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Comey Repeatedly Accuses Trump, White House Of "Lies"; Comey Ordered Leak Of His Trump Memo To Spur Special Counsel; Comey: Interview with Sen Richard Blumenthall (D) Connecticut.. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 8, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:08] ERIN BURNETT, OUTFRONT HOST: Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. Welcome to a special edition of "OutFront" live from Washington, D.C.

Tonight, the breaking news, the bombshell testimony. The keyword this evening, "lie." The fired FBI director pulling no punches, accusing the President of the United States Donald Trump of lying, questioning the credibility of Trump repeatedly in nearly three hours of dramatic testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting.

SEN. ANGUS KING (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The President said, "I had dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on. Is this an accurate statement?"

COMEY: No, sir.

ANGUS: But, in that same interview, the President said, "In one case, I called him, and in one case, he called me." Is that an accurate statement?


ANGUS: Did you ever call the president?


ANGUS: And, in his press conference on May 18th, the President was asked whether he had urged you to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn. The President responded, quote, "No, no. Next question." Is that an accurate statement?

COMEY: I don't believe it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: It couldn't be more clear. And another explosive revelation and there were many of them today, Comey admitting that he engineered the leak of his memos about a meeting with the President. And he did it in order to force the naming of a special prosecutor. He brought this up himself.


COMEY: I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn't do it myself, for a variety of reasons. But I asked him to, because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. And so I asked a close friend of mine to do it.


BURNETT: And, of course, it seems to have worked. Now, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has those memos. And the big question at this hour is whether Comey today made a case that Donald Trump, the President of the United States, obstructed justice, which could be an impeachable offense.

We begin our breaking coverage with Dana Bash. And Dana, it was a stunning day on Capitol Hill.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You can say that again, Erin. Look, James Comey said he has absolutely no doubt that the President fired him as FBI director in order to try to change the way that the Russia investigation was being conducted. And the irony is that the President got what he wanted. It did change but certainly not in the way the President intended or hoped.


RICHARD BURR (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth --

BASH: The former FBI director under oath and unvarnished called the President who fired him a liar.

COMEY: The administration then chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple.

BASH: Using the "L" word more than once.

COMEY: I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really porch to document.

BASH: With flare for the dramatic he is known for, James Comey described that faithful February 14th moment in the Oval Office when President Trump kicked everyone out but Comey, and asked him to lay off the investigation of his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn.

COMEY: My impression with was something big is about to happen. I need to remember every single word that is spoken.

BASH: And though Comey testified that the President did not explicitly order him to lay off Flynn, that's exactly how he took it.

COMEY: I took it as a direction. This is the president of the United States, with me alone, saying, I hope this. I took it as, this is what he wants me to do. I didn't obey that, but that's the way I took it.

BASH: He came under scrutiny from lawmakers for not pushing back on the President in the moment.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Why didn't you stop and say, "Mr. President, this is wrong. I cannot discuss this with you?"

COMEY: It's a great question. Maybe if I were stronger, I would have.

BASH: After he fired Comey last month, the President tweeted that Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.

COMEY: And look, I've seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.

BASH: Stunningly, Comey revealed that Trump's tweets prompted him to strategically deliver content of real-time memos he wrote about his conversations with Trump to the press.

COMEY: I woke up in the middle of the night Monday night because it didn't dawn on me originally there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might be a tape. And my judgment was I needed to get that out into the public square.

And so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons. But I asked him to, because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. And so I asked a close friend of my mine to do it.

BASH: That Comey, now a private citizen, deliberately used the press to force the appointment of a special counsel is a stark illustration of how seasoned he is in the ways of Washington.

[19:05:02] What was not standard Washington behavior, argued Comey, was that President asking an FBI director for what he took as a loyalty pledge.

COMEY: Again, I could be wrong, but my common sense told me what's going on here is that he's looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job.

BASH: Throughout his nearly three-hour testimony, Comey revealed several nuggets about the FBI criminal probe now in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller like this about Flynn. BURR: Do you sense that the President was trying to obstruct justice or just seek for a way for Mike Flynn to save face, given he had already been fired?

COMEY: General Flynn, at that point in time, was in legal jeopardy. There was an open FBI criminal investigation of his statements in connection with the Russian contacts and the contacts themselves.

BASH: And he hinted at information not yet known to the public about Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

COMEY: 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.

BASH: And though Comey testified that as FBI director, he did in fact tell the President he was not being investigated, Comey revealed that he handed over his memos about his conversations with Trump to the special counsel, which could mean now the President is being investigated for obstruction of justice.


BASH: Comey also dropped the political bomb about the Clinton e-mail investigation last year which Democrats accused him of mishandling big time. He said that Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch said to him that he should not call it an investigation but rather a matter, which he said confused and concerned him. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Dana, thank you very much. And Jim Acosta is "out front" at the White House. And Jim, you know, you hear everything that Jim Comey said today and yet, the President of the United States, the White House are claiming as a victory tonight.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We heard from Marc Kasowitz, the President's outside legal counsel earlier today. He talked to reporters, really just gave a statement. Didn't answer any questions. But he tried to have it both ways at one point saying that the Comey testimony today vindicated the President in that it revealed that the President was not under investigation as part of a Russia probe, but at the same time Kasowitz was pushing back on any notion that the President demanded that Comey make a loyalty pledge.

Still, the White House legal team feels as though they struck gold with Comey's admission that he orchestrated the release of that information about his memos, so it would get out to the press and prompt a special counsel investigation. Here's more of what Marc Kasowitz had to say about that.


MARC KASOWITZ, PRIVATE ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he leaked to friends of his purported memos of those privileged communications, one of which he testified was classified. Mr. Comey also testified that immediately after he was terminated, he authorized his friends to leak the contents of those memos to the press in order to, in Mr. Comey's words, quote, prompt the appointment of a special counsel, close quote.


ACOSTA: Now, despite that confidence hearing from the President's legal team, the Comey testimony did spark some uncomfortable questions over here at the White House, the Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took questions from reporters earlier today. She was asked about Comey repeatedly saying that the President had lied. She was asked point blank whether the President is a liar and she said, "No, he is not. It's never a good at the White House when you're being asked that question."

And she was also asked, once again, whether the President has some kind of recording system, Erin, that allows him to record his biddings (ph). The White House once again said they cannot answer the question. So it remains an open question over here at the White House if there's a recording system, where are the tapes. Erin?

BURNETT: It's a crucial question and they're going to have to answer it.

All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much. And "OutFront" now my panel who will be with us for the entire hour. Mark Preston, our senior political analyst, Nia-Malika Henderson, senior political reporter, Chris Cillizza, reporter, editor-at-large, Jeffrey Toobin, senior legal analyst, John Dean, who served as President Nixon's White House counsel during Watergate, Matthew Rosenberg, national security correspondent for the New York Times and Dana Bash is with us, of course, as well. Mark, we learned a lot of new things today.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We did. And we also learned that there are a lot more unanswered questions and that this investigation is going to continue. But what we did learn and what we knew is that Comey is a bit of an operator. He understands the politics of Washington. He knew he's not a politician. He did a very controlled leak to try to help control the narrative from his side of the story, which I don't -- personally, I don't think I could blame him but, you know, there are some questions about that.

We also know that at the time -- and this could have changed since he left as FBI director -- that President Trump was never a target himself in the investigation.

[19:10:10] Although Comey is very careful in how he explains that to say, at this time, and he's not a target for the -- you know, a counterintelligence investigation. I do think that Marc Kasowitz is declaring victory a little bit too early but as his lawyer you would expect him to do so.

BURNETT: What was the key headline for you Nia?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I think this White House sees it as a battle between Trump and Comey, right, in this statement. The final lines are essentially Trump feels vindicated and that he's gotten this cloud behind him and he can focus on his agenda. I think the problem with that construct is that this White House, Trump particularly, has a bit of a credibility problem, right? I mean, his relationship with the truth is an interesting one. And he's not always accurate in terms of his depiction of events. I think that's a bit problematic.

But it does fit into sort of the insider-outsider narrative that Trump has like to construct. It existed in the campaign and it still exists as he's president.

BURNETT: He used the word "lie."


BURNETT: He used it multiple times.


BURNETT: I also just want to comment on his appearance. He looked tired. He looked haggard. This is clearly taken a toll on him. Did you, Chris, find him believable? And American public would said -- well he says, somebody's lying, did you find him believable?

CILLIZZA: Yes. He did look tired. But I feel like I'm often tired and haggard and I have nowhere near the amount of stress that Jim Comey has probably endured for the last months certainly about --


CILLIZZA: -- six months. I did find him believable. And I think what you have to do is put it in the context of it's not in a vacuum. It's a he said-he said at this point. Obviously the special counsel, Bob Mueller, will eventually, I think, give us more clarity. But at the moment, if Donald Trump says this, Jim Comey says that. So, do I think he is more credible on this given his background in, you know, in this department, given sort of his track record than Donald Trump who we know for a fact Nia mentioned is look, that guy has, whether you like him or hate him or feel indifferent toward him, the guy has said a number of things both during the campaign and as president that are just not true.

So, I think when you compare him to Donald Trump, yes, I think he came across as believable today and more believable than Donald Trump. Again, one other thing, Erin, he was under oath, right?

BURNET: Yes, right. Now --


CILLIZZA: This is not just somebody popping off on cable television, right? I mean, this is a serious thing with penalties if you are found to be lying.

BURNETT: So, when he came out today, you know, when you read this prepared statement --


BURNETT: By the way, I thought it was interesting at the topics (ph). I'm not going to waste anybody's time but I have some comments I'd like to make. And he talked about how he felt in those meetings, how pressure he felt. You were clear yesterday you thought that that memo was obstruction of justice. From what you heard today, did you change your view?

TOOBIN: Not at all. In fact, I thought the description of the key event, February 14th in the Oval Office, that discrimination was so extraordinary and so dramatic and so real -- I mean, imagine the scene. He walks into the Oval Office and everybody starts leaving. All these people -- the attorney general, his boss fades away. The vice president of the United States fades away. Reince Priebus tries to come in the door, Trump the steers him away. Jared Kushner not allowed in. These two guys next to each other.

And what is so important that Trump needs to tell him, "Leave my claim alone." Let him be. Let Flynn -- you know, leave him alone." Which is, as far as I am concern, evidence of obstruction of justice. And then what happens? He doesn't leave him alone. He doesn't end the investigation, and he gets fired for his trouble.

BURNETT: So, John, on this issue, there was an exchange with Republican Senator Jim Risch, right, on the issue of what happened in that meeting and whether the President ordered Jim Comey to stop the investigation or whether he asked him to do so and whether that is a distinction with or without a different. Here's the exchange.


SEN. JIM RISCH (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: He did not direct you to let it go?

COMEY: Not in his words, no.

RISCH: He did not order you to let it go?

COMEY: Again, those words are not an order, no.

RISCH: He said "I hope." Now, like me, you probably did hundreds of cases, maybe thousands of cases charging people with criminal offenses. And, of course, you have knowledge of the thousands of cases out there that -- where people have been charged. Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or, for that matter, any other criminal offense, where this --- they said, or thought, they hoped for an outcome?

COMEY: I don't know well enough to answer. And the reason I keep saying his words is I took it as a direction.

RISCH: Right.

COMEY: This is the President of the United States, with me alone, saying, "I hope" this, I took it as, this is what he wants me to do. I didn't obey that, but that's the way I took it.

[19:15:03] RISCH: You may have taken it as a direction but that's not what he said.

COMEY: Correct. I -- that's why --

RISCH: He said, "I hope."

COMEY: Those are exact words, correct.


BURNETT: Is that a distinction that matters?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I think it is a distinction that does not matter. When you're sitting in the Oval Office and the President makes a suggestion or has a hope, you as a staffer take it as a direction. I'm sure that's what Mr. Comey did and I think that's what most people sitting in the Oval Office would react to.

BURNETT: So you are still -- as you were last evening -- saying obstruction of justice tonight?

DEAN: I don't think there's any doubt. I don't think the debate moved far forward but certainly didn't retreat at all today but he went under oath and that made it a different status.

BURNETT: Right. It wasn't from leaks. It was --


BURNETT: -- from his own mouth. Now Matthew, Comey offered without everything -- look, he's a lawyer. He understands the game. We have all made that point clear. So he offered something without being asked.

Now, if some of us did that it might be accidental but not in the case of Jim Comey. And what he offered was not only that he leaked the memos but his motive for doing so. And his motive wasn't just set the record straight. It was -- because he wanted to force the naming of a special prosecutor. Let me just play the exchange with Senator Collins.


COMEY: The President tweeted on Friday, after I got fired, that I better hope there's not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night because it didn't dawn on me originally that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might be a tape.

And my judgment was, I needed to get that out into the public square. And so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons. But I asked him to, because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. And so I asked a friend of mine to do it. COLLINS: And was that Mr. Wittes?

COMEY: No, no.

COLLINS: Who was that?

COMEY: A good friend of mine who's a professor at Columbia Law School.


BURNETT: And I want to get into that in the moment Matthew, but first, the bombshell her of his motive. That he did it for -- that he name a special prosecutor. Now, of course -- but now, it's like why is that? Because he felt there was something for the prosecutor to see or what?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well I think, hey we have that Comey is an operator. And Donald Trump isn't wrong. He's a better to show but he knows that a matter Jim Comey's image.

And I think Comey also speaks to something that every journalist in this town knows about the sources they've been dealing with. Is that there are people in the entire government establishment who see things that are going wrong and the self-corrected mechanisms aren't working. We are that last resort. That's what the press is for. That's what leaks are for, to try and change kind of public opinion or change policy.

He said look this isn't going well in his estimation. I leak this. We get a special prosecutor we need. I need to move the ball that way so he leaked it.

BURNETT: So Dana, their bottom line. Is this then a good day for Jim Comey?

BASH: I mean, it depends on what his actual goal was. If his goal was to leave some pretty remarkable breadcrumbs for the public and for the Senate about things that are going on in the investigation that we should know about, confirming that Michael Flynn is under criminal investigation. And that part of the reason is because he might not have told the truth to investigators.

And, you know, dropping a not-so-subtle bomb on Jeff Sessions by saying, well, you know, maybe he shouldn't have been involved because, you know, he was supposed to recuse himself. And, you know, I don't want to talk about it anymore than that, wink, wink. You know, payback is a, you know what? Because he was clearly upset that Jeff Sessions his boss didn't protect him from the President.


BASH: And there are other --

BURNETT: He implored him. I think he said the written testimony implored him to not have them ever be left alone.

BASH: And given the fact that he is an operator and given the fact that he understands the sort of way to politically maneuver this town. He also wanted to show the President, oh, yes, you're going to fire me? Guess what? I know how to work it, too. And the way I work it is I saw your tweet about tapes and I made sure that the public understood that I have notes, too.

PRESTON: You know, Eric, you know, I think what's important to know about Jim Comey today is that oftentimes when we see witnesses appear before Congress, it's very politicized, right? You know, you really see a political angle being pushed forth.

Jim Comey came across as somebody who clearly is an operator and knows Washington but he came across to me as kind of sterile, like septic in some ways of being somebody who was trying to do good. Now whether the way that he went about it was the right way or not, that's rather (ph) to be judged. Whether it was legal or not --


TOOBIN: The advantage he had is he speaks English. He doesn't speak government talk.


TOOBIN: You know, when Dianne Feinstein asked him why didn't you go to -- go, you know, fight back. He said, I don't know. That's a good question. Like that's how human beings speak.

BASH: And if (INAUDIBLE) courage.



TOOBIN: And the other thing was, which I found remarkable, is that the Republicans did not attack him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they were good.

TOOBIN: You know, it took Marc Kasowitz, Trump's lawyer. He was the only one who alleged that Comey was lying. All the Republican --


TOOBIN: -- legislators were quite --

[19:20:02] CILLIZZA: And I think that's super important.


CILLIZZA: As the Mark's point -- typically what you see in these hearings which are not as high profile as this. The Democrats -- it seems like they're in two different hearings.


CILLIZZA: The Democrats ask certain questions, the Republicans ask different questions and it feels though it's two ships passing in the night. You saw over and over again, country that their talking points are in Sea Point out, by the way, that suggested, you know, trying to go after Comey's reputation.


CILLIZZA: Even the people who were sorts of tough on Comey, they all started with, as I've said before, I appreciate your service.


CILLIZZA: So there's -- it certainly different than the average congressional hearing that we have.

BURNETT: So that left it to Marc Kasowitz to say, Matthew, that Jim Comey was lying, OK. And it comes down to, actually, reports in the New York Times. So let me just lay it out.

On the issue of leaking the memos, right? You heard Comey said I walk up in the middle of the night, I saw the President's tweet and then I decided to leak the memo. So -- and of course the tweet, the original tweet was, "James Comey better hope there are no tapes of conversations before he starts leaking to the press." So that's what Marc Kasowitz, the president's lawyer on all things Risch says is a lie. He says that that's not when the memo was leaked. And here's what they came out and say.


KASOWITZ: Although Mr. Comey testified that he only leaked the memos in response to a tweet, the public record reveals that the New York Times was quoting from those memos the day before the referenced tweet.


BURNETT: OK. So we can lay this out very simply, Matthew. Kasowitz says there was a story in the New York Times detailing the dinner and Trump's demands for loyalty on May 11th. The tweet was May 12th. The first story in the New York Times that talked about the loyalty pledge in detail was on May 16th and that is the first time a memo was cited. Can you tell us as a representative here for the New York Times, was the memo the source for the story before the tweet or not?

ROSENBERG: I can't get into the source. And I'm not -- we did have a story on May 11th which was did not mentioned memos and was not an incredible detail that Trump did asked him for loyalty. That was not information that was only in the possession of James Comey. We know that today. He talked with a number of people about it.

You know, Kasowitz in his entire statement said he want to (INAUDIBLE) they need too. He would say, you know, Comey said this, that's not true. Comey said there's other thing about Trump not being investigation. That is true. I mean, it's crazy like a cherry picking. I was like, he can't be serious about this, can he?

And, you know, this seems to be another case --

PRESTON: He also -- and he threw Dan Coats and Admiral Rogers yesterday.

ROSENBERG: Yes, he did.

PRETON: But the hearing that was held yesterday with the DNI director and the NSA director about how they actually answered questions about what they knew about supposedly trying to persuade the FBI to end the investigation. Kasowitz today misinterpreted how that hearing --

HENDERSON: I mean, we're getting a glimpse of what their strategy is going to be. There's a lawyer involved now. Sean Spicer and folks at the White House aren't going to be peppered with these questions as much as they have been in the past. But in some ways this was a little sloppy, right? I mean, this was full of typos, their statement. They kept the lane in terms of the time. There were going to come out and respond to this. So, you know, I think they've got some work to do. It's better than Donald Trump tweeting.


HENDERSON: But it sort of what not is kind of --

BURNETT: Right. Which, of course, he didn't do.


BURNETT: The type of that (ph) but to your point, you know, saying that he's a liar and then saying look he told the truth on this is obviously a bitch way.

DEAN: He did not understand the executive communications either be called -- they call it permissive.

BURNETT: Next here from our nation's capital, the moment President Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Jim Comey. So what happened next?

And the breaking news, what Comey just revealed privately, and that classified session to senators about the embattled attorney general. Big developments on Jeff Sessions tonight. Plus, why is everyone talking about John McCain's line of questioning?


[19:27:34] BURNETT: Breaking news. CNN just learning that fired FBI Director Jim Comey told senators in a closed hearing today that Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have had a third meeting with Russia's ambassador. If true, this would be yet another meeting Sessions did not disclose.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto just was breaking the story. He's "out front" now. And Jim, obviously, this is hugely significant because of the meetings we know about. He also failed to disclose those originally. So now this would be a third meeting he failed to disclose.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. Those first two meetings he didn't disclose led to his recusal from the Russia investigation. So we learned tonight in that classified session that Comey said that the reason during the public session that he couldn't speak about Sessions more was because they're investigating the possibility he had a third undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador. This is based on intercepted Russia-to-Russia communications.

I should note that CNN was the first to report last week that congressional investigators were looking into this possibility. It goes back to April 2016. This was at the Mayflower Hotel here in D.C., when there was a larger meeting. The question was after that larger meeting where President Trump actually spoke in his first foreign policy speech of the campaign, first major foreign policy speech of the campaign, did Sessions have a private pull-aside in effect private meeting with the Russian ambassador.

Now, last week when we broke the story, the Department of Justice gave us the following statement. They said the facts haven't changed. The then senator did not have any private or side conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel. We went back to the Department f Justice tonight. They say they stand by that statement despite what we're learning from Comey tonight.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jim Sciutto.

I want to go straight for reaction to Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I want to get your reaction first, of course, to the breaking news that Jim Sciutto was sharing. The context here is crucial. If there was a third meeting, it wasn't disclosed. The first meetings were not disclosed. He then was given a chance to disclose them when they leaked and he did. So if there was a third, that even when given a chance to disclose, he did not do so, does that change the game here when it comes to the attorney general?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: You know, what we have here is a pattern and I can't confirm what may have been provided in a classified setting. But with a third meeting and even without it, what we have is a pattern of contacts with the Russian by Flynn, by Sessions, by Kushner, secret and then concealed. In fact, denied possibly in violation of the law that denial is former Director Comey --

BURNETT: For the perjury?

BLUMENTHAL: -- could be perjury and that may constitute a separate violation of law that brings together the liability that Director Comey referred to today.

BURNETT: Do you think Attorney General Sessions will be Attorney General Sessions, if he's going to stay in that job? BLUMENTHAL: He's emerging more and more as a key figure here --

BURNETT: Uh-huh.

BLUMENTHAL: -- today not only because of this problematic contact with the Russians, and Comey used that word in public today, but also because he failed to safeguard and protect the FBI as a part of the Department of Justice when he learned about the meeting in which the president of the United States in effect had inappropriate conversations with Director Comey. He failed to take action with the White House and otherwise.

BURNETT: All right. Well, the FBI director said he implored him to protect him from one-on-one meetings with the president. Obviously, they were meeting subsequent to that and then that meeting in the Oval Office about General Flynn.

BLUMENTHAL: And I think --

BURNETT: General Sessions was there and he left the room. So, he left him alone.

BLUMENTHAL: Exactly. He left the room. And I think he ought to be called before the Judiciary Committee to testify under oath, along with Rod Rosenstein as to why they failed to protect the FBI. It ought to be public and under oath.

BURNETT: So, when you heard -- you were in the room today for the open session. Did you hear a case for obstruction of justice?

BLUMENTHAL: There's definitely a mounting case because there's accumulating evidence of obstruction of justice, and the special prosecutor is going to make the call based on pursuing all the evidence and Jim Comey's absolutely right, that it's his job to do. But I think there is a mounting case on the key issue of intent or motive. And the real question is what did Michael Flynn know about Donald Trump that the president wants to keep secret.

BURNETT: So, to be clear, given your legal background, if the president of the United States wanted to stop the investigation but wasn't under investigation himself and did not do anything wrong himself, you still believe that that could be obstruction of justice in the impeachable sense? If there was underlying crime by the president of the United States?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, let's leave out what the remedy would be.

BURNETT: Uh-huh.

BLUMENTHAL: First, the question is could it be an offense even though the president's not himself a target? Yes. Because if the president of the United States takes action --


BLUMENTHAL: -- that obstructs either by destruction of documents or telling the FBI director not to pursue relevant and material evidence or otherwise impeding a lawful investigation --


BLUMENTHAL: -- that could be obstruction of justice. But there has to be intent --

BURNETT: Intent matters.

Now, Director Comey says the president fired him because of the Russian investigation, which the president has admitted, but Jim Comey talked about (ph) in great detail today. Senator John Cornyn, though, raised a fair question as to whether the president would have fired Jim Comey if he actually wanted the investigation to go away. It would seem like a silly thing to do.

Here's part of the exchange.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Let me ask you as general proposition. If you're trying to make an investigation go away, is firing an FBI director a good way to make that happen? By that I mean --

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Yes. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me but I'm obviously hopelessly biased given that I was the one fired.

CORNYN: So, nothing that's happened that you've testified to here today has impeded the investigation of the FBI or Director Mueller's commitment to get to the bottom of this from the standpoint of the FBI and the Department of Justice. Would you agree with that?

COMEY: Correct. Especially the appointment of former Director Mueller is a critical part of that equation.


BURNETT: He admits he has a dog in the fight but very importantly, he says the investigation itself was not impeded. So, if the outcome was no impeding of the investigation, again I ask you, obstruction of justice?

BLUMENTHAL: The investigation was not impeded only because a special prosecutor was appointed. That's the reason why I have called for a special prosecutor for months. I was one of the first to do so. I voted against Rod Rosenstein, only member of the Judiciary Committee to do so because he failed to commit to a special prosecutor.

He is the key investigator here, not the FBI director, and so, whether firing the FBI director was a smart thing to do to impede an investigation is really beside the point. It's whether that's part of a pattern. Again, the patterns are important. The Russians --


BLUMENTHAL: -- and other kinds of motives that have to be established.

BURNETT: And you're here along with our panel.

I want to get to the issue here of what Comey did, Ok?

What Comey did, John, in order to get the special prosecutor was leak the memos. He admits to doing so. He brought that up himself. That is something that President Trump's attorney says should be prosecuted. Here he is, Marc Kasowitz.


MARC KASOWITZ, PRES. TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: We will leave it to the appropriate authorities to determine whether these leaks should be investigated, along with all the others that are being investigated.


[19:35:06] BURNETT: Director of the FBI, a guy who's supposed to crusade against leaks leaking himself, should that be investigated?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: We don't have an Official Secrets Act in this country. So, leaking per se is not an offense. If it's classified information, that puts it in a different level.

BURNETT: Which, to be clear, these memos were not. And they went into detail as to why --

DEAN: They were not. He's a private citizen. So, I don't think there is anything -- he also wanted to prosecute for revealing a presidential conversation. There is no privileged presidential conversation involved. There's no executive privilege just to speak with the president. So, I don't think he knows what he's talking about.

BURNETT: You don't see a --



BASH: I was speaking with a former Justice Department official who knows James Comey today who said that in his opinion, backs up what you said, it's not a problem in that it was his own recollection of his own discussion that he took contemporaneous notes on and he had the ability to release it.

Now, there's an open question whether it was a rank and file FBI agent, whether they would get in trouble for it. Maybe. I think according to Evan Perez's reporting, people at the FBI think that's exactly what would happen to them. With regard to the FBI director, you know, he certainly has a lot of support for what he did among the rank and file.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Listen to this conversation. What are we talking about? We're talking about whether Jim Comey committed a crime. Why is that -- this is exactly why Kasowitz made that statement. I mean, Jim Comey is not only not president of the United States, he doesn't even work for the government anymore.

I mean, this is a classic distraction. You know what Jim Comey was doing? He was talking to a journalist. That's what journalists do. We talk to people who have stories to tell.

That's not called leaking. That's called journalism and it's not illegal for either the subject or the journalist.

BURNETT: All right. So, I want to talk an the loyalty pledge because we all know this is a crucial part of this and it's going to be a crucial part of what happens next. We learned a lot about it today. Director Comey actually talked about the one-on-one dinner where Trump, you know, according to written statement told him, quote, I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.

He expanded on that. Here's what he said.


COMEY: My impression, and again, it's my impression, I could always be wrong. But my common sense told me that what was going on is either he had concluded or someone had told him that you didn't -- you've already asked Comey to stay and you didn't get anything for it.

And that the dinner was an effort to build a relationship, in fact, he asked specifically of loyalty in the context of asking me to stay. As I said, what was odd about that, we'd already talked twice about it by that point. And he'd said I very much hope you'll stay. Hope you'll stay.

My common sense, again, I could be wrong, but my common sense told me what's going on here is, he's looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job.


BURNETT: You heard the bottom line. He's looking to get something regarding my request to stay in the job. The implication to you?

BLUMENTHAL: The implication to me was that he was putting pressure on Director Comey to do his bidding, to bend to his will. And when Jim Comey says common sense told me, I could be wrong, he's being very careful here.

This is the kind of argument that you make to a jury. Common sense. Use your common sense. And if you're a director of the FBI and the president of the United States is saying, I expect your loyalty, not to the United States, but to me --


BLUMENTHAL: -- it has an important meaning. BURNETT: Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: By the way, on these memos, he wrote them so that will they would not be classified.

BURNETT: Right. Yes, no. He did make that point, absolutely.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Just context. Jim Comey mentioned the word context. Context matters here. Republican -- the Republican pushback, the White House pushback would have been, well, of course, all presidents expect loyalty out of the people who work for them.

Sure. But there's -- if you say, hey, Chris, do you like being on the show? Yeah, Erin, I like being on the show. Why don't you get me a cup of coffee? Should I -- so, should I get the coffee? So, like contexts matter, you just can't --

BURNETT: It's a good anecdote. Can I ask you --


CILLIZZA: It's anecdote for real life. It happened just now.

The point is, you can't take it -- it doesn't exist in a vacuum. It was a conversation that things happened before and things happened after it, right?

BURNETT: And that's what matters. Now, Mark, one crucial thing, though, because people might say, OK, if he felt this strongly about this, if he felt so pressured, if he felt so beleaguered, why not offer to resign? He offered to resign over 10 years ago because he thought the integrity of his job was called in question. He's not afraid to go in and make that grand gesture.

Exchange with Senator Cotton, he didn't do it this time. Here it is.


SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: At any time in the three and a half months you were the FBI director during the Trump administration, did you ever write or sign a letter of recommendation and leave it on your desk?

[19:40:01] COMEY: Letter of resignation, no, sir.

COTTON: Letter of resignation.

COMEY: No, sir.


MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, should he have resigned, you know, there's a feeling within government right now and I will tell everybody, you know, out there across the country that a lot of people actually don't want to leave because right now they feel right now that the administration, that the executive branch is in a perilous time right now.

And they feel like if they leave that the check on President Trump will be lost. I'm not saying that's what he is saying right there but it seems to go to his biography.

TOOBIN: You know another reason he didn't resign? Because he was fired! I mean, this idea that he should have, you know, left in a --

BURNETT: But he was fired weeks after a lot of these conversations.

TOOBIN: Weeks. You know, this all happens pretty fast. This guy's only been president for 130 days. I mean, the fact that he didn't resign immediately, I mean, he was trying to keep his investigation together and he just gets fired. I mean, which is --

PRESTON: It's like a bad marriage but you don't want to get divorced --


TOOBIN: Obstruction of justice. It's just --

PRESTON: Chris, get me a cup of coffee.

BURNETT: We'll take a break so you can go get coffee for all of us, OK? You know what's good for you.

All right. Next, why this line from Comey could be key to special counsel's investigation.


COMEY: It's my judgment that I was fired because of the Russian investigation.


BURNETT: And Paul Ryan -- is the speaker once again making excuses for Trump?


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president's new at this. He's new to government.



[19:45:00] BURNETT: Welcome back to a very special edition of OUTFRONT. We are live from the nation's capital tonight.

The fired FBI Director Jim Comey breaking his silence about his conversations with president Trump before the Senate Intelligence Committee today. And we are learning the committee will soon meet with another crucial player in this, Jared Kushner. Manu Raju is OUTFRONT.

And, Manu, obviously, this is a very big development regarding Jared Kushner. What are you hearing tonight?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, we are expecting a meeting between Jared Kushner and Senate Intelligence Committee staff as soon as this month and then afterwards we're told by sources familiar with the matter that he's actually going to provide records and documents to the committee and then would be willing to meet with senators, of course, about his communications with Russian officials.

Now, this comes, Erin, as the intelligence committee plans to ramp up its investigation after today's meeting, hearing with James Comey. The committee itself planning to meet with Bob Mueller, the special counsel next week. One thing that the committee and the special counsel Bob Mueller want to get hold of is the tape that President Trump suggested may have existed, tape of conversations between President Trump and James Comey.

Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee, told me that they're willing -- they may be willing to even subpoena for the tape. Take a listen.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: We've seen in past history that secret taping systems used by presidents don't end up in a very good position.

RAJU: Is this something you're discussing in the committee to subpoena those tapes?

WARNER: If they exist, we want to get a look at them.


RAJU: And, Erin, Republicans are not ruling out the idea of subpoenaing those tapes either as both sides are now raising serious concerns about whether there were any crimes committed here and whether or not any obstruction of justice occurred as well.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT now, the chairwoman of the RNC, Ronna Romney McDaniel. The RNC, of course, taking the lead in responding to Comey today.

And while the president was quiet, no tweeting, Ronna. The RNC, your organization, tweeted more than 20 times, multiple statements defending the president discrediting Comey.

I want to start with what Manu just ended with, this reporting on the tapes. You heard Director Comey saying, Lordy, I hope there are tapes, in a conversation with Dianne Feinstein.

The press secretary -- deputy press secretary sort of made a joke and said, I'm looking for them under the couch. Are there tapes or not?

RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL, RNC CHAIRWOMAN: I don't have any information on that. And, certainly, if the Senate Intelligence Committee needs to subpoena that, or if there's tapes, I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of that. But that's not something the RNC has any knowledge of.

BURNETT: All right. So, one of the most, the crucial things that Comey said was he called the president of the United States and his team of lying and he used that word. Here he is.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. I mean, I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The president said I had dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on. Is this an accurate statement?

COMEY: No, sir.

KING: In that same interview, the president said, in one case, I called him, and in one case, he called me. Is that an accurate statement?


KING: Did you ever call the president?


KING: In his press conference on May 18th, the president was asked whether he had urged you to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn. The president responded, quote, no, no, next question. Is that an accurate statement?

COMEY: I don't believe it is.


BURNETT: What's your reaction?

MCDANIEL: Well, Comey's trying to restore his reputation. This is a man who left Washington with bipartisan disdain. The Democrats have said they lost confidence in him. Senator Schumer, Republicans have lost confidence in him. And this is his attempt to try and restore his reputation. That was his statement. He's entitled to his own opinion.

But what we learned from his testimony today was that he had told the president on multiple occasions that he was not under investigation, that there was no efforts to impede or obstruct any investigation, and that there was no evidence of collusion. So, the things that we already knew were confirmed again today by this testimony.

BURNETT: We also -- he made it clear he knows he was fired because of Russia, which, by the way, the president of the United States has admitted, even after his own team says it wasn't true. The president came out and said it was true.

Here's what Jim Comey said and the president.


COMEY: There's no doubt that it's a fair judgment, it's my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


BURNETT: So, you believe the president fired Comey because of Russia. He's admitted to doing so. But that it was not nefarious.

MCDANIEL: The president has every right to fire the director of FBI.

[19:50:01] BURNETT: Yes.

MCDANIEL: And Director Comey said that.

Listen, this is an FBI director that had no confidence on both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C. We need to restore confidence in the institution of the FBI. You've heard senators on the Democrat side and the Republican side say, we don't trust Director Comey to be --


MCDANIEL: -- to be fair and to be not partisan. And so, now, we're going to get a new FBI director in Director Wray.

BURNETT: Can I just ask you an honest thing? How happy are you that he didn't tweet today?

MCDANIEL: I'm happy the president is working for the American people everyday. He's talking about infrastructure. He's talking about the failing healthcare. He's laser focused on the American people.

This is a distraction. Back home where I live in Michigan, people are thinking about how am I going to pay my healthcare and pay my rent when my premiums are doubling? How am I going to -- how am I going to afford my taxes? I need help. I need Washington looking out for me.

This is a Washington story. In the middle of the country, they want Washington to work for them. BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Ronna. I appreciate your


And let's go now to former special adviser to President Obama, Van Jones, former Republican congressman, former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, Jack Kingston. Dana Bash and Matthew Rosenberg are back with me.

Dana, of course, this is a story when you look at the president's approval ratings that does matter across this country.

BASH: Yes. I mean, it certainly seems to. It's unclear if it's this particular issue or if it's healthcare or if it's people getting annoyed that he hasn't at least -- done at least some of the things he promised he was going to come here to do, maybe because of what he said allegedly to James Comey, that there's a cloud over him and he can't get stuff done that he needs to do.

What I think is really fascinating just talking about raw politics here is the way that the Trump White House and now more and more hand in glove with the RNC are working very hard to keep the base happy and to make sure the Republicans who sent him to this White House understand that, you know, he is going to pull out of the Paris climate accord, he is going to work for the things he promised to do with regard to his fight against abortion and other things that are --


BASH: -- things that make Republicans happy. It's still below the danger line. He's in the danger zone with regarding to Republicans, not just the general public but Republican support.


BASH: Which is why I think this is important to see politically.

BURNETT: Matthew, I want to ask you about an exchange that happened with Senator Rubio. And it was interesting because it was about these leaks. And Senator Rubio said he found it odd that the leaks that were coming out were all damaging to Trump, but something favorable to him, which as Ronna mentioned, the fact that he wasn't under investigation, personally, did not leak out.

Here's that exchange.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: You know, this investigation is full of leaks left and right. I mean, we learn more from the newspaper sometimes than our open hearings for sure.

Do you ever wonder why of all the things in this investigation, the only thing that's never been leaked is the fact the president was not personally under investigation despite the fact that both Democrats and Republicans and the leadership of Congress knew that and have known that for weeks? COMEY: I don't know. I find matters that are briefed to the Gang of

Eight are pretty tightly held, in my experience.


MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, look, there's any number of stories where we have said President Trump is not a focus of the investigation as far as we know.


ROSENBERG: Beyond that statement, there isn't much to report. There aren't any new details of somebody not under investigation. You are or aren't. There's no details about it.

So, you know, it's a strange amount of questioning about not reporting something when there are no new details to report when we put it in stories.

BURNETT: Congressman?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I will say as a Republican and as a Trump supporter, the reason why it's important is because it's now officially on the record. And for the nth time, maybe it has been reported, but the whole premise was that Comey was closing in on the president, therefore he had to be fired. And I think the fact he showed he's not under investigation disproves that.

BURNETT: And yet, Van, he said he leaked the memo because he wanted a special prosecutor. So, if he really thought there was nothing there, would he have wanted a special prosecutor?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, no -- I mean, I guess I think that we are living in this kind of different universes where the Republicans put up straw person arguments, and say, well, see, all the Democrats were concerned about that Donald Trump was under investigation and he wasn't.

That's not all Democrats are concerned about. Democrats are concerned about Mike Flynn. We're concerned about Sessions. We're concerned about Trump. We're concerned about a bunch of stuff. None of that was resolved today.


KINGSTON: -- derail Donald Trump --


BURNETT: The legal experts are saying, though, Congressman, let me ask you, though, they're saying that even if there wasn't an underlying crime by the president, he could still be guilty of obstructing justice.

JONES: Absolutely. KINGSTON: You know, I think lawyers are going to have a good time talking about that. You know, there wasn't a criminal investigation at the time, I think Senator Risch from Idaho made this point when you say, I hope, that's not saying -- the president actually has the right to say, stop the investigation.

[19:55:05] Alan Dershowitz said that.

BURNETT: You really think there's a difference when the president tells you I hope you'll do this?

KINGSTON: Well, I think if the president -- it actually came out in "The New York Times" and said it publicly the next day. So --


ROSENBERG: -- the good guy the next day.



KINGSTON: But remember this, if James Comey was that uncomfortable, he had five -- he had five months to do something about it, and he did not. Why did he not do anything?

BURNETT: Quick final word to you, Van.

JONES: You know, context matters. When Bill Clinton went onto an airplane and talked to Loretta Lynch about, I don't know, golfing, when they went --

BURNETT: Well --

JONES: Whatever it was, I have no idea, but they went totally nuts. The context of clearing a room -- this guy acting almost like a mafia crime boss that he's the president of the United States, that is why the word hope hit so hard. It's like I hope maybe you lose your job.

BURNETT: Everyone leaves the room and then I'm going to ask --

JONES: Maybe lost your job if I don't get my hope met. He lost his job.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all.

And thank you all for joining us.

"AC360" is next with more of CNN's special coverage.