The lasting impact of Comey's testimony

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This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," June 9, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No collusion, no obstruction. He's a leaker. James Comey confirmed that a lot of what I said. And some of the things that he said just weren't true.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: You said you hoped the Flynn investigation --

TRUMP: I didn't say that.

KARL: So he lied about that?

TRUMP: Well, I didn't say that. I mean, I will tell you I didn't say that.

KARL: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of events?

TRUMP: One-hundred percent. I hardly know the man. I'm not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance. Who would do that?

KARL: So if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that --

TRUMP: I would be glad to tell you exactly what I just told you.

KARL: And you seem to be hinting that there are recordings of those conversations --

TRUMP: I'm not hinting anything. I will tell you about over a very short period of time.


TRUMP: You're going to be very disappointing when you hear the answer. Don't worry.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: What is the answer? Are there tapes? The president in the Rose Garden today. We knew that there was going to be some pushback after the first tweet hit this morning early: "Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication. And, wow, Comey is a leaker."

We start there with our expanded panel: Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of National Review; Lisa Boothe, columnist with The Washington Examiner; Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press, and Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of "The Atlantic." I call this my Goldberg bookend panel.


BAIER: Julie, you were there. What did you think?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think the president does feel vindicated on one front, and that's the fact that James Comey did tell him three times that he personally was not investigation as it relates to the Russian collusion during the election. But obviously there is a lot that is left on the table here, and we are in a situation right now because so many of these conversations were just the president and Comey, it's Comey's word against Trump's. And you heard Trump say he would testify under oath, he will talk to Bob Mueller if he is required.

This question about whether there are tapes hangs over all of this. You have to imagine the only rational exhalation is that if he is going to be met with his explanation that there are either tapes that vindicate him on that front or no tapes exist at all. But again, impossible to get that answer, which is really stunning.

BAIER: You wonder about the P.R. motions here and the specter of tapes after a big hearing where someone is testifying about alleged obstruction of justice. It's not a great image.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, THE ATLANTIC: It's called "winging it." I was watching this today, and I thought he's just winging these answers on this. Do you think there are tapes? I have no sense of this question.

BAIER: There not a feeling at the White House.

PACE: The only thing that I think it actually is an open question is because Trump has a history of taping his conversations and his phone calls at his businesses and even during the campaign. And that's the only reason I think people are still actually waiting for a definitive answer. But there is no evidence, we've seen no proof of it at the White House.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: No, no, no. I just, I was watching that also, keeping in mind, what his lawyer -- I mean, I've been deposed, a lot of us journalists have been deposed before. You know the one thing that your lawyer says is don't offer anything, don't offer to talk more than you have to talk. And I just thought his lawyer's White House counsel, the other lawyers are thinking, oh, God, please do not promise to talk to Mueller. Please don't say these things. Comey was under oath, that's serious. You're going to be under oath. That's serious. Like I said, I feel like we're in the process of watching a presidency wing itself.

BAIER: Lisa, on the flipside, this is his style is to be aggressive. And he obviously feels confident after that testimony yesterday.

LISA BOOTHE, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, and I think he should feel -- I think he should be aggressive in this. Look, what was the worst thing that came out of the hearing for him? That Comey called him a liar? The morning of there was a poll that 70 percent of American didn't believe him in regards to the Russian investigation and other related matters. So that's where he started at the beginning of the hearing, so I don't think Comey calling him a liar is going to do much more in terms of that number.

But I also think that everyone was discredited in the process as well. Comey was discredited. I think his motives should be a question from the hearing as well. The media as well. And Chris Matthews has said that the Russia-Trump narrative basically fell apart after the hearing. And also the Obama administration as well with Loretta Lynch and Comey's testimony that she instructed him to use the word "matter" as opposed to "investigation." So I think everyone else is now in muddy waters as well.

And three things that Comey said that I think should be brought into question. One, going back to his May 1st statement, his testimony the other day sure seems in contradiction to that. Also, Comey testified that he released in response to Trump's May 12th tweet. There was a New York Times article on May 11 which closely mirrors those memos, that was the day before Trump tweeted. So we already know that Comey leaked. Was that him? I think it's fair to question that. He also said that no reasonable prosecutor would have brought charges against Hillary Clinton. Senator Risch pointed out nobody has ever been prosecuted for hoping something. So I think there are a lot of things to also question the FBI director as well.

BAIER: So Jonah, on that, the FBI and the Trump administration is going to file through his lawyer a challenge to the DOJ on this releasing of documents. Is that something that's fruitful?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW: I don't know. Look, I'm getting deja vu on all of this. To me, this is Benny Hill like sped up version, a replay of the 1990s with Bill Clinton and Ken Starr, where the Trump forces, all they want to do is discredit, in this case, the special counsel, attack his credibility, attack him, while at the same time --

BAIER: Special counselor is Mueller.

GOLDBERG: I know. In this case they're attacking the messenger in the form of Comey. But my guess is Mueller's day will come.

Meanwhile, we're hearing when Donald Trump says he would love to be deposed under oath, you know, that's what Bill Clinton impeached. It's mindboggling. You have to think that poor, you know, Don McGahn must be mainlining black tar heroin at the thought his client is going to be deposed under oath. It's insane. There is not a lawyer out there who thinks that's a good idea. My guess is it's just bluster.

And so I think what we are seeing here is this very strange argument where Donald Trump says, he literally says in tweets and a press conference today, he says simultaneously I'm 100 percent vindicated, and so much of what Comey said our lies. Well, those things are hard to square. You can't say he's lying about the inconvenient bits, but he's totally telling the truth about the parts that exonerate you. This is going to have a long half-life, and that's the bad news for Donald Trump.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: I'm still thinking about the black tar heroin. I'm still on Don McGahn on black tar heroin.


BAIER: It's a Friday. So the people in middle America who voted for Trump, a lot of them listen to Rush Limbaugh. Here is Rush Limbaugh today on the whole thing:


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And I'm talking about the vast majority of people on the left, they are now being defined and governed by a raw, shear, hatred. And this next is important. That hatred is combined with daily affirmation that the best they've got to get rid of Donald Trump is not working. And that just infuriates them even more. We don't have any crimes. We haven't been told what crimes are being pursued. All we have been is lied to.


BAIER: So there is a lot of feeling, you know, where is the there? And we don't know and we don't know as we are reporting this.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: That is the interesting thing. Mueller is going to take a long time. We don't know how long it's going to take to find out what the there is. There is a lot of smoke and, you know, it's a cliche, but sometimes there is often fire.

But I'm open to the idea that there is less here than meets the eye. I am also very much open to the idea that people get in trouble when they try to cover up things that aren't as serious as the cover-up becomes.

And I just have to -- I never thought I would say this. I'm disagreeing with Rush Limbaugh on your show. I think Jim Comey, and I'm disagreeing with Lisa as well. I think Jim Comey is not discredited in this. I think he came out of this looking fairly straightforward. He looked like -- admitting the leaking. First of all Donald Trump being upset by somebody leaking is a little bit rich. Let's just leave that there.

This is a situation which I think Comey was quite forthcoming, and it's a situation in which the former director of the FBI called the president a liar under oath. That is a very novel experience in American public life.

BAIER: It is. And that was a big moment in the beginning of that history especially as he laid that out outside of what he already testified turning in.

I guess the question that kept on coming up, Julie, was that why did the FBI director, the same guy who under the Bush administration stood up to power and said, this does not stand, why did that same guy not say, Mr. President, this is inappropriate. We need to get the attorney general back in here. You can't do that. You may not know this, but, you can't do that.

PACE: I think that's where Comey actually was weakest in the testimony. It was a huge question going in given everything that had been reported about his interaction. I don't think we came out of it with any clear answer. He essentially said I wish I could have been stronger, I wish I could have been more courageous.

But particularly that meeting that he describes so vividly in the Oval Office where he talks about Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, lingering behind him, perhaps feeling like this was uncomfortable, Jared Kushner perhaps trying to stop the interaction. This seems like it's playing out over a period of minutes, perhaps, where he could've stepped in and said something, and he didn't. And I do think that is a weakness in his case. Not to draw any conclusions that he may be misleading in what he said, but it does raise the question. Why didn't you say anything?

BAIER: Down the row. Are there tapes?

JONAH GOLDBERG: No. And they have just been asked for it by the committee.

PACE: I have no idea.

BAIER: No yes or no?

PACE: I don't know.

BOOTHE: I don't think there are.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Hard to believe there are.

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