tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN May 10, 2017 12:00am-1:01am PDT
the special shutting that offic where they literally sent the fbi over to do it. so -- my phone was ringing there. >> that's okay. go on. >> anyway, the files i'm sure are secured. they're in his office. i've -- you know, i don't know any reason why he wouldn't be given access back to his office to go in and get his personal papers and personal belongings. this was somewhat hand fisted the way it was handled. it's unfortunate that he was out here to give a recruiting speech and was not given any forewarning as to what was going to happen and that's why it's kind of mysterious why they did it this way when it was bound to create a reaction that is happening. >> thank you so much. >> our live coverage of today's big news continues right now with my colleague jake tapper in washington.
jake? >> good evening everyone. you're watching cnn special live coverage of breaking news. in fact, stunning news. even for president trump who has been known to shock people, president trump fired fbi director james comey just hours ago. first the official version of what happened according to the white house is that fundamentally this was done on the recommendation of deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. he was just confirmed by the senate 94-6 at the end of april. he was in charge of the investigation into russian interference in the u.s. election because attorney general jeff sessions was not forthcoming about his meetings with the russian ambassador and recused himself. so rosenstein came into the job. he looked at comey's behavior relating to the clinton e-mail investigation last year. he found it wrong, he found it deeply troubling and he recommended that since comey has refused to admit his errors he
should be fired. he recommended that to jeff sessions and passed it on to president trump. end of story according to the white house. here are the problems according to those who are skeptical of this decision and this president. president trump shares exactly zero of rosenstein's concerns about how unfair comey was to hillary clinton. the only problem that president trump has ever had about comey's behavior relating to hillary clinton was that he did not charge her with a crime and president trump clearly loved it when comey essentially reopened the clinton case late in the campaign. it's as if we're expected to have all been blinded by that flashy memory eraser thing from men in black. we wouldn't remember all the things that trump expressed concern that comey didn't charge hillary and then praised him for raising questions last october and after wards. >> i respect the fact that director comey was able to come back after what he did.
it took guts for director comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they're trying to protect her from criminal prosecution. >> he's become more famous than me. >> then of course, let us not forget the additional context that the fbi is in the middle of investigating whether anyone in the trump campaign orbit had anything to do with the russian government attempts to interfere in the u.s. elections last year. in fact, director comey's firing comes a day after potentially embarrassing actions from sally yates. yates also fired by president trump just days after warning the white house that she thought then national security advisor michael flynn had been compromised by russia. on capitol hill this evening concern and alarm and that's from republicans.
tweeted senator republican of arizona i spent the last hour trying to find a rationale for the firing of fbi director james comey and i can't. the chairman of the senate intelligence committee of north carolina, i am troubled by the timing and reasoning of director comey's determination and one editorial note coming in from california with the nixon library objecting to anyone on social media or the media calling this evening's action nix nix nixonian. joining me now on the phone, democratic congressman of texas. he's on the intelligence committee. first of all, what is your reaction to the firing? >> i agree with you that it was a stunning development.
i certainly didn't have any advance notice. i know many others didn't. and it's also a very suspicious action by the president after this fbi director just about five or six weeks ago talked about how there may be trump associates who may have conspired with the russians who interfered with our 2016 election. so the whole thing was very strange. >> so let me play devil's advocate here. the trump white house is saying that this was all predicated on this letter from deputy attorney general rod rosenstein in which he says comey's handling of the clinton e-mail server was wrong and that undermined public and congressional trust. do you disagree with anything that rosenstein wrote in that letter? >> well, certainly many of us on both sides of the aisle have had issues with director comey's actions, and everybody has been clear about that. as i said a few months ago in
january, i believe, that i trusted jim comey to be more independent than anyone that donald trump might appoint as fbi director and it's also suspicious that as you mentioned in the opening of your segment, president trump actually complimented jim comey after he took the actions that he did with regard to hillary clinton. and senator jeff sessions so to come back now and lay that out as your main reason for his firing seems very odd. >> president trump this evening tweeted something about chuck schumer, the senate democratic leader noting that schumer have said a few months ago that he had lost confidence in james comey. chuck schumer stated recently i do not have confidence in him any longer. then acts so indignant. #drain the swamp. so i guess there are republicans out there especially in the
white house who are confused that democrats who didn't seem to like what james comey did would object to his firing this evening. >> and no doubt there will be political finger pointing back and forth. so the fact is the american people deserve an answer to the question whether any americans coordinated or conspired with the russians who interfered with our 2016 election and aside from politics we have to get to the bottom of that and this is a big boulder obstruction in the road to getting that done. >> let me ask you point blank, do you believe the white house account that this happened because deputy attorney general rosenstein who only took office a few weeks ago, came in, examined what comey did during the hillary clinton e-mail server investigation, concluded that he did not have the confidence of the agency, did not have the confidence of the congress and had to go, told that to sessions who then told
that to the president and that's what happened? do you believe that? >> no, i don't. they laid no foundation for any of this. and as you mentioned, it happened within a few weeks of when this gentleman takes office. that's not how you go about laying the predicate with the intelligence committees with congress for firing an fbi director when it's only happened once before. >> democrat of texas, thank you so much. appreciate it, sir. >> thank you. the letter that i'm referring to from rod rosenstein was released earlier this evening. it was written today. let's talk more about all of this with democratic senator of massachusetts. senator, you said after the firing that this is reminiscent of water gate and we are careening closer to a constitutional crisis. how are we careening towards a constitutional crisis?
senator, are you there? >> yes, i am here. i am here, yes. >> how are we careening toward a constitutional crisis as you said in a statement earlier tonight? >> well, there are very few moments when our democracy has been more fragile than it is at this moment. what the president did is an insult to our constitution and we have to ensure now that the congress exercises the role of checks and balance to ensure that a president cannot fire the person conducting an investigation of that president. and that is after president trump himself called the investigation a taxpayer funded charade and a hoax. so we know that this is in many ways a -- a coverup. it's an obstruction of justice, and it is something that
ultimately could turn into russian sha gate because that was the subject of the investigation that jim comey was in fact, probing this white house and the campaign that donald trump ran to win the job. >> senator, you call it a coverup. do you know that for a fact or you just suspect that? a lot of democrats had a lot of issues with james comey. rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general voiced a lot of those concerns, frankly the letter could have been written by you and then apparently and maybe you don't believe this, but apparently rosenstein submitted the recommendation to attorney general sessions who then told president trump and president trump said if he doesn't have the confidence of the agency or the congress then i will seek his resignation. i mean, do you have evidence that that did not happen? >> well, if the reasons outlined by the department of justice are
really true, then why fire james comey now and not months ago? and why not wait until the inspector general's report has been completed? i believe that this goes right to the heart of this compromise of our election by the russians, and the subpoenas which were being issued by james comey and the fbi of general flynn, of general flynn's associates, of others who were being probed because of their connections to the russians during the campaign and after the campaign and -- and otherwise this actually makes no sense. this is something i think that has happened because this investigation is getting too
close to the oval office. >> but just to be clear, that's your suspicion. you don't have evidence of it. >> well, i think that's the question that we should be asking in the wake of this episode, because otherwise it really does not make any sense. >> let me read to you from the letter to comey from president trump. he wrote in an odd second paragraph of the letter, quote, while i appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that i am not under investigation i never theless concur with the judgment of the department of justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau. here is just for our viewers to remind them, here is what former fbi director comey said fewer than two months ago. take a listen. >> i have been authorized by the department of justice to confirm that the fbi as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. and that includes investigating
the nature of any lengths between individuals associated with the trump campaign and the russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and russia's efforts. >> so that's what comey said at that hearing in march and then of course this letter today from president trump to james comey firing him saying that comey had informed him on three separate occasions he is not under investigation. what do you make of that? >> i think that first of all, that was an extremely curious way to fire someone by leaving the impression that comey had cleared him and his white house and his campaign of any wrong doing, any relationship that was inappropriate with the russian government, because i do not think that there have been any conclusions that can be reached with finality with regard to
that subject. there are subpoenas that are being issued right now to those who are related to general flynn and his activities and others who are being investigated by the fbi. so what i think is that any comments that have been made up until now are still extremely preliminary. there is a house and a senate investigation, but i think for this purpose, most importantly an fbi investigation, and the person being investigated just fired the person conducting the investigation. and i think that as a result, in order to ensure that our democracy gets the answer to whether or not there was a compromise of our most sacred institution, free and fair elections that there be a special prosecutor that now gathers all the facts, and
presents them to the american people and then ultimately asks the question, what did the president know and when did he know it? that now is the only way that we can proceed given the fact that james comey is now a modern day arch bald cox who vz been fired by the president of the united states. >> thank you so much. appreciate your time sir. >> i want to bring in my panel. let me start jeff with you. the white house said they lost confidence in comey's ability to effectively lead the bureau, that new leadership is essential to restore public trust. you and dana have both been reporting that the white house did not an tis pats this fallout. how can that possibly be? >> that's a great question. they told me that they believed that republicans would stand by them and the democrats were never a fan of james comey, so
they thought they would be happy that he was gone, but the reality of this, how it went and they did try, they say, to sort of alert people in a bipartisan way. they called fine stein, a top democrat on the committee but the white house now tonight, i just calm over here from the white house. the lights were still on in the west wing. every communications staffer was still in sean spicer's office crowded in the office talking about the strategy here and one of the problems when you talk to them all day long, the backup for why they did it was hillary clinton. not mentioned once many the letter from president. he talks about russia and the investigation saying he was cleared. so that is something that he is going to have to clean up tomorrow. i talked to the communications director tonight at the white house. he said the president does not plan to address this tomorrow. he didn't address it tonight. >> he addressed it on twitter. >> he did address it on twitter somewhat but not speaking about it and until he does that i think these questions will
persist and beyond after that, but the white house caught by this tonight. >> just to note we have invited people to come on the show to talk from the white house. they have declined our invitation and it's been a lot easier to book democrats than republicans which you may or may not find surprising. you were the one that first informed us that the white house was caught flatfooted. they didn't expect this blowback. did they not understand the -- >> i think the answer is no. or the notion that the president's campaign is being investigated. but the -- the idea exactly what jeff said inside the white house is, well, we're going to put out there that we thought that he should be fired because of all the things that he did to hillary clinton and democrats aren't going to complain about that. never mind what's going on
present day as we speak. you know, today cnn exclusively reported about a grand jury and subpoenas going out. pam, you had that reporting. but the idea that they didn't understand the magnitude of this and the fact that it would immediately remind people of no matter what the nixon library says would happen during nixon's presidency, the saturday night massacre and this same from a source familiar with the discussions inside. they didn't understand that this would be a political -- >> and let me go to you, pam, because we just heard senator ed markey make a reporting to you earlier. what is going on with subpoenas. >> we've learned just many the last couple of weeks, the department of justice has issued subpoenas to associates of michael flynn, of course the 'em battled former national security advisor to president trump and so they have issued these subpoenas asking these people for records, for business records and this is relating to
financial -- financial dealings that michael flynn has had with both russia and turkey and it's all part of this broader probe into russia's meddling in the election and ties with trump campaign associates and it is a significant step and escalation in this investigation. and so the question now is, well, what's going to happen with the investigation now that the man who was head of the fbi, he was overseeing it will no longer be there and they've been asking folks within the fbi about that and one person i spoke to tonight said it's going to continue. the bureau will not blink. we will continue to move forward. we are career agenerals, career prosecutors working on this case, but i imagine there are still a lot of unanswered questions. this could have a chilling effect of course but i think you'll see mounting and growing calls for a special prosecutor. >> i want to ask you about russia because it appears that president trump is actually going to meet with the russian
foreign minister tomorrow. >> you know, 24 hours of bat optics, it only adds to it. there are legitimate reasons to meet with the foreign minister. lots of things to talk about. syria, et cetera. the day after this raises more questions. if i can add on to a point pamela was making, the president in his letter, kellyanne conway on our air, in unison making the point this investigation is going nowhere. it's done, it doesn't target the president. that is not true. you heard director comey in march saying we are looking at contacts between trump associates and russia, we're looking at the possibilities of collusion. there's no answer to that question. we know that's an open investigation. i spoke to democratic and republican members of the house and senate members whether to them collusion is an open question and they said in unison, that's what we're investigating, still in
progress. and keep in mind, in addition to that, this morning republican senator lindsey graham says he wants to investigate trump's business ties to russia. and president trump sent a letter from his lawyer to senator graham, are you telling me -- how can any of us buy the line that these investigations are going nowhere when you have multiple strands and developments, my colleague pamela and evan reporting today about now grand jury subpoenas going out. >> you know, this is why -- i mean, if the noose is tightening and i have no idea if it is or isn't but certainly issuing grand jury subpoenas would lead you to believe that it is and you've seen the president's tweets recently that have kind of foreshadowed how he feels about james comey. he's gotten negative on him and we've seen that. this was a firing in search of a rationale. and the rationale was provided by rod rosenstein because i believe he believes every word
he wrote. >> former u.s. attorney. >> right. approved as the white house will tell you 94-6 in the united states senate. >> very widely respected. >> very widely respected and criticized comey in a way as you pointed out that every democrat has criticized comey. the only person who didn't criticize comey for his press conference at which he called hillary clinton reckless although -- was donald trump. donald trump would have liked to see hillary clinton indicted but he didn't criticize the october 28th letter that he sent. so that is why this -- this, you know, is not believable because it's coming from donald trump's administration. he wanted to fire comey and he only figured that out recently. he could have figured it out on january 20th but he didn't. so now we're looking at something that's very disruptive here to the country and that the congress is going to have to investigate, because this is a challenge to the balance of power, i believe. >> pamela, very quickly.
>> it's so interesting with this letter from rosenstein. he cites the handling of the clinton probe. there is an inspector general investigation looking into this very matter and so there very well could be a scenario where the inspector general comes out and says comey acted perfectly within his bounds. you know, we don't know what's going to happen, but the point is one would think you might want to wait to see what the results of that investigation are before using that as an excuse. >> comey will testify. >> yes. >> we have to take a quick break. thank you so much for joining us. we have a lot more on our breaking news including the up and down relationship between president trump and now ex- fbi james comey. stick around. we'll be right back. hey allergy muddlers are you one sneeze away from being voted out of the carpool? try zyrtec® it's starts working hard at hour one and works twice as hard when you take it again the next day. stick with zyrtec® and muddle no more®.
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middle of the fbi investigation into any possible links between the white house administration and the russian government. comey was then the man heading the investigation into hillary clinton's e-mail server. trump tweeted at the time crooked hillary compromised her national security. no charges, wow, #rigged system. later trump criticized comey for seeming to build a case against clinton but not following through. >> after reading all of these items where she's so guilty, he let her off the hook. >> just two weeks later comey announced he had reopened the investigation into clinton's e-mail use and as democrats scorn trump praised comey. >> that was so bad what happened
originally and it took guts for director comey to make the move that he made what he did. he brought back his reputation. he brought it back. 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 respect that the fbi has given it a second chance. >> that good will tour continued as trump took office and did not fire the fbi director as some considered a possibility. even in march after comey confirmed that the fbi was investigating russia's interference with the u.s. elections, but still trump said comey enjoyed his confidence but he added, we'll see what happens. >> was it a mistake not to ask jim comey to step down at the fbi at the outset of your presidency. is it too late now? >> no it's not too late. i have confidence in him.
we'll see what happens. it's going to be interesting. >> so what changed? joining me now to discuss all this former white house director. former press secretary of hillary clinton, and jason miller and former ted cruz communications director. also by virginia attorney general. alice, first to you. what are you hearing? >> well, their focus more than anything on this letter from rod rosenstein and that is the impetus. people say why did it take so long to happen. and he decided case after case of others in his position that say this is the waco pl-- the way comey has acted and they need to get back to traditions. that is what they continue to point on is rod rosenstein. also the department of justice they're also saying it was rod's decision to make, he was comey's
boss and they point to his testimony about abdean forwarding e-mails. >> comey's testimony. >> comey's testimony and the inaccuracies that he made and those and what he has testified in the past, it's a series of events that have culminated to why this decision was making now. >> the idea that the trump white house has the least bit concern about how hillary clinton and her campaign was treated with respect to the e-mail investigation is laughable and if mr. rosenstein came in and had serious concerns about how director comey had conducted this investigation he would have been on much firmer ground on the watchdog investigation and if it came out and said they disagreed with director comey's handling of this they could have cited that and taken action against director comey. the abruptness of this smacks at the fact that it was political to put the brakes on a russian investigation that is getting
too close for comfort for donald trump. >> let me ask, because it is indisputable that president trump doesn't agree with anything in rosenstein's letter. his issue with comey from the hillary clinton investigation was that he didn't charge hillary clinton. he doesn't have a concern about all the deputy attorneys general and attorneys general that thought what comey did regarding hillary clinton was unfair to hillary clinton. so can you understand why some people look at president trump grabbing the rosenstein letter even if it was completely sincere and saying they don't believe that -- what's going on? >> well, we don't know that yet because the president hasn't yet spoken to the country and i think when he decides to sit down and do an interview on this i think we'll get some more -- >> you're saying that he might actually agree with the rosenstein letter. >> i'm saying until he comes forward and talks about the entire process, we don't know and i don't think you can cast aside and say he didn't agree
anything for the rosenstein letter. >> you covered the campaign the last two years. >> two very important things i've got to point out here. nobody tonight is out there campaigning and cheering and saying we need to have director comey in that position. people might disagree with the timing of it, but nobody out there is -- >> i'll say that, jason. >> no one -- no one feels more wronged by director comey's actions. >> you even tweeted that you don't feel bad -- >> i'm not shedding any tears from him for a personal standpoint but i think he would have been the fairest person to conduct this investigation because right now is a lightning rod with how he mishandled the clinton investigation. >> you're flip flopping from a few hours ago. >> i have no sympathy for jim comey in terms of how he handled the hillary clinton investigation, but he would have pulled no punches whatsoever with respect to this investigation. i have no confidence that this will proceed better now.
you know what? -- >> do you know -- >> none of those people are under investigation right now. >> let's just do one at a time. >> liberal columnist wrote last year, james comey should not simply be fired as director of the fbi, he must be barred forever from any form of public service. there was so much hate coming from the left and now to hear all the democrats saying no, this is terrible, you know, anything -- >> if he was president of the united states and he was not under investigation for connections to russia he would have been credible for firing jim comey. >> the difference is having worked at the obama white house and made the statement, all our jaws dropped as well. but fbi directors have ten-year terms. they are processes in place including ig investigations that can look into their conduct and review whether or not they acted
appropriately. the only thing that changed here just to go back to jake's original question is that the russia investigation heated up and donald trump wanted a way to -- to get away from that, to take away the person who was leading the independent investigation. i don't think it's more complicated than that. rod rosenstein is a career employee. he's being used as a pawn right now. i don't think that he knows that m i don't know that for sure. he clearly knows it now. i don't think that was his intention but the fact that we are looking at his memo as if it is justy occasion that takes away from what trump said last year is ludicrous. >> you know, a couple of points. one, this will not stop or slow down any investigations going on at the fbi. none of the hundreds or thousands of investigations will slow down one bit. the same thing in the russian investigation that would have happened with director comey tomorrow will happen without him. that is going to go forward. this doesn't impair that. they know that in the white house, and the notion that
somehow this ends any looking into any issues related to russia is really kind of silly in light of what's going on on capitol hill. the republicans themselves have demonstrated a commitment to taking that look. that's item one. two, you said earlier jake, that it's indisputable that the -- >> that president trump agrees with the rosenstein letter. >> it is not. first of all, the first what i'll call career professional in the hooierarchy with donald tru over comey has been rosenstein. voted the senate two weeks ago approximately, and -- and so this would have a very different cast despite the as spergss cast on mr. rosenstein but if jeff sessions had made the recommendation -- i understand. i'm not disputing that. if sessions had recommended this
to the president as opposed to someone who had been in the -- this line of work for most of his life -- >> okay. i get that. >> and the ultimate judgment, a lot of speculation about motives out of the white house. the ultimate judgment really should be with held until we see who they propose to bring forward to replace comey. that person is going to get scrutiny. >> the reason i said that it's indisputable that president trump doesn't agree with anything in the rosenstein letter is because statements during the campaign. >> because of everything he has said and maybe it is true that he has done a complete 180 and now he thinks that -- >> donald trump? >> he does not do a lot of 180s on hillary clinton and now he thinks that hillary clinton was wronged we james comey. i agree that is a possibility. i think it is highly unlikely but that is why i said that. but let me ask about the notion of what if president trump appoints somebody excellent to the position of fbi director. he has put people in his
administration who are supported by both sides of the aisle. the secretary of veterans affairs. jim mattis. there are people in there that are respected by everyone in washington, d.c. with the exception of steve bannon. so let me ask you, what if that happens? what if there's a good fbi director appointed to replace comey? >> two answers to that question. number one, we've already seen with mr. rosenstein that sometimes when you select somebody that has been a long time career official but you put them in a politically appointed situation where they owe their job to the president of the united states, they can be put in a compromising situation. the situation is untenable because they're essentially leading investigations into their boss and it becomes unworkable. everyone sitting up here trying -- with all due respect to rosenstein, if he knowingly submitted this memo for the purposes of carrying out a ir fooing of jim comey he's in the wrong too. it's also a wrong on his part. >> we're going to take a quick
woe ear back with the breaking news this evening. president trump firing the director of the fbi james comey with a letter unlike any we've seen from a president of the united states in recent memory at least. we're live at the white house at this late hour and this had apparently been many the works for more than a day? more than a week? what are you learning? >> reporter: that's right. we have learned from sources that this is something that donald trump was considering for quite a while, but as you pointed out, the letter is very interesting that trump used to fire james comey. the white house is saying the reason that they did this was because of comey's handling of hillary clinton's e-mails but the letter makes no mention of hillary clinton's e-mails. what it does mention is russia. >> director comey, do you have a response -- >> in one of the most controversial moves since taking office tonight donald trump firing fbi director james comey. the move ousts the man overseeing the probe into whether the trump campaign colluded with russians to
influence the 2016 presidential election. but the white house says the reason trump fired comey was because of his handling of the investigation into hillary clinton's e-mails. a probe that trump often praised during the presidential campaign. >> i think you're looking at the wrong set of facts here. in other words, you're going back to the campaign. this man is the president of the united states. he acted decisively today. he has lost conferred in the facebo fbi director. but in his letter dismissing comey, trump turned back to russia writing while i greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that i am not under investigation i never theless concur with the department of justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau. it's a perplexing assertion after comey testified publicly that the fbi is investigating ties between trump's
presidential campaign and russia. >> you have confirmed, i believe, that the fbi is investigating potential ties between trump associates and the russian interference in the 2016 campaign. correct? >> yes. >> reporter: trump's bomb shell announcement inspired fierce political blowback and prompted democrats to call for a special prosecutor to take over the investigation into trump and russia. >> i simply said to him, mr. president in all due respect you're making a very big mistake, and he didn't really answer. >> reporter: but concerns spread to both sides of the aisle tuesday evening. senate intelligence committee chairman, a republican saying in a statement, i am troubled by the timing and reasoning of director comey's termination. >> he's become more famous than me. >> reporter: the firing caps off a roller coaster relationship between trump and comey. trump gave comey a warm welcome once he was in office.
but by tuesday, the president was relying on one of his most trusted aides to hand deliver a letter to the fbi dismissing comey. the only problem, comey was in california. he learned of his firing through tv news reports while visiting a los angeles field office. now, the white house is of course aware of all of these calls for a special prosecutor to take over investigations into trump and russia, but as of tonight, sean spicer, the white house press secretary says the white house doesn't see any need for that kind of move. back to you, jake. >> let's get to our next panel. david axel rod let me start with you. a former member of the obama administration, senior advisor to president obama. he appointed james comey. have you spoken with president obama or anyone from the obama white house about this. >> not today. jake, i just learned the news, i was getting on a plane from chicago to california and
learned of the news when i got on the plane, so i haven't spoken to anyone about it, though i'm sure -- i'm sure their reaction is very much like everybody else's reaction, which is that this was a stunning development. you know, my concerns about the president, this administration, policies come and go, but our institutions have to remain strong. our democratic institutions and with the action they took today they put a cloud of suspicion around the justice department, around the fbi. how are you going to appoint someone now who is going to be trusted to lead an investigation of the president who appointed him? and i mean, there are so many issues that flow the this and i think the special prosecutor call is going to grow. i think they greatly miscalculated on this one. >> and jeffrey tuben, president
clinton fired william sessions, been accused of improperly using government money to visit relatives, to build a fence around his house that didn't provide any security, et cetera, this is unusual even given that preceding event. >> i think it is more than unusual. it has never happened before in american history than an fbi director has been dismissed by a president who is being investigated by that fbi director. the only near precedent is october 20th, 1973 when president nixon fired archibald cox and i think the analogy is a very close one. the fact that -- that, you know, a -- somewhat independent investigation is going on that
is intolerable to the president and the president does everything he can to stop it. >> david, the former deputy attorney general under george h.w. bush told buzz fooeed news that the firing was a quote, sham. what do you think of this? >> well, you know, one would always like to believe the president of the united states and the white house team are telling us the truth. and i think that what we're finding in this situation, jake, is this president and his team have been so fast and loose with the truth and we've had so many instances when untruths, lies have come out of the white house, that even before this happened, the poll found that only 35% of americans think they can trust donald trump. 60% think they do not think he's honest and that makes it very hard to persuade people in a case that looks highly suspicious. you know, having gone through and been many the white house for the -- during the saturday
night massacre, this is not as big in scale and scope, but it is very nixonian. and i don't find the story that the white house is putting out credible. i think there are -- i think fundamentally that what happened was the president and sessions and perhaps rosenstein, but certainly sessions and the president decided that comey had to go. they looked for a pretext. they found deputy attorney general who could write a pretext for them and they went with it. there is no chance in the world that today rosenstein and sessions sent over without trump knowing it was coming letters and recommendations saying fire him and he wrote it out and they did it all today in one time. they had to do this. they planned it. you know, several days ago. they've been working on it. you know, the white house staff was caught by surprise and the white house during the nixon days, as a staff we were always caught by surprise. because it was a very small group of people who cooked things up and i think that's
essentially what's happened here. and i don't think that -- that by appointing even someone who's excellent will not be seen by the public under these circumstances as fully independent as the new fbi director and i think that's -- i think that's a really serious problem for our democracy. i don't like the idea of these special prosecutors. i think they sometimes become rogue prosecutors but i don't see how you restore trust and confidence unless you find somebody that is seen as independent. >> one of the things we're hearing from the white house today is that they are caught offguard and surprised at the pushback from democrats especially considering how many democrats have expressed serious concerns about comey starting with his press conference about hillary clinton last summer, and then extending to now. in fact, if you look at john, the former campaign chairman of
the hillary clinton campaign, earlier this morning he tweeted something about how americans -- the american public is getting mildly nauseous listening to jim comey. that was around 11:00 this morning. it's a reference to comey saying he felt mildly nauseous considering he might have affected the election and then after the news of trump firing jim comey he tweets to trump, didn't you know you're supposed to wait until saturday night to massacre people investigating you? that kind of whiplash i think will help the president make the case at least to his base supporters that opposition to this stunning move by him is just political. >> well, he already hit chuck schumer for that very thing in a tweet tonight. but look, i don't think that it is invalid to criticize comey for his handling of the hillary clinton matter. i think it was -- it was poorly conceived. he may have been motivated by trying to protect his agency but
he handled it badly and i think he did impact on the election. there are a lot of people who are mad about that but i think most democrats are looking at the situation that -- and most americans that we face now which is the real intimation that there was something going on between the russians perhaps and the -- and the trump campaign and certainly there's a conclusion that the russians invaded our election and impacted or tried to impact on our election and people want answers and even if they thought comey was ham handed in his handling of the clinton matter most people saw him as a person of integrity and in any case he seemed independent enough to carry on this investigation and now this looked very much as david described it as an attempt to short circuit this investigation. you know, i heard kim say it's going to go on and so on and i'm sure it will go on but the person that leads that investigation is important and the public's ability to believe in that person and their
integrity and their independence is important and all that went out the window tonight. i don't think the white house had any idea how much they were sack refiesing with this move today. >> i mean, you pointed this out. donald trump, there is a stated rationale for why he fired him. for why he fired james comey. we know that donald trump doesn't believe in that rationale. he said over and over again during the campaign that jim comey was doing a good job investigating hillary clinton and now we learn today that he -- james comey was fired because he was too mean to hillary clinton. who believes that donald trump thinks that? so it can't be that. it's got to be -- there's got to be another reason and the only other possible reason is that because he was getting too close to trump himself or people around him in this russia investigation. >> a quick final thought, david?
>> i think one of the things, i don't know how we're going to resolve this. i do think that the republicans are going to be looking for who is going to stand up and go where the facts go regardless of partisanship? it will do wonders for the republican party and to replace trust. wherever it leads, donald trump may be totally innocent. that's fine. let's make sure we know that. >> all right. thanks one and all. with all these comparisons to richard nixon's saturday night massacre and water gate, whether or not you buy them here's a saturday night trivia for you. during the saturday night massacre he wanted to fire archibald cox. he also refused. both of them resigned. who then ultimately fired the water gate special prosecutor on
okay. before the break we asked you a trivia question. who was the justice department official who finally agreed to fire the water gate special prosecutor after both his bosses refused and resigned? the answer, this man. robert bork. highly controversial and rejected supreme court nominee. this explosive headline, president trump firing james comey is already the big story in the morning newspapers. it's front page, top of fold of the washington post plainly reading trump fires fbi director. the new york times morning headlines says trump fires comey amid russia investigation. below, the president's entire letter to comey and when readers open up the times they'll see quote, mr. comey was fired
because he was conducting an investigation that could bring down the president. that's it for this cnn special report. be sure to log on to cnn.com for all your breaking news. thanks for watching. have a great night. . the bedrock of american democracy understand siege the fbi director investigating links between russia and aides to the president is fired by the president. what's next for the fbi, for the russia probe and why the timing has almost everyone crying foul. good morning and welcome to "early start" i'm christine romans. >> i'm dave briggs. it is wednesday, may 10th. 4:00 a.m. in the east. is this the