Kendall Coffey on New Day with Chris Cuomo – June 19th, 2017
Former U.S. attorney of the Southern District of Florida Kendall Coffey appeared on CNN’s New Day with Chris Cuomo to discuss the on-going Trump-Russia investigation. For additional information about Kendall Coffey, visit his personal website http://kendallcoffey.com/
Chris Cuomo: The joke here is what do you call it when the president’s tweet is creating confusion, and his own people don’t know how to defend it? We call it Monday. But this is actually a very serious matter about the understanding of the probe of the Russian investigation. Here’s the confusing part:
*Clip from previous CNN segment with Jake Tapper and Jay Sekulow*
Jay Sekulow: So there should be no confusion, no confusion. The president is not under investigation.
Jake Tapper: But it is confusing.
*End of Clip*
CC: The reason that Jake is right, it is confusing, is because Jay Sekulow, the president’s attorney, who you saw there on this matter, is contradicting the president. The president tweeted, “I am being investigated for firing the FBI director.” So what’s going on here? Is it a legitimate line of questions or another smokescreen to undermine the probe? Let’s bring in former South Florida US attorney Kendall Coffey and former George W. Bush political director Matt Schlapp. I want to direct you to just one more piece of sound. Gentlemen, thank you for being here. Now, before we begin the discussion, this is from Sekulow saying the exact opposite of what you just heard him say to Jake. Listen to this:
*Clip from FOX News segment with Chris Wallace and Jay Sekulow*
Chris Wallace: But you don’t if he is under investigation, now do you?
Jay Sekulow: Well, no one has notified us that there is, so I can’t read people’s minds. But I can tell you this: we have not been notified that there is an investigation of the president of the United States. So nothing has changed in those regards since James Comey’s testimony.
*End of Clip*
CC: That’s a different non-issue because there’s no mystery. They want to know whether or not the president is being looked at by Mueller. For anything, they can just pick up the phone; clearly this White House doesn’t have any problem meddling. He said to Chris Wallace that he is being investigated; he said it more than once. What do you make of all of this? Whether or not he’s being investigated. Legit issue?
Kendall Coffey: Well, it’s a fair issue because if we’re all Americans and we care about our presidency, the fact that the president of the United States is actually being investigated, that’s a very serious thing. But I think we’re at a point now where, sadly or not, we have to accept that in some form or another, there’s an inquiry going on. And part of that inquiry, call it a matter, call it an inquiry, call it an investigation, is whether something done by the president of the United States could be seen as an act of obstruction. That’s our reality, and we can’t spin away from it.
JC: Why isn’t it as simple as that, Matt? Why all this twisting by Sekulow, by the president? Why play this game?
Matt Schalpp: Well, I think the frustrating part of all of this is that the leaks keep happening. After this story was knocked down, that the president was being investigated by the FBI, there was a new leak saying that he was now being investigated by a special council. Chris, I think the problem here is the definition of terms. I think it all gets fuzzy. The question is, the president, when I come on your show, I’ve been saying this for months. Team Trump is being looked at for collusion with the Russians. So there’s no questions that Donald Trump and everybody around him is going to be part of what Kendall just talked about, this matter, this investigation, trying to figure out if there’s anything to this. It’s a very different thing to say that he is the target of the investigation, that he’s the focus. It all goes back to this leak. What I encourage CNN to do, I think the Washington Post is a perfectly legitimate source to go to, but run it down yourselves. Who is this leak? What are they saying? Because it all gets fuzzy from that point forward.
JC: I get it, but Matt, let’s call a spade a spade here. The idea that you’re upset about leaks is only when the leaks are against you. You weren’t talking about leaks when they were coming out against Hilary Clinton’s emails. Why make this about leaks? It’s such a bogus premise. Either the information is good or it isn’t good. That’s always the standard. This isn’t about leaks; it’s about the substance of the matter.
MS: That’s right. I actually was against those leaks, too, I said it on your show dozens of times. But I think the fact of the matter is this: let’s find out what this information is. You guys are trying to figure out why the president tweeted as he tweeted. And it all goes back to this question about whether or not, once again, these investigators have leaked the fact that the president is being investigated.
JC: I don’t think that’s an issue at all. I mean, you want your situational integrity. No White House I’ve ever been involved with gave information the way this one does. If you want to worry about leaks, maybe you should start there. I don’t understand how you can equate Comey telling the president that he wasn’t the subject, or any other language he used about the investigation, to what Mueller might be doing. Comey could not logically be looking at his own ouster. Right? Because it hadn’t happened yet. So what does that have to do with whether Mueller is looking at this situation? Which Comey said on the stand, he is sure he is, which makes perfect sense that he would be.
MS: Well, if that’s aimed at me, I’d say it’s the same, we’re reliving the same nightmare, which is investigators working for James Comey leaked that the president was being investigated. James Comey had to personally knock that down to the president three times. Then everybody reported he’s not being investigated. Then there’s a brand new leak, and now they’re saying the president is being investigated. Jay Sekulow is right to say, hey, why don’t you just tell us?
JC: Well, first of all, Jay could pick up the phone and know because he’s council for the president. The idea that it is a mystery, or unless he’s told, which is very unusual by the investors themselves, he can’t know. That is a specious premise. But Kendall, let me bring you in on this discussion. The idea that, well, you know, Comey said he wasn’t being investigated but there were leaks that said that he was, do you see that as something that sheds doubt on whether or not it is notable that Mueller would be looking at the firing of Comey? Does that mean anything to you?
KC: Well, in an odd way, the Comey era is almost old news. We have a new investigation now, and Mueller is looking at everything. There’s no reason to believe that the president is excluded from this broad examination.
JC: The fact that it was leaked, does that matter to you? Does that change your perception of whether or not Mueller would be looking at circumstances surrounding Comey’s firing? Or do you think that that’s a matter of fact?
KC: The leaks are, in many ways, irrelevant. They’re disquieting, they’re disturbing. Nobody on the law enforcement side likes them, either. But what we have now is a serious investigation where the president needs to listen to lawyers and act like somebody who is dealing with a serious legal matter. Trump being Trump might have gotten him elected, but Trump being Trump in the midst of a serious investigation could get him in a lot of trouble.
JC: I mean, Matt, the reason I’m coming after you about the leak thing is that it just smacks of a partisan spin. I mean, if you’re worried about the integrity of the investigation on that level—there shouldn’t be leaks—okay, fair point. But are you worried about the president of the United States trying to undercut the legitimacy of a functioning process of our democracy, which is this inquiry? Doesn’t that bother you as an integrity issue as well?
MS: Look, I said a bunch of times that the president ought to comply with the investigation. We ought to bring it to a close if they can’t find collusion with the Russians. I don’t think there are many political consequences here. So I agree, I think, go along with the investigation, comply with it. I just think the frustration is, it’s nice to know what is true and what isn’t true. I can see why people who are involved in these things get frustrated when they have to read about it in the paper instead of through their attorneys.
JC: Matt Schlapp, appreciate you making the points, as always. Kendall Coffey, value added. Good to have you here, good to have the perspective of a foreign prosecutor.