tv CNN Newsroom With Brooke Baldwin CNN June 7, 2017 11:00am-12:01pm PDT
all right. here we go. i'm brooke baldwin. live in washington, d.c., today for cnn special coverage of the critical moment for the trump presidency and we have just gotten some paper that has landed in our laps today being the eve of the testimony from fired fbi director james comey in which he details multiple briefings, multiple events with the president of the united states and so this has just come out. it's the opening statement for his testimony tomorrow. and so we're just going to all do this together live. i'm going to read for you -- that's how we roll at cnn -- i'm going to read for you from mr. comey's statement ahead of tomorrow. let's begin. and i have a panel that will dissect all of this as we go through. this is january 27th dinner. this is what mr. comey writes. the president and i had dinner
on friday january 27th at 6:30 p.m. in the green room at the white house. he had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night saying he was going to invite my whole family but decided to have just me this time. with the whole family coming the next time. it was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although i assumed there would be others. it turned out to be just the two of us seated at a small table in the green room. two navy stewards waited on us. the president began by asking me whether i wanted to stay on as fbi director, which i found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped i would stay. and i had assured him that i intended to. he said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse i had taken during the previous year, he would understand if i wanted to walk away. james comey goes on.
my instincts told me that the one-on-one setting and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position meant the dinner was at least in part an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. that concerned me greatly, given the fbi's traditionally independent status in the executive branch. i relied that i love my work and intended to stay and serve out my tenure term as director. and then, because the setup made me uneasy, i added that i was not, quote, reliable in the way politicians use that word but he could always count on me to tell the truth. i added that i was not on anybody's side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance that i was in the best interest of the president. a few moments later, the president said, and i'm quoting james comey, i need loyalty. i expect loyalty. i didn't move, speak or change
my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. we simply looked at each other in silence. the conversation then moved on. but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner. at one point i explained why the fbi and justice department was separate from the white house. i explained it was a paradocks that because problems come from justice they should try to hold the department close but blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work. near the end of our dinner, the president returned to the subject of my job saying he was very glad i wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from jim mattis, jeff sessions and many others. he then said, "i need loyalty." i replied, "you will always get honesty from me."
he paused and he said, that's what i want, honest loyalty. i paused and then said you will get that from me. as i wrote in the memo, i created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase honest loyalty differently. but i decided it wouldn't be productive to push it further. the term honest loyalty had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made it clear what he should expect. during the dinner, the president returned to the salacious material i had briefed him on january 6th and he strongly denied the allegations. in closing in this section, "he said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn't happen. i replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we're investigating him personally, which we weren't, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. he said he would think about it and ask me to think about it.
as was my practice with conversations with president trump, i wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership of the fbi. that is just a portion of all of these pages we now have from james comey ahead of tomorrow. >> well, let's just start with one thing here. >> or should we wait for the movie? >> you just read the words that james comey is going to sit before the intelligence committee and read in his own voice tomorrow. what is clear here is the level of detail that he is including to bolster his recollection. so we had learned about the reporting, the contemporaneous mo memos but what we didn't know about is being in the green room
and his family first included and he provided such a level of detail which we know jim comey wants to build a narrative and tell a story here. i think that's going to help him bolster his own credibility because he remembers these incidents in such incredible detail, i think it's going to make it harder for the president to push back on it. >> so this is very long and you read a very important fascinating part of it talking about the loyalty pledge. >> yep. >> later he talks about the now infamous valentine's day meeting in the oval office where he, james comey, is confirming very explicitly that the president of the united states asked him to back off michael flynn. this is on page 5 of his testimony. he says, the president returned to the topic of mike flynn saying -- >> can i interrupt? >> yes. >> i think brooke should -- >> should we take it section by section? >> it's a potential obstruction
of -- >> dana is so right about this. >> should we read the whole thing? should we continue with the dinner? >> i don't know. >> jump in on the dinner first. >> do you want to go ahead and read it? >> i mean, it's so right that this part is so important. >> go ahead, dana. >> do you want to read it? >> no, i don't. >> the president said, "return to the topic of mike flynn." this is when just the two of them were in the office together. saying, quote, he is a good guy and has been through a lot. end quote. he repeated that flynn hadn't done anything wrong on his calls with the russians but had misled the vice president. he then said, quote, i hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting flynn go. he is a good guy. i hope you can let this go, end quote. >> this is quoting what the president said to the fbi
director about letting it go, meaning a probe into his fired national security adviser. i replied only that, quote, he is a good guy, parenthesis. i had a positive exchange in dealing with mike flynn when he was director of the intelligence agency during my beginning of the fbi. then he goes on to say, i did not say i would, quote, let this go. then he goes on to say, the president returned briefly to the problem of leaks. i then got up and left the door by the grandfather clock making my way through a very large group of people waiting there, including mr. priebus. i immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation with flynn and i had understood the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of flynn in connection with all statements about his conversations with the russian ambassador in december. i did not understand the president to be talking about the broader investigation into russia or possible links to this
campaign. >> i had understood the president to be requesting we drop any investigation of flynn in connection with all of this. >> right. and then he is describing his contemporaneous thoughts at the time immediately after he had this conversation with the president and that's why i think it's so important, because he took these notes because he considered it so concerning and at the time he says that, you know, it was concerning given our role as an independent agency and that he didn't think the president was talking about the broader russia investigation but really just the investigation into mike flynn. >> but that's still an investigation. >> of course. of course. >> let's just keep this in perspective. there is a criminal investigation going on of one of the president's top associates, his former national security adviser, one of the most --
handful of most important people in the government. he gets fired. he's under criminal investigation and the president brings in the fbi director and says, please stop your investigation. >> right. >> if that isn't obstruction of justice, i don't know what is. >> what's striking to me about this is -- >> it's stig. i'm still sitting on that. >> you know, from an fbi agent's perspective, we record these kind of conversations all the time. they're very dry. there's not editorializing. what's striking to me and i'll be interested to know whether this is also reflected in the memos is him also giving his interpretation of the meaning of what the president was saying, which on its face could be excused away. but as jeff will probably attest to, obstruction of justice is a very complicated crime because proving the intent is the key.
and for him to say i understood this to be essentially a direction to stop the investigation, i think, is a pretty striking comment. >> but i think this demonstrates -- the obstruction statute is very simple. what's not included in there is it doesn't care if there was russian collusion in the background. it's a separate independent felony. there's no feelings clause that tries to get into how it made you feel, which is part of the circus for this morning where the witnesses were talking about how it made you feel versus what the president actually said. and the other thing that's so interesting about this disclosure is it really blows up any theory from this morning that the witnesses were anything other than completely unprepared. this demonstrates there was no executive privilege. there was no criminal investigator privilege. there was no problem vis-a-vis mr. mueller and his reactions. this is -- all of those are completely blown away and it further demonstrates how the witnesses this morning were completely unprepared. they are raising these things.
we see from this that it doesn't matter. we're finally going to be moving away from robotic responses and into the facts. >> i do think there is a huge difference, though, between the people who testified -- the gentleman who testified today who are working -- many of them are working and still have their jobs with the administration versus someone who has been fired by a man and i imagine these guys today were very aware of the tv cameras glaring on them and a certain someone watches a lot of tv. >> and they are not the ones in charge of the investigation. this is the fbi director. this is the guy whose job it is to be the head person in charge of this very investigation. >> yes. >> that the president is asking to just let go. that is why this is so incredibly monumental and shocking. >> we should just step back and remember -- and gloria has done a ton of reporting on this. the three things that we expect to hear when it relates to donald trump's conversations
with jim comey, there are three different categories. there was the loyalty pledge, that incident and how that came to be about. there was the issue written in the letter to jim comey about when he got fired by the president saying those three occasions where you cleared me and said i wasn't under investigation, we're going to hear about the interpretation of that and that is clear even in what you read before that this does seem to have some nuance to it and some open interpretation about how someone, of the two of them, could have left that thinking even though james comey doesn't right down that that is what he said. and then january 14th, the investigation of trump, the most serious portion of this. >> i want to go back to that point. what you said is very serious. >> yes. i'm sorry. it really is serious. >> you looked at the camera and you said "obstruction of justice". >> yes, it's sort of interesting
about the clearing stuff and that does seem to be ambiguous about how he understood whether he was under investigation but telling the director of the fbi to let it go, to let an investigation go, what's the innocent explanation for that? >> i do think there's something to be said about we're going to be here tomorrow and hear this come from his mouth and it's his words. but this morning, which is just as important, is what wasn't said and you didn't hear anyone sitting on that panel come up and say it didn't happen. now, we did say we didn't feel it and we would have these discussions in private, except, unless they go to the counsel's office and the white house counsel invokes executive privilege. even though they may agree to go behind closed doors, as we heard from the dni director, it
doesn't mean -- >> i want to keep reading so we're looking at this march 30 call. >> what we don't have in this is comey wants to present himself as a fact witness and what we have here are the facts. we don't have his interpretation, jeff toobin will give us his, of in fact whether he considered this some sort of obstruction or not and i don't think we're going to get that tomorrow. but he did think it was serious enough not only to memorialize it but he and the fbi leadership team, he writes, thought it was important enough not to infect -- he uses this word -- the investigative team with the president's request, which we did not intend to abide. so they kept it in a close circle and there were very few people they could go to, including jeff sessions whom they assumed would recuse himself on the russia issue. so it really gives you a sense of comey hearing about this,
being very disturbed by it, going to a small group of people and understanding that they didn't want to infect their investigation and they had to -- >> and then -- and again, i don't want to jump too far ahead here, but he goes to sessions, his boss, the attorney general, and says don't let me be alone with the president anymore. >> right. okay. >> because this is what he's doing and it's inappropriate. >> the one place where he seems to draw a conclusion and not just be a fact witness is in saying that the president was going about what he wanted to accomplish the wrong way by going to jim comey and he should be going to make requests about a public declaration of being cleared in this to the justice department and the attorney general and the deputy attorney general and he said very clearly here in what was the final interaction, phone call between donald trump and jim comey on april 11th it is clear that donald trump was done with jim comey on april 11th. i know it was all about that may
3rd testimony but by april 11th, donald trump, according to jim comey, is reminding him of the loyalty pledge while jim comey is saying, you should be talking to the deputy attorney general. >> this is what a cooperative and incredible witness looks like. they don't walk in and look like repetitive robots to lay out a generalistic comment. this is someone coming in and he's prepared and he understands what privilege is applying and unapplied. that's why the temperature in the room is going to be even hotter tomorrow. >> asha, we're in the weeds of this and everyone is reading, reading, reading. but take a step back. how big do you think this is? >> well, listen, as the director of the fbi, i don't think that he would have normally been in a position to come back and document conversations with other senior executive branch officials and put them in a
file. that's what rank and file investigative case agents do. so again, i think that this just, you know, attests to how much of a concern this is. i suspect that senior leadership team included the general counsel of the fbi who advised him to document this. and, you know, i think his statements will carry a lot of weight because the things that he's quoting in here are probably taken verbatim from those memos and those are contemporaneous memos in which -- >> and listening to you, we're reading it and there's been reporting on the memos of the meetings but to sit there tomorrow, mark preston, and for the world to listen to this first-person perspective, to hear the words from james comey himself, how strong of a case will that be? >> very strong. and i think that even though we're in washington, we're in the swamp, james comey is not political. let's take a step back.
he doesn't need a job. he's very successful. he's going to get a job after this. he will be hired right away. it's not as if he's trying to make a name for himself. i think if anything he's trying to make the record straight but to actually read it, it's night and day, i believe. >> and just imagine how he will be asked about it after he reads this statement. when i finally stopped interrupting dana and let her read this paragraph and as you read it, i mean, have him say it because he was in the room. we weren't in the room. >> should we keep reading? >> let's look now about how the press story is going to play out. now that this material is out today, these are the headlines tomorrow dominating as he goes into the hearing. very often, out of these big hearings and questioning going
on that can be tough, it's the oe opening statement that garners the headlines the next day. it's about this opening statement going in, which means the questioning becomes all that more important tomorrow because those are going to be the headlines coming out of the hearing. >> one of the reasons, he's not political in that we don't know if he's a republican or democrat or neither but he gets politics. >> he knows the way this city works or people around him do and you're totally right, david, as usual, not only are the headlines going to be out but he is giving the questioners all of their material 24 hours ahead of time, or less than that, so they can prepare their questions so they're not just kind of trying to do it on the fly. >> and to add to, that we saw what happened this morning. there's a narrative that is
going to be built up right now by the supporters of president trump. we didn't hear anyone on that panel this morning say that they had been pressured or felt pressured. >> that's right. let me ask one quick question of you, sir, mr. toobin. one of the pieces that i read -- and let me go back to this quote from james comey -- because i have been very loyal to you -- this is trump talking to comey. because i've been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know, is that a threat? >> well, it's -- it's certainly -- comey seems to have taken it as one because as he tells the story here, he had already accepted to stay on as fbi director, but then he essentially is subjected to this job interview again where he's asked his loyalty. again, why i think the magnitude
of this is so important, you have to put it in the context of all of the events that happened. >> yes. >> so he says, you know -- and i really do think that the stuff about flynn is by far the most important. where he says about flynn, let it go, drop the investigation and comey doesn't drop the investigation. so what happens then? the president well, he's trying to drop this investigation z that's the big picture here. if you want to take a step back and look at this, you see a president who believes that he should be able to control this. and he has lost control. or he feels like he's losing
control. and comey is getting him madder and madder every time he talks to him, even though comey said, you are not personally under investigation, he makes the point here that there is some n nuance because that didn't mean he would never be under an investigation. >> and there's a parallel here. there's a parallel here. january 20th, 1973, when richard nixon and h.r. haldeman after watergate, six days after the watergate break-in, they have this fbi investigation that they can't control. >> exactly. >> and they come up with this idea of telling the fooe that the cia wants this investigation stopped and it's that tape that's the smoking gun tape that persuades the house judiciary committee to vote to impeach
richard nixon. >> there are two people the president is concerned about here. for some reason, general flynn -- >> always. >> -- always reminding comey, can't you tell people publicly that i'm really not the person you are looking at here? and, of course, comey couldn't do that because things change and there were different investigations going on and maybe he wasn't the subject of a counterintelligence investigation but maybe something else. so the president, you can just sense his frustration. this is a cloud hanging over my administration. i have to get rid of it. you have to clear this up for me. this is -- and he gets more and more frustrated before comey's testimony on may 3rd but you can imagine the president having all of this garbage now, you know, in his head about it and may 3rd and it kind of does it. >> to your point, gloria, the fact that the president thinks it appropriate. >> yes. >> to go to his fbi director and
say, this cloud over my head is your problem to solve for me. >> because you know this president -- >> it's a misunderstanding. >> because you work for me. >> that's how he sees it. >> it gives full insight into how he thinks. it is clearly a wrong way to think. >> but it's the way he has succeeded. he became donald trump by getting people around him to just figure it out and -- >> totally. >> because it's okay, maybe not within the investigation, certainly not when you're the president but it's more okay when you're a real estate guy. >> but they don't have separation of powers. >> i think dana is exactly right about the thought process that -- >> i'm not defending it. i'm trying to explain it. >> but this is his problem. the law. >> that old thing. >> you can't do things because you feel like it and you can't tell the fbi director to drop an investigation because you don't like the fact that he's doing
this investigation and it's hurting you politically. >> let's keep reading. everyone join me. page 6. >> it's like being in class. >> here we go. this is james comey. if you're just joining us, we have gotten this massive statement ahead of his testimony tomorrow in front of the senate intel committee. on the morning of march 30th, the president called me at the fbi. he said he had nothing to do with russia, had not been involved with hookers in russia and had always assumed he was being recorded when in russia. he asked what we could do to, quote, lift the crowd. i responded that we were veging the matter as quickly as we could and there would be great benefit if we didn't find anything to having doing the work well.
then the president asked why there had been a congressional hearing about russia the previous week at which i had, as the department of justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between russia and the trump campaign. i explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in congress for more information and that senator grassley had even held up the confirmation of the deputy attorney general, who we heard from this morning, until we briefed him on the investigation. i explained that we briefed the leadership of congress on which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating president trump. i reminded him i had previously told him that. he repeatedly told me, quoting here, we need to get that fact out. in parenthesis. we did not have an open case on president trump for a number of
reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change. >> sounds familiar. >> yes. >> he goes on, the president went on to say if there were some, quote, satellite associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out but that he hadn't done anything wrong and hoped i would find a way to get it out and we weren't investigating him. in an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to deputy director andrew mccabe saying he hadn't brought up the mccabe things because i had said that mccabe was honorable although mcauliffe was close to the clintons and i didn't understand why the president was bringing this up. i repeated that mr. mccabe was an honorable person. he finished by stressing -- going back to this word -- the cloud that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped i could find a way to get out that he wasn't being investigated. i told him i would see what we could do, that we would do our
investigative work well and as quickly as we could. immediately after that conversation, i called acting deputy attorney general general bentay. sessions had recused himself on all russia-related matters and said i would await his guidance. i did not hear back from him before the president called me again two weeks later. so again, my takeaway is this insistent personal investigation questioning of that. >> well, i also wanted in this context to follow up on something that jeffrey said. i think that the law is what it is and it applies pretty quickly. one of the unique did i mentions of this case is that the president with regard to this case is the architect of his narrative. he's the author. there are things he's not able to dispute, the white house has supported that, we also have this unique dimension that is personal to the president where he puts it out on twitter. we've been talking about
threats. there was a thinly-veiled threat against comey that there better not be any tapes. he continues to be the architect of his own destructive narrative. >> but staying on what i just read, jeffrey toobin -- >> i'm sorry. can you ask someone else? >> are you distracted? >> gloria borger. >> you just failed. get out. >> what you clearly have is a president who is talking about the cloud that's interfering with his ability to get stuff done for the country but really what he's talking about is a cloud over his personal effect. not over his agenda or ability to get anything done although i'm sure he felt it impacted him but his interests were self-interests in every single question. you once told me i wasn't under investigation and comey clarifies that in his notes why he did or didn't do it but the president keeps calling him back about this cloud.
well, it's his cloud. what is it in peanuts, he walks around with -- a cloud over his head. but i think this is a president that seems to be pretty much obsessed with clearing himself personally. >> right. >> and we know that he felt that way because that's what he wrote in his letter when he fired comey and that's the fact that he always wanted to get out about this. for some reason he wanted to talk about flynn. >> whoever said that president trump was under investigation? why did that -- >> nobody. >> why did that mean -- >> nobody. >> he was so concerned about getting that statement out there when nobody had reported or said and, quite frankly, jim comey in his testimony before congress clearly didn't say that it was not part of what he was saying that they were investigating and
yet donald trump wanted it out there that he wasn't being investigated. >> and the irony is that because he did all that, this story has exploded and become exactly what he was trying to avoid, about him. it is about him because of having these completely inappropriate, potentially illegal conversations with the fbi director. >> i think one of the themes of this meeting is exonerate me. say this. say that. and if that's all it was, it would be wildly inappropriate if the conversations were, why don't you announce that i'm not under investigation and you could sort of understand why trump felt like comey had said that a couple of times, which i think is -- comey didn't completely vindicate him but he did say things that if you wanted to hear that you are not
under investigation, but what makes this, frankly -- and if that's all it was, you know, this would be very bad and very inappropriate. but what makes this so deeply sinister is the mike flynn stuff. >> the let it go stuff? >> to shut down the investigation of mike flynn. because that is not just asking for a statement, that's asking for fbi to take action and that, i think is much more serious since the president is the boss of the executive branch, which includes the fbi. >> two things i don't want to get lost in what you've been reading. number one, comey's repeated attempts to go to the department of justice and get some assistance from them, whether it's guidance or, you know, insulation in helping him and not getting it.
so sessions says i can't promise you i won't leave you alone with the president and in the passage that you just read, that he went to the acting deputy attorney general and said i want your guidance and didn't get any. >> you make a very good point here because one of the republican talking points since this story has come out is if this is so terrible, why didn't you go to sessions? why didn't -- >> he did. >> and he did. several times. >> the other point i want to quickly point out is the emphasis that he did not tell the agents working on the case because he's acting pre-emptively there in terms of not allowing the credibility of the rest of the investigation that's been going on to become accused of having political bias which, you know, i think we can see coming. he nipped that in the bud because the agents who have been investigating this all along have not been aware of this.
>> you know, but i do think that as we're sitting here at this table, we have to look at this through the eyes of what we think america is looking at through the eyes and we know a lot about this investigation. as jeff was saying earlier, there are a lot of pieces to this investigation, to this story. they are all over the table right now. you are going to see the trump allies seize upon this part of the letter that we will hear jim comey talk about tomorrow where he says that he was not under investigation. that's very important because that is going to be a narrative that will be pushed very hard to try to discredit everything else that we hear tomorrow, that we hear today and hear the next day and as we move forward. so i think a lot of people are going to look at, as jeffrey said earlier, at donald trump and said, well, look, why couldn't they because, you know what, even though all you people in washington are saying we never said it about donald trump, it was the trump
campaign, it is the trump administration, these are trump associates. so in many ways, it was about donald trump. at least in the eyes of america. >> so you get the sense of a president having this conversation with comey where comey seemed to be wanting to placate him in once sense or another to just kind of get him off the phone or -- you know, because again, trump said at one point, you know, i hope you can find a way to get out that i'm not being investigated and then comey says, not answering the question, comey says, i told them i would see what we can do and we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could, which is to say, we got -- we've got to do our job. i can't do what you're asking me to do. >> but he didn't say no. >> right. he's very smart. >> on the dossier, though, you have a little more context on
the dossier referenced in this phone call? what do you have? >> this is from one of the january meetings. we know early in january that the director personally briefed the president that trump at the time was not president yet but he started briefing him on some of the content of the dossier. and it seems like in reading this stuff for the testimony tomorrow, trump was obsessed over some of the contents. he called them salacious and even at one point even asked comey if he would investigate the claims in the dossier and comey in looking out for trump said to him, you know, this may not be a good idea because then i would essentially be investigating you and people could infer that and comey said you're not under investigation and it's something that i think comey was very cognizant about. he did brief members of congress that trump was not under investigation and it was
appropriate for him to do that but it had to be in the right setting. i think all the contacts here are very interesting and it's extremely detailed. sort of comey-esque. knowing comey and covering him the last few years, he's meticulous. >> the detail, shimon. >> the details are incredible, down to the number of people serving food, the clock in the oval office. it's just very specific. all kind of lending credibility to what he is saying here. you know, i think this whole cloud, this notion of the cloud over trump began after cnn's reporting about the daus sossie. it was significant that the fbi director chose on his own then to go ahead and brief trump about the dossier and the contents. it was probably a very difficult thing for comey to do given some of the allegations. but nonetheless, it was extremely important to do that given that he was about to
become the president. >> shimon, thank you. you have covered comey for a while and he is pretty darn meticulous in some of these detailed meetings and conversations. shimon is right about the fact that trump called it salacious and he's almost fixated on the dossier and clear me. >> you don't often read a document from an fbi director that the president called me to say he didn't hang out with hookers. that is not like a normal case event. so certainly this is a bit different. i want to pick up -- i think mark preston is totally right that the trump white house, his allies are going to seize upon these lines about comey explaining to the president that he's not under investigation in that moment of time. the problem with that -- that he is what they are going to seize
on. it totally ignore what is jeffrey is saying, which is that the most serious thing here is about flynn and that stuff about whether or not trump is under investigation, misses the most serious point about why jim comey is testifying. >> go ahead. >> i want to make a second point. and there's a larger political point. the context in which jim comey is going to go and say these words tomorrow is we have new poll numbers for the american people and where they are on this. 56%. that's a sizeable majority, believe that the president interfered with the investigation. that is where a majority of the american people are as jim comey goes to say this. >> 34% in this new poll. >> that's the context at which it's not as if donald trump has some reservoir of support in terms of the majority of the country to push back against what jim comey is saying.
his numbers are going in the wrong direction and a great majority of the country thinks he interfered. >> let me quickly interject. we are dissecting this statement. manu raju is getting reaction from senator john mccain who will be one of the questioners questioning the fired fbi director and his word describing this opening statement, in a word, disturbing. >> well, no question. and i know that there's one sort of school of thought that it's going to be -- i'm talking about how the republican response. >> yeah. >> how the trump white house responds is going to be and that is he didn't do anything wrong legally at the beginning and that was the whole point of this. the other thing that i'm getting, just texts from trump loyalists, come on, you know this is all political. and, you know what, there are people who have legal lihats or
commonsense hats that are going to say, no, it's not political. but you can be sure that they are going to say, this is a man scorned. this is a man fired by the president and he's got an ax to grind. i am not saying that that is correct, but i'm just giving you a preview of what i'm getting of what the trump defense is going to be. >> and this is why the memos matter. because he wrote the memos before he was fired. he wrote them -- i'm reading in the very beginning of this, january 6th, he said i began to type this on a laptop in an fbi vehicle outside trump tower the moment i walked out of the meeting. >> wow. >> and the other thing i'll point out is, in this first conversation which you haven't read yet, brooke, he does assure him on this january 6th meeting that -- he assures the president that there was no counterintelligence investigation. >> counterintelligence. >> that's an important distinction. >> why? >> because counterintelligence
investigations are fundamentally different in purpose and scope and methodology than a criminal investigation. in a counterintelligence investigation, you're looking at foreign intelligence activity in the united states, have people been targeted, do foreign adversaries now have access to sensitive information or secrets, for example. that is very different than a criminal investigation which is a separate entity. it's a separate division of the fbi and department of justice. he makes it clear at the january 6th meeting that -- >> why does that matter? >> it does matter. >> because it's one of the three -- >> because the president interpreted it as i'm free and clear. counterterrorism investigation is narrow. it's very, very narrow. comey's smart. comey chooses his words very carefully. and i think that's what -- i think that's what we see here. and i also think that we see
comey, in many ways, trying to get the president to go elsewhere on this. i mean, comey reached out as much as he could. you can imagine that. he's not getting any responses from the people he wanted to get responses to. and then he tells the president on april 11th, when the president says the cloud is still hanging over my head, he said, well, i tried. i passed the request to the acting deputy attorney general and he hadn't heard back and then the president says, well, maybe i'll get my people to call the acting deputy attorney general. huh? so you see a little bit of -- i don't want to say naivety on the part of the president. that comey is trying to say to him, i'm doing this by the books. >> okay. >> and here's what i'm doing and the president's trying to say -- >> short cuts. >> that's not enough. >> i've got norm eisen with us,
a former ambassador and cnn contributor. i don't know how long you have been listening to this. we heard the statement from senator mccain. he finds it disturbing. what's your response? >> brooke, thanks for having me. i have read the statement and have listened to the fascinating conversation among the panelists. i think it's remarkable that clearly director comey is looking ahead to the day beyond the hearing tomorrow when he may have to testify about this, whether it's in an obstruction proceeding, in an impeachment proceeding or something else and it is like trial testimony with the detail, the color of the room, what was served for dinner. it has the ring of truth. it captures trump's own voice. i agree with the panel that the most troubling thing in here is
the direct request from flynn and remarkably comey is troubled by it and without saying it would not be appropriate for a fact recital of this kind to say there was obstruction, he notes how troubled he was and documents it and addresses how to deal with this kind of an extraordinary intrusion on an investigation and that flynn conversation is another nail in trump's coffin. this constitutes, i believe now, beyond a prima fascia case of obstruction. we may still hear the negative case, but i think this is another turn of the screw for president trump on the obstruction of justice front. >> mr. am bass abassador, stand. jeff toobin, you heard him. >> i don't think it's that
complicated. when you tell an fbi, the director of the fbi to shut down an investigation or ask, you know, the crime of obstruction of justice takes place regardless of whether you succeed in obstructing or not. the crime, section 1503, says obstruct or attempt to obstruct. now, since he's the president, i think there's a very clear -- unclear constitutional question about whether he could ever be charged with a crime while he's president. but certainly if congress decides to look at this as a high-crime and misdemeanor, they will look at obstruction of justice and it doesn't matter that comey had the integrity to protect the fbi. what matters, it seems to me, unless it's refuted, is that trump tried to obstruct the fbi. >> ambassador eisen, how would
you respond to that? >> well, i agree with jeff. i will say that if that were the only conversation, as troubling as it is, if there had been no firing at the end of this, no loyalty demand at the beginning of it. if you didn't have a whole pattern, you'd have a legal argument that trump has the constitutional right to direct investigations but the pattern is what takes it out of the argument which you're hearing from commentators about trump's right to direct comey. the pattern takes it out of that and moves us into the land of obstruction because of the test, brooke, corrupt intent. and i think that this now, with the additional detail in the comey memo, this moves us into the same realm as nixon's
obstruction, maybe worse. this is the equivalent of the nixon tapes. and we are in very choppy waters. >> let me follow up quickly before we bring in two more voices. what do you say to trump supporters who say this is political, ax to grind, guy was fired? >> well, i think president trump has already lost that battle. the american people, majority of them we have heard have made up their mind but it's not political. i think the document itself speaks to the patience of jim comey and the american people will be watching tomorrow. comey is a master at testimony. he's at his best. again, like a trial witness, he himself a prosecutor trial
lawyer, he knows how that game is played. he's going to be convincing and he's going to be credible. trump is wrong-footed. he's already losing the argument, scrambling to catch up. >> releasing the statement today is just another devastating blow to him. so i don't think those political arguments are going to fly. >> okay. norm eisen, thank you for your time as we're all listening to this statement released ahead of tomorrow's testimony on capitol hill, now fired fbi director james comey sitting in front of and being questioned by members of the senate intelligence committee. i have here with me now david jolly and matt sclapp, former political director for george w. bush. so two republicans. matt sclapp, to you first, ambassador eisen said this is the equivalent of the nixon tapes. >> i like ambassador eisen very
much. i understand that his politics are not my politics. i think it's way high betterype one man's account. we've all worked with jim comey during the bush years. he's a grandstander. he likes to be the honest man. he's going to play that role on thursday. the whole question about all of this is whether the fbi acted appropriately during the campaign season which is why this whole thing started. then we have the second set of facts about the potential collusion with russia. all of this has been decided by the trump administration to go to a special counsel. we are through the gate on what the fbi's role here is. we are now at the point where we have a special counsel and that is the appropriate place for this to be. we can all argue on the republican side who should have recused. it is where we are and all the facts are going to come out and the facts that matter are all of
these things around this potential collusion. and i have to say one thing. having been in the white house that's being investigated by a special counsel, it's one of the most stressful things you can go through and the one thing everyone is told by the fbi is whether or not they are a subject or a person of interest. it is absolutely human nature to want to know whether you're a subject. and donald trump was told from the very beginning of this that he was not and it's total commonsense that you would want to make this clear. so i think if everybody would breathe a bit, i agree, this is wow, i haven't even gotten through it. this is exactly what jim comey does. he's garnered the spotlights and cameras all around the world. what we have to do and journalists have to do is listen to all sides of the story and let the american people see the facts. and if there's wrongdoing, i guarantee you something, that this country will do the right
thing by that. >> congressman? >> welcome to infrastructure week in washington, d.c. but i'm not sure i agree with matt on this. we are in serious -- >> i am the only person who is saying this. >> we are in serious times historically but let's not forget, we are still in a he said/he said environment and republicans still control the house of representatives, were any charges -- frankly, they would be having hearings with academics but they are not going to do that because republicans are in control. it's not much of a surprise. is comey going to actually acknowledge and say, yes, i felt like trump was trying to influence me. now is the chase for evidence, for tapes and for documents, third-party corroborating evidence. it was president trump himself who brought up the idea of white house tapes if you want to talk
knicks nixonian. perhaps it is tapes. did the president have white house tapes but also comey, known for covering his trails, known for creating written documents like we're about to see. does jim comey have tapes? because at some point it's going to require that type of affirmation to get a republican congress to move on a republican -- >> but comey tapes don't come until the second hour of the movie. just slow down, okay? >> the people are about to fall asleep. >> he is always two steps ahead of this president. always two steps. >> is that legal? >> i don't know if it's legal, but if he had tapes, he would have said he had tapes. >> let me ask matt this, though. if you look at where president trump is right now, he's at high 70s, low 80s in approval ratings with republicans. it doesn't seem that anything he
does is really dinging him. if, in fact, as jeffrey said the most damning thing out of this document is obstruction of justice and he's found guilty, do you really the supporters of president trump are going to care? >> i didn't get through the whole thing. i listened to networks on your network over and over again say this could be a political issue and i know you're a lawyer but a lot of lawyers say the fbi director reports to the president of the united states and if he directs the director -- now, we had him on and recently talked to him about that and that insulates the president more. you could have all kinds of questions about would have, could have, should have. >> congressman, can you respond to that? >> we don't always want to go to impeachment but the legal
question is important and to your point, no, i don't think the face ever turns. look at what the president has done in the past three days. he's attacked our allies, the media, gun control advocates. he continues to feed his base. what he learned from the paris accord, they come out and pat him on his back. i think that's what he'll do here. >> the main focus of your question, which is, when it comes to picking somebody like neil gorsuch for the supreme court court, when it comes to pulling out of the paris agreement, stopping these regulations, when it comes to trying to cut taxes and get the economy moving, there's no question that his base sticks with him. it's interesting. it's not a completely republican base. it's more of a mixed base that we see in the president in a long time and they stick with him because he's doing the types of things he says he would do. and i agree that the russia investigation has been something that has hallowed him politically and i think all of us are a bit exhausted from, is there something here?
let's see if there's fire. there is an investigation going on. the nate in s a bipartisan -- >> the approval rating is 34%. >> his base and the coalition of voters that got him elected. those are two different things. he got elected with 36% of t46% vote. they are now completely leaving him. so it was part of his electoral coalition but not necessarily the base of activist supporters and rallies and what have you. we know that 80% approval mark among republicans that mark was citing, historically, that's a bit of a danger sign in your own party if you're below 80. so why his core base supporters i agree, he is losing some of the electoral coalition that put him in the oval office. >> if you're saying that impeachment, i agree with you. going into something like that,
that is a problem. that is so many steps beyond where we are. let's look at where we are. this is a president that is in a position where he's got a window to change the direction of things. bill clinton had this problem when his wife tried to rewrite the health care laws and he lost congress and he had to retool this whole approach. ronald reagan faced this moment when he had iran-contra and he brought in howard baker. he put things together again. this is not unusual for presidents to find themselves, especially early, in a perilous situation. i'm not going to sugar coat it for you. i think he's in a tough position. jim comey is going to make his life a living hell as much as he can and it's up to us to look at the facts of the wrongdoing. yes, there's so much drama here. but until i see wrongdoing, i'm not going to be somebody who says that there's wrongdoing. >> gloria? preet bharara just tweeted, now
fired attorney general. >> i bet it's not positive. >> "obstruction aside, it's never okay for a president of the united states privately to ask an fbi director to drop a criminal investigation. extraordinary wrong and dumb." matt, your interpretation of that and then i want to ask matt a question. >> at a minimum, that's true. and this was true under obama, under george w. bush that for precisely this reason, you don't want to have interaction about individual investigations between the president and the director of the fbi. i think preet bharara's tweet begs the larger question about obstruction of justice. i mean, i don't think that a lot of people are going to argue that it wasn't wrong and dumb.
but obstruction of justice is a crime. it's an impeachable offense. that's the issue that i think is the focus now and i think it's a really problematic place for the president. >> so my question to you, following up, and let's give the president the benefit of the doubt. to your point, if there's this cloud swirling and there's a guy in the oval office -- >> and you know you're not a target and -- >> he keeps asking and -- >> because he wants to be -- >> sure. no one said he was being investigated personally but he keeps asking and asking and let's give him the benefit of the doubt. then why with comey in this recollection of mike flynn conversation in which he talks to the president and i replied only that he's a good guy, goes on and i did not say that i would let this go. the questions of the president saying to comey, let this go on the probe into mike flynn. >> right. i think this came out in an