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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Sources: White House Lawyers Researching Impeachment; NYT: Trump Told Russians Pressure Eased After "Nut Job" Comey Firing; Aired 7-8p ET
Aired May 19, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
May 19, 2017
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, breaking news. CNN learning tonight that White House lawyers have started researching researching impeachment procedures. The comes as another major story breaks tonight, The New York Times reporting President Trump told Russian officials including one accused of being a top spy in the oval office that firing FBI Director Jim Comey relieved great pressure on him.
According to the Times, Trump said in full, I quote him, I just fired the head of the FBI, he was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off. We have all angles of this breaking news cover this evening. From the justice department to the White House. And I'll speak with the Times reporter who broke the story of what Trump told the Russians. I want to begin though with our justice correspondent Evan Perez. And Evan, this is a major development you are reporting first here on CNN. What are you learning from your sources?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, White House lawyers have begun researching impeachment procedures. This is simply an effort to prepare for what officials tell me, they still believe the distant and unlikely possibility. The president could have to fend off a -- an attempt to remove him from office. Now, two people briefed on the discussions, tell CNN that the research efforts are informal and they're being done out of an abundance of caution.
The White House officials believe that the president has the backing of republican allies in congress and that impeachment is not in the cards according to the people we've been talking to. Now, we should note that even democrats have tried to calm the impeachment talk this week out of concern that it is premature. But lawyers in the White House counsel's office of consulted experts in impeachment have begun collecting information on how such proceedings would work.
A White House official we spoke to this evening afternoon we -- our story first aired is saying that the White House lawyers are denying that they ever started researching impeachment. Erin.
BURNETT: And Evan, does this mean that the president at this time is going to go ahead and hire an outside lawyer? PEREZ: Well, that's a discussion that's now being had right now in
the White House. There's a broader internal effort to bolster the president's legal defense which has become a lot more complicated with the justice department's appointment of a special counsel to pursue this investigation to Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Earlier this week, close advisors to the president, including two lawyers who have served as surrogates for the president, Michael Cohen and Kay Sekulow visited the White House to discuss the need to hire personal attorneys for President Trump. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Evan, thank you very much. And we're going to get much more on that in a moment. I want to get our other breaking news story in here. What President Trump told the Russians in the Oval Office about Jim Comey. One of the New York Times reporters who broke the story, Matthew Rosenberg is OutFront on this development. And Matthew, let me just understand here. You report the president told the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador, the U.S. intelligence of course says it's a top spy and spy recruiter, "I just fired the head of the FBI, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." Now, just to be clear, right? This is a quotation. This isn't a paraphrase. This is a quotation.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NEW YORK TIMES CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's what we're -- that's what was in the notes. We were read portions of the summary. So in every one of these meetings, that's what they called note-taker. They write a summary which is then circulated to dozens of people in the White House, probably relevant parts of the state department and defense and obviously, the CIA. That was what was in the notes, it was that quote.
And this is -- this is Trump telling the Russians, you know, that he just fired and bragging almost, boasting about firing the head of the FBI who obviously runs all our counterintelligence against the Russians. I mean, it's a pretty remarkable statement.
BURNETT: It is remarkable. And you also know a little bit more about what he said, right?
ROSENBERG: Yes. There's -- and we're going to have an update online very soon. He joked with Ambassador Kislyak saying, you know, I'm the only guy who never met you apparently from my campaign. Kislyak of course have met with General Flynn and met with Jared Kushner, have met with the Attorney General Jeff Sessions and probably some other people as well. He also spoke about how Americans were really obsessed with Ukraine and the Russians could really help them out there.
It wasn't entirely clear what he was asking. And then of course earlier in the week, we learned that during that same meeting Trump have shared intelligence with the Russians that was given to the U.S. by the Israelis with the express condition we do not share that intelligence with any of our allies, never mind and adversary like Russia.
BURNETT: So just to be clear here, in addition to saying, I faced great pressure because of Russia, that's taken off. I know he also -- as you reported said he wasn't under investigation himself.
ROSENBERG: Of course. Yes.
BURNETT: But he made a joke about Kislyak who of course, you know, Kislyak's conversations with General Michael Flynn, why General Michael Flynn was fired, General Michael Flynn been lying about them. You're saying that Trump said to him, I'm the only guy who never met you from my campaign, apparently joking.
ROSENBERG: I think so. I don't -- I don't (INAUDIBLE) quote on me to something to that effect like, yes, you know, I can't believe it's taking me so long to meet you or something like that. And I don't want to be -- I got to be careful.
BURNETT: Right. No. I understand. But as a sentiment, I think you're making clear here.
BURNETT: OK. So Matthew, what was the reaction? I mean, you got the Russian foreign minister and this ambassador, now the ambassador that Trump is making the (INAUDIBLE) to again to be clear, we have reported, you all have reported is belief by U.S. intelligence to be not only a top Russian spy but a top spy recruiter. What was their reaction to all of this?
ROSENBERG: You know, seem to be in a great mood , at one point in a meeting, somebody asked are there any reporters there and Lavrov said no, no fake news is what the Russian foreign minister kind of replied. And they seemed to have -- be having a pretty good time chatting with each other. You know, in ordinary times this would be probably a pretty good interaction. But there are lot of questions right now about relationships between Trump's campaign and Russian officials.
Obviously we have a special counsel investigating that. And I'm not quite sure the White House seems to either understand what this all looks like and how bad this looks. There's also the possibility a lot of people talking about obstruction of justice. Not a lawyer, not going to get into it. But this is certainly is Trump saying, I fired Jim Comey to relieve pressure on the Russia investigation. That can't look good.
BURNETT: All right. So it's very clear that's what he was saying. I mean, there's also this, Matthew, I mean, you obviously been working your sources for this. We have now got two major bombshells that happened in this meeting and now of course you've got him -- the president of the United States joking to the Russian ambassador that is the only one from his campaign that apparently didn't meet him. But we're learning about these bombshells from notes taken by an American in the room.
As you said someone who would be a note-taker who then that information was shared. We know the president shared classified information with the Russians. We know exactly as you've reported tonight that he said he faced pressure from the Russia investigation, that's why he fired Jim Comey. Is there more to come from these notes of what was in this meeting or do you feel now that you've actually been read essentially the full rundown?
ROSENBERG: Look, I can't say if there's more to come up, I don't actually know. But if there's more to come from this meeting, I'm just -- I'd be stunned. I mean, what else could they have gone over here and in -- you know, what else could have happened in that room? I just -- you know, at some point, you know, it really had to end, right? So, I guess we're l find out though.
BURNETT: All right. And quickly before you go, Matt, I know you're not going to disclose your source, but why do you think all these leaks are happening?
ROSENBERG: So, you know, on the -- on the far right they're saying, you know, it's the deep states out to get President Trump. There's no deep states, there's no great spy network who takes down presidents here. What there are is there are people are serving our government, both political appointees and career people. It's not just hold over or anything like that. These are a broad group of people who see the things happening and they're horrified by them and that's why they're sharing the stuff with reporters.
You know, we get leaks most of the time but we got a lot of these right. People are seeing things that they think are wrong and that, you know, most people think are wrong and they're seeing them unfold in front of them and they want that out in public because there seems to be no way to stop it in private.
BURNETT: All right. Matthew, please stay with me. Thank you. We're going to be back in just a moment. I want to go to Athena Jones at the White House. And Athena, look, these are pretty stunning developments. What is the response from the White House tonight to this reporting?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erin. Well, the White House is not denying this report which is notable. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer put out a statement that read in part, by grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's action, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engaged and negotiate with Russia. And now he's referring there to some deals the president hoped to make with Russia on Syria, Ukraine, defeated ISIS.
But he closes that statement by saying the real story is the threat to national security from these leaks of private and highly classified conversations. So the White House clearly not happy about this. But also not explicitly denying this bombshell report. And this is all happening, Erin, as you know, as the White House team, the president and his team, Sean Spicer among them, are on a plane heading to their first stop in this high-stakes foreign trip.
They're expected to land in Saudi Arabia early Saturday morning, our time. So that a little before 4:00 a.m. But we'll have to see what else breaks in the hours during the air. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Thank you, Athena. And obviously, we should point out to everyone, they are fully wired on that plane. It's not as if they don't have Wi-Fi and they don't know what's happening. Therefore, they could be responding to it if they so choose to do so, OK? So I just -- I just want to make that point. OutFront now our panel, Alan Dershowitz, Professor Emeritus of Harvard Law, Paul Callan, former prosecutor, John Avlon, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, our political director, David Chalian , Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary at DHS. And former senator, Rick Santorum, republican presidential candidate. Matthew Rosenberg is also with us from The New York Times.
Alan, the president is quoted by an American official in the room from this -- as I think Matthew was fair to point out, what else could have happened in this meeting? OK? Saying, "I just fired the head of the FBI, he was crazy, a real nut job. I face great pressure because of Russia, that's taken off." Obstruction of justice?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF HARVARD LAW: Not when it comes from President Trump who's known top puff and exaggerate and B.S. and, you know, say whatever comes to his mind quickly. It's so interesting how --
BURNETT: Because -- if there anyone else, that would be obstruction of justice obviously but not him?
DERSHOWITZ: No. No, no, no, no. It wouldn't be obstruction of justice --
BURNETT: I mean, I face great pressure because of Russia that's taken off.
DERSHOWITZ: First of all, let's be very clear. The president of the United States has the constitutional authority to tell the director of the FBI you shall not investigate A, B, and C. You must investigate C. That is the unitary executive, the president is in charge. Thomas Jefferson told his attorney general, get Aaron Burr. He called witnesses in. He gave them immunity. He called the chief justice of the United States, John Marshall and said if you don't convict that guy, I'm impeaching you.
Now, we since Watergate have created rules within the justice department that say no contact between the president and the FBI, no contact between the president and the justice department. Those are not criminal law rules. Those are internal rules. So to make a case of obstruction of justice against a president --
BURNETT: On a criminal level -- on a criminal level, right?
DERSHOWITZ: Well then, we have a hard constitutional question. Do you really need a criminal offense? By crimes and misdemeanors.
DERSHOWITZ: Treason and bribery in order to get an impeachment. The answer to that is yes, but if they don't do it, it's not reviewable by any --
BURNETT: So Paul, let me ask you because when most people hear this, I think the though the reaction Matthew had. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off. To most people, that sounds -- frankly I'm not going to say it sounds, it's clear, he fired him because he didn't want anymore of the Russia investigation. I understand Allan's point is. So what? But to most people they would not think so what? They would think, so what, this is a problem.
CALLAN: No. Absolutely, Erin. And I think because impeachment is a political question ultimately. The congress in looking at this -- yes, they look at the criminal statute and I say, well, if he was an ordinary citizen, would this look like -- would this look like obstruction of justice? You know, the one missing keys of this was, did he really fire Comey to suppress an investigation? Of course, we were talking about the Flynn investigation at that time.
And now, the very next day, he invites the Russians in who by the way are being investigated in a counterintelligence operation by the FBI and he says to them celebrating, hey, the pressure is off. No more Russian investigation. And by the way, the FBI Director is a nut. I say that from a criminal standpoint that could make out an obstruction case and it could create an article of impeachment.
BURNETT: Which is -- which is crucial and that's, David, what -- you know, the reporting here from Evan that you now have who have known the president for a long time, who are researching just that. Impeachment procedures so that they are prepared.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. Well, I think it would be sort of derelict in duty if they didn't. I mean, I think your job if you're a White House lawyer is to prepare for every eventuality even though we are miles and miles away from impeachment proceedings, actually, beginning here. But Erin, step back for a moment and look at these last 10 days. This has moved from what was a distraction to the young Trump presidency to completely consuming it.
CHALIAN: And it's may go down in history as the -- even if he weathers through this, the single greatest squandering in of an opportunity to be elected president of the United States and he has not -- now his entire presidency is defined by this very investigation.
BURNETT: So, John, let me make a point here. OK? The president was in the Oval Office with two top Russians, that it appears from his own joke he'd never met before in his life, right? Apparently, he says he's the only one in his campaign that who had met with Sergei Kislyak. He just told these two Russians, one of them was believed to be a top spy, the man who ran America's FBI, the top law enforcement official in the United States of America was a crazy nut job.
JOHN AVLON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE DAILY BEAST: Yes. BURNETT: OK. Just let me everyone think about that for a second.
Whatever your politics are, it's stunning. How damaging is it?
AVLON: It's enormously damaging, it's enormously disrespectful to a man who is widely respected throughout the U.S. government. And it's the kind of Cartoonville in language, you would not expect any president of the United States to say even behind closed doors especially in front of a hostile power the morning after. There is no way I think to sugarcoat or spin, or oh, this is just locker room talk with the Russians. This is incredibly disrespectful. It's a form of projection which itself is where these some psychological analysis.
But I don't think we should be so glib about what it appears to be on the surface. I was under a lot of pressure because of Russia, he says to the Russian foreign ministers and the ambassador. Now that pressure is off. In what rational world does that not a reference to what certainly looks like to the layman obstruction of justice.
BURNETT: It does look like that laymen. I mean, Senator Santorum, what do you say? When you -- when you read it, I just fired the head of the FBI, he was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia, that's taken off. How do you sugarcoat that, Senator?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, I don't think Donald Trump believe that the firing of Jim Comey is going to take away the Russian investigation. I don't think he did -- I don't think he believed it when he fired him, I don't think he believed it when he said that, I don't think he believes it now.
BURNETT: So then -- but then, why did he say, I face great pressure, that's taken off?
SANTORUM: Because of -- Donald Trump if, you know, the idea that people are outraged that Donald Trump says outrageous things. Where have you been during the past 18 months? I mean, come on, I mean, let's -- this fining of outrage. I understand, you know, it's all unique circumstances but this is who the American public elected. They elected someone who is outrageous at many times and now most of the time it seems like in some of the things he says.
And it does put people, you know, off. It creates all sorts of incendiary remarks from those who don't like him. But the bottom line is, Donald Trump, I don't believe was fired Jim Comey because he thought it was ending the investigation. He's not a fool. It didn't end the FBI investigation, as you've seen, it actually -- it's actually created more of an investigation. And the idea that joking around with the Russians is --
BURNETT: Well, it has -- Senator, I know it has in the past few days because of all of these revelations but clearly when he had these meeting, he thought the pressure would go away.
SANTORUM: I don't believe Donald Trump believe that firing Jim Comey was going to end this investigation. He knew the investigation was going to continue. He just didn't want Jim Comey running.
AVLON: Senator, first of all, what you're saying is that we should not believe a word the president says in public or private because he's a liar.
AVLON: You're using a separate argument as well. You're saying that the American public understands that Donald Trump uses hyperbole/lies all the time. And therefore he shouldn't be held to his word. But if that were true in that constant standard, you would have sung an entirely different tune during the Clinton impeachment here. You would have said the American people understand this is part of Bill Clinton's character, and therefore, it's not surprising and not serious but you didn't. So you got to apply the same (INAUDIBLE) to both sides. And you know you're spinning.
SANTORUM: No. I'm not spinning. Because, look, I ran with against this guy. I understand -- I understand the hyperbole, I understand what he -- what he does. Does -- do I believe that it's proper conduct from a president? No, I don't. I wish he wouldn't do that.
SANTORUM: And I've said it repeatedly and I'll continue to say it. But don't, you know, overreact to a president who's been doing this for 18 months in every conceivable setting you can imagine --
AVLON: What is worth overreacting to then, Senator?
SANTORUM: I would say what's over -- what's worth overreacting to is to -- is to show that the president of the United States actually, number one has tried to obstruct justice and I don't think there's any evidence of that at this point.
AVLON: Basically admit it.
SANTORUM: And number two, and this is very important that the whole basis of this investigation, that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, there is still no evidence to point to that. And so -- and so --
SANTORUM: The joke about that -- the joke about that in my opinion would actually be appropriate to do given what's been made of this.
BURNETT: In the New York Times article as reported by Matthew, he talked to several government officials. Juliette, one of them who was actually defending the president, didn't deny that he said this, I just want to make it clear. They're not denying that he said this, OK? This person though defended the president saying it was "a negotiating tactic of the president's design to get confessions out of the Russians." So that's why he said these things. Did that make any sense to you?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It's -- well, it makes sense that that's what we hear from the White House. You know, this is -- this is Trump admitted, right? To disclosing classified information about a likely an Israeli asset in an ISIS cell who was delivering us information and said that was a humanitarian declassification. So, I don't buy any of that and I just -- one of the challenges with all these unbelievable headlines, you know, from The New York Times and other newspapers is that we tend to forget the cumulative evidence.
So, we're talking about this one piece today and just looking at it from someone who's a lawyer and someone who's been in counterterrorism and national security. So, if I'm looking at this, I've got the firing of Comey, right? I've got an interview with Lester Holt in which the president says that, you know, he sort of want it to end. I've got tweets that say he views the entire Russia investigation as a joke. And then three, now we -- I'm sorry.
Then we have Comey's memo saying that he winked and a nod. And then we have the news today an I just wanted to clear up. So we have to look at this cumulatively and cumulatively, it's bad. There's just no question about it. And you can say it's a joke, and then, but it's not. It's actually the rule of law. It's about the investigation.
BURNETT: Which --
KAYYEM: One final thing on the senator's point. This is not about collusion only. People like me have not been talking about collusion. It is very likely this investigation has to do with financial dealings which we've been talking about as well over the last couple months. So, If you we put collusion on a pedestal, we may not get there but still, a lot of bad stuff has been done.
BURNETT: So I also want to make sure I understand, Alan, on this issue of obstruction of justice, right? And you now have the White House lawyers looking an impeachment. Just so that viewers truly understand here, obviously, there is a criminal and legal standard for obstruction of justice. But it seems many believe this wouldn't quite make even though I think to a lot of people watching they were thinking what, OK, fine. But just to be clear, when it comes to impeaching a president of the United States, the criminal standard for obstruction of justice is not what needs to be met.
DERSHOWITZ: Nobody knows the answer to that question. Look, I'm a civil libertarian and I'm shocked that so many liberals and civil libertarians want to broaden, they already far too broad obstruction of justice statues, one of the worst statutes on the books from a civil libertarian point of view. They want to convict somebody based on huffing and hyperbole. If the shoe were on the other foot and, you know, I am consistent. I was strongly opposed to the impeachment of President Clinton.
Somebody has to speak up for civil liberties. The ACLU is not doing it, the democrats aren't doing it. The republicans are happy with the special counsel. The media is thriving on blockbuster reports every day. Somebody has to stand up the civil liberties and --
BURNETT: Well, you're always intent doesn't matter. I mean, what are saying here I think to most people would seem they have the intent to obstruct justice?
BURNETT: He had an FBI Director, he fired him because he had great pressure because of Russia and that's taken off. Now we know that the investigation's going to continue and if anything has actually gotten much more intense because we have a special prosecutor. So the intent may have been to obstruct but because he didn't succeed therefore, it's not obstruction?
CALLAN: Oh, no, no, no, no. He may very well -- no, he can -- this is a completed obstruction, arguably. And I disagree with Alan's assessment. You know, Alan's reaching back to Aaron Burr's trial and Thomas Jefferson stuff.
DERSHOWITZ: Those people wrote the constitution.
CALLAN: Yes, I know they did. And --but Richard Nixon was -- you know, the impeachment charges against him, one of the biggest ones was based on obstruction of justice. And of course Bill Clinton obstruction of justice, so --
DERSHOWITZ: Because they did -- they did illegal thing.
CALLAN: So modern history suggests that obstruction is a perfectly acceptable charge if you can prove it. And I say that after today, when he talks about Comey being a nut to the Russians and says the pressure is off in the Russian investigation, it certainly looks like he fired Comey to suppress the Russia investigation.
BURNETT: And they're not -- and now they're not --
CALLAN: That's obstruction.
BURNETT: Senator, is that you trying to jump in?
CHALIAN: No. It was David, Erin. Sorry.
BURNETT: OK. Go ahead, David. Yes.
CHALIAN: We're -- you're like 10 steps ahead here though because as polls said before, impeachment is a political process. So what is the political trigger to it, not the legal trigger to it. Because remember, republicans are in charge of the house --
BURNETT: But is it Juliette's point, David, the cumulative bill which has now become so rapid --
CHALIAN: But --
BURNETT: -- as it completely consume the presidency as you point out.
CHALIAN: But we're not there yet. We haven't seen that yet. That is what we need to watch for. This is -- the moment that republicans feel that Donald Trump is a threat to their political power is the moment you will see this escalate quickly towards something like that. We'll look for the polls to come out. We have two special elections coming up.
When people -- when members of congress, republicans, start feeling that their jobs are at stake here, that is when you're going to see this move very rapidly.
BURNETT: I want to ask here to Matthew, because I know we still have you here. When the story -- their lack of response, OK? Tonight or their lack of denial could perhaps be significant. Let's see if it is. And when the story on leaking classified information came out, from the Washington Post on Monday, the White House fought back. When the Comey memos accusing Trump of trying to stop the investigation, General Flynn came back, they came out, the president himself actually in the press conference yesterday fought back. Remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- story that came out tonight as reported is false.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 as you look back --
TRUMP: No, no. Next question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. Clearly they have no fear of denying when they want to. I mean, the story in the Washington Post also involves classified information. So now they're saying, we're not confirming or denying because this one involves classified information. That doesn't seem to fully add up if you compare the two situations. How significant do you think it is that they are not confirming our denying tonight?
ROSENBERG: I mean, they basically sort of confirmed it to us, you know, they --
BURNETT: By not denying. Yes.
ROSENBERG: By not denying and I forget the exact statement --
DERSHOWITZ: They can't deny it. It's White House notes. How can they deny it?
ROSENBERG: Yes. Exactly. DERSHOWITZ: They got their own notes.
ROSENBERG: They've got their own notes. They can't deny this. And then they had to take off and they're in the -- they're in the air right now. I think they took off, we were in touch with them and then our story probably published half an hour after the plane got airborne. You know, I guess we're going to see in the next few days how the trip goes. You know, I don't know how much the (INAUDIBLE) care about this in Israel, Trump is going to have other issues to talk about.
ROSENBERG: He leaked their intelligence, his officials and his government and other things to say about this this week. I mean, it could be a rough trip, I suspect.
BURNETT: Senator Santorum, who's doing all the leaking? I mean, this is a White House document, right
ROSENBERG: Ask the reporters, I mean, they're talking to the leakers, not me. So, maybe you should ask them who's doing all the leaks.
BURNETT: Well, I mean, Matthew answered -- he's not going to just disclose the sources of course to protect them but, you know, he says it's people who care deeply about this country and think that this is wrong. Some career, some political appointees.
SANTORUM: Look, I mean, I don't think there's any secret that there are a lot of people in this administration who are not fans of Donald Trump or -- and who are republicans, who are not for Donald Trump during the primary, who see Trump as somebody who's very different than any kind of republican we've seen before and I wouldn't be surprised that a lot of those people are out there trying to -- trying to leak things trying to undermine his presidency.
DERSHOWITZ: And the leaking lawyer-client privileged information.
SANTORUM: I know. Horrible.
DERSHOWITZ: Where are the civil libertarians here. Again, lawyer- client privileged information. Planning for a possible impeachment. If anybody ever leaked my lawyer-client privileged information or yours, we'd be up in arms. The Civil Liberties Union would be jumping up and down and they're not.
SANTORUM: If I could address the issue of impeach for a second because someone who actually has voted in an impeachment, I can tell you what David is saying is right. This is a political decision, that's not a criminal law decision. And republicans are not anywhere near that, but I would say this. Unlike democrats who will never break with the president, no matter what they do, I mean, I don't care, they can find him with a smoking gun and a picture, they wouldn't break with them, republicans will. And so, I would say this to President Trump, this can't continue for a whole lot longer. And I think one of the reason they're not responding to The New York Times story is they want to change the narrative. They want to start talking about Saudi Arabia, they want to start talking about Israel and the Middle-East and I think that's what they're going to focus on and hopefully that will begin to give some comfort to republicans that he's actually interested in the president and doing something positive top the country.
BURNETT: And quickly before we go, Matthew, I want to give you a chance to response to the source comment.
ROSENBERG: I just want to say something about who's leaking. Look, we have -- I've dealt with sources who have axes to grind, you know, like the (INAUDIBLE) that's not who these people are. These are people who is driving this government and what they really think what they're seeing is wrong and I know this because I've spoken to them. So a lot of these sources are. They're not out to get Trump, these are people who a few of them would never talk to me in most circumstances. Well, they see things they think are really genuinely wrong. One of those is sitting the Oval Office, sharing intelligence you're not supposed to and claiming that you fired your FBI Director to stop the investigation and the people high to you.
DERSHOWITZ: OK. But you have two guys. Former intelligence official and a current intelligence official who take the fact that President Trump leaked to the Russians information about security of Israel. OK. ISIS doesn't know about this, only the Russians know about it. Now you have two intelligence officials going to the Washington Post and publishing to ISIS a fact that is unknown to them --
DERSHOWITZ: -- namely, the city where this occurred in which they can identify the source.
ROSENBERG: (INAUDIBLE) did not post --
ROSENBERG: And the post did not include that.
DERSHOWITZ: No, no, no. You're missing the point.
ROSENBERG: -- information from Russia, most likely straight to Iran. You have to remember that.
AVLON: Iran has very good relations with ISSIS these days.
ROSENBERG: But Iran (INAUDIBLE) with Russia. And the mere fact that --
AVLON: It is outrageous for a national security --
BURNETT: OK. Let Matthew (INAUDIBLE) go ahead. Matthew, finish your point then Alan will respond.
ROSENBERG: Is -- the fact is that when you tell the Russians what Israel's capabilities are or anybody's capabilities are, that goes to Iran, that in itself is intelligence. That in itself is useful.
DERSHOWITZ: -- any president has ever done. But the sources made it much worse.
ROSENBERG: They compounded it.
DERSHOWITZ: By taking that information.
ROSENBERG: Why? We wouldn't know about this at all.
ROSENBERG: Why do we need to know about it?
DERSHOWITZ: Let me tell you, that's what the hard balance is. We wouldn't have known about it.
DERSHOWITZ: -- commit a felony.
DERSHOWITZ: And we ought to be finding out who they are and putting them jail.
BURNETT: OK. Juliette.
ROSENBERG: Best of luck.
KAYYEM: I just -- I want to just take a step back because I think Matthew is absolutely right. One of the reasons why I don't stay up late at night, because why? You know, this became public. Is -- the president has a solemn duty to protect the allies and what they are willing to disclose to us.
DERSHOWITZ: So (INAUDIBLE)
KAYYEM: Excuse me, Alan. The failure to do that, I think was a story, period. And also will impact, I think rightfully so, the extent to which other allies will want to tell us what sources and methods are. Look, the president is arrived -- the president took off with more political capital than he's about to land. And if you think the rest of the world is not following Matthew in The New York Times, you are wrong. They are also watching this. This is not a witch hunt. This is not democrats going crazy. This is serious stuff. And I think --
DERSHOWITZ: I know you disagree with that. But you're missing the important point and that is our allies would never have known about this if the Washington Post didn't publish it and if there's no leak from intelligence officials.
BURNETT: How do you know that our allies already have known Israel --
DERSHOWITZ: -- didn't know about it. They found out about it reading The New York Times and the Washington Post.
BURNETT: Is it better for them to find out that way or when their agent gets killed?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, it's better that they not find out at all. They wouldn't get killed because ISIS would have never known about it.
BURNETT: Quickly, Paul, yes.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Why Trump is wrong, even if Alan is right. The president of the United States, prior presidents got along with people like J. Edgar Hoover, JFK did, Eisenhower did, Lyndon Johnson did.
DERSHOWITZ: The everlasting disgrace --
CALLAN: Can I finish, please?
CALLAN: He comes into office. He picks a fight with law enforcement and then he picks a fight with the intelligence community. Now, the intelligence community does have the power to destroy him and by picking a fight with the intelligence community, he's undermining his ability to effectively function as president.
BURNETT: All right.
CALLAN: And he takes responsibility for that.
BURNETT: All right. All of you staying --
DERSHOWITZ: Don't you wish John Kennedy take the fight to J. Edgar Hoover instead of hiding from him?
BURENTT: All right. All of you staying with me.
I do want to go to Sunlen Serfaty now live on Capitol Hill, because Sunlen, of Jim Comey we are learning, right, that he's actually going to testify, and not just that he's going to testify, he's going to do it in public, right?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Erin.
In front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, of course, Democrats and Republicans on that committee calling for him to do just that. Now, we know that no date has been firmly set yet, but the committee saying they hope that will be scheduled after Memorial Day. So, certainly, some indication on their part tonight that they want this to indeed happen in the short term future.
And this is significant, as you said, because it's not happening in a classified, behind closed doors setting. This will be in public, an open session on camera. The chairman tonight saying that he hopes that will bring more clarity to all the questions out there and the ranking member Mark Warner saying that Comey deserves and opportunity to tell his story. He hopes that it will answer in his words, some of the questions that has been swirling since Director Comey was fired.
And this is also a significant development because there was some concern and some doubt up here on Capitol Hill this week in the wake of the special prosecutor Bob Mueller being chosen that that would really take the option off the table for James Comey to testify in public. So, a big development tonight that he's actually doing that.
BURNETT: And, Sunlen, you also have been talking to lawmakers tonight about Trump's comments that are reported by Matthew and "The New York Times". What are they saying?
SERFATY: Well, it's been radio silence, I have to say, so far from Republicans, Erin, but Democrats are wasting no time at all seizing on this. We've heard from many Democrats who at best have called this unpatriotic, those comments by Trump. And at worst, they suggest that it could show a clear attempt at obstruction of justice.
Here's what Congressman Dan Kildee said earlier tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAN KILDEE (D), MICHIGAN: It's dumbfounding. I mean, just when we think this president has gone as far as he can possibly go, we hear this sort of a report. If it's true, I mean, this is -- it's bad for the United States of America. You got to wonder what is going on inside the head of Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: So, strong words there, of course, and we also heard from Senator Patrick Leahy. He was a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Over Twitter, he tweeted out "The New York Times" article and he said, quote, This is what obstruction looks like, and he quoted that quote in the article that says that Donald Trump said, I face great pressure because of Russia, that's taken off.
BURNETT: All right. Sunlen, thank you very much.
And we are going to be joined by a Republican congressman in just a couple of moments, who is going to come out and answer the questions. Now, though, the Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal who sits on the Judiciary Committee.
Senator, second time we've spoken this week. I wouldn't have expected it, but here we are. You just heard Sunlen quote. I'll say it again for those who don't know the exact lines: I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off.
That's the president of the United States to the foreign minister of Russia and the Russian ambassador, of course, believed to be a top spy. Your reaction?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMETHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: My reaction is that it is, unfortunately, sadly, tragically for our nation, again, mounting evidence of obstruction of justice. Not proof, not charges, but mounting evidence that has to be put together in a mosaic that could eventually lead to charges against high ranking White House officials. But here is an important point, Erin.
BLUMENTHAL: And that is that the president should have been putting pressure on the Russians because they interfered in our election. There is bipartisan consensus that the Russians meddled in our democratic institutions in an unprecedented scope and scale, and they are testing us around the world.
[19:35:01] And then Donald Trump is saying to them that he was relieved because he had just fired an FBI director who was investigating ties between his campaign and that Russian interference.
BURNETT: Senator, I don't know if you heard, but "The New York Times" reporter was just on. They're going to be publishing in a moment. He was saying the president also was joking with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak along the lines of, oh, nice to meet you. I appear to be the only person in my campaign who actually hasn't done so yet, joking.
The White House is not disputing the report thus far. But Sean Spicer is saying it was actually -- to your point, he's saying Comey's investigation was the problem. It was creating unnecessary pressure on the White House's ability to engage and negotiate with Russia. Those are their words.
So, they say that the investigation was actually what was hurting the United States' ability to negotiate with Russia. Do you buy that? BLUMENTHAL: The Russians need to pay a price for their interference
in our election. They need to be told and shown that they cannot test us around the world, in Ukraine, in violating the INF Treaty, in Syria, and other places where we're going head-to-head with Russia, that they cannot in this way interfere with our elections and do other things without paying a price.
And they're going to continue to meddle in our elections in 2018 if we don't make them pay a price and anyone who colluded with them or aided and abetted them.
BURNETT: So, you used the word mosaic when describing sort of the situation with obstruction of justice and mounting evidence. Now, of course, you have been saying that there has been mounting evidence.
You know, Senator Leahy, your colleague, tweeted out, I quote him, This is what obstruction, in all caps, looks like.
Are you closer tonight than you were two days ago when we heard about the Jim Comey memos, than we were three days ago when we heard about the president sharing classified information? Are you closer now than you were then that this truly is obstruction of justice?
BLUMENTHAL: Speaking like a prosecutor which I was for a number of years, just like my colleague Senator Leahy was, every piece of evidence puts the case closer. But first we need to follow the facts wherever they lead. That's the job.
BURNETT: So, you're not there yet?
BLUMENTHAL: That's the job of the special prosecutor, Bob Mueller, and I will be happy to tell you when I am there.
BLUMENTHAL: But the point here is that we need an independent -- truly independent, well-resourced investigation that has a mandate to pursue this issue. And I asked Rod Rosenstein yesterday point blank, will you permit this obstruction of justice investigation to be pursued under the terms of what you've directed Bob Mueller to do? And he was pretty unequivocal that yes, he would.
BURNETT: So, you believe that that level of inquiry will continue because -- and just quickly before we go. So, when you hear -- a layperson hears: I fired the head of the FBI, I faced great pressure because of Russia, that's taken off -- you agree with Alan Dershowitz here, you're saying that to a layperson, that may sound like obstruction of justice, but to you, not yet?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, it sounds to me like obstruction of justice. And I agree with my colleague Senator Leahy that it looks like obstruction of justice but it has to be put together with a piece of evidence. Intent is important.
BURNETT: So it is, but it's not enough? BLUMENTHAL: It's going in that direction for sure. And we're not
there yet in terms of a charge, a criminal charge. But you know, a prosecutor puts together a case with a mosaic. At the same time other investigations have to proceed and an independent investigation is necessary.
So, the American people will be told the full story whatever the charges are and they will know how to stop this Russian aggression and interference in our democratic institutions. Rather than telling the Russians confidential and classified information, rather than telling them jokes or saying that the pressure's been relieved, the president of the United States needs to be tough with them and make them pay a price.
BURNETT: Senator, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
And our breaking news coverage continues. We're going to take a very brief break and we will be right back.
[19:4302] BURNETT: Our breaking news, new bombshells tonight as the president embarks on his first international trip. He's actually in the air while this breaks. But we want to make it clear, he's got the ability to communicate. So, they know what's happening.
We are now learning White House lawyers have begun researching impeachment procedures out of an abundance of caution. This development coming as "The New York Times" reports President Trump told Russian officials inside the Oval Office that Jim Comey, whom he had just fired day before as the director of FBI was crazy and a nut job, and his departure had relieved great pressure on the president because of the investigation.
OUTFRONT, former Republican Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia, Van Jones, former special advisor to President Obama, David Sanger, "New York Times" national security correspondent. Also back, Alan Dershowitz, Paul Callan, and John Avlon.
Congressman, you just heard the interview with Senator Blumenthal. He's talking about obstruction of justice. I'll be honest with you, it wasn't completely clear, but he's saying what the president said to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador was obstruction of justice. But he doesn't believe that the full mosaic, the full pattern is there for a full charge on that front. What's your response?
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: There's nothing there for impeachment. I think this is the Democrats getting ahead of themselves. Unemployment is going down, economic growth is going up. Border crossings are down about 60 percent, economic optimism is high. Health care reform has passed the House.
And the Democrats haven't been part of any of I would. All they've said is resist, resist, resist. This has given them something to rally behind and believe. And I found it really ironic that the good senator would say, well, we
need to punish Russia. Well, they've given Russia exactly what they wanted.
If this was really about Russian and that was the primary concern of the Democrat Party, certainly they'd have enough sense to shut up and say let's fight these SOBs on our own quiet terms and do to them what maybe we have done to North Korea and jam some of their computer systems. Let's fight them back.
[19:45:02] But instead they're giving the Russians exactly what they think the Russians wanted, which was hopeful chaos (ph).
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What in the world are you talking about?
AVLON: Whistling pass the graveyard with a bunch of talking points from the Trump administration about economic indicators.
AVLON: We're not dealing with facts. Talk about what is happening right now, Congressman, right now.
BURNETT: Congressman, let John go and I give you a full chance to respond.
AVLON: The transcript from the president of the United States to the Russian foreign ministers, calling the head of the FBI a nut job and saying that he's --
KINGSTON: That doesn't hurt national security.
AVLON: If Hillary Clinton -- if Hillary Clinton said that to the Russian foreign ministers, you'd be screaming bloody murder on TV and you know it.
KINGSTON: I think you've had the bloody murder portion ever since the inauguration. That's what we heard from Democrats
AVLON: Deal with the news tonight, Congressman. Deal with the news tonight.
KINGSTON: Here's the situation. If the liberals were really concerned about Russia, would get in the back room with patriotic Americans of all stripes and --
BURNETT: Congressman, can I ask you a question? Can I ask you a question?.
AVLON: You guys have lost your moral authority in the Cold War, pal.
KINGSTON: Oh, sure I have.
BURNETT: Do you -- Congressman, are you OK, do you support, do you condone what the president said?
KINGSTON: You know what? I don't know the circumstances and I can tell you this --
BURNETT: We do know the circumstances. It was a meeting in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign ministers and the Russian ambassador talking about firing Jim Comey. That's the context.
KINGSTON: And who was the source? "The New York Times" is quoting on an undisclosed source, right?
BURNETT: OK. Let me just be clear, the White House is not disputing it. It comes from notes taken by someone from the White House in the room.
BURNETT: It's not coming from the Russians, to be clear. It's coming from someone in the Trump White House who took the notes.
KINGSTON: And the context was he said it jokingly or he said it this is a matter of national concern that this guy's a nut job. I mean, we don't know.
Here's what we do know is that "The New York Times" has thrived on undisclosed sources ever since President Trump has been --
BURNETT: Congressman, they're not denying that it happened. No one is denying it.
KINGSTON: I have to say this --
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Congressman, Congressman, listen. I appreciate that you are doing the best that you can to defend the indefensible. I wish you defend your country, because the problem that we have right now -- I'm going to talk. You've had a good long run at this. There's going to be a commercial in a minute. I've got to say my part.
I don't understand how you as a -- I know you very well. You're a patriotic American. You just said you want to see us defend our country from the Russians and yet you have a president who every time he talks takes the opportunity to praise the Russians and to put down Americans, including one who served as honorably and nobly as the FBI chief. My problem that I have right now is, this president is now letting me down even at the level of just being a bad crook.
Listen, a crook knows to be quiet. What -- the thing he's saying right now, the president of the United States, the things he's saying right now, if he were doing something, if he were trying to figure out some way to get his administration through these problems, he should be quiet.
He is being louder and talking more than anybody who's involved in anything criminal or otherwise.
KINGSTON: But --
JONES: So, you have a president that cannot get the administration through this situation. He cannot deal with the facts in front of him. He cannot attack the Russians. You want to attack the Russians. He's attacking Americans. How can you sit here as a patriot and say that what he's doing makes any sense at all?
KINGSTON: Well, I'd say one thing, unlike Barack Obama, he's actually dropped the bombs in Syria. That was against Russian policy.
JONES: Hey, listen, hold on a second.
KINGSTON: If he was so in with the Russians, why would he drop the bombs in Syria?
JONES: You're a parent. Aren't you a parent? Have you ever had a kid get in trouble and the kid starts pointing to the other kid? That's what you keep doing.
JONES: We're dealing with the president we have right now.
KINGSTON: Van, I don't follow you on that.
JONES: Don't talk about the other kid. Don't talk about the other kid.
KINGSTON: What I'm saying --
JONES: Let's talk about our kid right now, Donald Trump.
KINGSTON: OK, the kid right now dropped bombs on the Syrian forces that Russia is backing. How is that in with the Russians? Question. Question to the panel. How's that?
JONES: Hey, listen, sure. Hey, listen, I'll tell you right now. He is not doing anything that is remotely causing problems for the Russian agenda overall. He can bomb all the concrete he wants to. But the reality is, a major threat to America is not concrete in Syria, it's our elections being destroyed.
And you have not said one word tonight about those elections. And you've got a president who defends our elections. Why are you -- I'm shocked that you as a Republican are not in better patriot that you care more about this country than --
BURNETT: Reply to that, Jack.
KINGSTON: When Mueller is through in this investigation and nails some of the leakers, and he brings people like Susan Rice on unmasking, and where he follows as the senator said, let the facts led in the direction and follow those facts, I think we're going to learn a lot and among the things we're going to learn is that there was absolutely no collusion with the Trump administration.
JONES: Congressman, let's just be real here. They're going to have to sell some cereal t some point we'll have a commercial break. But just for once, just once, wouldn't you feel more comfortable right now if Mike Pence were president?
[19:50:06] KINGSTON: I like Mike Pence, but absolutely not. It's Donald Trump who's at the top of the ticket. But, Van, here's what you guys are missing --
BURNETT: By the way, Mike Pence is the one in the White House right now, while President Trump is gone.
KINGSTON: You know, I like both of them but Trump is my president, and Mike Pence is my friend and vice president.
BURNETT: Congressman, you've been making a lot of comments about and I think a lot of people are frustrated about the leaks and the single sourcing and all of this. I want to make it clear, by the way, this story did not have single sourcing. It had multiple sources.
KINGSTON: They had unknown.
BURNETT: Including some who are saying is true, but I defend the president and here's why.
So, it seemed to be extremely well-sourced.
David Sanger, let me give you a chance to respond to this. You know, as a reporter, as someone from the media, as a reporter for "The New York Times."
DAVID SANGER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sure. Thanks, Erin.
So, yes, there are anonymous sources involved in this and if you go back over the Obama administration, the Bush administration before that, you're always going to see anonymous sources. That isn't really the issue.
The issue here is, do we believe that this is a correctly sourced story? Do we believe that it fundamentally explains what happened?
I think, Erin, has sort of laid this out. First of all, this came from a note-taker. That tells you it's not one of the participants in the conversation. This isn't even as the stories earlier in the week were about, Jim Comey's account versus President Trump's account. It's the official note taking that took place during this whole thing.
Secondly, the White House has not disputed the facts. They have just put a different interpretation on it. They have said that the president's comments meant that it reduced the pressure on him that was keeping him from conducting the diplomacy. People are going to have to decide whether they believe that interpretation of events or whether they believe the interpretation of events that Erin was exploring with Senator Blumenthal earlier, which was -- one that would suggest that it took the pressure off the investigation.
That's all that's out here right now. But the absence of a White House disputing the facts tells you something.
BURNETT: Alan, go ahead.
DERSHOWITZ: Given the interpretation that I think people have to account. We know the first half of the statement was untrue. Nobody believes that Comey is crazy or a nut case.
So, the president starts by telling the Russians an absolute incredible untruth. Now, we want to say, but the second thing he told them about the pressure, that we believe. Now, you have to reconcile the fact that we all don't believe the first half, we want to believe the second half.
But the second half sounds as puffy as the first half.
DERSHOWITZ: It's not true, even if he believed it, it's not true. It's demonstrably false.
KINGSTON: I think we can say it was offensive to a lot of people, but maybe the question for Alan that I'd like to know, is I understand on obstruction, that you have to have jury tampering or threatening a witness in a criminal case. I don't know if this meets that threshold at all. As offensive as it is to "The New York Times," and other lovers of Donald Trump, I don't know why there was necessarily this great cry for obstruction all of a sudden.
CALLAN: Nixon was charged with obstruction of justice --
CALLAN: You don't need jury tampering to have obstruction of justice.
BURNETT: David Sanger laid this out extremely well in terms of what they want, what they say the story is, versus what others are interpreting it as. And, of course, I think, Alan, you made a very clear point, they want to say the first part of the statement we know to be untrue, obviously, the second part is where the dispute is.
Very quickly, Van.
JONES: But here's the thing. I think what the professor misunderstands, it's not whether it's true or false, most of the things that Donald Trump says are false, that's not the point. The question is, what is he trying to achieve? And it seems that what holds these two things together is, he's trying to appease the Russians. And he's willing to lie, he's willing to tell things --
DERSHOWITZ: But how is that obstruction of justice?
JONES: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. He's trying to appease the Russians and he's trying to appease the Russians -- in that meeting, he's probably trying to appease the Russians not in that meeting. So, firing of the FBI head who's after the Russians would be a part of that entire pattern of him appeasing the Russians. That's why we're concerned.
DERSHOWITZ: If I'm Donald Trump's lawyer, I'm not going to be his lawyer --
JONES: You've been his lawyer all night, sir.
DERSHOWITZ: You have now given the best possible defense. You've now given him alternative theory of why he did this, not to obstruct justice, but to appease the Russians, which he has a perfect constitutional right to do. You've just destroyed the entire --
JONES: No, sir, no --
BURNETT: All right. I have to hit pause here, because we do, Van, finally have to make a commercial break. The nice solid 10 minutes for everybody.
All right. Thank you. We'll be right back, because one Republican breaking his silence talking about this tonight will be my guest next.
[19:56:43] BURNETT: Breaking news: the White House now researching impeachment procedures. Sources confirming to CNN White House lawyers have consulted experts and researching impeachment produces to brace for that possibility, though, it is out of an abundance of caution, not an expectation.
With me now, the Republican Congressman Scott Taylor, who met with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein today on Capitol Hill.
Congressman, good to have you back.
Not many Republicans are talking about this tonight, let me give you a chance to respond to the president's words as reported by "The New York Times" about feeling relief that the Russian investigation was over because of the firing of Jim Comey. Your reaction?
REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R-VA), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Can you say that again? I'm sorry, I didn't hear the last part.
BURNETT: I'm sorry. Just your reaction to the president's words as reported by "The New York Times" today? TAYLOR: Well, listen, there are a couple of things, he had several
words that were reported by "The New York Times" today, and, you know, listen, I think it was the nut thing with Comey. And I got to say, you know, this is a patriot, he has served his country very well. I don't agree with that assessment.
But, of course, there is context with text, and we don't know the context of the meeting itself and what he was trying to do. We don't know that, of course, but I don't agree with that assessment, obviously.
You know, look, I think that there has been such a microscope, of course, and some of it legitimate, some of it not. I mean, you had an NYT reporter on here earlier that was one of the folks reporting that Comey was seeking more resources in the investigation when the deputy attorney general said today absolutely not, that did not happen at all to his knowledge and he was even in the story.
So, there's this desire, of course, and every little tidbit out there, and I think that, you know, we have a special prosecutor that has been appointed. Let the facts lay where they may and let's see what happened.
BURNETT: So, Congressman, has your view changed at all of this president and his fitness or office this week? He shared classified information. The FBI director says that the president asked him to stop the investigation into General Michael Flynn, that's in the Comey memo, of course. That's according to Comey, the president denies it. You now have "The New York Times" reporting, the president said: I faced great pressure because of Russia, that's taken off because of the firing of Jim Comey.
Has your impression of the man, the president, a Republican, your party, changed?
TAYLOR: There's no question that there were some stumbles this week. No question about it. He talked about classified information, I would be a complete hypocrite if I said that it is not worrisome for leaking of classified information, to put people's live in jeopardy, and obviously shake alliances. I wrote a book about the last administration doing this, remember the SEAL Team that Biden famously --
TAYLOR: -- leaked to friends of mine? I mean, this is -- that's a big deal. So, obviously, it's a big deal.
I haven't lost my confidence in the president to be our president. Look, I just haven't. So, there was some stumbles this week, and there will be more stumbles. There always are with every president. So, the answer is no, I think he's still fit to be president.
BURNETT: But he still has your confidence and as you just said, you believe he is still fit to be president of the United States? TAYLOR: I believe he's still fit and the people around him are as
well, too, many of whom I have great respect for. And any president obviously has to have great people on their team around them to help them perform. Is he perfect? Absolutely not. But no one is.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Congressman Taylor, I appreciate your time and thank you so much for coming on. Thank you and have a good weekend.
And to all of you, I hope you all have a good weekend. Thanks so much as always for joining us.
"AC360" begins right now.