Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

White House Walks Back New Round Of Russian Sanctions; Will Mike Pompeo Be Confirmed As Secretary of State?; Senators Introduce New War Authorization After Syria Airstrikes; Fired FBI Chief James Comey Answers Critics In New Interview. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 17, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Angus King joins us, next.


CUOMO: All right.

So, "The Washington Post" has a report that President Trump put the brakes on a new round of Russia sanctions, reversing the announcement made by his ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, on Sunday.

Let's discuss why this might have happened with Independent Sen. Angus King from Maine. He's a member of the Intel Committee. Good to see you, Senator.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME), MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good morning, Chris. How are you, sir?

CUOMO: I'm doing well, thank God.

Let me ask you, are you concerned by the fact that Nikki Haley said one thing and suggested in kind of an imminent nature to these sanctions, and then we have another slow-walking by the White House, apparently?

KING: Well, it's concerning in the sense that Nikki Haley was not a low-level State Department official talking informally to a group of people. She was one of the highest-ranking foreign policy officials looking straight into the camera to the entire country and saying there will be sanctions, I think she said, either tomorrow or perhaps already today.

It sounded like this was an administration decision and now it appears -- and it may be -- the president may confirm it today and all of this can go away.

[07:35:02] But it is surprising and it underlines a problem of consistency and predictability -- I think that's one of the most important things -- and frankly, credibility. If the White House or the administration makes a statement we are going to do X and then it doesn't happen, that raises questions about what do we -- how do we interpret it the next time Nikki Haley says something that's going to happen as far as what -- Is she speaking for the administration or not? I think that's the fundamental question and certainly, everybody in the country thought she was Sunday morning.

CUOMO: And Senator, am I wrong to suggest that this does seem to be Russia-centric because we don't see the same kind of disconnect and delay and deliberativeness when it comes to going after other countries the way it does? I mean, the sanctions that you guys passed, basically 100 to nothing, were slow-walked by the White House.

KING: Well, there's no question of that. It was almost a year before they were imposed and even then, I don't think they were imposed with the vigor and the seriousness that Congress expected.

So yes, I don't want to read too much into this, Chris. This is one incident but it does -- when added into the context of what we've had so far over the past year --


KING: -- it does raise that question.

CUOMO: A couple more issues to get you on the record about.

Mike Pompeo -- you voted for him for CIA, now he's up for Secretary of State. Very different jobs, different level of scrutiny.

Does Mike Pompeo have your vote, Senator?

KING: Not yet. I am legitimately undecided Chris, and I've met with him. I went to his hearing the other day at Foreign Relations even though I'm not on the committee.

I can tell you with assurance Chris, that one of the things I learned at that hearing was that the chairs for the audience are much less comfortable than the chairs the senators have up in front.

CUOMO: (Laughter).

KING: But you may -- you put your finger on it in your question. I voted for him for head of the CIA.

That's a very different job. That is essentially a job of reporting intelligence, passing information to the president, and it's not a policy job. And I think he's done a good job in that -- in that position. He hasn't put his policy preferences ahead of the intelligence.

Secretary of State is a whole different deal. Number one, you're speaking for the country around the world. Number two, you are a pure policy adviser to the president and I'm concerned about some of the positions that he's taken with regard to possible aerial strikes on Iran, North Korea, Islam in the past.

He had pretty good answers in the committee but I think you have to look beyond just the testimony at the committee and say what's this fellow's overall record. So, I'm weighing that.

On the other hand, he's a very smart guy. He graduated first in his class at West Point. He's got a lot of solid qualities and characteristics. I'm just not sure he's the guy who will be a moderating influence on a president who seems to make important decisions rather quickly.

And I just want to be sure that Mike Pompeo is going to be in that room saying well, wait a minute, Mr. President, have you thought of this, have you thought of that? Have you thought of the diplomatic ramifications?

So that's what I'm wrestling with Chris, to tell you the truth, and I'll have to decide in about a week.

CUOMO: Well, it's a rare commodity, people who speak truth to power, and we know it usually by the signal of them being removed from the administration one way or another.

Let me ask you something else. Once again -- this is a complete editorial statement here by me and a nature of full disclosure that we're encouraging this morning.

You guys rolled over again and allowed yet another president to take unilateral military action against a state -- a sovereign that is not a direct threat to the United States. Now we hear that out of the Foreign Relations Committee there are senators moving to change the AUMF -- the Authorization for Use of Military Force -- to remedy this situation.

What do you make of that effort? Are you with it?

KING: I'm with it. I'm absolutely with it. I'm either a co-sponsor or will be soon of that -- of that bill.

It's not just senators. The key is that Bob Corker, the chair of the committee, is the lead sponsor along with Tim Kaine. And it is an effort to remedy this essentially blank check or at least in successive administrations, including Bush, Obama, and now Trump --


KING: -- that have interpreted that original one after it passed a week after September 11th as the ability to go anywhere, do anything, fight anybody, put troops in.

This is a narrowing of that -- of that. It's not going to satisfy those who want it to be really straightjacket. It's not going to satisfy those who think there should be no limitations.

I talked to Tim Kaine about it. He said it's probably not going to satisfy either side. Maybe that means it's in the right space.

But I couldn't agree with you more. This is a responsibility of Congress. We have avoided it. We've sat on the sidelines and let the president act unilaterally and then criticized. So this is a time for the Congress to step up and I certainly hope they'll do so. My understanding is that that bill's going to be introduced either last night or this morning and that Bob Corker expects to bring it to the committee within the next couple of weeks. It ought to happen.

[07:40:12] CUOMO: Well, we'll be on it and it will be interesting to see if it has a mechanism for what you do when the president intends not to follow that authorization. What do you do? Usually, you just fall silent and then we watch what happens.

But, Senator, I appreciate your attention to this issue. We'll stay on it. You're always welcome here.

KING: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Be well, Senator -- Alisyn.

KING: Yes, sir.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, now to this. Senator John McCain had surgery yesterday. How is he? We have details on his health, next.


CAMEROTA: A 20-year-old student arrested for the murder of a fellow student on the campus of Binghamton University in Upstate New York. Michael Roque is charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of 19-year-old Joao Souza. That's a star soccer player from Brazil.

Police say Souza was killed in his room but they are not revealing a motive. The arrest coming after authorities released surveillance video -- you can see here -- of the suspect leaving the victim's room.

And, Arizona Sen. John McCain is in stable condition today after surgery to treat an intestinal infection. His wife and daughter tweeting that he's doing well.

McCain has been recovering from side effects of brain cancer treatment at his home in Arizona since late last year. He went public with his cancer diagnosis last summer.

[07:45:03] His office has not said when or if he plans to return to Washington.

CUOMO: All right, it is time for "CNN Money Now."

Yesterday on NEW DAY, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway and I got into a discussion about the ballooning deficit. Take a listen.


CUOMO: But you need to offset that big fat deficit that we have now because of the tax cuts and all the other spending that was put in. KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Oh, give me a break. What was the deficit when Donald Trump got here? Give me a break.

CUOMO: It's --

CONWAY: That just exploded. That was doubled over the last eight years and you know it.

CUOMO: An unprecedented amount of additions to the deficit and you know that. You know it's a problem within your party.

CONWAY: Do you -- do you -- do you -- I'm sorry, do you disagree with the $4 million for school safety -- $4 billion for school safety, the $6 billion for opioids?

CUOMO: No, it's about -- it's not about cherry-picking things. It's about just an overall fiscal landscape.

CONWAY: The $700 billion for our military. We think it's a good idea to fund the military. The military needed more revenue --

CUOMO: Look, all I'm saying is your party was always about cutting the deficit and now, you're ballooning it.

CONWAY: -- and more resources.


CUOMO: All right. So, who was right? Well, the fact is the U.S. is facing trillion-dollar deficits.

But you don't have to take it from, take it from somebody who knows -- Chief business correspondent Christine Romans in our Money Center.

And you love to say I'm wrong. What do you got today?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "EARLY START": I do love to say you're wrong but you're actually not, here.

The party of fiscal responsibility is presiding over an era of worsening budget deficits. President Trump, just this morning -- tax day, Chris -- touting his tax bill in the op-ed, praising lower taxes for individuals and businesses.

But he did not mention in that "USA Today" op-ed those tax cuts are one reason the U.S. budget deficit will grow over the next few years. That's what the nonpartisan CBO said just last week.

The deficit, of course, is how much more the government spends than brings in. Look at this chart. The deficit ballooned in the 2009 financial crisis but has been falling since then, until now. The CBO projects $1 trillion deficits by 2020, two years faster than it projected just months ago.

So what has changed? Well, those tax cuts and a $1.3 trillion spending deal. Both have significantly reduced federal revenue. The CBO agrees with Republicans that tax cuts will spur growth, just not nearly enough to offset the full cost. The result, the national debt will nearly match the size of the U.S. economy by 2028. That's the highest level of any year since World War II, right, when America was spending money to save the world.

That could spark a crisis by driving up interest rates, tanking stock prices, or slowing economic growth, Aly. Those are the numbers.

CAMEROTA: All right. We heard the warning here first, Christine. Thank you very much for showing it to us in those examples.

Meanwhile, James Comey is still on his media blitz and this morning, we have a new interview with him that we'll play for you where he responds to his critics. That's next.


[07:52:01] CUOMO: The war of words continues. Fired FBI director James Comey answers critics in a new interview and addresses President Trump's claims that the records seized from his personal attorney Michael Cohen -- that that search was an attack on the country -- listen.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: He either doesn't know or doesn't care what the rule of law looks like.

Nobody broke into anybody's office. It doesn't happen. The FBI gets a search warrant from a federal judge and conducts itself professionally, completely, and politely by the accounts of the people involved. So I -- it's a total distortion of the way things work.


CUOMO: You know who agreed with James Comey about that -- the manner in which the search was conducted? Michael Cohen. He said that the agents were respectful -- that they carried it out professionally.

All right, joining us now, CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell. He was a special assistant to Comey at the FBI. And, CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano, a retired FBI supervisory special agent and professor at St. John's University.

Gentlemen, do we have a quorum and complete agreement that these searches were done the right way and that this was not an attack on our democracy? Do we all agree?



CUOMO: OK, good.

So the idea to you, as a former agent, Jimmy, of the FBI being attacked this way --


CUOMO: -- that you guys are dirty, you're deep state, you're a bunch of lefties who are trying to hurt Trump -- that's what's going on here. Fair criticism?

GAGLIANO: I've argued for a long time that I thought that President Trump's attacks were at certain senior leadership and I've argued that it wasn't having an effect on morale. I've evolved on that position. I believe that it has had some effect on morale because I think people just hear FBI, FBI, FBI and they don't see the pointed criticisms.

Good and decent people can differ in the decisions that have been made in the Trump administration and the decisions that were made by James Comey during his almost 4-year tenure as the FBI director, so I think you can be on either side of that argument, Chris.

And whether or not you're a member of the resistance or a member of the folks that believe there's an apparatus on the seventh floor of the FBI that is part of the deep state, I think that you can look at this and say the FBI has taken some body blows. I hope we can recover from it.

And that's what we're trying to do right now is trying to profess the fact that the 35,000 employees of the FBI are doing the job. Let's get things fixed up on the seventh floor.

CUOMO: Now, there's also suggestion, Josh, about -- by the president, specifically, that this is so unheard of. This never happens -- going after an attorney where there may be privileged communications. It happens all the time.

We saw that reflected in the deference and the obvious discretion that Judge Kimba Wood, senior jurist in the Southern District nominated to the bench by President Reagan many years ago -- that she showed here.

She gave a little bit to Cohen and let him review it. Gave a little bit to the government and let them do their keyword search. Reserved judgment on other things, heard out the president.

Is there any suspicion you have at this point that this is being done the wrong way and is politically motivated?

[07:55:00] CAMPBELL: It's not because if you look at our system of justice it is built on redundancies and oversight and accountability, so something in the case of a search of Mr. Cohen's office is going to be something that rises to the highest levels of the Justice Department. And then, you have the independent judiciary that's looking into it, so I don't have concern there.

I think what I do have concern with -- and, you know, I'm not a partisan but in looking at the volleying back and forth, the left and right, and some of these attacks on the system, the attacks on law enforcement, I think that when you attack everything you lose credibility in making those arguments.

So here we see the president and his allies going after the system. But again, when you attack everything it's hard to parse and make sense of what's actually righteous and what's just noise.

CUOMO: And look, just for you guys at home, some of you have asked why I don't call it a raid because it wasn't a raid. By Michael Cohen's own recording they didn't break down his door and take things. I think it suggests an aggression that is used to imply that this was somehow wrong --


CUOMO: -- or motivated by animists. That's why I don't say it.

All right, now let's talk about something where I think you guys will not agree.

James Comey is part of the rationale for his actions and his justification for the same to NPR in an interview and said this.

"Comey asserted that the reputation of his agency, which operates under near-daily siege from the president and his allies, would be worse today had we not picked the least bad alternatives."

OK, Jimmy, the reference is to his unprecedented/controversial moves of saying that there was an investigation into Hillary Clinton but not saying that there was one into Donald Trump. And then saying, once again, supposedly on a promise to Congress that they were looking at the situation and reopening it once again just days away from the election, which does breach the tradition of the FBI to stay out of any election that close to the actual election day.

Do you believe that Comey helped the FBI by what he did?

GAGLIANO: Let's make an important distinction here and this is where I disagree vehemently with Josh. Criticism of this former FBI director's decisions, which I have said and I continue to maintain there was a period of time in the Bureau where he made feckless leadership decisions. That's not a character assassination. I will give you the reasons why.

That's definitely different than talking about his character. I think he's a good and decent man.

I've listened to Josh's warm anecdotes about the personal life of the man. I've watched him, I've listened to him. He seems to have a compelling story.

The timing of the book -- which "The Washington Post," by the way -- their book review critic said it is an author who doesn't just quote Shakespeare, he quotes himself quoting Shakespeare -- is a bad look.

And I also believe that of recent, you've got a number of folks -- an assistant director -- two or three of them actually -- an executive assistant director -- folks that worked for Comey in that seventh- floor circle that have come out and said he's damaged the brand.

Now, I'm not here to protect the FBI, I'm here to call it as I see it. I spent 25 years in it. I bleed FBI blue and gold, but here's the problem.

The two things that you point out -- the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation -- Josh has taken issue with the term that I use called "punting it back across the street." It's not an abdication of duty when your responsibility is not as an FBI director to step out in front of cameras and talk about the closing of a case. To basically dirty somebody up, which is what happened -- not purposely, but maybe ham-handed.

You should have said to Loretta Lynch who did some things that were questionable and politicized things, this belongs on the desk of the deputy attorney general, a career prosecutor who had to go through the Congressional vetting system before she was appointed.

To the Russia collusion piece that you just mentioned, I believe that he made the right decision there. I don't think he should have mentioned that. Why? He said Donald Trump was not a target.

They were concerned about a small group of people -- a coterie that might have been working -- might have been -- with the Russians. And to mention that at that time might have sent those folks scurrying elsewhere.

So I disagree with the decision-making. I disagree also with the look of the book tour. I think it's vainglorious and self-serving, and I think it further tarnishes the FBI.

Having said that, I don't believe James Comey is a bad man. I think he was the wrong man at the wrong time in the wrong position.

CUOMO: Josh?

CAMPBELL: Well, there's a lot there -- like five or six things. But let me just start if I can with leadership because that's what this book is about and that's something that was very important to Jim Comey. I know it is to Jimmy Gagliano, as well.

I think you fundamentally have two different leadership styles here. If you put yourself in the -- in the position of Jim Comey and go back to -- you know, obviously with the distance of hindsight, we can look and -- you know, look at all different decisions and determine what was done well and what was done maybe differently. I think we can distinguish between the decisions that Jim Comey made and the person Jim Comey is.

And so when I talk about a character assassination I'm not saying that when you question Jim -- when you question James Comey's decision that you're attacking his character. I think that would be an easy way out. What I'm talking are when you have the people at the highest levels of government calling him a liar, calling him slimeball, calling him disgraceful, you tell me that's not character assassination, so let's set that side.

CUOMO: Well first, that's the President of the United States and that's who's saying it.

CAMPBELL: That's right and that's what I'm referring to.

CUOMO: Let's -- you know, there's no reason for us to cloak any of this.

But let's talk about why he's doing that. Comey did him a favor, OK?

Trump likes to go low. He likes to keep it personal.