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Trump fires back at Comey, fights to examine Cohen papers
New revelations by former FBI director James Comey have stirred the president's ire on Twitter. But do they say anything new about the potential legal trouble President Trump could face? Judy Woodruff talks with Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney and senior FBI official, about Comey’s book, as well as efforts by Trump’s legal team to stop prosecutors to examine files of his personal lawyer.
As we reported earlier, new revelations made by former FBI James Comey have stirred the president's ire on Twitter.
But did they reveal anything new about the potential legal trouble Mr. Trump could face?
For that, we're joined by Chuck Rosenberg, who served as a U.S. attorney and also as a senior FBI official when both Robert Mueller and James Comey served as FBI directors.
Chuck Rosenberg, thank you and welcome back to the program.
You have now had a chance to read James Comey's book. What was your overall reaction?
Well, I did have a chance to read the book. I read it cover to cover this weekend.
A couple of different reactions. One, it is exceedingly well-written. It's a story well-told.
Two, I don't think there are lots of new revelations in it. And by that, I mean for the legal case that Mueller and his team might be building against the president or others.
And then one other thing that I think I should add, it's a little bit unusual to have witnesses out there as publicly as Jim Comey is out there now speaking and writing. Normally, a prosecutor — and I was one for a long time — would caution a witness against that.
But Jim isn't an ordinary witness, and I'm sure the Mueller team already knows his story backwards and forwards.
And, in fact, I want to ask you about that, Chuck Rosenberg, because there is a fair amount of comment out there about the fact that James Comey not is only making observation in this book and any number of interviews he's starting to do on television — in fact, we welcome him in an interview on the "NewsHour" next week — but he's making what we in journalism call editorial comments.
He's commenting on the president. He thinks he's unfit for office. And some pretty strong — strongly negative comments about the president.
What do you make of that? Is that an appropriate thing for the former FBI director to do?
Well, it's unusual, Judy, there's no question about that.
It's a book, and not a legal brief. And so, while, normally, you wouldn't expect an FBI director or former FBI director to do that, I understand it, because he's also telling a story. And when you tell a story, to bring in your reader, you add some color, you add observations.
A legal brief wouldn't sell very well. I suspect this book will.
And in connection with that, there's been real pushback. The White House is saying this is just an effort to sell his books. The president has used some strong language, called him a slime ball.
What do you make of this? He's basically gotten himself into a new war with the president.
Yes, those terms are deeply, deeply unfortunate. And I don't think they befit the office of the president.
Look, I will say this. I have known Jim Comey for 25 years, as a friend, as a colleague, as a boss. He has his faults. We all do. He has flaws. We all do. He can be stubborn. He can be headstrong. He has a healthy ego.
But, in 25 years, I have never — and I should repeat, never — known Jim to tell anything but the truth. He's a truth-teller. And that's what I see in the book, stories I already knew, because I lived through them with him, and stories that I learned in reading it, but I have never known him to do anything but tell the truth.
And I gather from what you're saying, Chuck Rosenberg, that you don't see anything in here in either what he's saying in interviews or in the book that's going to change the trajectory of the Mueller investigation?
I really don't. I mean, there's a legal campaign, and that will be waged by agents and prosecutors on one side and defense counsel on the other.
And then there's a P.R. campaign, and obviously being waged by media folks and pundits and analysts and the like. But if you're looking at the legal campaign, no, I don't think it changes anything. Again, we don't normally want our witnesses out talking publicly.
I get that. But I don't think it changes the trajectory of the investigation or the case.
All right, different development today.
In a New York City federal courtroom, Michael Cohen, one of President Trump's personal attorneys in court, in essence protesting federal agents coming into his home, into his offices last week, raiding, taking materials.
What was that hearing all about, and can you explain to us what the judge's ruling, decision was afterwards?
I hope so.
So, essentially, the Cohen team wanted to stop the prosecutors and the investigators from reviewing anything that was taken from his office. The prosecutors had set up a system — we always do — where a privilege review team would look first at the stuff and decide whether or not it is attorney-client privilege.
If it isn't, then they can essentially throw it over the transom to the investigative team. Mr. Cohen and his attorneys asked the judge to stop the process. And Judge Wood said she wouldn't. She's going to let the process continue.
The judge did say, however, that we have to think about how it's going to look going forward, whether or not she's just going to let the prosecutors and their privilege review team do the work, whether she will appoint a special master, somebody beholden to the court to do that work.
To be determined on the process and the details. But, essentially, Mr. Cohen's team lost, the case will proceeded, and the review of the privileged documents will take place in some fashion.
Well, a lot of eyes on that, procedures.
Chuck Rosenberg, thank you very much.
Thanks for having me. It's a privilege.
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