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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
James Comey Tells All; Interview With Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired April 16, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: But, let me ask you, Karine, about the point that the American people knew who Donald Trump was before they elected him, that is a fair point.
It is not as though people thought he was -- I'm going to date myself with this reference -- but like Alan Alda with women. People thought -- people knew that he was a cad. People knew that he said things that weren't true.
People knew that when it came to some -- that maybe he had some blind spots when it came to issues of race and such. He has a point there.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, but here is the thing.
If we go back to 2016, Jim Comey mishandled the Hillary Clinton e- mails. He just did. And that is a fact. And I do believe that he did hand over the White House to Donald Trump.
There is scientific evidence upon scientific evidence that shows that it did have an effect what he did days out before the election. And we have to remember, her polls were way up, and then that happened and things changed. And so that is a problem that James Comey -- Jim Comey, James Comey, has to live with.
But at the end of the day, that is not, that is absolutely not why Donald Trump fired Jim Comey. He fired him because of the Russia thing. He said it himself. And he wanted to obstruct justice. He protect himself and, his family and his top aides.
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That is not true, Karine.
URBAN: No, no, Jim Comey has never once said that.
JEAN-PIERRE: I'm talking about Donald Trump. I'm talking about Donald Trump.
TAPPER: To Lester Holt.
URBAN: I'm saying That there is one thing about Jim Comey and what he did, but that is not why he fired Jim Comey.
TAPPER: Just, Jackie, I want to get your response to this.
Kellyanne Conway in October of 2016, when everybody was sitting in the different chairs and the Hillary Clinton people were attacking Jim Comey, Kellyanne Conway tweeted: "Astonished by the all-out assault on Comey by team Clinton. Suggesting he is a partisan interfering with the election is dangerous and unfair."
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There is a tweet for that. It is a genre of I feel like Twitter now.
And, yes, it is hypocritical. Of course it's hypocritical, because they're all guns blazing at Jim Comey. There's also the Sarah Huckabee-Sanders tweet. I think it's about...
TAPPER: When you are attacking the FBI, you are losing.
So there is a lot of this. Now that they're on the other side of it, they are taking the opposite position.
TAPPER: Jim Comey would argue, I think -- and we will find out on Thursday when I get to interview him -- but I think he would argue or I think he feels that the fact that he gets attacked by both sides might mean that he is doing his job the right way.
KUCINICH: He would probably argue that.
TAPPER: I know you two disagree.
KUCINICH: Well it is just it is hard to believe that he came forward with the information about Hillary Clinton because he was worried about her being a legitimate president.
I think he was more worried about the FBI.
TAPPER: You agree with that.
URBAN: Yes, absolutely. He was trying to protect himself.
JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, it's self-preservation.
TAPPER: Look at this agreement. (CROSSTALK)
URBAN: In 2016, the then Majority Leader Harry Reid, or minority leader at the time, sent a letter saying Comey is guilty of a violation of the Hatch Act. Right? He's a public employee engaged in basically electioneering.
KUCINICH: It is the same genre as Rod Rosenstein -- Comey being fired because of Hillary Clinton -- how he handled Hillary Clinton case. It is just not true.
TAPPER: Just everybody using whatever they want to make the argument again.
TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.
What you didn't hear during the Comey interview next.
TAPPER: In our politics lead, of all of the things James Comey said in his first interview promoting his bombshell book, this might end up being the most dangerous for President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Was President Trump obstructing justice?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Possibly. it's certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Joining me now is CNN's Jim Sciutto.
And, Jim, I guess the question is, is Comey now the star witness of an obstruction of justice case?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Certainly a star witness.
I think that is the way we should look at this interview. Set aside for a moment his assessments of Trump's fitness for office and his personal descriptions of Trump, and remember he is a witness to issues that we know are of interest to the special counsel, specifically and most importantly that meeting in the Oval Office in early in President Trump's term when President Trump, according to James Comey, asked him to let it go, the case against Michael Flynn, when he was already under criminal investigation.
And he said in that interview airing yesterday that he would be willing to testify under oath if the special counsel pursues a prosecution under obstruction of justice with that in mind.
He's a witness and you could argue a credible witness. People have their opinions, but argue he would be a credible witness in that environment.
TAPPER: What did Comey have to say on whatever compromising information Russia might -- emphasize might -- have on President Trump?
SCIUTTO: Well, he had to say something that is pretty remarkable to hear from the mouth of a former FBI director who was briefed at least on the early intelligence about this. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?
COMEY: I think it's possible. I don't know. These are more words I never thought I would utter about the president of the United States, but it's possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Possible that the Russians have compromising information on Donald Trump.
Remember, Jake, from early on, that was the central claim of the so- called Steele dossier that you and I were among a team that was the first to report on in that briefing that the Russians have financial and personal information, some of it salacious, on him.
And there's that FBI director who saw much of the intelligence, not making any final conclusion by any means, but saying it is possible.
TAPPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.
Let's bring the panel back.
OK, let me just ask this. It is possible. Jeffrey Toobin earlier today on CNN was very harshly critical of James Comey for saying that, because it is possible that the Russians have it is the same thing as saying it is possible that they don't.
And Toobin's argument was that is not what prosecutors do. Prosecutors and investigators, they either have evidence or they have no evidence. And Toobin said this is the same thing he tried to do with Hillary Clinton, where they had no evidence that she had broken the law, but he also wanted to chum the waters and criticize her.
KUCINICH: Right. I don't disagree with Jeffrey on this one, because it is really -- it is irresponsible just to throw that out there and not say anything to back it up and not say anything to refute it. It really does -- just it fuels an already toxic environment where --
and people were tuning into that interview to understand what happened. That doesn't contribute to anyone's understanding of what is happening with the president and Russia.
TAPPER: Karine, it's possible that there is life on other planets.
JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. It is very possible.
Look, I agree with Jeffrey Toobin. I respect him. I think he is a very smart guy. And so I don't have any argument against that. The only thing I would say is that Donald Trump has not been acting like an innocent man in all of this.
And the fact of the matter is that his campaign chair has been indicted. The deputy to the campaign chair has been indicted and now cooperating. Michael Flynn has been indicted and now cooperating. But I'm just saying, there is something there. There is something to this. That is all I'm saying.
URBAN: Karine, you know as well as I do, Manafort, Gates, those are 2013 crimes they are pleading guilty to, 2013, long before Donald Trump was a candidate.
Jim Comey, the rest of that quote if you read it and let it play out, says, it is possible, but I don't think it is likely. So, completely, I agree with Toobin and these two fine ladies here. I think it is irresponsible for Director Comey to be doing that and saying those things.
TAPPER: Comey also spoke with "USA Today" about how Trump talked about Putin behind closed doors. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: At least in my experience, he won't criticize Vladimir Putin even in private, even 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And this -- Comey writes about this in the book, because one of the arguments is even if Trump publicly wants to have a good relationship with Vladimir Putin and that is why he publicly doesn't want to criticize him -- and you can make an argument for that -- why privately would he be unwilling to criticize Putin?
And this was in response directly to his interview with Bill O'Reilly when O'Reilly said Putin is a killer, and he said, you don't think that we are killers too?
KUCINICH: You don't have to take Jim Comey's word on this one. There is a lot of reporting that really substantiates says that.
"The Washington Post" had a story just today about how the president had to be dragged over the finish line to expel the Russian diplomats and was angry at his staff when he found out the United States expelled 60, which looked like -- it would look different than the individual European countries that were also expelling diplomats.
His behavior with Vladimir Putin is questionable, which is why when James Comey is asked about whether the president is colluding with the Russians or whatever that question was, it does raise eyebrows, which is why he needed to give a straight answer to that question because of all -- because...
URBAN: I think the Russia stuff -- if you guys are hanging your hat -- if you Democrats are hanging your hat on Russian collusion...
KUCINICH: I'm not a Democrat.
URBAN: No, no.
URBAN: I get it.
But if Democrats are hanging their hat on Russian collusion and there's some big finding, you guys are going to be waiting a long time.
JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just going to repeat what I said earlier, which is that Donald Trump is not acting like an innocent man.
URBAN: Just you are going to be waiting a long time on the Russian collusion piece.
TAPPER: All right. Stick around.
She escaped the Nazi occupation as a little girl. She's warning today that fascism is still right in our faces here and abroad. She's pointing at the White House, in fact. Is that fair?
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joins me to explain next.
Stay with us.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're back with the "WORLD LEAD." And President Trump is pumping the brakes on proposed new sanctions against Russia for supporting and protecting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The Washington Post is reporting that the President met with his national security team last night and told him he was upset that the sanctions have been rolled out by Nikki Haley among others because he was uncomfortable with them. Hours earlier, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. vowed additional measures will be announced as early as today. This comes as international investigators are trying to get to the site of that April 7th chemical weapons attack in Syria and expressing fears that Russia may have already tampered with the evidence. Joining me now to talk about this and much, much more is Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton. She's out with a new book, it's titled, Fascism, A Warning. Madame Secretary, thanks for being here.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Great to be with you, Jake.
TAPPER: It's a fascinating book. I want to ask you -- everything is really of a piece, but the news that the President stopped these sanctions, even though Nikki Haley announced that they might come as soon as today, happened the same time that Comey is on USA Today saying that even in private President Trump wouldn't criticize Vladimir Putin. And also, there's this new Washington Post reports saying that President Trump is very is upset to learn how big the expulsion of the Russian diplomats was. What do you make of this reluctance of President Trump to criticize Putin?
ALBRIGHT: There are so many crazy parts to all of this and I think the question is why does he want to do that? And I think that some of the things there's got to be something that he wants to make sure that Putin stays a friend of his. So we only have to speculate about what that is. The bottom line though is everything about this is nuts because in fact, the Russians were supportive of Assad in terms of using the chemical weapons because they were the ones that theoretically had delivered him in terms of getting an agreement. The other part is that they -- the reason for the earlier sanctions and throwing all of the diplomats out has to do with what the Russians were doing in England and Putin is behind all of that. These things would not be happening and then just the disarray in decision-making. I was Ambassador to the United Nations and I have to say, I feel sorry for Nikki Haley to --she has been very tough up there, making points. She makes very clear that she represents the President and all of a sudden she's put into this ridiculous situation of looking as though she is out there by herself on something and that undermines the whole decision-making process and makes us, frankly, look absolutely inept.
[16:50:44] TAPPER: Your book focuses on the spread of fascism across the globe and the threat to the United States as well. You write about leaders such as Putin and Trump, "if we think of fascism as a wound from the past that it almost healed, putting Trump in the White House was like ripping off the bandage and picking at the scab." Those are tough words. Obviously there isn't fascism in the United States. I have freedom of speech, I have freedom of the press, people are still voting diplomatically. What do you mean by that?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I'm not saying that Trump is a fascist but I am saying that he's the most undemocratic President in modern American history. That his instincts are anti-democratic, that he's done everything to malign the press, that he has underplay the whole role of the judicial department. What he really does is make clear that he doesn't understand the way democratic system works. And that gives a lot of comfort to those authoritarian proto-fascist people that are out there and he's not playing the role the U.S. needs to play which is the leader of the free world.
TAPPER: You write about this in the book about the comfort that he brings, President Trump, brings in your view to people like Duterte in the Philippines or Erdogan in Turkey. How does he bring them comfort?
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, it used to be that the United States makes clear what democracy is about, freedom of speech and independent judiciary and not propaganda and the number of different ways. So we are not carrying that out. That seat in America now is empty. But the other part is even worse than that. He will go, for instance to Poland, stood behind -- beside the polish leader and said what they were doing was great and what they've done is also undercut their judiciary so he is giving comfort to them.
TAPPER: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, thank you so much. I appreciate your time. We have to go to the courthouse in Manhattan now where a hearing involving the President's lawyer has just wrapped.
STORMY DANIELS, PORNOGRAPHIC ACTRESS: -- played by a different side of rules or should we say no rules at all. He has never thought that the little man or especially women and even more women like me mattered. That ends now. My Attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth and the facts of what happened and I give my word that we will not rest until that happens. Thank you very much.
TAPPER: That was actress -- porn actress Stormy Daniels at the courthouse. Here's her Attorney Michael Avenatti.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY OF STORMY DANIELS: All right, I will now accept questions about today's hearing and other topics relating to my client.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
AVENATTI: Yes, I think Judge Wood was very reasoned and measured in her approach relating to the documents. Our number one concern was that the documents, the integrity of the documents be maintained during the process. It is clear from the order by Judge Wood that that's exactly what's going to happen. That will ensure that no documents are exfoliated, destroyed or otherwise tampered with which is our chief concern in connection with this process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
AVENATTI: I'm not going to answer that. That is a ridiculous question. Next question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) AVENATTI: Well she's ultimately going to determine whether a special
master is appropriate or not. One thing -- one thing I will say is this, I said last Friday and this weekend that Michael Cohen was radioactive and that anybody that was associated with him in the last 20 to 30 years should be very, very concerned. What we witnessed earlier in the hearing with the disclosure relating to Sean Hannity proved my point exactly. He is radioactive. Anyone that had any contact with this man in the last 20 years should be very concerned about what secrets of theirs are within these documents. Next question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
[16:55:00] AVENATTI: I'm sorry?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant, Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
AVENATTI: Depending on what is contained within those documents. I think there is significant danger to the President -- the President trusted -- the President trusted Mr. Cohen as his fixer for years. He trusted him with his innermost secrets and I think that the chickens are about to come home to roost. Next question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
AVENATTI: I wouldn't even begin to advise the President at this juncture. I think the ship has sailed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
AVENATTI: No, there was absolutely a reason because we wanted to ensure that the integrity of the documents was maintained and we wanted to lend her voice towards making sure that the American people learned the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what happened to her and to others in her position over the last ten to15 years. We haven't made a determination yet as to whether she will attend each hearing in connection with this process.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
AVENATTI: Well I think it -- I think it speaks volumes and I think Sean Hannity got thrown under the bus by Michael Cohen's counsel today who was clearly more concerned about protecting the President than protecting Sean Hannity, but we're going to let them short that out. Anything else?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, are you concerned for your safety right now as we speak today?
AVENATTI: I have been concerned with my safety for the duration of the case as my client has been but we've decided the risk is more than worth it and we'll see this to conclusion, whether it's next week, next month, next year, no matter how long it takes, we're not going away. Thank you. TAPPER: That was Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn actress Stormy Daniels whose real name is Stephanie Clifford speaking outside the courtroom where Michael Cohen had a hearing today. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is outside that courtroom. Shimon, what came out of today's hearing other than the disclosure that Mr. Cohen believes at least he has also been a client -- he's also had a client of Sean Hannity.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So to the legal case, Jake, a small victory perhaps for Michael Cohen's team. The judge has agreed, has told the prosecutors the government here to turn over, to hand them all of the documents that they obtained in that FBI raid. Remember we're here because Michael Cohen's attorneys are arguing there is privileged material. Well, the Judge sided somewhat with Michael Cohen's attorney here. She said, OK, I'm going to have the prosecutors hand you guys all of those documents, all of that material, and then we will reconvene and you will -- essentially what's going to happen is they're going to decide after that what's privileged and what's not. The bottom line here and I think this is the important part, Jake, important point here is that the government, the FBI, and prosecutors cannot begin looking at any of this material for their investigation. So this will perhaps delay it somewhat.
TAPPER: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much. CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin and Laura Coates are back with me. Jeffrey and Laura, help break this down for me. Jeff, what just happened? What did the Judge Kimba Wood do?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN Legal Analyst: Well, the question is who will look at these documents to decide whether there is even assertion of a privilege? And it looks like Cohen's lawyers and maybe the President's lawyers will be able to look at the documents and make a case to the judge that these documents should not be shown to the prosecution. So it is a victory I think for the recipients of the search warrant, the people who were searched because they now have the right to make an argument that this stuff is privileged, but there's no guarantee they'll will win and the judge will ultimately decide whether the privilege applies.
TAPPER: Laura, your court take?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And that's true especially since the reason to have this kind of covert way of handling the warrant was because they didn't trust this person to be forthcoming or hand over materials. So it almost seems counterintuitive it will go back into the fox's hen house in order to figure out how to deal with it from here.
TAPPER: All right, that's it for THE LEAD today. Thank you so much, Laura and Jefferey. This Thursday of course, I will sit down with former FBI Director James Comey for his first cable news interview that will be live right here on THE LEAD on CNN this Thursday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer who has more on breaking news in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, secret clients. President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is forced to reveal in court that the secret name of his client list is Fox News Host Sean Hannity. One of the President's biggest boosters. Why was Hannity talking to a man known as the fixer? FBI evidence, as Michael Cohen, fights to suppress evidence seized in the FBI raids against him, why is the President's legal team joining that battle against federal prosecutors? Stormy hearing, porn star Stormy Daniels steals the spotlight for Michael Cohen when she shows up for this hearing?