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tv   CNN Newsroom With John Berman and Poppy Harlow  CNN  June 13, 2017 7:00am-8:01am PDT

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coming hours, presumably, we'll be seei -- will be seeing him and presumably speaking with him for the first time in over a year. he would have graduated from college just a couple of months ago. he missed that event. they have a lot of catching up to do. >> all right, will, stand by for a moment, because we did just get a statement from the u.s. secretary of state rex tillerson on this. let's listen in. >> mr. secretary, is the president getting rid of mueller? >> excuse us, we've got to get through. >> any reaction to north korea, dennis rodman there. is that the u.s. solution now? >> no comment on that right now. >> reporter: no comment? are you feeling good about the release? what's the u.s. reaction? do you have any reaction? >> stay tuned. >> come on, senator. senators, we're going to walk into the chairman. >> all right, you heard him there, secretary tillerson saying stay tuned. obviously, i'm sure he learned about this news before we did. but again, the headline there, wonderful news for otto and his
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family, one of four americans detained in north korea, has been released. there are still three, though, that are detained that we know of. all right, we have a lot of news to get to. let's get right to it. all right, good morning, again, everyone. i'm john berman. >> and i'm poppy harlow. an attorney general under oath, a special counsel under fire, and startling statements made by close allies to the president are under scrutiny this morning. we are watching a remarkable morning unfold. in moments, another grilling for the only man who actually has the power to fire the special counsel in the russia investigation. that is rod rosenstein. you see him seated right there, papers in tow, binders in tow, about to testify this hour in public and out loud. and he will be certainly asked about reports that the president is considering an action so drastic, it could trigger outrage from both parties. >> we're going to hear some from lawmakers any second. speaker paul ryan and other house republican leaders are about to hold a news conference. they no doubt will be asked about the flurry of news, the
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white house, the president considering asking for the firing of robert mueller as special counsel. and then there is more huge testimony on capitol hill. attorney general jeff sessions will appear before the senate intelligence committee. he will face a flurry of questions, among them, what role did he have in the firing of james comey, did he have a third undisclosed meeting with the russian ambassador, did he offer his resignation to president trump last week? we have a lot to cover this morning. let's get straight to capitol hill. ryan nobles is there. ryan. >> reporter: yeah, john and poppy, it will be a busy day here on capitol hill, especially for members of the justice department, as you guys just showed there, rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general getting set to answer questions from an appropriations committee, subcommittee on the justice department budget, but we do expect that he will get some questions about russia, the firing of james comey, and perhaps whether or not he would, if asked by the president, fire the special counsel, robert mueller. well, he is just the opening act, because then later this afternoon, the attorney general himself, jeff sessions, will be
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here in front of the senate intelligence committee. now, sessions was the one originally scheduled to appear in front of the appropriations committee, but when it came out that he may be asked questions about russia by democrats, he pulled a switch, asking to appear in front of the intelligence committee instead. the intelligence committee agreed, and you can bet that there are going to be some questions about the role he may have played in james comey's firing and, of course, the role that he played in the russia investigation, based a bit on this answer to a question that james comey gave during his explosive hearing last week. >> our judgment, as i recall, was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. we also were aware of facts that i can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a russia-related investigation problematic. >> reporter: one question we know will be asked today is
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whether or not there was that third undisclosed meeting between sessions and the russian ambassador, sergey kislyak, at the mayflower hotel on the day of donald trump's first major foreign policy speech. the justice department has repeatedly said it didn't happen, but the attorney general himself has yet to answer that question. he will be forced to do so today under oath. but of course, john and poppy, we're not sure how forthcoming the attorney general will be today. he may attempt to invoke executive privilege, especially with questions regarding his conversations with president trump, and he may even say that some of his answers involve classified material and can't be answered in an open session. no doubt, though, there will be fireworks later this afternoon here on capitol hill. >> indeed. definitely in a few moments as well. you're looking at live testimony just about to get under way with the deputy attorney general, the only man who can fire bob mueller. ryan nobles on the hill, thank you. this morning, the white house is in the middle of swirling speculation about whether the president would have rosenstein fire mueller, the
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bombshell claim that he's considering it made all the more shocking, considering the source, a longtime friend of the president. >> i think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. i think he's weighing that option. i think it's pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently. i personally think it would be a very significant mistake. >> all right, again, we're watching the deputy attorney general, rod rosenstein, testify. if he talks about this, and he will be asked about it shortly, we're going to cut right to that. meantime, let's go to cnn's suzanne malveaux at the white house with this latest swirl of questions about whether or not the white house wants bob mueller fired. >> reporter: christopher ruddy really is no stranger to the white house. he calls himself a good friend of president trump. they've known each other for some 20 years. and it was just yesterday that he paid a visit, but he says he was just talking to white house officials, not specifically the president, before he made that dramatic claim about trump's thinking potentially firing the special counsel.
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sean spicer, white house press secretary, fighting back, firing back rather quickly with this statement, saying "mr. ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue. with respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment." well, we saw ruddy today doubling down this morning with this statement, insisting that he knows exactly what he is talking about, what he's suggesting, saying here that "spicer issued a bizarre late-night press release that, a, doesn't deny my claim that the president is considering firing mueller, and b, says i didn't speak to the president about the matter, which i never claimed to have done so. memo to sean -- focus your efforts on exposing the flimflam russian allegations against potus and highlighting his remarkable achievements. don't waste time trying to undermine one of your few allies." we also saw from ruddy today going on "new day" just earlier this morning saying that, in fact, he knows exactly what he thinks the president should do
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and that the problem is with the white house. take a listen. >> i only speak for myself and not the president. he has his own spokesman, although they're, i think in need of little bit of a help from time to time. >> reporter: white house sources are telling us that trump's advisers certainly are saying, do not, do not fire mueller. they don't think it's a good idea. it's the same thing that we've heard from ruddy, leading some to suggest that they're trying to get that message through to the president on tv. john, poppy? >> all right, suzanne malveaux at the white house. two things going on that we're watching right now. number one, the deputy attorney general, rod rosenstein, testifying before the senate. he will be asked about this swirl of questions about whether the president wants robert mueller fired. why will he be asked? because rosenstein's actually the guy who would have to do the firing, so his opinion is of paramount importance. house republican leaders also are speaking right now. they will probably be asked about this. there's kevin mccarthy right
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now, majority leader of the house. when they get questioned, we'll bring you there as well. meantime, commentator doug hye, symone sanders, formerly press secretary with bernie sanders in his presidential campaign. also, political reporter for the "washington post" blog "the fix," and former federal prosecutor michael zeldin. he worked with bob mueller in the justice department once upon a time. doug, first to you. i can't help but think that the white house and the allies of the white house have put rod rosenstein in a bit of a bind here this morning as he testifies. he will be asked directly and repeatedly right now what he would do if the white house comes to him and says, fire bob mueller. >> yeah, i think what we can expect is that he won't answer that question directly. he won't speculate. now, as we've seen in previous hearings -- >> doug, i'm going to cut to the hearing right now, senator jeanne shaheen asking about it. >> -- and testifies to the
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important work of the department of justice. doj is on the front lines fighting the deadly, uncontrolled opioid epidemic, and it is still gaining strength. the doj hiring freeze risks the safety of correctional officers in our federal prisons, and curiously, the request for the federal bureau of investigation is less than congress provided for fiscal year 2017, even while the bureau conducts the crucial counterintelligence investigation into russian influence in our 2016 election process. while providing testimony before a newly scheduled senate intelligence committee hearing is important, and i understand that, the attorney general is still responsible for answering critical questions from this committee. he needs to provide his explanation of doj's budget, as well as the defense of his policies in an open, public hearing for not only us but for the american public. mr. rosenstein, i applaud your
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appointment of robert mueller as the special counsel to oversee the ongoing investigation into russian interference during the 2016 election and believe this will help to depoliticize that %-pn about both your and attorney general sessions' role in this matter. your knowledge of resource requests made by former director comey, your involvement in comey's firing, and your prior meetings with russian officials, among many concerns. i will return to these subjects during my question period later and know that many of my colleagues will express their concern in questions as well. so, deputy attorney general, i look forward to your testimony, to our discussion today, tuned at some future date having the attorney general appear before us in open session. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator leahy, you have an opening statement? >> i do, mr. chairman. thank you, and ranking member shaheen.
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the deputy attorney general, i won't mince words -- you're not the witness we were supposed to hear from today. you're not the witness who should be behind that table. that responsibility lies with the attorney general of the united states. attorneys general of the past did not shy away from this committee's questions, regardless of the topic, regardless of the party. attorneys general of the past did not cower to the request of congress to fulfill its constitutional oversight responsibility. and they didn't agree to come and then cancel at the last minute and then send their second in command in their stead because members of this committee may have questions they may not want to answer. until now, that is. so, with respect, mr mr. rosenstein -- and i voted for you, as you know -- you're not who i'm interested in speaking with or hearing from today.
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i do have questions for the attorney general. i want to know why he has provided false testimony to me and to senator franken. i want to know why if he's recused in the russian investigation he played any role in the dismissal of fbi director comey. i want to know how he believes he can credibly lead the justice department for which he has requested $28.3 billion, amid such stressing questions about his actions and his integrity. importantly, i believe the attorney general of the united states, the nation's chief law enforcement officer, owes it to the more than 116,000 justice department agents, intelligence analysts, attorneys, and support personnel, the roughly 1 million state, local, and tribal police officers, and staff supporting more than 4,500 local victim
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assistance programs in every state to justify the budget request of the department of justice. he owes them that courtesy because the president's budget request for the justice department is abysmal. they cut the department's budget by $643 million from the fy 2017-enacted level. the department's request is built on unrealistic assumptions. but worse than that, it's also built on the backs of crime victims. the permanent rescission of $1.3 billion from the crime victims fund. let me repeat that. the president and the administration talk about how they support -- >> all right, doug, we interrupted you with jeanne shaheen and pat leahy speaking now. we're asking you about the bind the administration has put rod rosenstein in, not sitting in this committee to self-for jeff sessions, who was supposed to be here originally, but now he will no doubt face questions about
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whether or not, or what he would do if the administration asks him to fire bob mueller. >> sure. and i think if you're attorney general sessions, it's not just the mueller question. certainly, that will come up a lot. but what may be the bigger deal for senate intelligence members is whether or not there was a third undisclosed meeting with russian officials and what that would be. what his response is to that and how the members react is going to be very important. and i would say, for the senate intelligence committee, if you go back a year ago -- i worked for senator richard burr, as you know -- he was being criticized for not campaigning enough because he was so focused on doing his job as a senator. he's taking this very seriously, and we saw that last week when he criticized members for not being open and honest enough. and his first words after the comey testimony was "this isn't the beginning, this is a long process." there's going to be a lot to watch, not just today, but moving forward. >> amber, what do you think? do you think is that trosenstei, as we see him about to be questioned, about stonewall, again like he and essentially rogers did last week?
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two questions from democrats and republicans in their testimony? >> there is no reason why he would change exactly his m.o. last week, which you're exactly right. frustrated democrats in the senate to no end. he, you know, clearly said -- >> and republicans. >> and some republicans. democrats were quick to use it as political leverage, you know, look at this trump administration refusing to talk to us. and i think that the purpose from the white house's point of view of having jeff sessions testify later today -- >> hold that thought. let's go to house speaker paul ryan answering questions about mueller. listen. >> yeah, all i've heard so much are rumors, but i think in the best case for the president is to be vindicated by allowing this investigation to go on thoroughly and independently. so, i think the best advice would be to let robert mueller do his job. [ inaudible question ] >> continue to stand by this president and -- >> oh, i'm not -- look, i just
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said it, i think the best thing to do is to let robert mueller do his job. i think the best vindication for the president is to let the investigation go on independently and thoroughly. that to me is the smartest thing to do, the best thing to do, and that's what i think hopefully will happen. >> on the budget, you guys are running into issues like you did last year with disagreements over -- number and some members are talking about -- [ inaudible ] -- on health care. do you think you can get a real budget resolution that lays out your priorities and what other accomplishments -- >> yeah, so the question's about the budget. remember, with a new president in the first year, you always have an abbreviated budget season. that's just the way budgeting with a new administration works. so we always knew that we had a constricted budget in appropriations season. we're having debate right now about how much we can assist the pentagon and the military. so, it's not a question of more resources for the military. it's just a question of the degree of how much more resources we can dedicate to the military. that's really what this big debate is about, and then we're going to have the kind of debate
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about what kind of, what we call reconciliation instructions, are necessary not just for tax reform, but for other kinds of things we need to make sure we're getting the budget trajectory heading the right direction. what's the purpose of this budget, get us on a path to balance, get working on our debt problem, which is a long-term problem, rebuild the military, and then put the kind of tools in place so we can maximize economic growth. the crown jewel of growing this economy -- regulatory relief. you saw what we did with the choice act last week. tax reform. we think tax reform is absolutely critical to get 3% economic growth, to get higher wages, to get people going to work, and that is really important. that's what this budget's about. so, we have lots of priorities that we're having debate about how best we advance these priorities. we're having the kind of family conversation you have every year when we have a resolution on that, you'll know. deirdre. >> other republicans have been criticizing mueller and the team around him and his firing. do you have complete confidence in mueller and his team? >> yeah, i don't know his team. i know bob mueller.
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i have confidence in bob mueller. >> last question. >> way in the back. >> thank you. two parts. one, did you convey your opinions to the president on mr. mueller that he should just let the investigation continue? and if the president does go ahead and let mr. mueller go, would you -- >> there's no debate that's going on here. >> you're creating a debate that's not happening. >> this is like a rumor we heard last night, so there's not really some big debate that's occurring on this. >> is congress interested in reupping the special prosecutor? >> you're creating -- like i said, kevin just said it you're creating a debate that's not occurring here. this i think was a rumor that came out last night -- >> you're creating a rumor that's not happening. >> so, kevin made a good point here. look at what we're doing this week. we found out three years ago veterans were dying on these waiting lists that were occurring at the va in arizona and then all around america, so we uncovered a scandal, and then we realized when we were uncovering this veterans scandal, we couldn't even bring
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accountability to the va. they couldn't even fire people who were grossly negligent in their jobs. so, what are we doing? we're fixing this problem today. what did we do last week? we passed the choice act. we repealed and replaced dodd/frank, ended too big to fail, ended bailouts and brought needed regulatory relief for community banks to help small businesses get credit and grow. what are we working on next week? we're working on the skills gap so that people can get the skills they need to get good jobs. the point i'm trying to make is, let's put this all in perspective. we are focused on solving problem's problems. what i think the american people want to know is that their government's working. yes, these issues, i'm not saying this isn't important. these investigations are important. they need to be independent. they need to be thorough. they need to go where the facts go, but we also have a duty to serve the people that elected us to fix the problems that they're confronting in their daily lives, and that's what we're doing. thank you. >> thank you. >> heard from paul ryan there, saying the best road ahead for the president is to let bob mueller doing his job, the
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special counsel, saying "i have confidence in bob mueller." let's go back to the panel who we've twice had to interrupt for breaking news. amber, your thoughts. >> yeah, sure. well, i think the headline is paul ryan saying it would be a bad idea, mr. president to fire bob mueller. and i think that underscores that if the president did make this decision, he would be almost completely alone in washington. he would have no support for it, you know. and it's easy to look back at the comey firing and see why. the president said, we've reported he told the russians, he did it to relieve pressure off himself. well, the exact opposite happened, and now we're looking at questions of whether the president himself obstructed justice. it's hard to see how firing mueller does anything but dial up that pressure notch by a factor of ten. >> look, "i have confidence in bob mueller," exact words from the house speaker. message sent, i think, loud and clear. michael zeldin, the house speaker also said something whi isn't quite true, saying this
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event is being invented out of nowhere. the reason people are discussing it is because allies of the president, starting with jeffrey lord on cnn friday night, started going after bob mueller. then newt gingrich did, then ann coulter, then newt gingrich did again, and then chris ruddy speculated in the president's thinking about it, which the white house never even knocked down, to this moment has not said the white house is not thinking about it. you've been close to bob mueller in the past. put us in his head right now. what's he supposed to make of this? >> i don't think he's paying any attention to it. i honestly think that bob mueller has sort of a marine, recon, singular focus of doing his job and that's what he'll be focused on and let these chirpers chirp away. i personally don't think that this is a very serious possibility. i think that the notion that the special counsel would be fired by the deputy attorney general -- i think the deputy attorney general would resign before he would execute that order, and i think we'd then be
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in a saturday night massacre proposition all over again. so i just don't see it as practical. but that said, i think that what we're probably seeing is sort of trial balloons of a pr strategy, pr/legal strategy, similar to what we saw in clinton versus ken starr, where they had no facts, they had no law, so what were they left with but to demonize ken starr. worked pretty well for them, and so maybe the same thing is going to be tried here. they're trying to demonize comey. they're calling him a leaker, when actually, he is not a leaker. they are saying that mueller is political, when actually, mueller made no contributions himself. but that's the effort. can they somehow create in the mind of the public doubt as to the integrity, and therefore, honesty, of bob mueller and his team, so that if there's a determination by mueller that the president and/or his
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subordinates did something wrong, people have a reason to doubt its sort of authenticity and see it more as a political decision. >> yeah, the dick morris strategy, as berman was pointing out this morning. a little lesson in history there. guys, stick around. symone, we'll get to you next. thank you for waiting patiently. and we will address the contributions republicans are pointing to about the top hire of bob mueller to a number of democrats. obviously a lot to follow in washington. stay with us. we'll be right back. >> they deserve our support. >> announcer: cnn "newsroom" brought to you by northrop grumman, the value of performance. ! (dog barking) whoever threw it has to go get it. not me! somebody will get it... ♪ (dog barking) anyone can dream. making it a reality is the hard part. from the b-2 to the upcoming b-21, northrop grumman stealth bombers
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look, i just said it. i think the best thing to do is to let robert mueller do his job. i think the best vindication for the president is to let this investigation go on independently and thoroughly. that to me is the smart thing to do, the best thing to do, and that's what i think hopefully will happen. >> house speaker paul ryan just moments ago, saying "i have confidence in bob mueller," this as there is a swirl of questions about whether or not the white house is considering moving to fire the special counsel. >> he calls it sort of invented rumors, but this is someone who is a very close friend of the president who was at the white house last night who said it out loud. let's bring in democratic congresswoman dina titus of nebraska. your reaction to paul ryan right now? >> well, i agree with him. i think we should let the investigation go forward. i think director mueller is just an impeccable person to lead this, and all this talk about firing him just makes you wonder what have they really got to hide? >> some conservatives are pointing to the people that the special counsel has hired. he's hired a number of lawyers, you know, very accomplished lawyers in washington with
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investigations, but a number of them have made donations exclusively to democratic candidates in the past. i don't know if we have a chart available right now we can put up so you can see what these candidates have given, gut he's hired lawyers that has given to democrats. should that be a concern? >> i don't think so. i think that's a red herring. i think the same people who were pointing to this not long ago said what a great person mueller was. and if you look at the campaign contribution records of people, donald trump gave money to democrats as well. so, let's look at their credentials, let's look at their politics, let's look at the fact that they're there to do a job. >> so, moving on to what's happening right now, you have rod rosenstein, the only man who could fire bob mueller, testifying on the hill as we speak. we're monitoring it for any news. but frankly, he stonewalled democrats and republicans last week when they were asking him questions, just refusing to answer them, not because of executive privilege and not because of classified
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information. if you were questioning rod rosenstein right now, what would your number one question be to him? >> well, he's supposed to be talking about appropriations. he's there in place of mr. sessions, who's going to show up later today. who knows what he's going to say. i think he wanted to stay out of the political fray, not be part of anybody's personal agenda, and that's why he didn't answer the questions. i, frankly, don't believe he's going to fire the man he appointed to head up this investigation. >> all right. jeff sessions, you noted, the attorney general of the united states, he does testify later today before the senate intelligence committee. where do you have questions with him, congresswoman? >> well, i think he has a lot to answer. he recused himself, then he's back in the middle of it. he met with the russians, well, maybe not the third time, but we aren't sure. what did he know? when did he know it? i think all of those questions are going to be asked over and over. it will be interesting to see if he uses executive privilege to avoid some of those questions.
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>> all right, thank you, congresswoman dina titus. >> thank you. >> we appreciate you being with us. let's listen in to jeanne shaheen, the democratic senator from california, questioning rosenstein. >> -- removed from office only by the personal action of the attorney general. the attorney general may remove a special counsel for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of departmental policies. the attorney general shall inform the special counsel in writing of the specific reason for his or her removal. now, as i understand, mr. rosenstein, in this matter, you are actually the one exercising hiring and firing authority, because attorney general sessions is recused. is that correct? >> yes, that is correct. >> and at this point, have you seen any evidence of good cause for firing special counsel mueller? >> no, i have not. >> and have you given the special counsel full independence from the justice department to conduct his
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investigation? >> yes, senator, and i appreciate that question. at the last hearing i attended, i explained it. it would require a long time to explain exactly why i am confident that he has full independence. the short answer is, though, that that regulation, as you may know, was written and implemented during the clinton administration, under the authority of attorney general reno. i know the folks who wrote that. they wrote it to deal with these sort of situations, and i am confident that he will have sufficient independence. and it's certainly theoretically possible that the attorney general could fire him, but that's the only person who has the authority to fire him. and in fact, the chain of command for the special counsel is only directly to the attorney general, or in this case, the acting attorney general, so nobody else in the department would have the authority to do that, and you have my assurance that we are going to faithfully follow that regulation and director mueller will have the full independence he needs to conduct that investigation appropriately. >> and is there a record that gives him that full independence? is that done in a letter or an
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order from you as the deputy attorney general? >> yes, senator. it's done in the order, which i believe was issued on may 17th, and the order references the regulation from which you've read. and so, that is the source of his authority. >> thank you. you mentioned in your opening comments about the importance of the budget request for 230 assistant u.s. attorneys. i certainly agree that that's important. i am concerned, however, that we still -- we had an en masse firing of u.s. attorneys across the country. and as far as i know, at least in new hampshire, we haven't made any nominations to replace the person who was fired. can you tell me how many u.s. attorneys have been nominated throughout the country? >> i believe, senator, that the president announced his first set of nominations yesterday, and i believe there was seven or eight in that first round. and what i can assure you is
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that we are moving very expeditiously, and i think there's been some press that i think is somewhat misleading about that. i think we're actually going to be ahead of most administrations in the speed by which we're appointing u.s. attorneys. it's obviously very important to me, because i spent 12 years serving as a u.s. attorney, and i know how important good u.s. attorneys are to the operations of the department of justice. in fact, the last two saturdays i've spent in the department interviewing candidates for about ten districts each weekend, and so, we anticipate that by the end of the summer, we'll see a large number of u.s. attorneys nominated throughout the country. >> well, i certainly am glad to hear that. it's my understanding, at least in new hampshire, we haven't seen wholesale firing of u.s. attorneys in the way that we did in this administration. was there a reason why every u.s. attorney in the country was fired on the same day? >> so, senator, i'm pleased to tell you not everyone was fired, because i was one of the u.s. attorneys that day. >> good. >> there were four who were not
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fired, but i was not in the department at that time. i learned about the firings after the decision had been made, so i have no insight into why that decision was made. >> you mentioned in your opening statement the tragedy in georgia and the officers who were killed, murdered. it's a reminder that those who work in our prisons do have a very difficult job that is very dangerous. and i am troubled by the fact that while the administration's hiring freeze was lifted in april, that the department of justice has been under a self-imposed hiring freeze since mid-february. and while there was a blanket exemption for positions relating to public safety and national security, it doesn't include the bureau of prisons, which is still under a freeze. and in fact, in new hampshire, fci berlin had extended
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conditional offers to seven potential employees, five of whom were correctional officers, but due to the imposition of the hiring freeze, those positions were canceled by doj, so they were not able to go forward with that hiring. as you point out, this is a difficult job. can you explain why we continue to have a hiring freeze on correctional officers within the bureau of prisons? >> senator, i appreciate that question. i think there may be some misunderstanding about this. the department froze bop hiring at the headquarters in washington and at the regional administrative offices, but my understanding is that the department allowed bop institutions to continue hiring up to their staffing levels as of january 22nd, which means that if people left, they would be able to fill those vacancies. so, within that overall level of staffing, i believe we've left the discretion with b.o.p. to hire for whichever positions it believes are most critical to
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its operationoperations. now, obviously, there has been a continuing decline in the number of federal prisoners, and kments commensura commensurately, probably -- >> all right, an important moment from the deputy attorney general of the united states, rod rosenstein. he was asked about this swirl of questions about whether the white house wants to have special counsel bob mueller fired. he would be the first with that authority. he was specifically asked whether or not he sees any reason, any cause to think that the special counsel is not doing his job well, any reason to think the investigation is not going well. his direct answer was, "no, i have not." and then he said director mueller is going to have the full degree of independence that he needs. a very clear statement from the deputy attorney general there. we're going to get all of your takes on this. michael zeldin, as the resident attorney here, what was your impression of what he said? >> well, i thought it was very good, in a word. he says that there is no reason for cause at all, and so, i
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think he is dismissing the notion that a political contribution made by some of his staff may rise to the level of pause. that's reassuring -- >> hang on one second, because susan collins just asked rosenstein, if he was asked to fire bob mueller, what would he do. >> -- mueller would be fired only for good cause, and i am required to put that cause in writing. and so, that's what i would do. if there were good cause, i would consider it. if there were not good cause, it wouldn't matter to me what anybody says. >> thank you. i want to turn to the opioid crisis which plagues my state and so many others. last year, drug overdoses were responsible for more than 59,000 deaths in this country, including a record 376 -- >> we'll get back to our panel. symone sanders, to you. between paul ryan, basically message to the white house, don't fire bob mueller, right? and then rosenstein saying
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essentially the same thing, there's no reason to. he'll have full independence in this investigation. are republicans and then the deputy attorney general here sort of boxing the white house and the trump administration in? >> i don't think so. look, we know that donald trump is someone that doesn't care what everybody else thinks, and if he decides he wants to fire bob mueller, he is going to give the directive. i'd like to note that concern over trump potentially asking the deputy attorney general to fire mueller is the reason for senator kamala harris' exchange last week, and we saw in that exchange between herself and the deputy attorney general, he did not give a straight answer. she asked, would mueller have full independence? would he put this in writing that regardless of what anyone would say, mueller would have full independence? and rosenstein didn't really answer the question. so, it does not reassure me that paul ryan has full confidence in bob mueller. paul ryan just, you know, orchestrated a vote to end too big to fail and dodd/frank. so i don't have full confidence what paul ryan has to say.
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i'm very concerned about donald trump, because this is a guy that, you know, came to prominence over a couple things, but namely, over the phrase "you're fired." so, if anybody thinks that what's going on on the hill today is going to affect donald trump's thought process, i think you're sorely mistaken. >> all right, doug hye, i want to read you what rod rosenstein read as he was asked directly, if he was asked to fire bob mueller, what would he do? he said "i'm not going to follow any orders, unless i believe those orders are lawful." and previously before, remember, he said he sees no cause to fire bob mueller. he goes on to say "if there was good cause, i would consider it. if there were not good cause, it wouldn't matter what anybody says." that's a marker, doug. >> yep. >> if rod rosenstein said i do not see any cause, and if i was ordered to do it with no cause, i flat out wouldn't do it. that seems to be a marker. >> that's absolutely a marker. look, there's a little bit of wiggle room in there. so, you're saying there's a chance, if he thinks there is
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cause. clearly, republicans, but we're seeing whether in the administration or capitol hill, don't think that cause is there. but i'd also go back to paul ryan's earlier comments. he wasn't just talking about robert mueller. if you look at what he said, he also demonstrated the problems that republicans have had so far this year and in past years, and that's that republicans writ large have a problem walking and chewing gum at the same time. every time we have another trump shiny object du jour, whether it's the attorney general, whether it's a special prosecutor, whether it's a tweet, republicans aren't able to talk about those issues that they want to -- growing jobs, job training, growing the economy, all those things that republicans campaigned on to fix for america, they don't get attention because we're talking about the latest trump-driven directive. >> last week was infrastructure week, if you asked the administration, and this week it's jobs and apprenticeship week. quickly before we go, amber, big picture? we're looking ahead to attorney general jeff sessions about to testify publicly in just a few hours. what are the stakes? what does it mean for the
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administration? >> yeah, this is a huge moment. i think it's because jeff sessions has really played a starring role in a lot of the controversies with regard to the trump administration. you know, the investigation on whether the campaign included with russia? well, jeff sessions is one of the most high-profile members of the campaign and now the administration to have met with russian officials and not disclosed it. with regard to the comey firing and questions surrounding whether the president tried to interfere, jeff sessions was comey's boss, and comey, quite frankly, laid out a case last week that jeff sessions knew something wasn't going on quite right. you know, comey said, oh in the oval office, jeff sessions was lingering when the president asked everyone to leave, so he could be alone with me. comey also indicated that jeff sessions has violated his recusal. >> right. >> i think there's a lot of stuff sessions has to answer for. i'll be looking to see if this becomes another he said-he said between comey and the trump
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administration. >> thaedz be he said-he said-he said. >> and he said. >> i just said it. thank you, guys. we'll be right back. "how to win at business." step one: point decisively with the arm of your glasses. abracadabra. the stage is yours. step two: choose la quinta. the only hotel where you can redeem loyalty points for a free night-instantly and win at business.
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combined with the most wifi hotspots. it's a new kind of network. xfinity mobile. you're watching the deputy attorney general, rod rosenstein, being questioned by hawaii democrat brian schotts. >> there's a memorialization of that recusal. there's a delineation of what is in and what is out of that recusal, and there's also a process by which we can determine whether or not there is compliance with that recusal. is there such a document? >> the way the department operates is very different from a law firm, and -- >> i know that, but is there such a document? >> well, no, because it's not necessary, because the department is a hierarchy, and so, nothing gets to the attorney general the matters he's recused
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from unless they come through my office. >> what if they come through the oval office? >> if they come through the oval office? well, we're not briefing the oval office about our investigations, either, so i don't know how they would get there. >> i am starting to -- it could be my lack of a law degree. maybe there are a couple of lawyers on this panel or in the public who can help me to understand the most basic question here, which is that the attorney general had a press conference and said, given all of these challenges, given all of this controversy, i'm out, i am recused from these matters. and now the question becomes, what matters? which matters? so, i'm just going to ask one final time if you can just try to describe for the public, for the lay person, for the person who's following this but may not possess a law degree, what is the attorney general allowed to be involved in and what is he not to be allowed to be in involved in? and who makes that determination? and how do we know whether he's complying or not? >> i appreciate that sincere
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question, senator. i want to try and explain. and you're right. i spent 27 years in the department of justice. i think about these things differently than people who are not in the department, that are not lawyers. what's important for me to explain, in this matter, i'm acting as attorney general of the united states, and that means a lot to me. and one of the things it means is that i have a responsibility not to talk publicly about what we're investigating or who we're investigating because that could adversely affect the investigation and because it would be unfair to people who may be under investigation. >> is it possible -- is it possible that the attorney general is a witness in this investigation? >> if he were, senator, i wouldn't talk about it. >> what about you? >> senator, i am not going to be talking about the investigation. the purpose of my appointment of special counsel mueller was to ensure that there'd be public confidence in the outcome of that investigation, and he now has responsibility for that, and i think that if there are any questions, they should be directed to him, and i know he's
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going to do the right thing, as i would, and defend the integrity of that investigation -- >> if you -- just one final question, because i'm out of time. if you become a witness in this investigation, do you think there's a conflict of interest there? >> i'm not going to answer hypothetical questions, and the reason, senator, is i am looking at career professionals who know these rules and are responsible for enforcing these rules, and i can ensure you that we are going to do the right thing and defend the integrity of that investigation. >> could you just consider this a question for the recovered, if you could please put in black and white for the committee the scope of the recusal and how this all works? then i think you can be a little more careful. i understand you have to be careful about not referring to an investigatory process, i get that. but i think the public deserves to know exactly how this all plays out, and i can't imagine you can't describe it even in the abstract so that we are assured there is a fair and thorough investigatory process. thank you. >> i appreciate the question and we will make an effort to do that in writing in a way that maybe, hopefully, better than my
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efforts. but as i said, i just want to assure you and assure everybody, that's what i'm about here is making sure that the rule of law is followed and that we reach a fair result in which people can have confidence, and i am working with career professionals in the department who are going to help me to do that. >> senator lankford. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for being here. you've toughed in front of every senator in closed sessions. you've testified in front of the intelligence committee in open sessions. you've had lots of conversations on this, so i appreciate you being here again today as go through some budget areas. i do want to help clarify one thing. i read with some interest in the paper that there was some secret plan to be able to privately remove the special counsel who you just put in place to be able to see that. all i could think about was jim comey's statements publicly saying how many times he read newspaper stories with unnamed sources that as he read them, he thought, these are completely
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false. is there anything to some secret plan that's out there from you or anyone the administration to try to go and remove the special counsel? >> there is no secret plan that involves me, no, senator. >> i would just say, no one in america is above the law and no one in america is not faced with accountability and checks and balances. every one of u.s. has checks and balances, every member of council, the president, the judge has checks and balances in the stumystem. i can't understand the fascination to say we need to have a special counsel that has no accountability to anyone. i would assume everyone has a check and balance somewhere, but that doesn't mean it's under consideration in the process, so i appreciate you trying to clarify that for us. i also want to thank you and the department of justice. senator warren and i do not agree on everything, but last year we started working on a process for the department of justice to stop the slush funds
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in the background where the department of justice was forcing businesses to be able to spend money in third-party groups or not revealing the nature of those settlements. the department of justice just last week -- >> all right, the deputy attorney general of the united states, rod rosenstein, just said there is no secret plan to remove the special counsel, bob mueller, at least no secret plan that involves me, which was an interesting add-on there. but look, he made clear that right now he sees no cause whatsoever to fire the independent counsel, robert mueller, that he would be the only one who could fire the independent counsel, and that without cause, even if he were asked to fire the special counsel, he would not do it. >> very important statements from a very important man right now, ahead of very important testimony in a few hours, from the attorney general himself, jeff sessions. back with us is our panel. it was interesting, senator lankford asked him, symone -- i didn't get the exact question, but the answer was there is no secret pledge that involves me when it comes to firing bob mueller. again, you said you don't think
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this is folks around the administration trying to box them in, but haven't they essentially done that? >> well, i think we are forgetting that these are not normal times. and so, under regular circumstances, really, regular, normal circumstances, yes, the administration would now be boxed in, the president's hands would be tied, and if he wanted to do anything heinous or egregious in regards to the special counsel, that would now be out of the window. but we have to remember who we're dealing with, and we're dealing with a man who is used to bending the rules to get his way, someone who is not clearly adhering to the rule of law. and because of that, i think we need to understand that if there is a loophole here, if donald trump wants to find it, he will find it. so, i think the deputy attorney general, he does not want to continue to get caught up in this political circus. but unfortunately, he is in this thing, and again, if donald trump wants to fire somebody, they're gone. >> all right, we now know, if he does, though, it could be ugly with the deputy attorney gene l
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general. michael, last word to you, 60 seconds left. he said, clearly, if there was no cause to fire bob mueller, it would not matter to me what anybody said, noferdz, he would not do it. >> if he were given an order to fire him without cause, he'd quit before he executed that order. but he said something also that i think was very important, and it goes back to the testimony he had and the conversation with senator harris, where she was asking about his independence. i think he was pretty clear here that the mandate which he has given mueller, which is a written document, which everyone can read, which gives him pretty broad authority, including obstruction of justice, and the 28 code of federal regulation 600.6, which gives him the authority to act in the place of the attorney general, is pretty much pure full independence. so, i think that senator harris should be satisfied with the answer that rosenstein gave today. >> all right, we have to leave it there. thank you all very much. michael, amber, symone, and
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doug. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> this hearing continues on capitol hill. the deputy attorney general, rod rosenstein, being questioned by senator lankford now. coming up, the attorney general, jeff sessions, will speak. will he answer questions? what will he say? our special live coverage continues right after this. you do all this research
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-- to the victims of child abuse act by unanimously reauthorizing that in both chambers and the children advocacy centers funded by this
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law conduct important forensic interviews that help law enforcement needs and meet the needs of child victims, and i'm pleased the president's fy '18 budget request fully funds these programs. so i thought we'd start with at least one positive thing we could talk about. >> thank you. >> as has been discussed by several others, it is the scope of recusal that is utterly unclear, both to lawyers and nonlawyers on this committee. you're here instead of the attorney general, and you're here as acting attorney general with regard to the special counsel, and you exercised the hire and would exercise the fire decision with regards to special counsel bob mueller. that's because attorney general sessions is recused from that matter. on may 9th, you delivered a memo to attorney general sessions entitled "restoring public confidence in the fbi," and your memo exclusively focused on director comey's conduct during the clinton e-mail investigation and concluded, "the way the director handled the conclusion of that investigation was
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wrong." and you ultimately stated, "having refused to admit his errors, the director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions." is that roughly correct? >> i believe it is, yes. >> and on that same day, attorney general sessions then sent a memo to president trump, relying exclusively on your memo, where the attorney general recommends director comey be removed. is that correct? >> i believe that's correct. >> and during his january 10 confirmation hearing, ag sessions stated he would recuse himself from any matters involving campaigns for president of the united states and specifically investigations into secretary clinton's e-mail server. is that correct? >> that's my understanding, senator. >> so, why did you write a memo to attorney general sessions exclusively discussing a matter that, as i understand it, attorney general sessions explicitly told us in congress he was recused from? and why was that an appropriate basis for him to make a hire-fire recommendation to the president on? >> well, senator, i don't think
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that's a question for me to answer. i have said in my previous briefings of the senate and the house that my memo truthfully reflects my views. i'm not in position to comment on anybody else. so, from my perspective, senator, that memo is about what it's about. i do not know what was in anybody else's mind. i understand there are serious allegations that have been raised, and i think that it's up to director mueller to determine in the first instance whether any of these issues were within the scope of the investigation. that's why i haven't commented on it. i just appointed him seven weeks ago. i haven't talked to him about the substance of the investigation since then, but i recognize the importance of these questions, and i think that director mueller ought to review that and make a determination of whether or not he believes it is within the scope of his investigation. >> i appreciate that answer. it is distinct from an answer i got from you previously in another setting, so i want to make sure i understand you. >> well --


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