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STATE OF THE UNION
Congress Comes Together After Shooting; Interview With Florida Senator Marco Rubio; Interview With Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; Interview With Jay Sekulow; Republicans' Secret Health Care Bill; Presidential Birthdays In This Week's "State of the Cartoonion". Aired 9-10a ET
Aired June 18, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Oval Office obstruction? President Trump says he's now being investigated in what he calls a witch-hunt, as he and the vice president lawyer up. Did he attempt obstruction of justice? We will talk with one of the president's lawyers next.
And bipartisan ball game. Congress comes together after a gunman targets Republicans.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My dear friend Steve Scalise took a bullet for all of us.
TAPPER: Did the shooter, a Bernie Sanders supporter, have a hit list?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I am sickened by this despicable act.
TAPPER: Senator Bernie Sanders will be here live.
Plus, Senate shutdown? Democrats threaten to grind government to a halt unless Republicans share their secret health care bill.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: We have no idea what's being proposed. There's a group of guys in a backroom somewhere.
TAPPER: Will there be a public hearing soon? And the best political minds will be here with insights on what happens next.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is on retreat.
President Trump awoke this morning at Camp David for the first time ever. He's spending father's day there with his son, Barron, and first lady Melania Trump, who posed this -- posted this photo with the caption "#family #sport #weekend." The president has been on Twitter, too, posting defiantly this morning: "The make America great agenda is doing very well, despite the distraction of the witch-hunt. Many new jobs. High Business enthusiasm."
The witch-hunt to which the president is referring, of course, the law enforcement and congressional investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. election and possible collusion by members of the Trump team.
The law enforcement probe of this expanded this, week with new lawyers joining the team of Robert Mueller, the special counsel.
In another tweet this week, the president seemed to confirm reports that Mueller is now also investigating Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
TAPPER: Joining me from Miami is Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida senator.
Senator, thanks so much for being here, and Happy Father's Day to you.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: And to you.
And to everyone watching, all the fathers, Happy Father's Day.
TAPPER: So, let me ask you.
President Trump took to Twitter this week to lash out at Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Let me read you one of the tweets -- quote -- "You are witnessing the single greatest witch-hunt in American political history led by some very bad and conflicting people. #MakeAmericaGreatAgain."
Some of your Senate colleagues, as you know, are concerned that President Trump is preparing to fire Mueller or Mueller and Rosenstein. How would you react if he did?
RUBIO: Well, first of all, that's not going to happen. I don't believe it's going to happen.
And here's what I would say. The best thing that could happen for the president and the country is a full and credible investigation. I really, truly believe that. If we want to put all this behind us, let's find out what happened, let's put it out there, and let's not undermine the credibility of the investigation.
And so my view on it is, that's the best thing that could happen for the president and for the country, and I believe ultimately that's what will happen, irrespective of all the other stuff that's going on out there.
TAPPER: Would you have predicted that he was going to fire Comey? I wouldn't have.
RUBIO: Well, I don't think we saw that coming, but I don't think that has in any way impeded the work of the FBI on these matters.
In fact, I know it hasn't. And they've testified so publicly as well. And it hasn't impeded the work of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
So, you know, what -- this is -- these investigations continue to move forward. They're broad. They're about everything. And its core, the Senate's work is about Russian interference and how they did it, and if it involved working with Americans, whether wittingly or unwittingly, that needs to be part of it.
But, again, I think everyone should wait for the report to come out, and we continue to make progress in that direction.
TAPPER: Do you have any questions about the integrity of Mueller or the way he's conducting the investigation?
RUBIO: No, I have no reason to. His reputation is stellar, as everyone has said. And I believe he's going to conduct a full and fair and thorough investigation that we should have confidence in.
And I'll continue to believe that, based on his reputation and years of service to our country, unless there's any evidence to the contrary.
TAPPER: You said that the investigation is making progress. Do you have any idea when it might be concluded?
RUBIO: Well, hopefully soon. I think -- I can't really speculate about the time frame. That's up to the chairman and the vice chairman on the -- you know, the time frame of it.
But there's a lot to work with here. There's a lot to do. And, hopefully, we'll begin to pivot back and focus on the core issue before the United States Intelligence Committee, which is how and -- how did the Russians interfere in our election, what methods did they use?
And it's important for the American people to know that, because we're going to have elections all the time in this country. We're going to have them in off-year this fall. We're going to have them next year for Congress and throughout the country for governors and statewide races in places like Florida.
And -- and so people need to know this. The best antiseptic to these interference efforts is to know exactly how they're conducted, so that we can be prepared to -- not just to prevent it, but to react.
TAPPER: You spent time with President Trump on Friday just hours after he lashed out at the people leading the Russia investigation.
Did the president have anything to say when you were there with him about Mueller, Rosenstein, or the Russia investigation when you saw him?
RUBIO: No, nothing that he hasn't already said in public, and he said it to a big group.
And it's the same thing he has said over and over again, is, "I had nothing to do with this," just the same stuff you've seen him say on Twitter. It wasn't the core of our conversation.
But it was the same thing he has said on Twitter and in front of the press. But, obviously, that -- that wasn't the centerpiece of our visit, so -- but the president has strong feelings about it.
And what I would communicate to the White House and to the world through this broadcast is, let this thing work its way through. Let it be thorough and complete, so that no one will have any doubt.
I think that's -- I'm telling you, that is the best thing for them and it is certainly the best thing for America.
TAPPER: But, just to underline this, and then we'll move on the issue that you were talking about with the president, the new Cuba policy -- it's not a witch-hunt; you believe in the integrity of the investigation?
RUBIO: I do, because I believe in Bob Mueller's record of serving our country.
If there is ever any evidence to the contrary, then, obviously, that may change, but I don't anticipate that being the case.
TAPPER: So, let's turn to Cuba.
The president announced a new policy on Friday, one that seeks to undo some of President Obama's normalization of relations with the communist nation. President Trump said he was motivated by human rights concerns. That was really the focus of his speech.
But, you know, to be candid, President Trump has downplayed human rights concerns in his dealings with any number of other countries, including China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines.
I know that that's not your position, but that is his. This double standard, does that bother you at all?
RUBIO: Well, the one thing I would say to you is that they challenged the world to do more to create stability in their own regions.
And the Western Hemisphere is the region that we're in. And I would say it's in our national security interests to have human rights and democracy in our region, because the absence of those two things leads to migratory pressure and instability.
Whether it's Haiti or Cuba or Mexico or Central America, so much of the migratory pressure on the United States is created by instability in the Western Hemisphere. And so there is a national security interest in our region in creating stability and democracy. And the other thing I would say is, if you look at the Western Hemisphere, 30 years ago, the majority of the countries were governed by dictatorships or strongmen. Today, every country in the hemisphere has had at least one free and fair election in the last decade-and-a- half or so, and -- except for one, the island of Cuba.
And so, hopefully, we're getting closer to the day when that happens there as well.
TAPPER: Let's turn to health care.
One of your Republican colleagues, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, says she hasn't even seen the health care bill because it's being patched and devised in secret. Take a listen to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Yes, I've got a problem with it. If I'm not going to see a bill before we have a vote on it, that's just not a good way to handle something that is as significant as -- and important as health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you share her concern, Senator?
RUBIO: Well, here's how I would characterize it.
When we work on something like this, like when I did on immigration, there's a group of people that works on it, OK? And then they put out a package or they put out a bill, and then that bill goes through the process, a committee hearing, floor action, amendments.
I would say that it -- that bill's not going to go from that group to the president's desk. That bill has to at least have a vote in the Senate, and I hope it's a vote that allows plenty of time for debate, analysis, and changes and input.
And if that's the process we follow, it will be fine. If it is an effort to rush it from a small group of people straight to the floor on an up-or-down vote, that would be a problem. The Senate rules are not conducive to that sort of action.
And so, again, I think that we need to all kind of stop here and understand that, no matter what that groups on and produces, it's only a starting position. From that, every other senator will have an opportunity, I believe should have an opportunity, to weigh in and make changes or propose changes.
TAPPER: The Trump administration announced this week that it will not immediately eliminate protections for the so-called dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S., were brought here as children, through no fault of their own.
But White House officials on Friday said that President Trump had not made a decision about the long-term state of the program. Are you encouraging President Trump to keep these protections in place...
RUBIO: You know, what I...
TAPPER: ... for the remainder...
RUBIO: We haven't talked about it. But I've said publicly before that I do think that DACA's going to have to come to an end at some point, and because I do believe it's unconstitutional, whether you agree with the merits of it or not.
But I also believe that it should be replaced. It comes to an end because it's replaced by something that's constitutional, which is a legislative action.
And I think the vast majority of Americans would say that, if you were brought here as a young child, had grown up in this country, have a lot to contribute to our future, it doesn't make a lot of sense, after years of investing in you in our public education system and the like, to send you to a country that you perhaps have no memory of, just because you happen to have been born there when -- lived there until you were 4 years old.
Now, this policy that's in place, to simply yank it away from people who have those permits now would be very disruptive, not just to them, but to the places they work, as an example.
A lot of these young people are now actually employees and working for people.
So, my hope is that, as part of this process, we can work on a way to deal with this issue and solve it through legislation, which is the right way to do it and the constitutional way to do it.
TAPPER: Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, it's always good to have you on the show. Thank you so much. Happy Father's Day again.
RUBIO: Thank you.
TAPPER: Hope you get a nice tie.
RUBIO: Thank you.
TAPPER: Coming up: Did the baseball field shooter have a hit list? A Republican congressman reveals that his name was on the list found on the dead body of that shooter. Were there specific targets for assassination?
That story next.
TAPPER: Welcome back.
Terrifying new details about the gunman who attacked Republican congressmen at a baseball practice this week.
Police discovered a list of GOP members on the dead body of the shooter, according to Congressman Mo Brooks, whose name he says was on that list.
Doctors report that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise continues to show signs of improvement and was upgraded to serious condition today. Scalise underwent another surgery Saturday, and is responsive, even speaking with his loved ones, we're told.
Mike Mika, a lobbyist who was shot, is undergoing additional surgery. And his family says they do expect him to make a full recovery.
And doctors say that Crystal Griner, a Capitol Hill police officer, sustained a gunshot wound to the ankle, but is in good condition at this hour.
I'm joined now by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us. And happy Father's Day.
Let's begin with this week's horrible shooting. You said on the Senate floor that it was carried out by someone who had apparently volunteered for your campaign.
Has law enforcement been in touch with you or any members of your staff to try to find out more about him?
SANDERS: Not in touch with me. I am not aware that they have been in touch with my staff.
And I just want to wish Representative Scalise a very, very quick recovery. What happened was a tragedy, unacceptable. There should not be any violence associated with politics in America.
TAPPER: On a human level, what was it like for you when you heard the shooter was one of your supporters? Did you look at his Facebook page? What was your reaction?
SANDERS: Well, let me just say this.
In our campaign, we had hundreds of thousands of volunteers. We had rallies that spoke in person to over 1.4 million people. We had rallies in some of the poorest communities of states, I remember, in the South Bronx. There was zero violence, no violence at all. And I am absolutely
convinced that the overwhelming -- not overwhelming -- virtually all people associated with our political movement understand you have the right to stand up, debate, you have the right to protest, but violence is not acceptable.
So, obviously, it was distressing to find out that this particular person had been a volunteer, I believe in Iowa, for a period of time.
TAPPER: I want to read you a tweet from a Democratic political consultant named James Devine. He's based in New Jersey.
He wrote -- quote -- "We are in a war with selfish, foolish and narcissistic rich people. Why is it a shock when things turn violent?" And then he wrote "#huntRepublicancongressmen."
In an interview with a local news site, Devine said -- quote -- "If you want to invite a class war, then you have to expect people to fight back at some point" -- unquote.
Now, Senator, as you know, you have not only never advocated violence. You have -- you have condemned it repeatedly. But you have been speaking the language of revolution for many years. When you see a comment like this from this political consultant, and then you see what happened on Wednesday, are you concerned that some individuals are able to take your rhetoric as a literal call to arms?
SANDERS: Well, I think there's sometimes rhetoric on all sides that are not quite acceptable.
Jake, my hero, political hero, in recent American history is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And King not only advocated nonviolence. What he understood is that the only way you make real change, whether it is racial justice, whether it is social success, economic justice, is when millions of people come together, stand up and fight back.
That's what we have to do right now. But we don't do it in a violent way. That is unacceptable, and, in fact, counterproductive. Now, right now, what we are seeing in Washington with this health care bill, where the Republican leadership wants to throw 23 million Americans off of health insurance, raise premiums for older workers, defund Planned Parenthood, cut Medicaid by over $800 billion, this is the worst piece of legislation to have passed the Congress since I have been in Congress.
It is an outrage. And it has to be protested, and we have to make sure that nothing like that gets past the Senate. But it has to be done, of course, in a nonviolent way.
And I would also add that the Trump budget that was presented a couple of weeks ago would provide $3 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1 percent, at a time when we have massive levels of income and wealth inequality, and make massive cuts for working-class families in terms of health care, nutrition, education, and whatnot.
So, I think this is a moment where the American people have got to stand up, fight back to a Congress which is out of touch with where working families are.
But it goes without saying that violence is not part of that process.
TAPPER: A source telling CNN that Senate Democrats are currently weighing whether to bring the Senate chamber's business to a halt in an effort to pry open what are currently secret deliberations on health care.
You're a member of the Democrat Senate leadership. Can you confirm whether this is going to happen?
SANDERS: Jake, I think that the Democrats in the Congress should do everything possible, A, to defeat that legislation, which is, again, to my mind, unspeakable.
How do you throw 23 million people off of health insurance, and at the same piece of legislation give tax breaks to the wealthiest folks in this country? That has got to be defeated.
But, second of all, as you have indicated, we have an insane process, insane. Here you have legislation which deals with one-sixth of the American economy -- that's the health care situation -- and there are Republicans who haven't even seen this legislation, and certainly no member in the Democratic Caucus has.
What kind of process is it that, when you deal with an issue that impacts tens of millions of people in this country, Republicans don't even have the guts to allow it to go to a committee, where we can have an open hearing, where questions could be asked?
It seems to me that what they want to do, because this legislation is so bad, is keep it secret, keep it hidden, and in the last possible second rush it before the Senate and get a vote within a few hours. That is beyond belief.
TAPPER: So, I'm going to take that, unless you disagree, as a confirmation that Senate Democrats -- you have -- you're in favor of Senate Democrats bringing the chamber's business to a halt to pry open...
SANDERS: I am in favor -- I am in favor of the American people and members of Congress doing everything that we can to defeat that horrific piece of legislation that will hurt tens and tens of millions of people in our country.
TAPPER: I want to ask you, last week, you clashed with Russell Vought. He's President Trump's nominee for deputy director of the Office and Management and Budget.
You went after him for writing that Muslims -- quote -- "do not know God and that they stand condemned."
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: The statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Senator, are you saying that someone is necessarily hateful and Islamophobic, if they believe in their private life and express that in private life the only path to God is through Jesus Christ?
SANDERS: No, absolutely not.
Look, what our Constitution -- one of the great parts of our Constitution is to protect freedom of religion. You practice what religion you want. I do. Mr. Vought does. That's what it's about.
But at a time when we are dealing with Islamophobia in this country, when you got 1.2 billion people who are Muslims around the world, to have a high-ranking member of the United States government essentially say, oh, Islam is a second-class religion -- and this all took place, by the way, in terms of his defending the firing of a professor at Wheaton College because she showed solidarity with Muslims who are -- were being attacked through an anti-Muslim effort.
So, that seemed to me unacceptable as a government official.
In terms of his freedom of religion, he and every other American has the right to hold any point of view they want.
TAPPER: Let's turn to the special election taking place Tuesday in Georgia.
Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate, says he opposes higher taxes on anyone, even the wealthy. He opposes single-payer health care. You voiced doubts about whether Ossoff is a progressive. Are you nonetheless urging your supporters to back him, even though he seems to disagree with many of your core principles?
SANDERS: Oh, absolutely. No, I very -- I very much want Ossoff to win. His views are a lot better than his Republican opponent's.
I think it would be really great if we could, Democrats could pick up a seat in the House.
But what I also believe is -- that is a particular district in Georgia, a conservative district, been held by Republicans for several decades. But what I also believe is, if the Democratic Party is going to turn around its fortune, it's going to have to mobilize people at the grassroots level in 50 states in this country.
It needs a progressive agenda to say that we have to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, that we have to join the rest of the industrialized world, and guarantee health care to all people as a right, in my view, to a Medicare-for-all single-payer program, that we have got to deal in a very fundamental way with climate change, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel, pay equity for women.
I think, if the Democrats are going to be successful, they need a strong progressive agenda that gets working people and young people involved in the political process.
TAPPER: All right.
Happy Father's Day, Senator. Good to see you, as always.
SANDERS: You -- you, too.
TAPPER: The special prosecutor. As the Russia investigation expands and President Trump is fighting back, I'll have a top member of Trump's legal team here next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back.
President Trump headed to Camp David for the first time ever this weekend, perhaps hoping a walk in the woods might clear his head.
He certainly seemed frustrated this week, tweeting -- quote -- "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch-hunt."
TAPPER: I'm joined now by a member of President Trump's legal term (sic), Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice.
Jay, good to see you, as always. Happy Father's Day.
JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Good to see you.
SEKULOW: Happy Father's Day to you, Jake.
TAPPER: Thank you so much.
So, should we take that tweet from the president as confirmation that the president is under investigation?
SEKULOW: Let me clear. The president's not under investigation, as James Comey said in his testimony, that the president was not the target of investigation on three different occasions.
The president is not a subject or target of an investigation. That tweet was in response to a "Washington Post" story that ran with five unnamed sources, without identifying the agencies they represented, saying that the special counsel had broadened out his investigation to include the president.
They -- we've had no indication of that. The president was responding to that particular statement from "The Washington Post", again with five anonymous sources.
SEKULOW: And again without even identifying the agencies. So no, the president's not under investigation, has not been.
TAPPER: So the president said "I am under investigation" even though he isn't under investigation?
SEKULOW: That response on social media was in response to "The Washington Post" piece. It's that simple. The president is not under investigation.
TAPPER: Well, I wish it were that simple, but, you know, with all due respect, the president said "I am being investigated" in a tweet and people...
TAPPER: ... take his word on that. And -- but you're his attorney. You're saying that the president, when he said that, was not accurate.
SEKULOW: No, the president was -- it was 141 characters. There's a limitation on Twitter, as we all know. And the president has a very effective utilization of social media.
So here's what you have: the president issued that tweet, that social media statement, based on a fake report, a report with no documented sources, from "The Washington Post".
And I want to focus on that for one moment. Isn't it ironic that a leak would take place by five anonymous sources saying that the special counsel had increased the scope of their investigation, and they don't even identify the agencies upon which those individuals were speaking?
So the president responds -- I want to be crystal clear here. The president's response was as it related to "The Washington Post" report. He cannot in a Twitter statement include all of that in there, but "The Washington Post" statement came out that morning.
TAPPER: So the president --
SEKULOW: So there can be no confusion. No confusion. The president is not under investigation.
TAPPER: But it is -- it is confusing because the president said "I am being investigated" and you're saying that "The Washington Post" report is wrong, but no one did more to confirm "The Washington Post" report than the president. I mean, CNN had not confirmed "The Washington Post" report, but then President Trump came out and said, quote, "I am being investigated." So --
TAPPER: -- the confusion -- I mean, is that not frustrating for you as an attorney to have a client that is sharing information with the world that's not accurate?
SEKULOW: Look, this is -- this is a president that has utilized social media, that has revolutionized the whole concept of electioneering when it comes to use of social media. He's able to communicate with 107 million people on his various social media platforms on a regular basis as he needs to, so he can directly reach a lot of people. That statement, again, was in response to "The Washington Post".
So let me be clear. "The Washington Post" story was based on five anonymous sources.
SEKULOW: Doesn't even identify the agency. So that's it's. A simple explanation.
TAPPER: OK, I mean, I don't think it's simple but I don't think we're getting anywhere so let me move on.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is a close Trump ally, spoke on Friday at the National Press Club. Let's run a clip of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: The President of the United States cannot obstruct justice. The President of the United States is the chief executive officer of the United States. If he wants to fire the FBI director, what (ph) he'll do is fire him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: We're going to ignore for the sake of our conversation the fact that when Gingrich was the Speaker of the House, he voted to impeach President Clinton for obstruction of justice. But let's move on to today.
Is it the position of the Trump legal team that the President of the United States cannot obstruct justice because he's the executive, he can fire anyone in the executive branch, under the executive branch?
SEKULOW: Look, you're talking about what's called the constitutional threshold question, and that is can a president, who has the constitutional authority to take a certain action, then be prosecuted for taking the action?
In this particular case, you had a scenario where the president, receiving advice from a variety of his government officials, was told by his -- his attorney general, vice deputy attorney general, that James Comey should not be leading the FBI. It's ironic that based on the action that they recommended that he took, in consultation with others, that he's now being investigated by the agency that told him to take that very action -- removing the FBI director.
So this idea -- this is a threshold constitutional issue that has to be addressed before anything starts. So when we talk about investigation, before we can get to an investigation, you got to determine does the constitution allow for a prosecution, or an investigation even, of this type of matter? And there's been memorandums going back to the back of Office of Legal Counsel in the 1970s, in the 2000s, but there's also the fundamental concept within the constitution itself.
So I think the constitutional issue here is raised first. If there is an investigation -- right there's not -- you would of course raise the constitutional issues. Any lawyer, especially those that deal with the Supreme Court of the United States like I do, you raise the constitutional issue, threshold. That's number one.
TAPPER: Well, this is a point of fact.
President Trump has already admitted that he'd already made his decision long before Rod Rosenstein issued the memo, so whether or not Rosenstein made that recommendation, it was irrelevant -- according to the president -- about his decision. But in terms of whether or not the president can obstruct justice by telling people under him what to do or firing them, I lived through the '90s. I'm old enough to remember people on the right saying that President Clinton obstructed justice by telling people who worked for him how -- what to do, and threatening the investigation into him. And I recall a completely different point of view as to the president's powers.
SEKULOW: Well, you're conflating witness tampering, which was some of the concern there, with telling with witnesses what to do, with this situation. This is not a situation of witness tampering; this is not a situation of bribery --
TAPPER: No. This is firing the guy in charge of the investigation.
SEKULOW: Look, the constitution is -- I mean, this is Constitution 101 here. The president has the authority as the chief executive to make those kind of determinations. James Comey, by the way, stated at his hearing --
TAPPER: He did.
SEKULOW: -- that he understands that he serves at the pleasure of the president. So this is not some complicated case. And by the way, the fact, Jake, that the president consulted with his attorney general and -- office of deputy attorney general and others, that's called a deliberative process. That's what presidents do to make decisions that are significant.
TAPPER: Sure. I'm just he -- I'm just saying that their recommendations were irrelevant according to the president. But I hear what you're saying.
But James Comey was fired, according to the president, when he made the decision, he was thinking about the Russia investigation. According to Comey, the president has said to him, can you -- I hope you let go this matter relating to Mike Flynn. This is different from the Clinton case without question, but by the same token...
TAPPER: ... the obstruction of justice case is he is -- I'm not saying that it's clear cut, but the obstruction of justice case is he was trying to stop an investigation. And when he couldn't get what he wanted, he fired the guy heading the investigation.
SEKULOW: But to -- again, (INAUDIBLE) here, that's conflating two different standards under obstruction of justice.
SEKULOW: So that's not the -- so you cannot use the comparison. The president has the constitutional authority to deal with those that are subordinates within an administration. That is as clear as the constitution as itself. That is a power vested in the President of the United States. That's number one.
Number two, there is no ongoing investigation of the president regarding any of this. James Comey has said. The only basis of the report is what came out of "The Washington Post" leaked information.
And let's talk about activity. The fact of the matter is you have a former FBI director -- I want -- think about this for a moment -- who leaks information that he obtained, he had a conversation with the President of the United States, writes it down on a government computer, in his computer vehicle, puts it in his government desk, and then when he's terminated, he leaks it to a friend of his to leak it to "The New York Times" for the sole person, he testifies under oath, for the sole purpose of obtaining a special counsel. That's what needs to be investigated here.
TAPPER: I hope there's some pancakes and coffee waiting for you at home. Happy Father's Day again. Thanks so much for coming in.
SEKULOW: Thank you, Jake. Thanks.
TAPPER: Democrats angry about the Republicans writing a health care bill in secret. They're now considering boycotting all Senate business. Would that work? Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCASKILL: We'd love your support for what? We don't even know. We have no idea what's being proposed. There's a group of guys in a back room somewhere that are making these decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri tearing into Senate Republicans for writing their health care bill in secret. Democrats are now considering stopping all Senate business to pressure Republicans to reveal details of the legislation.
With me now to you discuss this and much more Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan, former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, and Bakari Sellers former South Carolina Democratic state representative.
Let me start with you. You know, Democrats were criticized for this back when the Obama team was putting together a health care bill.
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: The fact of the matter is we did it much more openly. Right now you've got 13 men writing a bill that nobody seen anything about that's going to affect more than 50 percent of the population as women. We've already seen a very bad bill which the president has now called "mean" come out. We need to be doing this in a more transparent process, Jake.
TAPPER: Let us talk about -- let me talk about the mean thing for a second. You did you not vote for the Republican health care bill in the House, congressman, but president Trump calling the bill "mean" to Senate Republicans calling the Republican House bill "mean" that's not going to help your colleagues theoretically. I think it would upset them maybe.
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Clearly not those who voted yes.
DENT: They're clearly unhappy but I agree that the House health care bill in my view did not provide a soft enough landing on Medicaid. There were problems there. The tax credits were clearly insufficient. There was not enough flexibility for the states or resources to handle the Medicaid issue.
So to that extent I agree with the president. I didn't realize he agreed with me on the issue but the comment was obviously helpful to my colleagues who voted yes because they pretty unhappy to about it.
TAPPER: Senator, I want to play for you some sound that you might remember Senator Mitch McConnell talking about the Democratic process in 2009.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: This massive piece of legislation that seeks to restructure one-sixth of our economy is being written behind closed doors, without input from anyone in an effort to jam it past not only the Senate but the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It's almost as if these people don't know that we can go to videotape library and pluck these things out.
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm sure you could find Democrats --
TAPPER: Sure. Of course.
SANTORUM: Look, what goes around comes around. I mean, this is unfortunately how things have been done and always been done. I mean, you remember back in budget deals between Reagan and the Democrats back when John Dingell was running, off to Andrews Air Force Base. That's the way things are done. They're not done in a public forum initially.
Everything is going to have to be given the light of day. I saw quote from Lisa Murkowski. I'm not going to vote for a bill. Of course she's not going to vote for a bill she's not read. Everyone will get a chance to read the bill but there has to be some time when people get together and try to drive a consensus and that's what's going on.
They obviously haven't reached that point. Once they do reach a point where they feel comfortable, they'll put the bill out there. If the Democrats allow it they'll go through a committee process. If they don't and they're -- you know, they're threatening to shut things down, what does that mean? That means they -- you probably have to bypass the committee because they won't be able to get committees to form because the Democrats will block it, so they could be complicit in not getting the bill more light of day.
TAPPER: Bakari, so let me ask you. I mean, there is this argument that there are 52 Republican senators and in order to get both the Ted Cruzes and the Mike Lees of the world on board with something and then you have Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins of the world the negotiations do need to be done behind closed doors with only Republicans watching. That's the argument.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, that's not a good argument. It's an argument that's based upon hypocrisy.
And even when you compare it to 2009 you had the Democratic Party the House Republican -- House Democrats at that time under Nancy Pelosi's leadership, they had over 20 hearings. You know, this took a year before it passed. So this is not comparable to what happened in 2009. But I'd just love to see Mitch McConnell and everyone else just cloak themselves in such hypocrisy and the travesty and why we need more Republicans with courage like my colleague here to the right, and why we need more Republicans to stand up is because the Republican party right now is trying to take away health insurance from 23 million people and they are literally drafting up a piece of legislation that affects one-sixth of our economy under the cover of darkness, which is 13 all white males in the back room.
And this is the problem that Americans have and why they distrust the process and why they distrust Democrats and Republicans alike, because we move too fast in 2009, but the Republicans didn't learn a lesson, and they are now the ones who have the ball and it's a travesty of justice.
TAPPER: Let's move on to the Russia investigation. We have a lot of topics to cover here today. You heard Jay Sekulow the president's attorney say that when the president tweeted this "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director, Witch Hunt" he did not mean it literally. He did not mean that was literally being investigated. It's kind of --
SANTORUM: It sounded to me like what the president was doing and this is the limitations of Twitter, the context was he was sort of repeating what "the Washington Post" story was like. Not oh I'm being investigated by -- in other words he's just taking a summary of what the "Post" article and repeated it as opposed to saying oh, I'm being investigated.
Now, I get it. That's a nuance, and you can roll your eyes back on it, but that's what Jay Sekulow was saying that the president said. The problem with that is, it's Twitter, and you don't have context, and very credibly could be seen as the president confirming that he's being investigated. That's the problem with the president tweeting.
SELLERS: (INAUDIBLE). I think the president might be watching us today. And as a Democrat, just as an American, I want to give him some advice and that advice is to simply stop tweeting about Russia and just -- if you want to move the country forward, if you want to have a better discussion, wake up in the morning and tweet about some legislative priorities. I mean, tweet about infrastructure. Put Democrats in a box. I mean, let's talk about real issues because all he's doing is making it cloudy and murky.
TAPPER: I imagine you agree.
DENT: Well, my advice will be, yes, stop tweeting. Director Comey said that the president was not under investigation. Take him at his word. If there was -- if in fact there was no collusion, well then there's nothing to worry about. Let director -- let Mr. Mueller complete his work.
Less is more. Say little. There's nothing to say about this, if I were the president.
TAPPER: What do you think, Congresswoman?
DINGELL: I think he's absolutely right. The fact of the matter is we need to have this investigation. It needs to be done in a nonpartisan way. We need to follow the facts and follow it to the end and at the same time, I'll tell you what, come to Michigan, we're worried about jobs. We're worried about the economy and we -- and we're worried about health care. And when we need to start focusing on these issues that are impacting working men and women every day.
TAPPER: Do you think the -- I'm sure the president, this is not the first time somebody said stop tweeting. Do you think the president -- and it's not just stop tweeting. It's stop tweeting about the stuff that hurts him.
SANTORUM: He needs to tweet.
TAPPER: Sure. He wants to communicate with the American people about his priorities.
SANTORUM: Yes, absolutely.
TAPPER: Why doesn't, because I know that he's being given this advice by lots of people in the White House. Why does he not take the advice?
TAPPER: You have a relationship. You have a relationship with him.
SANTORUM: Look, I just think he is a -- he's a -- he's a fighter who doesn't like being attacked.
And he's going to fight back. I get that. I accept it. It worked for him in the campaign. It's worked for him to some degree here.
But he's in a world right now where you have a special prosecutor who just hired a team of lawyers that really concerns me. This Andrew Weissman is a real concern to me. This guy is -- you know, Jared Kushner's paper went after this guy for some of the behavior and now you bring this guy in for a nonpartisan investigation, he already has a rub with Kushner. Now the thing -- the investigation is being expanded, maybe the deal with Jared Kushner.
There's some real concerns about what Mueller's doing. He's obviously got the long knife out for the president. The president needs to understand this is serious.
TAPPER: OK, I just want to say one thing. First of all on this week that we went through the horrible incident with Steve Scalise and the others, thank you to people who run for office and put themselves out there. And I know it's probably even more nerve-racking for people like yourselves after a week like this, so thank you.
And to the dads here, Happy Father's Day to all three of you. I know you just had your daughter's wedding.
SANTORUM: Daughter's wedding last weekend. TAPPER: So what could be better. Thank you one and all for being
here, really appreciate it.
President Trump celebrated his birthday this week. How did the celebration stack up against his predecessors? It's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."
TAPPER: President Trump celebrated his 71st birthday this week with a low key family dinner but presidential birthdays historically can be huge affairs. That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."
TAPPER (voice-over): President Trump tends to like his birthdays huge. His 60th birthday had a 007 theme, complete with Bond girls. But he's not the only president to celebrate with a splash. FDR threw himself a party, a toga party.
And George H.W. Bush marked his 90th birthday by jumping out of an airplane. Some presidents prefer celebrity-studded soirees, such as Bill Clinton who partied with Bon Jovi at his 70th birthday bash, which also doubled as a fund-raiser for the Clinton Foundation.
The most famous presidential birthday party, of course, has to be the one JFK held in Madison Square Garden where he watched Marilyn Monroe shimmy his way into history. Also a fund-raiser too, though it probably raised more eyebrows than campaign cash.
MARILYN MONROE, ACTRESS (singing): Happy birthday to you.
TAPPER: Thanks for watching.
"FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS" is next.
Happy Father's Day.