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Trump Fires FBI Director Comey; Grand Jury Subpoenas Issued In FBI's Russia Investigation; Trump Admin Wants FBI To Get Aggressive On Leak Probes. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 9, 2017 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:02] SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: And it may well be time for us to have a special counsel appointed so that there is more confidence in the independence of the investigation that is not yet concluded.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The president and Kellyanne Conway keep saying that this is about restoring confidence in the FBI. Does the firing of the FBI director who is leading the investigation into the White House by that White House -- the firing of him by that White House, does that restore confidence?

COONS: Not at all. And, in fact, the way the firing was done was particularly striking. Director Comey is a respected career law enforcement official, public servant, and he was fired essentially through the press.

He found out that he had been fired while he was speaking to FBI personnel in Los Angeles and there were press reports that a letter had been delivered to the FBI headquarters. That's about as brazen and aggressive a way as you can fire somebody.

And as you just referenced in the previous segment here, Anderson, President Trump's letter saying, "You have told me three times I'm not under investigation," just seems to protest too much the idea that there is nothing going on here other than sort of clearing the decks.

And I'll remind you, FBI Director Comey is just in the third year of his 10-year term. If this really was the reason for his firing, why wasn't he fired in the first few days of the Trump administration?

COOPER: So what happens now? I mean, you know, Democrats can wring their hands about and say there should be a special prosecutor. But, how does that actually happen unless it's from the Department of Justice, you know, from Rod Rosenstein?

COONS: That's the core challenge that we face. As I understand it, Anderson, under existing statute, a special counsel could be appointed by the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. That will require Republicans to stand up and say, as well as Democrats, that we have real concerns, that we think we have to do more to restore independence to this investigation and to express concerns. So far, we heard from the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee who has expressed some of those exact concerns and a few other senior Republicans. But, frankly, it's my hope that in the interest of restoring the rule of law and the interest of restoring public confidence and the respect for the United States internationally as a country where there is a separation between partisan politics and the FBI and the Department of Justice that this important step will be taken.

COOPER: Why should people who are watching at home have confidence in the continued investigation into getting to the bottom of what happened with Russia's interference with the election? I mean, at this moment in time, why should people have confidence?

COONS: Well, I think there's a lot that has to be done to restore and ensure that confidence. I'll remind you that the escapade with Congressman Devin Nunes on the House Intelligence Committee really set that investigation off track, really took them off track for a number of weeks. But they have now reconstituted themselves.

I'm optimistic that the Senate Intelligence Committee continues to operate in a bipartisan way and that there are Republicans and Democrats on that committee willing to stand up to the president, and willing to issue subpoenas if necessary and required and that they have got the staff and the determination to get to the bottom of it.

As for the FBI, I think that's going to take some work and I think it's going to require the career professionals who run the investigation and the current leadership of the Department of Justice, most principally Rod Rosenstein, to step forward and take strong action to restore that confidence, that confidence in the independence of the investigation.

COOPER: Senator Coons, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much. Obviously, a lot of fast moving developments here tonight to talk about.

We are watching the plane bringing former FBI Director James Comey, I guess back to Washington. He was at an event in L.A. where -- if you're just joining us, we are believe based on the reporting that he was -- the moment he found out that he was fired, he was actually talking to a group of FBI agents in Los Angeles in order to have some face time with them after all this, you know, public talk of investigations and just have some face time when he learned from watching television, we understand, that he had been fired as director of the FBI.

A lot to talk about with the panel, if you're just joining us now at the top of the hour. Let's go back to our senior legal analyst -- well, actually, let's go to David Gergen who we haven't heard from tonight.

David, you've seen a lot of administrations work with Republicans and Democrats. What do you make of what's happening in Washington tonight? [21:05:04] DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Stunning. Anderson, stunning. I could hardly remember a night like this until I went all the way back to the Saturday Night Massacre during the Nixon days. I happened to be in that administration and that, of course, was even more shocking.

But this I think -- I think it's deeply troubling for our democracy, because -- it's just not -- the story the White House has put out. There's no question that Director Comey has been, you know, enveloped in controversy by, you know, in taking a lot of incoming fire from both sides. But the story the White House has put out is simply not credible.

You know, the events they're talking about were events that Donald Trump saluted as a candidate. He was accused (inaudible). Comey, he hugged him, you know, as he came into office. And he put the story out, I think, shows distrust and puts real -- I think puts real pressure on the administration to come up with a solution that not only, you know -- not only do they need an independent FBI director now, but they do need to look at an independent counsel.

And I salute Richard Burr, the Republican senator from my home state of North Carolina, for having the guts to say as a Republican, this is all very suspicious.

COOPER: And it is significant that Richard Burr said that. I mean, because obviously we've heard from a lot of Democrats who are, you know, very concerned about what is going on. But Richard Burr, who is running the Senate investigation for the Republicans, I mean, that's clearly a substantial voice.

GERGEN: Yeah, absolutely, Anderson. And you -- because you keep asking the question in an investigation like this, where is the Republican Howard Baker? Where is someone who had his integrity and was willing to go where the facts led in the Nixon investigation of Watergate? And I think acted extremely honorably and brought great honor to the Congress by asking -- persisting as asking that question about what did the president know and when did he know it.

COOPER: Right. It was Republicans during Watergate who were critical --


COOPER: -- in order -- to get the investigation into Nixon going.

GERGEN: Absolutely. They played a very -- I think the checks and balances worked really well and forced Nixon out as he should have been forced out after all the illegalities.

But in this situation now, everybody knows that at the heart of all of this is whether the Russians have had ties to a Trump campaign and their effort to erode American democracy, to destabilize American democracy.

We have new elections just around the corner. It's really imperative that we understand what happened in the last election and to throw the FBI director out at this very, very sensitive moment --


GERGEN: -- after, you know, this president has already fired, you know, people like Yates. He fired like Flynn. There are several people who are tied in one way or another to the Russian issue who've been fired.

And it -- Donald Trump is -- he may not mean to do this, but he is giving the impression that he thinks danger is getting too close. That he himself may be or somebody around him may be threatened.

COOPER: And yet, we heard from Kellyanne Conway just moment ago the White House continue to say this has nothing at all to do with Russia. The firing of Director Comey is the major story tonight. It's not the only breaking news concerning the Trump-Russia investigation.

Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a development that any other might have actually led this broadcast. Evan Perez joins us now with the latest in that. What did you learned?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn seeking business records as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year's election. The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI's broader investigation that began last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.

The subpoenas were issued in recent weeks by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Alexandria, Virginia. They were received by associates who had worked with Flynn on contracts after he was forced out as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.

We reached out to Robert Kelner, who's an attorney for Flynn and he declined to comment as well as spokes people for the Justice Department, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

COOPER: Do we know what investigators are actually looking at with regard to Flynn? Well, investigators have been looking into possible wrongdoing and how Flynn handled disclosures about payments from clients tied to foreign governments including Russia and Turkey.

Flynn was paid $45,000 for making an appearance in Moscow to celebrate Russia Today, that's the Russian funded news outlet that the U.S. intelligence agencies say helped disseminate stolen e-mails intended to damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.

COOPER: So what does it tell us about the state of this investigation?

PEREZ: Well, until now, we've only gotten some small picks into what the FBI and federal prosecutors have been doing, Anderson. The former FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers in March that it was an ongoing investigation into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russia.

[21:10:06] And last week, he testified that the investigation was being overseen by those prosecutors in Alexandria and the Justice Department's National Security Division.

Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney in Alexandria whose office issued those subpoenas were talking about is also overseeing the investigation of WikiLeaks and he's now running the national security prosecutions at Justice Department headquarters.

Anderson, I should mention that we were working on this story before we learned that James Comey was fired today.

COOPER: We also got a video of James Comey's departure, the former director actually shaking hands with law enforcement officers. This is sort of -- first, we are getting a look at it departing from -- he was departing from Los Angeles at the event where we understand, according to reporting from Pamela Brown earlier, he was actually talking to FBI officials wanting some face time with them to answer questions they may have had and when they saw on television that he had been fired. It is a stunning way for a public servant like James Comey to find out that he has been fired by seeing it on television.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's just wrong. It's just wrong. You have -- historically, OK, you have had Democrats who have said he's a good public servant. You have Republicans who said he's a good public servant.

And at the end of the day, he was somebody who was serving what he thought was a 10-year term, only 3.5 years into it. And, you know, obviously, he made mistakes, big mistakes. But does anybody who has had a career that he has had up until the past year or so or even including that deserve to get fired while you're in Los Angeles speaking to your troops and see it on television? It's not cool.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Just personally with Trump, he -- you know, despite the "Apprentice" and the T.V. reputation and that you're fired thing, he -- if you talk to people around him, he does not like personal confrontation.

BASH: His conflict diverse.

LIZZA: His conflict diverse. That is exactly what he's saying.

COOPER: You know, I heard someone on Twitter say he fires people on T.V. Well, he fired him on T.V.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I want to make a point about how absurd this night is. The attorney general who is involved in making this recommendation thought enough to recuse himself from the Russian investigation because he himself failed to disclose that he had meetings with the Russian ambassador.

So at no time did he turn to the president and say, you know, it would be inappropriate for you to fire the head of the FBI when the FBI is investigating your campaign by extension, your White House for colluding with a foreign power.


GREGORY: How is that absurd?

CUCCINELLI: If you run an agency that runs investigations, which I have, that person does not day to day run the investigation. They are not in charge of the investigation. They manage the personnel and that's --

GREGORY: I'm sorry. No, no, no. He is the attorney general -- no, no, you interrupted me. I will finish my point.

CUCCINELLI: This is not about --

GREGORY: Mr. Cuccinelli -- no, no, no. You're getting --

COOPER: One at a time. We don't need to talk over each other. We have plenty of time, so you just stop. Let him finish the point and then go ahead.


GREGORY: -- issue with talking points and you're a political figure, I understand you want to do that. He is the attorney general of the United States. He advises the president. He knew enough to recuse himself from the investigation. He should have been a grown-up and stood up and said that this was wrong.

You know, people have said from the White House tonight, some of the talking points that you were starting to utter, that in fact Hillary Clinton --

CUCCINELLI: I don't have --


CUCCINELLI: -- as talking point.

GREGORY: Well, it sounded very similar to what Kellyanne Conway said when you interrupted me. So why -- officer, excuse me, I'm speaking. You will have your chance. You can brought on you a plenty of opportunity.

The White House is saying tonight Hillary Clinton would have fired Jim Comey, too. I'm sure she would have liked to. I know for a fact there was some discussion of that when she thought she was poised to win. But she actually got very sage advice that you couldn't do that because of how nakedly political that would look. Apparently, there's nobody in the White House who gave that same advice to this president.

COOPER: OK, Mr. Cuccinelli.

CUCCINELLI: But you are jumping to conclusions and I think maybe -- let's hypothetically assume all of your awful expectations are true, which are overwhelmingly represented in the discussion tonight. Let's assume they're all true.

You will know that when the president announces his proposed replacement. That person in light of all of the concerns expressed here, some of them in a rather hyperventilated way, will be brought into even clearer focus when that person is selected.


CUCCINELLI: It is -- no, I have no idea. But it is absolutely incumbent on the president that he picks someone who both sides in the Senate in particular can view coming in as capable and with a track record of objectivity.

BORGER: Should he call for an independent counsel as well?

CUCCINELLI: Look, you're -- I've constitutional problems with that, you know, so I'm not the person to ask that. I would say no to Democrats and Republicans on that.

COOPER: Van, we haven't heard from you, Van.

VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE MESSY TRUTH: Well, I don't think you mean to say -- somebody might have heard you saying that we can't complain or criticize tonight when the President of the United States has done something this outrageous. I think we have a right to criticize today. I don't care if he appoints Anderson tomorrow.

[21:15:03] COOPER: I'm totally not qualified, so I would complain about that. I think everybody would.

JONES: You might complain. I wouldn't. Here's the problem.


JONES: Let me say a couple things here, Anderson. Number one, you can do the right thing for the wrong reason at the wrong time in the wrong place and manner. I don't think anybody here thinks that Comey was doing a great job. Perhaps firing him would have been the right thing, but you're doing it for the wrong reason. You're doing it in the wrong way. You're doing it the wrong place, the wrong time, the wrong manner and that is of great concern.

It looks like to most people objectively that this decision was made in a way that moves us away from rule of law and more toward the rule of a small click of people.

COOPER: But let me push back at that, because I think what the attorney general raises an interesting -- an important point, which is if he appoints somebody who is responsible figure, who is, you know, a law enforcement person who has a great track record, it's not, you know, some sheriff who's been out on the speaking circuit who is just a darling of crowd, but who has, you know, a kind of real FBI career. What's wrong with that? If he has the confidence of the president, that's what matters.

JONES: I'll tell you why. Because of this pattern and practice we've seen now of him firing people who stand up to him. He fires good people. He fires bad people. The only consistency is if you stand up to him. And so it doesn't matter if he puts a good person in there, because you now have this pattern and practice.

And, listen, I think a lot of people around the country right now are concerned that the only winner, the only people who have to be happy tonight are sitting in the Kremlin. This is the result of letting someone like Putin throw marbles on the stairs, banana peels on the sidewalk for American democracy and not having the president stand up and say, "You know what, I want this to stop."

It's because you have a President of the United States that has been other than outraged about this Russian investigation -- this Russian disruption of our election that you now have a level of concern in the country that just got worse.

COOPER: To me it's interesting -- actually, Mr. Attorney General, do you believe -- you know, Kellyanne Conway to me made an interesting point, which is in her view, or whether she believes or not, but to her argument this has nothing do with Russia. This is about James Comey does not have the confidence of the president. You can argue whether he, you know, should or shouldn't, whether the timing of it is weird. Their argument is this has nothing to do with Russia.


COOPER: Can you make that argument for the director of the FBI?

CUCCINELLI: If you were targeting the Russia investigation, name we've heard here already Dana Boente who has a spectacular reputation in the law enforcement community in the Department of Justice who has been given extraordinary responsibilities by President Trump in his first few months of his administration, and who headed the national security division, which is obviously a point of focus, and that appointment was just named as well. Those would be the people where you would see this --

COOPER: So you don't think that the firing of Comey has any impact on a Russia investigation?

CUCCINELLI: No, of course not.


CUCCINELLI: Absolutely not.

COOPER: Evan Perez, go ahead.

PEREZ: Look, I got to say -- look, I think it's -- whether or not it's going to affect the investigation of this career people, there is career agents at the FBI, there are career people at the Justice Department that are actually running this investigation. The problem that is created by what happened tonight is the perception and perception matters.

CUCCINELLI: And that is not -- you're the first person to say that. Everything I've been hearing is, oh, the investigation --


PEREZ: And this is one reason why --

BASH: No one has said that.

PEREZ: This is one reason why Comey was very in charge of this investigation. He was very much on top of it. I know that, you know, you've run large organizations, but when something like this that is really big and really important inside the FBI, Comey made sure that he was getting regular updates. And he was very much in control of this organization. I do think that perception matters and I think there's a tall order here for the president.

COOPER: So you're saying that even within the FBI, the firing of Comey would -- the perception of it would affect the investigation?

PEREZ: It really does. I think there are a lot of problem and so, look, I do believe that there will be --


PEREZ: I do believe that you're going to have -- you are going to have a tall order for the president for the attorney general and other people to find somebody that you were talking about.


PEREZ: Somebody -- I don't know who that is going to be.


COOPER: Hold on, one at a time. Jim, go ahead.

SCIUTTO: Because you and I, Evan, we of course talk to folks, a lot of folks in law enforcement intelligence. The word I could get texted and e-mails tonight is -- the phrase rather is conflict of interest. It is more than perception. It's more than how this is perceived in panels like this, et cetera.

It's about conflict of interest, which Evan knows better than me is something that career folks, but also people of both parties inside the bureau no question, but inside the House and Senate investigations take very seriously on avoiding conflict of interest. And that's what I'm hearing across the board here. Do -- does that principal still matter?


LIZZA: -- talking about and criticizing on this panel would have been at the same level if Barack Obama had fired James Comey in the middle of the Clinton e-mail investigation last year.

[21:20:04] And you yourself, if I remember correctly, were an extreme critic of the way that Loretta Lynch met with Bill Clinton on the airplane. Am I not right about that? And what would you have said if Obama had fired Comey under similar circumstances? Would you think that is --


CUCCINELLI: That makes a huge difference, a huge difference here.

BORGER: Answer it.

CUCCINELLI: I think it's an excellent point and there are a lot of reasons why this-- well, again, a lot of it goes into the context and --

LIZZA: If Obama had fired Comey in the middle of the Clinton e-mail investigation, what would your reaction be?

CUCCINELLI: I would have been shocked by that.

LIZZA: So why so different tonight? This is why people don't like partisans. They don't understand why you have such a different view of things when it's a different party.

CUCCINELLI: Literally -- no, no, no. I was outraged --

LIZZA: It's the same thing.

CUCCINELLI: OK. You don't like interrupting?

COOPER: Let him answer.


COOPER: You asked. Let him answer.

CUCCINELLI: So last summer, Director Comey acted like a prosecutor with final decision making authority and not an investigator, OK? That was a huge mistake bipartisanly criticized and something like that for the director of the FBI can never be recovered from, ever, ever.

And to your point, the way you handle a conflict of interest situation, and this does go to my reservations about special prosecutors and the way I did it was when my line attorneys came to me with recommendations, unless they were outside a very severe boundaries, I followed them.

Now, the evidence tonight is that the president did that. Now, you can suppose that the deputy attorney general cooked all this up, but he is the career person of those three.

BORGER: Right. But here's --

GREGORY: But what was shocking is that I don't mind partisans. You're a former attorney general accusing me and maybe others of hyperventilating. When you are not coming and you're telling me you're OK with the president firing an FBI director in the middle of an investigation involves him and people around him and despite the fact that the pretext is with zero credibility.

There are in a jury in America that buy the fact that did Donald Trump is spilling a tear over Hillary Clinton. You may be smirking, but you're an attorney general, you're going to stand by that?

CUCCINELLI: I think you're stuck inside the beltway. If you get --

GREGORY: No, no, no. That is such a cheap talking point. You are an attorney general. Are you going to defend it? Are you going to defend it?

CUCCINELLI: I don't say things that I won't stand behind.

GREGORY: Really? You can credible say you think it's OK to fire the FBI director in the middle of an investigation and then an attorney general shouldn't stand up against it?

CUCCINELLI: If you are making this about the investigation, there are thousands --

GREGORY: It's a fact. It's going on. Is it not a fact?

COOPER: To you it's not --

CUCCINELLI: There are thousands of investigations going on right now. Is this about the all others as well? Several of them will clearly --


BORGER: Ken, but Donald Trump is president.


BORGER: OK. Donald Trump is president and during the campaign we have chapter and verse.


BORGER: And we've been showing it on the air. He loved what Comey did in that July 5th presser where he called Hillary Clinton reckless and everything else and Robby Mook has joined our panel. I'm sure he recalls it. He loved it. He praised it. OK. He praised it. And the October 28th letter, he didn't criticize that at all. Now, Rod Rosenstein has criticized it --


BORGER: -- you know, in a few pages here roundly. So, you might believe that Rosenstein is speaking for the president if the president hadn't spoken for himself.

CUCCINELLI: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

BORGER: And the president has spoken for himself. CUCCINELLI: He's making a recommendation of the president, not speaking for the president. And the president took the recommendation.

BORGER: Well, but this is the letter they believe.

CUCCINELLI: (Inaudible) with the criticism and I stated them last year.

BORGER: OK. But --

COOPER: All right. We get --

BORGER: -- can this be the letter they released?

COOPER: Whenever anyone here in the studio (inaudible), the president has not appeared on camera. He has to talk about this nor is Attorney General Sessions. Short time ago I spoke with Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President. Here is some of that.


COOPER: Joining us right now is the White House Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway. Kellyanne, you know, to those who say why now, why fire James Comey now, what do you say?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Well, I would point them to the three letters that we received today, Anderson, the letter by President Donald Trump, the letter by Attorney General Sessions, and really the underlying report by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who the FBI director reports too.

The FBI director traditionally reports to the deputy attorney general. Rod Rosentein was confirmed just 14 days ago by a vote of 94 to 6 by our United States senators. He is well respected across both sides of the aisle. He served as U.S. Attorney in Maryland under President Obama. And he sent out a memo today to the attorney general and the realign (ph), Anderson, says "restoring public confidence in the FBI."


COOPER: Right. But a lot of the -- most of this letter focuses on Hillary Clinton's e-mails. This is stuff that as a candidate Donald Trump praised James Comey for. James Comey -- Donald Trump talked about this on the campaign all the time, all of a sudden the White House is concerned about James Comey's handling of Hillary Clinton's e-mails?

[21:25:11] CONWAY: No. It's not all of a sudden, but there are many things covered in this letter.

COOPER: In this kind of a letter, why not ask for a special prosecutor at this point? Is that possible -- is that something --

CONWAY: This letter is about restoring public confidence in the FBI. COOPER: Right. But, in the way to restore public confidence there's a lot of -- I just talked to Adam Schiff who's, you know, the leading Democrat on the House committee --

CONWAY: Right.

COOPER: -- who said we got to have a special prosecutor. John McCain has talked about the need for a special prosecutor.

CONWAY: OK. But what is that to say with this letter. You're asking me the core question of why --

COOPER: You're talking about restoring confidence. There's a lot of people on Capitol Hill who say in order to restore confidence we need a special prosecutor. You're saying --

CONWAY: What happened to all the Democrats? I've got all their quotes right here. They had no confidence in James Comey when it was politically (inaudible) for them.

COOPER: So now your White House is saying that what he did was wrong, but previously as a candidate Donald Trump was saying it was the right thing.

CONWAY: You're complaining two things that don't belong together, things that trip down (inaudible). I was on your show often last fall saying we were going to win Michigan and how are you going to do it. So that was fun. But here's what happened today. Today, not in a campaign, in the White House, the President of the United States --

COOPER: So that person doesn't exist anymore? Candidate Donald Trump, that's a fictional character we no longer allowed to refer to? We can now only refer to the Donald Trump who exists today?

CONWAY: Anderson, I'll ignore how unkind that is. And I will say that as President of the United States he needs confidence in his FBI director and he doesn't have it. And the attorney --

COOPER: When was the moment he lost confidence?

CONWAY: -- general and the deputy attorney general didn't have it. Well read this letter. Read these letters. It's a kind -- it's just -- it's a confluence of events. What Mr. Rosenstein says is so important.

He says, "The FBI's reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage." "I cannot defend the director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's e-mails." "The FBI director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assumed command of the Justice Department." "We did not hold press conferences through this derogatory information about the subject of a decline criminal investigation."

He also says that the dismissal of an FBI director, the firing of FBI director should not be done lightly. And that he doesn't take this -- he doesn't -- he's not doing this slightly, but he still thinks that we need to regain "public and congressional trust" if we have a director who "understands the gravity of mistakes and pledges and never to repeat them."

I mean that is what's happened. This has nothing to do with the campaign from six months ago. This is everything --


CONWAY: -- to do with the performance the FBI director since the president has been in the White House.


COOPER: Miss Kellyanne Conway earlier tonight. Joining us now is former Clinton campaign manager, Robby Mook. Robby, good to see you.


COOPER: What do you make of the firing of James Comey?

MOOK: Look, I have a big bone to pick with James Comey. OK. I thought the way he handled the investigation on Secretary Clinton's e- mails last year was poorly done. However, what happened today was wrong. And it was wrong because no one in our country, particularly the President of the United States should be above the law. And what happened was we know that Mr. Comey was overseeing an investigation into the president.

The president and his attorney general, both of whom potentially are implicated in this investigation made a decision to fire him. OK. And they did so without appointing a special prosecutor to oversee this case. And as we've heard from this panel, the questions are now gushing out about whether this investigation was closing in on the president and this was his way of closing it down.

COOPER: The White House says this has nothing to do with the Russia investigation. They point to this letter, as you heard from Kellyanne Conway, who said the president has lost confidence in James Comey and the reasons were sighted here. Many of them are have to do with the handling of the Hillary Clinton's e-mail investigation. And it's from the deputy attorney general.

MOOK: And I question confidence in Director Comey. A lot of people did. And there was an investigation into his activity there. We were waiting to get that back. All of a sudden today the president out of nowhere decides to let this man go after the Russia questions were mounting higher and higher.

We just heard testimony yesterday that the White House had been notified about compromises for General Flynn. They did nothing for days and days. I think everybody needs to wake up tomorrow morning and ask every American is to wake up and ask themselves, "What am I doing about this?"

This is the kind of authoritarian behavior we've seen spread in other parts of the world. If we don't stop it now, I'm very worried about what could happen. I have a bone to pick with James Comey. I thought what he did was inappropriate and potentially illegal.

And I was the first one in line to say he should be held accountable, but what happened was to defend Donald Trump, not to defend the judicial process and that's what should bother.

COOPER: If Donald Trump picks a -- somebody to head the FBI with a sterling reputation who continues the investigation, why doesn't the president have the right to have somebody who has his full confidence?

MOOK: The president has lost the right to choose who's in charge of this.

[21:30:03] His own attorney general lied to the Senate about his meetings with Russia. The president fired the man who is overseeing this investigation when it heated up. The United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives should get together immediately and appoint a special prosecutor.

I don't care what party you're in. This has gotten completely out of hand. And if you care about the rule of law, this has got to become independent special prosecutor and get a reputable person in to do that and continue this investigation.

COOPER: But -- I mean, that's, you know, it's up to -- I mean, the deputy attorney general could appoint a special prosecutor, but they clearly feel that there's not a need to, then there are multiple investigations going on.

MOOK: Well, it's clear that justice -- to the extent the Justice Department represents Donald Trump, it's clear that they don't think there needs to be any investigation, not only into the Trump campaign in Russia, but into what Russia is doing to democracies around the world.

The president hasn't even acknowledged what the Russians did in the French election. Everyone in the world is asking what happened. What is Russia doing? Why are they doing it? The one person who doesn't want to know is Donald Trump. And that is really scary. And that's why the Congress needs to do their job, step in, restore the balance of power, and get this out of the White House's purview.

COOPER: Clearly from the White House, they-- Kellyanne Conway does -- and I assume Donald Trump, that President Trump does not believe or wants people to believe this has nothing to do with Russia. I mean, you can't say for a fact this is because of Russia. It certainly obviously to many people it seems that way.

MOOK: It's not because of Hillary's e-mails. I mean, the fact that Donald Trump's administration is coming out and saying, the attorney general -- excuse me, the director of the FBI handled Hillary's e-mail investigation so badly. Poor Hillary Clinton, we're going to step in on her behalf and fire him. It's laughable. It is absurd. And we shouldn't even give in to that debate. It's ridiculous.

What we should do is stand up for holding the president accountable. Did his campaign collude with Russia? What did Russia do? What is Russia capable of doing? And did the president or his staff break the law? We've got to get those answers. And we cannot give in to these distractions that they throw out.

They want us to talk about -- well, does Donald Trump all of sudden care about Hillary's e-mails? He does not. He does not and he never has. And we can't let him get away with these lies. It's a lie. That's what it is. And he is trying to put himself above the law. And none of us should stand for it, Democrat or Republican. This is not a partisan issue. This gets to the fundamental tenets of our constitution and our legal system.

COOPER: Robby Mook, we appreciate you being with us.

MOOK: Thanks.

COOPER: As we get more late developments that we've been reporting, our sources say the White House did not expect serious fallout from this. Right now, they seem to be trying to make up for that. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at the White House for late reporting on damage control. Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I can tell you the entire west-wing is fully staffed at this hour, which is very unusual. Usually, everyone is long home by this hour but they were absolutely caught off guard as Dana reported earlier this evening. It has been playing out here in real time outside the White House.

About an hour or so ago, as you know Anderson, Kellyanne Conway was speaking to CNN. At that very same time, other officials were speaking to Fox and MSNBC. Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary moments ago was huddling with reporters up against the bushes trying to explain this in the pitch black, in the darkness here. They were absolutely caught off guard by this.

I asked one top White House official, "How could that possibly be that you were caught off guard by this?" They said, "We did not expect all the Democrats who were no fans of James Comey in the first place to react like this." But, of course, it's not just Democrats reacting like this. It's Republicans like Senator Rich Burr as well who was not given a heads up. He, of course, is the Republican chairman of the intelligence committee here.

So, the White House now trying to regain control of this narrative. They're making other phone calls. I asked the communications director of the White House this evening, just a short time ago, "When will we hear from the president on this? You know, will he explain his view of this?" They said there's nothing planned this evening, of course. Tomorrow there's nothing planned as well.

So, Anderson, you cannot imagine any of this sort of going away or dying down until he addresses this. He speaks to this. But this is a firestorm that inexplicably has caught them flat footed tonight.

COOPER: Jeff, is there any talk or any word at the White House about who they may be looking at for -- to be the next director of the FBI? ZELENY: Not that we have heard. I asked several officials that exact thing and they said, look, this is something that is about a week or so in the works. The president has been sort of thinking about this for at least a week. The deputy attorney general has been sort of looking at this since he came into office, since he was confirmed two weeks ago. So they definitely have people in mind. They're not sharing any of those people at this point.

[21:35:07] But, boy, that is a sensitive thing going forward. You can almost not imagine them appointing someone who, you know, was in the Michael Flynn type of situation, who was deeply involved in helping send him to the White House here, deeply involved in the election campaign. But they are not saying yet who they are thinking --

COOPER: And, Jeff, by the way, this is Jeff Sessions I think arriving, I guess, back at --

ZELENY: At his residence, Anderson. We have seen those pictures before when he leaves in the morning. Yeah, that's his residence.


ZELENY: But, no, we do not know who they are thinking of to replace him. But, boy, that is the next question here among many, many tonight.

COOPER: Yeah. We'll stay live. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

What's so striking about all this is just happening just as we also learn of the existence of grand jury subpoenas going out to associates of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Our Pamela Brown is working that story. She joins us now with the latest. So, explain what's gong on with that, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So, Anderson, we've learned that federal prosecutors had issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former national security adviser for President Trump, Michael Flynn, seeking business records as part of that ongoing probe of Russia meddling in last year's elections.

And these subpoenas, Anderson, represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI's broader investigation that began last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia. But, they were issued just in the recent weeks, just in the last couple of weeks we're told by sources by the U.S. Attorneys Office in Alexandria, Virginia. They were received by associates who worked with Michael Flynn on contracts after he was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.

Now, Robert Kelner, an attorney for Flynn, declined to comment as did the Justice Department, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office. And we should say we were working on the story, Anderson, before we found out -- learned about the news that James Comey had been fired from the -- his post as the director of the FBI, Anderson.

COOPER: And what are -- I mean, is it known what investigators are looking at with regard to Flynn?

BROWN: So what we do know from talking to sources is that investigators have been looking into the possible wrongdoing in how Michael Flynn handled disclosures about payments from clients tied to foreign governments including Russia and Turkey.

As we've reported, Flynn was paid $45,000 for making an appearance in Moscow to celebrate Russia Today. That's the Russian-funded news outlet that U.S. intelligence says helped disseminate stolen e-mails intended to damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.

We don't believe it is related to his conversations with the ambassador of Russia, specifically about talking about sanctions. We know the FBI had interviewed him about that conversation and they didn't feel that it was appropriate to press charges on that particular instance. But there is this broader counterintelligence probe of Michael Flynn, that's still very much part of that probe, Anderson.

COOPER: Does this tell us anything more about the state of this investigation?

BROWN: Well, it does. I mean, until now, we've only gotten small peeks, small windows into what the FBI and federal prosecutors have been doing. And the FBI director, or I should say now fired FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers back in March that there was an ongoing criminal investigation into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates in Russia.

And last week, he testified that this investigation was being overseen by prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia and the Justice Department's National Security Division. Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney in Alexandria, whose office issued the subpoenas, is also overseeing that investigation of WikiLeaks and is now running national security prosecutions at the Justice Department. But this investigation has really been tightly held since it began last July, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thanks.

I want to get Jeff Toobin and Ken Cuccinelli's take on this. Jeff's a former federal prosecutor. Ken's the former Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia. First, Jeff, what do you make of Pam's reporting?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, this is an active investigation. The -- Michael Flynn was the national security adviser to the President of the United States and he is under criminal investigation by the FBI. The President of the United States just fired the head of the FBI.

I mean, it's just so obviously speaks for itself that it's -- the wrongness of that. And Ken, you know, you just said a moment ago that -- what was the word? Hair on fire or hyperventilating, is that what you said, Ken?

I'd like to speak out in favor of hyperventilating on this issue. This is not a normal political event. This is not, you know, some bill that's come passing Congress or not passing Congress. This is about the integrity of the American judicial system.

It threatened in a way that it hasn't been since October 20th, 1973, the day of the Saturday Night Massacre. This is different. This is a categorical difference that the President of the United States is firing the man who is investigating the President of the United States.

[21:40:03] Trump himself acknowledged in his goofy letter where he talks about, you know, three times that he was supposedly exonerated by Director Comey. I don't know what he's referring to, but it just shows that he knows he's under investigation, yet he is firing this guy anyway. It's not normal and it's not American.


CUCCINELLI: Yeah. I disagree. I'm completely on the other side of the coin. Here, we have an investigation that is proceeding. Everything that happens in this investigation tomorrow is going to be the same in spite of the removal of the director of the FBI because the professionals who handle this day to day are going to keep handling it day to day. They're not going to all going to their office and start sucking this up.

TOOBIN: How do you know? How do you know that?

CUCCINELLI: Oh, come on. It's ridiculous, Jeff. This doesn't stop anything. All the grand jury subpoenas go out. The work in pursuit of those will continue just as it has before.

TOOBIN: So why is there a head of the FBI if the guy doesn't matter at all? It just -- they just sort of operate on automatic pilot?

CUCCINELLI: The whole agency operates day to day, a whole set of career professionals who carry these investigations and are responsible for the day to day.

TOOBIN: Who tells them what to investigate?

CUCCINELLI: You know, once in a while one of them die and they replace them. And lo and behold, the investigation goes on. And the president has the authority to remove the director of the FBI because on a bipartisan basis. Confidence has been lost in the man.

I hear a lot of judgment contrary to what the president did here tonight and that's everyone's opportunity, of course, to express that. I think the real test of that perspective will be who he selects to replace James Comey. But the investigations go on. They're not impaired. And the notion that this is somehow going to stop the investigations going on by the FBI is ludicrous.

TOOBIN: Congress passed the law. Congress passed the law.

(CROSSTALK) TOOBIN: So -- I mean, the way you see the FBI, it's irrelevant who's the director because they seem to operate independently. Congress passed the law that said FBI directors should have 10-year terms to avoid precisely the situation that happened today, to avoid presidents trying to control the outcome of investigations. That's why there are these 10-year terms. That's why there's only been one FBI director who was fired, that was William Sessions by Bill Clinton.

It's something that was not politically controversial. Democrats and Republicans thought he should go. This is the first and only time in American history that an FBI agent -- an FBI director has been fired by a president at a time when that president is under investigation by the FBI. It's so wrong and it's so obviously wrong that it's just pathetic, Ken, that you are trying to defend it.

CUCCINELLI: Yeah. And I think that if President Trump appoints someone who is above reproach to replace Comey, all of these arguments I've been listening to for two hours will be brushed aside, as they should be. The test is on the president. I grant you --

TOOBIN: You know, Ken --

CUCCINELLI: -- that the burden is on the president at this point, but this does nothing to impair any investigations the FBI is conducting right now. It just doesn't.

COOPER: Jeff, what about that? If some guy or a woman with a sterling reputation in law enforcement is picked, what does that say?

TOOBIN: Who is to say that person won't be fired in a couple months, too? I mean, look, at the body count of people who have been investigating President Trump. You know, you have Sally Yates. You have Jim Comey. You have Preet Bharara who was told that he had a job, but then he was fired too. Who's going to believe that he is going to leave whoever this next person is in place?

COOPER: All right. We're going to bring the rest of the panel in a moment. We continue to get new information minute by minute here. Evan Perez joins us again.

Evan, what did you learned?

PEREZ: Well, Anderson, one of the backdrops of what happened today is this complaint from the White House from the president and from the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Jim Comey, the FBI -- the now former FBI director, complaining about leaks.

While the FBI and while the Justice Department has been working on the Russia investigation to Trump ties, Trump associates ties to Russia, the complaints from the White House and from the leadership at the Justice Department has been about leaks and about getting the FBI to put more priority in hunting down those leaks.

Now, the FBI has responded by tightening its media policy. We know that they've restricted who can talk to the media in the last couple of weeks. That's one of the things that they have taken action on. And we also know that they have been pursuing some of these leak investigations. But at the same time, the activity in the Russia investigation has not ceased as you noticed from the fact that we reported tonight that these grand jury subpoenas had been issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the eastern district of Virginia.

So, it goes to show that there's a lot of complaints that the -- certainly, the FBI director was hearing both from the White House and from across the street at Justice Department headquarters that there wasn't enough being done to hunt down these leaks, because in the eyes of the attorney general and in the eyes of the president, leaks were the most important part of what is happening right now.

[21:45:21] COOPER: So, did -- is it your understanding that played a role in the president losing confidence in the director of the FBI?

PEREZ: Well, we don't know. We don't know exactly what -- whether that played any role in what happened today. But, again, as I talked a little bit earlier, you know, perception matters.

And this is what the FBI director has been hearing, you know, repeatedly from his superiors across the street and down the street at the White House. That leaks are the important part of the story, not the investigation of getting into the bottom of what happened last year with the Russian meddling.

So, look, the perception is something that's going to matter in all of this. The FBI has career people who are handling this investigation. But perception is going to matter as to how this was done.

COOPER: All right. Evan Perez, thanks very much. We are back now with the panel.

BORGER: You know --

SCIUTTO: Well, I'm just going to say that we have another Republican senator coming out with a negative reaction to this, Senator Ben Sasse. He calls the Comey firing very troubling. He says that he wants to -- he's already reached out. He says to the attorney general and deputy attorney general to get a better understanding of what their rationale was for this. So, again, the opprobrium is becoming more bipartisan.

The other point I would just make because there was a phrase that stuck out to me from (inaudible) is Director Clapper's statement and Senator Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, both of them in their statements used this phrase to describe the firing, "A loss for the nation."

You know, a sign -- and this is what I'm hearing from career folks inside the bureau as well, that this is not about party, but this is about process and the system and conflict of interest. And that you have folks who are career employees of the bureau, et cetera, but also of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, who look at this not as a political issue but as a nation's issue, right, a process issue. And that's what you're beginning to hear from more than just the Democrats.


COOPER: I'm sorry, more reaction on another breaking item. Preet Bharara, who Jeff Toobin just mentioned, has weighed in. He tweeted, "Everyone who cares about independence and rule of law in America should be troubled by the timing and reasoning of Comey firing, period."

BORGER: And I think the more you hear that and you hear this, the word troubling keeps popping up, including from Richard Burr, this is a test of the balance of power.

JONES: That's right.

BORGER: It's going to be really interesting now to see what Congress does when they investigate this because they will, because the American public will say, "We need to know what happened here. We want to find out what happened." And they will call Comey up and -- to talk to them about it. And I wouldn't be surprised if you have a real investigation about this because this is what checks and balancing is all about.

COOPER: David Gergen, I heard you wanted to say something.

GERGEN: I think I want to follow up on Gloria's point. I do think that we need to know how we got here and we need to --

BORGER: Right.

GERGEN: -- examine up more closely. Anderson, we had two letters today dated today and the president's response today. It is simply not credible that all of this occurred today. There had to be pre- planning among the principals.

The White House staff may not have known much about it because that's the way things like this happen. Three or four people, the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, the president had to agree some time ago about how they're going to do this and what their rationale would be.

I would suggest there's a good chance it went back to the issuance of the subpoenas and that got the ball rolling. We just heard that the deputy attorney general started taking a hard look at this about two weeks ago and that's about the time when those subpoenas were issued.

BORGER: David --

GERGEN: So I think we need to know that because I want to say one other thing about this. There would have been very, very careful consideration at the presidential level with the Justice Department, with the attorney general, with the deputy attorney general about whether this was wise or not.

Donald Trump has a very good feel for the American public. He knew this was going to cause a firestorm. He absolutely knows that. We should dismiss the idea that it has caught him totally by surprise. But he had to have decided, it's worth the firestorm to get rid of the guy. I'll write it out because I have to get rid of the guy.

COOPER: Dana, you're --

GERGEN: And that is what makes it so suspicious.


BASH: I totally agree with David that Donald Trump has his finger on the pulse of the American people or at least the people who support him and that got him elected. No question.

But he's also an impulsive person. And how many stories have I heard, have you heard, would probably all heard of him blowing up about something and saying, "Let's just get rid of him," or "Let's get rid of that," or "Forget it," or "Let's just make this happen."

[21:50:07] And the question is, did that happen? And if that happened, did somebody say, "Hold on a second."


BASH: This is not the way -- this is-- it's not just firing. I mean, you know, Preet Bharara was a red flag at the U.S. Attorney Office. Sally Yates was -- she defied the president. That was in many ways kind of understandable that he didn't want her there.

This is a whole different ball game and the question as we begin to report this out and learn more about what happen behind the scene is, did somebody stand up and say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is potentially, you know, seismic and a huge, huge problem." And it hasn't been done since pictured (ph).

BORGER: I want to speak to David's point. Maybe as David just questioned, which is you say this is carefully planned and this is how these things go down. My question is, was it carefully planned that he was out of town? Was it carefully planned that he was speaking in California that he was not in his office?

They knew his schedule. He wasn't here. It didn't happen at the FBI when he was there. Would that be something that people would be thinking about when they would do this?

LIZZA: There's a reason that Saturday Night Massacre was on a Saturday night.

BORGER: Well right. I'm --

LIZZA: And small talks wasn't at the office.


JONES: I think that that become a matter of speculation as I might say couple of things. Democrats right now are scrambling. They recognize that there's an opportunity to do something. There's -- we're now hearing that Democrats are saying they're going to block any appointment of anybody to replace Comey until there is a special prosecutor appointed. You're going to see a massive show of resistance from Democrats both congressionally and otherwise. People see this as a real threat.

I think we've taken a step away from rule of law for the rule of a small group of people. And I also want to say that as result of that I feel vindicating, because I said that Donald Trump had become president and he has become president, President Nixon. There's an abuse of authority. There's an abuse of power. Its contemporary institutions and I feel vindicated tonight.

GREGORY: Can I just say that I play a little game sometimes, which is I insert Hillary Clinton's name into scenarios. And if she were President of the United States I bet Attorney General Cuccinelli, you might be the one hyperventilating, if she made such a move.

And I will tell you this as well. I think, again, as a former attorney general, it's very surprising to me that you think the test is what comes next and who you appoint. By the way, what basis of confidences that he's going to appointment somebody with a sterling reputation to the FBI? We don't see any basis of him doing that.

When you don't judge the original act, the firing of the FBI director at the time of a major investigation into potentially him and his administration. His own attorney general saw it to recuse himself, but you don't have any problem with that. And that really surprise me.


CUCCINELLI: Well, that's of course (inaudible). We do have evidence and the most important appointment he has made as president was Neil Gorsuch, an absolutely unimpeachable choice. The burden is that -- as I said earlier on the president on this next election, I would agree on two process points set stepping aside from the substance for a moment.

Dana said earlier this isn't the way you handle this with somebody like James Comey. I agree completely. It was terribly mishandled. I would secondarily agree that it was completely mismanaged within the White House, and that's on Reince Priebus primarily.

Chief of staff is supposed to prepare for this to manage that team. And this not the first time that kind of mismanagement has happened on something big in the White House.

JONES: I appreciate you saying that and I think it's important that we try to find some kind of common ground. I just want to ask you another question around common ground. I think you understand at least half the county is very concerned about this Russian investigation.

You have a great deal of confidence that the professionalism of the FBI is going to prevail. But other people have great concerns. What would you do in the situation that Trump finds himself in to give people more confidence?

Would you support a special prosecutor? Would you -- you always say that you wouldn't, but would you support any kind of effort to deal with this? Would you support Congress moving forward in the independent commission? What should Republicans be calling for in the face of a shaken public tonight?

CUCCINELLI: I certainly expect Republican majority committees in both bodies to press ahead with their investigations. That's one. And, two, as I've said earlier, Donald Trump -- President Trump is going to have to pick someone that ordinary Americans can look to with confidence in taking on this role. And if he does that, it would be very unwise of Democrats to impose the kind of resistance you suggest. If he doesn't, they'd be entirely --

JONES: What about this independent commission (inaudible) of that, independent?

CUNCCINELLI: As long as they press ahead from the legislative branch, you have something outside the executive branch. You have your check that way as long as it's real and they're thorough.

COOPER: I want to check in. Jeff Lord has been standing by. Jeffrey, I haven't heard from you. What do you make of tonight's going on?

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SIUPPORTER: Anderson, I've got to tell you. I've been sitting here well outside the beltway watching this fascinating. And I confess. I'm a little cynical to all of the reaction.

[21:55:09] If I can just throughout a few names, Clarence Thomas and Bill Clinton, in terms of special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Ken Starr. When it was Clarence Thomas and their allegations of sexual harassment, the world was going to end. Everybody in Washington was furious. Women tell the truth, et cetera. You move ahead to Bill Clinton and all of the sudden, all of these never matters. It was only about sex.

When Archibald Cox was fired by Richard Nixon, it was the end of the world, the massacre. When the White House -- the Clinton White House went after Ken Starr, well, this was just fine to do. I just look at this and this is astonishing. And, Anderson, you would get exactly the right point here.

If President Trump appoints -- excuse me -- a very well respected, a federal judge or someone of that nature, a career FBI agent, as head of the FBI, this will vanish. And up until then, this is just a circus. It's a show and it's terrible. And it's throughout the media. I'm not blaming all of you guys. I'm just saying, this is the way it works and I've seen it before.

COOPER: I mean no one ever fired Ken Starr since you point out. But --


COOPER: Do you believe that this had anything to do with the Russia investigation?

LORD: No. I think it's just very obvious. I mean, you know, in the time I've been sitting here, I've been printing out one statement after another from Democrats who demanded his resignation. Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, I mean, all these people and all of the sudden tonight they're defending him. You know, it's just hypocrisy to the max.

They don't have anything about Russia. If it's there, get it out. And one other thing, Anderson, I'm all for as I've said before, an independent commission. No special prosecutors. We've had enough of those, they don't go well.

But an independent commission of Republicans and Democrats on the style of the 9/11 commission, let's do it. Let's get everybody. Director Comey, President Obama, let's discuss the leaks all of it. Get it out.

COOPER: David?

GREGORY: It is hitting F5 on the political analysis key to say that Democrats are being hypocrites. You can actually hold to opposing thoughts in your head at same time. There is a basis for Jim Comey being fired.

You can also be adamantly opposed as an American citizen to the purging of a senior official of our government at a time of a major investigation into the White House.


GREGORY: I'm sorry. How can you not hold those two points of view at the same time?

LORD: David, this is not the Kremlin. This is not the Kremlin and you're using that word my friend.

GREGORY: Not yet.

LORD: That's exactly the problem.

GREGORY: But, you know what, this is not what happens in democracies, Jeffrey. Are you going to -- you're going to defend this?


GREGORY: You're going to defend the firing of an FBI director under these circumstances?

LORD: All the attacks on Ken Starr were just fine with you, is that what you're saying now?

GREGORY: Can we focus on the relevant matter here?

LORD: No, no, no --

GREGORY: You can't be --



GREGORY: I want you to be precise.


GEGORY: You can be for the firing of Jim Comey and oppose a president for nakedly political reasons purging his government.

COOPER: Clearly, Jeff, does not believe. It's purging and could not political. Jen Psaki, we haven't heard from you. Well, believe it (ph).

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A lot has been said. Look, I think this isn't about who likes Jim Comey and who doesn't Jim Comey. We all sat in disbelief and watch on October 27th when he came out and said what he did before the election. But, President Obama didn't fire him. There wasn't obviously an open investigation into President Obama. But this isn't about who likes and didn't like him. So we need to move beyond that. The issue here is the timing.

COOPER: That's right.

PSAKI: The fact that there's an open investigation into associates of this president is something that Republicans, frankly, and Congress, Senators, the members of the House should be very concerned about. We've seen some come out. But I think we're honestly giving too much credit to people beyond.

John McCain has called toward an independent prosecutor. Others have said they're concerned. This is discouraging. If they're not calling for an independent prosecutor, I think people should start to question whether they're in cahoots with Russia. What their patriotism and what they think should actually happen here to get to the bottom of this.

COOPER: Just because somebody doesn't want an independent prosecutor does not mean they're in cahoots with Russia.

PSAKI: Well, look, I think they're holding back. They are in a sense holding back on this investigation moving forward. When you don't have the FBI director who is the only person who is independently leading this moving forward and you don't have him doing that, you need an outside group doing that. So, Republican should call for that. It shouldn't be a partisan thing.

COOPER: CNN's live coverage of this breaking news is obviously going to be continuing all night. Jake Tapper is going to be along at 11 p.m. Eastern with a special report.

First, Don Lemon in "CNN Tonight" with the latest.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, thank you very much. Our breaking news tonight, President Trump's bombshell firing of FBI Director James Comey. This is "CNN Tonight". I'm Don Lemon.

Let's put at this plainly as we can. The President of the United States has fired the man investigating his campaign ties to Russia.