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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  May 9, 2017 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT

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the trump administration has 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 of the investigation that is not yet concluded.
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>> the president and kellyanne conway keep saying that this is about restoring confidence in the fbi. does the firing of the fbi director who's leading the investigation into the white house, the firing of him by that white house, does that restore confidence? >> not at all. and in fact, the way the firing was done was particularly striking. director comey is a respected career law enforcement official, a public servant, and he was fired essentially through the press. he found out that he had been fired while he was speaking to fbi personnel in los angeles and there were press reports that a letter had been delivered to the fbi headquarters. that's about as brazen and aggressive a way as you can fire somebody. and as you just referenced in the previous segment here, anderson, president trump's letter saying you have told me three times i'm not under investigation just seems to protest too much the idea that there is nothing going on here
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other than a sort of clearing the decks. and i'll remind you, fbi director comey is just in the third year of his ten-year term. if this really was the reason for his firing, why wasn't he fired in the first few days of the trump administration? >> so what happens now? you know, democrats can wring their hands and say there should be a special prosecutor. but how does that actually happen unless it's from the department of justice, from rod rosenstein? ? >> that's the core challenge that we face. as i understand it, anderson, under existing statute a special counsel could be appointed by the deputy attorney general, rod rosenstein. that would require republicans to stand up and say, as well as democrats, that we have real concerns that we think we have to do more to restore independence to this investigation and to express concerns. so far we've heard from the republican chairman of the senate intelligence committee who's expressed those exact
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concerns and a few other senior republicans. but frankly it's my hope that in the interest of restoring the rule of law, in the interest of restoring public confidence and the respect for the united states internationally as a country where there is a separation between partisan politics and the fbi and the department of justice that this important step will be taken. >> why should people who are watching at home have confidence in the continued investigation into getting to the bottom of what happened with russia's interference with the election? at this moment in time why should people have confidence? >> well, i think there's a lot that has to be done to restore and ensure that confidence. i'll remind you that the escapade with congressman devin nunes on the house intelligence committee really set that investigation off track. really took them off track for a number of weeks. but they've now reconstituted
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themselves. i'm optimistic that the senate intelligence committee continues to operate in a bipartisan way and that there are republicans and democrats on that committee willing to stand up to the president and willing to issue subpoenas if necessary and required and that they've got the staff and the determination to get to the bottom of it. as for the fbi, i think that's going to take some work. and i think it's going to require the career professionals who run the investigation and the current leadership of the department of justice, most principally rod rosenstein, to step forward and take strong action to restore that confidence, that confidence in the independence of the investigation. >> senator coons, i appreciate your time tonight. thank you very much. obviously a lot of fast-moving developments here tonight to talk about. we're watching the plane bringing former fbi director james comey i guess back to washington. he was at an event in l.a. where if you're just joining us we believe based on our reporting that he was -- the moment he found out he was fired he was actually talking to a group of
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fbi agents in los angeles in order to have some face time with them after all this public talk of investigations and just have some face time when he learned from watching television, we understand, that he had been fired as director of the fbi. a lot to talk about with the panel. if you're just joining us now, the top of the hour. let's go back to our senior legal analyst -- well, actually, let's go to david gergen, who we haven't heard from tonight. david, you've seen a lot of administrations, worked with republicans and democrats. what do you make of what's happening in washington tonight? >> stunning, anderson. stunning. i could hardly remember a night like this until i went all the way back to the saturday night massacre during the nixon days. i happened to be in that administration. and that of course was even more shocking. but this i think, i think it's really troubling for our democracy. because it's just not -- the
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story the white house has put out, there's no question that director comey has been, you know, enveloped in controversy, taking a lot of incoming fire from both sides. but the story the white house has put out is simply not credible. the events they're talking about are events donald trump was eph fus uf about as a candidate, he saluted him, he hugged him ease came into office. to put this story out sows distrust, puts real pressure on the administration to come up with a solution that not only did they need an independent fbi director now but they do need to look at an independent counsel and i salute richard burr, the republican senator from my home state of north carolina for having the guts to say as a republican this is all very suspicious. >> it is significant that richard burr said that because obviously we've heard from a lot of democrats who are very
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concerned about what's going on. but richard burr, who is running the senate investigation for the republicans, that's clear clear substantial voice. >> absolutely, anderson. because you keep asking the question in an investigation like this, where is the republican howard baker, where is someone who had his integrity and was willing to go where the facts led in the nixon investigation of watergate. and i think acted extremely honorably and brought great honor to the congress by asking -- persisting in asking that question about what did the president know and when did he know it. >> it was really republicans during watergate who were critical in order to get the investigation into nixon going. >> absolutely. they played a very -- i think the checks and balances worked very well and forced nixon out, as he should have been forced out after all the illegalities. but in this situation now
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everybody knows that at the heart of all of this is whether the russians have had ties fougto the trump campaign and their effort to erode american democracy, destabilize american democracy. we have new elections just around the corner. it's imperative we understand what happened in the last election. and to throw the fbi director out at this very, very sensitive moment after this president has already fired, you know, people like yates. he's fired flynn. there are several people who are tied in one way or another to the russian issue who've been fired. and donald trump is -- he may not mean to do this, but he is giving the impression that he thinks danger is getting too close, that he himself may be -- or somebody around him may be threatened. >> and yet we heard from kellyanne conway just a moment ago, the white house insists this has nothing to do with russia, the firing of director comey the major story tonight is not the only breaking news regarding the trump russia investigation. federal prosecutors have issued
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grand jury subpoenas to associates of former national security adviser michael flynn, a development that on any other night might have actually led this broadcast. evan perez joins us now with the latest on that. what have you learned? >> anderson, federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former national security adviser michael flynn seeking business records as part of the ongoing probe of russian meddling in last year's election. the subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the fbi's broader investigation that began last july into possible ties between jump campaign associates and russia. the subpoenas were issued in recent weeks by the u.s. attorney's office in alexandria, virginia. they were received by associates who had worked with flynn on contracts after he was forced out as a director of the defense intelligence agency in 2014. we reached out to robert kellner, who's an attorney for flynn, and he declined to comment as well as spokespeople for the justice department, the fbi and the u.s. attorney's office. >> do we know what investigators are actually looking at with regard to flynn? >> well, investigators have been looking into possible wrongdoing
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and how flynn handled disclosures about payments from clients tied to foreign governments including russia and turkey. flynn was paid $45,000 for making an appearance in moscow to celebrate russia today, that's the russian-funded news outlet that the u.s. intelligence agencies say helped disseminate stolen e-mails in order to damage hillary clinton's campaign. >> what does it tell us about the state of this investigation? >> up to now we've only gotten some small peeks into what the fbi and federal prosecutors have been doing, anderson. the former fbi director james comey told lawmakers in march there was this ongoing investigation into possible coordination between trump campaign associates and russia. and last week he testified that the investigation was being overseen by those prosecutors in alexandria and the justice department's national security division. detaina bente, the u.s. attorney in alexandria whose office issued those subpoenas we're talking about, is also overseeing the investigation of wikileaks and is now running the national security prosecutions at justice department
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headquarters. anderson, i should mention that we were working on this story before we learned that jim comey was fired today. >> we've also got video of james comey's departure. the former director actually shaking hands with law enforcement officers. this is the first we are getting a look at it. departing from -- he was departing from los angeles at the event where we industry according to reporting from pamela brown earlier he was actually talking to fbi officials wanting some face time to answer questions they may have had. and when they saw on television that he had been fired. it is a stunning way for a public servant like james comey to find out that he has been fired, by seeing it on television. >> it's wrong. it's just wrong. you have -- historically, okay? you have had democrats who have said he's a good public servant. you have republicans who said he's a good public servant. and at the end of the day he was somebody who was serving what he
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thought was a ten-year term, only 3 1/2 years into it, and you know, obviously he made mistakes, big mistakes. but does anybody who's had a career that he's had up until the past year or so or even including that deserve to get fired while you're in los angeles speaking to your troops and see it on television? >> just personally with trump, despite "the apprentice" and the tv reputation, the you're fired thing, he if you talk to people around him, he does not like personal confrontation. >> he's conflict averse. >> that's exactly what -- >> i heard someone on twitter say he fires people on tv. well, he fired him on tv. >> another point about how absurd this night is. the attorney general, who was involved in making this recommendation, thought enough to recuse himself from the russia investigation because he himself failed to disclose that he had meetings with the russian ambassador. so at no time did he turn to the president and say you know, it would be inappropriate for you to fire the head of the fbi when
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the fbi is investigating your campaign, by extension your white house, for colluding with a foreign power. >> that is in itself absurd. >> how is is that absurd? >> if you've ever run an agency which runs the investigations which i have, that person does not run the day-to-day investigation. they're 99 charge. investigation. they manage the personnel -- >> he's the -- o'no, no. you interrupted me. i will finish my point. mr. cuccinelli -- >> one at a time. we don't need to talk over each other. we have plenty of time. you just stop, let him finish his point and then -- >> you're a political figure. i understand you want to do that. he's at toernlg of the united states. he advises the president. he knew enough to recuse himself from the investigation. he should have been a grownup and stood up and said that this was wrong. you know, people have said from the white house tonight, some of the talking points you were starting to utter, that in fact hillary clinton -- >> i don't -- >> it sounded very similar to what kellyanne conway said when
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you interrupted me. i'm sorry, cues excuse me, i'm speaking. you'll have your chance. you've been brought on. you'll have plenty of opportunity. the white house is saying tonight hillary clinton would have fired jim comey too, i'm sure they would have liked to. i know for a fact there was some discussion of that when she thought she was poised to win. but she got actually very sage advice that you couldn't do that because of how nakedly political that would look. apparently there's nobody in the white house who gave that same advice to this president. >> mr. cuccinelli. >> you're all jumping to conclusions. and i think maybe -- let's hypothetically assume all of your awful expectations are true, which are overwhelmingly represented in the discussion tonight. let's assume they're all true. you will know that when the president announces his proposed replacement. that person in light of all of the concerns expressed here, some of them in a rather hyperventilated way, will be brought into even clearer focus when that person is selected. >> do you know who it is? >> no, i have no idea. but it is actually incumbent on the president that he pick
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someone who both sides in the senate in particular can view coming in as capable and with a track record of objectivity. >> have should he call for an independent counsel as well? >> look, i have constitutional problems with that. you know, so i'm not the person to ask that. i would say no to democrats and republicans on that. >> we haven't heard from you, van. >> i don't think you mean to say, and somebody might have heard you saying, that we can't complain or criticize tonight when the president of the united states has done something this outrageous. i think we have a right to criticize today. i don't care if he appoints anderson tomorrow. >> i'm totally not qualified. so i would complain about that. i think everybody would. >> you might complain. i wouldn't. here's the problem. >> if nominated i will not -- >> let me say a couple things, anderson. number one, you can do the right thing for the wrong reason at the wrong time in the wrong place and manner. i don't think anybody here thinks that comey was doing a great job. perhaps firing him would have been the right thing. but you're doing it for the
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wrong reason. you're doing it in the wrong way. you're doing it the wrong place, the wrong time, the wrong mapper. and that is of greatest concern. it looks like to most people objecti objectively that this decision was made in a way that moves us away from rule of law and more toward the rule of a small clique of people. >> but let me push back on that because i think what the attorney general raises is an interesting -- an important point. which is if he appoints somebody who is a responsible figure, who is, you know, a law enforcement person, who has a great track record, is not some sheriff who's been out on the speaking circuit and is just a darling of crowds but has got a real fbi career, what's wrong with that? if he has the confidence of the president that's what matters. >> i'll tell you why. because of this pattern and practice we see now of him firing people who stand up to him. he fires good people. he fires bad people. the only consistency is if you stand up to him. so it doesn't matter if he puts a good person in there because
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you now have this pattern and practice. and listen, i think a lot of people around the country right now are concerned that the only winner, the only people who've got to be happy tonight are sitting in the kremlin. this is the result of letting someone like putin throw marbles on the stairs, banana peels on the sidewalk, for american democracy and not having the president stand up say you know what, i want this to stop. it's because you have a president of the united states that's been other than outraged about this russian investigation -- this disruption of our election that you now have a level of concern in the country that just got worse. >> mr. attorney general, do you believe -- kellyanne conway to me made an interesting point which is in her view -- whether she bleevelieves it or not but her argument this has nothing to do with russia, this is about james comey does not have the confidence of the president. you can argue whether he should or shouldn't, whether the timing of it is weird. their argument is this has nothing to do with russia. can you make that argument for the director of the fbi who
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is -- >> if you are targeting the russia investigation, a name we've heard here already, dana bente, who has a spectacular reputation in the law enforcement in the community in the department of justice, who has been given extraordinary responsibilities by president trump in these first few months of his administration, and who headed the national security division, which is obviously a point of focus, and that appointment was just named as well, those would be the people where you would see -- >> so you don't think the firing of comey has any impact on a russia investigation? >> no. of course not. absolutely not. >> evan perez. >> i've got to say i think whether or not it's going to affect the investigation, there's career people, there's career agents at fbi, there are career people at the justice department that are actually running this investigation. >> right. >> the problem that is created by what happened tonight is the perception. and perception matters. >> that is not -- you're the first person to say that. everything i've been hearing is
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oh, the investigation -- >> this is one reason why comey was very much in charge of this investigation. he was very much on top of it. i know that you've run larger organizations but when something like this that is really big and really important inside the fbi, comey made sure that he was getting regular updates -- >> if i could take it a step beyond -- >> i do think that perception matters and i think there's a tall order here for the president. >> you're saying even within the fbi the firing of comey, the perception of it would affect the investigation. >> it really does. >> there are a lot of people in that community that were shocked by his behavior last night. >> i do believe you are going to have a tall order for the president, for the attorney general and other people to find somebody that you're talking about -- >> absolutely. i agree. >> i don't know who it's going to be. >> one at a time. go amaepd. >> you and i, evan, we of course talk to a lot of folks in law enforcement, intelligence. the phrase i keep getting is
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conflict of interest. it's more than perception. it's more than how this is perceived in panels like, this et cetera. it's about conflict of interest, which evan knows better than me is something that career folks but also people of both parties inside the bureau, no question, but inside the house and senate investigations take very seriously. avoiding conflicts of interest. and that's what i'm hearing across the board. does that principle still matter? >> the he level of outrage in criticizing on this panel would have been at the same level if barack obama had fired james comey in the middle of the clinton e-mail investigation last year. and you yourself, if i remember correctly, were an extreme critic of the way that loretta lynch met with bill clinton on the airplane. am i not right about that? and what would you have said if obama had fired comey under similar circumstances? would you have seen that -- >> that makes a huge difference. a huge difference here. >> answer --
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>> i think it's an excellent point and there are a lot of reasons why this -- well, again, a lot of it goes into the context and -- >> if obama had fired comey in the middle of the clinton e-mail investigation, what would your reaction be? >> i'd have been shocked by that. >> so why so different tonight? this is why people don't like partisans. they don't understand why -- >> but remember what happened last summer. >> you have such a different view of things when it's a different party. >> no, no, no. i was outraged at what -- >> it's the same thing. >> okay. you don't like interrupting? >> let him answer. you asked. let him answer. >> so last summer director comey acted like a prosecutor with final decision-making authority and not an investigator. >> true. >> okay. that was a huge mistake, bipartisanly criticized. and something like that for the director of the fbi can never be recovered from. ever. >> but mr. attorney general -- >> and to your point, the way you handle a conflict of interest situation, and this
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does goes to my reservations about special prosecutors, and the way i did it was when my line attorneys came to me with recommendations, unless they were outside of very severe boundaries i followed them. >> but ken -- >> the evidence tonight is that the president did that. now, you can suppose that the deputy attorney general cooked all this up, but he is the career person of those three. >> but here's the question -- >> i don't mind partisans. you're a former attorney general accusing me and maybe others of hyperventilating when you are not coming on here -- you're telling me you're okay with the president firing an fbi director in the middle of an investigation that involves him and people around him. and despite the fact that the pretext is with zero credibility, there isn't a jury in america that would buy the fact that donald trump is spilling a tear over hillary clinton. you may be smirking. but you're an attorney general. you're going to stand by that? >> i think you're stuck inside the beltway. if you get out into real america -- >> that is such a cheap talking point. you are an attorney general. are you going to defend it?
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are you going to defend it? >> i don't say things that i won't stand behind. >> really? you can credibly say you think it's okay to fire the fbi director in the middle of an investigation and that an attorney general shouldn't -- >> you're talking about the investigation. there are thousands -- >> it's a fact that it's going on. is it not a fact? >> there are thousands of investigations going on right now. is this about all the others as well? several of them -- >> how does that even compare to them? >> donald trump is president. okay? donald trump is president. and during the campaign we have chapter and verse and we've been showing it on the air. he loved what comey did in that july 5th presser where he called hillary clinton reckless and everything else and robbie mook has joined our panel, i'm sure he recalls it. he loved it. he praised it. okay? he praised it. and the october 28th letter. he didn't criticize that at all. now, rod rosenstein has criticized it -- >> right. >> -- in a few pages here.
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roundly. so you might believe that rosenstein is speaking for the president if the president hadn't spoken for himself. >> no, no, no, no, no. >> and the president had spoken for himself. >> he's making a recommendation to the president, not speaking for the president. and the president took the recommendation. >> this is -- >> i happen to agree with the criticisms. and i stated them last week. >> we've got to -- >> this is the letter they released. >> whatever -- the president has not appeared on camera yet. nor has attorney general sessions. shortly earlier i spoke with kellyanne conway counselor to the president. >> joining us is the counselor to the president kellyanne conway. kellyanne, to those who say why now, why fire james comey now, what do you say? >> well, i would point them to the three letters that were received today, anderson, the letter by president donald trump, a letter by attorney general sessions, and really the underlying report by deputy attorney general rod rosenstein, who the fbi director reports to. the fbi director traditionally
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reports to the deputy attorney general. rod rosenstein was confirmed just 14 days ago by a vote of 94-6 by our united states senators. he's well respected across both sides of the aisle. he served as u.s. attorney in maryland under president obama. and he sent out a memo today to the attorney general, and the re line, anderson, says "restoring public confidence in the fbi." >> but a lot of the -- most of this letter focuses on hillary clinton's e-mails. this is stuff that as a candidate donald trump praised james comey for. james comey -- donald trump talked about this on the campaign all the time. all of a sudden the white house is concerned about james comey's handling of hillary clinton's e-mail? >> no, it's not all of a sudden. but there are many things covered in this letter. >> this this kind of a letter why not ask for a special prosecutor at this point? is that possible -- >> this letter is about restoring public confidence in the fbi. >> but in order to restore public confidence -- i just talked to adam schiff, who's the leading democrat on the house
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committee. >> right. >> who said we've got to have a special prosecutor. john mccain has talked about the need for a special prosecutor. >> what does that have to do with this letter? you're asking me the core question of why -- >> you're talking about restoring confidence. there's a lot of people on capitol hill who say in order to restore confidence we need a special prosecutor. >> what happened to all the democrats -- i've got all their quotes right here, that had no confidence in jim comey when it was politically expedient for them? >> so now your white house is saying that what he did was wrong but previously as a candidate donald trump was saying it was the right thing. >> you're con flaitding two things that don't belong two things together. thanks for the trip down memory lane. i was on your show often last fall saying we were going to win michigan and how we were going to do it. here's what happened today. today not in a campaign, in the white house the president of the united states -- >> so that person doesn't exist anymore? candidate donald trump, that's a fictional character we're not allowed to refer to, we're only allowed to refer to the donald
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trump who exists today? >> anderson, i'll ignore how unkind that is and i'll say as president of the united states he needs confidence in his fbi director and he doesn't have it. >> when was the most he lost confidence? >> well, read this letter. read these letters. it's just a -- it's a confluence of events. what mr. rosenstein says is so important. he says, "the fbi's reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage." quote, "i cannot defend the director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of secretary clinton's e-mails." quote, "the fbi director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the justice department." quote, "we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation." he also says that the dismissal of an fbi director, the firing of an fbi director should not be done lightly and 245 he doesn't take this -- he's not doing this lightly but he still thinks that we need to regain, quote, "public and congressional trust if we have a director who, quote, understands the gravity
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of mistakes and pledges never to repeat them." that is what's happened. this has nothing to do with the campaign from six months ago. this is everything to do with the performance of the fbi director since the president has been in the white house. >> that's kellyanne conway earlier tonight. joining us now is former clinton campaign manager robbie mook. robbie, good to see you. >> thanks. >> what do you make of the firing of james comey? >> look, i have a big bone to pick with james comey. i thought the way he handled the investigation on secretary clinton's e-mails last year was poorly done. however, what happened today was wrong, and it was wrong because no one in our country, particularly the president of the united states, should be above the law, and what happened was we know that mr. comey was overseeing an investigation into the president, the president and his attorney general, both of whom potentially are implicated in this investigation, made a decision to fire him. and they did so without appointing a special prosecutor to oversee this case. and as we've heard from this
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panel, the questions are now gushing out about whether this investigation was closing in on the president and this was his way of closing it down. >> the white house says this has nothing to do with the russian investigation. they point to this letter as you heard from kellyanne conway, that said the president has lost confidence in james comey and the reasons cited here, many of them are having to do with the handling of hillary clinton's e-mail investigation and it's from the deputy attorney general. >> and i question confidence in director comey. a lot of people did. and there was investigation into his activity there. we were waiting to get that back. all of a sudden today the president out of nowhere decides to let this man go. after the russia questions were mounting higher and higher. we just heard testimony yesterday that the white house had been notified about compromises for general flynn. they did nothing for days and days. i think everyone needs to wake up tomorrow morning and ask -- every american needs to wake up and ask themselves what am i doing about this? this is the kind of authoritarian behavior we've
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seen spread in other parts of the world. if we don't stop it now, i'm very worried about what could happen. i have a bone to wick with james comey. i thought what he did was inappropriate and potentially illegal. and i was the first one in line to say he should be held accountable. but what happened was to defend donald trump, not to defend the judicial process. and that's what should bother us. >> if donald trump picks somebody to head the fbi with a sterling reputation who continues the investigation, why doesn't the president have the right to have somebody who has his full confidence? >> the president has lost the right to choose who's in charge of this. his own attorney general lied to the senate about his meetings with russia. the president fired the man who was overseeing this investigation when it heated up. the united states senate and the united states house of representatives should get together immediately and appoint a special prosecutor. i don't care what party you're in. this has gotten completely out of hand. and if you care about the rue rule of law, this has got to become independent, special
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prosecutor, and get a reputable person in to do that and continue this investigation. >> but i mean, that's -- it's up to -- i mean, the deputy attorney general could appoint a special prosecutor. but they clearly feel that there's not a need to. there are multiple investigations going on. >> well, it's clear the justice -- to the extent the justice department represents donald trump it's clear they don't think there needs to be any investigation not only into the trump campaign in russia but into what russia is doing to democracies around the world. the president hasn't even acknowledged what the russians did in the french election. everyone in the world is asking what happened. what is russia doing? why are they doing it? the one person who doesn't want to know is donald trump. and that is really scary. and that's why the congress needs to do their job, step in, restore the balance of power, and get this out of the white house's purview. >> clearly from the white house, they, kellyanne conway and i assume donald trump, president trump, does not -- believes or wants people to believe this has
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nothing to do with russia. you can't say for a fact that is because of russia. it certainly obviously to many people it seems that way. >> it's not because of hillary's e-mails. i mean, the fact that donald trump's administration is coming out and saying the attorney -- or the director of the fbi handled hillary's e-mail investigation so badly, poor hillary clinton, we're going to step in on her behalf and fire him, it's laughable. it is absurd. and we shouldn't even give in to that debate. it's ridiculous. what we should do is stand up for holding the president accountable. did his campaign collude with russia? what did russia do? what is russia capable of doing? and did the president or his staff break the law? we've got to get those answers? and we cannot give into these distractions they throw out. they want us to talk about, well, does donald trump all of a sudden care about hillary's e-mails? he does not. he does not and he never has. and we can't let him get away with these lies.
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it's a lie. that's what it is. and he is trying to put himself above the law. and none of us should stand for it. democrat or republican. this is not a partisan issue. this gets to the fundamental tenets of our constitution and our legal system. >> robby mook, i appreciate you being with us. as we have yet more late developments. we've been reporting our sources say the white house did not expect serious fallout from t s this. right now they seem to be trying to make up for that. cnn's jeff zeleny is at the white house. late reporting on damage control. jeff? >> reporter: anderson, i can tell you the entire west wing is still fully staffed at this hour, which is very unusual. usually everyone is long home by this hour. but they were absolutely caught off guard as dana reported earlier this evening, it has been playing out here in real time outside the white house. about an hour or so ago, as you know, anderson, kellyanne con yay was speaking to cnn. at that very same time other officials were speaking to a fox and msnbc. sean spicer, the white house
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press secretary, moments ago was huddling with reporters up against the bushes trying to explain this in the pitch black, in the darkness here. they were absolutely caught off guard by this. i asked one top white house official how could that possibly be that you were caught off guard by this. they said we did not expect all the democrats who were no fans of james comey in the first place to react like this. but of course it's not just democrats reacting like this. it's republicans like senator richard burr as well, who was not given a heads-up. he of course is the republican chairman of the intelligence committee here. so the white house now trying to regain control of this narrative. they're making other phone calls. i asked the communications director of the white house this evening just a short time ago when will we hear from the president on this? will he explain his view of this? they said there's nothing planned this evening of course. tomorrow there's nothing planned as well. so anderson, you cannot imagine any of this sort of going away or dying down until he addresses this, he speaks to this. but this is a firestorm that
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inexplicably has caught them flat-footed tonight pd. >> jeff, is there any talk or any word at the white house about who they may be looking at for -- to be the next director of the fbi? >> not that we have heard. i asked several officials that exact thing, and they said that look, this is something that is about a week or so in the works. the president has been sort of thinking about this for at least a week. the deputy attorney general has been looking at this since he came into office, since he was confirmed two weeks ago. so they definitely have people in mind. they're not sharing any of those people at this point. but boy, that is a sensitive thing going forward. you can almost not imagine them appointing someone who was in the michael flynn type situation, who was deeply involved in helping send him to the white house here, deeply
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involved in the election campaign. they're not saying -- >> this is by the way i think jeff sessions arriving i guess back at -- >> at his residence, anderson. we've seen those pictures before when he leaves in the morning. that's his residence. we do not know who they're thinking of to replace him. but boy, that is the next question here among many, many tonight. >> it will say a lot. jeff zeleny, thanks very much. what's so striking about all of this is just happening jufts as we also learn of the existence of grand jury subpoenas going out to associates of former national security adviser michael flynn. pamela brown is working that story. she joins us with the latest. explain what's going on with that, pamela. >> reporter: anderson, we've learned that federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former national security adviser for president trump michael flynn. business records as part of that ongoing probe of russian meddling in last year's elections. and these subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the fbi's broader investigation that began last july into possible
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ties between trump campaign associates and russia. in fact, they were issued just in the recent weeks, just in the last couple weeks we're told by sources by the u.s. attorney's office in alexandria, virginia. they were received by associates who worked with michael flynn on contracts after he was forced out as director of the defense intelligence agency in 2014. now, robert kellner, an attorney for flynn, declined to comment as did the justice department, the fbi and the u.s. attorney's office. we should say we were working on this story, anderson, before we found out, learned about the news that james comey had been fired from his post as the director of the fbi, anderson. >> is it known what investigators are look at with regard to flynn? >> what we do know from talking to sourcesize investigators have been looking into the possible wrongdoing and how michael flynn handled disclosures about payments from clients tied to foreign governments including russia and turkey. as we reported flynn was paid $45,000 for making an appearance in moscow to celebrate russia today. that's the russian-funded news
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outlet that the u.s. hayes helped disseminate stolen e-mails intended to damage hillary clinton's campaign. we don't believe it is related to his conversations with the ambassador of russia specifically talking about sanctions. we know the fbi had interviewed him about that conversation and they didn't feel it was preept to press charges on that particular instance. but there is this broader counterintelligence proep and michael flynn is still very much part of that probe, anderson. >> does this tell us anything more about the state of this investigation? >> it does. until now we've only gotten mall windows into bhat fbi and federal prosecutors have been doing. the fbi director or i should say now fired fbi director james comey told lawmakers back in march that there was an ongoing criminal investigation into possible coordination between trump campaign asxoefts russia and last week he testified that this investigation was being overseen by prosecutors in alexandria, virginia and the justice department's national security division dana bente,
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the deputy attorney general of alexandria who issued the schsz is also overseeing investigation of wikileaks and is running national prosecutions at the justice department but this investigation has really been tightly held since it began last july, anderson. >> all right. pam brown, thanks. i want to get jeff toobin and ken cuccinelli's take on this. jeff ace former federal prosecutor, ken's the former attorney general of the commonwealth of virginia. jeff, what do you make of pam's reporting? >> this is an active investigation. michael flynn was the national security video to the president of the united states and he is under criminal investigation by the fbi. the president of the united states just fired the head of the fbi. i mean, it just so obviously speaks for itself, the wrongness of that. and ken just said a moment ago that -- what was the word? hair on fire or hyperventilating. isn't that what you said, ken?
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i'd like to speak out in favor of hyperventilating on this issue. this is not a normal political event. this is not some bill that's passed in congress or not passed in congress. this is about the integrity of the american judicial system threatened in a way that it hasn't been since october 20th, 1973, the day of the saturday night massacre. this is different. this is a categorical difference that the president of the united states is firing the man who is investigating the president of the united states. trump himself acknowledged in his goofy letter where he talks about three times that he was supposedly exonerated by director comey. i don't know what he's referring to. but it just shows that he knows he's under investigation yet he's firing this guy anyway. it's not normal. and it's not american.
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>> ken? >> yeah, i disagree. i'm completely on the other side of the coin. here we have an investigation that is proceeding. everything that happens in this investigation tomorrow is going to be the same in spite of the removal of the director of the fbi because the professionals who handle this day to day are going to keep handling this day to day. they're not going to -- >> how do you know? >> oh, come on. it's ridiculous. this doesn't stop anything. all the grand jury subpoenas go out. the work and pursuit of those will continue -- >> so why is there a head of the fbi if the guy doesn't matter at all, they just sort of operate on automatic pilot? >> the whole agency operates day to day, a whole set of career professionals who carry these investigations and are responsible -- >> who tells them what to investigate? >> you know, once in a while one of them die. and they replace them. and lo and behold, the investigation goes on. and the president has the authority to remove the director of the fbi because on a
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bipartisan basis confidence has been lost in the man. i hear a lot of judgment contrary to what the president did here tonight, and that's everyone's opportunity of course to express that. i think the real test of that perspective will be who he selects to replace james comey. but the investigations go on. they're not impaired. and the notion that this is somehow going to stop the investigations going on by the fbi is ludicrous. >> congress passed a law -- zbla little more respect for the fbi -- >> so the way you see the fbi it's irrelevant who's the director because they seem to operate independently. congress passed a law that said fbi directors should have ten-year terms. to avoid precisely the situation that happened today. to avoid presidents trying to control the outcome of investigations. that's why there are these ten-year terms. that's why there's only been one fbi director who was fired.
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that was william sessions by bill clinton. something that was not politically controversial. democrats and republicans thought he should go. this is the first and only time in american history that an fbi director has been fired by a president at a time when that president is under investigation by the fbi. it's so wrong, and it's so obviously wrong that it's just pathetic, ken, that you're trying to defend it. >> i think that if president trump appoints someone who is above reproach to replace comey, all of these arguments i've been listening to for two hours will be brushed aside, as they should be. the test is on the president. i grant you that the burden is on the president at this point. but this does nothing to impair any investigations the fbi is conducting right now. it just doesn't. >> jeff, what about that? if some guy or woman with a sterling reputation in law enforcement is picked, what does that say?
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>> who's to say that person won't be fired in a couple months too? i mean, look at the body count of people who have been investigating president trump. you know, you have sally yates. you have jim comey. you have preet bharara who was told he had a job but was fired to. who's going to believe that he's going to leave whoever the next person is in place? >> we're going to bring you the next panel in a moment. we continue to get new information moment by moment. evan perez joins us again. evan, what are you learning? >> anderson, one of the backdrops of what's happened today is complaints from the white house, from the president and from the attorney general jeff sessions to jim comey, the fbi -- the now former fbi director, complaining about leaks. while the fbi -- while the justice department has been working on the russia investigation, the investigation into trump ties, trump associates' ties to russia, the complaints from the white house and from the leadership at the
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justice department has been about leaks and getting the fbi to put more priority in hunting down those leaks. the fbi has responded by tightening its media policy. we know they've restricted who can talk to the media in the last couple of weeks. that's one of the things they've taken action on. and we also know that they have been pursuing some of these leak investigations. but at the same time the activity in the russia investigation has not ceased. as you noticed from the fact that we've reported tonight that these grand jury subpoenas have been issued by the u.s. attorney's office in the eastern district of virginia. so it goes to show that there's a lot of complaints that certainly the fbi director was hearing both from the white house and across the street from the justice department headquarters that there wasn't enough being done thount down these leaks because in the eyes of the attorney general and in the eyes of the president leaks were the most important part of what is happening right now. >> so is it your understanding that played a role in the president losing confidence in the director of the fbi? >> well, we don't know.
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we don't know exactly whether that played any role in what happened today. but again, as i talked a little bit earlier, perception matters. and this is what the fbi director has been hearing. you know, repeatedly from his superiors across the street and down the street at the white house. that leaks are the important part of this story, not the investigation of getting into the bottom of what happened last year with the russian meddling. so look, the perception is something that's going to matter in all of this. the fbi has career people who are handling this investigation. but perception is going to matter as to how this was done. >> all right. evan perez, thanks very much. back now -- oh, back now with the panel. jim, go ahead. >> we have another republican senator coming out with a negative reaction to this. senator ben sasse. he calls the comey firing very troubling. he's already reached out to the attorney general and deputy attorney general to get a better understanding of what their rationale was for this.
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the opprobrium is coming more bipartisan. the other point i would just make, because there was a phrase that stuck out to me from non- -- it was director clapper's statement and senator burr, the republican chairman of the senate intelligence committee. both of them in their statements used this phrase to describe the firing. "a loss for the nation." a sign -- this is what i'm hearing from career folks inside the bureau as well. that this is not about party. that this is about process and the system and conflict of interest and that you have folks who are career employees of the bureau, et cetera, but also of both parties, democrats and republicans, who look at this not as a political issue but as a nation's issue. right? a process issue. and that's what you're beginning to hear from more than zwruft -- >> we're getting more reaction on another breaking item. preet bharara who jeff toobin just mentioned has tweeted, "everyone who cares about independence and and rule of law
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in america should be 2rub8d troy the timing and reason of comey firing, period." >> the word troubling keeps popping up including from richard burr. this is a test of the balance of power. >> that's right. >> it's going to be really interesting now to see what congress does when they investigate this because they will. because the american public will say we need to know what happened here. we will find out what happened. and they will call comey up to talk to them about it. and i wouldn't be surprised if you -- if you have a real investigation about this because this is what checks and balances -- >> david gergen, i know you wanted to say something. >> i think i want to follow up on gloria's point. i do think that we need to know how we got here and need to examine that more closely. anderson, we had two letters today dated today. and the president's response today. it is simply not credible that
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all of this occurred today. there had to be preplanning among the principles. the white house staff may not have known much about it. because that's the way things like this happen. three or four people. the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, the president had to agree some time ago about how they're going to do this and what the rationale would be. i would suggest there's a good chance it went back to the issuance of the subpoenas and that got the ball rolling. we just heard that the deputy attorney general started taking a hard look at this about two weeks ago. and that's about the time when those subpoenas were issued. i think we need to know that because -- i want to say one other thing about this. there would have been very, very careful consideration at the presidential level with the justice department, with the attorney general, with the deputy attorney general about whether this was wise or not. donald trump has a very good feel for the american public. he knew this was going to cause a firestorm. he absolutely knows that. we should dismiss the idea that
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it's caught him totally by surprise. but he had to have decided it's worth the firestorm to get rid of the guy, i'll ride it out because i have to get rid of the guy. >> dana, you're -- >> that is what makes it so suspicious. >> i totally agree with david that donald trump has his finger on the pulse of the american people, or at least the people who support him and got him elected. no probably all heard of him blowing up about something. and saying let's just rid of him or retire rid of that or forget it or makes this happen. the question is did that happen? and if that happened did somebody say, hold on a second. >> no. >> this is not the way -- it's not just firing -- i mean you know preet bharara was a red flag at the u.s. attorney's offers. sally yates was -- she defied
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the president. that was in many ways kind of understandable he didn't want her there. this is a whole different ball game. the question as we begin to report this out and learn more what happened behind the spaens is did somebody stand up and way whoa, whoa, whoa, this is potentially size mick and a huge problem and hasn't been done since richard nixon. >> i want to speak david's point ask david this question. which is you say this is carefully planned this is how these things go down. my question was was it carefullily planned he was out of town. was it carefully planned he was speaking in california not in his office? they knew his schedule. he wasn't here. didn't happen at the fbi. when he was there would that be something that people would be -- would be thinking about when they would do this. >> there is a reason the saturday night was a a massacre archibald cox wasn't in the office. >> that becomes a matter of spuks i want to say a couple of
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things many democrats are scrambling. they recognize there is an opportunity to do something. there is we're now hearing that democrats are saying they're going to block any appointment of nibl to replace comey until there is a special prosecutor appointed. you're going to see a massive show of resistance from democrats both congressionally and otherwise people see there as a threat we've taken a step away from rule of law toward the rule of a small group of people i want to say as a result of that i feel vindicated because i said that donald trump had become president he has become president president nicken abuse of authority abuse of power. i feel vindicated >> can i say i play a little games sometimes i which is i insert hillary clinton's name into scenarios. if she were president of the united states i bet attorney general cuccinelli you might be hyperventilate fudge she made such a move i think again as a former attorney general it's very surprising to me that you think the test is what comes
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next and who he pinpoints pap what basis of the confidence is he is going to appoint swb a sterling representation to the fbi which don't see any basis of him doing that. when you don't judge the original act, the firing of the fbi director at the time of a major investigation into potentially him and his administration, his own attorney general saw fit to recuse himself but you don't have a problem with that that's really surprising. >> well that's of course bs we do have evidence and the most important appointment he has made as president was neil gorsuch an absolutely unimpeachable choice. the burden as i said earlier on the president on the next selection. i would agree on two process points stepping aside from the substance for a moment. dana said earlier this isn't the which you handle this with somebody like james comey. i agree completelily it was terribly mishandled i would secondarily agree that it was completely mismanaged within the white house that's on reince priebus primarily, chief of staff is supposed to prepare for
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this to manage that team. and this is not the first time that kind of mismarket has happened on something big in the white house. >> i appreciate you saying that. and i think it's important we try to find some kind of common ground i want to ask you a another question on common ground i think you understand at least heavy the country is very concerned about the russian investigation. you have a great deal of confidence that the professionalism of the fbi is going to prevail but other people have great concerns. what would you do in the situation that trump finds himself in to give people more confidence? would you support a special prosecutor you already said you wouldn't but would you support any kind of effort to deal with this? would you support congress moving forward with independent commission what should republicaning be calling for in the face of a shaken public tonight. >> i certainly expect republican majority committees in both bodies to press ahead with their investigations. that's one. and two as i've said earlier, donald trump, president trump is going to have to pick someone that ordinary americans can look
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to with confidence of taking on this role and if he does that it would be very unwise of democrats to impose the kind of resistance you suggest. if he doesn't they'd be entirely entirely. >> what about the independent commission good or bad. >> as long as they press ahead from the legislative branch you have something oud the executive check the that way and. >> i want to economic in jeff lord has been standing by jeff we haven't heard from you what do you make of tonight's goings on? >> anderson i got to tell you i've been sitting here well outside the beltway watching this fascinatinged i'm a little single all of the reaction if i could throw out names. clarence thomas and bill clinton in terms of special prosecutor he is, archibald clacks and ken star when it was clarence thomas and allegations of skaul harass mts the world was going to hend everyone in furs. move ahead to bill clinton all
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of a sudden of all of this never mattered only about sex. when afternoon walled cox was fired by richard nexten end of the world a massacre when the white house the clinton white house went after ken starr this was just fine to do. i just look at this -- this is astonishing anderson you have got exactly the right point here. if president trump amts -- excuse me -- a very well respected a federal judge or someone of that nature a career fbi agent, as head of the fbi this will vanish. up until then this is just a circus. it's a show and it's terrible. and it's throughout the media. i'm not glamg are blaming all of you guys i'm say this is the way it works and i've seen it before. >> no one ever fooird ken starr i should point out. >> no but any -- >> do you believe that this had anything to do with the russia investigation? >> no, i think it's just very obvious. i mean you know in the time i've been sitting here i've been printing out one statement after another from democrats who
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demanded his resignation. harry reid, chuck schumer all the people auchlds tonight they're defending him. it's just hypocrisy to the max they don't have anything about russia if it's there get it out. and one other thing, anderson. i'm all for as i've said before an independent commission no special prosecutors enough of those they don't go well but an independent commission of republicans and democrats on the style of the 911 commission loets do it get everybody director come o president obama let's discuss leaks all of it get it out david. >> it is hitting f 5 on the political analysis key, to see democrats are being hoimts. you can hold two opposing thoughts in your head at the same time. there is a basis for jim comey being fired. you can also be adamantly opposed as american citizen to a purging of senior official of our government at a time of. >> purging how can you not hold
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those two points of vow aamodt. >> david, this is not the kremlin. this is not the krem line you're using that word my friend it's exactly the problem. >> this is not what -- this is not what happens in democracies you're going to spend them the firing of the fbi director. >> all these. >> under these sflierks all the attacks on ken star is fine about you is that when you're saying now. >> can we focus on the relevant matter. >> no, no. >> no i'm sorry. >> you cannot i'm for the going to let it. >> you cab for the firing of jim comey and opposed a president. >> as all the democrats were. >> nakds nakedly political reasons courages his purging his. >> clearly jeff does not pleef it's journaling. jean sackry we haven't heard from you -- well what do you think? a lot has been said. look i think this isn't about who likes jim comey and doesn't like him we all sat in disbelief and watched on october 27th when
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he came out and said what he did before the election. but president obama didn't fire him. there traent obedient obviously an open investigation in president obama. but in isn't about who likes him and didn't like him we need to move beyond that. the issue here is the timing. the fact that there is open investigation into associates of in president. it's something that republicans frankly in congress, senators, members of the house should be very concerned about. we've seen some come out. but i think we're honestly giving too much credit beyond john mcmahon who called fo independent prosecutor. others aid this is concerned. discouraging. if they're not calling for independent prosecutor people should question whether they're in cahoots with russia, the patriotism and what they think should happen to get to the bottom of this. >> just because someone doesn't want an ib dependent prosecutor don't mean they're in cahoots with russia. >> they are in a sense holding back on this investigation moving forward we you don't have the fisher director who is the
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only person who is independently leading this moving forward when you don't have him doing that you need an outside group doing it. republicans should call for that shouldn't be a partisan thing. >> cnn live coverage of this breaking news is obviously going to be continuing all night. jake tapper along at 11:00 p.m. eastern with a special report. first don lemon and cnn tonight with the latest. >> anderson thank you very much our breaking news tonight, president trump bombshell firing of fbi director james comey. this is cnn tonight i'm don lemon let's put it as plainly as we can. the president of the united states has fired the man investigating his campaign's ties to russia. fired him. shocking confusion tonight on capitol hill. around the country and around the world. now questions being raised of whether there is a cover-up going on. this is definitely not politics as usual. we have said it before