the moment without a lot of planning or background. >> the thing i would say about that is donald trump didn't just fall off the turnip truck yesterday. whatever you think about him, he has some level of sivgs. he's an international businessman. he lives in manhattan. he knows a little bit. and i think he has to at least know that this is a little different than what you're describing. i mean, it's not quite the same thing, calling somebody who's investigating your hhs, you know, vet, somebody who can cause a lot of problems for you.
i just think anybody who watches crime television knows you that don't do this. >> matt, is there mission creep for -- the idea that there's some sort of mission creep for the president's personal lawyer. is that a concern? >> i would say a couple of things. donald trump, just like he behaves in a way that's unorthodox, some of the people who surround him normally would not be ready for primetime. corey lewandowski, prime example. that guy could have never gotten hired on any normal presidential race. he ends up managing donald trump's race. the lawyers probably the same thing. having said that i think it was probably good political advice. somebody should have gone to donald trump much earlier and said fire preet bharara. you do not want a liberal activist united states attorney especially in your jurisdiction. he should have done it right away, gotten rid of all of them, cleaned house. look, the problem is he did it too late. he mishandled the execution of it. but the advice to fire him is
solid political advice. >> although did i say -- >> yeah. >> sorry. in bharara's defense he's known for going after the top democrats in new york state. i don't think you can describe him as a political activist. he put away the top democrat in the new york state house. he sort of made his name trump is transactional. one of the reasons he wanted to keep him on is because of chuck schumer. the senator from new york, he should keep him on. he's doing something for chuck schumer. he think he is going to get something in the senate. bharara is not going anything to him. and his personal lawyer, according to your reporting, says get rid of this guy. and trump is transactional. >> how do you see this? >> at the time, there was no special prosecutor. and the fbi was working both in the virginia jurisdiction. and anything that might have occurred in terms of the trump
organization's finances, including dealings, perhaps, with russians or russian loans, might conceivably have gone through the office of the u.s. attorney in the southern district. and that is something that lawyers in the u.s. attorney's office at the time suggested privately. whether that's the case i think what we're seeing is that the president has an inclination to try to shut down legitimate investigation when he thinks it's coming close or closing in on him. and all of this is at a peace and once again what rosenstein today was doing was laying down a marker and saying if the president goes over that line with mueller, then a line will have been crossed that others think is irretrievable. >> we're going to take a quick break. continue the conversation. next new word from a white house official about what robert mueller was doing just a day before he was appointed special
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remember what we were just saying? go irish! see that? yes! i'm gonna just go back to doing what i was doing. find your awesome with the xfinity x1 voice remote. life comes at you fast when you're president trump. case in point, on may 17th, robert muellerer was named special counsel and turns out just a day before president trump was interviewing mueller for fbi director. what a difference a day makes. back, now, with the panel. the response from the white house spokesperson on whether the president would fire mueller. saying the president has the right to but he has no intention to. the question was not whether he
would fire him or whether he was considering it. she didn't even address whether he's considering it, just said he's not going to do it. >> i think one thing we've learned in the past 24 hours is that this idea of the trump firing mueller is just a catastrophic one that rec -- republicans recognize as much as democrats. it is technically true that the president, through the attorney general, can fire mueller. but the idea he would do it, especially now when mueller's not done anything, it seems absurd. >> no one in the white house has acknowledged that he might have been considering it which is what ruddy had said. and now saying it's not going to happen. >> and that's what they should say. and to the extent anybody had that cross their mind, they should as quickly as they possible, scrub that memory from their head. they're not going to fire this guy. his reputation is unimpeachable. i think it's important to make
sure he has balanced hiring going on. that's the only area giving people meaningful concern i think is legitimate. but the white house took the right position saying this isn't something we're considering or that we're going to do. >> and rosenstein made it very clear he's in charge of firing mueller. if the president wants mueller to be fired, he has to go through rod rosenstein. and very clear the only way he would fire him is for what the regulations say was cause. absent that he would leave his job before he would carry out those instructions. so, you have republicans today, backing away from this, saying it was catastrophic, the person in charge of this mission if trump asked him to do it saying i'm not going to let that happen. so, i agree with jeff saying in
the 24 hours since ruddy floated this, all the key players have said you can't cross this line. >> how much do you think this was a friend of the president floating it to get the message out that it would not be a good idea? >> i don't know. it was also newt gingrich, and other people. clearly there were discussions that gave the idea of currency, perhaps as a trial balloon. and perhaps because of the catastrophic nature that was particularly because of republican reaction. you heard what sarah huckabee sanders just said. there is one silver lining perhaps. in mueller's assuming this job for donald trump. unlike ken starr, in terms of the clintons and the whitewater investigation, mueller is self-disciplined and believes in the rule of law enough that he will not go on a fishing expedition.
and it's already started to i gather. the trump organization, perhaps trump loans, trying to get to the bottom of what happened with things, russians, collusion, et cetera. but a fishing expedition, no. and i think the white could take comfort in that perhaps. >> does the trump want someone with unimpeachable integrity investigating him? i'm serious. >> no. >> he said he would resign and jeffrey, you can lay it out for us from there. isn't there a scenario where he can still do it and he resigns and finds somebody else he ultimately wants. >> which is precisely what he said in the saturday night massacre. you had -- and i just think that is something that even donald trump who is not deeply steeped
in american history does not want to replicate. >> that moment is certainly past at least for now. if this was a real thing but maybe it comes back if they start closing in on something. >> i want to thank everybody on the panel tonight. time to hand over to don lemon and "cnn tonight." this is cnn breaking news. >> attorney general jeff sessions angrily denouncing accusations against his character while testifying before the senate intelligence committee. in his opening statement, sessions had this to say to his former senate colleagues. >> and to suggest that i participated in any collusion that i was aware of any collusion with the russian government to hurt this country is an appalling and detestable lie. >> and plenty of fireworks between sessions and democratic members of the committee. sessions refus