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"Washington Post": Mueller Investigating Trump For Possible Obstruction Of Justice; Trump Calls Obstruction Probe "Phony," A "Witch Hunt"; Congressional Ball Game Goes On Despite Attack. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired June 15, 2017 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] REP. ROGER WILLIAMS (R), TEXAS: We said, yes, we have to play this game. And we have to play this game because if we don't, then we let those that want to harm our way of life in this country, they win. So we've got to play this game.

And like I said, America never gives in. America never gives out. If you punch at us, we punch you back. And we will punch back tonight.

We hope to have 50,000 people in that stadium tonight watching this baseball game, and it all goes to charity. Hopefully, it raise over a million dollars. So this is a night we have to play this baseball game in America. And I'm glad, and I know Zach is, to be a part of this.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The American game on a very big night for this country to show its resolve and its unity.

They can google at home. If you're watching right now, you can google, "congressional baseball charity game." You'll see the links where you can go and donate tonight. Hopefully, you raise more money than ever.

But I got to tell you, do you think you can win, Congressman -- they say that Zach is a ringer -- if he's not going to play tonight? Can you play despite the wounds, Zach? Are you willing to be like the Willis Reed of this congressman baseball team and go out there, despite injury, at least for more moral support?

ZACH BARTH, CONGRESSIONAL AIDE SHOT IN AMBUSH: Well, you know, I'm not a player on the team. I help the team out. But I will absolutely be there. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

CUOMO: So you'll be there. Congressman, you'll be there.

WILLIAMS: I'll be coaching.

CUOMO: You'll be playing in honor of Congressman Steve Scalise. Of course, he's still fighting his own fight in the hospital.

WILLIAMS: Right. Well, the game is being played in his honor. I'll be coaching third base. I may have some crutches, but that's OK. And we're going to play this ball game, and it's going to be a great time. And I think it's going to be a historical moment for this country. CUOMO: Crutches from what? When you dived into the dugout, did you

--

WILLIAMS: No, when I --

CUOMO: Are you OK?

WILLIAMS: Well, when I dove into the dugout, I created a leg injury and ankle injury that I've got a boot on right now. I'll go back to Texas in the next couple days and get it fixed, but I'll be on my crutches, coaching third base.

And that's a message to the Democrats. If they come around too far, I may use my crutches to slow them down a little bit.

CUOMO: Well, I think that -- you know what? That's OK. Just do it in the spirit of unity. Maybe say something nice when you trip them as they're rounding third base, and then I think it's OK.

WILLIAMS: Well, it's going to be a great night for America and everybody. If they can't be there watching, I think C-Span is going to televise it.

CUOMO: Beautiful.

WILLIAMS: So it'll be a good thing to watch.

CUOMO: Zach, I got to tell you, thank God for the recovery and your ability to make it to that dugout. Whatever protected you in addition to those officers, I hope it restores your faith in the same.

Congressman Williams, thank you. Good luck tonight. I hope you raise more money than ever. And you're always welcome on NEW DAY to talk about what matters.

WILLIAMS: Thanks a lot. God bless.

BARTH: Thank you. Appreciate it.

CUOMO: Gentlemen, be well.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So every guest we've had echoes those statements this morning, that everybody wants healing and that this is an important moment. Maybe even a historical moment on Capitol Hill, as they have said.

And so that's where we find our colleagues, Poppy Harlow and John Berman. They are live in Washington for this all-important day. Great to see you both, and take it away.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good to see you both. It is a beautiful morning here in Washington, and we feel this nation coming together and certainly here at the United States capitol. We're glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. As Poppy said, we're live in Washington, a city shaken but resolute after the horrifying attack on Republican lawmakers during a baseball practice.

All right. This morning, Congressman Steve Scalise is in critical condition. Doctors say a single rifle shot tore through internal organs and he now faces more surgeries.

We're also learning more about the man who shot Scalise and three others. His Facebook postings show signs of severe criticism, harsh rhetoric about conservatives.

HARLOW: Despite the attack, the baseball game will go on. Lawmakers from both parties will play tonight in that annual charity game, a certain show of unity in the nation's capital.

Also this morning, a major new development in the Russia investigation. "The Washington Post" is reporting that the Special Counsel, Bob Mueller, has started investigating President Trump for potential obstruction of justice. And this morning, the President fires back with what appears to be an attack on the Special Counsel himself.

We are covering all of this. A lot to get to this morning. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Alex Marquardt in Alexandria, Virginia.

Good morning, Alex.

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. That's right, the FBI is now ramping up their investigation. They are leading it with support from other agencies as well as local law enforcement there, calling on the public to come forward with any information they have on the attacker, James Hodgkinson.

Meanwhile, President Trump and first lady, Melania Trump, visited the hospital last night where Congressman Scalise is.

So I just want to give you a sense of how the victims are doing after yesterday's attack. There were four people who were shot by Hodgkinson. The person in the most serious situation is Congressman Scalise.

[09:05:01] He is in critical condition in the hospital. The hospital putting out a statement earlier saying that the bullet traveled across his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs, and causing severe bleeding. He has received multiple units of blood transfusion. His condition is critical, and he will require additional operations.

In addition to Congressman Scalise, there's also lobbyist Matt Mika, who is also in critical condition at the hospital. There's Capitol Police Officer Crystal Griner who was shot in the ankle. She's also in the hospital but we're told she is in good condition.

And then finally, Zack Barth, a congressional staffer who was shot in the leg and then released. He spoke just moments ago to "NEW DAY." Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARTH: I felt a sharp, burning pain in my leg, looked down, I'd been hit. And at that point, adrenaline was pumping through me, and my fight or flight reflexes took over. And I decided, if I wanted to live, I needed to get better cover.

So I sprinted down. I literally ran for my life and jumped into the dugout, into Congressman Williams arms. And, you know, from there, you know, I was injured but the more important thing was staying alive, keeping my head down, and keeping everybody else's head down.

And, you know, thank the Lord for, you know, Officers Bailey and Griner. Without them, I might not be talking to you all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: And we are learning more, as you said, about the attacker, James Hodgkinson from Belleville, Illinois, 66 years old. But he actually came here back in March, here to Alexandria, Virginia. He was living out of that white van that the authorities then found next to the scene of the attack yesterday.

He had joined the local YMCA, which is right here behind me across that ball field. We're told that he went there to use the facilities. He used his laptop there. He went there to shower because, as I mentioned, he was living in his van. And he was seen there yesterday morning at 5:30, just 90 minutes before that horrific attack -- John, Poppy.

BERMAN: All right. Alex Marquardt in Alexandria this morning. As Alex reported, four people were shot, another injured.

I want to tell you a little bit more about Matt Mika. He is in the ICU this morning after suffering multiple gunshot wounds.

HARLOW: He is a government relations lead for Tyson Foods, a former congressional staffer who was serving as a coach for the GOP team. His family calls him "fun-loving" and "competitive" and "loyal." As for his friends, well, they say it's no surprise that he was on a baseball field at the crack of dawn. In fact, they say he's the type that would bring the coffee and the bagels.

Of course, our thoughts with him, all the victims, their families as well, this morning. We do want to learn more, too, about what could have motivated this shooter, so let's go to Ryan Young. He is outside of Hodgkinson's home in Belleville, Illinois. What are you hearing?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, I can tell you, if look behind me, that is the house there. We've seen some activity there this morning. Not sure if it's a neighbor or maybe the wife who's walking around the outside of the home.

We did see ATF and FBI agents here most of the evening, in fact well into almost midnight last night, as they continue to pull evidence from that house. Not sure what they're able to gather.

I can tell you really, there is a lot of shock here from neighbors in terms of what actually happened. One neighbor next door said he had to go on the Internet to make sure the picture matched with the friend that he had known for several years.

So they used to have conversations, not only about snow or just about maintenance of the house. He was shocked that this would happen. He said he did see Bernie Sanders' signs in front of the house, but they never talked politics.

To give you an idea, we're about a half hour outside of St. Louis. We're surrounded by corn fields. So when people were talking about this yesterday, they were quite shocked that someone from this area could go to D.C. and be involved in a shooting just like this.

We did talk to the sheriff as well. He said, just this March, someone called 911 complaining about gunshots in the area. When they arrived here to the home, that he was in the backyard shooting what looked like a gear rifle. That's not illegal here.

That gun was not taken away from him. They did have a conversation and let him know that people in the neighborhood were concerned about that. But outside of that, that was the only indication the sheriff had of any dealings with him in the recent future.

BERMAN: All right. Ryan Young for us in Belleville, Illinois. Thanks so much, Ryan.

There will be a baseball game tonight at the Nationals' ballpark. Democrats versus the Republicans, the game goes on. It is all for charity.

Joining us now is a member of the Democratic team and a member of the Democratic leadership, Congressman Joe Crowley from New York. Thanks so much for being with us, Joe.

REP. JOE CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK: Hey, John. Good to see you, Poppy.

BERMAN: So you had the Republican team over last night to the Democratic Club here in Washington to break bread and hopefully, maybe to have some drinks as well. What was that like?

CROWLEY: Well, it was nice. Joe Barton and his two sons were there last night. I left a little early. I'm told others came later on. My good friend, Rodney Davis, had already scheduled a dinner for his colleagues at a different restaurant, so they were trying to get there later.

But it was nice to have that feel of at least that welcoming. And, you know, hearing the attempt to say that this attack, although against Steve and against the Republicans, it was an attack on all of us.

[09:10:01] HARLOW: Yes.

CROWLEY: We all felt very violated by this.

HARLOW: Which you saw Paul Ryan say so eloquently in his remarks on the floor yesterday and then a standing ovation from everyone that was there.

CROWLEY: Yes.

HARLOW: Tonight is a big night for this country, for this city, for the U.S. Congress. The game, you are playing in it tonight?

CROWLEY: Well, I'll be there.

HARLOW: You'll be there --

CROWLEY: I don't think I'm playing, but I'm going to be there.

HARLOW: OK. You'll be there.

CROWLEY: I'll be in uniform.

HARLOW: What does it mean?

CROWLEY: It means everything. I mean, it's the past time of our country. It's the rite of spring, for not only the country but for us as well.

It's over a 100-year tradition of doing this. It's baked into who we are here in Washington in many respects. And it's for charity. It is all for a good cause.

It's very competitive. We want to win. They want to win. But at the end of the game, we're slapping each other's backs. We're having a hot dog and a beer afterwards, and that's what it should be about.

BERMAN: So there is a lot of discussion now about the overall tone in Washington and the political tone around the country. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, he thinks it is partially responsible for what happened yesterday. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: It's part of a pattern, as you saw the one sign this guy was holding. You've had an increasing intensity of hostility on the left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So is that a fair comment, Congressman?

CROWLEY: I think many would look back to, you know, his leadership as the predicate to the change that's taken place here back in the '90s, some of the changes overall. So I don't want to blame the left or the right.

You know, political discussion is good. We need to have this. We're a family here, though. We don't always get along, like any family. We have severe differences.

But at the same time, we're here to do the people's business. And to cast aspersions or blame on one side or the other, is that what happened with Gabby Giffords? Is that what happened to the death threats against Democratic colleagues?

Both sides get those threats. What we need to do is report them and have the law enforcement do what they need to do to protect us and protect the public.

HARLOW: You know the world now know the kind of language that the shooter used on social media to describe Republicans and to describe the President. And the rhetoric among you and your colleagues has been heightened to say the least over this election cycle. Some of the words that you've used, you talked about the President's policies being unforgivable. You believe that the President is personally attacking your constituency.

Violence is violence. That is separate. That is inexcusable.

CROWLEY: Right.

HARLOW: Is this a moment to rethink rhetoric?

CROWLEY: I think much of that tone is set by the President himself and the actions that he's taken. Not just the United States, the entire world is unsettled. This is not a time for us to be making more man-made stress and tension. We should be trying to find compromise.

My constituency does feel under duress right now by the President's actions. And, so, what I'm speaking of is about his policies and trying to move them towards a better policy towards my constituents.

BERMAN: You agree there is a difference, though, in Washington between calling someone wrong, if that's what you believe, and calling someone bad.

CROWLEY: Oh, there is no question about it. I am not attacking the person of the President. I am attacking the policies that he's standing for and what he's saying and the actions that he's taking. Never to the point of violence. Never.

As Mr. Sanders said yesterday, Bernie Sanders, Senator Sanders said, you know, he rejects this. We all reject this, whether it's from the right, the left, or any political persuasion.

That's what this building is about. It's not about violence. It's about putting an end to Civil War and violence. People with different opinions and policies come here to work out those differences and to put aside weapons and violence.

BERMAN: Congressman Joe Crowley, I expect we'll hear you cheering from the bench tonight. Enjoy the day.

CROWLEY: I will. I'll be in the bench and I'll be helping my colleagues on both sides.

BERMAN: All right, Congressman.

HARLOW: Keep the bench warm. Thank you very much. This morning, the President is lashing out at Special Counsel Bob

Mueller after "The Washington Post" reports that Mueller is investigating the President for potential obstruction of justice.

BERMAN: We're on top of all the breaking developments on that and the shooting at the Republican baseball practice. We are live on Capitol Hill. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:18:03]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. New this morning, a major development in the Russia investigation. President Trump now squarely in the sights of Special Counsel Bob Mueller. The "Washington Post" reports that Mueller is now investigating the president for possible obstruction of justice.

This comes as CNN has learned that Mueller will interview several top intelligence officials this week as part of the probe, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So last week you remember both men, Coats and Rogers, denied to the Senate Intelligence Committee that they were pressured by the president to intervene in the FBI probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the election.

And the president this morning is taking to Twitter saying they made up a phony collusion with the Russia story, found zero proof. So now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story, night.

He also tweeted this, "You are witnessing the single greatest witch hunt in American political history led by some very bad and conflicted people," appear to go after Mueller directly there, "make America great again."

Let's discuss, CNN White House correspondent, Athena Jones, has more and Laura Coates, our legal analyst and former federal prosecutor is here. So Athena, any more from the White House on why the president is taking this approach this morning?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi. No word on why the president is tweeting, but it is not surprising to see him do so. I mean, this is not the kind of headline the president wanted to wake up to or I should say go to bed too. This story breaking last night while he was incidentally celebrating his birthday.

But let's just remind our viewers that this whole question of obstruction of justice, Trump's own words and actions helped lead to this question. Take a listen to him talking to NBC about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and what Comey had to say about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: There is no doubt that it's a fair judgment, it is my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[09:20:00]JONES: So again Comey there responding to the president's own words and his impression and this is not even to mention this other conversation that Comey says he had with the president where the president, he says, asked him to let the investigation into his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn Go.

That's a whole other separate issue of potential obstruction of justice. In response to this "Washington Post" report, the president's lawyer through a spokesperson said that the FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.

Notice he is not denying there that the president is under investigation. And one more thing I should note, that that statement from the president's lawyer and those tweets from the president are very much in line with the talking points we're seeing from the Republican National Committee. So everyone is on the same page there focusing on leaks and the idea that this is a phony story.

BERMAN: Yes. The Republican National Committee not calling the special counsel, though, bad.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: The president very specifically said the investigations is being led by very bad people, which is interesting, especially given the climate here now.

Laura Coates, let me ask you something. The "Washington Post" reports the president is under investigation for obstruction of justice. CNN's reporting (inaudible) saying that the special counsel is looking into this and wants to talk to the DNI Dan Coats and Admiral Mike Rogers. If he wants to talk to them to find out what happened, did that mean the president is under investigation?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Not in of itself. You would think these two individuals would be people you would go to in a counter intelligence probe. Remember that is the source of this entire collusion with Russia, the counter intelligence probe by the criminal investigation units here.

So talking to people who oversee foreign intelligence and national security, that would be the natural next steps but it harkens back the testimony not only of Comey, but of those two men, Coats and Rogers, who led them to believe that perhaps there may have been conversations that made them feel uncomfortable.

Although they said they did not feel pressured, you do have a memo according to the "Washington Post" that was written by I think one of the deputies of Admiral Rogers talking about a conversation between the president and himself about these issues.

So you've got this underlying done, underlying current of this counter intelligence investigation, but remember, as Athena said, this is not really an offensive attack in terms of the obstruction charge.

It is one to defend the integrity and longevity of the investigation. In the president's own statements, his own words has catapulted him into and under the magnifying glass of Mueller.

HARLOW: Very quickly let's listen to that sound from the testimony just a week from Rogers and Coats. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I am not prepared to answer your question today.

ADMIRAL MIKE ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: I'm not going to discuss the specifics of conversations with the president of United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: All right. So they wouldn't answer that question, a number of questions. It is they, Laura, and also the former deputy at the NSA who wrote that memo who Mueller wants to talk to.

COATES: Right.

HARLOW: Given all of this, executive -- executive privilege cannot be asserted here, right, because of the law passed after Watergate. That if it would impede an investigation, it cannot be asserted, is that correct?

COATES: Right. You know, to a -- first of all the president has not asserted the privilege and he is the one who have the right to do so. Even if he tried to do so, his attempts would fail. If there is criminal wrongdoing at the heart of the investigation, you cannot use the privilege to try to exclude or refuse to provide evidence.

But as you saw from Jeff Sessions' testimony, people will continue to attempt to try to get the benefit of the privilege without actually asserting it by saying I want to give the president an opportunity now having heard the questions you want answered to see whether he'd like to assert it, even if it has no teeth. It's all for naught.

BERMAN: Look, they could try and it can go to court. It's just they're not likely to win. Athena Jones, Laura Coates, thanks so much.

Hours from now in this city, more than just a baseball game. Tonight, a show of unity between Democrats and Republicans. Our Boris Sanchez at National Park -- Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John and Poppy. Yes. The symbolism of this game is not something to be missed especially after a day like yesterday. We'll preview the game and just what it means for this country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:28:32]

HARLOW: All right. We have just learned that Vice President Mike Pence is at Medstar Hospital this morning. That is where Representative Steve Scalise continues to be treated for the injuries he sustained in that shooting yesterday. We'll bring you more as soon as we have it.

Also play ball, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have declared their annual charity ball game will go on tonight as scheduled.

BERMAN: There will be extra security at the game and the Fallen Officers Fund has been added to the roster of charities that will benefit from the game. CNN's Boris Sanchez at one of the great new parks in the whole country, Nationals Park here in Washington. Hey, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Hey, good morning, John and Poppy. Yes, this game is a tradition that dates back to 1909. It is a very special game in part because it brings together two sides that often don't see eye to eye on a lot of things and it forces them to join together and have fun all for a good cause.

You mentioned one of the charities that is going to be benefiting from the game tonight is the Fallen Officers Fund. It provides supports for the families of those law enforcement officers who lose their lives in the line of duty.

All of that happening as we are still waiting for an update on the condition of David Bailey and Crystal Griner. They are the Capitol police officers that responded to yesterday's shooting.

They were questions yesterday as to whether or not this game would even be played, but then House Speaker Paul Ryan came out and said that it is what Steve Scalise would have wanted.

Unfortunately, the House whip will not be here for the game, but there is hope that he will be watching from his hospital room.