Transcript

Sen. Coons questions if Sessions violated recusal; Ken Starr says Sessions acquitted himself beautifully

On 'The Story,' lawmaker says the attorney general stood up for himself in the hearing

 

This is a rush transcript from "The Story," June 13, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: Breaking tonight, we are waiting to hear how the president thought his attorney general did today, that could come at any moment. We'll take you to the White House live as soon as it does. Attorney General Jeff Sessions came out swinging today. He raised his right hand before Congress, testified for about two and a half hours. He was quite defiant, defending his name, fiercely denying claims that he colluded at any time with Russians during the 2016 elections and making clear to allies and critics alike that he wanted this to be a public hearing. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me state this clearly, colleagues, I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States. Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign. I was your colleague in this body for 20 years, at least some of you. And to suggest that I participated in any collusion-that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor for 35 years or to undermine the integrity of our Democratic process is an appalling and detestable lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So, there's that. Tonight, Ken Starr is the former Special Prosecutor appointed to investigate Whitewater and the Monica Lewinsky case under then-President Bill Clinton, and Charles Krauthammer also joins us this evening. But we begin with Democratic Senator, Chris Coons, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Crime Terrorism Subcommittee which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MACCALLUM: Senator, welcome. Good to have you here back on the program again tonight. What did you think about his testimony today and did it put to rest any of your concerns?

SEN. CHRIS COONS, D-DEL., SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE AND THE CRIME TERRORISM SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBER: Well, that "was classic Jeff Sessions," he is tough, he's combative, and he stood up for himself admirably in his testimony today in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The question that I have had all along was one that I raised this morning in front of the Oversight Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee that is responsible for the Justice Department budgets were he didn't appear but instead send his deputy. And that was whether or not Attorney General Sessions violated his recusal.

Early on in his service as Attorney General, he notified Congress that he would not be involved in any matter arising either from the investigation of the Hillary Clinton's e-mails or this ongoing matter about potential Russian involvement in our 2016 election or collusion with the Trump campaign to that end. And it seems to me that the memo that was sent by Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, to Attorney General Sessions explaining why he thought FBI Director Comey should be fired, directly addressed one of those two matters. So, I asked Rod Rosenstein: why doesn't this violate the scope of his recusal?

MACCALLUM: Yes. I mean, it's ironic because, you know, a lot of Democrats say, well, obviously, the President had decided he was going to fire the FBI Director no matter what. So, I'm not sure why there's so much concern about, you know, Sessions' role and it gave the fact that the argument made, from your side, has been that the President had decided that long ago on his own. But I do want to get through a couple of things here. This is Senator Tom Cotton, and I want to play this for you and get your thoughts on it.

SEN. TOM COTTON, R-ARK.: What do we think happened at the Mayflower? Do you like spy fiction? Have you ever in any of these fantastical situations heard of a plot line: so ridiculous that a sitting United States Senator and an Ambassador of a foreign government, colluded in an open setting with hundreds of other people to pull off the greatest caper in the history?

MACCALLUM: Senator Coons, what do you make of that?

COONS: Well, Senator Cotton certainly put that question well. I would say part of why these questions have come over and over to Representatives of the Trump administration is because there were a series of episodes that were not appropriately initially disclosed; say for example, the extent to which former National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn, represented foreign interest and failed to report them, or the extent to which Jared Kushner had meetings with Russian leaders early and explored a back channel in a way that was designed to acknowledge the oversight.

MACCALLUM: For the purposes of this hearing which is what we were watching today, the question that was dangled by James Comey was, you know, well. There is a third meeting here, and we really can't talk about it in this open session. But and also, he said, you know, I knew that Senator Sessions would recuse himself for reasons that I can't really go into here.

So, he dangled a lot about - specifically, about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and that I think is what Tom Cotton was getting at. I mean, the preposterousness of, you know, Kislyak and Sessions meeting at this big hotel in front of all these people and doing something nefarious does strike you-when you look at it that way-as kind of silly, does it not?

COONS: If that were the only contact that was a subject of concern between folks in the Trump campaign and Russians, then it would seem absurd. But the point I was just making is that it's not. There was a wide range of contacts that really haven't been fully accounted for, that's why we've got a Special Counsel, Bob Mueller, now looking into this. And I was encouraged that on a bipartisan basis, we heard calls from Republicans and Democrats today for Bob Mueller to have the resources and the independence he needs to carry that investigation forward.

MACCALLUM: All right. So, in terms of the big take away, you know, with the collusion or the obstruction of justice, did you learn anything today that concerned you on those two very specific bottom line fronts in this investigation?

COONS: What concerned me as a Member of the Judiciary Committee, and the Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for the Department of Justice was the absence of the Attorney General. He hasn't appeared in either one of those committees this year, and despite repeated invitations, we have not yet heard from him. We heard from his deputy. And as I pointed out to his deputy, really, it's only the Attorney General who can answer the direct questions we've got about policy and about the scope of his recusal.

MACCALLUM: Do expect that he will make that appearance?

COONS: I hope that he will. At some point, I think he owes it to the committee on which he long served to take up the appropriate role of the Attorney General and respond to our request for an oversight hearing.

MACCALLUM: Well put. Understood. Thank you very much, Senator Coons, good to see you.

COONS: Good to see you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MACCALLUM: So, joining me now: Ken Starr, who served as Independent Counsel for five special investigations, including the Whitewater investigation involving then-President Clinton President Clinton. Mr. Starr, welcome, good to have you with us tonight.

KEN STARR, FORMER UNITED STATES SOLICITOR GENERAL AND INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Great to be with you, thank you.

MACCALLUM: So, you watched this testimony today, and I know that you've said that there is no obstruction of justice that you have seen in any of this, and you've question even the need for a Special Counsel given the evidence. What did you think about Jeff Sessions' testimony today?

STARR: I felt the attorney general was terrific. First of all, I've known the Attorney General since 1981, and I know him to be a man of honor, a man of the law, and I thought that came through-his passion and commitment to the rule of law that came shining through. So, I don't think a lot was revealed today, and I think we're much farther down the road. But I think that the American people saw that this Attorney General is just a great human being with an enormous amount of passion and determination to try his very best to do the right thing. I like his sense of moral indignation.

MACCALLUM: So given that, what do you think-in reflection-about James Comey and what he suggested about Jeff Sessions?

STARR: Well, a lot of what Director Comey suggested, if I may say so, was innuendo. But we've now seen a very honorable person defend himself, and I thought he acquitted himself beautifully, I thought it was very, very plausible. And I have stated previously that I have serious problems with the way Director Comey conducted himself. And those were really explored again today by virtue of the Senators going through meticulously: the Rosenstein memorandum, which enumerated the various areas in which the Director really violated, perhaps, law. But he certainly violated policy time and time again.

MACCALLUM: All right. So, in terms of investigations, which you are very familiar with, one of the things that Democrats took issue with today, primarily, were moments like this. Let's play number five.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: I did not have any private meetings, nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower hotel. I did not attend any meetings at that event.

SEN. MARK WARNER, D-VA.: To the best of your memory, you had no conversation with Ambassador Kislyak at that meeting?

SESSIONS: I don't recall it, Senator Warner. Certainly, I can assure you nothing improper if I'd had a conversation with him, and it's conceivable if that occurred. I just don't remember. Well, I guess, I could say that I possibly had a meeting, but I still do not recall it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: There's like a counting of the times he said "I don't recall," and people saying, you know, how could that possibly be; your thoughts?

STARR: Well, I'm very sympathetic with that. My goodness, it's difficult for us to recall what happened last week, going back some considerable time. And also, it was not one of those interactions that you would automatically say you should remember that a reasonable person would remember that.

MACCALLUM: Because people met with Kislyak all the time, and he was a very prominent figure around Washington and showed up at a lot of these things, right?

STARR: Exactly. And it was a social kind of gathering, et cetera, or at least it was social context as opposed to we're going over to the Russian Embassy or the Ambassador is coming to your Senate office for a meeting. So, again-

MACCALLUM: I want to ask you about the overall investigation and the Special Counsel, because you lead an investigation into the Clinton administration that ended up sort of pulling on a string and going in a lot of different directions, including leading to the revelation of the relationship between the President and Monica Lewinsky. Do you have any advice for Robert Mueller based on your own experience as he heads into this very murky direction?

STARR: Robert Mueller needs no advice whatsoever. He doesn't even need reminding. What I think we're already seeing with Robert Mueller is he's going to be thorough, and he's going to be professional. And you simply go where the evidence leads you. You don't say we're going to just cut this off; we're going to follow the trail, follow the money as the case may be or just follow the facts, follow the evidence. And I think the one thing that we know is that we have a very able and honest Special Counsel, who is in charge of this investigation, so let's allow him to do his work.

MACCALLUM: He had said he's going to do it in three months. Do you think that you know, he's reflecting on how long it took for other investigations, including yours?

STARR: I hope he's right. I thought Whitewater's going to take six months max. But when I arrived in little rock, Robert Fisk, my distinguished predecessor said, Ken, move your family to Little Rock, you're going to be here for a long time. So, it just depends on what the evidence is.

MACCALLUM: All right. Ken Starr, thank you very much. Good to see you tonight, sir.

STARR: Good to see you. Thank you.

MACCALLUM: So, my next guest says that this whole investigation is beginning to look absurd; Charles Krauthammer, coming up with his can't- miss-analysis, of what happened today in Washington. And it was an unverified rumor that drove coverage across the media last night: the suggestion that President Trump was considering firing Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, the White House response to that now debunked the claim, and how that all happened? And an American college student has been released from North Korea, but it will not be the homecoming his family had hoped for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love you. You are an amazing guy. Hang in there, tiger boy, you are coming home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN, D-MINN.: If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?

SESSIONS: I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians. And I'm unable to comment on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So, that was then-Senator Sessions back at his confirmation hearing. An exchange that led some to claim that he was lying there; an attack on Attorney General Sessions' character that he was not going to let go unchallenged. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: There is the assertion that I did not answer Senator Franken's question honestly at my confirmation hearing. Colleagues, that is false. I was taken aback by that explosive allegation, which he said was being reported as breaking news that very day in which I had not heard. I wanted to refute that immediately. Any suggestion that I was part of such an activity, my answer was a fair and correct response to the charges I understood it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: Joining me now is Dr. Charles Krauthammer, Nationally Syndicated Columnist, and Fox News Contributor. Charles, good evening. Good to have you with us today. We all watched all of this with great interest today. And when you look back at it, and you look back at that moment, do you think this was a good move for Senator Sessions or do you think it will end up being a mistake for him that he put himself out there in this open forum?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR AND NATIONALLY SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: No, I think he helped himself a lot. He basically uncovered or sort of exposed the absurdity of this whole exercise. I mean, this is supposed to be about Russian meddling in our election, that wasn't even an issue. Then it was supposed to be about the collusion, there's not an ounce of evidence. I'm open to empirical evidence; I used to be a doctor. You show me the facts. I'm willing to change opinion.

You know, this has been investigated for seven months. There've been leaks like the Titanic, and yet has there been any leak of anything implicating the President or in the collusion with the Russians? No. And trying to tag it on Sessions is even more absurd. I mean, the man says, and I think he was right in saying that the big charge against him came from what was clear innuendo from the Comey testimony, where he implied that it was something nefarious, that he could not discuss in public, that would have forced the recusal of the Attorney General in the Russian case.

Of course, the story that was then leaked from the closed session where Comey was the third meeting, which is exposed as ridiculous charge. All of us have been to receptions where you meet two-dozen people; you can't remember half of them. And he says which is quite likely, he had no interaction at all, and if he had any interaction it would have been brief, completely inconsequential, and forgettable. So, where is the charge, where is the crime?

MACCALLUM: Let's play this exchange with Senator Ron Wyden, which got a little prickly. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RON WYDEN, D-ORE.: Mr. Comey says that there were matters-with respect to the recusal-that were problematic and he couldn't talk about them, what are they?

SESSIONS: That why don't you tell me. They are none, Senator Wyden. There are none. I can tell you that for absolute certainty. This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me and I don't appreciate it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: You touched on the point that, you know, there was a precious little discussion about actual Russian meddling in elections, which we've actually got some new information about. We're going to talk more about that in just a moment. But you know, there seems to be so much focus on taking down this administration, on taking down Donald Trump and going after them pretty much any way they can.

KRAUTHAMMER: Lordy, I'm not a fan of Donald Trump - I love that expression. I think I'm going to adopt it.

MACCALLUM: Lordy!

KRAUTHAMMER: And you know, but this seems to be a case of all smoke and no fire. Yes, it all looks like this is a cover-up, but where is the crime? He's the first cover-up in history in the absence of a crime. You show me the crime, I will admit it, but show it to me. And going after Sessions is simply a way to go after Trump. I think, look, he won fair and square. He's elected. He's the President. You don't like it? Then, you vote him out of office next time around.

But the idea that there's this kind of obligation to bring him down, and to actually build a case for impeachment after three or four months is absurd. And I think it's sort of un-American. If he commits high crimes and misdemeanors, yes, but show me, show me the evidence. And I think this is just a sideshow of a sideshow. They're going up tributaries to try to find anybody who can be condemned. I thought Sessions did a very good job fending off all of these charges. Where is the evidence of obstruction?

MACCALLUM: Let me ask you this, you know, in terms - it's obvious, you know, that the Democrats on the panel or the ones that we're, you know, saying he was stonewalling and upset that he couldn't recall certain elements of all of this. But in terms of the GOP and not just at the hearing today but overall, Charles, are they sort of standing back to see what happens here, or are they getting him the support that, you know, perhaps, given what you are saying, that there's no there they are at least at this point, that they should be giving him, in your opinion?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I think the lack of support, people standing back, is not a result of this investigation. It's all the missteps; it's all the quits; it's all clumsiness; it's all of the things that have accumulated in these five months which make Republicans very wary of the President, worried about how we can conduct himself. This is a cloud hanging over him. I don't think that's the main cause, I think it is they worry is this the right time to have in the White House.

They assume that once he was in the White House, he'd be tamed, that they would be able to get the agenda through. That's not happening and they're worried about the mid-term elections. But maybe some of them perhaps don't worry that there is a smoking gun, and that's why they're holding back. There are a lot of other reasons why Republicans would be holding back.

MACCALLUM: Charles, thank you very much, always good to see you.

KRAUTHAMMER: My pleasure.

MACCALLUM: So, coming up later tonight, it seems that Attorney General Sessions had some trouble at times getting a word in today. Watch this exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: The policy is based-

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D-CALIF.: They can ask that it would be shown to you.

SESSIONS: The policy is based on the principle that the President-

HARRIS: Sir, I'm not asking about the principal, I'm asking when you-

SESSIONS: Well, I'm not able to answer the question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: We've seen this a few times lately, right? Is this the best way to get to the bottom of the Russia investigation? Karl Rove and Michele Juwando, here to debate next. And we move on to the other big story of the day: Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, faced some tough questions and had some very interesting answers about America and its role in the world when we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We all carry the burden, we're not going to set the burden down. We're not going to walk away, but we have to talk about how we will carry it going forward because the world has changed. The world has changed dramatically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: So, brand new reports today that Russian intrusion into our electoral system was actually a lot worse than previously known. Bloomberg reporting that at least 39 states election systems were hit on by hackers. But do the Democrats care about investigating this part of the Russian meddling investigation? We'll let you be the judge from one exchange earlier today between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Democratic Senator, Kamala Harris.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Did you not consult it before you came - before this committee knowing we would ask you questions?

SESSIONS: Well, we talked about it. The policy is based-

HARRIS: Did ask that it would be shown to you?

SESSIONS: The policy is based on the principle that the President-

HARRIS: Sir, I'm not asking about the principal. I'm asking when you know you would be asked these questions-

SESSIONS: Well, I'm unable to answer the question.

HARRIS: And you would rely on that policy, did you not ask your staff to show you the policy that would be the basis for your refusing to answer the questions I've asking you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chairman, he would, and should be allowed to enter the question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: She got scolded, that was how that went. Karl Rove is former Deputy Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush and a Fox News Political Contributor; Michele Juwando is the Legal Progress Vice President at the Center for American Progress. Welcome to both of you, good to have you here today. You know, when you get to the root of this, it's so easy in this kind of story to sort of getting pulled off in all of these different directions. But the question is: did anyone in the Trump campaign coordinate with the Russians to have an impact on our election?

And what we have learned, and James Comey backed this up the other day as well, he said there's no evidence to show that that actually happened. But what has happened, according to these reports are that the Russians have been going after the software in the electoral polling systems in as many as 39 states out there. And yet we heard almost nothing from any of these people about concerns about that today. Michelle?

MICHELLE JUWANDO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PRESIDENT LEGAL PROGRESS VICE PRESIDENT: So, I think there are a few things. So, one: the reason why the testimony from A.G. Sessions was so important is because he sits at the nexus of two issues, that there is obstruction of justice from the President, and what did the President or this President's campaign-what was the relationship with Russia? And that's exactly why you have a Senate Intelligence Committee investigating these issues. It's the reason why we need to have and continue to have congressional committees look into this issue. And it's the reason why we now have the Special Prosecutor with former FBI Director Mueller. These are questions that the American people want answers to and today is part of uncovering what those answers are.

MACCALLUM: Yes. But we've been told that this money is being spent, and this investigation has been launched, Karl, because there are real concerns about the integrity of our electoral system. And I want to point people before I let you answer that, Karl, to this sound bite from President Obama in December. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: What is it about our political system that made us vulnerable to these kinds of potential manipulations, which is I've said publicly before, we're not particularly sophisticated. This was not some elaborate complicated espionage scheme.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So, he's referring to the emails, but now we know and it turns out that the NSA knew then when he made that comment that these were actually much more powerful incursions than anybody thought, Karl.

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, absolutely. That's what we ought to be focused on, 39 states whose election systems were -- the Russians attempted to hack them. Now, realize this is not Election Day, they're not trying -- maybe they were trying to get into systems to affect Election Day tabulations, so forth, but most of those are distributed systems not tied together in the network. What they were going after are the voter files in many instances. Imagine the disruption to our election if you showed up at your polling place and the election system -- the election files had been hacked by the Russians and there was no way to verify that you're a voter.

We have people standing in line filling out ballots and temporary ballots. We have people demanding to be allowed to vote who were on the rules. I mean, it could be very problematic. And that's what we've ought to be focused on instead of the baloney that we saw focused on today. I love how your previous guests, my co-debate partner here, used -- tossed out the word obstruction of justice. The president of the United States is not guilty of obstruction of justice. He has the right to fire anybody -- he has the right to fire the FBI director. And there's been no evidence that there's any bit of corruption in his decision to do so. In fact, he said to the FBI director, I want you to go find the satellite in my campaign, the people involved in my campaign and see if they were doing anything involved with the Russians. That's not the mindset of the guy who wants to shut down the rest of the investigation, something entirely different.

MACCALLUM: Michelle, if it turns out that there's no obstruction of justice as Karl has just outlined, and that there was no collusion, will there still be this outcry because we're going to have more elections down the road, and this is very clear. You think about the North Koreans trying to put a nuclear missile on top of -- a nuclear warhead on top of a missile, right? They're just going to keep working on it until they figure out how to do that. When you think also the Russians are going to keep working on this until they can figure out how to do it, and can we for a moment not be so blindsided by the fact there's this concerted effort to take down the administration to actually answer that question?

MICHELE JAWANDO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Martha, without question we need to find out what happened and get to the bottom of these incursions into our election system. But what we haven't seen is that same desire from this administration to look into what happened. What we've seen is the origination of a commission with the vice president that's going to look at false claims about voter fraud. So I agree with you, we need, without question, to look in to the integrity of our system, we need to see this as a national security threat because that's essentially what it is, it's an attack on our democracy and who we are. But it's important to recognize this is not a Republican or a Democratic thing, we all need to take some action.

MACCALLUM: What we're seeing is a concerted attack. Karl, quick thought.

ROVE: That's why we've got a DOJ investigation, hearings and an investigation by the senate intelligence committee, and investigation by the house intelligence committee. I think the administration is absolutely right to leave it in the hands of those entities to do the work.

MACCALLUM: We've got to leave it there. Thank you both. Good to see you tonight. So coming up the other side of the story, what got missed in all the hearing hubbub tonight and it may matter a lot more to you, the president's full-court press on senators today at the White House over health care, secretary of state Tillerson shaking up our role on the world stage in a big way, and Bill Cosby's verdict watch, could the legendary comedian spend the rest of his life in prison, those stories and more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MACCALLUM: So we brought you the big story tonight, of course. But here are some others that were under the radar that may be of equal importance in the end. President Trump sat down with Republican senators today, who are working on an alternative to Obamacare, and he predicted that they have come up with a bill that may actually happen before the fourth of July. But he said don't let it be mean like the house bill, according to these reports, let it be more kind and generous with more heart, so we'll see what that is. He attacked the Democratic colleagues for obstruction along the way today as well. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You have the Democrats on the other side who truly have become obstructionists, even their new motto, resist, and I guess it's a pretty accurate motto.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: So meanwhile, also today, the president's secretary of state, Tillerson, secretary of state to all of us, appeared on Capitol Hill today, very interesting. He handled lot of big topics. He revealed some major Middle East news because of pressure from the Trump administration. The Palestinian authority is now ceasing payment to the families of terrorists or that at least is their intention, watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: They changed that policy and their intent is to cease the payments to the family members of those who've committed murder or violence against others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: A big issue for Israel, and it would be a big deal if it happens. And in the meantime, tonight we are waiting for a verdict in the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial. Today was the second day of deliberations, the jurist will decide if the embattled comedian drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand at his home in January of '04. Cosby pleaded not guilty to three charges of aggravated indecent assault, a second-degree felony, if found guilty, he faces up to 30 years in prison. In addition to this case, dozens of women have accused him of similar misconduct. We are on verdict watch, we will bring that to you as soon as we get word that it's in.

And also breaking tonight, Fox News confirming the bizarre back story behind controversial comments from a longtime friend of President Trump, indicating or suggesting last night that the president might be, quote, considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, the man in charge of investigating the president potential ties to Russia, the White House immediately pushed back on these comments. But tonight, the source of that story is doubling down. Fox News chief national correspondent Ed Henry joins us live at the White House, to cut through this has been a lot of noise and what's the real story here, Ed?

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS: That's right. Good evening, Martha. This may be more of a feeding frenzy than a real substantive controversy because there are no signs here at the White House tonight that President Trump is seriously contemplating firing that special counsel Robert Muller. In fact, today, Republican leaders on the hill, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, both said the flames of this story were being fanned by, yes, the media. But the New York Times, MSNBC, and others, eagerly piling on because it raised the specter of, yes, more chaos around here, and because it started, as you note, it was a friend of the president, Chris Ruddy of the conservative new site News Max, showing up here at the White House yesterday and then telling PBS the commander-in-chief was, quote, considering perhaps sacking Mueller. Ruddy told me in a subsequent phone interview, quote, while I may not claiming the president said it to me, I am confident of my sourcing, he is definitely considering it as an option.

We should note that Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary did not directly deny that firing Mueller was an option when he said, quote, Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue. With respect to the subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment. Well, people close to that very legal team told our own John Roberts, they believe Ruddy got this information from watching another Trump lawyer on television over the weekend, talk hypothetically about a Mueller firing. Well, Ruddy went on MSNBC today to say Spicer wanted him to tweet out a clarification that never came.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX, MSNBC: I think if you're putting out press releases at 11:00 at night saying that Chris Ruddy did not speak with the president on this matter when I never claimed I did, it seems a little ridiculous, doesn't it? Look, I think the president himself gave his own communications department a C+.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now for the record, Ruddy himself says he does not think Mueller will be fired. And the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, testified today that the decision on firing Mueller is actually his to make, not the presidents, and he sees no reason to do that. He wants Mueller to have independence. So the bottom line tonight is that it seems this is much ado about not very much, Martha.

MACCALLUM: Wow. That's the world we live in. Ed, thank you very much. Joining us now, George Washington University law school professor Jonathan Turley. Jonathan, welcome back to the show, good to see you tonight on The Story. I want to put up Adam Shift tweet, the Democrat from this committee said, if the president fired Bob Mueller, he writes, congress would immediately reestablish independent counsel and appoint Bob Mueller, don't waste our time. Can they do that?

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: No. The Congress would have to pass a new independent counsel act. If that act was written the way the original was, the decision will belong to a three-judge panel on the D.C. circuit, congress wouldn't be appointing the independent council. That of course would take some time.

MACCALLUM: So in terms of concerns about the team that Mueller is putting together, and you wrote about this yesterday, we talked about it a little bit on the show last night, are there legitimate concerns about this theme in your opinion?

TURLEY: Well, I think these are issues that are legitimate to raise. You know, if you do have prosecutors that have connections with one political party, the opposing political party, that's legitimate to raise. But I don't see really a basis to challenge Mueller or his team because they've given money, he didn't, but these other people did, to the Democrats or their associations with the Clintons. I'm surprised quite frankly that he didn't try to pick a team that didn't have those connections. You're investigating potentially the president of the United States. It seems to me that it's worth really sanitizing the team and having no such connections. But, at the end of the day, I don't think this is going to matter a great deal.

MACCALLUM: So there's a lot of back and forth -- back to the Sessions hearing today. I want to get your thoughts on this, in terms of his exerting executive privilege in a way. He said, you know, I don't want to basically breach my confidentiality with the president, and since he hasn't weighed in on whether or not he's going to invoke executive privilege on these issues, I feel I should not speak about them here. Appropriate, legal, what's your take?

TURLEY: Well, actually both sides were right to some extent. The Democrats were right procedurally, there should have been a letter from the White House counsel saying we are going to invoke executive privilege, here's the scope of those questions, and we'll try to accommodate you to the extent we can get you the information directly. But I think General Sessions was right constitutionally. When he was claiming executive privilege over was in fact well within the scope of past administrations. And so, it sounded a lot like a giant Claude Raines conference. Everyone was saying we're shocked that you would do this, it happens a great deal, often in hearings a question will come where a high-ranking official will say I don't feel comfortable with answering that. I mean, they were right, he should have anticipated these questions, there should have been that letter, but on the constitution I think it was Sessions that was right.

MACCALLUM: Interesting. Yeah, we've heard it from -- and the Obama administration, and we've heard it from lots of people with regards to their relationships with the presidents in these kinds of forms. Jonathan Turley, thank you, sir, always good to see you.

TURLEY: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: Joining me now, Fox News politics editor, Chris Stirewalt. Chris, good evening to you.

(INAUDIBLE)

MACCALLUM: Hello there. So, you know, this whole hubbub about Bob Mueller and that the White House was considering firing him, I mean, this is a very -- that's bad, that looks very bad for them, you can't make Bob Mueller very happy when he looks at that and see that up on the TV screens last night all across America. It took some serious backpedaling on this one.

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS POLITICS EDITOR: Well, and I don't know if they peddled all the way back. The reality here, this is sort of like a sports team, what you say in the press about how great your team is, and how you're going to win all the games, and how you're the best. The danger is that sooner or later your players start to believe this and they don't train hard enough, and they are not diligent enough. And the danger with President Trump is that his surrogates are out trying to smear Mueller, which is what you do in Washington because it's the swamp. And you go out and you say he's a jerk, and he's a bum, and he's terrible, and whatever, because you're trying to mitigate his findings, whatever he comes up with if he says something bad, you want at least your base do not believe it and believe you.

MACCALLUM: It's like alienating the umpire, you know, to build on your sports analogy, why would you do that at this stage in the game?

STIREWALT: Well, I think Mueller has been through enough stuff in Washington and politics over the last 40 years that he can probably handle himself. The danger is that Trump starts to believe the stuff that his surrogates and supporters are saying about Mueller and may be that he could fire him, and that Trump might do that. He might actually believe the stuff that they're spitting and then take that action, which would of course be, functionally speaking, the end of his administration.

MACCALLUM: You're shooting yourself in the foot. I mean, we saw how well it went when he fired Comey, you know, starts a news cycle, and then he complains that people aren't paying attention to the other things that he's doing, it makes it a pretty tough argument.

STIREWALT: Right. Because not only -- he wouldn't be able to fire Mueller, he'd have to fire the deputy attorney general until he found an acting deputy attorney general who would act to fire Mueller, it becomes a total catastrophe, everybody walks away, you'll have mass resignations, everybody in the senate turns their back on him, and it's a disaster. But if he believes the spin that his spin doctors are putting out, he might not understand that.

MACCALLUM: What a tangled web we weave. Chris Stirewalt, thank you so much, see you soon.

STIREWALT: You bet.

MACCALLUM: So breaking tonight, American college student Otto Warmbier has been released from prison in North Korea, which is great news this morning. But now, the fear is that he may never fully come home. A live report as we wait for his arrival tonight in our country at any hour. And 19-year-old Timothy Piazza died in a hazing incident at Penn State, and his family says his fraternity brothers treated their court date today like another fraternity party. The family's powerful words about what happened in the courtroom straight ahead.

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MACCALLUM: Breaking tonight, an emotionally draining day in court for the family of Timothy Piazza was made even worse by the actions of his former fraternity brothers, 19-year-old Piazza tragically died after being hazed at his Penn State University fraternity house. And during yesterday's hearing to decide if there was enough evidence to move forward in this case against the fraternity brothers that you see on the left-hand side of your screen, James Piazza, Timothy's father, explains the shocking scenes that he saw in yesterday's courtroom, telling Fox News, quote, following the hearing, most but not all, of the fraternity brothers and their families got together, laughed, patted each other on the back, and hugged as if it were just another fraternity get together. We are highly offended by the insensitivity displayed given the severity of the crimes committed and ultimate outcome. The judge ordered a continuance after a nearly ten hour hearing. We will stay on top of that story and bring you the latest.

Also breaking tonight, American college student Otto Warmbier is now on his way home after being detained in North Korea since January of 2016. But his parents have now revealed the disturbing news that Otto has been in a coma for the past 15 months. For more, we go to Trace Gallagher in our West Coast newsroom. Trace.

TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS: Martha, we're told the flight carrying Otto Warmbier is scheduled to arrive in Cincinnati at 10 PM Eastern time, a little over two hours from now, that he's being taken directly to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center because at this point his condition appears to be very poor. Fox News has confirmed, as you said, Warmbier has been in a coma since last March of 2016, rather, when he was sentenced to 15 years hard labor. North Korea claims the University of Virginia college student stole a political banner from his hotel at the behest of the CIA, and then while he was imprisoned the North claim Warmbier contracted botulism, took a sleeping pill and slipped into a coma. The U.S. has not accepted that explanation, nor have Warmbier's parents who say their son was terrorize and brutalize by a pariah regime.

It wasn't until last month that members of the Swedish consulate were finally allowed to visit Warmbier and three other Americans also being held, and when the state department learned about Otto Warmbier's condition, President Trump and secretary of state Rex Tillerson began some rare diplomatic negotiations which resulted a few days ago with Tillerson organizing an airplane and medical team to go to Pyongyang and evacuate Warmbier. And the secretary of state says the effort is not over. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We continue our discussions with the North Korean regime regarding the release of the three other American citizens that have been detained.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: There is no indication U.S.-North Korea relations are improving, in fact, just the opposite with the north firing some 16 missiles so far this year. And we should note finally, former NBA star Dennis Rodman is back in North Korea right now, but we're told his visit had nothing to do with Warmbier's release. Martha.

MACCALLUM: Trace, thank you very much. We'll be right back with the opening of Julius Caesar, Trump style, and the quote of the night.

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MACCALLUM: So Julius Caesar opened in New York last night, it's been very controversial since their Caesar is depicted as President Donald Trump. Here's the final stabbing scene which apparently got a standing ovation. Like Caesar, we live in divisive times, so here's the quote of the night, there's a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads to fortune. Admitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries of such a full sea, we are now afloat. We must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures. A good night, everybody.

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