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White House Press Briefing; Trump's Decision to Fire Comey; Confidence Lost in Comey. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 10, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Piece that moved the president to make that quick and decisive action yesterday.

QUESTION: So what did he - what did he mean in the letter that he wrote informing Comey he was being fired? He said on three separate occasions Comey had told him that I am not under investigation. What were those three occasions that the FBI director told the president that he wasn't under investigation?

SANDERS: I'm not going to get into the specifics of those conversations, but I can tell you that Director Comey relayed that information to the president.


QUESTION: Following up on that, Sarah, did the president ask Director Comey whether he was under investigation when they were - when they had these meetings?

SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to go into the specifics of their conversations.

QUESTION: Can the White House confirm that - I mean he obviously made a decision to stick that in the letter and to make that public. Are there any concerns that it was inappropriate that they had that type of a conversation?



QUESTION: Sarah, how important was the FBI director's failure to stop the leaks coming out of the FBI to the president? How unfortunate (ph) was that?

SANDERS: i think that's probably one of the many factors. I mean you can't deny somebody - that that wasn't a problem. And so I think that was just another one of the many reasons that he was - no longer had the confidence of the president or the rest of the FBI.

QUESTION: Can we - can we expect more firings from the Justice Department?

SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of today. QUESTION: Going forward, does the president want the Department of

Justice to shut down what he's called the taxpayer funded charade investigation?

SANDERS: He wants them to continue with whatever they see appropriate and see fit, just the same as he's encouraged the House and Senate committees to continue any ongoing investigations. Look, the bottom line is, any investigation that was happening on Monday is still happening today. That hasn't change. And, in fact, we encouraged them to complete this investigation so we can put it behind us and we can continue to see exactly what we've been saying for nearly a year, there's no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and we'd love for that to be completed so that we can all move on and focus on the things that, frankly, I think most of Americans are concerned with.

QUESTION: Even if they keep on wasting taxpayer money, he wants it to continue?

SANDERS: Look, nobody wants to waste taxpayer money. I think the president has made a priority of this. That's another reason we'd love for it to come to competition. But at the same time, I know that you all will not let this go until it does, and so we'd love for that to be completed. Let's put it behind us. Let's move on. And let's focus on what we need to do to turn our country around.

QUESTION: Sarah, two questions. One, was the White House aware at the time of this decision and announcement that grand jury subpoenas in the case of Michael Flynn had just gone out?

SANDERS: No, nor would we - should we have been.

QUESTION: Do you know anything about that process?

SANDERS: No, I don't. I'd have to refer you to -

QUESTION: And does the White House believe that if these FBI investigations are going to proceed in these allegations of Russian interference, do you support continued funding and support who to lead that investigation? Who is going to be running that right now? Are you confident that that would be the case or does it have to be somebody else?

SANDERS: Right now I believe that would fall to the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. And we are incredibly confident in his abilities, as I believe you can tell by the rest of the Senate, including many Democrats are as well, given the fact that he was confirmed 94 to 6 and had overwhelming praise from both sides of the aisle. I think there's complete confidence in him. And another reason frankly for Director Comey to be out of the way so that they can have somebody leading this effort that everybody across the board has respect and confidence in. Nobody wants this to be finished and completed more than us so that we can focus on what we need to do here.

Jeff. QUESTION: The president said - or, excuse me, Sean Spicer said just a week ago today the president has confidence in the director. So, again, I'm sorry if I'm not understanding this, but what has happened in the last seven days to shake the confidence? Was Sean lying at that point or did something happen in the last seven days?

SANDERS: Of course we'd (ph) love to add that in, but certainly not. Again, I think one of the big things that took place was the process in that hearing on Wednesday where, again, not to sound like a broken record, but since you guys keep asking the same questions, I guess it's only fair that I keep giving the same answers. But you have somebody, the director of the FBI, who reports to the deputy attorney general going around the chain of command. That's simply not OK. It's not something that is allowed in the justice system, nor should it be. That's a huge problem. That, along with the corrections that had to take place over the last, I believe, 48 hours, those are all big problems. And another, I think, kind of final piece that pushed the president to make the decision that he did.

QUESTION: Does he regret not doing it earlier like on January 20th or January 21st?

SANDERS: No, I believe the president wanted to give Director Comey a chance, but he feels that he made the right decision certainly.

[14:05:04] QUESTION: Why did he do it as he did, if I could ask? Why did he have one of his longtime security advisers hand deliver a letter to the FBI when the FBI director was, in fact, in Los Angeles? Didn't he deserve a phone call or a face-to-face conversation? Why did he decide to do it that way?

SANDERS: He followed the proper protocol in that process, which is a hand written notification. And at the same time, no matter how you fire someone, it's never an easy process. And he - so he felt like following protocol was the best thing to do.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) speak to him?

SANDERS: I'm not aware of that conversation.


QUESTION: Sarah, was the president aware that James Comey asked for more resources in the Russian investigation and did that factor into his decision to get rid of Mr. Comey as director?

SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of, and I think that would be a better question for the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up?

On the campaign trail President Trump frequently said, you know, "lock her up" and he criticized the Department of Justice for not being harsh enough on Hillary Clinton. He actually praised Director Comey (INAUDIBLE) for having the guts to reopen the investigation. How is he moved by a letter that said that Director Comey was, if anything, too harsh on Hillary Clinton? Why did that move the president to fire him?

SANDERS: Again, I think you're looking at two very different positions. The president was wearing a different hat at that time. He was a candidate, not the president. Those circumstances certainly change when you become the president. And, again, when you go around the chain of command in the Department of Justice, when you, like I said before, throw a stick of dynamite into the Department of Justice, that's a big problem and one that can't be ignored.

QUESTION: We already knew that, didn't we, Sarah? I mean we already knew what Mr. Comey had done.

SANDERS: I think that this was - my understanding is Wednesday was the first time the director had openly and publicly made that statement and made that clear.



QUESTION: The statements today on the president's meeting with Prime Minister Lavrov did not include anything on the reported incidents of violence in Chechnya against people in the LGBT community. Is there a reason why that wasn't included in the readout because the president was not informed on the issue?

SANDERS: I'm sorry, could you speak up a little bit?

QUESTION: Sure. The reason why that wasn't included in the readout is because the president isn't informed about the reports of anti-gay violence in Chechnya?

SANDERS: Look, I mean a lot of times there are parts of the conversation that aren't specifically included in a read out. But I'm not aware - I haven't had that conversation. So, I don't know. I wasn't part of that meeting. So I can't speak to every detail. And I'd have to refer you to the readout on the specifics of what I know was discussed.

QUESTION: Has the president been briefed on this issue generally? Has the president been briefed on this issue generally?

SANDERS: That's something I'll have to get back to you on. I'm not 100 percent sure.


QUESTION: You've said you want the Russia investigation to continue at DOJ. Would the White House oppose the appointment of a special prosecutor to continue to look into - to continue the investigation?

SANDERS: We don't think it's necessary. You've got a House committee, a Senate committee, and the Department of Justice all working on this. I don't think that there's a necessary need at this point to add that. You've got the deputy attorney general who I would say is about as independent as it comes due to the fact that he has such bipartisan support.

QUESTION: Sarah, what gives you such confidence that rank and file within the bureau lost faith in the FBI director? There's a special agent who is inside who wrote us who said, "the vast majority of the bureau is in favor of Director Comey. This is a total shock. This was not supposed to happen. The real losers here are 20,000 front-line people in the organization because they lost the only guy working here in the past 15 years who actually cared about them." So what's your response to these rank and file FBI agents who disagree with your contention that they lost faith in Director Comey?

SANDERS: Look, we've heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things. In fact, the president will be meeting with acting Director McCabe later today to discuss that very thing, the morale at the FBI, as well as make an offer to go directly to the FBI if he feels that that's necessary and appropriate. And we'll certain provide further information on that meeting for you guys.

QUESTION: The organization that represents FBI agents is asking for a voice in the selection process of Mr. Comey's successor. Is that something the president supports?

SANDERS: I haven't had that conversation, but I know at this point it's being run through the Department of Justice. And so I would refer you to them on what that process looks like at this point in time.

Shelly (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you, Sarah.

Who did the president consult before making the final decision to fire James Comey?

SANDERS: The president spoke with a number of individuals, but at the end of the day it was the president's decision.

QUESTION: And in between Monday - in between Monday night and Tuesday when he decided to fire the FBI director, did he speak again with the deputy attorney general or the attorney general?

SANDERS: I know that they spoke on Monday, and I believe the next follow-up was actually in writing. They may have spoken as well, but I'd have to double-check to be clear.

[14:10:04] QUESTION: So is it - is it accurate to pull away from the information that we have that Monday night the president made the final call, said I want this in writing as a recommendation, and then took that recommendation as the evidence that he wanted to provide to fire James Comey?

SANDERS: My understanding is the decision was actually made on Tuesday, but the first conversation that he had was on Monday when there was an oral recommendation made and the president requested that he see that in writing to review it further.

Blake. QUESTION: Sarah, thank you.

You say you want to move on and focus on the things that Americans care about. So let me ask you about that. You're somewhat halfway home on health care. You still have tax reform to do, a spending bill, debt ceiling and infrastructure. That's just a handful.

SANDERS: A pretty big list.

QUESTION: A pretty big list, right? But what happened yesterday you could argue just widened the divide and made D.C. politics more toxic. So how do you go about accomplishing all of those things with now the heightened political environment that we're in?

SANDERS: I - I, frankly, I'm surprised that it did create a divide since you've had so many Republicans and Democrats rapidly calling for Director Comey be gone. Frankly, I don't think it matters what this president says, you're going to have Democrats come out and fighting him every single step of the way. I think that's one of the things that's wrong with Washington and I think that's one of the reasons that we've got to get back to focus on those issues and, frankly, draining the swamp a little bit further.

QUESTION: Was he surprised by the Democratic backlash? Did he anticipate it considering some of the past statements (INAUDIBLE)?

SANDERS: How could - how could he have considering the fact that most of the people that are declaring war today were the very ones that were begging for Director Comey to be fired? If Hillary Clinton had won the election, which thank God she didn't, but if she had and she had been in the same position, she would have fired Comey immediately. And the very Democrats that are criticizing the president today would be dancing in the streets celebrating. So it's just the - I think the purest form of hypocrisy.


QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

Two questions. One, there's a report in Israel that indicates the president has made a decision not to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Can you confirm that? Is that - has he made a decision on that?

SANDERS: The president has not made a decision yet and is still reviewing that.

John Gizzy (ph).

QUESTION: One more - one more follow-up -

SANDERS: Oh, sorry.

QUESTION: Also, President Erdogan in a speech, I think this morning, warned the president against moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Does that warning and warnings from other Arab leaders play into his decision as he's considering this move?

SANDERS: I'm not going to get into the decision making process here. All I can tell you is that he's still reviewing it. And as soon as we have a decision, I know we'll be happy to report back to you guys.


QUESTION: Yes, thank you, Sarah.

Two questions, both related to the selection of a successor to Director Comey.

When President Carter chose an FBI director, he had a blue ribbon panel advising him. Presidents Clinton, Obama interviewed several candidates. Is the president going to follow this pattern, or does he have some individual in mind at this point?

SANDERS: Right now I know that there are several individuals being considered. And the first step will be determining the acting - or, excuse me, the interim director. And that is being handled through the Department of Justice. And so I would refer you to them for right now.

QUESTION: And the other question I was going to ask was -

SANDERS: Oh, yes, I forgot, you've got two.

QUESTION: I've got two. And I'm pretty nice, Charlotte, aren't I.

The -

SANDERS: Scarlet, but that's OK. That's OK.

QUESTION: He doesn't get a question anymore.

SANDERS: He's not - yes, it's a southern thing maybe, you know.

QUESTION: Who's Scarlet?

QUESTION: Her daughter is Scarlet. Her daughter. She's got (ph) a birthday. But -

SANDERS: I just want to make sure we got that in again. Happy birthday, Scarlet.

QUESTION: Scarlet.

SANDERS: "Gone With the Wind, come on, John (ph).

QUESTION: No, I was going to say the - it is a fact that the association of former FBI agents and veterans of the bureau generally prefer people who have been agents themselves, or have a background in the FBI. Only two former agents have been director in the last four decades. Will the president consider current or former agents for the position?

SANDERS: I would say that he's not ruling anything out at this point. But, again, as of today, the Department of Justice is handling the first step in this process.

QUESTION: Should the attorney general, who has recused himself from the Russia investigation, have any role in the selection of a successor? And given the fact that in his 100 day interviews the president himself said he had confidence in Director Comey, at this podium the American people were told he had confidence in Director Comey, can people take at face value what the president says about personnel issues like this or his views on things if just two weeks later he's out?

[14:15:11] SANDERS: Absolutely, you can take full confidence in the words of the president. In terms of whether or not Attorney General Sessions should have a role. Look, the FBI is doing a whole lot more than the Russian investigation. I know everybody in this room and probably most of the media around the world would like to think that's the FBI's sole responsibility, but that's a - probably one of the smallest things that they've got going on their plate and the 20,000 employees that work there and so he should absolutely have a role in seeing who runs that agency and that department.

Zeke (ph).

QUESTION: Sarah, does the president have confidence in the acting director?

SANDERS: Yes, he does.

QUESTION: And, secondly, you mentioned earlier that you're encouraging the FBI to move on from the Russian investigation. Is it appropriate for White House to be directing the FBI what to do with any investigation they're currently investigating?

SANDERS: I don't think that that was the nature or the intent of my comment wasn't to direct the FBI, but I think it's simply - we're fully compliant with helping this process move along. We'd like to see it completed so that, frankly, all of us can move on and focus on like things that Blake listed earlier, like tax reform, like health care, like infrastructure, those are big programs, big priorities for this administration. And, frankly, what we'd like to be - the number one thing that we're talking about here today, every single day, is not FBI investigations but things that, frankly, affect American voters and American taxpayers every single day.


QUESTION: What exactly precipitated the Monday meeting? Was that because of the hearing last week or - and what he said there, or did the Monday meeting with the president have with DOJ officials come out of a longer process of consideration of Comey?

SANDERS: The Department of Justice officials were here for other business, not specifically to meet with the president on that. The topic came up, and they asked to speak with the president and that's how it moved forward.

QUESTION: Did the president previously talk to Attorney General Sessions or Deputy Attorney Rosenstein about the possibility of going this way with Comey?

SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of, no.


SANDERS: I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Did it come up in the discussions about the (INAUDIBLE) confirmation when the president was considering nominating Rosenstein? Did he talk about Comey with Rosenstein then?

SANDERS: No, not that I'm aware of.


QUESTION: The president's statement that he talked to Comey about whether or not he was being investigated raises some - several questions. Can you talk about why you're not willing to add anymore to that about who asked for that and why that was discussed?

SANDERS: Who asked for what? I'm sorry.

QUESTION: About whether or not the - I mean the president seems to be trying to exonerate himself in this. Can you talk about why - why he won't add anymore to what that conversation was, how that took place, when it took place?

SANDERS: I think it was -


QUESTION: On three occasions. Could you clarify those three occasions and who initiated?

SANDERS: Yes, again, I'm not going to get into the specific details. I'll check and see if we have follow-up on that. But at this point, I'm not going to comment any further than what was spelled out in the letter.

QUESTION: Sarah. Sarah.


SANDERS: I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Why was it in the letter? If you don't want to clarify your comment, why was it put in the letter in the first place?

SANDERS: Look, I think it was something that - far above my pay grade was decided to be included, and, again, I'm not going to get into the specifics of that.

Thanks, guys, so much.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, it was a packed house there in that White House briefing, of course, on the heels of this historic news that the president has fired his FBI director, James Comey.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You've been watching the press briefing here.

Let's parse through some of what we just heard from Sean Spicer's fill-in. If you're wondering where he was, he's over at the Pentagon fulfilling his Navy reservist duty.

So, we listened to Sarah Huckabee Sanders there.

Let me - David Chalian, let me begin with you here as we walk through some of this. And, still, the big question everyone's wondering is the why now, right? Why now? As we just heard from Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledging that the president wasn't so sure about the FBI director essentially at day one, you know, why did it take him several months to fire him?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Let's go back before day one for a second, Brooke, and I do think you're right, the timeline here is what really became new in this briefing. It's quite different than what was portrayed last night from the White House when they just released those letters.

So what we've learned is that back last July - last July is when Director Comey went around the chain of command, as Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it, at DOJ and decided to announce the recommendation instead of lowing the attorney general to make that announcement that there would be no prosecution against Hillary Clinton. At that moment apparently Donald Trump had a problem with that, that it was untenable that he had gone around the protocols and guidelines of the Department of Justice. That's last July. She called that a catalyst.

[14:20:06] Well, a catalyst starts a reaction. So obviously January 20th is when Donald Trump got the power to act on that and did nothing about it until yesterday. So it's unclear - and when pressed about, well, then how do you square the public praise in October and November from Donald Trump for Comey's actions, she said, well, that - he was in a different position. He was candidate then and now he's president. Well, he was a candidate when Jim Comey went around the chain of command. He was a candidate when he made the - now he's - I don't know why it matters what job Donald Trump has to react to what Jim Comey is doing in terms of whether or not he's capable of fulfilling the job. For the first three months of this administration, Donald Trump thought he was until yesterday.

BALDWIN: Yes. I want to come back to your great point on the timeline and why then if it was the catalyst in July, why now.

But I've got Jeff Zeleny, who's ready for us. In the briefing we heard your question, Jeff. We're talking about how it seemed clear that it was since July -


BALDWIN: Was when apparently, you know, then candidate Trump wasn't so sure about James Comey even then. You asked the question, you know, despite any sort of mistakes James Comey may have made, why didn't the president at least pick up the phone and call him?

ZELENY: Right, Brooke. I mean that is an essential (ph) question here. I mean this is the FBI director who's met several times with the president. The president said that this FBI director told him on three separate occasions that he was not a target of this Russian investigation. And Sarah Sanders would not talk about that. The White House will not elaborate on that.

But back to the common courtesy here of why the president did not alert the FBI director, there wasn't simply much of an answer. They said, you know, simply they were following protocol of sending the letter. But I think again, David hit the nail on the head there with the question of the timeline, when I asked Sarah Sanders as well about why the president didn't do it on day one back in January? She said she wanted to wait and see if - if the president would have confidence in him. Let's watch.


ZELENY: Why did he have one of his longtime security advisers hand deliver a letter to the FBI when the FBI director was, in fact, in Los Angeles? Didn't he deserve a phone call or a face-to-face conversation? Why did he decide to do it that way?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He followed the proper protocol in that process, which is a hand written notification. And at the same time, no matter how you fire someone, it's never an easy process. And he - so he felt like following protocol was the best thing to do.

ZELENY: Does he plan (ph) to speak to him?

SANDERS: I'm not aware of that conversation.


ZELENY: Again, I mean, she may be right no matter how you would fire someone it would certainly have ramification. But doing it this abruptly, Brooke, I can tell you, it took many people in this building here at the White House off-guard. It certainly took many people on Capitol Hill off-guard despite a few phone calls the president made, and at the Justice Department among the rank and file FBI agents, took them off-guard across Washington and indeed across the country here.

So, Brooke, I think the White House is hoping that this press briefing will, you know, dispel some of the questions. They had the vice president out earlier. But some central questions about, why now? What was the urgency of doing this now I think still linger here. And again we are not expected to hear from the president himself on this the rest of the day. We'll see if that happens later this week or not. But, again, Brooke, so many questions about the why.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. Thank you, Jeff Zeleny.

And to your point about the rank and file of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Jim Sciutto, I wanted to go to you on that. You have all kinds of great sources, you know, in the intelligence community. And when you hear Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying - she said the president lost confidence in Comey, the DOJ lost confidence in Comey, and the rank and file of the FBI lost confidence in Comey. Is that true?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Certainly not what I'm hearing, certainly not what my colleagues, Evan Perez, Pamela Brown, who speak to folks inside the bureau as well. Sarah Huckabee said from the podium, really without offering any basis, that he had lost the confidence of the rest of the FBI. And then when asked about that, she said, well, we've talked to a lot of people in the FBI. It's certainly not what many people who cover the FBI hear from inside there. James Comey widely respected, even beloved figure, inside the bureau. So it's difficult to see what that comment is based on.

She also made a statement that the Russian probe is probably, in her words, the least important of many hundreds or thousands of investigations the FBI is doing. Not clear what she bases that statement on because of the resources we know, in fact that James Comey was asking not for less but for more resources to investigate collusion, communication, Russian interference in the U.S. election. So, again, a statement from the podium without, from what we can tell, basis.

[14:25:00] The final thing I would say is this. It appears that now the White House has their story to explain the firing, confusion yesterday back and forth. They have their story saying this was brewing for months. The president lost confidence, finally pulled the trigger yesterday. To be clear, and my friends here, David and others, who were listening yesterday, the story yesterday was, well, this came purely from the deputy attorney general. He worked this up. He came to the president with his report. The president listened to that report and then fired Comey. So we're hearing today a different story than we heard yesterday to explain the firing of the head of the FBI.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. And then you add the layering, Nia, where we heard Sarah Sanders talk about, you know, if Hillary Clinton were to have won, you know, and Comey would have been fired, and the celebrations on the other end if the roles were reversed, that that would be the purest form of hypocrisy. Did you catch that?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I did. And if the roles were reversed, you image that Republicans would be up in arms about what Hillary Clinton would have done if she were elected and were to fire James Comey as her FBI director.

You saw Sarah Huckabee Sanders doing a real dance there. And I think you see this story, as Jim Sciutto said, evolving, right? It certainly changed from what it was yesterday. It might change again. We'll possibly hear from James Comey at some point. You see a White House there caught flat-footed yesterday, clearly not ready for the blowback, thinking somehow that Democrats would cheer this and not question the timing, not see it as somehow a related to the Russia investigation. So there yesterday you had Sean Spicer, for instance, briefing reporters in the dark, in the bushes, right?

BALDWIN: In the dark next to shrubbery at the White House.

HENDERSON: In the - yes, yes, not wanting to be on camera. And then you had Kellyanne Conway on camera trying to sell this. You had Pence trying to sell this today, talking about the strong and decisive leadership of this president. I think he said that about 15 times in that short statement he made today on the Hill. This was a White House caught flat-footed thinking in some ways that this might go away, that there'd be nothing to see here, and that there won't be more questions -


HENDERSON: How they thought that, you know, kind of - they put the spotlight brighter on Russia, and in many ways it seemed like they didn't think that would happen, which is just peculiar.

BALDWIN: Brian Stelter, I want your take on that, because how would - to the point about the scramble last night and the lack of communications -


BALDWIN: And then, you know, the quick scrub with Spicer in the dark. And even, I would add to it, the fact that a day later you have, you know, Kissinger, Nixon's secretary of state, at the White House, along with the guy at the center of the probe, the ambassador to Russia, who led to the firing of Flynn.

STELTER: Rush Limbaugh was on the radio today saying this was an epic trolling to have Kissinger in the Oval Office. It's something that would come straight out of fiction. It's stranger than fiction.

Listening to this briefing, I feel a bit of sympathy for Sanders and for Spicer, for the press aide we're talking with, because they are in the dark. Figuratively and literally, they are in the dark. They did not know necessarily this was coming. There were some questions in that briefing just now about whether Spicer new yesterday at this time that this was about to happen, whether he was lying when he said that he had no sense that the president's position about Comey had changed.

But I always come back, Brooke, to Occam's razor, the idea that the simplest explanation is usually the accurate one. If I'm late to your party and I say, oh, my car broke down, then the tow truck didn't show up and then we got lost and then I had to walk the rest of the way. No, it's because I didn't want to go or because I was really late. The simplest explanation is usually the right one.

BALDWIN: So what's the simple explanation here?

STELTER: I think what we've seen in reporting from "The New York Times" and CNN and other outlets today is that Comey went to the attorney general's office last week, wanted more resources, was asking for an expansion of this Russian investigation and maybe the president got angry about that. There's still clearly some holes that need to be filled in. There's more reporting that needs to be done. But the White House, as Nia was saying, is doing this dance, trying very hard to tell a very complicated story about how this happened. And I think a lot of Americans hearing that are going to go with the simpler explanation, which is Russia.

BALDWIN: There is so much more to this. Thank you so much. And thank you all. Some of you, I know, will be sticking around. We're going to stay on this because coming up, Democratic lawmakers are protesting Comey's firing up on Capitol Hill today. They're actually threatening to bring day-to-day operations to a halt. We'll talk to one senator about what they want, next.

Also, Russian President Vladimir Putin, listen to this, interrupts his hockey game to comment on the firing of the FBI director. How he says this might affect U.S./Russia relations.

Also, moments ago, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was booed during a commencement speech at a historically black university and the moment some in the crowd actually turned their back on her.


BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Thank you so very much for this great honor and privilege. I am honored to be (INAUDIBLE).