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Trump fires back at Comey, fights to examine Cohen papers

Former FBI Director James Comey led off his new memoir media blitz by criticizing President Trump in an interview with ABC News, focusing much of his attack on the president's character, and addressing the Hillary Clinton email investigation as a “no-win situation.” Trump on Monday questioned Comey's credibility, while his legal team fought a different battle. Yamiche Alcindor reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Trump White House has spent this day on Comey and Cohen watch. The president’s legal team joined in a federal court hearing involving his personal attorney, Michael Cohen. And Mr. Trump aimed more barbs at fired FBI Director James Comey over his scathing new book.

    Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage.

  • George Stephanopoulos:

    Is Donald Trump unfit to be president?

  • James Comey:

    Yes, but not in the way I often hear people talk about it.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    James Comey led off his media blitz by criticizing President Trump, focusing much of his attack on the president’s character.

    It came during an ABC News interview ahead of the Tuesday release of his memoir, “A Higher Loyalty.” While Comey told ABC he doesn’t support impeaching Trump, Comey pointed to Mr. Trump’s reaction to last year’s Charlottesville unrest, his past treatment of women, and what Comey said were Mr. Trump’s constant lies.

  • James Comey:

    Our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country, the most important being truth. And this president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In the interview, Comey also opened up about 2016. He said, for him, having to handle the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation was — quote — “a no-win situation.”

    And he explained again why he went out on his own to announce why that probe wouldn’t lead to charges. In the process, he described his discomfort with the perception that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch may have been too close to Clinton and her campaign.

  • James Comey:

    I decided, much as I like her, I have to step away from her and show the American people the FBI’s work separately. I actually thought, as bad as this would be for me personally, this is my obligation, to protect the FBI and the Justice Department.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In a statement s before ABC’s Comey interview aired, Lynch said she never discussed the probe with anyone from the Clinton campaign or the Democratic National Committee. She also said that Comey “had ample opportunities to raise concerns with me. He never did.”

    Comey, of course, came to lead a probe into Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia, one that continues today under special counsel Robert Mueller’s purview, and could eventually lead to legal jeopardy for the president.

    In a separate sit-down with USA Today, Comey said he couldn’t rule out whether President Trump has been compromised by Moscow.

  • James Comey:

    It’s hard to explain some things without at least leaving your mind open to that being a possibility. I don’t know whether that’s the business about the activity in a Moscow hotel room or finances or something else. But, again, I don’t want to overstate it.

    I’m not saying it’s likely. I’m saying, to be honest with you, I have to say it’s possible.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The White House today said President Trump saw pieces of Comey’s ABC interview. And Mr. Trump himself today questioned Comey’s credibility.

    He also called the former FBI director “disgruntled” and said Comey and others “committed many crimes.”

    In New York today, the president’s legal team was fighting a different battle. His personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, went to court to prevent government investigators from reviewing files seized during an FBI raid on his home and office last week. Cohen’s lawyers called the raids — quote — “completely unprecedented.”

  • At issue? Attorney-client privilege and whether the president’s protected conversations with Cohen might be revealed. Mr. Trump voiced his concerns on Twitter over the weekend, writing:

    “Attorney-client privilege is now a thing of the past.”

    The U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, which is not connected to the special counsel’s ongoing Russia probe, says that any material taken from Cohen will be inspected by a separate filter team to protect privileged information. But the president’s new attorney argument that the president himself must be allowed to determine what is covered by privilege.

    In a letter sent to the judge late Sunday, she wrote that the president is — quote — “the only person who is truly motivated to ensure that the privilege is properly invoked and applied.”

    The U.S. attorney said that proposal would set — quote — “a dangerous precedent.”

    For his part, Mr. Cohen’s own attorney’s argued in court that the judge should appoint an independent special master to sort through the files to — quote — “ensure the public’s confidence in the appearance of fairness.”

    Prosecutors say Cohen is the target of an ongoing criminal investigation, in part because of a $130,000 payment he made to adult film star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, so she would keep her alleged affair with Donald Trump secret. Daniels and her attorney were in the courtroom today as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will look at some of the legal implications of all of this after the news summary.

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