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Six Of President Trump's Campaign Staffers Test Positive For Coronavirus; Attorney General Barr Says Trump Fired A Top U.S. Attorney, Trump Denies Being Involved; Trump's Attempt To Block Bolton's Bombshell Book Denied. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired June 20, 2020 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and all over the world, thanks for joining us. I'm Boris Sanchez and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
The scene tonight, President Trump addressing a much smaller than expected crowd of supporters at his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The president eager for a triumphant return to the campaign trail, instead facing a series of embarrassments. First, there was a standoff between the administration and a federal prosecutor who's been investigating members of Trump's inner circle. Attorney General Bill Barr's attempt to fire U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman backfiring, Barr claiming Trump wanted him gone only for Trump to later say, and I quote, I was not involved.
Then just hours before the rally in Tulsa, six of President Trump's campaign staffers doing advance work on the event testing positive for coronavirus.
And then the crowd size at the rally, President Trump failing to fill the arena after bragging that a million people were trying to attend. Entire sections had empty seats and almost no one was in the overflow area. We haven't even mentioned some of the content of his speech, lots to get to this hour.
Let's start with Ryan Nobles at the BOK Center. Ryan, a headline that we did not expect, President Trump telling the crowd he wants to slow down on coronavirus testing in the middle of a pandemic.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, definitely raising some eyebrows here tonight, Boris. This speech at the BOK Center just wrapped up a little while ago, almost two hours in length, the president touching on a number of topics, going off on tangents at certain points and this point that you're talking about, talking about coronavirus testing and his interpretation of the way it's being run here in the United States is what has a lot of people talking.
Listen to what President Trump said here tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: You know, testing is a double-edged sword. We've tested now 25 million people. It's probably 20 million people more than anybody else. Germany has done a lot. South Korea has done a lot. They call me and they said the job you're doing -- here is the bad part. When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people. You're going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: So we did follow up with the White House and ask them if the president was serious about rolling back testing, and a White House official telling us that he was obviously joking. It wasn't necessarily clear that he was joking.
But, Boris, we should point out that this flies in the face of all the guidance that we get from public health experts as it relates to testing on a number of fronts. First, you test more so you can figure out where the cases of coronavirus are so that you can work to contact trace and isolate those folks. And then the more you're able to do that, the more testing then will ultimately lead to the curve flattening and the coronavirus being under control.
That's what we've seen all over the world. That's what we've seen in parts of the United States as well. But there are these spikes that are starting to pop up across the country.
This is what President Trump was talking about. In fact, there were increases in coronavirus cases right here in Oklahoma where he held this rally here tonight where despite the fact that they fell short of their expectations, it was still a very large crowd where everyone was right next to each other, very few people wearing masks and almost no social distancing practiced. Boris?
SANCHEZ: Yes. And on that idea of falling short of expectations, crowd size is extremely important to this president. Remember, the kerfuffle and the press room (ph) on inauguration day, he said there wouldn't be a single empty seat in Tulsa. There were many empty seats. Trump claims that so-called thugs blocked his supporters. Let's listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Today, it was like -- I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen anything like it. You are warriors, thank you. We had some very bad people outside. We had have some very bad people outside. They were doing bad things. But I really do -- I appreciate it. We have just a tremendous group of people in Oklahoma.
Our incredible success in rebuilding America stands in stark contrast to the extremism and destruction and violence of the radical left. We just saw it outside. You just saw it outside. You saw these thugs that came along. These people call them protesters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Ryan, you've been at the BOK Center all day. Did you see evidence that anyone was preventing Trump supporters from entering?
NOBLES: You know, listen, Boris, we need to be very clear about this and we've been covering these protests across the country for CNN for several weeks now. There was nothing like that here in Tulsa tonight. I was inside the arena for most of the night but I had to walk about a mile to get to the location where we came in.
I saw no protesters of any kind, specifically protesting against President Trump.
We also had more than three reporters outside the venue on all different points around the BOK Center and we saw nothing like this.
Now, there were some protesters. There were a few entrances into this arena that at times were shut, but none of them were shut indefinitely. And there were multiple ways for people to get inside the arena if they were shutdown or turned away at that one specific spot.
The simple fact of the matter here is that the Trump campaign, we were not the ones that set these standards. And I should point out, I covered a lot of campaign rallies, this was an impressive crowd here tonight. This is far more than most politicians could draw on a Saturday night.
But it is the Trump campaign that told us they expected 20,000 people inside this arena behind me and then another 40,000 people out in the streets at an overflow venue, to the point where they even had planned for the president and vice president to speak to that overflow crowd.
The simple fact of the matter is that overflow crowd never materialized. They did not fill this venue. There could be any number of reasons to explain that. Protesters preventing people from coming in is just not one of them. Boris?
SANCHEZ: Well put. Ryan Nobles reporting from Tulsa, thank you.
Here to discuss, CNN Political Commentator Errol Louis, Oklahoma State Representative Regina Goodwin, CNN Political Analyst Ryan Lizza and CNN Contributor Dr. Abdul El-Sayed.
Doctor, this statement from the president, remarkable. He says that he told his people to slow down testing. He says testing is a double- edged sword because it counts in cases where young people have the sniffles. What do you make of that statement, Doctor?
DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'll tell you this, I don't know if Donald Trump won any votes tonight, but I'll tell you what lost his public health. We are five months into this crisis and it's clear that the president either does not understand or does not care how pandemic response works.
Testing is one of the most important things we can do to get us out of the need of this intense social distancing, these lockdowns that the president also seems to decry. And so without contact tracers, without testing, it's almost impossible to track where the disease goes and to do the kind of precision social distancing that we need to be able to empower everyone else to go about their daily lives.
And the fact we're not doing it well is the reason we're seeing spikes in states like Oklahoma and like Arizona and like Alabama in these states where masks even have been politicized. So it really is just devastating to hear the president of the United States talk about himself as, in effect, an ally to the coronavirus. And it just forces us to ask, you know, where are we and how much longer are we going to have to deal with this pandemic under this lack of leadership.
SANCHEZ: Ryan, Democrats have not hesitated in weaponizing that comment. I want to put up a tweet sent by presumptive Democratic nominee -- candidate, I should say, Joe Biden, just four words, speed up the testing. Politically, should Trump have avoided this altogether?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I actually think he was, you know, half joking. And the point is you shouldn't be joking at all about this. Still in the United States, anyone who wants a test cannot get one, which is something the White House has claimed. They said everyone can get a test. That's still not the case this far into the pandemic.
So it suggests a lack of seriousness and willingness to, you know, kid around about something as, you know, literally deadly serious as this subject (ph) and a sign of how bizarrely this issue, which is just a public health issue where we should all be listening to public health officials and scientists and not politicians, has become a part of our polarized politics where people look at this issue now through a partisan lens.
And Trump, as he's sort of gone along, has moved from, you know, sort of reluctant warrior against the disease, listening to the Anthony Faucis of the world to just sort of getting impatient about what's really needed to defeat this pandemic. And basically the White House's position now is to tolerate a large number of deaths on a daily basis, and that looks like where we're going to be for the next few months.
SANCHEZ: Errol, it has been a difficult day for Trump. Sources say that he's angry that his transition to greatness rally got overshadowed by the half-dozen campaign staffers working this rally that tested positive for the virus. Did you hear anything from the president tonight that you think is going to convince Americans that the nation and the economy are ready to move on from coronavirus?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, no. In fact, I mean, look the emptiness of those stands, I would attribute more than anything else to the fact that people I think understand how serious this is. They understand that something like 20,000 people are going to lose their lives this month and possibly next month as well, that this is real serious stuff, that the numbers are going up in all the wrong directions in all the wrong ways all over the country, and, you know, that's going to get out.
That's going to be reported. And they can call it fake news and they could say it's politically biased but it is just the facts on the ground.
I think the thing that the president could have done was not joke about it, talk about it seriously, come up with a plan. Instead, and this is one of the cues I think that people should be able to pick up on by now is that when you hear not just Donald Trump but really any political leader going straight to the social issues, so-called the red meat, talking about abortion, talking about crime, talking about cultural issues, being a culture warrior, that's a sign that the core issues that people really do care about, like the economy and public health are not going in the direction that that politician wants us to look.
And so he threw a lot of sort of smoke and dust all over the place and tried out a lot of lines, threw out a lot of distractions, you know, some arguably racist comments that he made in the course of his speech. And, you know, in the end I think people are more concerned about what they're going to do for themselves and their family this summer. They're worried about their jobs, they're worried about their kids, they're worried about what's going to happen in the fall when it's time to go back to school, and the president really didn't have answers to any of those questions, Boris.
SANCHEZ: Representative Goodwin, I'm curious from your perspective. The Trump campaign is saying attendance at the rally was lower than expected because protesters interrupted access to the event for supporters. From where you sit, do you know any of incidence that kept people out of that rally?
STATE REP. REGINA GOODWIN (D-OK): No. Again, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, we have gone through massacres. We have gone through demonstrations. They have been on this end especially as it relates to this issue, they've been peaceful, so was tonight. So it's an absolute lie that his millions of fans were not able to enter because some protesters in Tulsa prevented that. It's absolutely untrue.
SANCHEZ: Thank you all for joining us. Please don't go anywhere because we still have plenty more to talk about. But, first, I do want to get to the ground in Tulsa where protesters were out demonstrating all day.
CNN's Martin Savidge is there. Martin, what are you seeing now? Things have mostly been peaceful. Has that changed?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have now. The crowd has fairly dissipated now. And within the last hour, the tensions have gone down as has the number of people on the street. The biggest problem you had was just after the president finished his rally and you had, of course, all of his supporters coming out.
It coincided right with the time that you had a very large crowd of demonstrators that had moved into the downtown Tulsa area. And so you had two groups with two very different opinions collide. There was a lot said between each, but there was no violence at any time.
It has to be said that traffic was brought to a standstill. At one point there was a convoy of emergency and law enforcement vehicles that seemed to be trapped. Police came down into the area and they did use pepper balls. It was essentially just to tell people, hey, you got to let the traffic through. After those tense moments, it's changed. I mean, now the traffic is open, people are out. Most of them are just observing and watching. So it appears that any concern for violence has dissipated completely.
And the protests earlier -- I was out all day. I did see the protesters in the area where people were trying to get in. They were still able to get in. They went in on the sidewalk instead of walking down the road. They still had access to the screening points to get in. There was no time that it was completely stopped with the exception of maybe 15 minutes when authorities just wanted to say, hey, we have to let these people in, please allow them through and they did. Boris?
SANCHEZ: Martin, thank you so much for raising that point because you were there on the ground where there was that very short period of time that protesters got to the metal detectors. But as you said, there's no indication that as the Trump campaign has tried to claim protesters actually kept supporters out in large numbers. Martin Savidge reporting from Tulsa, thank you so much.
Also ahead, inside the incredible power struggle at the Justice Department after a top U.S. attorney who had been investigating the president's associates refuses to resign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: America should not take lectures on racial justice from Joe Biden, Sleepy Joe, a man who praised and partnered with segregationists, shipped millions of black American jobs overseas.
Virtually every policy that has hurt black Americans for half a century, Joe Biden has supported or enacted. I've done more for the black community in four years than Joe Biden has done in 47 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Our panel is back with us now, and I want to start with Representative Goodwin. What is your reaction to the president talking about race and also mentioning that we should protect, preserve our heritage in speaking about confederate monuments?
GOODWIN: So we are in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as you know 1921 race massacre, a descendant of 1921 race massacre survivors. So, first of all, he is lying. This is Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was the first Ku Klux Klan wizard, who is also a member of the confederacy, he visited Tulsa. This is the kind of man that Donald Trump is talking about defending. This is the heritage of which he speaks.
We are on sacred ground here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There is no way that Donald Trump speaks to or for a majority of black folks that are serious minded, that comport themselves with dignity and grace and know that our lives matter.
Certainly -- we're certainly more than cattle (ph) or slaves or less than any other human being as the confederates would have us think.
So for Donald Trump to come into Tulsa, Oklahoma, not only was there a despicable statement but we know that it's untrue and we're not going to be distracted. We know who we are and we know what's best for a majority of black folks.
SANCHEZ: Errol, given the backdrop of Tulsa, Oklahoma, this event originally having been scheduled for Juneteenth, the national unrest regarding the relationship between police and the African-American community, did you hear enough from President Trump tonight regarding race relations? He really didn't say much at all.
LOUIS: No, no, he said nothing at all. And what little he said was laughable but not funny. I mean, simply untrue. There's this formulation. You hear it, and actually you see it on social media from Trump supporters where he says, I've done more in four years than Obama did in eight years or any president has ever done or Joe Biden has done in 47 years. And it's all nonsense.
I mean, it's demonstrably untrue just to take the issue that has led people to protest every night for the last 24 days on the issue of consent decrees whereby the Justice Department used to oversee complaints about certain police departments. Jeff Sessions on his way out the door as attorney general dismantled the program.
I mean, you know, one of the reasons you have these out of control police departments where there's inadequate training or some other kind of serious problem going on is that there's not the kind federal oversight that the Obama-Biden administration had undertaken. So right there, right off the bat, he's kind of going in some strange direction and he never really addressed why people were out in the streets.
It would have been a great opportunity with all the cameras on to exercise some form of leadership and try to say something other than law and order and, you know, a couple of untruths about the situation right now.
Fortunately, there were other people, governors, mayors, people in the streets who were trying to work these things out among themselves and with local police departments. But here, again, one of the failures tonight, frankly, by the president was to take some leadership on a major issue that's of national importance.
SANCHEZ: Ryan, the president lumped in all protesters peaceful or not and called them all thugs. His politics is one of division, right? He's not really seeking to unify the country at a moment where it needs unification.
LIZZA: Yes, he had some lines about unification at the end of the speech, but right before those lines, one of two examples where he came close to -- well, he hinted at violence. And the second time he did it was when he talked about the right to bear arms and, you know, thank God we have the Second Amendment because he sort of suggested that the recent protests were a reason that it was good for people to be armed.
I mean, as often is the case when he hints at things like that, he wasn't explicit, right, but sort of a strange formulation to talk about guns in that context when we had protests across the country that have been overwhelmingly peaceful.
Earlier in the speech, he talked -- he had this strange line about if, you know, people on his side ever started, you know, fighting -- being violent with protesters on the other side and seemed to chuckle about that possibility.
He's done things like that before, and I think it's just worth pointing out how completely a historical and unusual it is for the president of the United States to sort of relish and joke about, you know, potential violence between different factions of Americans. And I thought that was really one of the most alarming parts of the speech.
SANCHEZ: Yes. Let's not forget that he also joked about his supporters punching protesters at his rallies and sort of washed his hands by suggesting that it was just sarcasm, that he would pay for their legal fees.
We have to leave it there. Errol Louis, Regina Goodwin, Ryan Lizza, and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed was with us earlier, thank you all very much.
Next, President Trump takes a swing at his Democratic foe, Joe Biden. The response from the Biden camp when we come back.
SANCHEZ: During President Trump's campaign rally meant to officially kick off his re-election campaign, the president spoke about a wide variety of topics amid multiply national crises, more than 120,000 Americans dead because of coronavirus, and this almost just like any other Trump rally. He spent a long time talking about himself, talking about his walk down that ramp, he attacked the media, the radical left. And according to his campaign, he was joking about slowing down testing for COVID-19.
CNN's Daniel Dale is here to fact check some of the president's claims. Daniel, first, that idea the president tried to explain why attendance was lower than expected because of protesters. Listen to more of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Today it was like -- I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen anything like it. You are warriors. Thank you. We had some very bad people outside. We had some very bad people outside. They were doing bad things, but I really do -- I appreciate it. We have just a tremendous group of people in Oklahoma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Daniel, we know that's not the case. Fact check this claim for us.
DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: We know that's not the case. Look, the president said there would be 60,000 people there, there would be 20,000 in the arena, 40,000 in the overflow. We ended up with less than a third of what he said.
CNN's teams on the ground did not see, you know, any significant issues involving protesters that may have prevented people from entering.
MSNBC did report that there was one tense moment that at least briefly resulted in one of the entryways being at least temporarily shutdown. But even if that was the case, there's no indication that that brief shutdown resulted in a 40,000, 50,000, 100,000 people who were supposed to come not coming.
SANCHEZ: Right. Our own Martin Savidge was not far from there and he said that the whole thing lasted about 10, 15 minutes and everybody who was trying to get in eventually got in.
Full disclosure here, Daniel. I get Twitter alerts every time you tweet, and I've seen you tweet this specific fact check dozens and dozens of time, the president speaking about the Veterans Choice Act. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So we passed V.A. Choice. So if you're a veteran for years and years, they've wanted to do it for almost 50 years, we got it done. We get a lot of things done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Daniel, you're a veteran of debunking this claim. What is the truth here?
DALE: President Barack Obama signed the choice law into law in 2014. It was a Bernie Sanders, John McCain initiative, so, no, President Trump did not create it. What he did do in 2018 was sign something called the V.A. Mission Act that expanded and modified the choice program. But that's not what he says. He says he's the one that got it in the first place, and that's just not true.
SANCHEZ: Yes. And, lastly, the president spent about ten minutes talking about his ramp walk at West Point. Here is some of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Because when I was ten feet short, I said, General, I'm sorry and I ran down the rest, right? I looked very handsome. That was the only good thing. I wouldn't want to run down the whole thing because a fall there would be definitely bad. So I did these little steps. I ran down the last -- and, by the way, take a look. In almost every instance, it ends just before I run.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DALE: There's just no running whatsoever. The president took three steps at the very end of this very slow ramp walk that were a little bit faster than the very slow rest of it, but they weren't a run. And even if you want to generously call it a run, it wasn't ten feet.
This is more trivial a subject than the president's dishonesty about, say, coronavirus testing. But I think it's important because this is another example of the president lying to Americans about something they can see with their own eyes on video. It's just not true.
SANCHEZ: It's also important to point out though trivial because he spent so much time during this rally with so many Americans hurting economically and in terms of their health talking about this incident that he thinks makes him look bad. So important context there. Daniel Dale, thank you so much for the time.
President Trump, of course, wasted no time tonight slamming his opponent, the presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Here is just one of those attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Have you ever noticed that Biden oftentimes gets the state wrong. He's in Iowa and he says it's good to be in Idaho. No, no, you're in Iowa. He's in New Hampshire and he says it's great to be in Ohio. No, no, no, you're in New Hampshire. That happens to him all the time. It hasn't happened to me yet.
You know, when that happens, there's nothing you can do to make up for it. You might as well just walk off the stage because the speech is a disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: PolitiFact was quick to point out that jab by the president was based on a satirical website headline not on fact. The Biden campaign, for its part, also pretty confident where it is at the moment beating the president in the polls and most recently in fundraising too.
Biden's campaign also used tonight's rally and the president's claims that -- an array of claims that he made during that rally to draw a strong contrast between the two candidates, issuing a statement that said in part, quote, Trump's catastrophic mismanagement of our nation's response to the worst public health crisis in over a hundred years began with ignoring countless warnings from his own officials and selling us out to the Chinese government for a hollow trade deal. And that mismanagement continues to this day, as he continues to put his own political interests first while many states see spikes in deadly infections.
Contrast between the candidates also something that Biden's national campaign co-chair, Congressman Cedric Richmond, wanted to highlight when I spoke with him earlier tonight.
REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): I want people to understand, for the president of the United States, Donald Trump, it's all about Donald Trump. It's about his crowd size. It's about the people waiting in line to see him, which, by the way, was a failure according to their standards.
And I'm sure we'll get stories tomorrow about how he's upset tonight at his staff for promising so many people and an overflow area that never came to pass, but here is the difference I want people to go home with.
For Joe Biden, it's about us. It's about the country. It's about bringing people together. For Trump, it's about Donald Trump. And I think for the future of this country, we want a president who will make it about America, who will make it about making sure that people who aspire to be in the middle class can make it, making sure that when we rebuild this economy, everybody comes along, making sure that we have a just society.
And so I think the contrast is very clear. And, look, I want Trump out there every day talking and rambling and doing what he does best because it was a disaster tonight. And I think that objective people watching that speech, they do not see a commander in chief. They see a guy having a temper tantrum who it's all about him.
SANCHEZ: Happy Father's Day and thanks to Congressman Cedric Richmond for joining me in that conversation.
Up next, opponents are calling it obstruction of justice after the president fires an attorney who had investigated his associates, including his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Details ahead.
SANCHEZ: You may not have known his name, but Geoffrey Berman was one of America's most powerful prosecutors serving as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He was investigating President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and some of his associates. And what we saw over the last 24 hours was a remarkable sequence.
Last night, the attorney general, Bill Barr, announced that Berman was resigning. Berman a short time later put out a statement saying, no thanks, I'm not actually resigning, I'll stay put. Today, Barr sent Berman a letter saying that President Trump fired him. Just a short time later, Trump literally said on camera, and I quote, I was not involved. And then this evening, Berman finally announcing he will be leaving his position in the Southern District of New York.
With me now to discuss, CNN National Security Analyst Sam Vinograd and CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson.
Joey, the question that is still out there that the administration hasn't really answered what is behind this firing. We know the Southern District of New York is the office that prosecuted Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen and named him an unindicted co- conspirator. It's been investigating other members of Trump's inner circle, including Rudy Giuliani. Do you think that had something to do with it?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I'd be hard-pressed to believe -- Boris, it's good to be with you, and Samantha, of course -- that it had nothing to do with it, and I'm quite frankly concerned. And let me say this. This has nothing to do with politics with respect to whether you're a Democrat or Republican. It has to do with the rule of law, okay?
I practiced before the Southern District. I've trialed before the Southern District and I have massive differences with prosecutors there. But at the end of the day, we have a system of justice that works because of checks and balances. Because of the fact you have a Justice Department that pursues what they believe to be justice.
We can be on different sides but the reality is that it works our system of democracy because you have a Justice Department that should be apolitical, that should be pursuing issues and people based upon the offenses they believe to be committed against law and not because the president likes you, you're investigating his friends, you're an ally, you're not an ally.
And so at the end of the day, I'm very troubled by the fact that you have this intermeddling with the White House. You have an intermeddling and it's very hard, Boris, to your question to divorce the two. Mr. Berman is doing his job. Mr. Berman is pursuing what he believes to be justice and then you have an issue whereas apparently he runs afoul as to whether or not the president believes that his priorities are consistent with that of the White House and then there's this intervening.
And so as long as the intervening happens and continues to occur, it's troubling and it's problematic to our democracy. If it's going to work, you have to have a Justice Department that is apolitical, that does its job and that's not impeded or interfered with by the White House. So, yes, I do believe that that politics has something to do with it and that's a shame.
SANCHEZ: Sam, even considering that this may just be the appearance of a conflict of interest, this is the sort of behavior that the United States sanctions other governments for.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, that's exactly right. And to your previous question, Berman clearly wasn't removed based upon his competence. He was offered a senior position back at the department in Washington, D.C. reportedly on Friday night when Bill Barr first spoke with him.
And, Boris, as you mentioned, I drafted sanctions when leaders in other countries have turned their justice departments, ministries of justice into personal vendetta machines. The president and his minions are engaging in activities that we sanction other countries for, that we issue strong statements of condemnation for. When you look at the president using the Justice Department to obstruct investigations into his inner circle and using it as a weapon to go after his political opposition, again, that is what autocracies do, not democracies.
And in addition to the impact, these actions are going to have within our own country, it has a broader national security impact. We are going to be laughed out of the room if we try to promote the rule of law and an independent law enforcement and judiciary system overseas.
And, finally, we know that people like Vladimir Putin are hell-bent on destroying the credibility of the U.S.-led democratic order. What democratic values and freedoms does the administration currently embody? Not a free and independent law enforcement and judicial system, not freedom to protest, not freedom of the press.
We are hypocrites when we try to speak about these other issues overseas at this point.
It's like these guys read despots for dummies and skipped over reading the United States Constitution.
SANCHEZ: Well, Sam, staying with you, in imagining the counterargument, something I hear from Trump supporters covering rallies all the time before, obviously, COVID-19, they argue that the president is uprooting the deep state. Is this that, or is this something else?
VINOGRAD: So he's uprooting the deep state that he appointed? To the best of my recollection, he appointed Berman, just like he appointed, say, John Bolton, who has just written a tell-all book about the Trump administration. President Trump roots out the so-called deep state by defining the deep state as those individuals who actually perform their taxpayer funded jobs.
Said argument just doesn't work particularly in this case because we're talking about a Trump appointee who, by the way, I believe donated to the Trump campaign. So that's a pretty poor definition of the deep state by these Trump supporters. SANCHEZ: Yes. And, Joey, to you. Berman had quite an interesting statement that he put out after Barr put out the letter announcing that Trump had fired him. He sort of had very strong words about his deputy who was taking over, Audrey Strauss, essentially saying that it's someone he trusts, someone who is efficient and upstanding in their ethics and morals. What does that tell you about the road ahead?
JACKSON: It tells that you have a prosecutor who is positioned in that office and who is concerned about the career prosecutors, is concerned about their independence and ability to do their job, is concerned about in whether or not pursuing justice as career prosecutors, they're going to be singled out and fired because perhaps they're pursuing people allies or close to the president. That's not how it should be.
It's not that you can appoint people because you're friendly, because you golf with them, because they're head of some securities exchange division or other places that you feel do the work that you're comfortable with. That's not how the system goes.
I think what Mr. Berman was saying was that we have to have an institution. We have to protect that institution. That institution has to do the bidding of the people, not of the president. It has to pursue justice at any cost wherever it finds it. And to the extent that's uprooted and not respected then I'm going to push back against it. And I think that's exactly what he did, and I think that was the right and appropriate call under the circumstances.
SANCHEZ: Well, Sam, Joey, we have to hit pause on the conversation. Please don't go anywhere. We still have another big story to talk about. Why President Trump says it is still a win even though a judge just denied his attempt to block the book that Sam was just talking about, John Bolton's tell-all bombshell?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president said at one point, look, those prosecutors in New York are Obama people, wait until I get my people in and then we'll take care of this. And I thought to myself, and I'm a Department of Justice alumnus myself, I've never heard any president say anything like that, ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: The controversy surrounding the firing of the U.S. attorney of the Southern District of New York takes on special significance in light of at least one revelation in former National Security Adviser John Bolton's tell-all book, The Room Where It Happened.
As he alluded to in that clip from his interview with ABC's Martha Raddatz, Bolton claims the president offered to help the Turkish president with a Department of Justice investigation, an investigation that was being conducted by the Southern District of New York.
Let's bring back our panel, CNN National Security Analyst Sam Vinograd and CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson.
Sam, Bolton's claim here is that the president offered to help a foreign leader, one widely considered to be a despot, by interfering with an independent investigation by the Department of Justice into a Turkish bank that was suspected of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. It's not the only example in the book of questionable national security decisions though.
VINOGRAD: That's exactly right. There are a series of them. But before we even get into the content, I think we have to talk about the big picture here. This book on to itself, even if no more excerpts come out, is deeply damaging to national security on several fronts. In the first instance, we had a judge say today that John Bolton, the former national security adviser, likely jeopardized national security by probably releasing classified information. So it is likely that the book does contain classified information.
And, second, coming to the excerpts themselves, we have a situation where now the entire world is seeing, one, the inner most workings of the U.S. government. It's not like, for example, Putin's national security adviser is writing a tell-all book about the inner workings of the Kremlin. And, two, the whole world is seeing a picture of the U.S. president as a narcissistic, transactional, egotistical, really despotic who subjugate U.S. national security for personal gain, whether it comes to doing dirty deals with people like Erdogan or soliciting foreign election interference from the Chinese.
So big picture, this blow is a major blow to the credibility of the United States when it comes to being a global leader on democratic values, humanitarian issues, and more.
SANCHEZ: And, Joey, the Trump administration tried to block the book. A federal judge ruled today it wasn't going to happen, but Bolton could still be in some legal jeopardy. The judge seemed convinced the book does reveal classified information, said that Bolton risks criminal charges. How likely is that?
JACKSON: You know, it really depends, Boris, and this is what it depends upon. When you are at the highest levels of government, obviously, you have security clearances and, obviously, you have sensitive information. That information is sensitive and so much so that much of it is deemed classified. You sign do not disclose orders, right? We know about those when we're talking about signing contracts. We want people to have secrets and not be able to disclose them to the world.
And so the fact is that if he did disclose these secrets, what would occur is that he could open himself up to civil liability, that is that any proceeds of the book potentially could go to the government and not to him. And in addition to that, you have obviously laws that relate to criminal liability as well for classifying information and exposing that to the public.
At the end of the day though, we live in a society where courts are very low to prevent people from producing and otherwise publishing information to the public. That being said, you know, if the judge felt that way, I think the reason to be concerned but, I think, ultimately, moving forward, as we vet the process out more, we'll be able to determine whether or not the information was actually classified, came close to classified or was not classified at all. And so that's an open question at this point.
SANCHEZ: Yes, despite not blocking the book, the judge's decision making President Trump happy, he talked to the cameras today before he departed for Tulsa saying that it was a very good decision. We'll see if he still feels that way depending on what comes next.
Sam Vinograd, Joey Jackson, thank you so much for spending your late Saturday night with us.
And a reminder, John Bolton is going to appear on THE SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer this Wednesday at 6:00 P.M. Eastern, an interview you will not want to miss.
Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Boris Sanchez. CNN NEWSROOM with Michael Holmes is up next.