Return to Transcripts main page


Subpoenas Issued For Flynn, Trump's Personal Lawyer; Sources: Congress Investigating Another Possible Sessions-Kislyak Meeting; Source: Comey To Testify On Trump Confrontations; Dems Reveal Letters To FBI Over Sessions/Russian Meetings. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 1, 2017 - 11:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR with Kate Bolduan" starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, John. Thank you, Poppy. Hello, everyone. I am Kate Bolduan. It is the Thursday cliffhanger at the White House, an executive decision with global ramifications and a question the rest of the world is waiting to hear President Trump's answer -- will the U.S. stay in the Paris Climate Accord or will Trump break away and join Syria and Nicaragua on the very short list of countries who aren't signing on?

President Trump says he will announce his decision in just a few hours. Government sources say, though, that he's already made up his mind and is planning to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement. Of course, no one, not even White House aides know for sure what the president will say until he actually makes his announcement.

And he is building up the suspense for just that, scheduling not just an announcement, but a White House Rose Garden announcement for this. CNN will bring that to you live.

Now to the other drama involving the White House, the Russia investigation now kicks into a new gear. A flurry of subpoenas overnight. The House Intelligence Committee issuing seven of them, four targeting fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

The other three seek information about unmasking requests made by the Obama administration. So, let's get to this first. Breaking it down for us now is Shimon Prokupecz. He is here with all of this. So Shimon, seven subpoenas, what do we know about them?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: So, that's right. It's just a continuation of this investigation now on the House side. The Senate Intel Committee had already issued subpoenas. So, yesterday late, we were told that Michael Flynn, his Flynn intel group were subpoenaed, that the House Committee wants to look at his records. Keep in mind, Flynn's records have already been subpoenaed by a grand jury out of the eastern district of Virginia.


PROKUPECZ: Michael Cohen, who is Trump's personal attorney, was recently seen at the White House. It's not clear what they're looking for from him, but our understanding is that certain records pertaining to perhaps some Russian communications, if he had any Russian communication. He has denied it, but he has said that he's willing to cooperate if he's subpoenaed.

BOLDUAN: So, that's half the deal coming from the House Intelligence Committee right now.

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Then you've got three other subpoenas. This has to do with the unmasking investigation.

PROKUPECZ: Right. So, if you remember, Devin Nunes made a big deal out of this during one of the hearings, and he's very much interested in sort of part of the leak investigation into who was unmasking U.S. officials that may have been caught on intercepts, overseas intercepts, people who were maybe talking to Russians or whose names was mentioned by Russians. We've done some reporting where Russians were talking about U.S. officials, Russia to Russia, not necessarily that U.S. officials were talking --

BOLDUAN: Talking with them.

PROKUPECZ: But, so, he's sort of making a big deal out of it, because certainly he feels Michael Flynn's name was let out and that was illegal. So you know, look, John Brennan, Susan Rice, who was the national security adviser at the time, they have asked her to come testify. She has refused.

Samantha Powers is interesting. I don't understand exactly what they're looking from her, but she would have been in on some of the intelligence, certainly. And interestingly, John Brennan, who just recently testified --


PROKUPECZ: He said that he doesn't remember ever asking for anything, you know, to unmask anything, certainly in the days leading up to the end of his time at the CIA.

BOLDUAN: I do remember them making a big deal -- on your last day, did you submit an unmasking request.

PROKUPECZ: Exactly right.

BOLDUAN: And he said he didn't remember that at all. So stay tuned for more on this. Great to see you, Shimon. Thank you so much.

PROKUPECZ: Thank you. BOLDUAN: All right, and there is more. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is facing new questions about another possible undisclosed, private meeting with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., and that is now yet another focus for congressional investigators.

April 27th of last year at the storied Mayflower Hotel in Washington -- Trump was there to give a big foreign policy speech, and as you can see, we'll show you both the Russian ambassador and Jeff Sessions were front and center at this event. So, what do Congressional investigators want to know now?

Jessica Schneider is tracking all of this side of the story. Jessica, lay it out for us.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, they want to know if Attorney General Jeff Sessions had an additional undisclosed private meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.

So, sources tell CNN the inquiry centers around that April 27th, 2016 date at the Mayflower Hotel right here in Washington, that's when you saw that video, then Candidate Donald Trump delivering his first major foreign policy address and Ambassador Kislyak actually sat in the front row.

But just prior to the speech, then Senator Sessions and Ambassador Kislyak attended a small VIP reception with organizers and diplomats. Investigators are looking into that, and they haven't yet determined if, in fact, a private meeting between Sessions and Kislyak took place.

Investigators also acknowledge it's possible any additional meeting was incidental. But of course, this could be problematic for sessions if it emerges he did meet with Kislyak.

[11:05:06]Sessions already had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation for failure to disclose two previous meetings with Kislyak. One at the RNC in July, and another in a Senate office in September.

This failure to disclose came during the confirmation hearing in January when he said he did not have any communications with the Russians during the campaign, and then of course, when those reports emerged in March that he had met with Kislyak, Sessions admitted the meetings happened but insisted they were part of his Senate duties.

And then in March, when Sessions was asked if he had any other meetings with Russians besides those two, here was his response.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me be clear, I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign. And the idea that I was part of a, quote, "continuing exchange of information" during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government is totally false. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: So, Sessions denying any additional meeting there. But Kate, investigators on the Hill are now requesting additional information, including schedules from Sessions, to determine if this private meeting on April 27th at the Mayflower may have happened between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Kislyak.

Now, the Justice Department is also responding. They say it this way. They say the facts haven't changed. The then senator did not have any private or side conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel.

But nevertheless, Kate, sources briefed on this say there is still an investigation ongoing to find out for sure -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, great to see you, Jessica. Thank you so much. Let's discuss this and much more with CNN political commentators, Errol Louis and Margaret Hoover. They are here. Also, former U.S. attorney who helped prosecute the Watergate case against the Nixon White House, Nick Akerman is here as well.

There is a lot to get to. Errol, Jeff Sessions, what Jessica Schneider just perfectly laid out, congressional investigators now have more questions about exactly where Jeff Sessions was, who he met with and when he was there.

He's already recused himself from the Russia investigation. We already heard of two undisclosed meetings that he had previously been unforthcoming about. What does one more undisclosed meeting do?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It adds to the impression, number one, that there's some fire behind all of the smoke. It also gives some substance to the old adage that the cover-up is worse than the crime. The modified version of it, the real version of it is the cover-up or the problems with being completely candid are actually more easy to detect than whatever the underlying problem was, right?

BOLDUAN: It doesn't tug roll off the tongue so well.

LOUIS: It doesn't. That's why cliches were invented. The reality is we don't know what he talked about with Ambassador Kislyak or why he did it, but we do know that he has not been forthcoming and that in forums where he was expected and required to be perfectly transparent, he was less than candid.

And adding one more to that is important because it sort of adds to a growing impression that we're not hearing the truth from somebody who is entrusted with the law enforcement apparatus of the federal government.

BOLDUAN: Margaret, if you were advising this White House at this point or this administration at this point, would you say, everyone, sit down, look at your calendar, and list out every encounter you had with a Russian official during the campaign or through the transition, just to get it out there, because drip, drip, drip is not, not, not so good, and it's not, not, not helping us or do you leave open the possibility that Jeff Sessions plum forgot?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Here's one observation. Yesterday with this "covfefe" tweet.

BOLDUAN: "Covfefe."

HOOVER: "Covfefe," I'm sorry. Let's just be clear I have the pronunciation. The instinct of Sean Spicer and the White House was to deny that there had been a grammatical error, OK? It seems as though the default position is always to sort of hide or cover up, rather than to be transparent, even about the most innocent of mistakes.

And so, of course, obviously, the thing to do is everybody sit down and figure out when you have met with Russians and when you haven't. It's entirely plausible, I suppose that Jeff Sessions in his capacity as a senator and not suspecting a massive Russian organization to court him could have inadvertently had encounters with a Russian spy without realizing it, OK?

But the point is, you've got to get ahead of it and be transparent, and that's what's being rocked here is faith in our institutions.

BOLDUAN: Nick, all righty, what do you do with all these subpoenas, and what do all of these congressional subpoenas mean for Bob Mueller's investigation?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, I think that, obviously, Bob Mueller has got to be coordinating these subpoenas with the congressional committees.

BOLDUAN: You think?

AKERMAN: I think so, absolutely, because he's not going to want witnesses appearing in front of committees and giving testimony without first knowing exactly what they say. I think it'd be irresponsible for the committees not to do that.

I don't think they'd want to be put in a political position where they didn't do it and somehow could be accused of undermining the ongoing investigation that is criminal in nature.

[11:10:08]I mean, keep in mind, in this case, the cover-up may not be as bad as the underlying crime, and the allegation that we're looking at here is whether or not there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government with this data mining and micro targeting to voters across the country.

I mean, there are a lot of experts who are saying that there is no way that this could have been done by the Russians alone without some cooperation from within the Trump campaign.

BOLDUAN: And still no evidence has been presented in public yet. That's what these investigations are about, of course.

AKERMAN: Right, but the timeline here is pretty damning. I mean, if you look at the entire timeline of what occurred with Roger Stone, who is an adviser to Trump during the campaign --

BOLDUAN: On-again/off-again.

AKERMAN: The contacts and on and on. I mean, this is not a pretty picture at this point.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about the element that the moment that we start talking about it, everyone's eyes glaze over, I feel like. When you add -- the confusing part of the conversation since it occurred, the unmasking episode with Devin Nunes, what it -- I continue to return to that he issued subpoenas.

He now issued subpoenas for three Obama administration officials -- no, for information about three Obama administration officials to the intelligence agencies about unmasking. What does that have to do with the Russia investigation?

LOUIS: That's a great question. And Devin Nunes could probably answer it more clearly than anybody else, but good luck getting that information from him, right? I mean, if -- look, the strategy has been to pivot immediately when the investigations first began or the questions began to be raised in public to say, well, the problem is not anything we might have done with or without the Russians.

The problem is that people in the Obama administration were tracking down and exposing some of the things that we might have done. And see, to a certain extent, I read it as purely political, sort of trying to sort of throw some smoke and sort of say, well, both sides were doing sort of shady things in the closing weeks of the campaign.

BOLDUAN: Margaret, I'm really interested in your take on this. Do you think there are legitimate concerns amongst Republicans that there was politically motivated unmasking going on in the final days of the Obama administration, or do you think at its core this is trying to muddy the waters?

HOOVER: Look, I think what you have to do is look at who is trying to investigate this. And Devin Nunes, sadly, has really revealed himself to be a tool of larger political forces rather than somebody who is staying the course and sort of resoundingly searching for the truth.

So, it just -- it does wreak of sort of a political sort of you hit me here, I'm going to hit you back, rather than a dogged interest to get to the bottom of things. And also, I'm not so sure -- the unmasking isn't illegal, OK?

BOLDUAN: Correct, and --

HOOVER: Let's remember, it's sort of adding a layer of confusion --

BOLDUAN: Unmasking requests are made all the time. Was it politically motivated, that is when you would cross the line, that's again where --

HOOVER: Again, it would tell us more things about how the Obama administration operated at the end. I think that's useful for the American people to know, but again, it does seem a little bit like deflecting the story.

BOLDUAN: It's hard to keep a straight line on this one, but stay with us, guys. Stand by. We've got a lot more to come.

Did Bob Mueller compromise the looming testimony of fired FBI Director James Comey? That is a provocative question. Why some are arguing that their conversations that they've had may raise some serious questions going forward.

Plus, CNN's chasing down the Russian banker who met with Jared Kushner, whose meeting is now under scrutiny by the FBI. See what happened when CNN came up against Sergei Gorkov.

And two disturbing incidents of racism. A noose found in Washington's African-American museum, and Lebron James getting very candid about being black in America today after the "n" word was spray-painted on his home. We'll discuss. We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Mark your calendars, friends, we could be just days away from likely the most dramatic moment in this Russia investigation so far. Fired FBI Director James Comey has gotten the green light from Special Counsel Bob Mueller to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Comey in his own words, finally, about his conversations with the president and whether or not the president told him to drop the probe into Michael Flynn, or will President Trump stop the whole thing in its tracks?

Margaret, Nick and Errol are back with me right now. Nick, what do you think of -- what do you think of this? Do you think -- how forthcoming can James Comey be?

AKERMAN: I think he can be fairly forthcoming if he's gone over all of these facts with the special counsel. If I were in the special counsel's shoes, I would want to make sure I knew what he with going to say, I'd want to go through his testimony before he appeared before a Senate committee, because he's going to be the star witness against at least Donald Trump and certain other people in the White House that he may have had conversations with.

BOLDUAN: With that in mind, if Bob Mueller knows what James Comey is likely to say and what he can discuss and what he cannot -- he will talk about his conversations, he won't talk about the Russia probe -- does that mean that Mueller is not interested in pursuing any kind of obstruction of justice charge?

AKERMAN: Not at all. I would think that would be one of the prime subjects of his inquiry with Comey.

BOLDUAN: But the fact that Comey's coming out to talk about it publicly, that doesn't preclude Mueller from doing anything? AKERMAN: No, not at all. In fact, there is no conflict there at all as long as Mueller is comfortable that he has prepared Comey effectively. The problem with lawyers are they're terrible witnesses, and they have to be prepared.

Lawyers want to justify everything that they do and unless you prepare a lawyer thoroughly, it's going to be terrible. So, I think that Mueller is concerned about making sure that he knows what Comey is going to say.

BOLDUAN: James Comey is definitely in terms of terrible, I guess it is determined by his testimony in the past, but he's certainly offering emotive testimony before.

[11:20:04]Margaret, if James Comey says, when he testifies, that he was pressured, that he felt pressured by President Trump to drop the Flynn investigation, dramatic? Yes. Explosive? Yes. But where does that take us?

HOOVER: Well, it also goes to Donald Trump's primary criticism of Comey, is that he's a show-horse.

BOLDUAN: Showboat.

HOOVER: A show-horse, a showboat, he's trying to get all the attention for himself. But what it does, and we have the man who witnessed the history on the front row here with us, but what it does is takes us down a really unhealthy and not wonderful path as a country to making sure that our constitution, our institutions remain intact and can sustain individuals who have not the best interests of the country at heart as they have taken the highest offices in this country.

I mean, that's -- we've seen that movie before, and it looks like, you know, much of this looks like the beginning of that movie again, like the sequel, 2.0. And it's very easy to make Watergate comparisons, but we were just talking about the value of reading the history of Watergate and really knowing what we're up against.

LOUIS: It forces the question of impeachment. You know, there's been a lot of talk about, oh, it's premature, and it has been premature up to now to talk about --

BOLDUAN: If and when he says it.

LOUIS: If and when, right, but the reality, the impeachment against Bill Clinton, of those four counts, two of them were obstruction of justice and one was lying to a grand jury. It is about the cover up and not the underlying conduct. And if you hear the former FBI director testifying to something that sounds a lot like obstruction of justice, Congress cannot then responsibly continue to ignore the question.

BOLDUAN: Quickly, could President Trump put the brakes on this before Comey testifies? Could he assert, do you think, with everything he's tweeted and said about the conversations himself, do you think he can still assert executive privilege?

AKERMAN: I think he'd have an awfully difficult time doing that. He'd have to go into federal district court to prevent Comey from actually testifying. But the problem is, he's already talked about those conversations.

BOLDUAN: Talked, yes.

AKERMAN: He's already waived those conversations and more importantly, all of these conversations appear to fall under the crime exception. That is, you don't have a privilege if what you're talking about is criminal activity and if it's in furtherance of an obstruction of justice. There is no way a district court would ever stop Comey from testifying under those circumstances.

BOLDUAN: Stand by, guys. Let's see when they put that date on the calendar. Great to see you. Thank you guys so much. I really appreciate it.

Hillary Clinton's post-election media blitz sounding more like an excuses tour right now? Her new reasons why she says she lost the election. That's ahead.

Plus, world leaders, business leaders, even Vladimir Putin urging President Trump to stay in the Paris climate deal. Is the president's mind really made up at this hour, at 11:22 a.m., as the Rose Garden event ticks closer?

And terrifying, new video has just come out showing the chaotic and tragic scene inside Pulse Nightclub during the stand-off with the shooter, now almost one year ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible). Let me see your hands!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come out with your hands up or you will die!




BOLDUAN: Some breaking news coming in right now involving Attorney General Jeff Sessions and meetings he may have had, undisclosed, private meetings he may have had with Russian officials.

CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is joining me now with all this. This is just coming in, and it involves what members of Congress want to know, concerns they have. Evan, what can you tell us?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right, Kate. We have now obtained three letters from Senators Leahy and Senator Franken. Both of them have been writing, it turns out, since March to the FBI asking for an investigation into any contacts between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and members of his staff with Russian officials, including, of course, Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador here in Washington.

Again, they began writing, apparently on March 20th, asking the FBI to investigate this. And part of their concern was in their letters they say that Sessions false testimony when he was going through his confirmation hearing.

You'll remember he said that he didn't have any communications with Russians in response to a question from Senator Franken. And at the time, the "Washington Post" had just published a story back in March saying that Sessions had had multiple meetings with Kislyak, including in his sent office and at the RNC.

Now it turns out these two senators have been pursuing this -- trying to get the FBI to at least tell them whether or not they're investigating this. They wrote Comey again on April 28th, and then they wrote Andy McCabe, who is now the acting FBI director, on May 12th, again, asking the FBI to look into this and to provide an update on what they have found.

I'll read you part of what -- we have a statement from Senators Leahy and Franken. They say, "We served with the attorney general in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee for many years. We know he would not tolerate dishonesty if he were in our shoes.

If it is determined that the attorney general still has not been truthful with Congress and the American people about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, he needs to resign." Obviously, that's the concern here --


PEREZ: -- from these two senators, Franken and Leahy, that they believe Senator Sessions has not been truthful. One particular thing, Kate, I'll add real quick to this. One particular meeting in particular that they're concerned about is an April 2016 event at the Mayflower Hotel here in Washington.


PEREZ: I think you covered it a little bit earlier in the show and they believe that there's more to that and they want the FBI to look into it.

BOLDUAN: And any response from the FBI?

PEREZ: We don't have any response yet from the FBI. It's not clear whether or not this is something that the FBI is investigating.