tv CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield CNN May 14, 2017 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT
wooyou're watching "cnn newsroom." happy mother's day. after north korea fired another ballistic missile test the white house is issuing a sharp response and intensifying calls for stronger sanctions with many of the administration's resources are focused on the crucial top vacancy at the fbi. we have new details on at least eight candidates being interviewed this weekend. and the president still standing by his decision to fire james comey and downplaying claims that his actions were an abuse of power. >> well, there's no right time. let's say i did it on january 20th, the opening. then that would have been the big story as opposed to the inauguration and i was thinking about it then. i was thinking it b about it du this period of time. there's really no right time to
do it. i'm okay with it. i have a decision to make and i have to make the decision. he agrees that i have the right to do it. everybody agrees. >> we begin with a stern warning from the former director of national intelligence who says u.s. institutions are under assault because of president trump's decision to fire the fbi director. james clapper made the stunning remarks during an interview. he discussed everything from the allegations of collusion between russia and trump aides to the possibility the president secretly recorded phone calls with the fired fbi director. >> is president trump right that clapper has closed the book on this question? well, we'll talk to the man himself. former director of national intelligence under president obama administration, james clapper. thanks for being here. >> thanks, jake, for having me. >> the president said you said there was no collusion .
is that a fair depiction? >> what i first need to explain is the way in which i treated counter intelligence investigations during the six and a half years that i was dni. i deferred to the fbi director both director muller and then director comey as to whether, when, and what to tell me about any counter intelligence investigations that they might have under way. so it was kind of standard practice. so my statement was premised on, first, the context of our intelligence community assessment on russian interference with the election. we did not -- there was no reporting in that intelligence community assessment about political collusion. we did not -- i did not have any evidence. i did not know about the investigation. >> you didn't even know that the fbi was conducting an investigation? >> i did not. and even more important, i did not know the content or the status of that investigation. and there's all kinds of reasons why that's so, but this -- these are sensitive.
we try to keep them as compartment as possible and importantly, these involved u.s. persons. so we try to be very differential to that. so my statements should not be considered exculpatory to use a legal term. >> the president's obviously trying to use them. let's go back to the original statement that you made on "meet the press" in march that the president is referring to. let's roll that tape. >> did not include any evidence in our report and i say our. that's nsa, fbi, and cia with my office and the director of national intelligence, that had anything that -- that had any reflection of collusion between members of the trump campaign and the russians. >> so you mentioned the fbi there. but at that point it was march 5th. you did not even know that there was an fbi investigation until comey testified a few days later? >> that's right. and that was my first official knowledge of such investigation. particularly as it addressed
potential political collusions. so the bottom line is i don't know if there was collusion. and i don't know of any evidence to it. so i can't refute it and i can't confirm it. >> when you say official knowledge, what does that mean? >> well, i took director comey's announcement that he made at the house committee for intelligence hearing on i think the 20th of march. i treated that as an announcement. >> that's not official knowledge because you weren't director of national intelligence. >> well, i treated what he said as official. >> okay. let's take a wider view of this for one second and then i want to get back to some of these more detail questions. this week with the president firing the fbi director while this investigation is going on, and then saying that he was thinking about the russia probe when he was making the decision, have we crossed a line here? >> well, i will just say that
the developments of the past week are very bothersome, very disturbing to me. i think in many ways our institutions are under assault externally. that's the big news here is the russian interference if n on ou election system and. i think our institutions are under assault internally. >> internally from the president? >> exactly. >> because he's firing the checks and balances? >> well, i think, you know, the founding fathers in their genius created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances. i feel as though that's under assault and is eroding. >> are you surprised at how quiet republicans on capitol hill have been? >> well, i can't say. i think each senator or congressman has got to i hope
will think in terms of their own conscience and i can't characterize it as being surprised. i just -- i hope they'll speak up. >> general, on friday you said that director comey told you he was uncomfortable about going to this private dinner that he went to with the president shortly after the inauguration. did he talk to you at all about the content of their conversation? the reason i ask is because a source close to comey told me about the dinner, about president trump asking comey for a pledge of personal loyalty and comey said no. >> my only knowledge of this was before the dinner. it was at the hoover building on the 27th of january for another event. spoke briefly with director comey. he mentioned to me the invitation he had from the president for dinner and that he was -- my characterization, uneasy with it both from the standpoint of the optic of compromising his independence
and the independence of the fbi. but i don't know -- he's not debriefed me or spoken to me about what went on during the dinner. >> have you talked to him during this week? >> i have not spoken with him. i've exchanged e-mails with him. >> did he say anything that we should know? >> if he had, i probably wouldn't talk about it anyway. >> okay. you are i imagine as an intelligence professional, even though you're retired, in touch with people in the intelligence community. without getting into names or the like, what's been the impact in the intelligence community of the firing of james comey? >> well, i think at large there is concern about it. i do know that it came as a great shock to -- it was very disturbing to fbi employees. i spoke to one last night at dinner that was quite upset
about it. and i think that reflects the feeling in the fbi. i'm fairly familiar with the bureau. i've worked with it for a long time. i have a relationship with the bureau through our domestic dni reps and through the overseas legal attaches and i'm very familiar with the bureau and its people people. it's a national treasure skpand it's very disturbing to me the negative impact this event has had. people had issues i'm sure with director comey's -- some of his decisions. that's fine. people took issue with decisions i made. that's part of the deal. but i think as far as his stature as a leader and his integrity, people are very upset about the way he was treated. >> back in march clint wautts testified before the senate
intelligence committee about russian efforts influencing u.s. election which you say is the most important thing for us to focus on. take a listen to what he had to say. >> follow the trail of dead russians. there's been more dead russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation who have assets in banks all over the world. they are dropping dead even in western countries. >> follow the trail of dead russians. is there anything you can tell us about that? >> well, this obviously has been a curious pattern. we have had difficulty, though, in actually generating an evidentiary trail that could equate convincingly and compellingly in a court of law a direct connection between certain figures that have been eliminated who apparently ran afoul of putin. so it is -- it's an interesting pattern, i'll put it that way. >> but nothing conclusive. >> no. >> president trump raised the
prospect of secret white house recordin recordings. when asked about it sean spicer refused to comment. would the intelligence community be aware of any such recordings or any devices? >> i can't say. i would hope so. certainly from a security standpoint if nothing else. i don't believe there was one in the administration i served in. i certainly can't comment on this one. >> straight ahead clapper answers this. >> a lot of americans out there who are scared this week. democrats, republicans, independents. because of the behavior by the president. are you among them? >> the answer up next. our panel weighs in. when the newsroom continues. (announcer vo) when you have type 2 diabetes
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it signaled the erosion of this government's checks and balances. >> there are a lot of americans out there who are scared this week. democrats, republicans, independents. because of the behavior by the president. are you among them? >> i'm concerned. i will say that. >> let's discuss this with cnn political analyst jewel julian. and former white house ethics lawyer under president barack obama. and cnn global affairs analyst david road. julian, let me begin with you. you wrote that the president become accustomed to doing what he wants because he can get away with it. you cited when he said if i shoot anybody then i still wouldn't lose any votes. if you agree with clapper on this erosion of checks and balance, will the president find
that this might be different? that he may get checked? >> well, what we're looking to see is if this changes the perception of republicans in congress about what's tolerable and what's not. this president has depended on solid republican support in the senate and the house as a fire wall against almost anything that he's done. and so the question this sunday is by firing comey did he raise the kinds of fears that even partisanship will not be able to hold down anymore? >> and david, in many circles, is it being considered an abuse of power by the president the rape and the method in which he fired comey? >> i think it raises concern and, you know, to be fair to the president, there is no proof at this point of collusion. but he seems to be so incapable of enduring scrutiny or criticism. there's been all these accounts all week about him being enraged that the russian investigation continues. that he sort of over reacting.
again, if he's completely innocent, it's much better for him politically to let this play out, but by firing comey it raises all the suspicions. the key player here is republicans on the hill and president trump is putting them in a very awkward position. >> james comey says the president asked for his loyalty at a private dinner. nikki haley says there's nothing wrong with that. listen. >> when you take the job, you automatically assume that you work for the president. and you are part of a team and loyalty is a big thing. it's -- as a former governor, i can tell you loyalty and trust is everything when you're a ceo. so i can totally understand why he's looking for loyalty and trust. >> loyalty to the constitution first, correct? >> of course. look, first we serve the people. i've always looked at that. you serve the people first. but having said that, you never forget who's in charge.
>> and so ambassador eisen, not necessarily talking about lylely to country but in terms of commitment and investigation in the white house, you said it's worse than actually breaking the law. what do you mean and what's your response to what haley had to say? >> fred, thanks for having me. happy mother's day. i have to disagree with ambassador haley. in that context. where the president was on notice when he had this loyaltier widinner with director comey. in that context, one inference you make is when he says loyalty, he's telling the director i don't want this investigation to come at me. and that's not right. that's not how we -- this is not the usual job fbi director under
our longstanding american practices, the fbi director, law enforcement in general, needs to operate with independence. so what's worse than merely violating the law and there may have been more evidence is coming in, there may have been obstruction of justice here. we need to take a hard look at that. the president is transgressing the values and standards that underline our democracy. that's very dangerous. >> this new nbc news poll saying just 29% of americans approve of trump firing james comey. lindsey graham says the next director needs to be an fbi agent. so does this white house demonstrate that it wants that kind of neutrality or even intelligence culture in the next director? >> well, i think they have to if they want to survive the scrutiny not only the democrats, but again, the republicans. i think if he picks someone who's openly political, who
openly has loyalty to the president rather than to the constitution and the law, i think you will see many cracks in that republican building start to form. so i think it's very important that he has someone who has support from both parties, but also from people in the fbi who see a legitimate leader, not a partisan leader taking over. >> david, the secretary of state tillerson was weighing in on comey's firing this morning. >> the firing of fbi director comey shake your concern about whether how much independence the president will give you? >> not at all, chuck. i have a great relationship with the president. i understand what his objectives are. when i'm not clear, we talk about it. but i am devoted to helping the president achieve his objectives, helping him be successful, and i understand i have to earn his confidence every day with how i go about
those affairs and how i go about conducting state department's activities consistent with the direction he wants to take the country. >> so david, he's saying the state department, he is not shaking. you heard from clapper earlier who said he did talk to people within the fbi who are a bit rattled. do you suppose that throughout the administration or at least within the white house that people are shaken to the core? >> sure. it's a signal that it's all about loyalty to president trump. with all respect -- all due respect to ambassador haley, we are a nation of laws. no one is above the law. everyone knows the police chief in a city should investigate the mayor if the mayor is doing something illegal. the state troopers can investigate the governor or the sheriff can investigate a county commissioner. this is law enforcement. no one is immune to the law. if they can continue making that argument, the poll seems to show that mean people aren't
accepting it. this reads it was a chal echleno the very premise of our system of checks and balances because it violated no letter of law, but its sesessential spirit. no one, not even a president is above the law. you say this could be cause for impeachment. we heard from allan lichtman earlier who said the components are there. the house just has to lay the groundwork for impeachment proceedings. do you believe we are at that juncture? >> we're not there yet. here's what we need to do. we need to look at whether -- i didn't even think it was obstruction until i heard about the demand for loyalty. first we need to look at whether the law was violated here and in other regards. the president is accepting, for example, foreign government cash and benefits. that's prohibited by the constitution. that's another part of. this here you have an apparent
demand for loyalty. in other words, perhaps don't let the investigation touch me. then an implicit threat if you're not loyal you'll be fired. then you have the firing. that starts to smack of obstruction. then you have a warning about tapes on twitter. that sounds like witness intimidation, both of those are legal violations. so all this stuff starts to add up. what i'm saying is we need to have an independent look at it. it's got to be looked at in congress. i think 9/11 style commission is the way to go. we need a special counsel. d.o.j. at this point cannot be trusted to lead the investigation. and let's look at whether there was obstruction, whether there have been other legal violations. and then we'll make an assessment of where we go with that. >> thanks to all of you, former ambassador, julian, david, good to see you gentlemen. straight ahead senator schumer
says jeff sessions should not be attorney general and is in violation of his recusal to interview candidates to fill the fbi director slot. >> attorney general sessions has a much higher obligation. he didn't tell the truth about meeting with the russians, so he recus recused himself. now he seems to be violating that recusal. that would seem to be on its face to be part of this. >> that after a short break. ♪ ♪ i'm dr. kelsey mcneely and some day you might be calling me an energy farmer. ♪ energy lives here.
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worked with for years. he is is a former fbi agent. what we're looking for in our next director and we feel is important for us to have a voice in this selection process and that's why i'm here today. it's not normal for us to come out this publicly on things. but we feel it's important that we have that voice because the next director we want to have that person have the principles of understanding the centrality of the fbi agent and knowing what fbi agents do on a daily basis and how their work is so important. we feel that this gentleman, mike rogers, is someone who fits those principles that we've set forward. >> and this morning on nbc's meet the press senator lindsey graham insisted the next head of the fbi needs to be apolitical. >> i think it's now time to pick somebody that comes from within the ranks or is such a reputation that has no political background at all that can go into the job on day one.
you know whor, who does the fib director work for? to me it's like appointing the judge. the president -- >> another favorite and candidate who would likely get easy senate confirmation but as the second highest ranking republican in the senate chamber his possible appointment would trigger political moves both there and in his home state of texas. regardless, president trump said this weekend on air force one a decision on a new fbi director will come fast. >> do you think you might make a decision or announcement -- >> we can make a fast decision. these are outstanding people that are very well known. highest level. so we could make a fast decision. >> before the trip next week? >> even that is possible. >> let's talk more about this with brett tollman. the former u.s. attorney for the district of utah. good to see you. the fbi director is supposed to be a nonpartisan figure, someone
who is above reproach. how big of a problem will it be if the next fbi director does not fit that description? >> well, it's an important question, because when you're in law enforcement, even though they may be political appointments, you start to really feel the essence of your job is to follow the law and enforce the law. an individual who's uncomfortable doing that is not going to be able to perform at a level that needs to be done. >> so there have been calls for attorney general jeff sessions to step down in the wake of james comey's firing. he is apparently part of the interviewing process for the next fbi director. so listen to what senate minority leader chuck schumer had to say. >> what do you think about sessions claim to have recused himself? do you think he should be investigated by the senate and should it be investigated by the inspector general d.o.j.? >> yes. i have asked the inspector general in the request i've made
is not only to look into any interference to thwart the investigation but whether attorney sessions should have anticipated in the firing of comey and should anticipate in the fbi director. >> in your view is sessions in violation? >> well, you know, it's an interesting concept to bring up the fact that the recusal issue may have some bearing on selecting the next director of the fbi. the reality is the fbi is a department of the department of justice. and so whoever is in that role is going to have the attorney general of the united states responsible for overseeing that entire department. >> but it was -- his recusal was largely because of the investigation being led by the fbi, the white house, or, you know, trump campaign associates and any ties to russia. and so now you've got the attorney general who had recused
himself from that extension of investigations, yet he may be participating in the selection of the next fbi director. not a problem in your view? >> well, this is the reality. removing comey is not going to deter the fbi from pursuing its investigation. you want somebody in there that's going to have an effective ability to lead that department. the bureau, though, is a law enforcement agency filled with remarkable agents who want to investigate, whether it's russia, violent crime, drugs, terrorism. that's their role. whoever it is need to -- regardless of who is responsible for selecting needs to be able to understand that independent and important role. >> just so people understand the correlation to jeff sessions was an adviser during the trump campaign. so jeff sessions now is attorney general has directed federal prosecutors to charge suspects. this is unrelated now.
this came at the end of the week, even at the firestorm of the comey departure. sessions has now kind of upped the ante. is this going to make an impact on bringing crime down in america? >> well, we have decades of data in some of the most law and order conservative states who have shown that you can't incarcerate your way out unfortunate drug problem. there are folks on the left and right who have understood and realized that you can't just heighten your penalties and prosecute your way out of this problem. so we need to effectively rehabilitate and implement some of the policies the states likes
texas, georgia, south carolina, utah and others have made. >> brett tolman, thanks for being with us. north carry is at it again. another ballistic missile test. this time it lands in the sea near russia. the growing tension next. and you can count all the ingredients in flavored almond milk on ten fingers and five toes.
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the white house is blasting north korea after its latest ballistic missile test. the missile launched early today from a city north of pyongyang and landed in the sea of japan which is also known as the east sea near russia. in a statement released last night, the trump administration speculated on russia's response to the laufnch saying, quote, this is from the white house, with the missile impacting so close to russian soil, the president cannot imagine that russia is pleased. and it goes on to quote north korea has been a flagrant menace for far too long, end quote. that from the white house.
this comes less than two weeks after president trump said he would know honored to meet with kim jong-un under the right circumstances. today u.s. ambassador to the united nations nikki haley had this advice for north korea. >> having a missile test is not the way to sit down with the president. because he's absolutely not going to do it. and i can tell you he can sit there and say all the conditions he wants. until he meets our conditions, we're not sitting down with him. >> let's bring in cnn global affairs analyst david rohde and cnn analyst julian zelizer. what's your reaction to the host taking place. between china, other parts of asia, africa and europe. was this to china or was it to russia? >> i think china, russia and also the new south korean president, it's the return of liberals to power in south korea for the first time in many
years. this shows just how aggressive north korea will be. they've done this in the past also. they think by doing these pasts it might improve their negotiating position at the bargaining table. julian can comment on this as well, but i'm hearing again an unclear message from the trump administration. they're very tough on north korea and then the president said he would sit down with the north korean leader and now ambassador haley is saying that's not going to happen. i'm not clear what the american approach is. >> it was an unusual statement. you kind of have to read it many times to try to decipher it. democratic senator of hawaii had some strong words in response to that white house statement. this is what he said. quote, he's tweeting this, this is beyond weird. i would like my president to speak for my country, not to speculate on the view of another country. end quote. what is your -- what are your thoughts about the white house statement referring to this missile test? >> well, i'm not clear there is
a position of the white house. i think sometimes when you see that things are all over the place, that's exactly what's happening. and i think it will strike many senators and members of congress as odd that the first thing to come out of his mouth was about russia rather than the united states. my guess is north korea might also be testing our president. both because of all these different messages that the white house has been sending out to see how much room they have in the development of their weapons and also testing him in the middle of this political scandal that he's going through and to see just how strong he is. to move forward with his own agenda overseas. >> for president trump to be saying he wants this russia, russia, russia thing to go away, i mean, the white house keeps bringing it up. and now bringing it up in response to what north korea's activity is.
so it's not going to go away meaning russia or any investigation as long as the president keeps bringing it up. >> look, the president, you know, might see russia as an ally. he might think russia can also, you know, bring pressure on north korea to stop this behavior. that doesn't mean he co luded with russia during the election to be fair. so there's clearly a mentality where the president is injuvery gentle on vladimir putin. so some question the utility could russia really deliver that much for the u.s. around the world. but i think the president seems to believe it could. >> the turkish president erdogan is scheduled to visit president trump at the white house and one hot topic will be the administration to arm the kurdish forces as part of the effort to fight isis. how like lly david, might that ? >> i think it's going to be a
difficult meeting. the president for the first time is grappling with syria. the he wants to arm this kurdish group to eliminate isis. they could retake raqqa. but turkey sees armed group as a more serious threat to turkey itself than isis. these are two very strong-willed leaders. that meeting could not go well. >> on the foreign stage, the world stage, a very busy week for the president. next week the president will begin his first international president. he will start in saudi arabia. then over the course of the trip he'll visit holy sites. what's the primary objective for this white house and this coming on the heels of such tumult?
>> there's an element of the trip that is about his image. he has been criticized repeatedly about his hostility to islam, for example. so i think this is an effort to show this is someone who respects different faiths and understands how the world works. but it's also an effort to try to broker some kind of agreement in the middle east which he has been talking about for a long time between the israelis and the palestinians. this is going to be incredibly challenging. many presidents, other than jimmy carter, have fallen on this issue. and for someone without as much knowledge of the region and who has a habit of saying what's on his mind, this is a really difficult position that he is putting himself into. but that's clearly what he's interested in. a breakthrough that other presidents have been unable to achieve. >> he said it should be one of the easiest things to do. so we'll see what unfolds. julian, david rohde, thanks so much. good to see both of you.
meantime, russian president vladimir putin showing off his rather talented side. the softer side while awaiting talks with the president of china, putin sitting down at a piano and playing passages from soviet era songs. listen. ♪ >> and far from the sound ever things, some would say it appears that putin made the right decision to pick a career in politics over music. not my thoughts, but the thoughts of many. we'll be right back.
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americans. >> don't let the context of native americans and america historically. >> historically, 1978 was first time that in the united states they permitted us to do our ceremonies. you know, for a while when they started these reservations, that was outlawed. >> really. on the reservations you weren't allowed to do your ceremonies. >> yes. we couldn't do. so this has been a real hard struggle that our people have had to learn that identity. >> yep. you heard it right. natives weren't protected under the first amendment on their reservations until the disco era, which means man had walked on the moon and done the hustle before native were able to pray on their own land. >> dan, are you leading me to believe that the government of this country and maybe even the white people who run this country were trying to make your race feel inferior to your race? because that sounds familiar to
me. >> you know what i'm talking about. >> that's right, brother. >> kamau joining us now live. good to see you. in that clip you were talking about the dakota pipeline protester about prayer restriction on reservations. you alluded to some interesting parallels between the treatment of native americans and african-americans. how did the rest of that information go? >> i mean it was -- my eyes were really opened up. because we don't have the conversation in this country about native people and what their experience is. lot of this country discussion of oppression is black persons, white, or sometimes black with immigration, latinos. but we don't really focus on the native people of this country. this episode this week is an effort to try to do that for once. >> you also wrote on op-ed on your experience. "as a black person in this country i'm always from us rated by the lack of attention my people's issues get. but at least the news and politicians are talking about not talking about you are o
issues. native issues are basically ignored." so were people taken aback? impressed? were they happy that you showed an interest to hear about their experiences there? >> i mean, you know, i felt pretty happy and lucky that they invited me to standing rock. they have no reason to trust me. most of them had never heard of the show. so i really tried to just stand back and let them talk. but of all the episodes we've ever done, this is probably the one i'm most nervous about. because these issues are covered so little, i don't have a grasp of them either. i am just trying to make sure i let them talk and really stay out of the way. >> so it was enlightening for you, and it will be enlightening for the viewer as wrel. you also had an opportunity to interview an actor, and you seemed to find common ground. >> he talked about as an actor, he's a working actor, pretty successful. but he regularly had to be offered parts to play natives.
not even members of his tribe back in the 1800s, in cowboy movies. every black person in hollywood has talked about not wanting to maybe slave movies, or that's something that they cast them in the past. at that moment he said they want to keep us in the 1800s. yeah, they want to keep us back there, too. the main thing i'm trying to do there is really build connection. if we build connection, we can better stand up for each other. >> you always find a way of injecting some humor in it, too. that always helps break the ice. in this episode you show us how some native american individuals join today's living in the wrld. what's an example of that? >> they're trying to keep these traditions alive and bring them into the modern era. when i was at standing rock you could see people skateboard being like in full regale. these things are not of the past, they are of us now.
a lot of the symbols in pop culture are in sports teams, like the cleveland sports team or washington sports team. they say those aren't yours, those are ours. there is a hashtag not your mascot. we still live here and we still love this country. >> there is a lot of embracing and trying to hold on to culture. kamau, thank you so much. "united shades of america," airs tonight, 10:00 eastern, right here on cnn. this week she rolled past the cnn building in new york taping an "snl" skit. you know who i'm talking about. then last night we got to see what melissa mccarthy had in store for her spicy character. the biggest punch lines straight ahead.
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hello, everyone. thanks again for joining me this sunday. i'm fredricka whitfield. happy mother's day. the pursuit of justice. can an administration being investigated by the fbi choose the bureau's new chief without bias? we have details on at least eight candidates now being interviewed this weekend, and president trump still standing by his decision to fire james comey and downplaying claims that his actions were an abuse of power. >> well, there's no right time. let's say i did it on january 20th, the opening. right? then that would have been the big story as opposed to the inauguration and i was thinking about it then. i was thinking about it during this period of time. there's really no right time to do it, but i mean i'm okay with it. as you know, i have the decision to make and i have to make the decision. he agrees that