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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  May 9, 2017 9:00pm-10:01pm PDT

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leading an active investigation that could bring down a president unquote. and coup detrump. i'll see you again at 4:00 p.m. thanks for watching. have a great night. and good evening from washington. we're of course covering the unfolding of the president firing the head of the agency investigating whether his presidential campaign colluded with russia and whether improper contact continued. this after embarrassing testimony from sally yates. done on the recommendation of the current attorney generalic jeff sessions. the same sessions that had recused himself because of his own contact with russians he didn't initially disclose and it's being justified on the
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basis of comey's handling of the investigation of hillary clinton which candidate trump celebrated and praised director comey for and nearly unprecedenteunpreced potentially explosive. i understand this was being planned over a week. >> we know this is something president trump has been considering. what we'rine being told is he w confirmed two weeks ago, the deputy attorney general. he had time to pull together the indictment of comey's handling of hillary clinton's emails. he talked to jeff sessions and they agreed they no longer had faith in comey's ability to lead the department. they took that to the president and he signed off on it. why this is all happening now when this is information that
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the president has celebrated in the past and is not new to this administration. >> the letter the president sent to the now former director comey is weird. >> this is certainly raising a lot of eyebrows in washington and elsewhere. i want to read you the portion particularly confusing input's letter to comey where he's dismissing him but in the letter he said while i greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that i'm not under investigation i nevertheless concur with the department of justice that you're not able to effectively lead the bureau. comey may have told him he wasn't under investigation. obviously they have made clear publ publicly that the fbi is investigating potential collusion during the 2016
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presidential race and russian operati operatives. >> is the president expected to say something himself? >> he's been camera shy and this may be a good indication of why his public schedule has ben so light. the white house has said he will not be coming out, not making a statement and they're not going to say anything else even on paper about this tonight. >> wasn't jeff sessions recusing himself from anything to do with the russian investigation? >> yes, he did. i think that's why the white house is taking pains to point out it was the deputy attorney general who made this recommendation and then to sessions and then to the president. >> but jeff sessions was still involved. >> yes. they both took it to the president and i think that's why you're seeing concern from both
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republicans and democrats about the timing of this and the way it's being handled. >> and comey was at an event in california when he learned he'd been fired. >> donald trump sent one of his most trusted aids to the fbi with a note about comey's firing. comey was in l.a., speaking to a field office and that is how he apparently found out there were news reports that broke he was being fired. it's unclear how he got that information since the letter was delivered to the fbi and he was in l.a. >> is it possible he saw it obnews reports? >> it's possible. not the best way to be fired. presidential historian and former fbi director tom fuentes. is this normal?
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>> no. this is a dark day in american history, anderson. this is so far outside of the american political and legal tradition for a sitting president to fire the head of the fbi who is investigating his campaign with a completely bogus and pretext recall explanation for why he was fired. it'ser only happened once and that was october 20th, 1973 when richard nixon fired the special prosecutor. >> you're comparing it to that? >> absolutely. and arguably worse because jim comey is head of the whole fbi. archbald cox was only the watergate special prosecutor. this means donald trump will install presumably one of his
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campaign stoojs in that job. maybe chris christie, maybe sheriff david clark of wisconsin but from now on the fbi is going to be directed by someone who answers to donald trump and responds and will supervise the investigation of donald trump. >> so eve. if there's a special prosecutor named which is what many democrats are calling for and many on capitol hill are saying might be the necessary step for validity. you're saying they're still going to rely on the fbi? >> exactly. they're lawyers. they are prosecutors. they're not investigators. when ib worked on the iran contrainvestigation, we were independent but we worked hand in glove with fbi agents. even if there's a special
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prosecutor, they will rely on fbi agents. someone who will be appointed for the specific reason of not investigating donald trump. >> when you said the reason they are giving you're talking about the acting attorney general's justification that this has to do with comey's investigation into hillary clinton's email? >> right. the explanation is the absurd memorandum says the reason comey was fired is because he was too mean to hillary clinton. he said too many nasty things about her during the campaign and we've been playing them tonight. donald trump loved those things. he embraced jim comey all through the fall. and now for those exact reasons
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he claims that's why jim come hays to be fired. it's not believable. it simply couldn't happen. >> i want to bring in the rest of our panel. >> what he said. i think it is. i think it's bazar and an earthquake and i think rosenstein may well believe everything he wrote in this memo because lot of people believe that comey misdehamisbehaeved d the election. that he shouldn't have sent that letterer that sent the election upside down. but then you have to ask the question and i was hearing from somebody geving me the spin from the white house on this basically saying this is the deputy attorney general's recommendation and they sent it
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to the president and the president approved it. you have to ask why now? >> on the phone is the democratic congressman, the ranking member of the house intelligence committee. what do you make of the firing of director comey? >> incredibly disturbing. the first that based oba recommendation from an attorney general who was supposed to have recused himself and here he is recommending the chief investigator be fired and the president making the decisioning who has his own associates under investigation and purportedly on the basis of something the president applauded during the course of the campaign. raise as whole host of troubling questions and should not have been undertaken and not in c concurrence with a special
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prosecutor. i don't think there's anyone that can think he made this decision on a sound basis. they're going to think he made it because it's in his personal interest to have comey off the case. >> do you believe this is an attempt at a cover up? >> i don't know if i would call it a cover up but a brazen in r interferen interference. he calls this a fake and here he has an fbi director -- and i agree with a lot of the criticisms about the clinton email investigation, nonetheless was seriously looking into whether trump associates colluded with the russians. so for this president to fire him and not at the beginning of the administration when he wants to make a fresh start but out of the blue after comey's testim y testimonier, after he acknowledged publicly he's investigating the associates. it harkens back to the most
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tainted actions by president nixon. >> even if a special prosecutor is named they're still going to be relying on the fbi and it's the fbi now directed by somebody appointed by president trump. does that raise concerns for you? >> it's certainly not a perfect remedy but i think it public would have a lot more confidence. and a prosecutor has the ability to tell the bureau to investigate this, to report back on these witnesses. they can really have an active hand in the condicauct of the investigation. this can't be a situation where the president pick as crony and anothinger as an independent counsel. >> where are all the fbi files?
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who has control of that snow. >> well, the agents have been working of the counterintelligence squad, they're going to continue doing this work regardless of who their director is but if the wrong person is brought in who's brought in to shut it down, that threatens the reputation and the entire independence of the fbi. this was a tainted and bad decision but it can be followed by an equally tainted and even worse decision if the president picks someone merely there to do his bidding on the investigation. >> who now has the power to appoint a special prosecutor? >> i think this is special the deputy attorney general can fac facilitate. how do we avoid any appearance
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of impruprity. i would have liked to see them address the quite obvious conflict of interest and urge the attorney general to but out because he was supposed to have recused himself on the matter. >> i appreciate your time. director comey was scheduled to speak tonight in los angeles. new details of how he actually got word of his firing and email that wept out to fbi employees. >> the attorney general, jeff sessions, sent an email to fbi employees trying to reassure them about the transition. he says the president of the united states has exercised his lawful authority to remove james b. comey by operation of law and
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effective immediately, andrew mccabe assumed position as acting director of the fbi. the fbi is an exceptional law enforcement and intelligence agency. it is made so by you, the devoted men and women who work tirelessly to keep our country safe. thank you for your steadfast commitment during this transition. he was there for that event that you just mentioned. and he was actually speaking to some of those agents in the los angeles field office, one of the largest that the fib has, when this news broke on television. that's how he found out at about the same time there was a person who had delivered for umthe white house the letter from the president telling him he was gone. that's how the fbi director -- >> he found out by seeing it on television while speaking to fbi agents?
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>> that's how we're told he found out essentially had happened. how did he get home? under the law he's supposed to travel on a special plane that has special communications capabilities to talk to the president and other top officials. he flew out on that plane. does he come back on that plane? does he have to fly commercial? we don't know. we don't know what happens now when he comes back. does he get a chance to clean out his dev, his office? we know andy mccabe will be working as far as running the investigation. into trump and russia. again many, many questions left to be answered. >> and just to be clear jeff seshz sessions recused himself supposedly and why wads he brought in to approve the firing
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of the guy running the investigation. >> that's a question we've asked for the justice department to answer because he is recused from this investigation. what they're going to say is this decision to fire james comey was outside of the purview of the russia investigation. tha that's not how some on the hill are seeing this. everything to do with james comey effects this investigation and the confidence people have in this investigation which is very important to what the justice department does. >> pam, what are you learning? >> reporter: that not long ago president trump met with then deputy director of the fbi, now acting director of the fbi according to the attorney general, jeff sessions and we
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learned that the president wasn't necessarily convinced that andy mccabe would be the acting director. he wanted to meet with him in person before making a final decision and as we know that was made and he'll be the acting director for the time being and i'm being told that the attorney general is reviewing a potential candidates to be -- to taek the place of the director of the fbi. that process is underway because as we know the firing of james comey has been in the works for a couple of weeks. so that process is well underway. i'm told there were various ways the white house tried to inform james comey that in fact the president was firing him. there was a hand delivered letter to fbi headquarters and
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he win l.a. we're told by people familiar with the situation that james comey didn't find out from the letter. he found out by seeing it on the te te televiz. he was talking to agents about his recent testimony on capitol hill and he saw the news on television -- >> okay. i just got to stop it. he was talking to fbi agents in l.a. and there's tv sets and he sees he's fired from television. >> that's what we're told that he's in the l.a. field office and agents were there and he was talking to them about recent testimony, it was important to have face to face time and he looks up and apparently sees the
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news on television and that's from sources we've been speaking with is the first time he found out he was fired from the fbi by trump and he left because he had an event in l.a. to speak with. and his initial reaction was to make a joke and make light of the situation because everyone in the room was so shocked. there was just silence and when they realized what was going on. then the now fired fbi director tried to lighten the mood because there was such shock in the room. >> wow. how do you finish that speech? that's incredible. back now with our panel. on capitol hill i understand it
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he made several calls unlike to the drenirector himself? >> exactly. he called the chairman of the subcommittee. on the democratic side he talked to dianne finestein. and he was just maybe a few minutes before the news became public that they got that information. what i was told and this is back at the white house which may not be as shocking as finding out he was fired while watching television and talking to the fbi. i was told by a source inside the white house that they were surprised about the political explosion here. it's surprising that they were surprised but that they were. why? because they believed that t the -- some of it --
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>> you're talking about -- >> the letter from rod rosenstein mostly focussed on what happened in the it hillary clinton investigation. but that would be music to the ears of democrats. the question they did not answer was what about the investigation going on now of the trump administration and the question that is not answered which is why now? we don't know the answer but the fact they weren't prepared for this seismic event is mind boggling. >> first of all hearing pam brown's reporting of how he found out, it's not only an abusive power but it was rude what the president did. i think what dan is reporting accurately lacks creditability in so far as believing what the
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white house is putting out there. you can actually support the firing of jim comey because of how he handled the hillary clinton issue and be opposed to this. i would love to ask hillary clinton whether she supports purging -- >> by the way the director of her campaign has spoken who has said this terrifies him. >> recognize. so the issue here is rod rosenstein. he's the one who wrote this memmalo outlining what career prosecutors believe which is going public was 100% inappropriate. but why i wonder was he asked to do this investigation when the inspector general of the department of justice was doing
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the very same investigation. if not for perhaps to be used so those career prosecutors thoughts comey was no good, couldn't be trusted. yes, we ought to fire him for that. and the question is does he have the guts, the political independence to say james comey did in 2004. >> he may have been trying to do the right thing. he has the power to put in a special prosecutor. that's the momentum. >> i want to go to capitol hill. developments keep unfolding. we're going to brake away as often as we can. monue, what are you hearing? >> concern from even some republicans. senator richard burr saying he
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was troubled by the timing and the reasoning behind this firing. also raising concerns this could impact the senate intelligence committee. it confuses an already difficult investigation and why that's important is because the intelligence committee spends a lot of time meeting with people in the intelligence community to garth information and he's raising consrbz because comey has bib more forthcoming than other fbi directors on various issues, including the russia issue. he's kern srbed how this could impact it going forward. marco rubio told me earlier he wants to understand exactly what happened, includinging senator john corneren of texas waiting
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to hear more. but one thing that's universal this is a surprise to everyone on capitol hill. the majority leader did get a heads up but not too soon before. very shortly he learned before this was announced. uncertain how this is going to impact a key investigation on the hill. >> what does this do? >> they're still going to miev forward and they've asked for records from a number of trump associates to lay out exactly contacts with russia officials and during the campaign season, they have got responses from officials including carter page, trufrm foreign policy advisorer.
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they're still going to try to gather that information. but it could be much harder if the fbi is not cooperative. we really don't know the ultimate impact here. >> from capitol hill. >> just a poent. the it president in his letter to comey siting three times thank you for saying i'm not a subject of this investigation. the president tweeting out, making it the home page of his twitter page that former director clapper confirmed there's no evidence of collusion. the fact is neither of those statements is true. the senate and house intelligence committees are still investigating not only russian interference but this question of collusion between trump associates and russianing officials. i call them on the house and senate intelligence committee
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and i asked them have you eliminated the possibility of claims between trump associates and the republicans and all of them said absolutely not. >> we did say to him you're possibly not being investigated. but that could be true today and not tomorrow. >> that's true. let me tell you what members of the house and senate intelligence committee said. they're still investigating. it's ongoing. and includes among its questions was there collusion. the distinction is mr. president is you individually we may not have evidence of you conspiring or colluding but trump associates is another issue. the carter pages of the world, roger stone, paul manafort, were they colluding in some ways? those investigations are still underway by multiple bodies. >> you talk to the associates.
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you investigate the associates and it could all change. the president could be directly investigated. it would be hugely embarrassing if associates were found colluding. that would be a huge problem. >> we have the white house interfering the with the whole saga of devyn nunes and try to change the subject. so the white house in a sense trying to shut that investigation down. we have reporting that they tried to not have yates yesterday this week. we have the white house telling republican leaders not to appoint an independent committee to investigate and now the white house really in an absurd circumstance advising the whose whose campape is under investigation to fire the
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investigator. so the thumb is putting their hand on the scales. >> the u.s. attorney that was in charge of the district that would have prosecutors donald trump in new york. he got fired. told you i want to keep you over -- and then sally yates gets fired. so what happens if you cross the president? what happens if you threaten the president directly? indirectly? disagree with? you get fired. there is a pattern here and timing is everything. because if he had questions about comey and you could look through his twitter feed from when he praised comey to when he criticized comey and he's clearly soured on him. if you look at this he could have fired him january twen 20th
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but he didn't want to then. now it's getting close to home. to the point they didn't expect this kind of fallout. they could have said we feel we need to fire comey but we think there should be an independent prosecutor. that would have saved them a lot of this grief if they'd call for it at the same time. >> the problem is it never occurred to him that what vladimir putin did to hillary clinton and the democrats, he'd be happy to do to him. he doesn't care enough about protecting the presidency. >> and sure surprisingly the intelligence chairman j other republicans are very upset about this but then enthis up is down, left is right world we're in,
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you have lindsey graham who has been a very staunch critic saying he thinks this is just fine. he's standing by that statement. too much drama over there and susan collins who was no cheerleaderer for this administrationry leased a statement saying the fbi is doing its job and so we'll get another director. >> we're expectingi to hear ver shortly from kellyanne conway. >> here's the bottom line . there is reason to fire james comey and how about the people in his field? there is a reason to do it. you don't do this when he's
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investigating you. it's just wrong. >> you give more of an example and proof of why now? why now? this was a firing in search of oo rationale. and rosenstein gave him the rational. >> how dwoo you see this? >> it's a very troubling abuse of power. we see that in other countries in the world. we don't expect it here. and he was pointing out about the saturday night massacre when ar archbald cox was fired. we had resignations on two real profiles of curage said this is not okay. we're putting our country above party and they quit.
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after that saturday night massker, eventually liken dodon didn't want to talk, nixon didn't want to talk and when he did come out, that's when he famously said i'm not a crook and public opinion polls started turning. you have a plurality of americans talking about whether nixon needed to be impeachedo o not. the fact he's trying to exonerate himself is deeply troubling. we need now heroes in the republican world and wrooer we're starting to see them with men of duty, honor, country that aren't going to just play this is a partisan game but do what's best for our nation. >> this is the motorcade of former director comey who we believe was at an event earlier
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in los angeles and i want to go to jeffrey tubeb standing by. what do you say to people who say other people can lead this investigation? >> it's transparently bogus. to say that the fbi can be -- the rest of the fbi can continue to function is a debatable possibility. i think it is not at all clear that this investigation will continue. the person who will be supervising the fbi will be a donald trump apoepointee and it may be chris christie.
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it will be someone loyal to donald trump. that's how he apoints people. and so the idea that the feb is going to be fine because they're fine agents is -- there is little basis to support that and it doesn't address the question of why james comey was fired in the first place. and he was fired because he was investigating the white house. and that is an unacceptable -- that is an unacceptable rationale fire the head of the fbi and no confidence in the fbi can overcome that. for >> there were those that say they don't have confidence in
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com comey. there were plenty of democrats who said i have no trust in comey. >> and there was never wub republican and surcertainly not candidate or president trump that said anything like james comey should by fired how can it be the whole republican party changed overnight be outraged by the treatment of the hillary clinton email. the only reason now if you're president trump is because you don't want him investigating you. that's the only possible razzal here. look at the ridiculous letter that donald trump with this crazy fair graph where he
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eeeeeeeeeaths exonerated. but you can't fire someone who is investigating you and do it credibly. you know, regardless of what democrats the s think. it's trump doing this and he is the guy who was praising comey all through the fall for the behavior he now says justifies his firing. that shows that's not the real reeason comey was fired. >> we'll continue to watch what we believe is james comey. >> if you remember o.j. simpson, this is kind of crazy. >> joining us now is white house counselor to the president,
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kellyanne conway. to those who say why now? why fire james comey now, what do you say? >> i would point to the three letters received today. a letter by president trump, attorney general ses reral sess the underlying report by deputy attorney general that the fbi director traditionally reports to. he was confirmed just 14 days ago by a vote of 94-6 by our united states senators. it's well respected across both sides of the aisle. and served under president obama and he sent out a memo to the attorney general and it says restoring public confidence in the fbi. >> most of this letter focuses on hillary clinton's emails. this is stuff that as a
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candidate, president trump talked about this on the campaign all the time. all the sudden the white house is concerned about his handling of the email snz. >> no it's not all of a sudden. >> the first thing is all about -- that main -- >> the fbi's reputation and credibility. >> the fbi was wrong to usurp the attorney general. why are you concerned about the hillary clinton investigation? >> i think you're looking at the wrong set of facts. this man is a president of the united states. he acted decisively today. he took the recommendation of his deputy attorney general. >> he said one thing as a candidate and now he's concerned as president. >> he has lost confidence in the
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fbi director and took the recommendation to the attorney general. he went in there, asaysed the siuation. he says almost everyone agrees that the director made serious mistakes. it's one of the few issues that unites people. this is a man trying to quote restore public confidence in the f fbi and i would ask everyone to read mr. rosenstein's memo. >> well, it's actually his memo a lot of people pointed to saying this is bogus and ridiculous. a republican that's head of the senate investigation is concerned about the timing of all of this. >> so the same senators that ju voted to confirm this man whose
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integrity is not in doubt, we're supposed to believe the derogatory descriptions you made of him and it was senator schumer -- >> senator schumer has said this raises -- he's saying essentially this is a cover up today. >> well, he's wrong. the president makes very clear that mr. comey assured the president he is not under investigation. >> on what occasions did he do that? >> that's between the president of the united states and director comey but he's tell youg on at least three occasions he assured him he's not under investigation. but he's taking the recommendation of the attorney general the yiens that it's time for fresh leadership and to restore integrity at the fbi. they take divisive action and that's what president trump did
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today. >> you don't think it looks odd at all that the psz president of the united states fires the guy looking into the people round the president. >> he's been told he's not under investigation. >> well, the president's letter -- yes, gratuitously says i greatly appreciate you informing me i'm not under investigation, he then goes on to say he agrees with the decision to let go comey. clearly this white house is under investigation. the people around the president are under investigation. you would agree with that? >> no, i don't. >> james comey said there's an ongoing investigation. >> the president is not under investigation. i'm not under investigation. i can name many people in the same situation.
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>> so you're saying there is no investigation by the fbi ongoing into the people around the president of the united states? >> i doents know that. i'm saying the extent to which any of that is true, the president is not the subject of the investigation. are you talking about the folks in the campaign? %-pd the president. there's an ongoing investigation by the fbi. >> again you want this to be about russia when this is about quote restoring confidence and integrity at the fbi. >> if you want this to allegedly be bute restoring integrity but many people are raising questions about saying it destroys people's confidence about whoever the president may appoint is now going to be in
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charge of an investigation into people who have been close to the president during the campaign and collusion with russia. >> today's actions had everything to do with what the deputy asterny general who's been in government. >> decades and recently served for president obama as a u.s. attorney enmayorin maryland. >> i'm not trying to squeeze into a sound bite. i can read the whole letter. >> i would love to read the letter. would you like me to start? >> why not ask for a special prosecutor at this point? >> it's about restoring public confidence. >> i just talked to adam schiff who said we need a special prosecutor, john mccain.
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>> what does that have to do with this letter? you're asking me the core question of -- >> there's a lot of people who say in order to restore confidence we need a special prosecutor. >> what happened to all the democrats who had no confidence in james comey. their comments november 3rd, last week or two when he testified again -- >> there's plenty who don't have confidence but feel the timing roth now at this point in the investigation into possible collusion of people in the trump campaign and russia seems very odd that now all the sudden the president has lost confidence. jeff sessions told fox business news that comey had an absolute duty to make an october announcement and had to make a july one. why did he say that? >> none of that has anything to
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do with today's actions. >> he said that and now you're taking issue. >> what he said in his letter is you need confid bs and integ reitary and action capability at the fbi and they feel the current director was unable to perform his duties. you said the democrats don't have confidence. democrats can't muster up a single vote on budgetary matters. three whole votes on gorsuch. you're seeing democrats that go out there every single day and they don't want our democracy to work well then. let's focus on what happened. >> what president of the united states said during the course of the campaign. >> and i have to give the fbi
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credit. that was so bad what happened originally and it took guts for director comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had with trying to protech her from criminal prosecution. >> i respect the fact that director comey was able to come back after what he did. i respect that very much. good job by the fbi. >> i have respect that the fbi has given it a second chance. as you know the fbi -- and i give them a lot of credit -- because they're fighting forces they're not suppose stod to be fighting. >> i was not his fan but what he did, he brought back his reputation. he brought it back. he's got to hang tough because there's a lot of people want him to do the wrong thing. what he did was the right thing.
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>> so now your white house is saying that what he did was wrong but previously as a candidate, donald trump was saying it's the right thing. >> you're confusing two things that don't belong. thanks for the trip down memory lane. that was fun but here's what happened today. today not in the campaign, in the white house, the president of the united states -- >> so that person doesn't exist anymore? candidate donald trump is a fictional karncharacter we can longer refer to? >> i'll ignore how unkind that is. he needs confidence in his fbi director and he doesn't have it. >> when is the moment he lost confidence? >> read the letters. it's a confluence of events. what mr. rosenstein says is
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quote the reputation has suffered damage and i can't -- quote the fbi director is never empowered to suplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the justice department. quote we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information. and he says the dismissal of an fbi director should not be done lightly and he doesn't take this lightly. he still thinks we need to regain quote public and congressional trust if we have a director that pledges n s never repeat them. this is everything to do with the performance of the fbi director -- >> jeff sessions -- >> -- he's not subject of an investigation and we appreciate the time and the platform tonight. >> and finally.
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jeff sessions who has recused himself, why was he involved in this decision? why was he involved to fire the guy in charge of the russia investigation? >> the attorney general reports to the president of the united states. this had nothing to do with russia. as much as somebody must be getting $50 every time the word is said, i'm convinced, on tv. this has nothing to do with russia. it's everything to do with whether the current fbi director has the president's confidence and can faithfully and capably execute his duties. the deputy attorney general decided that was not the case. he wrote a very long memorandum about it. he presented that to the attorney general. the attorney general presented it to the president. the president took the recommendations as he says in his brief, a very powerful letter today. he took the recommendations and he agreed that the only way to
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restore confidence and trust -- public trust and confidence in its vital law force -- enforcement mission, that of the fbi, was to have a new director. >> kellyanne conway, appreciate your time tonight as always. >> thank you, anderson. >> thanks very much. jeff toobin standing by and our panel as well. jeff, your thoughts? >> well, you know, kellyanne conway just read from the letter where she -- she read that all the criticism of what james comey did during 2016. all of that was what candidate trump praised. so the idea that he's being fired for what he did during the trump presidency as opposed to 2016 is just simply not borne out by the letter itself. i mean, the letter is such a pretext. it's such a phony -- >> i guess she's saying that as a candidate he can say whatever
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he wants to say -- i assume that's what she means. because he's a candidate and doesn't bear the responsibility as president. but now that he's president it doesn't suit his interests to have that opinion anymore. >> well -- >> i guess. >> i admire your game attempt to characterize what kellyanne conway just said. but i think -- you know, obviously he's not legally bound by what he said. it's not like it's a promise that he's obliged to keep. but when we're evaluating the credibility of this firing, it seems highly relevant to me to look at what candidate trump said in 2016. how can you fire someone in 2017 for what you praised him for doing in 2016? i understand that's not a legal difference. but you know, in the realm of logic and politics it just suggests that the reason is not the real reason.
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the real reason is rush. >> it's also the real reason, d dana, that in the white house ecosystem they believe the russia investigation doesn't exist because donald trump says he's not being investigated -- >> well, they want to believe it. >> they want to believe it doesn't exist. therefore, this has nothing to do with russia. when outside the white house the russia investigation seems to be a pretty big idea. >> that's what they say. >> big deal. >> totally. that's what they say. the reality is they know that the russia investigation is a huge political problem, death by a thousand paper cuts as one senior adviser said to me. it will not go away. they're incredibly frustrated by it. whether or not this firing is part of it, you know, it certainly seems that way. but can i just make one point? >> we're watching, by the way, james comey departing l.a.x. i guess he still has use of a private plane. >> even -- let's just say that donald trump never said anything about james comey during the campaign. let's just say that that
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happened. okay? it doesn't matter. this letter, which we have all read now many, many times, and i'm sure you can now go on our website and read it back at home, from rod rosenstein, goes through the errors that james comey made during the hillary explain investigation. you tried so many times, and we didn't get an answer to what has changed between then and now. why now? why today? why 100-plus days into his administration did he say oh, by the way, james comey, he stinks, let's get rid of him? there's no answer to that in here, no answer that kellyanne conway could give. she was i think doing her best, clearly sent out to try to put the best spin on it. there's no answer because i don't think that there's an answer that they can give that would not be -- >> and you know they were thinking about this because in the president's letter he says, well, while i've been told three times by you that i'm not under investigation, comma, i still fire you. well, if it wasn't on their mind
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and they didn't know that this was going to create a stink here, why would he even have said that? >> we have to -- >> investigations as dana made a point, are not going away. james comey's not going away. james comey, just like former director of national intelligence clapper, former acting attorney general sally yates, can and almost certainly will be called before public hearings of these multiple senate and house committees that are investigating this. so just as michael flynn was fired but he's not going away, in fact he's got many legal problems and many strands of investigations focusing on him. so the investigations won't go away. and the people who've been leading the investigations, they will be asked hard questions in public and classified sessions -- >> this episode itself is now going to be part of these congressional investigations. >> and we strip away the formality. we've got to call this what it is. i stopped listening to kellyanne conway when the president fired the guy investigating the campaign for colluding with the russians, a foreign power. and she wants to compare that to
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some drinking game here in washington? again, disdain for the presidency. this is bigger than trump. it's bigger than kellyanne conway. it's about america. it's about protecting our institutions. they apparently don't care about that. that's what their disdain shows in their answers tonight. he fired the guy investigating him. and i don't care if jim comey had him on speed dial to tell him every week, mr. president, we're not investigating you. that could change tomorrow. anybody who is a prosecutor knows that that's the case. and by the way, even if trump's not being investigated, you're telling me look at all -- look how bad they look because of their poor judgment with general flynn, who talked about locking up hillary clinton and who was playing footsie with vladimir putin and turkey's erdogan. you're telling me if there's others who colluded with the uss who were in trump's orbit that he wouldn't look awful and there wouldn't be a serious political blowback? of course there would. whether he's being pursued legally or not. this piece is just outrageous. >> this leads me to believe, because everything you say is
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true and they knew -- and they knew what the repercussions would be. this leads me to believe this is donald trump, this is donald trump who wanted to do this. >> and another reason to believe that is -- i mean -- >> no, no. but they're blaming it on rod rosenstein and jeff sessions. >> and why was he chosen? because he had a great reputation to do a duplicate investigation that was already being done. there's every reason to believe that rosenstein is being set up here. now, he may have let himself be set up. and maybe he's going to be fired -- >> the the thing about president trump is he always telegraphs what he's going to do. just last night the fact that he went on this tweetstorm, he had his -- you know, the home page change to exonerate himself based on clapper, the fact that he so clumsily in this letter for no reason inserts the sentence -- it's like a fifth-grader inserting the sentence, you know, because the dog ate my homework i am not therefore responsible, here is my, you know -- >> and he tweeted on may 2nd,
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"fbi director comey was the best thing that ever happened to hillary clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds." >> the parallel to -- and of course we don't know the background necessarily whether the deputy attorney general was set up. but the parallel to this, it looks very similar to the devin nunes case where devin nunes has a conversation with the white house, comes forward to the cameras, claims that there's this great crime that's been committed, now debunked i should say again. cnn's own reporting. by democrats and republicans who've seen those same reports. it looks very similar to the nunes case. >> right. this is all rod rosenstein when in fact it's all probably president trump and using them. more reaction now from capitol hill. joining us now is senator chris coons, democrat of delaware and member of the judiciary committee. senator coons, what's your reaction to comey's firing? >> this was a simply stunning development, anderson. not just because of the timing but also because of the justification. it's striking to me that the attorney general, who had recused himself from involvement
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in the investigation into possible collusion between the trump campaign, the trump administration, and russia had a direct role, had a hand in this decision to fire the fbi direct director. the director who's responsible for oversight of the agency that we recently learned is conducting an ongoing investigation into that exact matter. so it is striking. and i think this deserves unique focus and attention in a bipartisan way in congress in the coming days. >> the white house's rationale is saying that he lost the confidence of the president and the reason that they're citing in this letter from the deputy attorney general largely is how he handled the clinton e-mail investigation. does that -- and that's the argument that kellyanne conway was on just now trying to push. does that make sense to you? considering the fact that as a candidate donald trump was praising repeatedly comey's handling of it during the campaign? >> anderson, that's exactly why this is hard to square with reality. the trump administration has
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been in place for six months now. there's no new developments here. his handling of the clinton e-mail issue was questioned, was criticized by many at the time, but that's not a new or recent development and it doesn't seem as if it's a full justification of why president trump would take this action at this time. just in the last few days we've had concerning testimony from sally yates, the fired former acting attorney general that suggests that there was more going on with the national security adviser general flynn than as previously understood. and my concern is we now have to take strong action to ensure that the american people can be confident that the fbi is capable of an independent investigation into this topic, that the senate intelligence committee remains capable of an independent and effective investigation into this coppic, and it may well be time for us to have a special counsel appointed so that there is more confidence in the independence