tv MSNBC Live MSNBC May 10, 2017 8:00am-9:01am PDT
that does it for us this hour of msnbc live. more ahead with chris jansing in new york. >> thank you so much, hallie. now on msnbc, not backing down. president trump hits back at anyone and everyone questioning his decision to fire fbi directdirect er james comey as democrats voice their outrage over the move. >> as i reflect on the decision to dismiss director comey, i become incredulous, thinking about the ongoing fbi
investigation. >> caught off guard. with most of the country, reporters, lawmakers, james comey himself stunned by the news, the white house found itself unprepared for the blowback from democrats and republicans. the trump administration scrambling with an all out blitz to defend the president's decision. and just a coincidence? hours after firing the man leading the investigation into the trump campaign's possibl ties to russia, the one person president trump is meeng with today in pers, russia's foreign minister, sergey lavrov. >> is the comey firing cast a sh shadow over your talks, gentlemen? >> was he fired? >> yes. >> you're kidding. you're kidding. good morning, everybody. i'm chris jansing in new york. this morning, president trump clearly following the coverage of his sudden and dramatic decision to fire fbi director james comey, both defending the
ad decision and going after his critics in a series of tweets. crying chuck schumer stated recently, i do not have confidence in him, james comey, any longer. then acts so indignant. three top white house officials are out this morning explaining the president's actions and strongly denying it had anything to do with the fbi's russia investigation. >> this is the action that a president takes when he is told by the deputy attorney general, who has only been on the job 14 days, so he took a new assessment, a new look at everything. >> was this decision made based on comey's handling of the russia investigation? >> no. i know that's what the media would love to report and would love to say, but frankly, if that's going to continue, it's going to continue whether jim comey is there or not. >> the president made a decision that should be applauded by a members of congress. i think the public will by and large agree he had lost their ability to lead the fbi.
>> not talking this morning, the two men who recommended that comey be fired. deputy attorney general rod rosenstein and attorney general jeff sessions. both ignored reporters questions as they left their homes this morning. the firing, a shocking surprise, including to comey himself. when the news flashed on a tv screen when he was speaking at an event in los angeles. the "new york times" said that comey laughed, thinking it was a prank. criticism has been swift from republicans and democrats, including calls for a special prosecutor to handle the russia investigation. >> this russia investigation is making donald trump very, very nervous, as his letter showed. that's why i believe he was fired. >> we need an independent commission, and i think we also need to consider some new mechanism where a special prosecutor -- >> the move opened critics from the president's party.
richard burr tweeted, i am troubled by the timing and reasoning of director comey's termination. jeff flake of arizona, i've spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of comey's firing. i just can't do it. this morning, senators have been speaking out on the floor of the senate about all this. we are, of course, monitoring that. we have complete coverage of the firing and the fallout. let's begin with nbc news chief white house correspondent hallie jackson. you were there last night. you watched all of this unfold. >> yeah. >> let's start though with what's going on today. >> yeah. >> the president, the pushback by his team. tell me where the white house is at this morning. >> the white house is on sort of an all fronts ahead, all full-court press, whatever you want to call it, push to defend this decision, starting at the top with the president. you saw his tweet storm this morning that's come out. he's going after critics, people like senator richard bloumentha
who, by the way, is brushing off the criticism. he's going after chuck schumer. he was talking about james comey in tweets this morning, saying essentially, he will put somebody in place who will restore the confidence, the trust, the integrity of the fbi, saying that people ultimately and eventually will thank him for what he did. thanking is not how you'd characterize what's happening on capitol hill right now. you have some republicans concerned about how this looks. the appearance, the perception of this. and what this potentially could mean for the russia investigation. i'll lay out what we expect to see from the president today. right now, he's meeting with sergey lavrov, as we talk about russia, the foreign minister, you played the interaction with andrea earlier this morning. this is the photo we have from inside the oval office just coming into our msnbc newsrooms here. tweeted by the russian ministry of foreign affairs. that's happening at the white house behind me. in about three, four hours from now, we are going to see sarah huckabee sanders at the briefing room podium. that'll be the only public on the record statement from inside
the white house, at least at this point, about what has happened with james comey. there are real questions that the white house is going to be pressed on, chris. not least among them, what's up with this timing? how did this unfold? their response now to even some of the republican pushback they're getting. >> i want to not go into this too much in depth because i have a panel coming up, but i'll ask you because you were there about last night. >> sure. >> it seems they were caught off guard by the reaction. tell me if i'm right about this, that our reporters go and look for reaction. you guys are referred to the department of defense. when you say, but the department of defense referred us to the white house, they sort of say, well, let's figure that out. then, as i understand it, they started putting out pretty much everybody. >> so, yeah, the doj, department of justice, chris, is what the references were to reporters there. >> doj. >> let me tell you, we had gone back -- and i'll quickly run through this because i know you have a panel coming up about this -- to get information as we typically do around 5:00 in the afternoon, to get more reporting
on various topics coming out. this is before we learn that comey was in trouble. the staffers were huddling in what's called the lower press office, just off the briefing room doors. give us a minute. we knew something was up. small group of reporters gathered near the briefing room, which you often see next to the podium in the live shots everyday. sean spicer came out, said something is hitting the e-mail inboxes. it hadn't at the moment. that's when spicer confirmed that come y was fired. the letter you've been seeing from donald trump to james comey, more information. there was a time period of an hour and a half or so where it was radio silence, as far as on the record statements. after that, the full-court press from spicer, kellyanne conway, sarah huckabee sanders, going to the north lawn to do live shots, chased by a pack of reporters looking for information in the ten-minute off camera gaggle or interaction with sean spicer.
he was asked repeatedly about the questions we're talking about. timing, perception, et cetera. >> hallie jackson, i know you have to get back to the white house. thank you for that. i want to bring in pete williams who has been following all these developments since the story broke late yesterday. i'm putting to you the critical question, what might this mean for the russia investigation? >> i think that's a good question. as a practical matter, in terms of the procedure, nothing in the short term. all the people who were working on it yesterday are working on it today. the person who was supervisor g i -- supervising it yesterday is supervising it today. the acting fbi director, mccabe, used to be the deputy chosen by james comey to be the number two is well rid on the investigation. he can assume the leadership without missing much. the question i think is, number one, what does this do to the agents working on the case? do they now doubt that there's an appetite for this investigation at the justice
department? do they wonder about the real reason mr. comey was fired? many of the former agents that are talking to counterparts say that's on their minds. but i think the simple answer is, the investigation will continue. if, in fact, the congress insists on having a special prosecutor and gets its way and the justice department ultimately does bring in a special counsel, well, then the totality of this will be to delay the investigation. there may be people in the white house who wanted this over quickly. it's hard to see right now how the firing will accomplish that. >> pete williams, thank you. joining me to talk about all of this, marcell, former under secretary of defense for intelligence under president obama. jeremy bash, former chief of staff at the cia and department of defense and msnbc national security analyst. michael allen was with the george w. bush white house for seven years. several national security policy and legislative roles.
marcell, i'll start with you. the "new york times" editorial board wrote this, comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president. what do you make of the administration's explanation, that comey was no longer effective? >> well, we don't know yet the president's true motivations for the firing. we know the case that's been made publicly. i hope in the coming days, the president will be asked directly about that so he can put those comments and those views on the record. but i do think there are some impressions that have been left with key parts of the public that, from a national security perspecti perspective, give me great concern. first is the chilling effect on potentially intelligence agents and fbi agents who now have to think twice about doing their jobs. secondly is internationally, there habeen an impression left of institutions in the united states melting down. thirdly, there is now a lack of confidence in the american public about whether we can have a fair and impartial,
independent investigation of what is a serious russian national security threat to the united states. >> jeremy, president trump has praised comey as recently as october. you've seen them. they have a whole series of sound bites from during the campaign, when he had nice words to say about him. that goes to the timing of this. what do you make of this now? >> well, it's unprecedented, chris. it is unprecedented in american history, certainly in the history of the fbi, for the president to fire an fbi chief who was actually investigating the president's inner circle. so this explanation, that they were actually standing up for hillary clinton or huma abedin's honor, i don't think that adds up. i agree with marcell, very tough, direct questions need now to be asked of the president about what they know and what they understand about the status of the russia investigation. we learned in sally yates's testimony on monday that the white house was briefed, that mike flynn was interviewed by
the fbi. that put the white house on notice that there was a criminal investigation, a counterintelligence investigation focused on the president's inner circle. this is a very troubling development. >> democrats are calling the firi firing nixonian. does this just guarantee almost a special prosecutor? does this guarantee it doesn't go off the front pages but may have the opposite effect of what the white house may have intend snd. >> i think that's definitely the case. the obama administration anddoj had a hard time dealing with comey. he made it clear he was a lone ranger out there. when you read the letter from the deputy attorney general, this is the doj trying to reassert authority over the fbi. however, if it is a pretext for the -- for trying to quash the russia investigation, i think
they will be sadly disappointed. there are three things i think i'd want to call to people's attention about this. one is that the fbi, they're no shrinking violets. we've all three worked on the house intelligence committee and seen the counterintelligence investigation. investigators spoke with them. they're tough. they're not demoralized nor are they going away. second, as you said, this announcement, as shocking as it was, has reenergized the congress in their oversight role. third, we need a new fbi director very, very soon, a nominee. he or she will be put through their paces. they'll have to give up a pound of flesh in commitments about their seriousness and their independence and how they will not interfere with an investigation, counterintelligence investigation against the president. you know -- >> well, does it raise the question then, jeremy, who would
want this job at this point? you are going to have to find sobody- ifou're the president of the united states, if you're people surrounding him who have any sense of either politics or the way a democracy should work, they've got to find somebody beyond reproach who is going to want to wade into this mess. >> they do. all kidding aside, a guy like michael allen or letrah, who are up with you today, are the kinds of people you'd want above reproach. >> if you're going to say that, would either of you guys take this job if offered it? >> well, i'll add one more thing -- >> i don't see them nodding yes. okay. go ahead. >> the national terrorism center, a former federal prosecutor, served under bush and obama, ran a large federal agency, he understands the bureau's mission in counterterrorism and counterintelligence and national security in addition to his law enforcement addition. a guy like that, who has
credibility on both sides of the aisle, i think is somebody they're going to need now to run this very indispensable department and agency. >> more than a couple of people who are looking at how did this all happen have gone to the letter, the actual firing letter, and said that the second paragraph they saw as actually bizarre. i mean, that's the part where he thanks comey, i think, three times telling him he was not the subject of an investigation, in a letter in which he's firing him. here's democratic senator tim kaine's take on that on "morning joe." >> the letter that president trump wrote had a tell in it, like a bad poker player whose facial expression tells you what they're worried about. when he says this in the quick letter, we're letting you go, but thanks for telling me three times i wasn't the subject of an investigation about my russian ties. that shows a deeply insecure president who is very, very concerned about this investigation. for another take on that, mike pence on capitol hill.
let's listen. >> the action the president has taken, and i'm confident as we go forward that the president will choose an individual who will be able to restore the confidence of our nation in our leading law enforcement agency. president trump made the right decision at the right time, to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, to ask for the termination, to support the termination of the director of the fbi. it was simply the right decision. now we go forward. we go forward with confidence that the president, as he's done so many times in this administration, he'll select that individual who will be able to lead that agency and all the outstanding men and women of the fbi back to a place where that agency can enjoy the confidence --
>> but did the president fire director comey to impede the russia investigation? >> well, as you know very clearly, as has been stated repeatedly and the president has been told, he's not under investigation. as former director clapper of the -- the director of national intelligence said there is no evidence of collusion. >> but the director clapper -- >> between our campaign and any russian officials. that's not -- >> officials said there is investigation into potential ties between campaign officials and russian officials. >> that's not what this was about. the president took strong and decisive leadership here to put the safety and security of the american people first by accepting the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to remove director comey as the head of the fbi. the american people have to have confidence in the federal bureau of investigation. because of the actions that the
deputy attorney general outlined to the president, that were enforced and agreed with by the attorney general, the president made the right decision at the right time. now, we look forward, to finding that individual who will be able to lead that agency and all the outstandi outstanding men and women of the fbi, back to a place where we move past the difficult politics of the last year that have swirled around director comey's leadership, and we can move back to a place where every american can know that the fbi is able to do its job, to enforce our laws and protect our nation. >> what about the president's dissatisfaction with the russia probe? did that play into this, sir? >> let me be very clear. the president's decision to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove director comey as the head of the fbi was based solely and
exclusively on his commitment to the best interest of the american people, and to ensuring that the fbi has the trust and confidence of the people of this nation. >> did the president direct the deputy -- >> the leadership she, i think, represents the strong leadership the american people expect. the american people expect a president to act on the recommendations of those within the administration who are charged with oversight. in this case, the deputy attorney general provides the oversight to t federal bureau of investigaon. well, the deputy attorney general was confirmed just a few short weeks ago by the united states senate. when he brought the recommendation to the president, that the director of the fbi should be removed, president trump provided the kind of trong and decisive leadership the american people have come to be accustomed from him, he took the action necessary to remove director comey. now, already this morning, the president is in the process of
evaluating individuals who will be able to fill that spot, lead the fbi and restore the confidence of the american people. that's why this was the right decision at the right time. >> did the -- >> do you have someone in mind, sir? >> the bipartisan concern we've seen over the past 24 hours and the administration's assertion there was no wrongdoing, why not support an independent panel or independent prosecutor? >> the evidence -- or the facts that are in public today are very clear. the former director of national intelligence has said there is no evidence of collusion. the president and i remain confident that the committees in the house and senate that are looking into every aspect of issues that arise out of last year's election will be able to do their work and do it in an orderly way. the president himself was informed several times by the former director of the fbi that he himself was not under investigation. but the simple fact is, director
comey had lost the confidence of the american people. the support that i heard from members of the senate today when i was over by the senate chamber, the support for the president's decision that's being expressed in this capitol building is and around the country i think is reflective of the fact it was time for a fresh start at the fbi. i think the president did, as he's done in so many other cases, he took decisive action. he provided strong leadership. to act on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general. i think the american people welcome that, and they know as president trump has done so many times before, the president is going to take the time necessary to find an individual of great experience and great integrity to lead the nation's law enforcement agency at the fbi. i look forward to being a part of that process. >> mr. vice president, did the president ask the deputy attorney general to conduct a review of director comey?
>> the new deputy attorney general, who was just sworn in two weeks ago and confirmed by the fbi, came to work. he is a man of extraordinary independence and integrity and a reputation in both political parties of great character. he came to work, sat down and made the recommendation, that for the fbi to be able to do its job, it would need new leadership. he brought that recommendation to the president. the attorney general concurred with that recommendation. i personally am grateful that we have a president who is willing to provide the kind of decisive and strong leadership, to take the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove an fbi director who had lost the confidence of the american people. that being said, let me be very clear, we have some great men and women who serve in the
federal bureau of investigatn every day. who make enormous sacrifices for the people of this country. i'm very confident that the president will go through a process and he will choose an individual who will be able to lead the fbi not only back to credibility, to restore the trust and confidence of the american people, but lead the fbi to even greater heights to ensure the -- that it does its job, enforcing our laws and protecting us. >> sir -- >> thank you. >> what do you say to those who have drawn parallels to the nixon investigation? >> why is now the right time? >> the deputy attorney general, who was confirmed two weeks ago, made the recommendation to the president. it was agreed to and concurred with by the attorney general. and the president accepted that recommendation. >> that's all the time we have. >> the attorney general had recur recused himself.
>> some final questions there for vice president mike pence on capitol hill. let's go to the person who was asking a lot of those questions, kristen welker. okay. so let's just sort of recap where we are right now. you had sean spicer, kellyanne conway. you had sarah huckabee sanders all coming out. now nine minutes of the vice president defending the president's decision. how concerned is the white house about what they're seeing and hearing and reaction to this, the blow back, and maybe even before that, what was mike pence doing on capitol hill? this was previously scheduled? >> this was previously scheduled, chris, and it is not unusual for him to hold meetings here on capitol hill. of course, he's also working to move the health care bill forward. what was extraordinary about what we just saw, to your point, is that this is a white house that is clearly in full damage control mode. i can tell you that his aides were wrapping him, and he continued to answer our
questions anyway. so he wanted to get out ahead of this narrative. clearly, the white house feels as though they've lost this narrative at this point in time. a couple points i want to highlight from the vice president, one, he was pressed repeatedly on whether this decision was made effectively to thwart the russia investigation. he denied that vigorously. kept going back to the notion that this was at the recommendation of the deputy ag. i asked him if the president directed the deputy ag to look into director comey. he didn't answer that question directly. he punted and went back to his talking points. you heard him say, this is the right decision at the right time. and the director lost the confidence of the american people. this is the narrative that the white house wants to put forward, chris. this is what we're going to hear. will we hear from the president? that's an open question. >> he has an opportunity today. he's going to be meeting with lavrov. they have chosen not to open it
to the press. kristen welker in the middle, as she often is. i want to bring back marcell, jeremy and michael allen to get your reaction to that. marcell, what was the headline out of what you heard or what did that bring to mind for you? >> well, i think the vice president's comments really underscored a point i perceive, which is that the impression left publicly is that the national security implications here of the president's decision are serious. there's a risk of a chilling effect in the intelligence community and at the fbi that could have a real impact on the ability of the bureau to fully and impartially investigate this challenge of russia. let's remember, russia currently is still believed to be conducting covert influence operations and subversion operations across both the united states, france and other european allies. this is a challenge that exists today. the investigations that the fbi
have been leading are an important component to figure out how the posture of the russians is occurring and what we can do to learn the lessons from it and prevent any future attacks from happening against us. >> you heard, jeremy, what kristen welker just said, which is that the white house is trying to get out ahead of this. how do they do that? >> well, i mean, they've also said the american people lost confidence in jim comey. i don't know what the basis for that is, especially when the president has repeatedly expressed confidence in jim comey and praised him. i don't understand that line of argumentation. also, just on the broader point here, that this had nothing to do with the russia investigation, all of us worked in government, michael in the white house, i can't believe the investigation didn't play a role here. i think it must have. i don't think it is decisive and strong by the president but it is transpatierent and shows
weakness. it shows how concerned they are about the russian investigation. a strong move would be, we have to take this on seriously. this is the opposite reaction. >> michael, if the white house is not going to try to deal with this with the president himself, at least not today, what's the responsibility here? obviously, the fbi is going to continue with its investigation but the senate also has responsibility, as well. what's the step forward here in a democracy? >> i think the checks and balances in our democracy are strong. i think you've already seen the chairman of the senate intelligence committee come out, express reservations about the decision, but double down on the efficacy of that investigation. i think the fbi carries forward. the press is obvious playing a big role here in watching what's happening here. i think congress will be aggressive. i think we have to take the decision and move forward. this is within the rights of the president, to appoint a new fbi director.
it all comes down to who the new nominee will be. that person will have to very senior, very well-known, probably a former federal judge or former fbi agent, someone very senior and above reproach, to give confidence so that we can move on with the investigation and get to some semblance of closure. >> thank you. we just have this coming in to us. the president, who we knew was going to be meeting right now with sergey lavrov, we are told now that cameras were allowed in. i'm going to ask my producer, is there any indication that he answered any shouted questions? we don't know yet. we haven't gotten anything written. it is possible. maybe we heard something from the president besides a handshake or the usual formal words that in a situation like this they have. stand by for that. we should have that quickly. they literally take that, run it down to a set of players and put it in and play it out. so we'll have that for you when
it happens. we want to talk about this other key question this morning about whether the firing of fbi director james comey will lead to the appointment of a special prosecutor. key to answering that question, rod rosenstein, the justice department's second in command. you just heard the vice president talking about him. this is what rosenstein said at his confirmation hearing a couple months ago. >> are you willing to appoint a special counsel to examine russian interference in the election and other activity? >> i'm willing to whenever i determine it is appropriate, based on the policies and procedures of the justice department. >> msnbc chief legal correspondent ari melber joins me now. we heard chuck schumer this morning talking about the need for this. we heard it from a lot of democrats, even suggestions by republicans. what would it take? how would this work? >> what it would take is the doj official in charge, who as you
mentioned, is rod rosenstein in the russia case, to reach a determination. it involves two prongs as the lawyers would say. two things have to happen. number one, there is a conflict of interest or extraordinary circumstance that justifies this. number two, that appointing the special counsel would be in the public interest. >> all right. so once that happens, how would it work? how do you come up with a person who signs off on it? >> this is the part of this that has gotten the most, i think, confusion and attention. we should step back and remember, what fbi agents do is what police officers do. think of them as federal police or super cops, but they're out there working the beat, doing the interviews, interrogations, gathering the facts. what prosecutors do, in this case, a special prosecutor, is oversee that. the main thing that changes is not the day to day of the operation. rather, the oversight of it and the ultimate charging decision.
that is super important if there are any questions about the independence and the political wall that ssed to twist twe -- exist between the wall of facts and the allegation. the concern here was worsened by the president inserting himself and his own potential criminal liability and lack thereof in the letter relieving james comey of his job. the question being, would there be a lack of appetite if the facts say people connected to trump should be charged? you put in a special counsel. they oversee it. >> thank you. we've got breaking stuff. both on capitol hill and at the white house. let me go to nbc's kelly o condco donnel who is in the preefing roo -- briefing room. >> unexpected addition to the president's schedule. the pool of photographers and journalists were ushered into the oval office. there is tape that will be made
available shortly. the president responded to a shouted question. his response was, because he was not doing a good job. president trump saying to reporters in the oval office that james comey was fired from his position as director of the fbi because he was not doing a good job. that tape will be made available. you'll be able to see it yourself and assess his demeanor, his body language. this is the first public comment from the president about this consequential decision to fire the fbi director. >> just so people understand how this works, kelly, and you and i have both been in this situation, this is total under th control of the white house. they me a decision about whetr or not to let white house cameras in. now, the white house correspondents association, if they say no, will often go in and push back. ultimately, they knew this would be an opportunity for the president to make some on-camera statements, right? >> absolutely. clearly, we had talked about the fact we had not seen the president in a public, official capacity since thursday night.
other than his twitter feed, he'd only been seen arriving and departing using air force one from his weekend travel. there'd been no white house events or opportunities to throw a question to him. earlier on capitol hill, vice president pence was there and spoke to reporters, saying it was the right decision at the right time. taking questions from reporters there. knowing that there would be continuing pressure on the president to say something before cameras, they opted to add something to the schedule that we did not know was taking place today. this meeting with henry kissing kissinger. earlier today, the president met with the russian minister, sergey lavrov. that didn't happen in this context. there was a photo of that meeting tweeted out by the russian side. maybe by the trump white house at this point, as well. there was an engineered opportunity, where the pool was called hastily. we didn't have any short warning about his intention to have this visual of, of course, a nixon-era official, henry
kissinger, in with president trump today. they've had a relationship for years and kissinger advised and counselled president trump as a candidate and as president. he is a notable figure, for sure. but the president, knowing that would generate a question, and the team that went in today, our colleagues here did ask the question. that response, terse but important, that james comey was not doing a good job in the estimation of president trump. no response on matters like timing or the rationale behind it, behind the not doing a good job idea. no comment on the larger russia implications. a brief statement but it allows us to see the president on camera responding to that. the tape will be sent to all networks simultaneously in a short while. >> i'll add one thing to your reporting, which is that it is a controlled situation for them. when you go in as the pool, they tell you when you have to leave. so the president can say just as
much, as little as he wants, and then they can get the members of the press out of there. kelly, i know you'll be standing by for us there in the briefing room. thank you for that. in the meantime, busy day as a result of this on capitol hill. let's go back to kristen welker. i understand you just spoke with several senators. >> i did, chris. let me give you the bottom line. the calls for the a special counsel are growing louder on capitol hill. let's start with senator blumenthal of connecticut, saying he'll hold his vote for a new fbi director, make the vote contingent upon appointing a special counsel. we also asked that question of senator widen. he didn't say his vote was contingent upon that, but he did say that a special counsel is necessary under thes circumstances. what about the republicans? will they join their democratic colleagues? that could really be critical here. of course, it is ultimately up to the attorney general to appoint a special counsel.
if the calls are loud enough on capitol hill, that could make a difference. if there are bipartisan calls. i put the question to republican senator ted cruz. he didn't respond. senator mike lee, no response. but senator kennedy of louisiana, while he didn't fully call for a special counsel, this is what he did say, chris. he said the white house's timing on this was less than impeccable. the president's selection of a new fbi director might be one of the most important decisions of his presidency. effectively saying he has some real questions about the way in which this was handled. the question we're tracking today on capitol hill, will some of these republican senators start to join thaeir democratic colleagues who are now calling vigorously for a special counsel? so far, we haven't seen too much defections, but that's what we're going to be tracking here on capitol hill. we put that question, of course, to vice president mike pence. he stressed the fact that he still has confidence in the fbi and the department of justice to carry out this investigation and
indicated he didn't think a special counsel was necessary. that's what you would expect him to say. i think that the calls are going to continue to grow louder here, chris. >> okay. kristen, thank you so much for that. i know you'll continue to track any senators who you might see there in the halls of congress. in the meantime, russn foreign ministerergey lavrov speaking now at the russian embay. he is speaking in russian but we have a translation for you. let's listen a bit. >> -- which are not very encouraging. the reason of the deterioration of the relations is well-known. the previous administration bent over backwards to undermine the solid foundation of our elections. right now, we have to start f m from -- but understand that both russian and american people want to live in accord. want to be able to -- with each
other. together with rex tillerson, we discussed the outcomes of the meeting of our deputies, that took place the day before yesterday. they reviewed the state of our bilateral relations. it is obvious that not all the problems have been solved. i would rather say that the pace of the efforts is low. but we agree to continue using this channel to address the irritants that were artificially introduced into our relations. i believe that is fruitful and we won't be able to address all the problems overnight. it is obvious there is a desire to move in the direction of the settlement of the problems. president trump clearly stated his interest to build business like relations with russia and
settle issues, which is extremely important, that both president trump and president putin are willing to aai concrete results that would help removing problems from the international agenda. that is what i wanted to start with. any questions? please use the mic. >> translator: have you discussed the issue of sanctions and including the issue of restoring access to seize russian property in new york? my second question is if this situation is unsettled by the american side, what would be the retaliation from the russian side? >> translator: well, we do not discuss the issue of sanctions. it is not a problem but a result of unilateral actions taken -- >> that is sergey lavrov. we'll listen in for any news he might make.
he met earlier today with the president. then there was a surprise on the president's schedule. he met with henry kissinger, who has often been somebody he has consulted with on foreign affairs matters. but they invited the press in. there were no public events on the president's schedule today. they add this meeting publicly with henry kissinger. that allows the pool, that's a pre-determined number of people. someone from each part of the media, radio reporter, a print reporter, a television reporter, to go in, in a very controlled situation, and if they can, ask a question of the president. here it is. >> we have henry kissinger with us. he's been a friend of mine for a long time. thank you very much for being here. appreciate it. >> why did you -- >> why did you fire director comey? >> because he wasn't doing a good job. very simply, he was not doing a good job. >> did you -- >> excuse me? not at all. >> thank you.
>> will the fbi director be -- >> thank you. thank you. >> thank you, everybody. >> thank you, sir. >> thank you. >> there you see him with henry kissinger. then the pool gets escorted out. they can continue asking questions and he has the opportunity not to answer them. that's the same with every president who dealt with a white house pool. i want to talk about what happened prior to that and the impact of this firing on the conversation earlier with sergey lavrov, who we just saw at the russian embassy. joining me, matthew cooper, politics editor news week, and a russian who survived being poisoned twice during his opposition to president putin. he's now the chair of open russia. matt, i'll start with you. it's almost hard to make up a confluence of events like this, where you have the man who is in charge of the russia investigation being charged -- being fired by the president,
and the next day, the president, in what was husbais only schedu meeting face-to-face that we saw on his public schedule until they added kissinger was with sergey lavrov. let me get your take on how one impacts the other. >> the optics are wild, and toss in the fact that kissinger was the national security adviser -- >> during watergate. >> -- under nixon. the echoes are crazy here. it's obvious, as kristen welker said in an earlier block, that the white house is going to push back hard today. that's why mike pence was in front of the cameras. why the president brought the pool in and talked with them. he'll do the interview with lester holt exclusively tomorrow night. he's pushing back hard. the fact is, nobody is really buying that this has --hat this firing was all in defense of hillary clinton's honor. because he was upset about
treatment of hillary's aide, huma abedin. everyone believes that this has to do with comey's conduct of the russia investigation. >> and in the meantime, there was this moment this morning that -- i think we've used the word bizarre or almost unbelievable in a lot of situations over the last 18 hours or so. you had sergey lavrov and the president of the united states, and andrea mitchell tried to get reaction from them earlier -- i'm sorry -- are lavrov and rex tillerson, before the meeting. the secretary of state tried to get reaction from lavrov and tillerson to the firing. let's listen. >> does the comey firing cast a shadow over your talks? >> was he fired? >> yes. >> you are kidding. you are kidding. >> vladimir, i would say when he said, you're kidding, you're kidding, that's not an indication that sergey lavrov
didn't know what was going on. do you think that was part of the conversation today? >> i think that's his sense of humor, first of all. it is astonishing, what we heard a minute ago when you show the live feed of mr. lavrov speaking from the russian embassy in d.c. he said that the reason u.s./russia relations are at a low point at the moment is because it was undermined artificial by the u.s. side. i think that's really an astonishing comment. they are at a low point. this is absolutely true. both the kremlin and white house are saying, there is an absence of trust in a bilateral relationship at the moment. but the reason this is the situation is because of the way vladimir putin's regime has been behaving, both on the international stage, where it has been breaking international law and behaving aggressively towards its neighbors, first of all, of course, ukraine, and giving political pocover to basr al assad, and so on and so forth. also because of the way putin's regime has been behaving in russia. there is the organization for security and cooperation in
europe, which is the world's largest security organization. includes the russia and the united states as well as many other countries. one of the pillars of this organization is a set of commitments, clear commitments, like human rights, a rule of law, free and democratic elections. the putin regime has been violating and breaking the commitments for many, many years. the end of the day, there can really not be a genuine convergence of interests or genuine trust between, on the one hand, a system based on rule of law and democracy, and on the other hand, a corrupt, authoritarian regime, which is vladimir putin's regem. the two previous u.s. administrations actually began by declaring their intention to try to be friendly with mr. putin and have good relations with mr. putin. remember george w. bush looking into mr. putin's eyes and getting a sense of his soul. president obama declaring a reset in relations with the putin regime. of course, none of that worked
because, again, there is such a divergence in the two systems. i think it is very important that two great powers, such as are the united states and russia, have a relationship based on trust and based on mutual understanding. >> i would agree with that. i just want to do a quick question because we're running out of time because we spent so much time in breaking news. matthew, when you saw that piece of video and kind of the laughing dismissal by sergey lavrov to what is a very obviously incredibly serious situation, the firing of an fbi director, do you think that that is in any way indicative of how westerners are viewing the united states right now? that sort of there is this mess in the united states or an administration that keeps doing things that are unexpected and that would be an understatement. >> sure. chris, i think it is perplexing to both allies and adversaries around the globe. you know, dismissing a law enforcement official who is
leading an investigation of a president is something that's just not done. it is something that's done in third world and not democratic regimes. so i think people are bemused by it. i would just add quickly that i think as rough as things are now in u.s./russian relations after trump's strike on syria, moscow is still better off with trump in office than if clinton was in there. trump was still pro-brexit, has been skeptical of nato. i think for a lot of reasons, relations may not be great right now, but they're still better from moscow's standpoint than if clinton was in office. >> thank you both for joining us. much appreciated. up next, what did then-candidate trump say about fbi director james comey on the campaign trail? we'll be right back with nbc's katy tur and mark murray on a very busy morning. >> announcer: it's time for the your business entrepreneurs of the week. breaking up was hard to do for
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president trump captured headlines nationwide with his firing of fbi director james comey. washington is still realing. the president's letter terminating comey saying you're not able to effect live i lead the bureau. this is at odds with what he said in the past, often times praising him. >> i respect the fact that director director comey was able to come back after what he did. what he did, he brought back his
reputation. he brought it back. he has to hang tough. there is a lot of people that want him to do the wrong thing. >> he has become more famous than me. joining me now is mark murray. katie, you have been following him from the beginning. there was a blowing of a kisso him. how does donald trump go between the criticism and the praise of james comey right after he recommended no charges, he was critical, but he seeds on that news conference to say that hillary clinton was careless. they reopened the investigation.
they were realing from his poor performance at the debates, the polls just declining, this gave life to his campaign again. it is what allowed moderate republicans, republicans that were on the fence about him to say you know what? i'm going to vote for donald trump. they campaigned on him reopening this investigation. they campaigned on his decisions. he said at the beginning of his presidency, right after his inauguration he was going to keep james comey on. trump's associates will admit he should have fired him on day one. there is now a lot of questions about why show. maybe it was something that should have been done all along, but the optics are very hard to escape especially considering how loud the investigation had
become around the trump campaign and russia and all of the news coming out with sally yates. the times is very suspicious. >> so you go from praising him to firing him, and as you point out, and i want to read this today, don't forget the time that trump attacked the man that is now the acting fbi director. >> that's right, chris. it was on the campaign trail in october 24th, and october 25th, where then candidate trump ended up on the stump attacking mr. mccabe of the fbi who is now the acting director. and it had to do with the fact that his wife ran for virginia senate as a democrat in a state senate election, ended up getting a large infusion of money, but there is an important
context here when mr. mccabe's wife ended up running, that was well before he ended up overseaing the hillary clinton e-mail investigation, and on the campaign trump, trump ended up con flating the two stories, but it makes for a less awkward situation of the fbi director having now been attacked by the president of the united states. >> if we go back to the whole question of why, and you have raised the question of why now, why not then, the timing could be worse. you could make a lot of arguments about that including the sally yates testimony, when you're a politician, sometimes you are to put aside the personal and deal with the reality. i think a striking example of that is when president obama sat
with then president, someone that questioned his scitizenshi. >> he exonerates himself in that letter that fires the fbi head. it is still unclear what he is talking about you told me on three separate occasions that i was not under investigation. >> and they asked about those throw, and they do not have an answer. >> they don't have an answer. the question is how this was done. the letters from the deputy ag and the ag from donald trump are all dated yesterday. how quickly did this come about? these are questions out there, was this just donald trump watching tv and deciding he had enough of the russia
investigation and deciding that he wanted to do something at this moment? they said no, he was working on a recommendation since he was brought on board. he has only fwhn that position for two weeks. the larger question is when donald trump is asked to act or forced to act, will he act on his own self interest or on behalf of the american people, american traditions, celebration of powers, upholding the fundamentals of our democracy. ma murray laid this out perfectly. >> what you said was, mark, there is, the question is is this about the clinton investigation or russia and the smoke would lead you to russia. >> when you end up having donald trump raising james comey, it's because he was interfering in a way that interfered with donald trump. one way to understand president trump is that when someone is
benefitting you, he likes you, and when not, he doesn't, and he was saying he didn't think james comey was doing a good job. what was the negative story line. that had to do with the russia investigation, hillary clinton's e-mail story is something that no longer impacts donald tru trump -- >> it's not just that. it's not just donald trump attacking the judges for stopping his travel ban. it is about the millions of people and the popular vote. he skews things time and time and time again towards his own self interest. it makes him look like she the in the right. thiss part of a larger pattern. >> thank u, mark murray, thank you as well. the president will have a chance
to answer thesing. a lot of them that are lingering out there it is coming up tomorrow, in the meantime, thank you for watching this who of msnbc live. live in washington right now "andrea mitchell reports." >> comey fired. the president fires the fbi director, the man in charge of investigating possible links between russia and the trump campaign. >> did the president fire director comey to impede the russian investigation. >> as you know very clearly and stated repeatedly and the president has been told, he is not under investigation. >> democrats calling for a special prosecutor. >> our democratic colleagues are complaining about the rem