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Comey: Trump Unfazed By Briefing On Russian Meddling; Trump: Comey's A "Weak And Untruthful Slime Ball"; Comey Describes Briefing Trump On Tawdry Dossier; Court Hearing To Address FBI Raids Of Trump Lawyer. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired April 13, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are starting with breaking news. Happening right now, the president's personal attorney is taking his case to court and taking the fight to the FBI. His attorney is trying to quash the evidence gathered in that early morning FBI raid of his office, home and hotel room this week.
Michael Cohen's legal team is in federal court seeking a temporary restraining order. The search, though, is already offering up something of a new bombshell. We're now learning from sources telling CNN Cohen routinely recorded phone conversations and Trump allies are worried those tapes may be in the hands of investigators now. We'll have new details as soon as things wrap up in court and bring them to you.
Then there is this, of course, the former head of the FBI releasing a scathing rebuke of President Trump. James Comey's tell all book, "A Higher Loyalty" refers to the forest fire, the Trump presidency, and describes what he sees as a baffling lack of concern from the then president-elect when James Comey and other intelligence leaders first revealed to him how the Russians had meddled in the 2016 election.
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JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: President-elect Trump's first question was to confirm that it had no impact on the election and then the conversation to my surprise moved into a PR conversation about how the Trump team would position this and what they could say about this.
They actually started talking about drafting a press release with us still sitting there. The reason that was so striking to me is that that's just not done. That the intelligence community does intelligence, the White House does PR and spin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You also said you were struck by what they didn't ask. COMEY: Very much. None one to my recollection asked, so what -- what's coming next from the Russians? How might we stop it? What's the future look like? It was all what can we say about what they did and how it affects the election that we just had.
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BOLDUAN: Maybe the least surprise of the day so far is President Trump is hitting back. Of course, on Twitter calling Comey a proven leaker and liar, saying he should be prosecuted and dubbing the former FBI director an untruthful slime ball.
Joining me now, CNN political director, David Chalian and also Asha Rangappa, CNN legal and national security analyst, and former FBI special agent. David, they are now clearly in an all-out war, a war between the president of the United States and the former head of the FBI. I want to make sure that that is not lost in all of this detail. Who are folks going to believe, David?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is a good point -- it is a good point, Kate, that we shouldn't lose just the enormity of what is going on here. I think sometimes we get accustomed to it, and your point about who is going to win the credibility war, you know, obviously Donald Trump is in a credibility crisis with the chunk of the country.
Not the folks that are still with him, no doubt. And Jim Comey is certainly positioning himself to try to be the authority voice here. But now you see the entire effort from the RNC and Trump White House to try to knock down Jim Comey's credibility in an attempt to hopefully get the president on a more equal footing with him.
Jim Comey clearly, just watching the interview and the clips that we saw with George Stephanopoulos and looking at the book excerpts, sees it, it seems, that his role to sort of define Donald Trump in these terms of being completely unfit for the office it seems in Jim Comey's mind.
BOLDUAN: I want to play one more piece of the -- of the -- one more piece of the interview. This is talking about his conversations, Comey talking about his conversations with Trump about the salacious allegations in this Steele dossier. Listen to this.
COMEY: About to meet with a person who doesn't know me, just been elected president of the United States by all accounts and from my watching him during the campaign could be volatile, and I'm about to talk to him about allegations that he was involved with prostitutes in Moscow and that the Russians taped it and have leverage over him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there any choice there? Why, if this was salacious, and this particular part of the dossier unverified, still unverified, by the way?
COMEY: Yes. So far, when I got fired it was unverified. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you tell him that the Steele dossier had been financed by his political opponents?
COMEY: No, I didn't think I used the term Steele dossier. I just talked about additional material.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he have the right to know that?
COMEY: That it has been financed by his political opponents? I don't know the answer to that. It wasn't necessary for my goal, which was to alert him that we had this information.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How graphic did you get?
[11:05:05] COMEY: I think as graphic as I needed to be, and I started telling him about the allegation was that he had been involved with prostitutes in a hotel in Moscow in 2013 during a visit for the Miss Universe pageant and that the Russians had filmed the episode.
And he interrupted very defensively, and started talking about, do I look like a guy who needs hookers and I assumed he was asking that rhetorically, I didn't answer that, and I just moved on and explained, sir, I'm not saying that we credit this, I'm not saying we believe it. We just thought it very important you know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you tell him you thought it wasn't true or didn't know if it was true or not?
COMEY: I never said I don't believe it because I couldn't say one way or another.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How weird was that briefing?
COMEY: Really weird. It was almost an out of body experience for me. I was floating above myself, looking down, saying, you're sitting here briefing the incoming president of the United States about prostitutes in Moscow.
BOLDUAN: Asha, can you just give me your reaction to that moment in that interview?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, I think when you first listen to it, you are kind of just taken aback, I mean, I can't let my kids watch the news now by the salacious details. But just to go back to something that David said, that Comey's point in this book is to kind of give a character assessment of the president and why he's unfit for office.
And just as a former FBI agent, if you're approaching this from sort of an investigator or an intelligence point of view, what you're going to do is observe people and see how, you know, what they say, how do they react to things, what does that tell you about who they are.
We have done background checks. That's kind of how you approach it. So, I think if you look at some of these episodes and his descriptions from that point of view, if he's trying to give a behavioral profile or character profile that I think he is going to go into these things not necessarily for their, you know, tawdry value, but about to reveal what he believes it says about the president's personality, character and behavior.
BOLDUAN: The first clip I played at the top of the show, David, I mean, you have James Comey saying that, he goes in to brief the president on Russia's meddling in the election, and he says the only response basically the first response that they get back is how do we protect the brand, basically, what is the next PR move.
CHALIAN: Yes, which if you look over the course of the next 15 months or so, Kate, shouldn't surprise any of us because we hear very, very little from the president on what he's doing to protect future election meddling that his own intelligence services say is going on right now in terms of the 2018 elections.
We know this is not -- he never sorts of came out and made this a policy priority to defeat this attack on American democracy. It has always been co-mingled with this clear concern on the president's part that this entire story line calls into question the legitimacy of his holding the presidency, being in that office.
And he's never been able to decouple the two and it seems from the telling of Jim Comey's story here that that started right at the outset as soon as the information got to them.
BOLDUAN: I'll play one more clip, Asha. Talking about that private, talking about -- what we just played was right after he won the election and right after inauguration, the private dinner he had with Trump after the inauguration where the president brought up -- brought this -- brought more of this up. Listen.
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COMEY: Says he may want me to investigate it to prove it didn't happen and then he says, something that distracted me, he said, if there is even a 1 percent chance my wife thinks that's true, that's terrible. And I remember thinking, how could your wife think there is a 1 percent chance you were with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow?
I'm a flawed human being, but there is literally zero chance my wife would think that's true, so what kind of marriage, what kind of man does your wife thinks there is only a 99 percent chance you didn't do that.
I said to him, sir, he started talking about it, I may order you to investigate that, I said, sir, that's up to you, but you want to be careful about that, because it might create a narrative that we're investigating you personally, and, second, it is very difficult to prove something didn't happen.
BOLDUAN: Did you believe his denial? COMEY: Honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don't know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It's possible, but I don't know.
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BOLDUAN: It's possible, Asha. I mean, there are a lot of ways he could answer that question or honestly dodge answering that question. The fact that he chose to say that, I thought it was pretty astonishing.
RANGAPPA: It is astonishing. I think one thing that he highlights is the immediate preoccupation with kind of this behavior that there is supposedly -- a tape of or whatever.
[11:10:14] That's not criminal. And asking, you know, the FBI to investigate it, which is not really the FBI's job, but I think it kind of points to a preoccupation with this, you know, allegations on this side of his life from becoming public.
And now we see that playing out in this other arena with the Stormy Daniels lawsuit, which he's fighting in this very odd way that is putting him into legal exposure for depositions and kind of willing to take that step instead of letting it go.
And, you know, I -- it makes you wonder why he is so concerned about that, when that's not really illegal or criminal behavior that would otherwise expose him to criminal prosecution or something like that.
CHALIAN: Can I just add one quick thing there on how Comey answered that? I think this actually undercuts Comey a little bit, because in just in terms of the court of public opinion, not sticking to facts, this is a guy, you know, you see him go testify before Congress, he lays out a series of facts and findings and -- this is him sort of throwing chum in the water, right? I don't know, it is possible. That's not the Jim Comey brand and so I think he's sort of undercuts himself a little bit by throwing that out there.
BOLDUAN: Well, there is some other pieces, I was going to ask you about it as well, David, to wrap it up here, when he brings up -- he brings up the president's height, the president's tan, the president's, I think there are other physical attributes of the president that he brings up as well in the book and in these interviews.
And, you know, it is one of those things, does it undercut what he's trying to accomplish? Maybe there is multiple motivations shockingly for what he's trying to accomplish with this book.
Great to see you, guys. Thank you so much. A lot more to digest as we read more of this book. Tune in, next week, James Comey is going to be sitting down with CNN's Jake Tapper, Thursday afternoon, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, of course.
We're also following more of breaking news. The president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen taking the FBI to court right now, trying to basically squash the evidence that was seized in that really shocking raid of his office, his hotel room, his home. We're going to bring you the very latest of what is happening in the courtroom. A lot more coming in.
Plus, we have new reports that Michael Cohen also made a habit of recording telephone conversations that were also included before and during the 2016 elections. Could those tapes have been part of what the FBI took in? You can be sure a lot of folks are nervous about that. And if they are, are they going to ever be made public? We'll be right back.
BOLDUAN: You're looking right now at live pictures from the federal courthouse in New York. Any moment now we're expected to learn more about the FBI's search of the office, home and hotel room of President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. A hearing is under way right.
CNN's Kara Scannell is joining me now with details. They might be dribbling out. What is the hearing about, Kara, to set the stage? What we think is going on inside?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kate, I mean, the hearing started about 45 minutes ago and lawyers for both sides are going to be arguing over Michael Cohen's request for a temporary restraining order over the FBI raid. What that means is they're going to try to limit how much information the FBI and prosecutors are able to review from the court of documents and electronics that were picked up in that raid.
Now, the Cohen's motion for this temporary restraining order is sealed. So, we don't have the details of that yet. We expect that to come out. I'm sure as -- in a situation like this, where there are sealed motions there are elements being done in camera, which means that it is being done outside of the public, discussions between the judge and the prosecutors and Cohen's attorney.
Now given the nature of this raid, experts I've spoken with, former prosecutors, say one thing they're very likely going to be arguing over is attorney/client privilege and ensuring the process of review for those documents is done in a way to protect that privilege.
It is also something of note that people often argue about search warrants and the breadth and scope of them. Former prosecutors say, Kate, what is very surprising about this situation is the urgency with which Cohen's team is moving to try to squash this review of documents and perhaps limit what prosecutors ultimately can see from that raid.
BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Might be a lot of signals going on here. Kara, all standing by as we're waiting for folks to come out of the courtroom, so we can hear exactly what happened inside. You'll be here with us. Thank you so much. Let's talk more about the raid and this move in court right now. CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is joining me and Jamil Jaffer, former associate White House counsel under President George W. Bush. Thank you so much for being here. Jamil, can you just tell me, is this a typical request that Cohen is making?
JAMIL JAFFER, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: It is not surprising that Cohen is making this request. He's -- you know, obviously, there is a tremendous amount of information here, attorney/client privilege, the mental thoughts and impressions of a lawyer.
So, what a lawyer's office is searched, it is not unusual to seek to sort of a limited scope of review and make sure there is an opportunity to make sure that that attorney/client material is protected. It is unusual to do a search (inaudible) altogether. That's why we're here.
BOLDUAN: So, if it is not an unusual request per se, but what do you think the chances are if you had to be a betting man that the judge would basically throw out all the evidence that the FBI gathered?
JAFFER: He'll limit the scope of what they can look at now. If he's going to give Cohen, his attorneys, the opportunity to look at the material, assess what the attorney-client (inaudible), put together a privilege log and have the prosecutors fight over it and look at it in camera.
BOLDUAN: And, Evan, there's this other element to add to all of this, CNN's reporting that Cohen was known to record phone conversations, telephone conversations, and some say that may have been swept up in the raid. Do we have any idea what kind of conversations Cohen taped, what this is about?
[11:20:06] EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is extraordinary. But, yes, I think one of the things that happens here is that they believe that on the computers, on the telephones that were taken by the FBI, in the series of raids, were discussions -- were recordings of discussions about the campaign, a lot of this happened during the campaign, and before the campaign, Kate.
We don't know exactly what the conversations involved, how much tape was swept up in this, but definitely appears that the FBI has in its possession what would be crucial evidence to their investigation about whether or not Michael Cohen was part of some criminal enterprise here. I think that's the reason why you see them fighting so fiercely in court this morning.
BOLDUAN: And it can also get to the whole why they wanted to do a surprise raid, if you will, not just request information, the fear of what exactly -- how quickly he could destroy it.
PEREZ: Whether it could be destroyed, exactly, right.
BOLDUAN: Jamil, to this point, how quickly is Evan talking about how quickly Cohen's team is moving on this. Does this move by Michael Cohen's team indicate, does it indicate anything, does it indicate what direction they think this is all headed?
JAFFER: Well, I think they're definitely concerned about all that material that Cohen has. If he has recorded conversations, New York is a one-party consent state. He's OK recording it. There are 12 states that don't allow that.
I mean, there could be a ton of really interesting stuff for the prosecutors, not just with respect to the president, but all sorts of other things that Michael Cohen is involved in. That's why I'm sure he wants to protect that.
You could imagine any attorney will have sensitive conversations with his clients, so I don't think it is a surprise he's moving it aggressively. The question is what are they going to find and what relationship does it have if any to the ongoing investigation of the Russia matter?
BOLDUAN: Exactly, what was all discussed in the courtroom, we're all waiting to hear as they come out. Any indication, Evan, do we know from sources that they think the president is on these tapes?
PEREZ: Lordy, I think, look, that's the big question everybody has been asking. But I do think -- I think -- we don't know. The answer is we don't know whether President Trump is in any of these conversations?
But just the fact he was doing this, and by the way, sources who talked to Gloria Borger, Kara Scannell and Sara Murray yesterday told them that this was well known inside the campaign, that people were frankly took steps to make sure that they had conversations with Michael Cohen that they didn't have them in his office, because they believed that they were going to be recorded.
You got to believe that Michael Cohen as a lawyer would not have recordings of his client on this. I mean, you got to believe that that is the case, but we don't know. And, look, Kate, the important thing here too for the president is that he doesn't send e-mail, he's known not to communicate in any ways that leaves a record, so if he's on any of these recordings, I mean, that changes everything.
BOLDUAN: It absolutely would. Jamil, different topic-ish. The reporting that the president is considering pardoning Scooter Libby. Do you think he should be pardoned?
JAFFER: Well, look, I mean, I think obviously President Bush had the opportunity to do it too, and he chose not to do it. There are good arguments here. I mean, Scooter Libby was caught up in an investigation that was about a bunch of other things, and so, you know, there is good arguments on both sides.
We'll see what the president does here. The real thing that has to happen here, go through the normal pardon process, the pardon attorney, the Justice Department, he reviews it, they send over a recommendation to the White House. That didn't happen with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
BOLDUAN: Right. It didn't happen with Arpaio, right? And all the indications are that -- they haven't filed anything, right, Evan?
PEREZ: This case is also being handled in the same way. There was no application that has gone to the Justice Department, but it appears according to sources we have talked to our team at the White House that they have been discussing this with people at the Trump White House for the better part of a year. So, it is unusual way to do this.
BOLDUAN: So, stand by to stand by on this one. Gentlemen, thanks. Great to see you. Thank you.
So, the battle between the president and James Comey reaching new heights and new lows, exactly, this morning as the former FBI director breaks his silence in his first television interview since his firing. The president is calling for Comey now to be prosecuted.
BOLDUAN: The not breaking news of the day, President Trump taking to Twitter. The breaking news of the day, what President Trump said on Twitter. Like this, "James Comey is a proven leak and liar." I'll read the whole thing. "Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job that he did until he was in fact fired.
He leaked classified information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under oath. He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible director of the FBI. His handling of the crooked Hillary Clinton case and the events surrounding it will go down as one of the worst botched jobs of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey."
So, why is the president saying all this today? Well, of course, James Comey's book is coming out. James Comey is speaking. In the book, he labels President Trump as untethered to the truth and unfit for the presidency, among other things.
Joining me now to discuss, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. Congressman, you have not earned a tweet from the president, a double tweet from the president like that one yet. So, let's discuss. The president thinks Comey should be prosecuted. Kellyanne Conway says of the book that Comey comes across as a disgruntled employee. Do you see that?
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Kate, what you're seeing here is you're seeing a classic Washington story, where when the facts are ugly, you attack the character and personality of the person who is -- who is pushing those facts.
Kate, I was at the Department of the Justice one hour ago, Jim --