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Comey Calls House Probe a Wreck; Tariff Deadline Approaches. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 30, 2018 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:32:02] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this morning, fired FBI Director James Comey is taking aim at the House Intelligence Committee's report on the Russia investigation. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the House Intelligence Committee at all serve a good investigative purpose during all of this in your observations?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Not that I can see?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just totally got too politicized.

COMEY: Yes, and it wrecked the committee and it damaged relationships with the FISA count, the intelligence communities. It's just a wreck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now, Mike Rogers, CNN national security commentator, former chair of House Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Chairman, if you will set aside your current opinion of James Comey for just a moment, but is he wrong? Is the House Intelligence Committee and the document they put out anything other than a wreck?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, I -- clearly both of the reports that are coming out -- from both the Democrats and the Republicans are slanted partisan leaning reports. There's probably good information in both. I've been reading the Republican report. There's some interesting information in there. But they've all started with a premise and a conclusion that there either was or was no collusion. And I think they tried to fill it in on the back side of it. I never think that as an old FBI agent myself, that is always the worst way to conduct an investigation.

HARLOW: Right. So given that, given that you say this is a finding that already had a premise and a conclusion before it was officially found and put on paper and distributed, should the president then be resting his defense on these findings? I mean he is tweeting over and over again, look, look what the House Intel Committee found, no collusion.

ROGERS: Yes, I mean, again, we're not going to know -- you know, I don't -- the -- what the president's doing now is he is trying to set the stage for whatever trouble may or may not happen. And, again, Mueller could come out and say, you know what, I didn't find any collusion.

BERMAN: Sure.

HARLOW: Right.

ROGERS: That's still a real possibility. So I think the president's trying to create the narrative that he would like to have have happen. And that's certainly up to the president. I think it's a terrible use of his time.

BERMAN: Right.

ROGERS: But when it comes to both of the reports, I don't think you can say that they're definitive in any way. Again, they all -- both were undertaken with a very partisan slant. And its -- to me that's just not helpful. And the one -- I agree with Jim Comey, it did serve, I think, to break the committee. I mean they did create a problem with the FISA court in this. They have created a strain with the community of which they're supposed to oversee. And the regular order of the important business that happens in a classified setting is not nearly to the level it should be when you are working together on a national security issue in the committee. And I blame both the Republican -- the senior Republican, Devin Nunes, and Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat, for that.

BERMAN: Listen to what Trey Gowdy, a Republican on the committee, albeit a retiring Republican who can speak with a strange degree of honesty now that he's headed on the way out, listen to his assessment of the committee and also the investigation in general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), INTEL COMMITTEE: I can't say what's in the universe of witnesses we have not talked to. And I have always maintained I am awaiting the Mueller investigation. They get to use a grand jury. They have investigative tools that we don't have. Executive branch investigations are just better than congressional ones. So we found no evidence of collusion. Whether or not it exists or not, I can't speak to because I haven't interviewed the full panoply of witnesses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[09:35:24] BERMAN: So why have the congressional investigation, Mr. Chairman? There is a purpose that these political investigations, congressional investigations can serve when done well. What is it?

ROGERS: Well, listen, I think getting facts to the public to make a determination, and Congress can refer to the Justice Department for criminal activity. There are a time and circumstances where I think congressional investigations can and should be done. Unfortunately, now it's like an Olympic sport about, you know, who has the right -- who can get my report, my version of the facts to you before the other person. And that's just never helpful. And, you know, this is from Chairman Gowdy, who was the chairman of

the Benghazi committee.

HARLOW: Right.

ROGERS: And that's all they did was do an investigation.

HARLOW: That's exactly --

ROGERS: So it just shows the nature of the politicization of it, I think.

HARLOW: It's disappointing that the only time that we can really get this refreshing honesty, as you point to with Gowdy, is when someone's on the way out. I'll just note that.

But that aside, Chairman Rogers, do you -- when has it worked, I guess? You bring up the Benghazi investigation, which was highly politicized. You bring up this investigation, highly politicized. So when has it worked well? Where is a model, an example that hopefully this committee can get back to when it has worked to the benefit of the American people?

ROGERS: Well, I mean, even when I was working with my counterpart, a guy named Dutch Ruppersberger, a member from Maryland, still a member of Congress on the Armed Services Appropriations Committee, you know, we were able to do some investigations that were classified, that never leaked out in a classified setting. In other words, there are issues that need the full attention and the investigative ability of a committee like the Intelligence Committee. We were able to do that.

Now, it didn't become public because it should have not become public. And, unfortunately, that's -- you don't see very many of those or hear about very many of those anymore.

HARLOW: Yes, anymore.

ROGERS: No. And that is unfortunate because that's the real work of the committee. You need to make sure that those facts are in front of the policy makers who can make the changes and then mediate with a -- with the intelligence community to make sure they get it right and are following the law.

BERMAN: Hey, very quickly, Mr. Chairman, we don't know if the president is going to speak to Robert Mueller's investigators. We just don't know. It's anyone's guess right now. It's back and forth, back and forth. What's the political fallout if it doesn't happen? If there is a definitive, no, I'm not going to do it, what happens then?

ROGERS: You know, I'm not sure there is a political fallout. I mean, think of the environment in which we live. And it is ramped up. I mean it is intense, right? You're either all hating in on the guy or you love the guy or there doesn't seem to be a lot of room in the middle for what's left. And I just think that that is going to draft right into whatever your position is. And so you're going to -- if the Democrats say he's not talking, oh, my gosh, he must be guilty and we should -- you know, we should impeach him immediately. And Republicans will say the whole thing was a sham and they shouldn't have been doing it in the first place.

HARLOW: Right.

ROGERS: I don't think there is much fallout other than what we see on every occasion of every bit of information we get on the Russia investigation today.

HARLOW: It's a good point because I think that Quinnipiac poll came out last week saying now for the first time a majority of conservatives, 61 percent, don't think the Mueller investigation is fair. A lot of folks on both sides gave him a long runway ahead of this, but it seems like the view is changing, at least among some conservatives.

Chairman Rogers, thank you.

ROGERS: Thanks.

HARLOW: So a deadline to impose tariffs on U.S. allies, tariffs on U.S. allies, is just hours away, midnight tonight, and the whole world is watching to see if President Trump will actually spark a trade war.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:42:53] BERMAN: All right, this morning, a deadline that could up- end global markets, now just hours away. If it passes, President Trump could put tariffs on U.S. allies that were given temporary exemptions last month. We're talking about the European Union, Canada, Mexico and more.

HARLOW: These countries, very important. They're major allies. They also make up nearly half of the steel imports to the United States and very soon, within hours, they could face big tariffs, 25 percent tariff on steel, 10 percent tariff on aluminum.

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with more.

The question is, is he actually going to do it?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. And trade negotiators are working hard, hard to trade -- literally to figure out how to make sure that this doesn't happen. We're talking about the steel and aluminum tariffs, 25 percent on steel, 10 percent on aluminum. They already went into effect, but a whole bunch of people got exemptions and those exemptions expire tonight. We're talking about the EU, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, South Korea.

Now, South Korea has since turned its temporary exemption into a permanent one. But these other countries are really concerned, especially the EU. Together, the EU and the United States account for something like a third of global trade. And some of those EU negotiators feel offended that they've been just given this blanket statement by the United States -- HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: And that a negotiation has not really been fruitful for them. And they've said this, the European Union should be ready to be decisive -- to decisively defend its interests within the framework of multi-lateral trade rules. Translation, we're going to fight back.

BERMAN: Retaliate.

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: We're going to retaliate.

Now, there's been some talk of, maybe the EU could drop its tariffs on American imported cars. Well, OK, fine, except under the global trade architecture, that would mean, what, lowering the tariffs for everybody else too, including maybe letting the Chinese finally get that footwork they have --

HARLOW: So this helps China.

ROMANS: They would like to be a big exporter of cars too. So it's not just one move and then it's over. Each of these moves has back -- we also have NAFTA that we're still trying to figure out. And U.S. trade negotiators are going to China this week to talk about those $150 billion in tariffs with China. So this is a real complicated trade situation at the moment.

HARLOW: And, remember, this is arguably the reason why he lost some key folks on his team. Arguably, reportedly, the reason Gary Cohn left, right?

ROMANS: And you -- I think he'll be going to China with two basically trade hawks and two globalists.

HARLOW: Yes.

[09:45:04] ROMANS: So will they speak with one voice and what will they come back with?

HARLOW: (INAUDIBLE).

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: All right, Christine Romans, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: We have breaking news out of Afghanistan. ISIS is claiming responsibility for a pair of blasts that killed at least 29 people. Among the dead, at least eight journalists. This happened near the U.S. embassy in Kabul. Officials say a suicide bomber disguised as a cameraman detonated a secondary bomb as journalists rushed to cover the initial blast. HARLOW: One of the jurors who found Bill Cosby guilty of sexual

assault says the comedian's owns words helped convict him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was his deposition really. Mr. Cosby admitted to giving these Quaaludes to women, young women, in order to have sex with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: That's 22-year-old Harrison Snyder (ph), speaking to ABC News this morning. He says he never watched "The Cosby Show" and didn't know anything about the allegations against Cosby until he was picked for the jury. Snyder says after seeing all the evidence, he has no doubt that the jury came to the right verdict. Cosby is facing 30 years -- up to 30 years in prison. His sentencing date has not yet been set.

BERMAN: All right, there's a developing scandal and cover-up across two continents. So remember this. Take a good look at this. What are President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron doing? They are planting a tree. They are shoveling dirt over a tree there. That tree was a gift of France. It was planted on the White House lawn last week. Well, reporters noticed a few days after this the tree was gone. It was missing.

What happened to the tree? Well, it turns out the French now say the tree is in quarantine, taken off the lawn, put in quarantine, which is standard procedure when replanting any kind of foreign item like a tree. But my question and the real scandal is, why were they planting it? They fake planted a tree on the White House lawn.

HARLOW: Why are you so up in arms? This is optics.

BERMAN: Because this is fake. Because this didn't really happen. Because they shoveled dirt and then took the dirt off. They fake planted a tree.

HARLOW: Planted the tree.

BERMAN: Where's the outrage here? You know, three days of Washington being up in arms about comedy and not one peep about horticulture. This is ridiculous. I think they're shaking hands --

HARLOW: That's -- that's my moment of --

BERMAN: They're shaking hands about how well they fake planted the tree.

HARLOW: Right. Yes.

BERMAN: They're looking at the tree they just fake planted. It's not real.

HARLOW: Did you know -- are you sure they knew it was a fake plant when they dug the dirt?

BERMAN: Are you saying -- well --

HARLOW: Are you sure that they didn't -- knew that they were going to have to quarantine this baby?

BERMAN: Well, what did they know and when did they know it?

HARLOW: Exactly.

BERMAN: That's the question now.

HARLOW: That is the key question, sir.

BERMAN: What does the tree know, in quarantine conveniently?

HARLOW: What does the tree know?

BERMAN: All right, it is a night mean for celebrating the First Amendment, which I just abused, by the way, for the last 25 seconds. But the main headline from the White House Correspondents Dinner, controversy.

HARLOW: Yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:52:09] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE WOLF, COMEDIAN: We are graced with Sarah's presence tonight. I have to say, I'm a little star struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in the "Handmaid's Tale." I actually really like Sarah. I think she's very resourceful. Like she burns facts and then uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she's born with it, maybe it's lies. Probably lies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: So you saw the reaction on Sarah Sanders' face. Well, this morning, the president is railing against that performance by comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents Dinner after she took aim at the press secretary there, a lot Kellyanne Conway, also the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and many others close to the president and the president himself. So he calls the performance a, quote, total disaster, an embarrassment to our great country.

BERMAN: He also called Wolf a filthy comedian. Interesting given the source.

Late last night the White House Correspondents Association seemed to reverse its stance. The White House Correspondents Association putting out a statement about the act saying, last night's program was meant to offer a unifying message to our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility, great reporting and scholarship winners, not to divide the people. Unfortunately, the entertainer's monologue was not in the spirit of that mission. Joining us now, CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter.

You know, Brian, I actually think this was very predictable in many ways.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BERMAN: You know, what happened, the response to what happened, the response to the response to what happened here. So who are the winners? Who are the losers?

STELTER: I think President Trump is a winner and Michelle Wolf is a winner. Michelle Wolf has a show on Netflix coming out next month. She's now getting a lot of attention for it. President Trump is using this as part of his war on the media by calling this dinner embarrassing. He is playing right into that and telling his base that this is evidence of what he's been saying for 15 months. Actually, ever since running for office.

The president, over the weekend, at his rally, he said, they hate your guts. Presumably talking about the media, saying they hate your guts to the voters. He's pointing at this rally as evidence of that.

HARLOW: Here's the thing, Michelle Wolf is not a journalist. She's a comedian. However, she was invited by a big important group of journalists, the White House Correspondents Association.

STELTER: And now there's this debate going on within the association about --

HARLOW: Right.

STELTER: Whether to even have comedians at all.

HARLOW: Exactly. I mean they did --

STELTER: I just spoke to the next president of the association, Olivier Knox, who takes over in July. He said, we're going to have a wide ranging discussion about what to do in the future.

HARLOW: Yes. To what extent do they need to own this to that point?

STELTER: Well, I think this is symptomatic of a broader issue involving the press and the president. This president has declared war on the media. He says he's at war with the media. Journalists pretty much say, no, we're not at war -- we're not at war with you, but he says he is. And on a night like this, when you have essentially this comedian up there acting like she's at war with him, attacking Sarah Sanders, making a lot of funny jokes but also some jokes that might have felt inappropriate into the room, it plays into that idea that we're at war with the president. So I think, in this moment of conflict, of tension, maybe the dinner does have to change.

[09:55:06] BERMAN: I've got to say, I hope the White House Correspondents Association spends time talking about a lot of other things than if they're going to invite a comedian to the dinner, because there are many more important subjects than that.

There's pushback to the pushback or maybe a push back to the pushback to the pushback. I've lost track here.

STELTER: Right.

BERMAN: But Matt Schlapp was on "NEW DAY" this morning. Matt Schlapp walked out of the dinner in outrage over the jokes.

But listen to this exchange because I think it's emblematic of the discussion now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Did you feel the same way when President Trump said, in an interview with "Rolling Stone," look at that face, would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that? Would you have walked out of the president's speech when he -- if he said that about Carly Fiorina?

MATT SCHLAPP: I don't know.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ah, I don't know what I said. Ah, I don't remember. He's going, like, I don't remember.

CAMEROTA: Should the people behind him have walked out?

SCHLAPP: I don't think they -- I don't think it's clear to this day what he meant by doing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: President Trump has changed everything. I really think these conversations are so different than they were two or three or four years ago because of the president's rhetoric. And I think if Michelle Wolf had performed this at a comedy club in New York, people would have loved it. But the White House Correspondents Dinner is different and I understand this controversy.

At the end of the day, though, isn't comedy supposed to make people uncomfortable? Isn't it supposed to make people think? Well, she definitely did that.

BERMAN: Brian Stelter.

HARLOW: She did indeed.

Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: She did. Thanks.

HARLOW: Appreciate it.

Right now you've got about 150 migrants that are waiting outside of a U.S. border crossing in Mexico. They have spent weeks and weeks traveling through Mexico, trying to get asylum in the United States. The president, though, does not want to roll out the welcome mat. The details, ahead.