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CNN Obtains Comey's Memos on Conversations with Trump; Report: Democratic Party Files Suit Alleging Russia, Trump Team and WikiLeaks Conspired to Disrupt 2016 Campaign; Rudy Giuliani Joins Trump's Personal Legal Team. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired April 20, 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. Russian hookers, government leakers and deep concerns over Michael Flynn. Lordy, there are memos. CNN has obtained 15 pages of redacted notes coming from James Comey. They are his accounts of private conversations with President Trump in the months leading up to Comey's firing as FBI director. They range from the salacious to the unsettling, and, of course, the president is offering his take on it all on Twitter this morning.
"James Comey memos just out and show clearly that there was no collusion and no obstruction. Also, he leaked classified information. Wow! Will the witch hunt continue?"
The president, also, comes to the defense of his fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, the same Michael Flynn who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Donald Trump saying Flynn's life was totally destroyed while Comey leaked and lied.
Let's dig through it all. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is in Washington digging through all of these memos, here with us right now. So, Shimon, the memos are largely consistent with what Comey has said publicly and in his book and everywhere that he's speaking. But particularly I'm fascinated with how Trump is fixated on the salacious deals, the salacious details in the dossier. That he really points out in the memos.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. He certainly does, Kate. As you said, 15 pages, some seven conversations that he had with the president. That he detailed in these memos. Some of the things that stick out, certainly, are these salacious details that the president was obsessed over. Remember, the salacious details came up in that January briefing that Comey did for the president, regarding the details of that dossier. The idea of the golden showers came up. Remember, the president calling it fake news and some of the conversations with the president.
And he was fixated on this idea that there were hookers involved, quote, saying "the hooker thing is nonsense." You know, so really a fixation on some of the more salacious details. You know this February 8th conversation in 2017 that the president had with the former FBI director, he said, quote, "The president said the hookers thing is nonsense. But that Putin had told him we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world."
Now, that certainly stood out as something new that has not come up before. We don't know when, according to the memos, Comey says he doesn't know what exactly the president was referring to and when that conversation took place. However, it was in the middle of some of this fixation that the president has had on what the -- on what Comey had briefed him on.
BOLDUAN: And, Shimon, in this strange twist, I guess we could say, Comey writes down these memos that the president was critical of his then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
PROKUPECZ: Yes and that certainly was new as well, Kate, in these memos. Questioning the judgment of his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, that's revealed in these memos who, you know who is now cooperating with the special counsel. And he writes at one point, Comey writes, that in -- one of their conversations concerning Michael Flynn, where some of this came up and remember, he wanted Comey to let Michael Flynn go, and then in one of the conversations he writes the president pointed his fingers at his head and said the guy has serious judgment issues. Certainly that was something new that we had not heard about, where his -- the president who seemingly had a lot of admiration for the former national security adviser here questioning his judgment.
BOLDUAN: As recently as in his -- one of his most recent tweets showing some subpoena, of course for Michael Flynn. Great to see you Shimon, thank you so much.
Let's discuss this right now please. Joining me, Brian Fallon, CNN political commentator, former press secretary for Hillary Clinton's campaign and spokesman for the Obama Justice Department, Scott Jennings is here, CNN political commentator and former special assistant to President George W. Bush. It's great to see both of you. Thanks for being here.
Brian, let's get to it first. You're no fan of James Comey. But you have to admit that Comey is consistent from the memo, to his hearing, to his book, to his interviews, on what he's saying, at least, you can find the truth -- I guess, you have to decide if you find it truthful or not. What does this all mean, though? Does it make you like him anymore?
BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think you're right, Kate, there is probably nobody happier in Washington today to have these memos out there than Jim Comey himself. Remember last year, when Donald Trump tweeted that there is probably - that there might be tapes that record his interactions with Jim Comey. Jim Comey said, Lordy, I hope there are tapes because he was so convinced that his recollection was accurate. That he would be happy to be vindicated by having a recording of it. And I think the same effect has been achieved with these memos, contemporaneous memos that Jim Comey authored that substantiate his account from his book almost 100 percent.
[11:05:01] So, I think that this ploy of trying to get these memos out of the Justice Department has back fired on Chairman Goodlatte and House Republicans. I think they were reaching, trying to find a contradiction. If anything there is more salacious details in here that make the president look worse.
And to Donald Trump's point this morning trying to tweet out, the memos themselves don't confirm that there was any obstruction or any collusion. Well, just like Jim Comey himself and every interview he's given, he's never himself said that he thinks that the president's actions as he witnessed them by themselves amount to obstruction. Again, his interactions with the president are just a piece of evidence in a larger case that Bob Mueller might assemble. So, I don't think anybody was ever expecting that the memos themselves would be some kind of smoking gun with respect to obstruction.
BOLDUAN: Some people built it up to kind of being that. In one way or the other -- I mean at one point that Brian hits on those, Scott, is the Republicans are the ones who called for the memos to put out. They pushed hard to get these memos out. Do you think -- are Republicans, especially, you know, the chairs that push so hard for this, are they happy now that they're out?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think generally speaking Republicans believe this week, memos, interviews, the whole tour has served to damage Jim Comey's image. I think he's not come across very well, frankly, in some of his interviews.
BOLDUAN: Do you think the memos served to do that?
JENNINGS: I think they thought maybe it was going to add another layer of that. So I think generally this week Republicans, you know, whatever angle of it you want to say are thinking that Comey hasn't done himself any favors as it relates -- if you view this through the lens of Trump versus Comey, which I don't, but that's how people want to view it. They think Comey is a damaged person, that a lot of what he's saying in the memos and in the book, are petty and beneath a man of his experience and stature.
BOLDUAN: He says he has a reason and it was not intended to be petty. He was supposed to be taking readers on a journey with him to take them into the room. But that's - people are taking from what they will. And that gets to the larger point. And I think you're both kind of hitting on this, Brian. If I ask you, your takeaway, from as Comey lays it out in his memo, the let it go, when it comes to the Michael Flynn investigation, you'll say -- you might say or folks will say that it was a direction. You speak to someone else, they'll say it is actually just maybe the president speaking loud that someone he has affection for, Michael Flynn, he hopes that it goes away and his life doesn't get turned upside down. Does the -- does this get the country all of this any closer to an answer on what Trump did or didn't do?
FALLON: No, I think it is another piece in the puzzle, but, again, I don't think that it is any one interaction that Donald Trump had with Jim Comey that by itself amounts to obstruction. I think it is the totality of the multiple times he brought up the issue of the fact that he dismissed the sort of state of mind that is represented by the fact that he dismissed Attorney General Sessions from one of the meetings where he wanted to corner Jim Comey on this topic. The fact that he ultimately fired Jim Comey and then told Lester Holt it was because of the Russia investigation. All these pieces will go into the puzzle and Bob Mueller will assess it.
And you know, I think at the end of the day, people can make -- raise appropriate questions about Jim Comey, as Scott has done, I certainly have done it about Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI. I trust the judgment that Bob Mueller is ultimately going to make in this. I think Bob Mueller is actually -- when Jim Comey looks in the mirror and sees a person of integrity, it is actually Bob Mueller is that person that Jim Comey sees when he looks in the mirror. He's the person that doesn't care about appearances. He doesn't care about political fallout. You heard Jim Comey interviews this week say that he was making judgments based on worrying that Hillary Clinton might be an illegitimate president.
BOLDUAN: Politics were not on his mind - he said.
FALLON: He said that he leaked things because through an intermediary because he didn't want to have to go out and no comment to other reporters that were parked in his driveway. This is a guy who has mind of a political operative at times. Bob Mueller is not that person. He's somebody that goes by the book.
So, I think that the country if nothing else despite whatever you think about Jim Comey or Andrew McCabe or Donald Trump or Michael Flynn, we can all have confidence in Bob Mueller and that's why it is so important that we uphold the integrity of this investigation.
BOLDUAN: Scott, let me ask you this. One thing that is new, there are few things that were new in the memo. One of the things that were new in the memo is Comey and Trump and this is my words here, they're hatred of leaks and the reporters who published the information that come from leaks and their desire to crack down on all of this. I want to read for all of you, and for the viewers' part of this.
This is -- this coming from Comey, of course. "I said something about it being difficult," meaning cracking down on leaks, "and he replied that we need to go after the reporters and referred to the fact that 10 or 15 years ago we put them in jail to find out what they knew and it worked. He mentioned Judy Miller by name. I explained that I was a fan of pursuing leaks aggressively but that going after reporters was tricky, for legal reasons and because DOJ tends to approach it conservatively. I said something about the value of putting a head on a pike as a message. He replied by saying it may involve putting reporters in jail. They spend a couple of days in jail, make a new friend and they're ready to talk."
Scott, the president is having conversation with the director of the FBI about jailing reporters.
[11:10:03] JENNINGS: Yes. And read the rest of it. Comey said I laughed.
BOLDUAN: Right. One more sentence. He said, I laughed. JENNINGS: The president of the United States, we know how the president feels about reporters, that's no secret. The fact that Comey is laughing along with the president joking about putting reporters in jail and subjecting them to what I thought meant sexual abuse in prison, very troubling. It is interesting. Comey - you know, the Bush people don't like him. The Trump people don't like him. Brian's people don't like him. And now he's in here laughing about putting reporters in jail with the president. You got -- I wonder what the next reporter that interviews Comey, 100 points to the person who asks him, do you want to put reporters in jail? Because I think that's one of the most eye popping things in these memos.
BOLDUAN: People are discussing it at all. It is coming in a private conversation between the president of the United States and the current -- at that moment, the current director of the FBI. I found that astonishing and hasn't got enough coverage. I was just handed this, Brian. So, bear with me, my friend.
"The Washington Post" is reporting that the Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit, is filing a lawsuit alleging Russia, the Trump campaign and "WikiLeaks" conspired to disrupt the 2016 election. You tell me anything about this?
FALLON: Well, yes. I think that the DNC, of course, was a victim of everything that happened in 2016. And I think that they want to use this lawsuit to do their own sort of fact finding process here and impose some accountability and sort of parallel or in tandem to the ongoing investigation that Bob Mueller is leading. And so, I think that there is a very compelling narrative based on the facts that have already surfaced that are described in the lawsuit that they are filing today. It does implicate certain members of the Trump campaign including Donald Jr. for that infamous meeting he took at Trump Tower in June of 2016. And I hope they get to depose people as part of this lawsuit and I hope we get some sort of public accounting. Because again, we're not quite sure what the final product is going to be of the Mueller investigation. It is not clear if he's going to be able to issue a comprehensive report that sees the light of day in public.
BOLDUAN: Haven't we just said that he's going to be the fair arbiter of justice on this?
FALLON: I think so. But it's going to require Congress perhaps calling him up to the Hill and who knows if Republicans will go along with that to allow him to have that say. There is an important fact finding that needs to happen beyond any legal culpability. So, Bob Mueller may be able to charge certain individuals like he has already done with people like Paul Manafort. But there may be other behavior that doesn't necessarily rise to the level of being illegality, but the public should still have the right to know and the DNC is a victim of what happened in 2016, certainly has a desire and a need and a complete justified need at that for seeking the truth of what happened here.
BOLDUAN: Look, I'm the last person to think I'm a judge that can decide standing in a case. But, Scott, Brian is not wrong that the DNC was the one that was targeted and was a victim of Russian meddling in the election.
JENNINGS: I heard Brian say that he trusts Mueller and now we have the DNC coming in and I guess trying to do Mueller's job for him. It strikes me this is -- I got to read the -
BOLDUAN: They're so helpful when it is in their favor.
JENNINGS: But this strikes me as duplicative and potentially disruptive.
BOLDUAN: You do?
JENNINGS: Yes, to what Mueller is doing. I trust Bob Mueller too. I think Mueller is the person in this whole thing, Congress, whoever, that is looking into this. Mueller is the one we should trust. And now you have political parties trying to intervene and interview the same people he's interviewing about this issue. Why don't we let Mueller do his job? I think that's the thing I take away from it.
BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Brian?
FALLON: Just fine. It won't actually interfere as it is a civil lawsuit. I mean Bob Mueller is conducting a criminal investigation. As I said, I do trust him to get to the bottom of where the criminality exists and the charge and the indictment of individuals that may have participated in any criminal wrongdoing.
But separately, we're relying on Congress right now to do a fact finding of matters that might not rise to the level of criminal wrongdoing. And right now, based on the way they're hand fistedly leaking memos from Jim Comey, I don't think anybody trusts Devin Nunes -- to the fact finding here.
BOLDUAN: Brian, -- do you think this lawsuit is in response to as we've seen, kind of the fallout, the falling apart of the investigations in Congress? Is that why the DNC is filing it now?
FALLON: Well, the DNC is a wronged and aggrieved party here. They were the victims of the hack in 2016. So, they certainly have the standing to -
BOLDUAN: Would they have followed it if they thought they had trust in the congressional investigations?
FALLON: I doubt that they would but that's a question for them. But I think in part they're probably motivated by the fact that we do have -- we have a responsibility to have a public airing of the facts here beyond what criminal wrongdoing Bob Mueller may find.
BOLDUAN: Fascinating stuff. I love when the substance is handed to me in the middle of the segment, makes it exciting. -
FALLON: Me too. I think we all did OK in reacting to it though. BOLDUAN: Oh, it's never good enough, never good enough. Brian, Scott, thank you guys so much. We're going to have much more on the breaking news of the Democratic Party now filing a lawsuit against Russia, the Trump campaign, and "WikiLeaks" for conspiring to disrupt the 2016 election. Much more ahead, stay right here.
[11:18:51] BOLDUAN: Breaking moments ago, the Democratic Party is just filing a lawsuit accusing Russia, the Trump campaign and "WikiLeaks" for conspiring to disrupt the 2016 election. Yes, conspiring to disrupt the election, accusing them of a far reaching conspiracy to meddle in the 2016 campaign and tilt the election in Donald Trump's favor.
Here with me now to discuss this, give me some perspective here, former U.S. attorney, Michael Moore and CNN legal analyst Paul Callan. It's great to have you both here. Paul, we're working through this a little bit together, but the fact of the DNC files this lawsuit today, what do you make of it?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is a very strange lawsuit. And the first thing lawyers probably would say, looking at it is, do they have standing, do they even have the right to go into court as a party. They have to be a victim. And then what are they a victim of and what would the damages be in the lawsuit. Usually civil lawsuits are for money damages, obviously there is no loss of money here, and the other issue is, you can't change -- are they going to say the outcome of the election has to be changed. I don't know.
I think it looks to me, on the surface, like they're just looking for an excuse to be able to take depositions of Donald Trump and other top people in the Trump campaign to go on simultaneously while the Mueller investigation is going on.
[11:20:03] BOLDUAN: Michael what is your initial reaction to this?
MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: So, it broke while I was getting plugged here in the chair, so I had a quick chance to look over it --
MOORE: But let me tell you. My initial reaction is this is what they have taken a page out of the porn star playbook. And that is to put collateral lawsuit out there that would allow them to get in some discovery to take depositions as Paul said and to sort of dig around and see what they have. What I'm interested to see though is if they've got some of the defendants named in the civil lawsuit who have also been charged criminally. I think you've got Papadopoulos and Gates, you've got Manafort. So, we know we have got some people out there who are already cooperators in the criminal case. And this may be a way to sort of squeeze and give additional information. It may be a way that they use statements they make in a plea agreement to further allegations in the civil complaint. Those things will work in tandem. So, again, I think this is -- they're following the lead of Stormy and her lawyer, as they try dig into additional information.
BOLDUAN: And, looking at this, it follows the lead a little bit of what -- what the DNC did in 1972 during the Watergate scandal, filing a similar kind of -- a similar legal tactic that they took. And I'm looking at the "Washington Post" article who first put this out and there is a statement here, Paul, from Tom Perez, of course, he chairman of the DNC. And here is the statement, he says that, "Russia launched an all-out assault on our Democracy," that there is widespread kind of agreement if that is true. And though he goes on, "and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump's campaign." "The campaign of a nominee for president of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency." How does Tom Perez know that?
CALLAN: Well, I don't know. And it gets back to this issue of, why would a federal court even entertain such a lawsuit. This is very, very unusual. And I don't see much of a comparison to the Watergate situation. Because you remember, Watergate ended rather quickly with the resignation of Richard Nixon. You know before -- impeachment articles weren't even voted against him by the whole House. It was only the committee recommending it.
BOLDUAN: A couple of years it all dragged out --
CALLAN: It did drag out for a couple of years. But you know something -- we're coming up on a couple of years on this case too. And so, I don't know where they go with this, except maybe be disruptive of the Mueller investigation and generate some headlines. But beyond that, and as Michael said, of course, stir up additional discovery. You know, take depositions that will get headlines as well.
BOLDUAN: And a party in all of this, one of the parties being sued here, Michael, is Russia. How do you sue Russia?
MOORE: Well, that's hard. There are certain countries that will have protections and we typically do that. It's hard to sue a foreign government. I guess is a way to say it. But there are also ways to maybe get around that. I think they'll be talking about whether or not some illegal conduct, other things that makes Russia vulnerable. This is going to be interesting ground. And it's going to maybe be the fodder for a lot of talk show and debate. I don't know how far they get in federal court at this point.
But I do think you're going to end up with information that is coming from Gates, from Manafort, from Papadopoulos, and this information will start going at it. If I filed a lawsuit on the behalf of the DNC, the first thing I would try to do is to put out some subpoena requests for depositions from Papadopoulos and Gates and try to nail down some of the facts, at least get that information out as quickly as I could, obviously, complying with the timelines that they need to get to federal court.
BOLDUAN: Let us see. While I have you both, I do want to ask you about some of the other legal news that is happening with the president and specifically his legal team. Rudy Giuliani, a very household familiar name, Paul Callan, says that he is now joining the Trump campaign. And in doing so, when this was kind of coming out, he expects the investigation -- the Mueller investigation to end quickly -- in a couple of weeks. He's ready to put a push on it. Where does he get that confidence?
CALLAN: I really don't know. I think he may be overestimating his own ability as a lawyer to influence an ongoing criminal investigation. It is really unlikely that he's going to cause the investigation to go away. On the other hand, though, Giuliani is a very experienced U.S. attorney. He knows the inside game in terms of the system, so I think probably that's a good thing that Trump at least is getting that kind of representation. Although from some of the footage that I've seen here, this morning, Giuliani has gotten a little hysterical in public appearances as of late about a variety of issues and I just hope he tries to bring the temperature down and not up in terms of looking at this investigation.
BOLDUAN: And one thing, Michael, he called -- he called Robert Mueller fair, which seems to be in stark contrast to what Donald Trump has said about Bob Mueller in recent weeks.
MOORE: Well, that's true. You know I think that Giuliani may be overplaying his game on this a little bit. I would like for him to tell me the one time when he was United States attorney that a criminal defense lawyer came in and said I would like you to end this investigation and everything just stopped.
BOLDUAN: It's a short thing.
MOORE: That's exactly - I think that it's never going to happen. That didn't happen. And you know he may be trying to come in and talk to some old friends or maybe he's trying to come back and they're trying to wrap some things up under attorney/client privilege that you know happened before.
[11:25:03] I mean you have Giuliani kind of was out there talking, a question about information coming from the New York FBI office and how the public got that information -- and now he's come back into the limelight as the noose who's starting to tighten around the administration.
CALLAN: You know, Comey has a - Comey, Michael, has a thing in his book where he says never get between Rudy Giuliani and a television camera.
MOORE: That's exactly right.
CALLAN: So, that was how assistant U.S. attorneys viewed it when he was assistant.
BOLDUAN: Well, let's see what happens next. Thanks gentlemen, great to see you both.
MOORE: Great being with you.
CALLAN: Thank you. BOLDUAN: We're going to continue following the breaking news, the Democratic Party, the DNC filing suit, accusing Russia, the Trump campaign and "WikiLeaks" of conspiring to tilt the election to disrupt the 2016 campaign. The DNC is filing suit. We have a lead -- top key Democratic senator joining us next. We'll be right back.
[11:30:03] BOLDUAN: Breaking news still coming, we continue to cover the Washington Post is reporting that the Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit against Russia, the Trump campaign and the "WikiLeaks" organization. They accused those parties of conspiring -