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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With California Congressman Adam Schiff; President Trump Reportedly Now Under Investigation; Surveillance Video Shows Terrifying Moment of Attack. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 15, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The investigation now reportedly inside the Oval Office.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Closer to the president. A new report says the special counsel has questions about the president of the United States and whether he followed the law. And President Trump might only have himself to thank for that.
Long fight ahead. President Trump today saying shot and wounded Congressman Steve Scalise is in some trouble, as Congress tries to heal itself at the ballpark this evening.
Plus, his son came home from North Korean captivity in a coma. And, today, Otto Warmbier's dad did not have kind words for President Obama.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're going to begin today with some breaking news in the politics lead.
It's no longer just circling around the president of the United States. According to "The Washington Post," President Donald Trump himself is now under investigation, "The Post" reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether President Trump possibly tried to obstruct justice.
Now, CNN's reporting is different. CNN says that we do know that the special counsel and his investigators have asked for information and will talk to the president's top intelligence chiefs.
Now, one might think that because President Trump's own friends and advisers have explained to him how much his impulsive tweeting has hurt him in various ways that he might handle this news by being cautious, by being circumspect.
But one would be wrong.
Just a few moments ago, a new tweet: "Crooked H. destroyed phones with hammer, bleached e-mails, and had husband meet with attorney general days before she was cleared, and they talk about obstruction."
The president also calling the FBI investigation a witch-hunt and impugning the integrity of people well-known for their integrity.
CNN's Jessica Schneider is here with us, and she has the latest on the investigation.
And, Jessica, what has CNN learned about this possible escalation in Robert Mueller's probe?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that Mueller's investigators are set to talk to some key intelligence officials.
And it really marks the clearest sign yet that Mueller may be investigating potential obstruction of justice by the president himself.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Special counsel Robert Mueller's team is expected to question the president's director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, as soon as this week, according to a source familiar with the matter.
National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers will also be interviewed by investigators. In addition, those investigators want information from NSA deputy Richard Ledgett, who a source says wrote a memo documenting a conversation in which the president allegedly urged Admiral Rogers to ask the FBI to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation.
The interviews are the strongest and most public indication yet that Mueller is moving to expand the investigation. Law enforcement sources tell CNN that the special counsel is gathering information and considering whether there is evidence to launch a full-scale obstruction investigation.
Questions of obstruction have loomed over President Trump since his firing of FBI Director James Comey. The next day, he told Russia's foreign minister inside the Oval Office that firing Comey had relieved -- quote -- "great pressure on him," according to a readout of the meeting and admitted to NBC that he fired Comey in part because of the Russia investigation.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
SCHNEIDER: Republican Senator Marco Rubio told CNN today the president should let the investigation take its course.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I think the president would be best served by having this thing fully looked at, so that there's no doubts at the end. He should be very comfortable with that.
SCHNEIDER: DNI Coats met with the Senate Intelligence Committee today behind closed door, after he largely declined to answer questions about any pressure from the president to help shut down the Russia probe in week's weak's public hearing.
DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't believe it's appropriate for me to address that in a public session.
SCHNEIDER: Robert Mueller was on Capitol Hill Tuesday to discuss the ongoing Russia probe with the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Mueller has the memos Comey wrote documenting his concerns about his interactions with the president.
CNN filed a lawsuit Thursday to force the FBI to turn over those memos.
SCHNEIDER: And, meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced it will pursue its own investigation into any possible political interference in the FBI Russia investigation. And we will see testimony before the House Intelligence Committee next week. The head of homeland security under President Obama, Jeh Johnson, he will appear in a public hearing Wednesday on the Russia probe as well.
TAPPER: All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.
President Trump ignored reporters' questions about whether or not he believes he's under investigation.
One man who says he remains with confidence in Robert Mueller is the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr.
And CNN's Sara Murray is at the White House for us.
And, Sara, President Trump made his feelings pretty clear on Twitter this morning and then again just a few minutes ago.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
And even though the president cannot seem to stop tweeting about this investigation today, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a spokeswoman here at the White House, in an off-camera briefing declined to talk about it eight times, instead instructing reporters to reach out to President Trump's personal lawyer, this as the Russia investigation appears to be inching closer and closer to the Oval Office.
MURRAY (voice-over): The Russia cloud looming over the Trump White House is expanding and threatening to engulf the president.
Trump isn't holding back his fury, tweeting Thursday: "They made up a phony collusion with the Russian story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice." And: "You are witnessing the single greatest witch-hunt in American political history, led by some very bad and conflicted people."
Trump's tweets coming soon after "The Washington Post" reported special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the president for possible obstruction of justice.
In front of reporters today, Trump held his fire, refusing to say whether he believes he's under investigation.
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you believe that you are under investigation now?
MURRAY: A spokesman for Trump's personal attorney didn't deny the story and refused to comment on the widening probe, except to slam the leaked information as "outrageous, inexcusable, and illegal."
But it's clear from his Twitter tirade the president still believes he's his own best spokesman, despite calls from his GOP allies to lay low.
On Thursday, John Thune, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, called special counsel Mueller a man of integrity.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: It's not a witch-hunt, no. I think that, you know, he's got a job to do. We all understand that. And I think it's in everybody's best interests if we let him do his job, and we do ours.
MURRAY: Trump's sharply political tone on Twitter on hold when he spoke about the horrific shooting at a congressional baseball practice just a day earlier.
Wednesday evening, the president and first lady made a surprise visit to the hospital, where Congressman Steve Scalise and other shooting victims are being treated. In front of the cameras Thursday, Trump renewed his calls for unity, as he expressed concern for Congressman Scalise.
TRUMP: It's been much more difficult than people even thought at the time. It's been -- he's in some trouble. Steve, in his own way, may have brought some unity to our long-divided country. We have had a very, very divided country.
MURRAY: The president even extending his well-wishes to a group he's often deemed the enemy, the fourth estate.
TRUMP: And everybody in this room, including the reporters, God bless you. God bless America.
MURRAY: Now, that congressional baseball game is still slated to happen tonight. As of right now, the president does not have plans to attend, because there is not sufficient time to put Secret Service protocols in place, but a number of administration officials are planning on going over to that game this evening -- back to you, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray at the White House for us, thanks so much.
House investigators last week demanded that any tapes President Trump might have of his conversations with James Comey be turned over. So, have any arrived? We will talk to the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Let's stick with the politics lead and the news from "The Washington Post" that the president himself, according to "The Post," is now under investigation himself for possible obstruction of justice.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee.
So, what do you make of this report? And does this change at all what the House Intelligence Committee will be investigating?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I can't comment on what Bob Mueller may or may not be investigating.
But in terms of our own investigation, I can say that I think certainly that if there's an effort to interfere or impede the investigation at all or obstruct it, that's something that we need to get to the bottom of.
Our investigation, obviously, deeply important, but it's also, as a matter of our oversight, imperative to make sure that no one is interfering with the FBI investigation. They have a reach that we don't have in our committee. We need to make sure that Bob Mueller has all the resources he needs and that no one is interfering in that investigation in any way.
So, right now, in the House, I would think the House Judiciary Committee ought to have an interest in the obstruction issue as well. But the speaker has only authorized one committee to investigate any of these things, and that's the Intelligence Committee. And so I think that's part of our responsibility.
TAPPER: Congressman Conaway, who is the Republican that -- he's not the chairman of the committee, but he's the Republican on which you're partnered for this investigation, because Devin Nunes, the chairman, has somewhat recused himself from the process.
Have you talked to Congressman Conaway about it? Does he agree that obstruction of justice charges and the possibility of them should be something that your committee investigates? SCHIFF: You know, we have had an initial discussion about it, and I
don't want to represent his views. I will leave Mike to speak for himself.
There are a number of witnesses, obviously, that could go to both the issue of collusion, but as well to issues of obstruction. But I do think that Congress does need to get to the bottom of this. We need to know, for example, whether the attorney general, when he wrote those -- memo -- his letter and when Rod Rosenstein wrote his memo, whether they knew it would be used as a pretext for the firing of James Comey.
So, those are questions that need to be answered. If there was an effort to enlist the agency heads to weigh in with Director Comey to drop the Flynn case, I think we need to know it.
We should be doing everything we can to either prove or disprove the testimony of James Comey. That's a very serious allegation. Congress has a very important oversight role here to play to make sure that no one is obstructing a legitimate public investigation.
So, I think that's very much a part of our charge.
TAPPER: Obviously, if there are tapes in the White House, if President Trump did tape his conversations with James Comey, that could really either prove what James Comey said or completely knock it down. Do you know if there are tapes? Has the White House reached out to your committee to -- or respond to your committee about whether or not there are any?
SCHIFF: Well, and, as you know, we wrote to the president last week and said, if you have tapes, preserve them, and hand them over by June 23.
So, I would hope and expect we will get an answer by Thursday of next week. The president has signaled that he is going to give an answer, but those would be the very best evidence.
None of us, I think, can make heads or tails out of that tweet he said that was essentially threatening Comey, you better look out, I have tapes or may have tapes, whether that was an idle threat meant to intimidate the director or there's more to it, but we need to find out.
[16:15:15] TAPPER: President Trump tweeted, among many tweets today, he's been very prolific on Twitter today. Quote: You are witnessing the single greatest witch hunt, all caps, in American political history, led by some very bad and conflicted people.
Let's just talk about the witch hunt part of that. Is there any evidence of obstruction of justice or collusion with the Russians that you have seen?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, let me take the obstruction issue first. I think what James Comey testified to a week ago, if accurate, is very well evidence of an effort to impede or obstruct the investigation. If he was fired as a way of changing the course of that investigation, that seems to me evidence of obstruction. Now, whether it's sufficient evidence is another story.
Similarly, I believe there is evidence of potential collusion that we need to get to the bottom of. Again, there is a profound question of whether we will be able to corroborate, get sufficient evidence, and of course, sufficient evidence for what.
TAPPER: You think there is evidence of potential collusion?
SCHIFF: There is, I believe, evidence, yes.
TAPPER: Is this the circumstantial evidence you referred to several weeks ago or something new?
SCHIFF: It isn't something new, but we continue to investigate and I think continue to learn new things. Again, we are much closer to the beginning of this investigation than the end. So, I don't want to overstate what we know at this point. But we have, I think, very good reason to conduct our investigation in a thorough way. I think there's ample reason why the FBI began their investigation last July. And there's ample reason for them to continue it to this day.
I don't think that's something the FBI does -- open an investigation of a presidential campaign, without a reason. I don't think they do it on a hunch or mere speculation. So, I think there is a factual basis for that investigation, and ours, that we need to get to the bottom of.
TAPPER: All right. Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee -- it's always good to have you here. Thank you so much.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Now, coming up next, new surveillance video of the congressional baseball shooting showing the moment the police arrived at the scene. We'll bring that tape to you, next.
And after the shooting, Congressman Steve Scalise's colleague says he was coherent and talking, but that does not mean his injuries aren't serious. We'll get an update on this from CNN's own doctor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, coming up.
[16:21:33] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Let's turn to our national lead now. Surgeons carrying for Congressman Steve Scalise has completed his third surgery just a short while ago. The congressman remains in critical condition after yesterday's attack by a leftist madman with a gun and a grudge.
Let's bring in CNN correspondent, Dianne Gallagher.
And, Dianne, you have news about the condition of one of the shooting victims.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. I just got off the phone with G.W. University Hospital. And they tell me that Matt Mika, the lobbyist who was shot in the chest, had an improvement. He is no longer in critical condition. He is listed in serious condition.
Jake, we got an idea of just how intense this scene was out here from a different angle of security footage. My producer, David Shortel (ph), talked to a coffee shopper owner across the street from this field here, who said that when the shots rang out, people ducked underneath whatever they could, getting behind counters, getting on the ground. And you can see in this video, officers trying to use cars to shield themselves from the hail of bullets.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): Newly obtained video by CNN showing the moment more help arrives. Surveillance video from a coffee shop across the street shows a shattered window, people running, and then police pulling on scene. This cell phone video shows house majority whip, Steve Scalise, laying crumpled in the infield, shot in the hip, dealing with fractured bones and internal organ injuries, Scalise remains in critical condition. He's had three surgeries and could require more.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's in some trouble. He's a great fighter and he's going to be OK, we hope.
GALLAGHER: After seeing Scalise at the hospital, the president and first lady visited with capitol police officer, Crystal Griner, who was shot in the ankle. Officer David Bailey was treated and released Wednesday. Shot several times in the chest, Tyson Foods lobbyist, Matt Mika, needs help breathing and will need more surgeries but he can communicate through notes.
And congressman Roger Williams briefly hospitalized for an injury to his leg back on Capitol Hill today with his staffer, Zack Barth, who was shot in the leg.
ZACK BARTH, CONGRESSIONAL STAFFER SHOT IN BALLPARK ATTACK: It doesn't matter if we're Republicans or Democrats, we're all Americans.
GALLAGHER: As the victims and Capitol Hill continue to heal, federal officials are focusing on the shooter, James Hodgkinson. He died at the hospital Wednesday, but left behind a long, public trail of angry social media activity directed at the Republican Party and president Trump.
Today, FBI agents continue to comb the field for clues. So far, they've found two weapons. A .9 millimeter handgun and a 7.62 caliber rifle which the ATF says appear to be legally purchased.
The FBI is examining a cell phone, computer, and camera found in the white cargo van where Hodgkinson lived since March. Police want to know why the 66-year-old from Illinois with a checkered criminal history was in Alexandria. He was often seen sitting on a park bench near the baseball field and joined a nearby YMCA on April 4th. But while he canceled his membership the day before the shooting, his dues were paid through July. He checked into the YMCA at 5:31 in the morning of the shooting.
GALLAGHER: And the investigation is probably going to take a while. You can see the crime scene tape is still up here. The FBI says it could last and could be off here until early next week -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Dianne Gallagher for us, thank you so much.
President Trump says Congressman Scalise is still in some trouble. What do we know about the extent of Congressman Scalise's injuries? Our Sanjay Gupta will explain what's ahead for the congressman coming up next. Stay with us.
[16:29:01] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're back with our national lead now.
Today, President Trump said that the health situation with Steve Scalise, the congressman who was shot yesterday, is much more difficult than previously thought and that the congressman is in some trouble. Mr. Scalise is still in critical condition at this hour, following his third surgery.
CNN chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, joins me to talk about the survivors of this horrific incident.
Sanjay, based on what we know, what can you tell us about Congressman Scalise's condition at this hour?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, they use this term "critical," which you may know, Jake, is not a standardized sort of term that is used among hospital systems. At MedStar, where he is, critical basically means somebody who's vital signs or blood pressure and their heart rate are still not stable, they're still fluctuating. And where there's still a lot of concern about the person's recovery. So, there's a lot of concern about him.
At that hospital system, they also have a definition, which is critical, but stable. They're not defining the congressman that way. They're just saying critical, which is the most concerning definition they have.