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EARLY START

James Comey Testifies to Senate Intel Committee; Comey Testimony Move Markets. Aired 3:30-4a ET

Aired June 8, 2017 - 03:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[03:30:02] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: ... testimony in decades.

BENJAMIN WITTES, FRIEND OF JAMES COMEY: This is a guy with a story to tell. If I were Donald Trump, that would scare me a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear that the testimony that you're about to give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A big day in the nation's capital. Welcome back to "Early Start" everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour. We're just hours away not from what promises to be a riveting show on Capitol Hill. The fired FBI, Director James Comey, will testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee about his interactions with President Trump. Even before he takes the oath, Comey has already changed the dynamic. The Intel committee releasing Comey's entire opening statement a day ahead of time at his request. It confirms the President asked Comey to help lift the cloud created by the FBI's Russia investigation.

BRIGGS: It also confirms President Trump demanded loyalty, and it contradicts the President's claim he never asked Comey to back off his investigation of Former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. Comey's statement does support the President's claim that Comey assured him he was not personally under investigation.

ROMANS: Comey says the President brought that subject up over the course of multiple conversations. Today marks the first time Comey had testified publicly or spoken out at all since President Trump fired him last month. Our Manu Raju begins our coverage this morning from Capitol Hill.

MANU RAJU, CNN'S SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: In just a matter of hours, James Comey will finally take the seat before the Senate intelligence committee after weeks of anticipation. This coming after he suddenly released his testimony that he's going to deliver in his opening statement, laying out a vivid detail his interactions with President Trump.

Some interactions in which he said, will frankly caused him some alarm, made him uneasy as the President asks for a loyalty from the FBI director. The director at an agency, of course, that is supposed to act independently and one of which is investigating the Trump campaign connections, any that may have existed with the Russian officials during last year's election.

President Trump, also, according to James Comey's testimony asked him to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, his former National Security Advisor. Expect a number of senators, particularly Democratic senators to push director Comey to say whether or not he thought there was anything illegal or improper in trying to interfere in any way with an ongoing FBI investigation.

Now this comes a day after testimony before the same committee work for current intelligence officials testified but would not reveal their own interactions with President Trump. He's causing great frustration not just the Democrats on the committee but also the Republican Chairman, Richard Burr who lashed out at the witnesses for not having enough information. The question for today is how much more detail will Comey give beyond his opening statement that he released yesterday. Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: All right, Manu, thank you.

BRIGGS: All right, for his part, President Trump declaring himself completely cleared by Comey's opening statement. The President's personal lawyer, handling the Russia investigation, Marc Kasowitz putting out this statement, " The president is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe. The president feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda."

ROMANS: The White House strategy today, simply to pack the President's schedule, he has no public events this morning. But the Republican close to the West Wing says officials are still trying to assure he's too busy to tweet about Comey's testimony. Rapid response, we're told its being handled by the Republican National Committee. New talking points from the RNC cast that President's decision to fire Comey as a selfless move. He knew it might hurt him politically, but he did it anyway for the good of the country.

BRIGGS: All right, with insight on all of these. CNN Law Enforcement Analyst James Gagliano, and CNN Political Analyst, historian, Julian Zelizer. Good morning to both you.

ROMANS: Hi guys.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

BRIGGS: James, I want to ask you the former FBI special agent. A couple of questions that will certainly be directed at James Comey this morning, and one is regarding this honest loyalty. This is January 27th, dinner between the President and James Comey, quote, "I need loyalty", said the President. James Comey replied, "You will always get honesty from me". He paused, and then said, "That's what I want, honest loyalty." I paused, and then said, "You will get that from me."

This goes on and on but why would James Comey pledge, "honest, loyalty" to the president of the United States and why would he assure him three different times he was not personally under investigation?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Dave, two things impact there. First of all, honesty and loyalty, well, they're not necessarily mutually exclusive or two separate constructs. In the -- in our nation's history, there were 45 presidents. Only one, number 45, was not a prior politician in a presidential cabinet or a general. I think this is indicative of the President just not understanding ethics in the government.

[03:35:18] When I became an FBI, June 1991, I raised my right hand and I swore an oath of fealty to the U.S. constitution. Not to the FBI director, not to the attorney general and not the president who were all in my chain of command in the executive branch.

I think your point about Director Comey speaking to the three times "Told President Trump he was not under investigation". When you begin an investigation into an entity like Russian collusion, this nebulous kind of a construct, you're not targeting someone. You go where the evidence takes you. That's what you do as an FBI agent. And I think when he said to him yes, the investigation is not an investigation into Donald Trump et al. The investigation is into Russian collusion. If it involves you and that's where the evidence takes us --

ROMANS: Yes.

GAGLIANO: -- that's where you're we're going. If it's some of your -- the folks that works with you--

BRIGGS: So that was appropriate?

GAGLIANO: I think that was entirely appropriate. It was a counterintelligence investigation and I think having a conversation with the President, I don't think it was appropriate for him to ask that, not that it's illegal, but I don't think that was appropriate. But the FBI director said we're investigating everything, you are not a target of the investigation. I think that was a fair statement.

BRIGGS: OK.

ROMANS: Julian Zelizer, the evidence historian. When we look at this document and we see this remarkable commentary about this January 27th dinner in the Green Room. And you have the FBI director, the former FBI director talking about how he got a lunch time phone call and said, maybe we'll invite the whole family. No I just wanted to be you and just these two men with the two Navy stewards.

I mean, the caller is amazing here as he wrote this all down. And I want to read a part of this particular January 27th Green Room dinner. "My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position meant the dinner was at least in part an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI's traditionally independent status in the executive branch."

A patronage position, that is not what the relationship is supposed to be at all between, you know, the intelligence chief of this country and the president of the United States. How concerning is that construct to you?

ZELIZER: It's extremely concerning. There's no way to read this memo and not walk away, feeling that something improper was going on. And the fact that he was noting this in itself is a problem. He should not be feeling this pressure. His loyalty is not to the President, it's to the constitution. And at the same time it's not just an FBI director. It's an FBI director conducting an investigation into the election and whether there was collusion with this administration.

So we shouldn't have a memo like this. And, you know, this creates the kind of atmosphere that we've seen in presidencies that are not at the top of great presidential lists, like the Nixon administration.

ROMANS: He's an outsider, you know. His supporters will say we've elected an outsider.

ZELIZER: Yes.

ROMANS: And he's just not going to go in there and know the protocol between different agencies. That's -- you hired them to go in there and clean it up. So, of course, he goes in there and said I want your loyalty. I mean he has the supporters who will dismiss this as hyperventilating among liberals.

ZELIZER: It's still a problem. Look, whether he did -- if he did this intentionally, that's one kind of problem where he is consciously trying to obstruct this investigation and threaten FBI Director Comey. And there's a case he did that, because, again, this culminates with Comey being fired. If he didn't, though, it suggests the president who doesn't really understand the boundaries of presidential power. And that is not something we want in the Oval Office.

BRIGGS: That was clear before this memo and that is certainly clear after at the heart of the obstruction allegation this February 14th Oval Office meeting when the exchange went like this. "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go", said the president, to letting Flynn go. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

Comey replied that he is a good guy, "I did not say I would let this go". Why did James Comey, the FBI Director, not then turn and report this to the Justice Department, James?

GAGLIANO: Great question Dave. And I think in law enforcement in jurisprudence, there is a -- there's a thought that it's often not what you know but what you can prove. And in this instance, again, and I'm not an attorney. But in this instance you have to be able to prove intent. The president and his attorneys are going to argue that his statements were elliptical or they were ambiguous and that there was no there, there.

Now, we can look at this from the outside and say, well, the way we see this detail that here, this is a classic case of someone who is being careful on how they spoke to him wanted to make sure that he was alone with Comey so that there was no opportunity for somebody else to go, not it didn't happen that way. But in this classic case of he said, he said, you got a man like James Comey.

Again, his probity, his honor is unimpeachable and then he went to the President. The President has been reckless and the president is also had instances, why he was on a campaign as well as why was the president where he misremembered things. And I think that's going today.

[03:40:16] The biggest thing is going to come coming out in this hearing today is, James Comey is going to be led down a path proving this case. Now, whether or not it becomes a legal case or whether or not just the case in public opinion.

ROMANS: Do we have -- guys, do we have that stuff from Chris Christie at MSNBC yesterday. I'd love to play that for Julian. Let's play this. This is what Chris Christie, long time friend of the president, this is what he says why we just don't get it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What you're seeing is a president who is now very publicly learning about the way people react to what he considers to be normal New York City conversation.

(END VIDDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Now, I lived in New York City for 20 years. I got to tell you, I don't know how normal that conversation is at least in my circles. But is it maybe the Washington and said beltway ears are hearing things that, you know, maybe we're just over blowing it.

ZELIZER: No. I mean, first of all when you have Governor Christie defending you, you already have something of a problem given Governor Christie's own record. But that's not normal. And we can't just excuse all kinds of presidential statements and all kinds of presidential interactions as just being that of an outsider or being New York talk.

This is something very different. Again, this all stands from a very serious investigation into our democratic mechanism, the election and the possibility within our trail of evidence from someone whose voracity is not really under question.

There's many problems many people feel with former Director Comey, but that's not one of them about him trying to intimidate and even just stop this investigation. That's not New York talk. That's a legitimate presidential -- our concern about our presidency.

BRIGGS: Given the context of bridge gate, that's a surprising statement that Chris Christie would make there on national television.

ZELIZER: Right.

BRIGGS: James, Julian, we'd check in with you guys at 4:00 hour, thank you.

ROMANS: It turns out there's a lot of driven talk. There's New York talk. Who knows what other kinds of talk there could possibly be.

All right. James Comey's testimony later today already moving market stocks popped after the release of his prepared remarks yesterday. It gave investors a suite of facts here. But they still worry about new revelations about the president's interaction with the Russia investigation that could delay his economic agenda specially tax reform.

Comey's testimony is just one of three events today that could move markets including the U.K. election and the meeting of the European Central Bank. Investors have been cautious all week, actually. Stocks trading mostly lower moving money into safe pavements like a bonds and gold.

Oil prices could also be a factor today. Crude prices tanked five percent over a possible supply glut. Two reasons that rift between Qatar and four Arab States that could holt the deal to cut output and U.S. crude inventories also rose for the first time since March.

Now, that's good news for U.S. drivers folks. Gas prices usually spike through the summer. They fell about two cents from last week. And crude (ph) may try to tease out why stocks would jump so quickly right after that testimony was revealed. And I think it's just a new piece of information and you're moving this whole ball forward. It's just more facts that allow people to think that maybe you can get this some help behind you so you could get back to the --

BRIGGS: So what do they do today, the billion dollar question?

ROMANS: I don't know. I mean, I think that you've got kind of the stall over all here because they want to see the progress on tax reform and on infrastructure. This is infrastructure week.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: And we're not talking about infrastructure.

BRIGGS: Is it infrastructure week or is after this did happened.

ROMANS: It is.

BRIGGS: OK. Our multiple, Russia investigations in the U.S. overshadowing even more damaging activity from the Kremlin, we're in live in Moscow with more on what's quietly been developing.

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[03:47:33] ROMANS: A new publication from North Korea. Four more missiles fired into the sea east of the Korean peninsula. According to U.S. and South Korean Military sources, they flew about 125 miles and they're believed to be surfaced to shift cruise missiles. Pentagon is not expected to release launch tracking statements as it usually does, because these are not ballistic missiles capable of posing a long-range threat.

BRIGGS: Iran's foreign minister lashing out at the U.S. over President Trump's response to the terror attacks in Tehran. Javad Zarif, tweeting this morning, "Repugnant White House statement and Senate sanctions as Iranians counter terror backed by U.S. clients, Iranian people rejects such U.S. claims of friendship."

That comes after President Trump's statement on the deadly attacks. He offered prayers for the victims but added, "We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote."

ROMANS: The U.S. client as Zarif mentioned, there's a reference to Saudi Arabia, of course, which Iran blames for supporting the attacks. ISIS has claimed responsibility, at least 12 people were killed and dozens wounded when six attackers launched simultaneous suicide attacks targeting Iran's Parliament building and the two of the Republic's Revolutionary founder.

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have long been estranged. They worsened recently when the Saudi cut ties with Qatar accusing it of supporting Iranian backed terror groups.

There's early bipartisan support for President Trump's pick to replace James Comey, the FBI director. The President announcing in a tweet, "The selection of a former assistant attorney general and former prosecutor, Christopher Wray to lead the bureau".

Wray recently defended the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the Bridge Gate case. President Trump calling him "Impeccably qualified individual", citing his role in major fraud investigations and antiterrorism efforts. Wray will need to be confirming by a simple majority, 51 votes in the Senate.

BRIGGS: Boy, did James Comey bury the news of his successor with the release of the statement.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: OK. In sports, it looks like King James is about to get knocked off his throne. The Golden State Warriors now one win away from an NBA title after staging a furious full quarter comeback, then knock off LeBron on the Cavs 118-113 in game three of the finals. The Warriors went on 11-0 run to end the game stunning the Cavs on their home court.

Golden State is now 15 in all in the playoffs. In game four, Friday night, the Warriors have a chance to become the first team in NBA history to complete a post-season undefeated. It was near perfection from LeBron and Kyrie Irving, and just not enough once again. [03:50:08] ROMANS: All right. Rural voters helps President Trump into the White House, but Medicaid cuts from the new GOP Healthcare Bill could hit them. Trump's supporters hardest, we've got new numbers to show just how badly next.

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ROMANS: FBI Director James Comey preparing to testify before the house Intel Committee in a matter of hours. In addition to all the political drama, Russia's meddling in the U.S. election will certainly be in play. And that issue has taken the focus of other potentially significant issues involving the Kremlin.

I want to go live in Moscow right now and bringing in CNN's Clare Sebastian. Good morning, Clare.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hi, Christine. You know, Trump, according to that testimony from James Comey told him he wanted to lift the cloud of the Russian investigation. And, you know, it seems that in some respects Russia would like to do the same if nothing else to lift the kind of paralysis that this has place on Trump when it comes to enacting some of his more pro-Russia policies. But there is really important of the side to this because of all this controversies been raging in Washington, the Kremlin has really flipped the narrative here.

So every new accusation that comes out about cyber meddling from Russia been in the U.S. and with incremental development and not in France, in Montenegro even this weekend and Qatar labeled as Russophobia or fake news. And that has really created the political climate here where why ordinary Russians view this as simply offensive or frankly ridiculous and a sign of political chaos elsewhere, most of all in Washington.

[03:55:11] And that would less than a year away from the presidential election here in Russia is no bad thing for President Putin. He's facing an increasingly energized opposition mass protestors right but of course Russia on Monday. He is widely expected to run for another six years in office in those elections next spring. So this could be politically useful for him.

And there's another aspect toward this Russia in advance of those elections is ramping up its accusations of outside interference in its own affairs just this week. Just yesterday, the upper house of parliament here agreed to setup a commission to try and prevent foreign interference in Russia's internal affairs through things like controlling NGOs perhaps the proposal affiliate to be seen. So there really is a sense that while this Russia related controversy raging in Washington, the Kremlin is really harnessing that for its own political answer. Christine?

ROMANS: And we know that Russophobia has really worked for Vladimir Putin in the past in terms of his own populus. Clare, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, polls are open in the United Kingdom as voters deciding between the Conservative Party led by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn's Labor Party, a lot on the line. Brexit will be a key issue for many Britain's and security certainly a very hot topic in the wake of recent deadly terror attacks in Manchester and in London. So let's bring in CNN's Nina dos Santos she's standing by live at a polling station in London. Good morning to you Nina.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Dave. Well, this is one of 40,000 polling stations open across the entire United Kingdom while people can cast their votes until 10:00 pm local time, which is 5:00 pm at your time, Eastern Time, Dave.

And there's going to be about 47 million peoples who can vote in this election. The registration numbers are quite a bit higher than the last time Britain's went to the polls. Remember they only went to the polls two years ago in 2015 because this has been a snap election which means we haven't had the usual five-year window between national votes.

When it comes to turn out, that is always a figure that people look at immediately. Last time it was about 66 percent, just over that. So just over two-thirds of those eligible to vote turned up when it comes to the youth vote, though, there's been big efforts to try and mobilize that because young people only sort of turn out of about 43 percent in the last general election.

There's been an unprecedented interest in signing up among 18 to 24- year-olds. Some of those are going to be voting for the first time, more than one million of them have decided to sign-up for this key election. And this is largely because they also feel that they want to seat at the table and want to say, too.

So when it comes to the ballot box, what's going to fronting centered people's mind, you mentioned some of the key issues and the ones that come up time and time again during general elections, the states of the healthcare system, the states of the economy, more sensitive issues like security and immigration, and also a new topic on the agenda which is, of course, Brexit.

BRIGGS: Certainly a palatal day for the future of the U.K. And, Nina, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, let's go to check on CNN Money Stream. Global markets are mixed, the head of three big events that U.K. election, meeting of the European Central Bank and testimonies. Did you know there's testimonies there by the former FBI Director James Comey?

BRIGGS: I haven't heard.

ROMANS: Yes. In fact U.S. stocks popped right after the release of those prepared remarks. You know, one interpretation is it gave investors some facts here and move the story forward. But they still worry that new revelations about the president's possible interference in the Russia investigation could hurt his economic agenda. They need to see progress on that economic agenda to sustain stocks further. Comey testifies later this morning, right now, the U.S. futures are higher. For home buyers, listen to this, applications to buy a home hit their highest level in seven years. That's according to Mortgage Bankers Association, mortgage request growth 10 percent last week, while mortgage rates fell to their lowest levels again since November. That could signal a rebound at home sales folks, high prices and tight inventory had been hurting sales.

All right. Rural voters helped President Trump take the White House. But Medicaid cuts in the new GOP Healthcare Bill could hit those very voters the hardest. That's according to a brand new report from Georgetown University.

The bill cuts at least to $800 billion in federal funding from Medicaid, 72 million low income Americans depend on that program, the majority living in small towns and rural areas. The study cited a few reasons why they're going to be hurt most. Lower household incomes, higher unemployment, and the lack of employer-paid health insurance will really hit those Trump supporter households.

BRIGGS: And that Medicaid is at the heart of the split of Senate Republicans on how they craft their new health care legislation. "Early Start" continues right now.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump has just fired the embattled FBI Director, James Comey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: James Comey was fired for being too mean to Hillary Clinton? Does anyone believe that? Could anyone believe that?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: He wasn't doing a good job, very simple. He's just not doing a good job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you at anytime urge Former FBI Director James Comey close or to back down the investigations with Michael --

(END VIDEO CLIP)