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Fired FBI Director: Trump "Morally Unfit To Be President"; Comey: Trump "Won't Criticize" Putin, Even In Private; Trump Slams Comey After Scathing TV Interview; Trump Wants To Review Material Seized From Cohen Before Investigators See It. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired April 16, 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. A serial liar and morally unfit to be president. The former FBI director and the verdict he's now handing down of President Trump and the president who fired him is firing back.
Tweeting just this morning at James Comey, writing that Comey lied to Congress, and committed, quote/unquote, many crimes. I'll leave you to guess if that will be the last word on all of this. But here is what we heard from James Comey last night in his first interview since his shocking firing almost a year ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Donald Trump unfit to be president?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Yes, but not in the way I often hear people talk about it. I don't buy the stuff about him being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia. He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence, who is tracking conversations and knows what's going on. I don't think he's medically unfit to be president. I think he's morally unfit to be president.
The person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they are pieces of meat who lies constantly about matters big and small and insist the American people believe it, that person is not fit to be president of the United States on moral grounds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: All right. Let's start over at the White House right now, CNN's Kaitlan Collins is there. So, Kaitlan, the president, he left the White House, he did not speak to reporters on his way out. But what are you hearing about the reaction over there this morning?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: You're right, Kate. Nothing from the president today as he left the White House. Often, he'll stop and talk to reporters, but he did not answer questions about whether or not he watched this interview.
But people I've spoken with who know this president well just don't see how that single tweet this morning could be the last word for this president. These two men, the president and James Comey have been feuding for months.
And if there was any chance that that could not turn into an all-out war, it evaporated last night during that interview, that very stunning interview where James Comey was publicly attacking the president.
And just to give you a sense of some of the things that the president may be watching today as he's on Air Force One, James Comey was asked if he thinks that the president could be compromised by the Russians and this was his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think it is possible. I don't know. I think these are more words I never thought I'd utter about a president of the United States, but it's possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's stunning. You can't say for certain that the president of the United States is not compromised by the Russians.
COMEY: It is stunning, and I wish I wasn't saying it, but it is the truth. It struck me and still strikes me as unlikely, and I would have been able to say with high confidence about any other president I dealt with, but I can't, it is possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So, quite a remarkable interview there, Kate. Though a lot of what James Comey said is really what is echoed in his book. Of course, this is a president with a penchant for television, so certainly when he sees those clips, we just don't see how he doesn't respond further than he already has.
BOLDUAN: And that is a great thing to point out, Kaitlan, and something that needs to not be lost in this conversation, how important when you see the clips rather than read them in the book that is in the different impact it has on the president.
James Comey has this big rollout of interviews he's doing now. He's spoken to "USA Today," they released that overnight and discussed what else struck him about Trump and Russia, right?
COLLINS: Yes, this book tour isn't even close to being over. James Comey has a slew of interviews. He did another one today. Speaking about the president's relationship with Vladimir Putin. Listen to this answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: At least in my experience he won't criticize Vladimir Putin even in private. Even in a meeting with three people in the oval office. He is arguing that he gave a good answer when he said, essentially, we are the same kind of killers that Putin's thugs are, and that struck me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So, the president has not responded exactly as much as we had assumed he would, especially with the stunning things that James Comey was saying, but certainly his aides have been working overtime to undermine James Comey's credibility here. And, of course, this is a president who says when he gets hit, he hits back ten times harder. So, we'll be waiting to see what exactly he has to say today -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: It is a strange feeling that everyone is just waiting for what ten times harder looks like. That's what we have to be waiting for at this moment. Great to see you, Kaitlan. Thank you so much.
Joining me now to discuss this and more, CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston, and Jackie Kucinich is here, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast." It's great to see you, guys.
Mark, just looked at that tweet from the president this morning, it is a lot of what he has said before, about Comey and about Clinton even before. But is it surprising that the president hasn't directly addressed the interview from last night?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Certain some legal reasoning it seems that he doesn't want to engage with what Comey had said, certainly in the first 24 hours, but even if he is receiving that advice right now, Kate, not to directly challenge Comey on what he is saying in this ABC interview, he is going to.
[11:05:06] He cannot stop himself. Especially when he's criticized to the extent that you just played at the top of the show right now. What we're going to see, though, as you noted over the next couple of weeks, is we're going to see this tit for tat.
We are going to see Comey criticize President Trump, President Trump criticize Comey and then what we're starting to see, of course, is we're starting to see the White House weigh in in a very vocal way, and I suspect we'll start seeing Comey supporters as well. This is going to get very loud for the next few weeks.
BOLDUAN: Jackie, is there a sense, though, at all, do you think, that the Comey interview so far, the book, that -- the book and what folks have seen, isn't doing as much damage as the White House had originally feared, they somehow think that they dodged a bullet?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I feel like -- people are kind of lined up on James Comey at this point. Also, let's not forget, the White House is dealing with a lot right now. Not only is the president dealing with this Comey thing, let's take even the serious stuff like Syria aside, the life and death.
He's dealing with his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who is in court today. So, there is a lot of things the president -- a lot of fronts the president is doing battle on. Whereas someone like James Comey, a lot of it is baked in.
If you saw that interview, either kind of solidified the thoughts you had about Comey one way or the other. Now, as Mark points out, this book tour is a -- there is a lot of interviews to come. If the president doesn't react to this interview, he's got lots of time and lots of different avenues which to react to in the next couple of days and weeks.
BOLDUAN: And so, does James Comey as you're pointing out, Mark. I mean, this isn't just the president, of course, in his Twitter followers and the fact he's president, loudest mouthpiece possible, but this is -- if you just look at this week, he has interviewed tomorrow, he has interviews today, tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday speaking to CNN.
No matter what, this isn't going away for either person and do you think it now becomes less about the book and now about who is going to levy the next, I don't know, personality attack?
PRESTON: It is a really good question because these are two strong personalities in President Trump and in James Comey. I think one thing that has been buried out of this interview that we saw last night is that James Comey said that there were examples of obstruction of justice.
Now, if that's the case what are those examples that he knows of? If he knows of them, Robert Mueller knows of them. Are there more examples? If Comey can refer back to obstruction of justice that he believes happened before he left, wow, that is very, very big.
But to your point, Kate, you are going to see this loud chorus of these two men going back and forth at one another and one thing James Comey has for him is that Democrats don't like James Comey, but they like James Comey right now because he's attacking the president.
BOLDUAN: Yes, welcome to politics. We hate you until we need you and we love you. So, Jackie, the -- in this interview, and in this rollout that we're seeing now play out, as mark perfectly points out this was an important moment when he talked about seeing evidence of obstruction of justice.
Do you think what James Comey says in the interview, how angry this could potentially make the president, how this plays out, do you think this all makes it more or less likely has an impact at all on the likelihood the president would take and fire Rod Rosenstein now or the Russia investigation?
KUCINICH: I think it is an open question. Given what we have seen with the president, he's used any excuse to undermine the Mueller investigation because the president is fixated on it. It is entirely possible that he looks at this Comey interview and the ones in the next couple of days and does try to use that to make the case against Rod Rosenstein. Now, the other wild card is how Congress reacts to this. So far, we have seen leaders like Paul Ryan just yesterday and Mitch McConnell last week say they don't need any legislation to protect the special counsel. We'll see if that changes based on how angry the president is.
BOLDUAN: I did love when Chuck Todd was interviewing Paul Ryan on Sunday, he said, it is like insurance. You may not ever need it, but you still buy it. Paul Ryan doesn't have an answer for that one. Great to see you, guys. Thanks so much.
PRESTON: Thanks, Kate. Welcome back.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Mark. Great to see you.
Now here with me is a member of both the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees, Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island. Congressman, thanks so much for coming in.
RERESENTATIVE DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Good morning. My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: Thank you. So, what is your take on the big Comey first interview?
CICILLINE: Well, I think it is important to remember Director Comey saw the president up close. He worked for him for months. He made some important observations and I think he shared those observations in the interview last night and I expect he shared them in his book. I think they're important observations.
[11:10:03] I mean, particularly, the observations about the president's effort to elicit a loyalty pledge from Director Comey, his urging that he sort of let this thing go with Flynn, he's a good guy. I mean, these are very disturbing pieces of evidence.
I think Jim Comey -- I disagree with some of the judgments he's made, but I have never questioned his integrity, his honesty. He's been before our committee, the Judiciary Committee a number of times over the years. I think he had important facts to share with the American people and I think he'll continue to obviously talk about those.
BOLDUAN: Let's talk about some of the judgments that he made because Comey -- I want to play for you what Comey said about his decision to disclose that they were reopening the Clinton investigation during, of course, just days before the election. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump and so I'm sure that it was a factor. Like I said, I don't remember spelling it out, but it had to have been, that she's going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she'll be illegitimate the moment she's elected.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: I mean, he is saying here that politics were on his mind when he made this call. Are you OK with that?
CICILLINE: Yes. I don't want to -- I don't want to put words into Director Comey's mouth. I think what he's arguing there is that he was concerned that if he didn't reveal this that somehow after the election if Hillary Clinton won as he expected she would she would be challenged as an illegitimate president because this wasn't disclosed before the election.
The problem with that explanation is there was an ongoing investigation to the Trump campaign that wasn't disclosed. So, that's the judgment I think was in error. I think that was a mistake obviously, but I don't doubt he was doing it because he thought it was the right thing to do.
I don't think he did it because he's dishonest. I think he made a mistake in judgment and he ought to be accountable for that. But I think it is important for him to share these -- the facts surrounding these events, and I think --
BOLDUAN: Do you think it damages his credibility or the credibility of the FBI?
CICILLINE: No, I think he's being -- I think he's acknowledging he made a judgment and people can disagree with that judgment. I think he's been very candid about the circumstances surrounding it and what weighed in the balance. I would have come to a different conclusion if I were him.
But, again, I think people can make errors in judgment and still be honest, trustworthy, reliable people. I think he is that. I had the opportunity, watch him testify in person before our committee, I think he is a credible and trustworthy person. I think he made some errors in judgment.
BOLDUAN: But does he lose -- he calls the president morally unfit to be president. Does Comey -- has he lost the moral high ground in admitting this because that's the reason why there is department policy, which is, you don't even acknowledge existence of an investigation, that's how it has been for god knows how long and he went against that.
CICILLINE: I think the judgment with the president's morally unfit to be president is a judgment that the American people will ultimately make. I think what Director Comey said and I think he's right, when you look at the false equivalency of the president spoke about at Charlottesville and unwillingness to be honest, consistently, the way that he has spoken about it and treated women, those are real questions.
And I think real judgments of the American people will make about the moral character of the president. I think Director Comey was sharing his view of that. Ultimately, the American people will decide that in elections. But I think the observations he's made are accurate and they're important pieces of evidence that the American people will consider in deciding the political future of this president.
BOLDUAN: Listen to another part of this interview. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should Donald Trump be impeached?
COMEY: Impeachment is a question of law and fact in politics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a citizen. You have a judgment.
COMEY: I give you a strange answer, I hope not because I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they're duty bound to do directly. People in this country need to stand up, and go to the voting booth, and vote their values. And so, impeachment in a way would short circuit that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Congressman, you're on the committee that would consider impeachment if it came up. What do you think of what Comey says there?
CICILLINE: Yes, I think his point is an important one. Look, obviously we have to be sure that Robert Mueller can continue the investigation uninhibited. Be sure it is free from any political interference that he has the resources he needs to complete that work. And let the facts be found out wherever they lead us.
A judgment on impeachment has to be made once that's concluded. I think the underlying argument that Director Comey is making, look, it is on all of us, the American people, to remain deeply engaged in the civic life of our country, to participate in elections, to vote, to make sure our voices are heard.
BOLDUAN: Right, but his point is also it would be wrong for Congress to move on impeachment and it should be up to the American people in 2020 to decide.
CICILLINE: Well, I think what he's saying is, I don't think he's saying that should the investigation conclude and produce evidence that presents an impeachable offense, I think director Comey would say the Congress has a constitutional duty to move forward, but we don't know that yet.
[11:15:08] I think we have to wait until the investigation is completed. Make sure there is no interference that the president doesn't try to obstruct or impede or stop it. Let it follow its course. I think that's what most of the American people want.
But I think his point is, removing someone from office or impeaching a president is a very significant development. And that we have an ongoing responsibility, all of us, to stay involved in the civic life and political life of our country to make sure our voices are heard, and elected officials are accountable.
And that we shouldn't sort of short circuit this process. We need to let the special counsel continue. If, in fact, high crimes and misdemeanors are present, then Congress has a responsibility to act. But in the meantime, we all have a responsibility to stay engaged, stay informed, make sure our voices are being heard. I think that's an important point.
BOLDUAN: I'm still not sure that's exactly what he said, but good news is, Congressman, he's doing a lot more interviews than he's going to be asked about. Thank you so much, Congressman. It's great to see you. Thank you for coming in.
CICILLINE: Thanks for having me.
BOLDUAN: Coming up, we'll take you -- we'll show you live pictures now, today in New York, in a New York City courtroom, Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen. What could possibly happen? We'll bring you that.
Plus, protests and calls for a boycott, and now CEO says he's going to fix it. Starbucks responds to accusations of racial profiling. Be right back.
BOLDUAN: A stunning request from the president's attorney and two controversial figures appearing in the same courtroom for the first time. That's why all eyes are on the federal courthouse here in New York. Live pictures of a dreary day in New York.
But everyone is there and waiting for this to happen. President Trump's long time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is scheduled to appear at a hearing just hours from now. And so is Stormy Daniels, the porn star he paid $130,000 to do keep quiet about an alleged affair with president Trump weeks before the 2016 election and she also plans to be there.
The president's own attorney will be there, asking on behalf of the president to see what the FBI swept up in that raid last week before anybody else does. So, as you can see, a lot could happen.
CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz is joining me now with much more on this. Shimon, we were just talking about Friday's hearing offered up a lot of surprises. What is expected today then?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: A decision perhaps from the judge on whether or not she's going to grant the request by Michael Cohen's attorney and now as you said, the president's attorney, essentially you now have the president intervening in a criminal case on behalf of his long time lawyer, his longtime friend, asking the judge that there is potential -- saying to the judge there is potentially privilege information that was swept up in this raid by the FBI that only I can wave privilege on and I need to view the materials and I need it look at them and then I will come back to you and tell you what you have permission to look at.
BOLDUAN: It is pretty amazing. To be clear, Stormy Daniels is just attending.
PROKUPECZ: Yes. She's just attending. She's not expected to participate. But I will tell you, this judge has been fairly open with reporters and other lawyers. Michael Avenatti spoke in court on Friday, that Stormy Daniels attorney. He has no role in this.
So, there is potential if she decides that she wants to address the court on something, the judge could hear -- this judge has been pretty good about keeping things open and transparent.
And Michael Cohen did finally file what the government has been asking for a week, since the raid, who his clients are, who else is affected by the so-called privilege. Finally, today, we got some indications that there may be other clients and now the judge is going to decide what to do hopefully sometime today.
BOLDUAN: They're not listing it out, just we know they submitted it to the judge.
PROKUPECZ: They gave some names, but, yes, not many.
BOLDUAN: Stick with me. Stick with me. Joining the conversation now is former federal prosecutor, Steven Levin. Steve, it's great to see you again. So, adding to kind of what Shimon is talking about here, the president wants to review the documents that the FBI picked up before investigators. How does that, if at all, complicate things for Michael Cohen and what we're talking about right now?
STEVEN LEVIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Good morning, Kate. I had the opportunity to read Trump's lawyer's motion and it is well written. It is well researched, and it is well wrong. There is simply no basis in law for Trump or his lawyers to have the opportunity to review, seize materials, from Cohen's office.
There is just no precedent for it and what Trump and his lawyers seem to forget, or ignore, is that justice is without fear or favor. You know, if the judge were to grant what Trump is asking for here, the opportunity to review materials that by all appearances seem to have been lawfully seized, that's setting a dangerous precedent.
What about all the other people who are represented by lawyers whose offices are searched by the FBI, do they have that same right? There is no basis to think they would. And so, it is doubtful that a judge is going to grant Trump's lawyers request and so it doesn't help Michael Cohen.
BOLDUAN: Also, Steve, the president, we have been told, his advisers say at least that the president is more concerned about this legal action than he is about Robert Mueller's investigation. Do you see that? Do you think he has reason to be more concerned, just on the face of it, here, than there? LEVIN: Well, he does appear to be more concerned, based on the tweets and the reporting that we have seen. Whether he should be more concerned or not, we're really not in a position to know. We keep hearing that Michael Cohen knows where all the bodies are buried. Well, to the extent he does, maybe that will come back to bite Trump, maybe it won't.
[11:25:06] I frankly think Mueller's investigation is going to probably tell us more about some of the activities that Trump was engaged in prior to becoming president than perhaps the investigation into Cohen. We have to wait and see.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely do. Just wait and see exactly what happens today. You said there is even more stuff coming out.
PROKUPECZ: So, this morning, there was a side bar conversation that attorneys had with the judge. She has concerns about letting this out in the public. She's been great. The judge has been great.
This morning they put out a transcript of the cyber. What we learned, the government in the side bar conversation with the judge tells the judge this is a fast-moving investigation, meaning the Michael Cohen -- they want to get moving.
They have not been able to look at any of these documents or any of the information that they seized last week. It is a week ago. They want to get moving. They want to get this over with. This is a fast- moving investigation, we learned on Friday this has been a month's long investigation.
But here is what is more significant. The government revealed in the side bar conversations and they say that, quote, "We have considerable amount of information about Mr. Cohen's activities." So this argument that this information is privileged, they're using this to say, we know what he's been doing --
BOLDUAN: We already know, like they already know what they're looking for?
PROKUPECZ: Exactly. That's exactly right. They have his e-mails. We learned on Friday they did these covert warrants to get his e- mails, so they have that -- that information. They have a pretty good idea of his business dealings, who his clients have been, that's what they have been arguing in court.
We know that there is only really been one client, this idea that he needs more time to go over the number of clients he has, and this could potentially cause harm to more than one person, the government right now is not buying it. Their point is that Michael Cohen is just stalling.
BOLDUAN: And that might also get to why when you say the government says there is a fast-moving investigation, why maybe the judge was a little upset that Michael Cohen didn't show up in the courtroom on Friday. PROKUPECZ: That's why she ordered him to court. Couldn't get answers. His own lawyer couldn't give her the answers. Where is your client and then she kind of said I want him here on Monday?
BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Shimon. Steve, thank you so much. Great to see you as well.>
Coming up for us, what James Comey wanted Hillary Clinton to hear last night. That's coming up.