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INSIDE POLITICS

Comey: "Those Were Lies Plain and Simple"; White House Spokeswoman: "The President Is Not A Liar"; Trump Says He's Been Vindicated Despite "So Many Lies"; Comey: FBI Thought Sessions Recusal "Inevitable"; Collins: Trump "Just Does Not Fully Understand." Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 9, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:32:33] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Again, we're waiting for the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, to speak. We'll take you there live when it happens.

So, back now to the big Comey hearing yesterday. In his opening statement, the former FBI director noted, the president doesn't need a reason to fire the FBI director. But of course, the president was very public about why he fired Comey. And the former director wasted little time sharing his thoughts on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: 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 work force had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies plain and simple

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Tough words there. And later, as Comey detailed how stunned he was by things the president was asking him. The former director brought up that tweet from the president suggesting there might be tapes of their conversations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: Because I remember every word he said was playing in my mind, what should my response be, and that's why I very carefully chose the words. And look, I've seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You both hope there's tapes and recordings?

COMEY: Well, I mean, all I can do is hope. The president surely knows whether he taped me. And if he did, my feelings aren't hurt. Release the entire -- release all the tapes. I'm good with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: He's good with it. Now, for the record, for the record, the White House spokeswoman says, "The president is not a liar." That will be in the Trump presidential library. It's an official White House statement now. But she can't say if there are tapes.

And so, for all the substance, all the legal issues raised by the director, all the political fallout that we'll get to as we consider the conversation on the day after Comey's testimony. Number one, it's a he said/he said. Number two, the question of these tapes, silly to some, but incredibly important if there's an investigation if there are tapes and you're trying to get to the president's intent.

The president's allies say, if this came up, it wasn't the way Comey says. He was just sad and his friend Michael Flynn was in trouble, can you please just -- you know, he's a good guy. Can he get off a little easy here? Now, not from a -- it's not an obstruction thing, all my friends think, but the tapes would tell us that, wouldn't they?

MICHAEL SHEAR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah. I mean, look, the tapes ultimately and we've been down this road before with tapes in the White House, right, during the Nixon years. But even without the tapes, one of the things that Jim Comey did in that seven-page statement that he released before and then in his testimony was to sort of provide a roadmap to how you might build a circumstantial case even without the tapes, right?

[12:35:03] He made a point of saying, who was standing outside the door listening or watching when the Oval office meeting happened, who poked his -- you know, Reince Priebus poked his head in. This person was, you know, then the -- the stewards were there.

KING: Yeah. The attorney general, Jared Kushner, the stewards who --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- who no matter what happens here are all going to be interviewed and most of them are going to have to get lawyers.

SHEAR: Absolutely. And, you know, can you be a 100 percent certain by interviewing all those people what happened? No, because there were only ultimately two people in the room when those conversations were happening, but you can build a case.

KING: Right. And just the, why did you have -- if you're going to just say, gee, Mike Flynn's a good guy. Why can't you say that in front of other people?

SHEAR: To say in front of everybody. Exactly.

MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG NEWS: So, the president's legal team's approach addresses the tactics of -- or the progress of the congressional hearings. There is a completely separate process going on, which is Bob Mueller's process.

DAVID: Right. TALEV: And Mr. Kasowitz's approach so far really does not address that. It addresses the politics, the perception, the credibility of Republicans or even critical of Democrats or critical Republicans who were asking questions. But fundamentally, it is and it has always been that Mueller process that would be much more important and Michael Flynn remains really at the center of the questions about that.

And while yesterday's theater and substance was laid down a number of markers that will all be followed-up on, again, it is that behind-the- scenes process that Bob Mueller's running that's really crucial.

KING: And to be clear, some things that Director Comey said were somewhat favorable to the president or at least not totally negative to the president. He would not go as far as Democrats wanted in some ways.

Listen to Senator Marco Rubio here. Remember, he was little Marco in the campaign. He's not exactly known as the Trump defender. But he was pressing Director Comey to try to get to the fact of, wait a minute, wait a minute, sometimes the president told you actually, I want you to go forward, I want the answers, right?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since that (ph) the president agreed with your statement, that it would be great if we could have an investigation. All the facts came out and we found nothing. So he agreed that that would be ideal. But this cloud is still messing up my ability to do the rest of my agenda. Is that an accurate assessment?

COMEY: Yes, sir. He actually went farther than that. He said, and if some of my satellites did something wrong, it would be good to find that out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, that's a president saying if somebody around me did something, let's find out. That is very favorable to the president of the United States if you just take that.

The problem for the Trump legal teams, you can't cherry pick, right? If you're going to say, look what Director Comey said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.

KING: Well then, you're saying he's a credible witness. Well then, everything else he said is credible too, right?

JULIAN DAVIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, and he also actually used that phrase, Comey did during the hearing is about you can't just cherry pick. And so what Mr. Kasowitz is trying to do is to say, it's true that Mr. Comey told President Trump that he wasn't under investigation on three separate occasions. It's true that Mr. Trump said it would be good if all of these facts came to light. But everything else that he said is untrue. KING: Right.

DAVIS: He never asked for loyalty. He never asked for the Flynn matter to be dropped. And, you know, in addition to raising a lot of questions about why do you believe him on one thing and why not on another? It also gets to the issue that Margaret brought up before, which is if you go down this road of saying that's a lie, that's a lie, that never happened, that never happened, you are actually drawing toward a process where people are going to want the president to testify or at least say something officially about, OK, well, this is a lie and this is a misrepresentation. You tell us what did happen.

KING: Right.

DAVID: And that's not necessarily something that they want.

KING: I think Comey's testimony and the White House reaction lays the trail for at least for the special counsel to have an interview with the president. The question is, will Congress -- will the Republican leadership in Congress say, Mr. President, you're going to call him a liar, you're going to do it here. You're going to do it in an official interview with us. Let's see where we get there.

Another interesting thing is the attorney general is due on Capitol Hill next week for a budget hearing. He's supposed to talk about the budget for the justice department. Guess what? He's going to have to talk about some other things including, listen here, Ron Wyden was asking Director Comey, Former Director Comey, about his interaction. Why did he not share some of the president's conversations with him with the attorney general of the United States?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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?

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 Russian-related investigation problematic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Again, if you love Comey, you love that. If you're a critic of Comey, you're saying, well, wait a minute, why drop the bait? If you can't discuss something in an open session, why say it at all?

But we are told from sources in a private classified session after the fact that Director Comey said there is a possibility that there was a third undisclosed meeting between the attorney general of the United States and the Russian ambassador to the United States. [12:40:04] Democrats are saying, if there was such a thing, then the attorney general has a lot of explaining to do because he initially said there were no meetings. Then he acknowledged one meeting and said it was not a big deal. If there was another one, it's not just the president's conduct now being looked at by the special counsel.

The question is does the attorney general have jeopardy here, political or legal?

PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Well, it just sound -- I mean based on Comey was not subtle. He said like, you know, we were all debating when Sessions recused himself. It was surprising. The president apparently is very flustered that Sessions recused himself.

Comey said he used the word "inevitable" which makes me think that it was such about a very clear case and Sessions had no options except to recuse himself, which is not something I know based on the evidence that I've heard so far making me think there might be other things out there beyond just these three meetings with Sessions or these two meetings Sessions were not giving us and this one meeting Sessions won't confirm so far.

KING: We're also aware of facts let's not discuss in an open setting. He knew what he was doing in that open setting.

SHEAR: And the jeopardy, whatever legal jeopardy there might be and, you know, one of the things that happens in these investigations is that simply telling untruths to the investigators can get you in trouble, right?

KING: Right.

SHEAR: But there's also political -- you know, the political pressure was what caused Sessions to have to recuse himself in the first place right now, really, the legal pressure. It was the fact that it had -- the sort of his misleading Congress had built up to the point that it was untenable for him to lead the investigation. And if he misled them again, there's a lot of political --

KNG: Right. Trust me, I went from Whitewater to Paula Jones to Monica Lewinsky too. Once there's a special counsel investigation underway, often the conduct during what people say, whenever there's a lawyer up, this gets very, very complicated.

Everybody sit tight. Up next, you won't find Republican Senators on television calling James Comey a liar. You might find them suggesting, maybe the president, there's a little slack here because he's so new to government.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:46:01] KING: As we've discussed, the president today accused James Comey of lying to Congress. And the president's lawyer yesterday disputed Comey's account that the president asked for loyalty and Comey's account of the president asking him to drop the Michael Flynn investigation. Resolving those he said/he said disputes is a critical job for investigators for the legal side of this drama.

But on the political side this is important. Team Trump is questioning Comey's credibility. But not once did any Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee questioned Comey's account or his credibility. Some did suggest there were less nefarious interpretations of the president's intent in those encounters. But no Republicans on the committee suggested Comey wasn't telling the truth. Instead, Republicans coming gently to the president's defense or suggesting this "He's new here. Maybe he didn't know any better."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE SENATOR: This is the first president in our history who has had neither a military nor a political background. And I think he just does not fully understand or appreciate the boundaries and that it is totally wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: To quote from another former president who spent a lot of his time under investigation, will that dog hunt?

SHEAR: I don't think so. I mean you also had the house speaker say something similar, you know, he just didn't know any better. I think in this --

KING: He's a 70 year-old man who has been involved in lawsuits against the government or sued by the government for his entire life.

SHEAR: Well, and in some ways, that with the phrases -- the phrasing that he used, I mean you could see as suggesting actually that he knew rather than -- I mean if you come out -- if Comey's accusation was that Trump had come out and said, you should stop the investigation. I want you to stop the investigation. That might almost seem like more like he didn't know that that was wrong. But by using the sort of, I hope you'll consider dropping the, you know, it almost has a sense of being more knowing.

TALEV: I had a really interesting conversation with the presidential historian, Doug Brinkley, yesterday where he said that he has a theory that President Trump had a plan A and a plan B. And plan A was just to talk to Jim Comey and see if he would just like agree that the investigation was dumb, let Flynn go, just move on.

And that plan B was to demonstrate, on the record, in all of his multiple conversations with Jim Comey such intense loyalty to Michael Flynn, that if any of this became a runaway, train Michael Flynn would get a very clear message that the president had stood by him and that he could count on the president's support.

DAVIS: But this -- to this notion of that, he didn't know any better, I mean listen, there's two possibilities. One is that he really doesn't understand the separation of powers, the limitations that you have to operate under when you're president of the United States, which is a pretty bad thing in itself.

KING: Yeah.

DAVIS: But secondly, I mean the fact that he did clear the room for these conversations, the fact that he worded even treaties way that he did, it makes it seem like he was trying to bully or lean on him in a way that he clearly knew exactly what he was doing. And while he may not have known the details of the law or particularly what it takes to prove obstruction of justice versus just, you know, a political no-no, he knew in some way that it was inappropriate. Or if you believe Jim Comey's account, you have to imagine that that's the case. And for Republicans, I don't think it helps them either way frankly.

KING: Right. Well, the private incoming from Republicans is not good from yesterday for the president. They thought that, number one, that Comey was credible, that what he said was damming. Number two, they don't think much of the White House political and legal strategy firing back at us yet.

SHEAR: And think about how aggressive Republicans can be and have been. Like, for example, on panels where they were investigating Benghazi and Susan Rice and administration officials came forward. Think of the intensity of the -- of their -- and they didn't, you know, display any of that. They were much kind of --

KING: I was -- not one of them said to Comey, I don't believe you. Not one of them said to Comey, you know, I don't think you're telling the truth.

BACKON: Right.

[12:50:02] DAVIS: Senator Burr concluded the hearing saying that, you know, thank you for telling it like it is, which essentially was -- he obviously thinks that that was true.

KING: The Republican chair who you could argue owes his job to Donald Trump winning the last election of all the people in that room. All right, we're waiting again for -- we're waiting for the president. He will speak at 2:45 in the Rose Garden with the president of Romania.

Two questions from the American press corp, we are told. It will be interesting to see, a, who the president calls on, and b, what he says. I'm certain at least one of those will be about James Comey. Now, we're also promising you an event at the State Department. That one has not happened yet. We'll keep an eye on that as we go.

Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics. Wolf Blitzer in the chair after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: As we noted earlier, the president of the United States due in the Rose Garden today with the president of Romania. Two questions for each side, so we expect the president will get asked about James Comey's blockbuster testimony to the United States Congress. And what do we expect from the president in the sense that he clearly, if you look at his tweet today, question Comey's integrity, suggest that he may have lied under oath to Congress, also said he was vindicated. [12:55:08] That's a public statement from the president, just as much evidentiary value in an investigation as any of his words. What can the president say? What do we expect him to say? Do we have any idea because he's Donald Trump?

TALEV: I mean, he didn't do a news conference during that nine-day foreign trip. He's now obviously ready to make a statement or they wouldn't be doing a news conference. It's Romania and I get it, Romania is a NATO ally. They've got a missile defense shield, that it can make a statement about Russia.

But nevertheless, there were a lot of reasons to talk during that foreign trip. The president wants to make his message clear. The question is, will it be entirely negative about Comey if asked, or will he also have a positive or healing or united or I'm all for an investigation of what's real message to the public?

BACON: Vindication, I think that word will be used if and the -- also the idea that Comey said, I'm not an investigation. I'm pretty sure he'll say about those things.

KING: Again, just stay right here at CNN. We'll have that event for you at 2:45 p.m. scheduled in the Rose Garden.

Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics. This time I mean it, Wolf Blitzer in the chair after a quick break.

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WOLD BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. here in Washington, 6 p.m. in London. Thanks very much for joining us.

We're just an hour or so away from hearing from President Trump about to take questions from the news media for the first time --