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Trump Fires FBI Director Comey; Revising U.S. Strategy In Afghanistan; New Korean President To Change North Korea Policy. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 10, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] ISHA SESAY, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, Donald Trump's latest political shocker: U.S. President has fired the Director of the FBI. Plus, South Korea's new President wants a new approach with the North but it's worried to be soft on Pyongyang. And later, forget about this star-studded selfie; another tweet now holds the title of the most re-tweeted of all time. Hello and thank you for joining us. I'm IshaSesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A.

FBI Director James Comey is out of a job and the White House is taking heat from all directions after his sudden dismissal. In the letter for Comey, President Donald Trump wrote this: "while I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau." Comey wasn't even in Washington when he was fired. He was right here in Los Angeles and learned the news while watching T.V. This whole situation: President Trump firing the man leading the Russian investigation is raising all kinds of questions. Our own Jeff Zeleny has the very latest.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A bombshell at the White House as President Trump abruptly announces the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Happening late on Tuesday, in a short letter the President had hand delivered to the FBI saying that the FBI Director is suddenly out. Now, of course, this is going to have ramifications across Washington for the President, certainly on Capitol Hill as well. Very few people saw this coming but we are told by senior administration officials this has been in the works for at least a week, perhaps more than that.

The President has had his eye on this FBI Director, who of course has confirmed that he is still looking into potential links between the Trump campaign from last year and Russian operatives. So, the President essentially firing the person who is overseeing this investigation. The fallout is swift - Republicans on Capitol Hill joining Democrats in questioning the timing of this. This story is perhaps one of the biggest controversies yet in this new administration of this President and that is saying a lot, but going forward here, the President still has not spoken about this. He may speak about it on Wednesday at the White House, but this is a controversy of his own making, firing the FBI Director - it's something of historic proportions. Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


SESAY: Well, with me now for a lively conversation: Political Commentators, Mo'Kelly, and John Phillips. We must add that John Phillips is a Trump supporter; and retired FBI Special Agent, Steve Moore. Welcome to you all. Steve, to you first, as our FBI guy, what is your reaction to this sudden firing of Comey?

STEVE MOORE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATORS: Well, I'm kind of taken aback by the fact that Comey wasn't even notified of it. But beyond that, what strikes me is that the President has the right to, to appoint and to fire the FBI Director. That's within his purview. And I think James Comey had made mistakes in his handling of the Clinton issue and of even the Russian investigation issue that would have warranted someone asking for his resignation, and there would be reasonable people on both sides. But to do it when you yourself are the target of an FBI investigation makes the timing - makes the optics just horrible and I don't see why this couldn't have waited until after that investigation was concluded.

SESAY: Yes, some good questions there. Mo'Kelly, to you - take a listen to White House CNN Advisor Kellyanne Conway, explained the White House decision and how they've got to this point. Take a listen.


KELLYANN CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: He has lost confidence in the FBI Director and he took the recommendation of Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, who - to whom the FBI Director reports to. The Deputy Attorney General has been on the job for two short weeks. He went in there, he assessed the situation and I would quote for you, he says that almost everyone agrees that the Director, meaning Mr. Comey, made serious mistakes, it's one of the few issues that unites people of diverse - of diverse perspective. This is a man, who's trying to, "restore public confidence" in the FBI.


SESAY: Does that make sense to you?

MO'KELLY, TALK RADIO HOST AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It doesn't make sense because we look at the letters that they used that phrase, restore public confidence - this inspires more questions than anything. If you want to have confidence in the process, then you can't necessarily put your thumb on the scale during the investigation, and former FBI Agent Moore said that they asked for his resignation, no, they fired him. They had the opportunity to ask for his resignation but they fired him outright. This is very questionable to me - if only because they fired the guy who was responsible for leading the investigation or the investigation effort against Donald Trump. And you had Jeff Sessions who supposedly recused himself offering a letter of recommendation to fire James Comey? That doesn't make sense to me. [01:05:33] SESAY: John Phillips, they're citing actions that Comey

took in 2016 in and around the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal as reasons to fire him in 2017. It strikes people as odd. It has some people saying, is this really about the Russia investigation? Is this really a cover-up?

JOHN PHILLPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the Russian investigation is going to continue. It's not James Comey himself who's conducting it - its civil servants who are still working and still conducting that investigation right now as we speak. So, I see it as being unrelated to that. In terms of the timing, he went and testified before Congress and amended what he publicly said earlier about how many e-mails there were concerning Hillary Clinton and Anthony Weiner. So, I think it was that situation and that statement that caused the Attorney General to lose confidence in him, and I'll add also that the Attorney General was not confirmed right away by the senate. So, it takes time to go through this. It takes time to evaluate everyone in the executive branch, everyone in the Department of Justice and it just took until May.

SESAY: OK. I'm going to pick up on a lot that you said, but let me go straight back to Steve Moore. You made the point right off the bat that this doesn't have anything to do with the Russian investigation. Steve Moore, does this have implications for the Russia probe that the FBI has been leading?

MOORE: It's - the implications, if anything, are that it might speed up because FBI agents are a pessimistic lot and likely, there are suspicions within the agency that maybe - maybe that this was targeted to stop or slow down the investigation, in which case, they are just going to speed it up. I'm not alleging that. I'm not convinced that that's what the purpose of this is. All I am saying is that firing him and you're right, Mo, I didn't mean to infer it was anything but a firing. Firing him - the optics are bad and it leads people on both sides to jump to conclusions, and you know, frustratingly people have switched their opinions today between morning and afternoon.

SESAY: John, again, going back to what you just said. You talked about how it took a while for the Attorney General to be confirmed, and so there was this lag between the Attorney General coming in and them reaching this conclusion. But at the heart of this, again, it comes down to; according to that memo that Rod Rosenstein put out and sent to the A.G. about the handling of the e-mail situation regarding Hillary Clinton. These are actions Comey took that were widely praised by the President. Take a listen to what the President has said over time about Comey's handling of the e-mail probe.


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I respect the fact that Director Comey was able to come back after what he did. It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they're trying to protect her from criminal prosecution. He's become more famous than me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SESAY: He's praising him there. It took guts, and now the same guts that he praised; now he's out?

MO'KELLY: Well, President Trump has never been consistent in his reasoning or rationalization about this. He could have waited. There is an Inspector General of Investigation of Director Comey - former Director Comey right now that could have been concluded and been used as ample reason. Director Comey had plenty of reasons to be fired. He did not have plenty of reasons to be fired right now at this juncture as it said in the letter to breed more confidence and public trust.

SESAY: What about that point, John?

PHILLIPS: That's part of what Donald Trump had to say about James Comey, but I was at the Republican convention and also I remember everyone chanting "lock her up." And I remember people at the rallies chanting, "Lock her up!" Republicans, including myself and Donald Trump, thought there should have been charges filed against her. What Comey did was split the baby.

He didn't file charges against her, but he came out and talked about all these desperately deeds that she did, and he became a man without a country. The Democrats for the last week or two have been killing him. I mean, Hillary Clinton came out and said that he was the reason that she lost the election. Harry Reid said he had to go. Nancy Pelosi said he had to go. And since all of this happened today, the one person who's been totally silent is Hillary Clinton. Because I bet you, she's in New York right now toasting a hot totty with her server.

[01:10:01] SESAY: Hillary Clinton has not commented. President Obama has not commented. Former President Bill Clinton has not commented. But the fact still remains, even if we follow your line of logic that - since Comey paid on Capitol Hill, the Democrats have put him under the caution of being going after him. Why now? That is the question. Why is this happening now?

PHILLIPS: Because the testimony was last week and there was a discrepancy between the number of e-mails that he mentioned before and the number of e-mails that he mentioned or amended it with last week. And you know, when there's a huge discrepancy like that you lose confidence with people and the Presidents in charge of the executive branch.

MO'KELLY: But doesn't this hurt the President more than it helps him in this moment? He had the good news of the jobs report. He had the fight that he was already engaged in terms of health care reform. This of anything gets in the way and creates more enemies on Capitol Hill.

SESAY: Go ahead, John.

PHILLIPS: I'll tell you what it does. It muddies the waters in terms of the storylines that are out there right now that the Democrats are driving. They're saying that he won the election because James Comey gave him the assist. Well, if that's the case, then you want to throw the guy a plum. You don't want to fire him. They said that he's Russia's puppet. Yet, what does he do? He goes and bombs Syria. He's muddying the waters right now and I think that a lot of people don't know how to react to him as being a disrupter which is why people elected him. He's an outsider.

SESAY: OK. Steve Moore, the President also said this in the letter that he sent to James Comey: "It is essential we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission." Do you feel that under Comey, the FBI was suffering from a lack of credibility or damaged credibility?

MOORE: No, I - well, it depends on who you ask.

SESAY: I'm asking you. You get to answer.

MOORE: No, I don't believe they were suffering from credibility. I was confused by some of his actions, but I think Director Comey is a man of honor and integrity who made some mistakes. So, I - I'm saddened that he's going. I'm not saying he shouldn't have been fired. It's - but the timing bothers me.

SESAY: OK. The timing bothers you. The timing bothers Republicans - some Republicans, John Phillips. I want to give you a sampling of the Republican response. There are those like Lindsey Graham who support the move. Let's put up some of Lindsey Graham statements given the reason controversy surrounding the Director: "I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well. I encourage the President to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation's interest." The view thereof Senator Lindsey Graham but there isn't unanimous support amongst Republicans.

This is what John McCain said in a statement: "While the President has the legal authority to remove the Director of the FBI, I am disappointed in the President's decision to remove James Comey from office. I have long called for Special Congressional Committee to investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 election. The President's decision to remove the FBI Director only concerns the need and the urgency of such a committee." John Phillips, will the GOP support for the President's move to fire Comey, will it hold in the coming days?

PHILLIPS: Well, the ones that hated him; still hate him: John McCain, and certainly Ben Sasse, and others. The one that surprised me was Lindsey Graham because Lindsey Graham has had nothing nice to say about Donald Trump. So, I don't think that this is going to cut across the normal Washington lines where they look at everything through a political prism: there's politics and there's confidence. And the argument that Trump made is that Jim Comey is not competent to be Director of the FBI because of all of the mistakes that he made related to Hillary Clinton's e-mails. That's different than the arguments that they're used to having. When Donald Trump ran for office, he said he was going to drain the swamp. I consider what happened today draining the swamp.

SESAY: All right. Well, Chuck Schumer doesn't see it like that. And Mo'Kelly, take a listen to what Chuck Schumer, the Minority Leader of the Senate Democratic Leader had to say. Take a listen.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Are people going to suspect cover- up? Absolutely. If an independent special prosecutor is appointed there still can be some faith that we can get to the bottom of this. If not, everyone will suspect cover-up.


MO'KELLY: Well, if he was hoping that this Russia story was just going to go away, President Trump himself added fuel to the fire. I mean, he could have been talking about the other things. He could have been talking about North Korea. He could have been talking about Syria. He could have been talking about domestic policy, health care, and jobs. But now, he's forced to address through Sean Spicer or any of the surrogates, Russia. I don't think - if that was the plan to get rid of Russia, the hoax, and the taxpayer fraud investigation, this only elongated it.

SESAY: John.

PHILLIPS: It's politically convenient right now for Chuck Schumer to make James Comey the kid that fell in the well. But I'd love to know what he was saying at 9:00 in the morning about him. My guess is, he was saying the same thing that Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, and Hillary Clinton was. And that was that he cost them the election and should go.

SESAY: Steve Moore, last word to you, what-

MOORE: Go ahead.

[01:15:00] SESAY: The question being to you now is: A. The implications for the FBI, now that Comey has been removed in this manner, I know you're talking to your friends or former colleagues, what are they saying to you about the lasting damage this may or may not do to the FBI?

MOORE: This is -- this is going to disturb the agent population because appearances that possibly he was removed because of an ongoing investigation, whether it's true or not, the agents are paid pessimists, that's what they do. So I would say that the best thing anybody could do is to appoint a special prosecutor, then you would have those people who yesterday wanted Comey fired but today think the President' evil for doing it and everyone else, it would solve the issue if we had a special prosecutor and let us get on with other things.

SESAY: Interesting, Steve that you are calling for a special prosecutor. There are those that say special prosecutor is the wrong move here. That they should be getting an independent commission people are split on that as well. Gentlemen, my thanks to you all. Thank you for a great conversation.

Time for a quick break here and President Trump is considering revising U.S. strategy in America's longest running war the pants for Afghanistan ahead. Plus, South Korea's new President wants to try a different approach on North Korea coming up. What he's willing to do to stop the nuclear threat. Stay with us.


DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Hi there I'm Don Riddell this is your CNN WORLD SPORTS Headlines. The Champions League finalist one of the biggest events in this sporting calendar and for the second time in just three years, the Juventus will play in it with the chance to prove that they are the best in Europe. To be fair they did most of the work in the first leg of their semifinals against Monaco. They had a 2-0 lead coming into this one. And two further goals from Mario Mandzukic and Dani Alves put this one to bed 2-1 (INAUDIBLE) 4-1 on aggregate. They will play either Real Madrid or Athletico Madrid in the final in Cardiff.

Meanwhile, Paul Pogba's world record transfer from Juventus to Manchester United last year is reportedly the subject of a FIFA inquiry. Football's world governing body has written to the Premier League club in order to seek clarification on the deal. Pogba is his second (INAUDIBLE) having left the club for Juventus back in 2012. He returned to United last summer for a world record fee of $116 million.

The three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome says he was out training in Monaco when he was rammed on purpose by an impatient driver. He said followed him onto the pavement Froome said he was OK but the bike was totaled. According to Froome, the driver didn't even stop and it's not clear whether or not the driver knew who he'd hit. That's a quick look at your Sports Headlines, I'm Don Riddell.


[01:20:15] SESAY: Hello, everyone. South Korea has a new President and he's very different from the last one. Moon Jae-in wants to use dialog and economic cooperation to stop North Korea's nuclear threats. He replaces Park Geun-hye who took a hard line approach on Pyongyang, Park was impeached and is now facing corruption charges. Let's bring in our Paula Hancocks who joins us now live from Seoul, South Korea. So Paula, South Korea with a new leader turning the page on Park Guen- hye's Presidency, Moon Jae-in is, of course, charting a new path for the country. How difficult will it be for him to unite the country around what he plans to do?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Isha, that's certainly one of the first jobs he has. It is a divided country at this point and there are some who have said that they will never support him, but what he has said today when he took his oath in the national assembly was that if necessary he would fly immediately to Washington to Beijing, to Tokyo, to deal with the North Korean issue and also said that if conditions were right that he would fly to Pyongyang if he thought that could help. Now that is, of course, an issue that some in this country do not agree with. An issue that could potentially face obstacles when it comes to dealing with the U.S. President Donald Trump but certainly we've seen today a very triumphant Moon Jae-in and motorcade through the streets of Seoul. He looks a very happy man.


HANCOCKS: The man of the hour. Moon Jae-in was all smiles Tuesday night clearly enjoying the crowds and the moment.

MOON JAE-IN, SOUTH KOREA PRESIDENT (through translator): From tomorrow I will be the President for all the people.

HANCOCKS: Rewind to the 1970's, Moon was a Special Forces commando not by choice but his punishment for fighting for Democracy against the vent dictatorship. His former Colonel tells me Moon was thin with big scared eyes on first glance but soon proved he was mentally tough, supporting diplomacy with North Korea at a time when such talk could brand you a traitor.

ROH CHANG-NAM, MOON JAE-IN FORMER COLONEL (through translator): He told me we should punish the leader that talked to the North Korean people. I was in shock I told him, don't talk rubbish and do not repeat this to anyone else.

HANCOCKS: At the age of 64 Moon's opinions remain the same. The issue of North Korea is deeply personal for him. The son of North Korean refugees, his parents fled South during the Korean War. He accompanied his mother to North Korea in 2004 for a rare family reunion so she could meet her sister for the first time in decades. His pro-engagement, pro-dialogue but against North Korea's nuclear program.

MOON JAE-IN (through translator): To get rid of the North's nuclear weapons to prevent further nuclear provocations trilateral cooperation between South Korea, the U.S., and China is needed.

HANCOCKS: The question is how would President Moon get on with U.S. President Donald Trump? A former human rights lawyer versus a former businessman. A long time politician versus a political novice.

MOON JAE-IN (through translator): The President should now be a war maker but a peacemaker. He said recently.

HANCOCKS: Moon organized the last Summit between North and South Korea in 2007 although he was Chief of Staff to the last liberal President. He supports economic integration with the North. His critics said he's soft on Pyongyang and slammed comments he would be willing to visit North Korea.


HANCOCKS: For some are here in South Korea there's just relief that they can draw a line under the last few months where there's been a vacuum of power where the former President is a -- has been impeached, imprisoned and is currently on trial. There is a sense here of relief that the finally the country can move forward, Isha.

SESAY: Yes indeed, a new Presidential chapter begins. Paula Hancocks joins us there from Seoul, South Korea. Always appreciated Paula thank you.

Well, U.S. President Trump is considering selling thousands more troops, America's longest war. Barbara Starr reports the surge is part of an overall review of strategy in Afghanistan.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is about to decide on a Pentagon plan for beefing up the U.S. fight against the Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan. The first option, sending as many as 5,000 additional U.S. troops to bolster the 8,400 already there. The goal is to pressure the Taliban to the negotiating table. Candidate Trump initially opposed sending more troops but later acknowledged the need for a military presence.

DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: Do I love anything about it? No, I like -- I think it's important that we number one keep a presence there and ideally, you know a presence of pretty much what they're talking about 5,000 soldiers.

STARR: But are more troops the only answer from the President?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: One of the things that he has asked his National Security team to do is to actually think - rethink the strategy. How do we actually -- how do we win? How do we eliminate the threat?

CHARLES KUPCHAN, FOREIGN RELATION COUNCIL: He has to square the circle between no more nation building, reducing America's footprint abroad and his pledge to go after bad guys.

STARR: Defense Secretary James Mattis insist progress is being made.

[01:25:18] JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: In Afghanistan, we're up against a determined enemy. As I said, ISIS has been thrown back there. Al Qaeda has been unable to amount attacks out of Afghanistan.

STARR: After U.S. troop levels rose to 100,000 in mid-2010, President Obama set a plan to reduce the U.S. effort with the Taliban now back on the rise, commanders want Trump to also approve authority to conduct more air strikes and ground operations.

KUPCHAN: What we need to watch for and be careful about is if 10,000 it becomes 20,000 becomes 30,000. We've been there since 2001 that's 15 plus years not a lot to show for it.

STARR: President Trump already has given more authority to commanders overseen operations in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. In Afghanistan, the decision to launch the MOAB bomb for the first time was made by the General on the ground, but it is U.S. special operations forces that have suffered casualties in repeated counterterrorism operations. A total of 12 killed in combat in the last year. A warning from the top commander.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not a fantasy of -- we are not the ultimate solution for every problem and you will not hear that coming from us. STARR: One of the big jobs for U.S. forces will be to train and

advise Afghan forces to get them better equipped to deal with the threats they face. There's no indication of how soon President Trump may make a decision on how many more U.S. troops to send. He is hoping that Nato will also send some additional troops. Barbara Star, CNN, The Pentagon.


SESAY: Quick break here. And FBI Director James Comey shown the door. Will the source why it happened and the question on everyone's mind. Why it happened now.


[01:30:37] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour.

U.S. President Donald Trump has fired FBI director James Comey who was leading the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The White House says Comey was fired because of the handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe. But as a candidate Mr. Trump repeatedly praised Comey for the Clinton investigation.

President Trump will meet with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Washington in the coming day. Lavrov will also discuss Syria and Ukraine with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Washington and Moscow are trying to repair what Tillerson calls, quote, "a low point" in their relationship.

South Korea's new president says he's willing to visit North Korea under the right conditions. Moon Jae-in wants to use dialogues and economic cooperation to stop the nuclear threats from Pyongyang. He's replacing Park Geun-hye who took a hard line on North Korea. Park was impeached and is facing corruption charges.

Well, returning now to the big story, the sudden dismissal of FBI Director James Comey. I'm joined again by political commentator John Phillips and attorney Randol Schoenberg who successfully secured the release of the FBI search warrants used to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton shortly before the election.

John, thanks for staying with us. Randy, welcome.

I want to start with you, Randy. I want you to listen to CNN legal analyst Jeff Toobin and his assessment of President Trump's decision to fire James Comey. Take a listen.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is not normal. We do not fire FBI directors when they are closing in on the White House.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Why do you think he was fired?

TOOBIN: Because he's running an -- because the FBI is running an investigation of the Donald Trump's campaign and Russia, and apparently it's getting too close for comfort. That's the only rational conclusion that you can draw from this firing.


SESAY: Randy, do you agree with Jeffrey Toobin? Is that the conclusion you draw?

E. RANDOL SCHOENBERG, SUED FBI OVER CLINTON E-MAIL WARRANT: Well, I think he's speculating. I think there are other possibilities. I look at this more as a coup by the Department of Justice and Rod Rosenstein who was confirmed by the Senate just two week ago. He's now in charge of the Russia investigation because Attorney General Sessions has recused himself and he's the one if you looked at the memo attached to the president's letter firing James Comey, he is the one who wrote the memo supporting the firing of the FBI director.

So I think it's possible that this is a -- not that James Comey was too close in the Russian investigation but rather than Rod Rosenstein wants to take over that investigation. He doesn't want interference with Comey.

JOHN PHILIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not surprised that after seeing the Jeffrey Toobin clip that people that didn't understand Trump's appeal or his success don't understand the way that he makes his decisions as president of the United States.

Yes, those clips that we played before are true that he praised James Comey when he identified Hillary since in regard to the server, but where there was some big disagreements with Trump, with the campaign, with many of his supporters, with Republicans, was the decision not to prosecute and then when you compound that with the number of e-mails that he said existed with Anthony Weiner's server and Hillary Clinton, and that number changes dramatically when he goes to testify before the Congress, I think you can throw up your hands and say, you know what, I've lost confidence in this guy.

SESAY: All right. You mentioned Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. Let's read some of that memo that he sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions which seemed to be the basis for the president's decision. Let's read just an excerpt here.

"The way the director handled the conclusion of the e-mail investigation was wrong. As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors the director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions."

What do you make of that, Randy? And let me also ask you this. Rod Rosenstein was sworn in just a few weeks ago. This memo that we just quoted from, is this something he would have taken upon himself to write or being asked to write by this administration?

SCHOENBERG: So that's the question that really no one knows the answer. [01:35:02] I think a lot of people will be asking that question of

Sean Spicer, for example, tomorrow. But it's possible that it came from Rosenstein himself. He could be like I was watching James Comey on TV and just having his jaw drop as mine did hearing what James Comey said which was not only that he didn't think he made a mistake but he would do it again. He would do something like this again, not take into account the political ramifications of seeking a search warrant against a candidate for president on the eve of an election.

By the way, a search warrant that didn't end up finding anything. So I think that having an FBI director who would not admit that he made a mistake was a real problem for the Department of Justice. I think not just Rod Rosenstein but I think a lot of the people the Department of Justice were just tired of James Comey just doing whatever he wanted.

PHILIPS: That letter is not atypical of business as done in Washington. I was doing some research in preparation for the interview about when director of the FBI has been fired by a president before in the past. It happened in the 1990s. Bill Clinton did it to FBI Director Sessions and in the letter that he released publicly, he said he was directed by his attorney general, Janet Reno, that the public has lost confidence in the FBI and they had to do this to regain public trust in the agency. Same argument.

SESAY: Same argument. But, Randol, some people are saying here what we're looking at is an abuse of power given that it happened while the man fired was heading an investigation into the president's people. Abusive power?

SCHOENBERG: That's the wrinkle here. So I think Rod Rosenstein had his objective opinion and his recommendation. We're still not sure what really was the president's motive for going through with it at this time. And so there's been a lot of speculation obviously today. Well, what was it? Why was he doing it today? Why didn't he wait a while? Why didn't he let the Russian investigation go forward?

SESAY: Why didn't he let the inspector general's investigation into Comey?

SCHOENBERG: Yes. So that report -- I heard today that that report isn't expected until the end of the year and I think the feeling was that Comey is really a loose cannon. He makes mistakes. He won't admit when he makes mistakes. That's in my view similar to our president a little bit but I think there can only be one of those people in the government at one time and Donald Trump decided that had to be him and Comey had to go.

SESAY: So, John Philips, it seems remarkable that given the fallout of all of this, which I think most people would have been able to predict that firing the FBI director would unleash a firestorm. This White House, according to our Dana Bash, was somehow taken aback.

I mean, what does that tell you?

PHILIPS: Well, they made the mistake of believing Democrats when they were trashing James Comey nonstop for the last eight months. I guess they thought that there was going to be some sort of consistency. It was just less than a week ago that Hillary Clinton sat down for an interview with our own Christiane Amanpour and said if it weren't for James Comey I'd be president of the United States. And I watched the coverage and I watched her supporters for the last week double down on that claim. Nate Silver said that he had empirical truth that what she said was true and all of a sudden as soon as Donald Trump fires him, James Comey -- best friend.

SESAY: You know what, I'm going to quote -- was on our air a short time ago who said, "It is not inconceivable that you could have wanted James Comey to have been fired as Democrats and be at this point and say, why now, and have serious questions? I mean, isn't that fair?

PHILIPS: Well, look --


SESAY: I see you (INAUDIBLE) onto that.


SCHOENBERG: Listen, not all Democrats have switched sides on this. I've been saying for months that Comey had to go. I'm happy that he is gone. I think it's the right move. It's the first right move that our president has made in my opinion in over 100 days. I'm happy he did it. Let's see what happens tomorrow.

SESAY: As always consensus and it's a beautiful place to leave it.

John Philips, Randol Schoenberg, appreciate it. Thank you.

PHILIPS: Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you.

Next on CNN NEWSROOM L.A. hundreds of people are feared dead after trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend. We'll talk to a Middle East expert about this event when we return.


[01:42:19] SESAY: Hello, everyone. More than 6,000 migrants were rescued over the weekend after attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa into Europe. U.N. officials say up to 245 people remained missing and many are feared dead in two shipwrecks.

For more on this, Lisa Daftari joins me now from New York. She is a Middle East expert and editor-in-chief on the Foreign Desk.

Lisa, always good to see you. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency there's been a spike in the number of migrants and refugees attempting to make the dangerous crossing from Libya to Europe.

Here's some alarming statistics. More than 1300 people are believed to have died or disappeared while trying to cross from North Africa to Italy since the beginning of the year. Over 43,000 migrants and asylum seekers have used the central Mediterranean route to reach Italy this year.

Lisa, what do we know about what is fuelling this spike at this point in time?

LISA DAFTARI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE FOREIGN DESK: What I can tell you from covering this region and this crisis for a very long time is that this has been ongoing. The reason they're calling it a spike is that there's been more of a reporting on what's going on, meaning the U.N. or these NGOs are more keen to report what's going on versus before this was silently going on because there were so many refugees pouring out of these countries.

Now the question really should be at this point today, why does it become a concern only when we have video footage, when we have photos? When they're already drowned in the ocean? When they're already out one of our airports? Why don't we look at this other humanitarian crisis at the root of the problem? Why are they leaving their countries? What can we do for them at that point?

A lot of these -- many, many of the people I interview, they want to stay in their countries. If they can be provided with an opportunity to live safely. We're concerned about our own national security, Europe is concerned about their national security. If they can't absorb the sheer numbers of migrants coming through in terms of economy, in terms of job creation, the point is that we should be looking at this much more seriously at the root of the problem.

SESAY: Yes, but instead what we have is in February the E.U. leaders completing a deal to hand Libya's fragile government hundreds of millions of dollars for them to stop migrant boats in their territorial waters. What if anything is the Libyan government doing to halt these dangerous journeys?

DAFTARI: Now unfortunately there is so many individuals who are taking advantage of this crisis, meaning whether they're NGOs or the government or individuals who are smugglers, there's human trafficking, there's sex trafficking. Unfortunately these poor, poor families are at the mercy of these other individuals and again what we're seeing is an outpouring and at the very best an economic migrants.

[01:45:03] At the very worst you have people who are not going to be participating -- or individuals who want to be active members of society. So at this point we can give money to Libya. They can take advantage of that. Everybody here has an agenda and unfortunately it's not what's best for the migrants that's talked about.

SESAY: Yes, and that being said, there is a question to be asked. Are E.U. leaders doing enough to prevent unnecessary deaths at sea? Are they prioritizing search and rescue operations?

DAFTARI: No, it doesn't seem that way. What seems like -- they're triaging when it's already at the point of the crisis, of finding them at shore. Very unfortunately. If the E.U. is serious about truly stopping this hemorrhaging, they would take more of an initiative to create those safe zones, to join the U.S. and arming the Kurds who can help in the battle against a lot of these insurgencies that are creating this chaos. It's spreading throughout the region.

These migrants aren't just coming from Syria and Iraq. They're coming from Tunisia, they're coming from Libya, they're coming from all sorts of countries where people are just picking up and leaving. And again, the point is, there is much that can be done before we can find them on the shore. Before they can either be rescued or unfortunately not be rescued at that point. But I think the serious talk would be to be helping these people in their native countries.

SESAY: Yes, there's no doubt about that. The prime minister of Malta has in recent months floated this idea of migration pacts with North African countries saying that -- and blasting other E.U. leaders for a lack of action, a lack of consensus when it comes to dealing with this problem. Is something like, you know, migration pacts, is that a viable idea? Are there any serious ideas on the table right now?

DAFTARI: There aren't any. Unfortunately with the E.U. you would see them doing a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking and talking about what could be done and what should be done. But instead, we see the problem is getting worse day by day. And again thousands of thousands every year and already the numbers are startling in the year 2017 so far as to how many have perished this way.

SESAY: It is -- it's a desperate situation to think we have been talking about it year after year after year and nothing really changes. The only constant in all of this is death. Sadly.

Lisa Daftari, we appreciate it. Thank you so much.

DAFTARI: Of course.

SESAY: Well, coming up later today, it was a horrific attack that shocked the world. CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward brings you exclusive and very disturbing video of the aftermath of last month's chemical attack inside Syria. See her report coming up at 1:00 this afternoon in London, 8:00 tonight here in Hong Kong. And we will be back with more news right after this.


[01:51:41] SESAY: Move over Ellen DeGeneres, a teenager now has the most re-tweeted tweet. Wendy's told Carter Wilkerson he needed 18 million re-tweets to get free chicken nuggets for a year. So he sent this message. "Help me, please, a man needs his nugs." Now Wilkerson is getting his wish even though he got only a little more than three million re-tweets.

Well, Kaleb Nation joins me now. He's the social media and marketing consultant and the founder of Kaleb Media.

Kaleb, thank you so much for joining us.


SESAY: Why did this go viral? NATION: It has all of the perfect ingredients for something to go

viral that a brand loves. So you have somebody that's just a regular person that nobody's heard of. You have somebody that offered this type of content to Wendy's and then Wendy's comes along and sees, well, we can blow this up really big and the bigger it gets then the more publicity we're going to get for free for this person that they didn't have to pay, they didn't have to go after him, they don't have to find him, so it's even more natural for Wendy's to see this kid that's promoting their brand for them.

SESAY: So talk to me about how brands are using social media now? Because it is a very fine line you have to walk, as you said, between seeming contrived and inauthentic and naturally connecting with people where they are.

NATION: Right. And I think a lot of it has to do with the actual personality that's in it. And it's the once that looked contrived are the people that are just picked up and that are paid to go and promote a product that they've never used. This guy is obviously into Wendy's chicken nuggets.

SESAY: Totally.

NATION: Because he was -- you know. He's really been at this thing for the past month. And he passed up the Guinness Book of World Records for the most re-tweeted tweet in about a month already. So, you know, he's obviously pretty much a really good example of a brand ambassador because he's in love with the product before any of this happened.


NATION: It was all his idea from the beginning.

SESAY: We want to play this funny moment because before the post went viral, Ellen DeGeneres and her famous Oscar selfie as you know held the title for the most re-tweets. And she joked about possibly losing that coveted title just a few weeks ago. Take a look.


ELLEN DEGENERES, TV HOST: Hi, I'm Ellen DeGeneres.

BRADLEY COOPER, ACTOR: And I'm Bradley Cooper.

DEGENERES: We need your help.

COOPER: Ellen and I are dangerously close to losing our title for the most re-tweeted tweet of all time.

DEGENERES: This nugget kid needs your help to reach his goal but we need your help more.

COOPER: We put our heart and our soul into that selfie. I had to hold my arms up like this for about 35 to 40 seconds. My biceps were shaking. DEGENERES: And I was sitting on Meryl Streep's lap for an

uncomfortably long of time.

COOPER: We earned this title and we're not going to lose it now.

DEGENERES: Please re-tweet our selfie.



SESAY: So you see, this is the thing. Social media has completely changed the nature of engagement and it's that intersection between culture and branding and market.


SESAY: It's just a whole new moment.

NATION: Yes. And it's -- I think for brands, this is what brands love the most. They just -- they slobber all over themselves looking for something like this. Like Alex from Target, that was like a couple of years ago. And, you know, you have this guy with his nuggets and I -- you know, I've worked with Taco Bell with a lot of stuff and it's sort of -- we're just tweeting funny stuff to them and then tweeting back and then it just goes -- it's like the more you talk to a brand, the more you build a relationship. Especially as an Internet personality. You build a relationship with this company and then they want to promote you and it's like they don't even have -- you know, for the first like three or four years I did stuff with Taco Bell, they didn't pay me anything. I would just do it because I love doing working with it. And then what they would do is they'd come along and they'd promote the stuff that I created to talk about. So.

SESAY: And it all comes down and I think for brands as well as individuals to finding your voice.

[01:55:03] NATION: Exactly.

SESAY: And that's the key to social media. For any of you social media --

NATION: It's being authentic.

SESAY: It's about being authentic and finding your voice and these brands, they all have this social media of community management groups.


SESAY: And how does that work?

NATION: Well, so it's like -- the best example I can think of is how Taco Bell does it, is it's like a few years ago we were just talking back and forth and they would tweet funny stuff. But nobody knew who ran the Taco Bell Twitter account. SESAY: Yes.

NATION: They were kind of like the first brand that did this stuff, were reaching out and actually, you know, communicating and building friendships with people but it's -- it all starts out, you just love the brand and you just talk about it just for fun online but then it's like Taco Bell comes along and re-tweets something I said.

Well, Taco Bell has a million fans, and they re-tweet something that I said that was funny.


NATION: Then I get all this free promotion and all these followers and all this cool stuff from it. So it's kind of an exchange that they don't need to actually pay someone for it. You do it because you like the brand and then they like that you like the brand.

SESAY: So win-win all the way around.

NATION: Win-win all the way around.

SESAY: Well, we wish you the very best on your social media adventures, Kaleb Nation. We'll be checking you out online.

NATION: Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. I'll be right back with more news right after this.