JUDY WOODRUFF: As we mentioned at the top of the program, President Trump’s agenda hit another roadblock today when a federal appeals court refused to reinstate his travel ban.
Tomorrow, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s open hearing on Russia, all this amid growing criticism some fellow Republicans over the weekend.
For more on how all of this is affecting the White House, we turn to Christopher Ruddy. He’s the CEO of the conservative Newsmax Media and a friend of President Trump.
Christopher Ruddy, thank you for joining us again.
So, we know you have been talking to folks inside the White House. Last week had to have been one of the most difficult weeks for this young presidency, with the Comey testimony, other matters out there.
How is the president, how are his team doing?
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, Newsmax: Well, I think they came out of last week pretty good. I spoke to the president late last week, and I think he was pretty optimistic about things and happy that things — I wouldn’t say overly happy.
But I also think that he generally felt that he had won a victory, that Director Comey’s testimony once again proved that there was no obstruction. The director doesn’t want to describe what the president said to him as obstruction. There is no evidence of collusion.
We have a special prosecutor, Judy, that has been appointed here where there was never an allegation of a crime or evidence of a crime. This is a very highly situation — highly unusual situation, but it’s also, I think, politically driven. And I think that that’s getting the president and a lot of his top aides concerned that there is an effort here to undermine his agenda in Washington by people that want to focus on these investigations.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you’re saying it may be politically motivated, but even Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee said of former Director Comey’s testimony that they found him credible, that they view him as someone with integrity.
And he’s the person who said the president lied about the situation at the FBI, and he was afraid the president would also lie about their meeting.
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: Look, I think Director Comey is a good guy, but I also think he violated bureau policy when he held a press conference explaining why he wasn’t going to indict Hillary Clinton back in June of last year.
The FBI doesn’t indict people. They just — they’re an investigative agency. I’m not sure why he gave that press conference. I think he violated FBI rules when he interfered in the election two weeks before. He opened an investigation into Hillary’s e-mails. The Democrats were very angry.
I think he violated FBI rules again last week when he admitted he leaked confidential documents he compiled as the FBI director to The New York Times. Some people say that might have been ethically very bad, but also possibly a criminal violation.
I just think that he engaged in a very unusual pattern of activity. I’m not saying that everything the president has done has been right in this case, but when you look at the facts, you have to wonder, who would you trust more here?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you mentioned the special counsel, Robert Mueller. And you suggested — I think I heard you suggesting that there is a question about the purpose of his investigation.
I want to ask you about that, because there are some Republicans out there saying that Robert Mueller shouldn’t be doing this job. Is President Trump prepared to let the special counsel pursue his investigation?
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: Well, I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel.
I think he’s weighing that option, I think it’s pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently. I personally think it would be a significant mistake, even though I don’t think there is a justification, and even though — I mean, here you have a situation…
JUDY WOODRUFF: You don’t think there is a justification for?
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: For a special counsel in this case.
But also — I mean, Robert Mueller, there are some real conflicts. He comes from a law firm that represent members of the Trump family. He interviewed the day before, a few days before he was appointed special counsel with the president, who was looking at him potentially to become the next FBI director.
That hasn’t been published, but it’s true. And I think it would be strange that he would have a confidential conversation, and then, a few days later, become the prosecutor of the person he may be investigating.
I think that Mueller shouldn’t have taken the position if he was under consideration and had a private meeting with the president and was privy maybe to some of his thoughts about that investigation or other matters before the bureau.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you know for a fact that Robert Mueller was offered another position before he became special counsel?
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: I know for a fact that he was under consideration and that the president did talk with him in the days before he was named special counsel. I think there’s a conflict there.
Look, my position is that Mueller is a man of integrity, but we all know in the history of these special investigations, they go far and wide, and they go well beyond what the original jurisdiction was. He’s bringing in some of the top prosecutors that have worked in the Justice Department.
This is not going to be rosy for the White House. And I have to look at — when you say there’s no — Judy, I think we both have to agree, so far, there’s been no evidence of wrongdoing. There’s been no allegation that the president engaged in wrongdoing or any member of his staff did.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you one other thing, Chris Ruddy.
And that is, the president’s declined so far to say one way or the other whether there is audio recording in the Oval Office, in the White House, and that whether his conversations with Director Comey could have been recorded.
Do you know whether there is a recording system in the White House?
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: I hope not. I don’t want any of my conversations with him out there. I don’t know. I can’t remember half the things I said to him. But…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why do you think he has not — why do you think he has declined to clarify that?
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: Well, I don’t know. I think he was — the way I interpreted the president’s remark was that, if there were tapes, that they would vindicate the president and not Comey.
I — maybe he loves having that out as a mystery out there, but I’m not interpreting that that there’s actual physical tapes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Chris Ruddy with Newsmax, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: Great to be on with you, Judy.