TRANSCRIPT

The fallout from Comey releasing his prepared remarks

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in

 

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," June 7, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you at any time urge former FBI director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn? And also --

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, no. Next question?

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO, D-HI.: Can they halt that FBI investigation?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: In theory, yes.

HIRONO: Has it happened?

COMEY: Not in my experience, because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something without an appropriate purpose. I'm talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason, that would be a very big deal. It's not happened in my experience.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: That was testimony May 3rd. We have prepared testimony for Jim Comey tomorrow in which a meeting on February 14th, he says "I hope you can let this go about the Michael Flynn investigation," former NSA director. But he calls that, Comey does, "It was very concerning when the president told me that."

January 27th, dinner, "the president began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI director. My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position meant the dinner was at least in part an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly given the FBI's traditionally independent status in the executive branch. A few moments later the presidents aid "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty." Near the end of our dinner the president returned to the subject of my job. He then said "I need loyalty." I replied "You will always get honesty from me." He paused and then said "That's what I want, honest loyalty." I paused, and then said "You will get that from me."

Some of the prepared testimony from Jim Comey at tomorrow's Senate hearing. Let's bring our panel: Byron York, chief political correspondent of Washington Examiner; Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist; Charles Lane, opinion writer for The Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Byron, your thoughts?

BYRON YORK, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, the first thing he did was he confirmed some of the reports that we've seen that the president asked him if he would consider letting go the Michael Flynn investigation. This was after Flynn was fired. He confirmed what you were just reading, the loyalty request, although it is something we hear the president has asked almost everybody he's hired.

On the other hand, he did confirm what the president said, which was that Comey told the president on not one, not two, but three occasion that he, Donald Trump, was not under investigation in that. And we've seen a very brief statement from the president's lawyer saying that he now feels completely and totally vindicated by this.

My guess is tomorrow what you're going to see is Democrats saying that Comey has just given them dead solid evidence of obstruction, and Republicans saying this makes us feel a lot better. We think it can all be explained innocently.

BAIER: On that point, the president obviously talk to Lester Holt with NBC, laid out the different meetings, said that he had been told that he wasn't under investigation. Then we have a series of stories from anonymous sources saying that Comey was not going to say that and it was not true. But Comey does say that in this prepared testimony.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: And a sense, Comey is the most helpful to Trump's case of anyone in the entire scenario. We have had so many anonymously sourced stories claiming that Trump would undermine -- or that Comey would undermine what Trump had said about being told that he wasn't under investigation. And just even the details of these meetings paints a picture of Trump going out of his way to talk to Comey, try and work with him. He is told repeatedly that he's not under investigation. He's dealing with an FBI director who for some reason is going on the Hill and making it seem like he is under investigation. And these stories are actually, I think, pretty favorable to Donald Trump, even if he is very different from a typical politician in this scenario.

BAIER: Comey says the reason that he didn't express concern that he was very concerned about the Michael Flynn comment was because of the investigation that was ongoing. If you look at testimony one, "The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not infect the investigative team with the president's request which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia related investigations. He did so two weeks later." This is what he writes at the time, the reason he didn't put it up the chain, Chuck. But I just played that May 3rd sound bite where he suggests at least that he hasn't seen any pressure. And it would be wrong if there was pressure to drop an investigation.

CHARLES LANE, WASHINGTON POST: That is probably the hardest question for Comey in this whole business, is, well, wait a minute, if it was so terrible, why didn't you take it up the chain? And what I interpret that statement that you just read to mean is an extremely complicated explanation as to why it would've been more trouble than it was worth to take this up the chain given that it would have been a he-said, he-said situation.

Look, the Comey statement that came out today does not resolve this matter. As Byron said, it's going to be viewed through a partisan lens up on the Hill. I think it is marginally helpful to the president in the sense that it does -- there is no endorsement of an obstruction of justice charge in here anywhere. That's the most helpful part for the president.

The part that damages the president is that Comey clearly portrays himself as someone Trump was trying to manipulate and steer into making sort of compromising statements like yes, sir, I will be loyal to you, sir. And of course we have to all view this in the context of what happened later, namely Comey was fired, and he was fired in a situation where the administration offered inconsistent or differing accounts of the rationale for his firing.

So I think if I were on the committee, what I would be asking or trying to get out of these hearings would be, gee, Mr. Comey, in light of everything you say in this, why was it, in your view, that you were fired? Because there is the appearance at least that because Trump didn't get this guaranty of loyalty he felt he had to let him go.

HEMINGWAY: But he did get the guarantee of loyalty. In fact there were a lot of words in this statement that Comey put out to actually say -- he gives a lot of set up and he talks about later about he had a different meeting, but in fact he did pledge his loyalty.

BAIER: Not loyalty. He said "honesty." And then the president said honest loyalty, that's what the president.

HEMINGWAY: And then he said you will have it.

BAIER: And then Comey says he sat there with nothing on his face.

HEMINGWAY: No. He said you have my honest loyalty.

BAIER: I understand.

LANE: He didn't give Trump the words that Trump wanted.

BAIER: He wasn't pledging loyalty to the president. My point is that, is it appropriate? Jonathan Turley, who I respect a lot, said he does not see anything that rises to the level obstruction of justice, but, quote, "The comments are grossly inappropriate. But we do not indict people for being boorish or clueless." That's Jonathan Turley commenting on what he reads Comey saying the president said.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: As usual, Jonathan Turley is right. What the president was doing was trying to sort of seduce him, but seduction is not an impeachable offense. Perhaps in the '90s, but it's not anymore.

BAIER: We don't want to check the record on that.

(LAUGHTER)

KRAUTHAMMER: The most important passage in the Comey testimony is this. The president went on to say that if there were some satellite associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn't done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren't investigating him.

Look at it from Trump's point of view. The guy, the head of the FBI has told him three times he's not the subject of an investigation. The press is in a frenzy over what did he do, when did he do it, what did he know. And Comey says we didn't tell the president why we were not going public. It's a plausible reason. He said because if we did, then we would have a duty to undo it to tell the world that he was under investigation if there were a change, the way he did with Hillary.

BAIER: I mean, it's almost exactly the same. It is suggesting -- it's not getting too, I'm not going to say whether there is a crime here or not. I'm going to tell you this and then you decide.

KRAUTHAMMER: But from Trump's point of view, I'm the one who is getting pilloried on this. FBI director agrees we me but they won't say it out loud. And I am stuck. And he also says that there are people, satellites, associates, then go get them. This is not obstruction. This is not shutting the investigation down. It could be throwing some of his people under the bus. But it is saying on the big one, was I involved? You're telling me I wasn't. How about letting the world know? That to me is a totally plausible scenario, and it's the one Comey is offering.

BAIER: He says "lift the cloud" is the president according --

YORK: And one more thing on Michael Flynn specifically is if you look at the context of Trump's remarks, there has been a report in "The Washington Post" a week or so earlier that the FBI found nothing illegal in Flynn's conversations with the Russians. Trump has fired Flynn, so he says to the FBI director, come on. You haven't found anything. I have fired the guy. Can you move on?

BAIER: Here's what we don't know, Byron. We don't know what Flynn told the FBI.

YORK: Exactly.

BAIER: And if he told the FBI what he told Vice President Pence then he's at risk of lying to the FBI.

YORK: Comey raised the issue in the testimony that Trump may not have known about Flynn lying to the FBI if he did. But that is the context for Trump's actually making this statement.

BAIER: All right, I want to play one sound bite from former director of national intelligence Clapper and Norm Eisen from the Brookings Institution.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I have to say, though, that I think you compare the two, that Watergate pales, really, in my view compared to what we are confronting now.

NORMAN EISEN, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This moves us into the same realm as Nixon's obstruction, maybe worse. This is the equivalent of the Nixon tapes. And we are headed into very, very choppy waters.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BAIER: I mean, I spent, I don't know, two hours watching cable coverage. It was all over the board, and it was more towards that than it was anything else.

HEMINGWAY: Whenever anyone makes a comparison to Watergate in this town, it's usually a desperate plea for attention. At this point the only similarities you have are highly placed intelligence officials leaking to the press. We don't even have anyone who has come forth with a crime yet. And we are still waiting to hear what this crime in which Trump or people might be implicated. And it's far past time for these intelligence officials who have been playing this game and putting out innuendos about Watergate to actually give us some substance on which to hang it. Or they need to just put up or shut up.

BAIER: Because, Chuck, when you read this all the way through, we don't get a sense of collusion. We have not had any leaks of specific collusion as of yet. But we are starting to get that the focus is on possible obstruction.

LANE: Well, I don't know if Jim Clapper spoke before or after this Comey - -

BAIER: Before.

LANE: -- thing came out. Whether his view would've been different if he'd read it. But I do think he's just going off half-cocked there. It's way too early to draw that comparison. And I find it ironic, actually, considering Jim Clapper was in the middle of the last big scandal that was supposed to be worse than Watergate, the thing about the NSA where a lot of people think he wasn't very forthright with Congress. So he's doing some stuff there.

But look, what it looks to me like we know so far is the president, in my judgment, had a conversation with Jim Comey he shouldn't have had. Trying to get them to relieve the pressure on Mike Flynn over his Russia ties, Flynn's own Russia ties or whatever it was, that was an inappropriate conversation. I'm not willing to say yet that it rises to level of obstruction of justice. But to put that together when then later on firing him, it's just, it's bad conduct. You can call it whatever you want, but I think that is the stuff of a legitimate congressional investigation. Whether you want to call it Watergate or not is another story.

BAIER: All right, I want to just play this one long sound bite from the hearing today, get you to comment. And then I have got some breaking news to talk about in just a minute. We don't have that one because it's in the next panel.

Let's talk about this briefly. This is the back-and-forth today with the intelligence officials who say I've never felt pressured, I've never felt directed to squelch or silence and investigation, but the committee was not having it, or at least Democrats on the committee. You do have it? Let's go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. MIKE ROGERS, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY DIRECTOR: I have never been directed to do anything I believed to be illegal, immoral, unethical, or inappropriate. I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I've never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relation to an ongoing investigation.

SEN. MARK WARNER, D-VA.: Can you set the record straight about what happened?

COATS: I do not feel it's appropriate for me to, in a public session in which confidential conversations between the president and myself --

SEN. ANGUS KING, I-MAINE: What's the basis for your refusal to answer these questions today?

COATS: I do not believe it's appropriate for me to --

KING: What's the basis? I'm not satisfied with I do not believe it is appropriate or I do not feel I should answer. I want to understand a legal basis. You swore that oath to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and today you are refusing to do so. What's the legal basis for your refusal to testimony?

COATS: I'm not sure I have a legal basis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: All right, so they pressed and pressed and pressed. They wanted to find out about specific conversations. On one hand, Charles, they have a point. They didn't exert executive privilege. They went to testify under oath, and they wouldn't answer yes or no, did the president say this or not? But they answer broadly on the overall question that they're asking or getting at.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think the advantage here is to the senators. If you're going to go up there and say I refused to talk about what was said, well, then invoke executive privilege. That's a legal basis. Fight it out on that. But to say I don't think it's appropriate, I think the senators are right. On the basis of what? And if you listen to what the intelligence chiefs were saying, they were saying we were not directed. They were asked, were you asked? And they return to the language "directed." This is a lawyerly stuff. I hate to say it, but it's rather Clintonian. It depends what "directed" means. And it sounds like it's very carefully crafted. The senators have a right to know. I'm not sure that the public has to. But fight it out on executive privilege and what you can tell us, let us know. Otherwise if you're going to testify, speak.

BAIER: Quickly?

YORK: I have to agree with that. Now, Dan Coats was in effect saying I'll tell you a private session. Can we just go into private session and I'll tell you? So we don't know what he said, whether he satisfied them at all, but it seems odd that in a conversation that they are not claiming privilege for that they won't talk about it.

BAIER: But much more on this on the online show right after this show.

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