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Comey Wrote Memos; Counsel Looking at Obstruction; Trump's Flynn Request; Comey Hopes There's Tapes; Comey States White House Lies; White House States President Not A Liar. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 8, 2017 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Why did he do it? Because he thought the president was trying to impede and obstruct this investigation.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: To me, it sounded, though, like a political survivor. Someone who was, like, not confronting directly but also then engineering special counsel.

BERNSTEIN: I think there's a bigger question and that is not since J. Edgar Hoover has a non-elected official in this country had the power over our political system that James Comey has. And it's something to look at.

At the same time, his testimony was very damming for the president of the United States, because it made clear that -- and let's see if there are tapes.

But it made clear that he thought the president, unquestionably, was trying to get him to drop a legitimate investigation into a matter of grave national security concern. And now, also under a cloud after this hearing is Jeff Sessions.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, I mean, just on the -- first of all, I would say I think Comey not only answered the questions about Loretta lynch, but I think he welcomed those questions because his -- it was his way of certifying his role as an independent, not someone who serves one party or the other party.

COOPER: Well, he was -- he got nauseous both about Trump and about Loretta Lynch.

AXELROD: Yes. Actually, it may just show that he has stomach problems. (INAUDIBLE.)

COOPER: He does have mild nausea quite often it seems.

AXELROD: But on the large -- you know, let me just talk about the politics of this for a second. Because there -- you know, I've never been confronted by as many people who say, well, do you think the president will serve his full term? And I always remind people, we're not a parliamentary system. You got elected to a -- no, no, no, I know. And the assumption is that something is going to happen here somehow. I think you saw, in this hearing, it was very -- it was very civil. It was respectful.

But you saw the Republicans going off to one side. The Democrats going off to the other. The Republicans use the hearing to try to blunt the impact of what Comey had to say. How many times did the president ask you about Flynn? Just once. Did anybody try to stop you from doing what you were doing? You know, --

COOPER: By the way, there's Director Comey going to be going to the classified briefing.

AXELROD: And so, you know, if there was going to be a movement in Congress to act on any of this, and we're way down the road from that, it's -- there's going to have to be a lot more for these Republicans to move off of position of defending the president.

COOPER: I want to continue with our panel, but we've got to quickly just go to Jim Acosta. Jim, I understand the White House is responding to something.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Sarah Huckabee Sanders just held an off-camera gaggle with reporters. And during that gaggle with reporters, Anderson, she was asked this question about Jim Comey's testimony about when he said, lordy, I hope there are tapes. In reference to the president's tweet that there might be tapes of the conversation over here between the president and the former FBI director.

I asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders directly, does the president have a recording system here at the White House that allows him to record his conversations? And she said, basically, she has no idea. She was pressed a couple of times on this question.

At one point, she joked that perhaps they'll have to look under the couches here at the White House for that recording system. So, you can tell that they're frustrated and sick and tired of hearing that question.

But no definitive answer on that. But there was a very definitive answer, when asked during this gaggle, whether the president is a liar. Remember, Jim Comey, during his testimony, he said, at one point, that the Trump administration has been lying about the FBI, lying about me. And here is what Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to say to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, U.S. DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, I can definitively say the president's not a liar. And I think it's, frankly, insulting that that question would be asked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, one other interesting thing to throw out there, Anderson, is the fate of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. You know, over the last 48 hours, the White House has been incapable of saying whether or not the president has confidence in the attorney general.

At this gaggle with reporters, Sarah Sanders did say, yes, the president has confidence in Jeff Sessions. And how do we know that? How does Sarah Sanders know that? She said that she talked to the president about this last night.

We should point out, though, in the next half hour or so, we do expect to hear from the president's personal outside counsel Mark Kasowitz. He's expected to give a statement to reporters. No idea whether he'll take questions.

But we should note, Anderson, his outside counsel, president's outside counsel, Mark Kasowitz, was very confident last night. We understand, from talking to a couple of sources, Anderson, that Kasowitz was at the Trump International Hotel here in Washington last night, talking about the Comey written testimony, and telling people there in the room, quote, "We won. Trump's in the clear, it's clear Trump didn't do anything wrong."

He was also, apparently, buying cigars and handing them out to people. So, at this point, Trump's legal team is very confident that the president is not in hot water, at this point -- Anderson.

[13:05:02] ANDERSON: It's interesting, Jim. It took Sarah Sanders 48 hours to find the confidence the president has in the attorney general. They could find out whether there are tapes or not very easily. I mean, the president would know.

ACOSTA: Yes.

ANDERSON: I assume Reince Priebus would know. There is -- you know, people would know.

BERNSTEIN: He's been known to use (INAUDIBLE) to tape people.

ACOSTA: Yes. Anderson and Carl, the information flow here at the White House is as stove piped as you will ever see it. It appears to be one stove pipe from the staff to the president. And it is question by question.

Last week, it was whether or not the president believes in climate change. Anderson, we have not gotten an answer to that question because Sean Spicer told reporters and a number of people told reporters, well, I haven't had a chance to ask the president that question. They can't definitively answer that question.

And then, the same thing happened with Jeff Sessions. Does the president have confidence in Jeff Sessions? It took 48 hours for us to get an answer to that question.

Sarah Sanders said she had to personally go to the president to get a response to that last night. And my guess is, Anderson, is whether or not there is a taping system here at the White House that the president installed to tape his conversations. Remember, as he did as a private citizen, from time to time at Trump Tower, he would record his conversations.

We are not going to get a definitive answer to that question unless he's asked in public or if one of these aides goes to him and settles it once and for all.

ANDERSON: Which we should point out, this is all a subject because the president, himself, brought it up and tweeted about it. Carl, to your point, he, as a private citizen, you said he used to.

BERNSTEIN: Yes, he used a cell phone to tape people on occasion. That's definitively established.

ANDERSON: Yes. Let's continue. Jen, what do you take away from this?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, one, I would say, from having worked in a White House, the Oval Office is very close to the press office. This is a White House we've seen reported. They have a lot of access to the president.

So, it's not that they're not getting access. I think that's unlikely. I think they probably don't want to answer the questions which is an important point to make.

The second thing I would say is the point Carl made about Sessions. This, perhaps, is a sidebar of this whole story right now. But the problem for the White House is, as you think things might conclude, another huge piece of news pops up.

And Sessions, when Comey said that he could not discuss Sessions recusal and the reasons, obviously, it's being discussed right now in the closed hearing, that was a big red flag. He's a person close to the president. He's a person who is overseeing, obviously, portions of other investigations. But that's something that I think will get a lot of follow-up.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And just to add, that we reported last week that there is a third possible Sessions-Kislyak meeting that's now being --

COOPER: Let's actually just listen to that sound that you were just referring to, Jim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: In your statement, you said that you and the FBI leadership team decided not to discuss the president's actions with Attorney General Sessions, even though he had not recused himself. What was it about the attorney general's own interactions with the Russians or his behavior with regard to the investigation that would have led the entire leadership of the FBI to make this decision?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: 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 in facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.

And so, we were convinced, and, in fact, I think we had already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself. That he was not going to be in contact with Russia-related matters much longer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Matt Whitaker, former U.S. attorney from Iowa.

MATTHEW WHITAKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FOUNDATION FOR ACCOUNTABILITY AND CIVIC TRUST: Yes. You know, one of the things that I thought fascinating is that Jim Comey admitted that he felt those notes and those memos he wrote were his own personal property and removed them when he lost his job as FBI director.

COOPER: Not only that, had but had them leaked.

WHITAKER: Yes, leaked them and now, they're in the hands of the special prosecutor.

But, you know, I want to take the contrary view of this panel and I -- there is no criminal case to be made on an obstruction of justice. I mean, we have -- we have the star witness right now who has testified and then crossed examined a little bit that, you know, quite frankly, his story just doesn't rise to the level of the intent necessary, on behalf of the president, to even substantiate a criminal case.

So, now we end up, and what David was describing, which is a political arena of trying to -- you know, which the balance of power in Congress and whether or not anyone's convinced that the president was hoping that this investigation will go away is actually -- you know, there is anything afoot there.

COOPER: Before we go to Jeff, a response out of David.

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Yes, I'm glad he's not sitting on my side next to me here. That's good news. You know, why are people letting this go? I don't know. He answered that three times. He was asked by Senator Rubio, Senator Cotton and Senator Feinstein.

If you thought something was afoot, something amiss, why didn't you go to the Congress? Why didn't you come to us? Why didn't you tell the president? And Comey said, I don't know.

And nobody in this room is asking him -- nobody is pushing him. Laura, would you accept that from a witness? Would you say, OK, and just walk away on cross-examination? I don't know.

[13:10:04] LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, I wouldn't. But I also recognize that somebody who is a chief investigator with prosecutorial experience, like Jim Comey is obviously, I would try to figure out whether or not his decision to be reluctant, to be confrontational was a strategic decision. That (INAUDIBLE) that he perhaps said, I'd like to get you enough of the proverbial rope to hang yourself or was it, in fact, a moment of weakness?

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: I know. But, listen, he feels strong enough -- he feels strong enough to go and leak it to A Columbia professor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

PSAKI: But he said he was stunned and that he was very --

URBAN: So? He's the head of the FBI.

PSAKI: -- and he was very careful about what he would say next, because he was concerned about what he would say next.

URBAN: To the president of the United States who said this is inappropriate -- this is inappropriate. You go to the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the leadership. You say, there's something going on. I need to report this to you. He has a duty. And to Carl's point.

WHITAKER: He admitted he had a duty (INAUDIBLE.)

URBAN: And to Carl's point. There's not been an FBI director that had this much political power since J. Edgar Hoover and that should be checked. That is wrong.

PSAKI: He just said that under oath.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure he has a duty to go --

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think what his reaction proves precisely the opposite of what you're suggesting.

URBAN: With (ph) I don't know?

COOPER: (INAUDIBLE.)

TOOBIN: Because it -- he was so stupified, he was so shocked that he didn't -- he didn't know what to do.

URBAN: He went out to his car five minutes later and wrote notes down.

TOOBIN: Exactly, because it was so significant.

URBAN: Well, how about the next meeting, Jeff?

TOOBIN: And then, he went to the FBI director and said, don't let me -- don't --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the attorney general.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry, to the attorney general. Don't let this happen again. I mean, remember, this had not happened before since 1973 during the Watergate cover up. Having a president of the United States going to the FBI, saying stop an investigation of one of my people. That's pretty --

URBAN: I'm not sure -- I'm not sure that's what was said. That's a mischaracterization, I believe.

TOOBIN: Let me finish. Even in 1973, when the FBI first heard about, you know, that this cover up was going on, it took them a year, a year, to go public and to start complaining about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, Jeff, you would agree --

TOOBIN: So, the fact that he didn't jump out and say, officer, arrest that man. He's obstructing justice. You know, I don't think that --

WHITAKER: And you would agree -- you would agree, in a court of law, the fact that he didn't report it, creates an inference that can be reasonably be made that he didn't believe anything was untoward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what -- you know what strikes me though?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait, wait, wait. Let's have an answer.

TOOBIN: He did do -- he did do -- he went to the attorney general and he went to his team and said, what are we going to do to preserve our investigation because the president of the United States is trying to get us to shut it down?

URBAN: How about just say to the president -- how about just cowboy up and say to the president, we can't have this conversation.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, I mean, I guess you're just the toughest guy in the world and Jim Comey is a looser. But you know what?

URBAN: What is wrong with that?

TOOBIN: I mean, the fact --

URBAN: If you're the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that is your duty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, one other question --

COATES: Gentlemen, if I may -- if I may say one point. And that is this. You are presuming that the obstruction of justice was the end game.

Why, if you have an active investigation going on, would you decline to pursue the very thing somebody is trying to prevent you from seeing? If you were to have halt the investigation immediately upon someone saying this, like an analogy (INAUDIBLE) when somebody begins to tell you about the time they bought a shovel and there was a serial killer involved and they had these different crimes, you wouldn't let them to stop talking. You would invite the conversation to continue. Stupified or not, a good investigator and a prudent prosecutor knows that obstruction is an additional claim to portress (ph) perhaps a greater one. There may not be a --

URBAN: But then, he has a duty to report to the Congress. You should go to the Congress.

COATES: I agree. But my point is there may not be the greater charge. But to be -- but to stop the investigation before it starts because you have an inkling that there is more afoot would be completely --

COOPER: It is -- but to your -- but to Laura's -- to Laura's point, he did testify today that basically they were putting a pin in it. They were -- he was holding onto the information and that they were going to do -- bring it to -- as part of the investigation down the road. Does that not hold water?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's another -- there's another reason.

COOPER: No, Matt, go ahead. Hold, Matt, go ahead.

WHITAKER: In all seriousness, the FBI director doesn't conduct investigations, A. And, B, the FBI director doesn't keep secret files that in case -- you know, if -- in case of fire, break glass. And that's exactly what I heard Jim Comey explain today.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: There's another factor -- there's another factor about, you know, why didn't Jim Comey continue the investigation? I'll tell you why Jim Comey didn't continue because he got fired. He got fired by the president of the United States which is part of an obstruction of justice.

If you don't like what the FBI agent -- FBI director is doing, first you tell him to stop. And he doesn't stop and then you fire him.

So, I mean, talk about suspicion. I know it's fascinating -- it's fascinating that you talk about Jim Comey as if he's the one on trial here. We're talking about the president -- why is the president of the United States telling the FBI director to back off an investigation?

[13:15:03] AXELROD: May I say one thing about this, you guys? I hear you. I hear all these arguments. But what we're left with is either the president just behaved really, really badly -

URBAN: Which is not a crime.

AXELROD: No. Or he didn't - so you're left with this argument that, well, yes, he didn't commit a crime. That doesn't mean that this wasn't an - a troubling day to hear how the president felt on a very significant matter.

URBAN: Exactly. Listen, not only troubling. It could be uncomfortable.

(CROSS TALK)

URBAN: Listen, it could be uncomfortable. I wasn't in the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So -

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, do you - do you - if you believe his testimony, do you find that -

URBAN: Listen, Director Comey - listen, I'm not - I'm not - I wasn't there, Anderson. I don't know what Comey - if Comey's telling the truth or the president.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Why do we have to decide who's there (ph)?

COOPER: But, no, but if he's telling the truth - if he - if he is telling the truth, would that be completely inappropriate for a president to say?

URBAN: I - well, I don't know what the president - I can't - I didn't hear the president's side. (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: Well, again, but I'm saying, if he's telling the truth -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you have a new president and he hasn't been in the saddle very long.

COOPER: Well, no, if he is telling the truth, you can say yes or no if he's telling the truth -

URBAN: And (INAUDIBLE) -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: And as Jeff - I think as Jeffrey said earlier, which is an important point here, Comey kept coming back to that meeting in the Oval Office. And if Trump was just letting this happen to him, would he have been as intentional as to specifically kick out the individuals in the room? That was the question he was raising. I think that's a question that will continue to be discussed probably with (INAUDIBLE) Mueller.

BERNSTEIN: Why - why do we have to establish this today whether he obstructed justice? We have an ongoing investigation. There was an ongoing investigation at the time of these conversations. Yes, it occurred obviously to the director that, oh, this might be something like an obstruction it's being suggested here. Let's see what develops. He went to the attorney general of the United States. But more than that, in terms of reporters, in terms of us here, in terms of the Congress of the United States, we have a huge, sprawling investigation going on looking at the possibility of collusion by those in the Trump campaign, whether or not it occurred. There's a lot of information and we're going to learn whether or not there is case for obstruction. It's not something to be decided definitively today. But we did see real suggestion of why - of how the president of the United States imped, obstructed, attempted to undermine a legitimate investigation and then he got up a week or two later and said, yes, I'm rid of this meddlesome (INAUDIBLE) and the Russian - and why - and why, because there's no -

AXELROD: And we also - we also - we also learned, Carl -

BERNSTEIN: Because of the Russia investigation I feel relieved because he's gone.

AXELROD: We also learned about just how dysfunctional the White House is.

BERNSTEIN: Yes.

AXELROD: The fact that the White House Counsel was not involved in any of these discussions. The fact that they were - that the vice president and the attorney general got up and left the room, which was completely inappropriate, particularly the attorney general, and allowed these conversations to go on. The fact that the chief of staff stuck his head in and got shooed off by the president and nobody said, this isn't good, this isn't right, we better not do this, somebody should talk to the president. The president can't do this.

I mean that bespeaks a White House that has significant problems. What I'm trying to say is, I agree with you, Carl, we're a long way from drawing any conclusions about this.

BERNSTEIN: That's the point.

AXELROD: But one conclusion we can draw from all of this is, there was a problem over there and it's a serious problem in the administration of this - of this White House.

(CROSS TALK)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There's one bipartisan thing that struck me today. Of course the investigation started as an investigation of Russian interference in the election, right? And even these hearings started as - that's officially the focus when in reality, you know, we're going down these other different paths. All the senators, Republican and Democrat, said, well, the real issue here is Russian interference, et cetera. It struck me that Comey said that - when he was asked about this, did the president ever call you up or ask you or meet with you to ask about progress into the investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election? His answer was no.

So when you talk about what - dysfunction in the White House, the focus of the president was not on Russian interference in the U.S. election, an unprecedented attack in terms of scale. I speak to folks in the IC all the time on this. The president didn't have the interest to call up the man leading the investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election to see what he'd learned. (CROSS TALK)

TOOBIN: Can I say -

URBAN: He's already answered, I don't know.

TOOBIN: I'd just like to spread a little sun -

BERNSTEIN: It's always been the dog that doesn't bark in this whole episode from the beginning. Not once have we heard the president of the United States say, we need to get to the bottom of what the Russians did. It's the dog that doesn't - that doesn't bark and we need to know why.

URBAN: Listen, I agree with Carl, that we're going to get to the end of this. You've got Mueller - you've got Director Mueller who's going to do a thorough investigation. He's going to produce something. No leaks. It's going to be done professionally, thoroughly. Look at his report to the NFL. I mean it's an incredible document. No one around this table will - would poke a pin in it in any way. Same thing is going to happen here. At the end of the day, a lot of smoke, no fire. I agree with Matt.

TOOBIN: Could I just -

COOPER: Yes.

TOOBIN: One bit of sunshine.

You know, right before the hearing started, I said, these senators, they are a bunch of pontificating jerks and I was very nasty and I was wrong. I thought these senators did an excellent job. I thought they were serious. They didn't pontificate. They asked questions. They didn't give speeches. And good for them.

[13:20:03] AXELROD: And now they're all in closed session and they can't hear you say that (ph).

COOPER: Joining me, one of the lead prosecutors on the Watergate special prosecution force, Richard Ben-Veniste, and also former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean.

Richard, what did you make of what you heard today? I mean you have Jim Comey testifying that he felt the president was directing him to drop the FBI investigation into Michael Flynn.

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, PROSECUTOR, WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTION FORCE: Well, very explosive testimony and I think to the point that the senators are in bipartisan mode for the most part and each of them unfailingly commented on Jim Comey's reputation and his integrity. I think that's very important. And now we have a statement from the White House that says the president is not a liar. It sounds very much like, I am not a crook coming from Richard Nixon back in Watergate days. And here Jim Comey has called the president's bluff as it were with regard to tape recordings. He said, I welcome tape recordings of those meetings. If, in fact, there is a tape recording, Comey says I've got nothing to worry about. I'm testifying truthfully. So we've now got the president's credibility squarely at issue. He raised the question about whether tapes exist and Comey called his bluff.

COOPER: Does it - does it - Richard, does it make any sense to you that the White House will not confirm or, you know, make - makes no mention of whether or not there are actually tapes? I mean they could confirm or deny it one way or the other.

BEN-VENISTE: Of course. Of course they could. And because once again spontaneously raising the question of whether there are tapes, now there is an obligation to follow through. Are there tapes? If so, why shouldn't they be released?

COOPER: John Dean, you know a thing or two about tapes and also testifying on The Hill. What did you see today?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I - the big picture, I saw, this is just the tip of an iceberg, that Comey raised things that are going to be probed much deeper. He's talking about his inner relationship with his own team. And the question of credibility I thought most striking was his explanation of why he came out of meetings with Trump and took notes and made a contemporaneous memorandum. He said, first of all was the situation where it was he one-on-one with Trump. He said also that the person Trump was, he thought that that required that he prepare a note. And then his final point was, he thought this man was a liar. He literally called him that and said he thought he needed a contemporaneous document to support his side of the story. And with that he prepared his memos, which I think will play a growing role as this investigation goes along.

COOPER: Yes, John, I want to actually play that sound. And what is so remarkable, to your point is, this was after the first meeting with the president in Trump Tower where he one-on-one was briefing the president on a - debriefing him on what was in a summary of that dossier. So clearly it seems like he had either something happened based on the president's response in that meeting or he already had formed an opinion that Donald Trump, then the president-elect, was a liar because it was right after that he went right into his car and on a secure computer started taking notes. So let's just play that sound.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think the circumstances, the subject matter and the person I was interacting with, circumstances, first, I was alone with the president of the United States, or the president-elect, soon to be president. The subject matter I was talking about matters that touch on the FBI's core responsibility and that relate to the president - president-elect personally, and then the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, John, when he says the nature of the person, that's a person that he's just met for the first time as president-elect. So he's clearly formed an opinion based about who then President-elect Trump was based on what he had seen I assume during the campaign.

DEAN: Yes, what they call in government sometimes, mencoms (ph), memoranda of conversation, are very rare. I know Nixon was concerned I had prepared them before the taping system was revealed. I know that because of the taping system. But I never had that kind of suspicion of Nixon at that point. And I don't know any staffer who does or most people who interact with the president. So it is extraordinary that Comey felt, after his first meeting, he needed a record of this.

And this is very persuasive evidence. It's persuasive in court. It can be used when a witness is the slightest impeachment to come in and corroborate him. But it can be used in hearings. It can be used in an impeachment proceedings, and it can certainly be used publicly as to how the public will decide who's telling the true story here.

So -

[13:25:10] BEN-VENISTE: And, Anderson, in connection with this hearing, it shows that the investigation is at an early stage and in many respects as a result of firing Jim Comey, I think that the president finds himself going from the frying pan to the fire in having now Bob Mueller run the investigation. And unlike Mr. Comey, Mueller, as special counsel, has prosecutorial authority. If he finds a crime, he can ask for indictments and will try the cases.

COOPER: Thank you, gentlemen.

Just, very quickly, Jim Sciutto, wasn't it - if memory serves me, didn't the White House go after us, CNN, because I think it was you and others at CNN broke the story that the president had been briefed on that dossier?

SCIUTTO: Yes, they did.

COOPER: And Kellyanne Conway and the White House spokespeople, they denied that that had happened. Or they - they basically were challenging CNN. They were wrong about that.

SCIUTTO: They - and as - if I remember correctly in her interview with you, just after we broke the story of the president - of intelligence chief briefing both President-elect Trump and President Obama on the existence of the dossier, she said, well, heads are going to roll -

COOPER: Right.

SCIUTTO: You know, when it's discovered that this is not true. When, in fact, two days later, the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, confirmed it and in - in an on the record statement. And we had reported since then in the weeks that followed that, in fact, some elements of the dossier have been corroborated. I'm not saying the salacious materials. And fact is, on CNN, we've never mentioned the details of the salacious contents of the dossier, but some of the conversations detailed in there by the former MI-6 operative who wrote it, times, place, people on either end of those phone call, that has been corroborated after that. And you heard again today that the very key issue, the central issue, as to whether Russia has compromising information on the president, so-called comprmat (ph), James Comey, who led the investigation until he was fired said just there, less than an hour ago, that's still an open question.

COOPER: We'll get - take it back to Wolf over at Capitol Hill.

Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Now, it's being, Anderson, once again, I just want to remind our viewers, we're waiting for the White House - the private attorney, the president's private outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz. He's going to be making a statement shortly at the National Press Club, not far from the White House, but not at the White House. We will have live coverage of that. The private statement from the president's outside attorney reacting to this really explosive testimony today from the former FBI Director James Comey.

We're also (INAUDIBLE) member of the House of Representatives, Mark Meadows. He's going to be joining me live in a few minutes. We'll get his reaction to all the testimony we heard two and a half hours of testimony.

One interesting part - very interesting part, we've been talking about this, is when - when Comey said that he deliberately had his memos leaked to "The New York Times" because he wanted to generate some pressure for the appointment of a special counsel. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: And was that Mr. Wittes?

COMEY: No. Uh-uh. No.

COLLINS: Who that was?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That professor at Columbia Law School leaked that information to "The New York Times." "The New York Times" published it. And Comey clearly believes that helped generate some of the pressure for the appointment of a special counsel. The former FBI director, Robert Mueller, who is now in charge of this overall investigation. Representative Mark Meadows is with us right now. He's a Republican

key member.

I assume you were listening, congressman.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I was. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All two and a half hours.

MEADOWS: Yes.

BLITZER: So, what did you think? What was your bottom line?

MEADOWS: Well, I think the bottom line is the takeaway is the president has been saying that he's not under investigation. That was confirmed today. It's interesting that that was the only thing that hasn't been leaked. We've read about all kinds of things, but the fact that he wasn't under investigation wasn't leaked, but yet a number of other things were.

But I think overall a good day. Obviously there are some things that are still concerned. Republicans are taking this serious. We've offered more supports on this particular thing than we did the entire Benghazi investigation where we lost four Americans. So it's critically important that we stay tuned, but we also don't jump to conclusions.

BLITZER: Do you believe Comey?

[13:29:55] MEADOWS: Do I - listen, I've had Comey, as you know, in my committee when we were talking about Hillary Clinton and some of the other aspects, and so I have always found him to be a good public servant. When we have some of the - the things that are here, let me - let me tell you what's troubling today. I was surprised that he said that there was a private --