Return to Transcripts main page


Sessions Plans to Testify as Russia Questions Swirl; Mueller Builds Team as Trump Lawyer Declares Victory; Embattled Attorney General Plans to Face Tuesday Grilling; Bill Cosby Trial: Defense to Begin Presenting Its Case This Week. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired June 11, 2017 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:03] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Possibly, yes. Andy, thank you so much.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: There remain a number of questions about his own interactions with the Russians.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: With a third meeting and even without it, what we have is a pattern of contacts with the Russians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House still cannot say whether President Trump has confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A claim of responsibility for the deaths of three American soldiers in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Afghan Taliban is claiming responsibility. This is what we call a green on blue attack. When a member of the Afghan security forces turn on U.S. or NATO soldiers.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When heroes fall, Americans grieve.


PAUL: It's 7:00 a.m. here in the East. I'm Christi Paul. Good morning to you on this Sunday.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge, in for Victor Blackwell. Thanks very much for being with us.

New this morning: Capitol Hill may be getting ready for another day of blockbuster testimony. This time, it looks like it's Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, who could be in the hot seat.

PAUL: He plans to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, although we don't know yet whether this is going to be public or if it will be a closed door hearing. But this is coming after former FBI Director James Comey hinted Sessions may have had a third contact with Russians and did not disclose it. Reports, too, that he and President Trump had heated exchanges after he recused himself from the Russian probe.

CNN Washington correspondent Ryan Nobles is following this story.

Ryan, how solid is this information that this meeting is actually going to happen on Tuesday?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Christi, it's very much up in the air. And if the hearing happens, it could be the first chance that senators get to ask Attorney General Sessions under oath about the CNN report that investigators are looking into a possible third undisclosed meeting that Sessions may have had with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Now, the Justice Department has repeatedly said that that meeting never happened, but Session has yet to answer a direct question on that topic. But at this point, we don't have confirmation from the Senate Intelligence Committee that this hearing that Sessions wants to take place will even happen. Sessions was supposed to appear before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss the Justice Department's budget on Tuesday, but Democrats were already threatening to bring up the investigation into Russia and the role Sessions has played.

So, Sessions has decided to pull a switch. He is sending his deputy A.G., Rod Rosenstein, to the appropriations hearing and Session has offered his testimony up to the Intel Committee.

Here is part of what he said in a letter to committee leaders. Quote: Some members have publicly stated their intention to focus their questions on issues related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election from which I have recused and for which the deputy attorney general appointed a special counsel. The Senate Intelligence Committee is the most appropriate forum for such matters as it has been conducting an investigation and has access to relevant, classified information.

And note the use of the words "classified information" in his letter. That could mean that Sessions is expecting his testimony to happen in closed session although the letter doesn't specifically state that. And keep in mind, the Senate Intel Committee currently does not have plans to meet on Tuesday, so it could be difficult for the committee to prepare quickly enough for a hearing of this magnitude.

At this point, committee leader from both sides of the aisle have yet to even acknowledge that they have received this letter. So, at this point, we're still going to have to wait and see if and when Jeff Sessions ever appears before senators -- Christi.

PAUL: All right. Ryan Nobles, we appreciate the update. Thank you.

SAVIDGE: All right. So, this gives us a lot of good talking points here. Let's bring in Errol Louis, he's CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, Page Pate, CNN legal analyst and constitutional attorney, Maria Cardona, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, and Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst and historian and professor at Princeton University.

Good morning to all of you.


SAVIDGE: Maria, let me start with you -- this seems to be, if it happens, there's a lot of ifs here, but if this testimony takes place, it seems pretty politically risky. So, why would the attorney general want to do this?

CARDONA: Well, I think a couple of things. For the first time, of all you're right. We don't know if this is going to happen. So, it's very possible that it doesn't.

Number two, it sound like a little bit knee-jerk reaction on behalf of Sessions because of Comey's testimony last week on Thursday, where he intimated that there was yet another meeting that had happened between Sessions and the Russian ambassador/spy, Kislyak, that had not been reported.

[07:05:03] And so, I would assume that this is Sessions' chance or at least in his head, it's his chance to clear his name.

That has a couple of problems connected to it. The first one is that he is going to expose himself to a lot of questions from the senators as to why he lied during his confirmation hearings in the first place. Because that was what put him in hot water to begin with when he was not forthcoming and honest about the initial meetings that he had had with the Russian ambassador.

And, number two, because he had recused himself, then why was he involved in the firing of James Comey?

So, those are two big questions that I think he opens himself up to that could then lead to other avenues of questioning that could put Sessions, as well as Trump and his administration, in even hotter water than they are today.

PAUL: Well, and, Julian, we cannot ignore the reported tensions behind the scenes here. I mean, we started this week with this information, this report that Sessions was having heated exchanges with the president, that he was willing to step down if the president wanted him to do so. Do we have any indication how loyal Sessions is to the president and, you know, do you see this as possible a way for Sessions trying to save himself?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he was loyal during the campaign. We don't know how loyal he is at this point in the presidency and I guess the question is whether if he does testify, if this takes place, is he going to save president Trump or to save himself? Meaning, is this an attempt to clean up some of what we heard from James Comey and to correct the record so to remove some of this argument about obstruction? Or is it going to save his own reputation and future in a rather chaotic White House and presidency to say I did not do some of the things Comey has accused me off or I wasn't on board of some of what is going on in the administration?

And this is breaking news and we don't know exactly which direction he plans to take this.

SAVIDGE: Page, as an attorney and if you could give advice to the attorney general, this talk of perjury, perhaps, how does Sessions carefully walk through this? Does he have an attorney? Would he have an attorney present? And can he take the Fifth?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Martin, I certainly expecting he is talking with attorneys even if it's just within the Justice Department leadership. I don't think he'll actually bring his own personal lawyer to a hearing like this. Somebody like Attorney General Sessions is going to think, look, I can handle this myself. I know what I'm doing. I'm a lawyer. I have experience in these matters. I'm a former federal prosecutor.

But he does have to be extraordinarily careful. We know he has already made two false statements under oath. Now, that doesn't mean he lied. It doesn't mean he committed perjury because we don't know is whether he intended to mislead Congress when he previously testified.

I think many people were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Hey, you may have forgotten one meeting? OK, perhaps two meetings? But when we get to three meetings, then it starts to be questionable.

I think he has to be very careful and he has to clean up this record before people start looking into this a little deeper.

PAUL: And, Errol, I want to listen here together to one of the things that Comey said when he was asked about his impression of what was happening when President Trump asked everybody to leave that group meeting on February 14th. He mentioned Sessions there in his testimony. Let's listen.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: My impression was something big is about to happen. I need to remember every single word that is spoken. And, again, I could be wrong. I'm 56 years old. I've been seeing a few things.

My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn't be leaving, which is why he was lingering. And I don't know Mr. Kushner well, but I think he picked up on the same thing. And so, I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to.


PAUL: Here again -- my sense was the agent knew he shouldn't be leaving which is why he was lingering.

Errol, do you get the sense that A.G. Sessions wants to explain that? LOUIS: Well, exactly. This is why I come down on the side of the

attorney general probably wanting to rehabilitate his own image and his own reputation in the eyes of the public and to a lesser degree in the White House. This is devastating kind of testimony from James Comey who was incredible I thought throughout his entire time on the stand, and who sort of really paints a picture of a dynamic that the attorney general can't afford to leave lingering in the mind of his former colleagues in the Senate and certainly not with the general public.

If he is an independent -- if he is to be an independent and respected leader of the Justice Department, he has to come forward and say, look, there was nothing of the sort. I trusted the president to talk directly to the FBI director.

[07:10:02] It was a different kind of protocol because it's a different kind of White House. But it doesn't say anything about my independence or my integrity. I suspect he wants to and to a certain extent, need to say that publicly.

SAVIDGE: Yes, but that's -- that could open up a whole new can of worms.


SAVIDGE: All right. Stick around, everybody, because we have a lot more to discuss in a moment.

PAUL: Yes. First of all, Donald Trump Jr. is talking and we are going to talk about what he said overnight.

Also, Robert Mueller, the man leading the Russian investigation, putting together what's being dubbed a legal dream team but Mueller isn't the only one staffing up. What is Trump's personal attorney doing right now?


SAVIDGE: Well, the man leading the investigation of any Trump campaign ties with Russian officials is getting some pretty heavyweight help. Special counsel Robert Mueller has brought on a top criminal lawyer and added that to his team.

PAUL: Now, the president's attorney, of course, seems pretty confident, though, that Comey's testimony actually helped the president, himself.

[07:15:05] We have with us CNN's Laura Jarrett now.

Good morning, Laura.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: While the president's lawyer has already declared victory after former FBI Director James Comey's testimony this week, we are learning more about how special counsel Robert Mueller has been quietly and methodically staffing up his own team with some formidable legal minds who have worked on everything from Watergate to Enron. We know that right out of the gate, he brought on three litigators from his old law firm, Wilmer Hale, but according to the "National Law Journal", he's also now recruited Michael Dreeben, a prolific Supreme Court advocate who is the nation's foremost expert on criminal cases.

But Mueller isn't the only one staffing up. Marc Kasowitz, the president's personal lawyer, has brought on two other litigators to join him as well, Michael Bowe has represented the president in the past on real estate disputes, and Jay Sekulow who's written an op-ed for FOX News saying that after Comey's testimony this week, his case against the president collapsed like a house of cards.

Back to you.


PAUL: All right. Thank you so much, Laura.

Well, let's return to our panel on here.

And, Page Pate, I want to get your take on this. Compare, if you will, please, Mueller's legal team and the people he hired, what it says about their focus and the president's team.

PATE: Well, it's really not a fair comparison, Christi. I mean, Mueller is putting together a top-notch team, a legal dream team of prosecutors, constitutional scholars. And bringing in Michael Dreeben means that Mueller is prepared to litigate the issue of whether a president can be charged and indicted. And that is a critical question if this case proceeds and Mueller has evidence that the president, himself, has done something wrong, either initially in connection with Russia or, more importantly now, in connection with these obstruction allegations arising out of his discussions with Jim Comey.

On the other side, it appears that the president is using the same kind of tactic he used in his business which is go with civil litigators, a lot of bluster, a lot of threats. And I don't know that that works really well in a criminal investigation. Certainly in my experience, you want to be more focused on details because the stakes are a lot higher in criminal cases than civil cases.

SAVIDGE: Errol, as we just heard from Laura Jarrett, this team that Mueller has assembled has done everything from Watergate to Enron. That is a broad, broad spectrum here. And I'm wondering what do you think the Republicans are thinking?

LOUIS: Well, they've got to be a little bit concerned because they want this all to be over. They want to pass tax reform. They want to deal with their repeal of Obamacare. They want to get some kind of an infrastructure bill on the books and they want, most of all, prepare for the 2018 elections and they can't do any of those things while all of this hangs over their head. To the extent that you've got this legal dream team that Mueller is

assembling, including somebody who can take this to the Supreme Court if that's where these questions are going to lead, those who are old enough to remember Watergate know that this could end up consuming the remainder of this term and that this Congress that had such high hopes of having unified Republican control and moving some items that they had been hoping to get action on for almost a generation now are watching that sort of get buried under a cascade of press conferences, hearings, investigation and confusion out of the White House.

PAUL: You know, Julian, there is a connection here that some people may notice. "The New York Observer", which is owned by the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner, by the way, wrote this in 2015 about Andrew Weissmann, who is now part of Mueller's team. They said: The Enron Task Force prosecutors ran roughshod over the rights of countless people in their pursuit of convictions rather than justice.

Will that inclusion of Weissmann on this team be -- is it good ammunition, I guess, for the president?

ZELIZER: Well, I think in some ways, I'm sure Mueller is not just putting together a very good team but he is also open to provoking both President Trump and to son-in-law Jared Kushner, who, of course was at the head the observer into those kinds of attacks. I think we are basically seeing repeat, in some ways, ironically of the campaign. On the one side, you have the best and the brightest and the most experienced people. And on the other hand, you have more of a smash- mouth, in-your-face loyal approach to the law, the team representing President Trump.

And the bet is that style will help him not just to get through the legal part of the campaign -- of the scandal investigation, but also to the little part of this. This is being tried in front of Congress not just in the courts. I don't know if that will work, but I think that's the calculation that President Trump is probably making.

SAVIDGE: Maria, how do Democrats keep the Russian probe on the minds of voters and still show or attempt to show that they care about policy, they care about law making?

[07:20:04] Because, of course, those who voted for the president said they were fed up with Congress who doesn't get anything done. Well, nothing is getting anything done and the Democrats do have some responsibility in that.

CARDONA: Well, except for, let's remember who is in control of the House, who is in control of the Senate. And, sure, Democrats will continue to talk about infrastructure, to talk about jobs, to talk about equal pay for equal work, to talk about health care which is incredibly important and --

SAVIDGE: But I haven't heard any of that because we have been consumed with, of course, the focus on the investigation of Russia.

CARDONA: You might -- you might not have heard any of it because it's not headline news. But absolutely if you look at what has been coming out of leader Pelosi's office, of Democratic senator' offices, they are focusing on these kinds of things and speaking out about the fact that the Republican health care bill will kick 23 million people off of their health insurance and that it is one of the least popular bills out there.

That helps the Democrats but, at the same time, you're right, they do need to keep the Russia investigation into the minds of voters. And one of the things that I think is keeping not just this dark cloud over the Trump administration but what I believe is fastly becoming a funnel cloud is the fact that Donald Trump is at a 34 percent approval rating, a record low for a president in this young of his presidency and this short term. Quinnipiac Poll just came out and he was at 34 percent, but importantly more 60 percent of Americans believe he has done something either unethical or illegal.

And so, moving into this investigation that is headed up by Robert Mueller and the fact that there is such a disparate match on the legal teams that he is putting together, plus what is going on in the minds of voters, the president does not look like he is in a very good spot right now and that it only seems to be getting worse.

PAUL: Well, Page and Julian Zelizer, Maria Cardona, Errol Louis, we appreciate your voices so much. Thank you for with being with us.

CARDONA: Thank you so much.

PAUL: Of course. And you can read more about this, of course, on

I want to talk about Senator Dianne Feinstein, too. She's going to be a guest on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper today. That's at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Susan Collins also a guest on that show. So, don't miss "STATE OF THE UNION". Brianna Keilar is in for Jake Tapper. That's today, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

SAVIDGE: Under oath and on the hot seat, Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to testify Tuesday on some of the hot button issues, dodging the White House and the GOP. That's dogging. We'll hear from our prominent voice in Republican politics in just a moment.


[07:27:02] PAUL: Well, President Trump's embattled attorney general plans to testify Tuesday on Capitol Hill now.

SAVIDGE: It's not really clear if Jeff Sessions will testify in public or private before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The appearance means that Sessions is definitely going to be grilled over his alleged contacts with Russians and Moscow's meddling in the presidential election. He could also face questions over the firing of FBI Director James Comey who was investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

PAUL: Now, whether Sessions testified in public or behind closed doors, Democrats on the Senate Intel Committee are sure to turn up the heat and Republicans will undoubtedly be watching to see how Sessions navigates through that potential mine field.

So, joining us now, George Allen, the former Republican governor of Virginia, as well as its former U.S. senator.

Governor, thank you so much for being with us.

GEORGE ALLEN (R), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: Good morning, Christi and Martin.

PAUL: Good morning.

SAVIDGE: Good morning.

PAUL: Another week, and this other potential blockbuster hearing we are hearing about. Your reaction, first of all, to the fact that Sessions has offered up himself to the Senate Intel Committee on Tuesday?

ALLEN: Well, I know Jeff Sessions. I served with him and I think he's a man of integrity and I have confidence that he will be forthright in answering whatever questions they may have.

This probe, obviously, you have Robert Mueller having his own special counsel crew. I actually think that this probe is focused originally and, as you call it, a fishing expedition, on the Russian involvement. And that's something all of us are concerned with.

The Comey hearing showed and he indicated that this wasn't the first time the Russians have tried to influence elections here. We know they have done it in France. They have done elsewhere around the country. But this fishing expedition for this invasive Russian snakehead fish which is snakeheads are around here in the Potomac, now they've realized, I think, from the Comey testimony that the big blue marlin, the whale, the president really isn't involved in any obstruction of justice and -- or collusion with the Russians.

So, now, they're off on a fishing expedition maybe to try to catch a catfish or something. But they ought to stay focused on the Russian invasive snakehead fish.

PAUL: Well, there are a lot of people who wonder why the president doesn't seem more concerned about Russia's interference. What do you say to that?

ALLEN: Well, I think --

PAUL: Are you concerned about that as well? Do you get that same feeling?

ALLEN: Well, Christi, I very much want Americans to have integrity in our elections. We, the people, in our states, are the ones who ought to determine who our public servants are. I don't like foreign intervention. It's against -- heck, it's against the law.

I think the president is concerned about it, but I think the president's main focus is on keeping his promises he made to the American people and that is jobs and getting our country more competitive. Just last week, he was talking about permitting reform. He has done a great job of on a lot of regulatory reform issues. He's focused on infrastructure. He'd like to get our tax code, which is the worst in the world, the highest taxes on incorporated businesses to be better than average, at 15 percent.

[07:30:06] And I think you see a lot of optimism, for example, amongst manufacturers that this president is going to deliver. Now, the members of Congress need to act too. I heard you talking with Maria earlier. Look, the Republicans have a man advantage. We are in the last parts of the Stanley Cup playoffs. We've got a man advantage.

The House, Senate, the president, stop passing the puck behind the net, let's get some shots on goal. Let's see some action --


ALLEN: -- to get this country moving in the right direction and that's be the Congress's focus should be and I know the administration's focus as well.

PAUL: Republicans certainly have remained united, it seems, behind President Trump, but there are some cracks we are seeing. Let's listen to a former GOP congressman right now.


BOB INGLIS (R), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: I think that the reality is that any president should know that you don't try to lean on the top law enforcement officer of the United States and when he doesn't give you what you want, you don't fire him. I mean, that's -- just imagine if the shoe were on the other foot. If Hillary Clinton had won, Comey reopened the investigation as to her e-mail server and she didn't like the way that Comey was going so she fired him. I'm quite certain that at that point, my party would rightly be howling. We'd be saying we got to get to the bottom of this.


PAUL: Governor, do you agree if the tables were turned, where would you stand on that issue?

ALLEN: I think that's a good question. I think that before these hearings, actually Democrat and Republicans are criticizing Director Comey. And Indeed, I think the logic of the attorney general and the president is best expressed by the Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein which was a brief on why he should be removed. And this has had nothing to do with the Russian investigation and a lot of other issues in there.

The Russia investigation, as far as president is concerned, and, indeed, former Director Comey's indication was is that he wasn't obstructed and there wasn't collusion. President Trump was not a part of the investigation.

PAUL: But if the tables were turned, do you believe you would think the same thing?

ALLEN: If the tables were turned -- well, I think if the tables -- if Republicans, prior to an election were criticizing Comey and then the president, a Democrat president, say it was Hillary Clinton, fired Comey, no one would really be surprised. I do think out of this testimony, the tables may be turned and a former attorney general, Loretta Lynch, might have to have questioning to why she was asking Director Comey to call an investigation a matter.

So, if you want to talk about collusion or playing politics with the FBI, I think the Obama administration may have some questions to be answered as well.

PAUL: Let's listen here to Senator Claire McCaskill together here. She was challenging Senator Orrin Hatch during a Senate Finance Committee hearing, and accusing the GOP of being too partisan on the American Health Care Act.


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: When you say that you're inviting us -- and I heard you, Mr. Secretary, just say we would love your support, for what? We don't even know. We have no idea what's being proposed.

There is a group of guys in the back room somewhere that are making these decisions. This is hard to take, because I know we made mistakes on the Affordable Health Care Act, Mr. Secretary. And one of the criticisms we got over and over again that the vote was partisan. Well, you couldn't have a more partisan exercise than what you're engaged right now.


PAUL: Are the Dems being shut out of the ACHA decision-making?

ALLEN: What was the beginning of the question, Christi?

PAUL: Are the Democrats being shut out? Is the Republican health care plan that they are crafting, is it too partisan?

ALLEN: I would hope not. It would be great to get some Democratic support on it. I do see possibilities for Democratic support on infrastructure, workforce training, and also tax reform.

The -- on this issue, what the Republicans stand, I suppose if you're trying to figure it out, is what they passed in the House of Representatives. And I do think it's important to the extent they can get any Democrat to support ideas that give more competition, more choice for people in health care, I think association ought to be able to provide insurance. People band together in a larger group so you have, you know, economies to scale and more negotiating with insurance companies.

PAUL: So, you -- ALLEN: I think the Republicans ought to look what Senator McCaskill

said is, all right, here's what we're doing, what can you go along with in these ideas? And maybe she will, maybe she won't. But I guarantee you, Leader McConnell would like to get as many votes as he can. It does only take a majority, but to the extent you can make a bipartisan, it's more likely for it to last.

[07:35:05] PAUL: Uh-huh, uh-huh. Well, former Senator George Allen, we appreciate you being here. Thank you so much.

ALLEN: Great to be with you all.

PAUL: Absolutely. Take good care.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: We know the news in eastern Afghanistan. Three U.S. soldiers have been killed in what appears to be a so-called insider attack. A U.S. official tells CNN that a member of the Afghan military is believed to have carried out the shooting rampage during a joint military operation. The fourth U.S. soldier is wounded.

The Taliban is claiming responsibility, saying that a militant infiltrated the government troops with the sole purpose of killing Americans.

PAUL: Well, the defense takes over this week in the Bill Cosby trial. Should they put Cosby on the stand to tell his story?


SAVIDGE: Just a few minutes ago, we got the Republican perspective on the various crises that are hanging over the Trump White House.

So, let's go back to our panel now.

[07:40:00] Errol Lewis, I kept saying that. It's Errol Louis. Sorry.

PAUL: It's all good. It's all good.

SAVIDGE: He is our CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, and Maria Cardona who is also a CNN political commentator, as well as a Democratic strategist.

Were you able to hear the previous interview?



SAVIDGE: All right. I just want to make sure that from the base point.

Maria, let me start with you. We get very different opinions, depending on, of course, the politics involved here.

CARDONA: Sure. SAVIDGE: So, in the last interview, it was the belief that the

attorney general speaking or coming before this committee as he is going to do, is a good thing, is a right thing, and he is a just man and he will say the right things. But a lot of other people are looking at this and saying, boy, this is really walking a political tightrope here.

CARDONA: Yes. I actually do believe it is walking a political tightrope here because, as we discussed earlier, Jeff Sessions is going to open himself up to some very aggressive questioning, at least from the Democrats but I hope also from the Republicans, because of his past behavior. During his confirmation hearing, he perjured himself because he lied about meetings that he had had with ambassador/spy Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. And now, according to Jim Comey's testimony last week, there's even a third meeting that he may have had that he never disclosed.

So, those certainly will be issues that will be up on the docket in terms of questioning and with all due respect to Governor Allen, he clearly received the Republican talking points which want to say that Comey's testimony vindicated Trump when, in fact, is completely the opposite because it points to a perhaps investigation on obstruction of justice that Robert Mueller will now embark on.

SAVIDGE: Well, and this gets to this kind of divide, because I spent a lot of time talking to Republicans. Not those who are politicians, but those in America. They do see that the president was vindicated by Comey's testimony. They do have a completely different viewpoint here. And they believe that a lot of this is just Democrats unhappy with the outcome of the election that are continuing to pursue against the president here and the nation is suffering.

So, Errol, the only thing that really matters, guess eventually is what Mueller finds and what he determines, and rest of this right now is just back and forth.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes and no. Martin, I mean, to the extent that the committees still have to meet and they have to probe through all of this information, they have to assign staff to it and so forth, Congress is being slowed down. To blame it on Democrats -- I mean, look, Democrats are not the one who gave inconsistent and misleading testimony, who failed to fill out their forms properly.

CARDONA: Exactly.

LOUIS: It wasn't Democrats who made the president order that strange meeting in the White House, residents with James Comey or anything else. So, you know, to the extent that they have to lay the blame somewhere, they might well go to the White House and lay the blame there. On the other hand, you know, you have a question of what actually happened.

I mean, we don't want to lose the truth in all of this partisanship. You know, Senator Allen is a great partisan. He certainly did recite the talking points, but the reality is we do need to know what happened, whether or not Kislyak successfully, you know, colluded or corrupted members of the inner circle is interesting, but what the Russians have been up to all along is the real question, and that has to get dealt with before we can get back to the nation's business.

SAVIDGE: Right. That has been pointed out even by Comey himself in his testimony saying, hey, don't lose focus here. The problem is the Russians and what they are trying to do in changing our democracy.

CARDONA: And that's what -- and that's what actually seems unfortunately President Trump has absolutely no interest in finding out. His questions to Comey were all about him, him, him, whether he was under investigation. He doesn't care about the Russia probe which is dangerous to the country.

SAVIDGE: Or he maybe trying to deal with the fire that's immediately burning in his front yard.

Maria Cardona, thank you very much. Errol Louis, thank you very much as well.

CARDONA: Thank you.

LOUIS: Thanks.

PAUL: Well, the defense is taking over this week in the Bill Cosby trial after the prosecution, of course, rests. Wait until you hear what Attorney Page Pate thinks Bill Cosby has to do.

SAVIDGE: Plus, Puerto Rico decides today whether they want to be an independent state. What the vote might mean for its citizens. That's just ahead.


[07:48:57] PAUL: Starting tomorrow, the defense takes over to present its case in the Bill Cosby trial.

Now, the prosecution rested Friday after a week of testimony from a dozen witnesses and one of them was the prosecution star witness Cosby's accuser. The courtroom, it stood still it was described, as they heard Andrea Constand testified of being dragged and assaulted by the world famous comedian.

So, how will the defense respond this week?

CNN legal analyst Page Pate with us, a constitutional attorney as well.

The big question everybody wants to know is, will Bill Cosby take the stand? They have said he won't.


PAUL: You think -- I've always heard: don't put the defendant on the stand.

PATE: Well, most of the time, that's the best decision. You don't want to put him up on on the stand if he is going to be subject to cross-examination and he certainly will. He could make a mistake. He could be crossed on a particularly touchy issue, something he said before and in this case, we have a prior deposition.

But this is a different case. In a sexual assault type case, the jury wants to hear from the defendant. They want to hear his version of what happened. You cannot have a he said/she said if he never says anything.

[07:50:01] PAUL: So, if he gets on the stand, do you not risk him being emotional? I mean, every interview that he's done, which has been few and far between on this, he has been quite defiant.

PATE: Yes.

PAUL: Is there an arrogance there? Is there something risky for him getting on the stand?

PATE: You know, as long as he's being honest, as long as it comes across to the jury that this is what he really believes, that this is something he's passionate about, the jury is not going to blame him for being upset, for being emotional. Obviously, the testimony that the prosecution put in is very riveting, very emotional. Obviously, you have somebody who claims they're a victim of sexual assault.

And so, for somebody to be accused of that, you expect a little pushback. You expect a little bit of, I didn't do that and let me tell you what really happened. So, I don't think overall, it will hurt him to testify. I think he needs to.

PAUL: Do you think he can be absolved of this, without testifying?

PATE: It's going to be very difficult. When you have a celebrity, juries tend to want to give them a little more credibility than a regular defendant. They're used to hearing Bill Cosby talk. They've seen him on TV.

PAUL: And he has a persona.

PATE: He absolutely does.

PAUL: He has a celebrity persona that is very fun and honest.

PATE: Yes -- you like him.

PAUL: You like him, he's very likeable.

PATE: Don't leave that in the chair. That is your best asset as a defense attorney in a case like this. Put your client up, let the jury hear from him because in a case like this, you don't have to convince all of them. If you can convince one person on that jury that Bill Cosby did not do what he say he did, you can have a hung jury, and back up, try it again. And eventually, with a man this age, the prosecution will just give up.

PAUL: Can you put him on the stand, though, now that you've already said you wouldn't?

PATE: Yes, you can.

PAUL: How do you explain that?

PATE: Well, the defendant always has a right to testify. I have no idea why his lawyers said before the trial they're not going to put him up. That made no sense to me. No strategy behind that.

But the judge will always say that the person has a right to testify. And if you want to bring that out during his testimony, he can say, look, I listened to my lawyers, they said one thing, but I think it's important, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that you hear my side of my story. So, he can certainly do it.

PAUL: We will be watching. Page Pate, always appreciate your expertise.

PATE: Thank you.

PAUL: Thank you, sir.


SAVIDGE: In Puerto Rico, they are headed to the polls today to vote on whether or not the U.S. territory wants to become the 51st state. Statehood already won in the last referendum that was held in 2012. It went nowhere. And another vote in favor of statehood this time would likely face a very tough battle in Congress, because the island is facing serious economic problems, it's billions of dollars in debt and also battling high poverty rates and struggling with entitlement programs.

Whether or not Puerto Rico should become a state is what is part of the next episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" as the program visits a very misunderstood part of our country to try and shed a little light on the struggles of the small island. That will be tonight at 10:00 Eastern.


W. KAMAU BELL, 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 FEMALE: Independence hasn't worked, not because we haven't tried, but because we've been so repressed.

BELL: Puerto Ricans can't vote for the president.


BELL: That doesn't make sense, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That doesn't make.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Barack Obama were to move to Puerto Rico, he'd lose his right to cast an absentee ballot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the business front, we are limited in our growth. Even the poorer states still have an 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.



[07:58:14] PAUL: In this week's "PARTS UNKNOWN", Anthony Bourdain takes us to a country in the Indian Ocean that he says is one of the friendliest places he's ever been.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN, PARTS UNKNOWN: A uniquely fascinating country. You probably can't find it on the map. It has incredible beaches, mountains, pristine desert. It practices a tolerant, nonsectarian form of Islam.

One of the most beautiful, most friendly, generous, hospitable places I've ever been. Talking about Oman.


SAVIDGE: To see more, tune in to "PARTS UNKNOWN". That will be tonight, 9:00 Eastern Time on CNN, and it does look fascinating.

PAUL: Oh, my gosh, the cinematography, I mean, the pictures that they come back back there.

SAVIDGE: They all are (INAUDIBLE). They really, really are.

PAUL: They really are stunning.

Well, we are so grateful that you spend part of your morning with us. So, thank you, and we hope you make some good memories today.

SAVIDGE: "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts I think right about now. Have a wonderful day.