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House Intel Committee To White House: Two Weeks To Hand Over Any Tapes; Feinstein Says Senate Should Look At Obstruction; White House Sends Mixed Messages On Qatar; Biden Tells Romney To Run For Senate. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired June 10, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- all of them participated for six months. In all other groups, we saw typical age related deterioration of the brain, in the dancing group we observed some improvement in one of the brain regions that's involved in memory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll do probably 10 to 12 different dances, each one which we need to learn.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Big thing for me is it is a puzzle, you're putting the pieces together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dancing has been a big contributor helping me stay younger feeling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I didn't say that. I will tell you, I didn't say that. There would be nothing wrong if I did say that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump versus Comey, one of them is lying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would be willing to speak under oath to give your version of --
PRESIDENT TRUMP: One hundred percent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That he said-he said situation. Both guys say the other one is lying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When will you tell us about the recordings?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Over a short period of time, you are going to be disappointed when you hear (inaudible).
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The House Intelligence Committee says enough is enough. Demanding to know whether or not these tapes exist. That deadline is June 23rd.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No collusion, no obstruction. He's a leaker. We want to get back to running our great country.
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CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Hope you're getting some R and R this morning, we're here to tell you what's going on. Good to see you, I am Christi Paul.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. This morning, President Trump is spending the weekend at his New Jersey golf club, but the battle between him and former FBI Director James Comey is turning into a he said-he said showdown. The president slamming Comey after his stunning testimony on Capitol Hill. Take a listen.
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PRESIDENT TRUMP: No collusion, no obstruction, he's a leaker, but we want to get back to running our great country.
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PAUL: So now lawmakers are demanding those memos and recordings if there are any and any other records of President Trump's conversations with Comey be given to them by June 23rd. That's not all. We should point out Senator Dianne Feinstein asking the Judiciary Committee now to investigate the potential of obstruction of justice.
SAVIDGE: A lot of voices weighing in this morning, Andre Bauer, CNN political commentator and former lieutenant governor of South Carolina, Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst, Juliette Kayyem, CNN national security analyst and former assistant secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security, Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, and Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun Times."
After all of that, let me give you one more name because we are going to bring in CNN Washington correspondent, Ryan Nobles, at the White House. Ryan, I'll start with you. President Trump is essentially accusing Comey now of perjury. So what is next in this investigation?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, the investigation continues, martin, regardless of spin from both sides, James Comey's testimony neither convicts nor vindicates President Trump. Instead, it's just really another step in a very lengthy process of a very complicated investigation.
The main probe, of course, is being conducted by Robert Mueller, the former FBI director and the special counsel, and the president accusing James Comey of not telling the truth. Despite the fact that Comey gave his testimony under oath.
The president, of course, saying he, too, would be willing to give his version of their conversation and what he told Comey about Michael Flynn under oath as well. Take a listen.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he said those things under oath. Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of events?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: One hundred percent. I didn't say under oath. I hardly know the man. I'm not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance? Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean, think of it. I hardly know the man. It doesn't make sense. No, I didn't say that and I didn't say the other.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that --
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you.
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NOBLES: So that's the president saying he would be willing to talk to Robert Mueller. There's no word yet whether or not Mueller is even interested in deposing the president on this particular issue, but Mueller's investigation is just one part of this massive, complicated situation.
We have investigations continuing on both the House and Senate side, and the House Intelligence Committee in particular would like to put to rest the question of whether or not any tapes exist of these conversations between James Comey and Donald Trump.
This is something the president alluded to in a tweet a few weeks ago. They've sent a letter to the White House counsel, demanding to know whether or not the tapes exist, and if they do, for them to be handed over to the committee. They've set a deadline of June 23rd for the White House to respond -- Martin, Christi.
PAUL: All right, Ryan Nobles, we appreciate it so much. Thank you. Want to bring back the panel here. Let's talk about that date looming now, June 23rd.
[08:05:00]I want to ask you, Andre, if these things, the Comey memo would likely be turned over, but the White House, if there are recordings and if they're not turned in by June 23rd, is there a consequence for that?
ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There should be. Hopefully the president is smart enough to learn from Watergate that we shouldn't be taping. Now former administration could very well have tapes of meetings that were held in Trump Tower with some type of equipment, surveillance equipment, whatever it may be.
We know there was listening devices going on. But President Trump has got to get past this. Look, Comey is a career manager. He didn't have a problem with this when he had a job, as soon as he loses his job, all of a sudden he has a problem.
But the White House has got a problem too, they've got to continue to get the message out. So many wonderful things they're working on. FAA, this week, huge feather in his cap to get that legislation passed, but he has to get those back to the forefront.
And this continually drag, whether it be Russian interference, Comey, the Republican administration has to show what they do better than Democrats, that this continually drag and beat isn't helpful for the administration to get things done.
SAVIDGE: Paul Callan, the president -- somebody has to know if there are tapes or not. Somebody knows this and yet it is dragging out and the president as we heard him is saying you're going to hear shortly, he's building this drama. My question is why is there not a clear cut answer? And what is the point of dragging it out? Who benefits?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Martin, I agree that it is very, very strange. I think it is downright bizarre that the president is playing games about this tape issue. I mean, he sent out a tweet initially, kind of a warning shot at Comey saying you better watch out, there may be tapes.
Now obviously if there are tapes, it would be the president's side that would have the tape, and now he is hedging, saying you'll find out. He said I think to one of the reporters yesterday that you're going to be disappointed.
Now what does that mean, disappointed that tapes back him up or that tapes don't exist. I really don't know why the president would be hedging so much about existence of the tapes. They either exist or they don't. Let's get to the bottom line here.
PAUL: Lynn Sweet, does the White House have to respond in some way whether there are or are not tapes? They can't just gloss over it, they're going to have to answer to somebody, yes?
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Well, we're not dealing with anything conventional. I hope when historians look at our segment today they are aware that this is a whole new dimension of extraordinary absurdity. The president creates a whole fire storm of his own making as this incredible episode of his reality show.
I don't know if there are tapes of all nine conversations that he had with Robert Comey because the tapes will speak for themselves. It doesn't matter who accuses who of lying, the transcripts and natural recordings will tell us something.
This is a side show. If you're thinking of Donald Trump being selfish wanting to govern the country, he wouldn't have started it up and he has the power to end.
When he talked about pledging allegiance, whatever yesterday in answering John Carl's question, that's not the main point of what Comey was talking about, it was whether or not he was being pressured to end an investigation of Michael Flynn. So yeah, in a conventional world, of course, they shouldn't have started this line of questioning about tapes if they didn't exist. What does President Trump do at some point when he has to say if the tapes exist or not?
That's going to be a very suspenseful buildup. I think that's just what Trump likes, without thinking of the consequence of how it handcuffs him in governing the country.
SAVIDGE: Right. I think it is an answer the American people deserve and it should be a pretty simple one to provide. But first, Errol, let me ask you this, Senator Feinstein now asking for investigation into obstruction of justice, so what's the purpose of this? I mean, isn't that part of what Mueller is going to broadly be investigating in all this or what am I missing?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure, of course. You know, some of the confusion, Martin, I think comes when you have politicians for political reasons throwing around legal terminology. Obstruction of justice is a very narrowly defined kind of legal question, but the politicians are kind of throwing it around as well.
That would only be appropriate if and only if they get to something resembling hearings that are taking you in the direction of impeachment. For Feinstein and a number of the other Democratic politicians, that's just where they want to be, maybe getting a little ahead of themselves in talking about that.
You know, the reality is you've got a competent, more than competent special counsel in the form of Bob Mueller who's going to get to the bottom of all this. Nothing is going to escape him.
[08:10:04]If it looks like it could be criminal obstruction of justice, he will then sort of take all of the appropriate investigatory and legal steps to make sure that possible crimes are fully investigated and aired in the proper forum.
That proper forum at least right now is not going to be Congress, that's not really where we are just yet. We need a lot more facts. That's what the request for information it's all about, whether it is a recording, Comey's diaries or anything else.
PAUL: Juliette, when we look at the big picture here between this taking up so much space this week it seemed and then even yesterday with the Qatar information, the president saying one thing, Secretary of State Tillerson saying another, how is all of this playing out in terms of the president's credibility internationally?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's not playing out well and I think it shows a White House, if not a D.C., unable to function with one clear voice. This is the problem with Trump's sort of lack of discipline which you're seeing both in the Comey issue and Russia Trump investigation, and now seeing international affairs.
He doesn't say that he is committed to NATO, and then says it in passing at a press conference yesterday. The administration is all over the place with Qatar. You now have the Qatar ambassador pleading on Twitter, I mean, this is where we are right now, for the United States to sort of own up to the humanitarian crisis that Qatar is facing.
And the fact that we have a military base in Qatar seems to have been unknown to President Trump until the last couple days. Just to make clear to viewers, are all of our anti-ISIS missions abroad stemmed from Qatar? So this isn't some random country that is in a fight with Saudi Arabia.
So the center is not holding, the White House does not have a consistent voice, but you know, on the other hand the idea that this administration is going to get over the Russia, Trump on issue is just wrong.
This thing is continuing because of either obstruction of justice or back to the main point because Russia had influence in our election and this White House seems unconcerned by that basic fact, which I think is the sort of take away from Comey that Trump never asked about Russia, he only asked about himself.
SAVIDGE: All right. The panel will stick around. We want to continue the conversation. There's a lot more to talk about. We'll do it after the break.
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REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The blockade is also impairing the U.S. and other international business activities in the region. It has created a hardship on the people of Qatar and the people whose livelihood depends on commerce with Qatar. The blockade is hindering U.S. military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: The time it come to call on Qatar to end its funding, they have to end that funding and its extremist ideology in terms of funding. I want to call on all other nations to stop immediately supporting terrorism.
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SAVIDGE: That's President Trump apparently contradicting what his own secretary of state said earlier that same day. At issue, where to come down on the blockade against Qatar by several of its neighbors.
PAUL: Yes, reminder here, three gulf nations have aligned with Egypt against Qatar, accusing the country of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region. Qatar hosts 11,000 U.S. troops. It's a hub in the area war against ISIS.
A White House official says the president's statements were consistent with what the secretary of state said. Want to bring back our panel. Juliette, I want to go back to you. Help us understand how critical it is in the fight against ISIS, the destabilization that we seemed to be seeing in the Middle East right now.
KAYYEM: It is about the worst scenario that you can imagine for U.S. interest in the war against ISIS because our military base is there. It serves as the center point for the allies in terms of the fight against ISIS at a moment when the fight against ISIS is actually going well.
There are serious battles going on in Iraq and Syria. This is so consequential, what is happening right now for our particular national security interests, and why Donald Trump would have originally sided with the Saudis, who I have to admit have some nerve complaining about Qatar about supporting terrorism.
It's just sort of mind boggling to those of us who are mostly worried for our national security about ISIS. It looks like Tillerson tried to create a space for Donald Trump to sort of redeem that original assessment, and Donald Trump did not take it.
Look, in our history we as United States have been loved. We have been hated. We have never been so confusing I think to the world. I think that's where we are now, and it is making us, our allies very concerned about our stability and our ability to live up to our word, and it is making countries like Russia and China sort of step into the vacuum. That's sort of where we are right now.
SAVIDGE: Errol, this all seems to have come out of nowhere for most Americans, and yet seems to have perhaps been instigated in part because of the president's visit to Saudi Arabia. Can you make that quick connection to us?
LOUIS: Well, yes, sure. I mean, the president himself seems to suggest that, hey, look at the benefits of my trip. I go and a week later we have got action against terrorism. However, it is taking the form of a looming humanitarian disaster, if nothing else, as well as serious confusion around an important region.
[08:20:12]So yes, this is the president's doing, if he says he did it, let's take him at his word. The timing is not just coincidental. It does tend to follow a pattern, since we now see sort of confusion, destabilization, some of which originated through cyberattack mischief in around the Qatar news agency.
So we have a shadow war threatening to turn into a shooting war, and a White House that doesn't seem to be entirely on top of some events that they may have help set into motion.
SAVIDGE: That's a terrifying thought. All right. The panel is going to stick around. We want to continue our conversation. There's more we have to touch upon. Stay with us.
PAUL: Stay with us. Because this is something that's probably going to be very curious to a lot of you if you are just waking up here. Remember, Joe Biden, Mitt Romney once rivals. Well, guess what, the former vice president is encouraging Romney to run for the Senate now. We'll talk about it.
SAVIDGE: House and Senate investigators firing off a litany of requests now for former FBI Director James Comey's memos after his sworn testimony against President Trump.
PAUL: A defiant President Trump, though, is challenging James Comey's claims that the president demanded his loyalty and asked him to let go of the investigation into fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Listen here.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he said those things under oath, would you will willing to speak under oath to give your version of (inaudible).
PRESIDENT TRUMP: One hundred percent. I didn't say under oath. I hardly know the man. I'm not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance. Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean, think of it, I hardly know the man. It doesn't make sense. No, I didn't say that and I didn't say the other.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that --
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: All righty, our panel is back with us. Paul, you wrote a piece for cnn.com saying for Trump a prosecution of Comey would be a disaster.
CALLAN: Yes. You know, Christi, I think it is going to be catastrophic for his presidency because the last time this was done where a special prosecutor began investigating a sitting president was in Bill Clinton's administration and of course, that resulted in impeachment charges being filed against Clinton.
Of course, they were dismissed in the end, but it was a disaster and I think he's setting the scene for this. Just one other thing, the clip you were playing. I chuckle when I watch it. Wolf Blitzer ran a piece yesterday with the president standing in front of I think around 30,000 people.
PAUL: A crowd, yes, in Orlando in March of 2016.
CALLAN: And he said to them I want you all to raise your hands and pledge loyalty to me, the whole crowd. I think in the past he's asked strangers to pledge loyalty to him. So there you go. SAVIDGE: All right, Lynn Sweet, let me ask you this. We obviously live in very interesting times. Even more so now because here we have Joe Biden, former vice president, and a Democrat, who is apparently encouraging Mitt Romney to run for Senate. What is going on there?
SWEET: Well, I think we have to put an asterisk, it depends on what state. Certainly Mitt Romney who is the governor of Massachusetts with the Democratic -- you don't want to have him run in Massachusetts where you could elect a Democrat.
I think the intent is if he runs in Utah, where Mitt Romney has a home and has connections and is well known there to replace Orrin Hatch, if indeed Orrin Hatch decides not to run for an eighth term, then Biden is saying Mitt Romney would be an addition to the Senate.
And in the context of these times, someone with his background, experience, to put in a more or less moderate Republican could make sense to Joe Biden. But step one is Joe Biden talking about Utah, which is going to elect a Republican, that's what I think Joe Biden is talking about.
Because if he's talking about running in Massachusetts, that won't be great for Democrats necessarily. I think he's talking about Utah. So that's a great cross aisle move for Biden, both look like senior statesmen now.
PAUL: Good point. I want to get back here and look forward to what is to come yet in the Russian investigation. We know that Jared Kushner is going to be meeting with the Senate Intel Committee sometime this month, Andre. How candid do you think he'd be?
BAUER: I think he'll be very candid. They need to get this past them. I think they need to be clear and concise on what they say. You don't need to muddy the water any more. Earlier it was talked about how this could drag on, as an American I don't want to see it. I don't think good comes out of it.
The whole statement was ambiguous anyway. Really, Comey should have had whatever you want to call it to question the president then, say Mr. President, I didn't understand exactly what you were asking me to do. And he should have done it.
This is absolutely drain the swamp. This is probably the biggest bureaucrat that there was in Washington. He was right to be fired, but he should have right then questioned the president on what he meant, if he thought there was any impropriety whatsoever.
I hope Kushner will get right to the point and move past this because it is hindering so many accomplishments they could be having right now with control of both houses.
SAVIDGE: Juliette, in the time we've got left, I just would be interested to hear what you're hearing from law enforcement and those that you talk to about former FBI Director Comey's testimony. What's the reaction from law enforcement? KAYYEM: I think look -- I think most people view Comey as truthful although a lot of us I think across the aisle sometimes question his judgment, so the difference between is he telling the truth that Trump said those things, yes. It was his judgment.
Andre just said maybe he should have been more forceful or maybe he should have done something else, that's a legitimate debate. But the question of the truthfulness of those interactions I don't think no one doubts.
Just picking up on what Andre said, look, the White House has a big problem not just from the Thursday testimony but from the Wednesday testimony where every head of the intelligence agencies refused to say no to the question, did Donald Trump try to get you to stop this investigation.
And now next week we not only have Jared Kushner coming up in the next couple weeks, next week Sessions, our attorney general, who was definitely implicated in some of those conversations, what does Sessions know, why did he not disclose certain meetings?
Sessions testifies this coming week as attorney general, but the chances that he talks about the Department of Justice are pretty minimal at this stage. This will be yet another Russian and Trump series of questions.
SAVIDGE: Yes, he's supposed to talk about budgetary issues. I don't see that happening.
KAYYEM: You and I can agree, that is not going to happen.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you so much. I know you're all going to stick around, we have another conversation coming up in a couple of minutes.
SAVIDGE: New developments, the special counsel has just introduced a new player to help in this Russia investigation. What are the government's top criminal law specialists, more on that and what it could mean for the probe after this.
PAUL: And in its second season, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" with W. Kamau Bell explores the far corners of our country, its various groups and sub cultures. Tomorrow night at 10:00 Eastern right here on CNN, Kamau unlocked some of the myths surrounding Puerto Ricans. There is an epic journey from New York City to the captivating island itself.
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W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA": So Puerto Ricans are American citizens.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not by choice. In 1898, the United States invades Puerto Rico and claims it as a prize from the Spanish American war.
BELL: So you believe that Puerto Rico would be better off if it was officially a state?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Independence hasn't worked, not because we haven't tried but because we have been so repressed.
BELL: Puerto Ricans can't vote for the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is true.
BELL: That doesn't make sense, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That doesn't make sense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Barack Obama would move to Puerto Rico, he would lose the right to cast an absentee ballot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the business front, we're limited in growth, even in the poor states, they have income per capita that's more than twice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People of color have always been invisible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are American citizens, yet we don't have the same rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: So we're going to show a picture here of a new player in the game so to speak in the political world here, we are talking about Michael Dreeben. He is a special counsel that Bob Mueller is enlisting his help in this investigation into possible obstruction of justice and what is happening there.
We know that Michael Dreeben has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court. He is an expert on obstruction of justice. So with that said, Lynn Sweet, who is still with us and Errol Louis.
But Lynn, want to go to you, what does that say to you about the focus of this investigation now that he has brought Michael Dreeben on.
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Well, shows how serious the investigation is, how specifically it is gearing towards looking at criminal activity, which is not a good sign of any of the people named involved in it.
And it looks as if it means that this might be a very complex investigation where you need somebody to help navigate through many different kinds of issues from potential obstruction of justice on different players to other allegations that could surface as the facts unfold, which I do caution there's so much we don't know about it. But here I think it is the most important thing to think of, this is going to be a sprawling investigation where Robert Mueller has almost unrestrained resources to hire consultants, use investigators, and hire outside experts.
That is the enormity of this investigation in total, not just it is more than the sum of its parts because there will be so much fire power that can be put together, notwithstanding this one appointment that's coming early on.
SAVIDGE: Errol, let me ask you this, so much was made about the testimony in anticipation of Comey. What happens now in this investigation? You know, when it gets into the hands of the special counsel, kind of goes silent. Do you think this is going to quiet down?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh no, oh no. I think there will be sort of a drip, drip, drip of more information that's brought out as the investigation proceeds. I don't think it is in Mueller's interest, certainly the fact that you have parallel investigations going on, the House is still looking at some of these Russia questions.
Certainly the Senate Intelligence Committee is asking for some of the same materials that the special counsel either has or could easily get access to. So going back again to Watergate, the fact is when you have multiple sort of parallel investigations going on, they end up sort of working in tandem.
[08:40:00]Where information from one can end up in the hands of another or at least different lines of inquiry, some of the same witnesses, and of course, we have vigorous press coverage of all this. I don't think the story dies down at all.
I'd remind everybody that the Clinton White House thought the Whitewater investigation was going to maybe last about six months, it ended up lasting more than six years.
PAUL: Very good point and it went off the rails so to speak too, we should point out. All right, Errol and Lynn, thank you both so much for taking time to be with us. Always appreciate having your insights here.
Want to tell you about an important story we have out here, a decorated Marine found shot in Iraq, his death was a suicide, but Colonel Michael Stahlman's (ph) family doesn't quite believe that.
SAVIDGE: They're not sure. Why they say there was rush to judgment and what the investigation has revealed?
SAVIDGE: For the last nine years, Kim Stahlman has been fighting to restore her husband's honor, Colonel Michael Stahlman was in Iraq when he was found mortally wounded, had gunshot wound at the head. Heroic actions were taken to try to save his life, but ultimately the medical examiner ruled the colonel's death a suicide.
PAUL: With the help of a retired JAG lawyer and NCIS investigators, Kim Stahlman says she has documents that shows critical evidence were overlooked in rush to judgment by NCIS and the Marines.
The medical examiner needs to be just 51 percent certain to designate a death a suicide. NCIS stands by its investigation, we should point out, saying that defending their reputation would simply exploit emotions of a grieving widow and dishonor the service and memory of Colonel Stahlman.
Now Kim Stahlman says that's exactly what they've done by failing to reopen her husband's case. CNN national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, reports here and please let me forewarn you, don't want you caught off guard here, but there are some tough images to watch in this story.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Colonel Michael Stahlman was one of the highest ranking officers to die in the Iraq war. He was halfway through a yearlong tour of duty when he was found in his bed, a gunshot wound to his left temple.
(on camera): What specifically did they tell you when they called you that morning to let you know.
KIM STAHLMAN, WIDOW FIGHTING THE MILITARY: I knew, I'll never forget it. It was is this Colonel Stahlman's wife, I said yes. He said I am calling to inform you that your husband, Colonel Michael Ross Stahlman was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the left temple. I'm like he is not left handed.
FEYERICK (voice-over): From that very first call, Kim Stahlman says she knew something was terribly wrong. The U.S. Marine Corps and NCIS concluded it was suicide. But Kim has refused to accept that and she is taking on the U.S. military in a personal war seeking justice for her husband.
STAHLMAN: Right is right and this is not right. And of all people didn't deserve it, Mike Stahlman did not deserve this.
FEYERICK: Michael Stahlman was a Marine's marine, a fighter pilot with unwavering loyalty to his country and the mission. Kim was just 21 when she met him in 1987. Two weeks later, they were engaged.
STAHLMAN: I was one of the lucky ones that ran into that one person in our life that I knew this was the person that I would spend the rest of my life with.
FEYERICK: Michael Stahlman rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a highly respected JAG lawyer. He was getting ready to retire when at age 45 he volunteered to serve in a combat zone.
STAHLMAN: I just think that's something he felt was his duty. He wanted to do it.
FEYERICK (on camera): Were you worried?
STAHLMAN: Not at all. That's what's so surprising.
FEYERICK (voice-over): In January, 2008, Colonel Stahlman left for Iraq, joining the Rule of Law Unit, in charge of rebuilding Iraq's police and court system and investigating fraud and corruption, both Iraqi and American.
According to NCIS, the day of the shooting, July 31st, Stahlman woke especially early for his usual pre-dawn run, training for an upcoming triathlon. He was a month away from coming home on R&R to celebrate Daughter Piper's 4th birthday and take 11-year-old McKenna to a water park.
He had e-mailed Kim a day earlier, writing, "Kim, everything is great. Just ready for a break and time with you. Missing you terribly, and need lots of hugs and kisses. Love Mike."
At 4:30 that morning, a colleague tells NCIS investigators he saw Stahlman who was well liked and that his demeanor appeared to be the same as it always was. Computer records show Stahlman checked on a letter of recommendation he had been writing. He also sent what would be his last e-mail.
(on camera): What did that e-mail say?
STAHLMAN: Kim, sorry for what you are about to find out. I love you and always will. You and the girls are the most important thing to me, love Mike. That's what it said.
FEYERICK: What did that suggest to you?
STAHLMAN: I immediately thought oh no, one of our friends is dead.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Kim says the message is a common military warning. NCIS says it was a suicide note.
STAHLMAN: My husband loved life. He basically secured a job. We knew where we wanted to go. Everything was planned.
FEYERICK: Stahlman was supposed to be leaving on a morning mission when discovered bleeding from a gunshot wound, clinging to life. NCIS says heroic efforts to save him complicated their investigation. He would spend the next two months in a hospital.
COBY C. VOKEY, ATTORNEY/RETIRED LT.COLONEL, USMC: They assumed it was a suicide from day one.
FEYERICK: Retired military JAG lawyer, Coby Vokey, had worked with Stahlman, when Kim reached out, he agreed to review the case.
[08:50:02]VOKEY: My initial reaction was kind of a -- sort it is a grieving widow, she doesn't want to accept the truth. FEYERICK: But as he reviewed the NCIS report, his opinion changed. The bullet had fractured his skull, causing multiple traumatic brain injuries.
VOKEY: When the first people responded to Mike and found him, the 9- millimeter weapon was tucked under his waist of his thigh so his hand by his side, the weapon was kind of underneath him.
STAHLMAN: If you're in a bunk bed with a 9-millimeter and you shoot yourself, where is that going to end up? You think it is going to end up in the bed with you? Have you ever shot a 9-millimeter?
FEYERICK: The medic who treated him says Stahlman's left arm was by his side with the 9-millimeter Berretta pointing toward his feet. Of Stahlman's right, lay his military issued bible and a key chain with a photo of his two young daughters.
NCIS determined these two items along with the e-mail discovered later indicated suicide. Neither the bible nor the key chain were ever fingerprinted. No fingerprints, not even Stahlmans were found on his pistol, though, his blood DNA was present.
His hands were never tested for gunshot residue. NCIS saying there was no time because he was immediately med-evac'd. Vokey needed another opinion and reached out to one of NCIS' former top investigators.
MICHAEL MALONEY, FORENSIC CONSULTANT/RETIRED NCIS SPECIAL AGENT: Out of hundreds of cases that I've looked at, and others that I've reviewed for families, I've had two that were questionable to me.
FEYERICK (voice-over): And the death of Colonel Stahlman is one of them?
MALONEY: Yes, it is.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Michael Maloney meticulously reconstructed the crime scene frame by frame. He found too many things that forensically did not add up.
MALONEY: All these things that we're talking about now are indicative of staging.
FEYERICK: Maloney says the bullet angle described in the autopsy suggests Stahlman was not laying down as the NCIS report concluded but getting up, his head turned away when the fatal shot was fired.
MALONEY: So that puts his head in this position when he received -- the blood would have gone up that it is called back spatter. It comes from the entrance wound and the exit wound, the blood would have gone down into the pillow and into mattress where ultimately the bullet would have gone as well.
FEYERICK: Do you believe the bullet that caused this hole was the fatal shot?
MALONEY: No, I don't there has to be a second shot that was fired.
FEYERICK (voice-over): NCIS records confirm the mattress and bedding were destroyed as a biological hazard within 48 hours. Stahlman's helmet bag which he used as a briefcase and always carried with him was missing and never recovered.
VOKEY: That bag turning up, the kind of bag he keeps the most personal, important papers in and documents and that's gone.
FEYERICK: A photo of the scene taken immediately after shows a silky white cloth near Stahlman's bed. It appears to have specs of both gunshot residue and blood spatter, indicating Maloney says that it was close to the gun when it was fired.
(on camera): Do you believe that Michael Stahlman was alone in his room when that shot was fired?
MALONEY: I do not. There would have been someone else present, whether it was an accident, whether it was murder, whether it was negligence, I don't know but there would have been someone else that triggered the weapon that caused that fatal shot.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The NCIS report suggests Michael Stahlman's deployment had put a strain on the couple's marriage.
STAHLMAN: We all grow in our marriage. Sometimes you grow apart. I didn't want that. That's what we were going to work towards.
FEYERICK (on camera): One of the things they've said is that, they reviewed it and there were human factors.
STAHLMAN: Human factors. That's the best they can come up with?
FEYERICK (voice-over): Two months after the shooting and one day before their 21st wedding anniversary, Colonel Michael Stahlman died. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery and eulogized by colleagues in Iraq.
MICHAEL MORRIS, STAHLMAN'S FRIEND/BOSS: Mike never got flustered and always managed to stay ahead. He was always in control and seemingly couldn't be shaken. It makes what happened in July all the more improbable.
FEYERICK: The medical examiner concluded in 2008 that based on all available investigative information, Stahlman's death was a suicide. When CNN requested an interview, we were told there was no new information for them to reconsider otherwise. Kim Stahlman is trying to change the suicide finding.
STAHLMAN: The problem with this whole thing is the Marine Corps passes the buck to NCIS. NCIS passes the buck to medical examiner. The medical examiner passes the buck to NCIS. Nobody is responsible.
FEYERICK (on camera): Do you think he would be in pain to know what you're going through? [08:55:07]STAHLMAN: Yes, I do, I do. I think he probably would tell me to just drop it. It doesn't matter, Kim, but I can't let it go. I can't.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Kim Stahlman received full in the line of duty benefits and says this fight is for her husband's honor.
SAVIDGE: Military families for justice, which investigates questionable military deaths, is helping Kim Stahlman fight the Pentagon.
PAUL: And North American Patriots, which raises money to support soldiers and Marines unfairly charged with crimes unanimously agreed to take up Kim Stahlman's case.
CNN NEWSROOM live from Washington is next with our own Brianna Keilar.
SAVIDGE: President Trump makes his first comments on the fired FBI director's testimony, in effect accusing him of perjury. That's coming up at the top of the hour.
PAUL: Make some great memories today.