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Unprofessional Termination; South Korea's President Positive Approach; More Stronger Defense for Afghan Fighters. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 10, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Terminated and removed from office. The FBI director investigating Trump campaign associates has been fired.

Plus, it's a new day in South Korea with a new president, who says he's willing to go to Pyongyang for peace talks with North Korea.

And later.

With discord rampant in Venezuela, a solo violinist plays for harmony while police fired tear gas.

Hello and welcome to our viewers from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church here at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. And this is CNN Newsroom.

U.S. President Donald Trump has terminated FBI Director James Comey, and the political backlash has been swift and severe. Comey was in L.A. when he learned he was fired, watching the news on television.

Critics now say Mr. Trump is undermining the investigation into his campaign's alleged ties to Russia by getting rid of the man who was leading that probe.

Just hours before Comey was fired, CNN learned of grand jury subpoenas issued to associates of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a central figure in that same investigation. But Justice Department officials say it's Comey's handling of another matter, the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe, that led to his firing.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote, "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."

Then in a letter informing Comey of his dismissal, President 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." But President Trump did not always feel that way. He repeatedly praised Comey for the exact reason he now claims to be firing him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 are trying to protect her from criminal prosecution. He has become more famous than me.


CHURCH: Democrats are seizing on the opportunity to renew calls for a special prosecutor and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is leading the charge.


CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: 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.


CHURCH: So let's talk more about this with CNN's senior law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, he is also the former FBI assistant director. And CNN legal analyst, Page Pate, also a constitutional attorney. Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us.

This firing of James Comey came without warning. What to you make of the timing of this in the midst of the investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia even though the reason given for firing him was Mr. Comey's handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation. Tom Fuentes, to you first on that.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think that the timing of this is completely suspicious as the investigation goes on, and you know, we learn of subpoenas going out to associates of Flynn. And you know, so the investigation appears to be getting closer and closer to Trump's associates.

And then all of a sudden out of the blue we have this firing. And I think that the manner of it is pretty poorly executed. You have someone that's as respected as James Comey has been, and as the FBI itself is. It's one of the most respected institutions in the world.

I think he could have called him to the White House. They could have come out together and Comey announced that he has submitted his resignation or something with a little more dignity than, you know, Comey finding out while watching television, visiting the Los Angeles FBI field office. Rather than personally being notified by President Trump.

[03:05:07] So, I think that the whole thing has been handled poorly. We don't know the real reasons. They have stated reasons that we're not sure are accurate. But we don't know. There are many times where various leaders were calling for Comey to be removed, going back to last summer during the campaign, back in July when Comey held a press conference saying that no charges were going to be recommended against Hillary Clinton or her staff.

But at the same time, then went on to criticize her and criticize her many, many more times publicly throughout the campaign season when he testified on Capitol Hill in front of congressional committees.

So I think that, you know, there were other times when many people might have understood if President Obama or President Trump removed him or asked him to step down. But to do it now is -- seems like extremely terrible timing.

CHURCH: Yes. And Page Pate, I want to go to you on the timing but also of course make the point that only one other FBI director has ever been fired before. Will Congress and others accept this decision by the president or do they have no choice? Given James Comey was investigating the Trump campaign's links to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Rosemary, they have no choice but to accept his decision to remove the FBI director. The president does have the discretion to hire and fire the FBI director subject to confirmation by the Senate.

But ultimately what I think this is going to do is prompt even more calls in Congress and outside of Congress all across the country, for a special prosecutor to be appointed to handle the investigation into Russia's involvement in the U.S. election and any collusion that the Trump campaign or Trump transition team had with the Russians during that time.

I do not think that you can run a credible investigation now that you have fired Jim Comey from the FBI and you are left with two appointees that Trump named personally to basically run this investigation.

I think to have any confidence that this investigation is going to be run fairly and properly, you need to appoint a special counsel at this point. And I'm sure Congress will call for that as well as others.

CHURCH: And Tom Fuentes, of course as we heard there, the next FBI director will be a Trump appointee, so will do as he wishes, right? So what will happen to the ongoing investigation into Trump campaign links to Russia once it's run its course. What happens then? Can it just be brushed under the carpet?

FUENTES: Now I disagree with the idea that the new director of the FBI, because he's appointed by President Trump, is going to be beholden to him or take orders from him. The FBI has historically been extremely independent from you know, presidential politics or congressional politics for that matter. It's been honored as a very independent agency.

I think that that will continue even if Trump or whoever the president appoints and whoever the Senate then confirms to be the FBI director. That person will have a great deal of autonomy. I would agree with the idea that a special prosecutor at this point is going to be needed because the credibility factor won't be there.

But ironically in the U.S. system, special when you change the leaders of the investigation from the director of the FBI to a special prosecutor or special counsel, it's the same FBI agents that actually conduct the investigation. So the investigation is going to go on with or without the director at this point, with or without a special prosecutor. It will continue. And even with a special prosecutor, it will be a robust investigation.

And just for an example, you may recall that during President George W. Bush's administration, a special prosecutor, a U.S. attorney, Fitzgerald was appointed leading a team of FBI agents to investigate the sitting Vice President, Cheney, of the United States, and his administrative assistant Scooter Libby. They went after that case diligently and Scooter Libby ultimately was convicted in that case.

So, the idea that a president, you know, especially with a special prosecutor could put his thumb on the scale and hold back an investigation -- I've never seen that in the 30 years I was in the FBI. I don't think it's going to happen now.

CHURCH: And Page Pate, I would be interested to get your reaction to that. Plus, of course, the interesting part of President Trump's dismissal letter to James Comey was his mention that Comey has told him on three occasions that he was not under investigation. But there's an ongoing investigation here.

PATE: Sure.

CHURCH: So what do you make of that? And of course Mr. Trump's understanding of what's happening here.

[03:09:56] PATE: Well, I don't know that I believe that, number one. Number two, I'm sure Tom would agree, just because you may not be a target at this stage of the investigation doesn't mean that you may not become one as the investigation matures other people get interviewed. Perhaps people start cooperating with the investigation.

And I share Tom's optimism about the FBI and the hope that it will remain an independent agency. But we have seen a lot of things done differently by the Trump administration.

When the deputy attorney general then acting Attorney General Sally Yates disagreed with him she was immediately fired. He apparently now has immediately fired Jim Comey under very odd circumstances I think Tom pointed out not just the timing of it but the way that it was done.

That I don't have a whole lot of confidence that whomever Trump appoints to be the director of the FBI right now will be able to main that -- maintain that independence.

Trump could remove that person. There's nobody to stop him from doing it. So I'm very concerned that if this investigation stays within the FBI -- and not the agents. I agree with Tom. They are going to do their job. They are going do what they are supposed to do. But at the end of the day, somebody has to make a decision about

recommending prosecution or not recommending prosecution. And I think that person needs to be independent of the Trump administration.

CHURCH: Tom, your reaction to that?

FUENTES: I agree. That's why I said a special prosecutor is needed in this case, because of the appearances, because of the firing, I think a special prosecutor was probably needed before the firing. So, I think that, you know, many people called for that and it didn't happen. Just to show that it could happen.

But you know, the independence of the FBI, I think in this case the way this was handled, even the agents that felt that James Comey had crossed the line and had taken FBI too far into the realm of politics in the press conference starting last July all the way through the rest of the election season, and since, when he has testified on the Hill and then most recently there is questions about his testimony last week, of the accuracy of it.

I think all of those things are very troubling, in and out of the FBI. But within the FBI, I can assure you the disrespect today -- or yesterday shown to the director in the manner in which he was fired is not going to sit well with the rank and file of the FBI because they will consider that disrespect of the bureau itself.

CHURCH: Yes. There are no doubts that the optics of this are going to be problematic for the White House in the days ahead. We will be watching very closely. Tom Fuentes and Page Pate, thank you both of you for joining us for this discussion. We appreciate it.


FUENTES: You're welcome.

CHURCH: And President Trump plans to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the White House in the coming hours. Lavrov will be the highest ranking Russian official to meet with Mr. Trump since he took office in January.

Lavrov will also meet with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss Syria and Ukraine. Washington and Moscow are trying to repair what Tillerson calls a low point in their relationship.

And CNN's Diana Magnay and Jomana Karadsheh are closely monitoring Lavrov's visit to Washington. Diana is in Moscow. And Jomana joins us from Amman, Jordan.

Well, Diana, I want to start with you. The timing of this meeting with the Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is interesting, isn't it, given the sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey in the midst of that investigation of alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. So what's expected to come out of the his meeting with President Trump do you think?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, this was planned a while ago. So the timing is a coincidence. Secondly, when Rex Tillerson was here in Moscow last Monday he met with President Putin for two hours. And it was interesting that the confirmation from the State Department that President Trump would meet with Sergey Lavrov only came within the last 12 hours.

So it was almost as though they were keeping the Russians on edge to see whether that interview would be granted.

Interestingly, I think the fact of this Comey development is pretty much the only ground that these -- that Russia and the Trump administration seem to share. Both have characterized the Trump Russia investigation as a witch hunt with no foundation in truth. So that may set the meeting off on a fairly solid footing.

But as you say, they have a lot of grounds to -- to repair, really, relations at a very low ebb. And they have very, very important geopolitical issues to discuss, and very little to be able to offer each other in the way of for Russia any lifting of sanctions. That won't be on the table unless some progress can be made on Ukraine.

[03:14:56] And Russia is unlikely to sacrifice face really, loss of face, in order to see sanctions lifted. So I don't think we can see any progress made on that particular issue. And the thorny issue of Syria, which Jomana will talk about is also incredibly tricky. Both clearly want to see an end to the conflict.

But the means by which they want to see an end is very different. And Russia has a lot more at stake in the area than the United States, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And Jomana, let's go to you now. Because of course we know U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with Sergey Lavrov to discuss Syria and Ukraine. How will they find common ground on this issue, particularly n the wake of the U.S. missile strike on Syria earlier last month?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Rosemary, under the past year or so under the Obama administration the United States really moved to the sidelines when it came to any diplomatic talks, negotiations of ceasefires in Syria.

And what that U.S. strike last month did is that it gave the United States relevance again, and it gave the Trump administration more leverage than the United States has had in a very long time in Syria.

So if Russia has plans to try and bring this conflict in Syria to an end and any discussion of ceasefires there it will need the United States' backing. They will need to get the U.S. on board. And in this case specifically, you have Foreign Minister Lavrov going at a time when Russia has so much invested in the Astana agreement that was signed last week between Russia, Turkey, and Iran that called for the creation of these so-called de-escalation zones, four de-escalation zones in Syria as a way to trying to reduce the violence and bring the conflict to an end.

And the United States so far, Rosemary, has been quite skeptical about this agreement. There have been so many questions about how it is going to be implemented, what the enforcement mechanism is going to be, who is going to be on the ground in the de-escalation zones to guarantee that it really is in effect.

And of course for the United States the bigger question here is how this is going to impact its fight against ISIS in Syria. So with Russia having so much invested in this agreement, they want to see it work. They are going to try and have to bring the United States on board here. Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Jomana Karadsheh and Diana Magnay, many thanks to both of you for joining us on that discussion. I appreciate it.

Well, South Korea's new president wants to try a different approach with North Korea. Coming up, what he's willing to do to stop the nuclear threats. We are back in just a moment with that and a whole lot more.


DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Don Riddell with your CNN World Sport headlines.

The Champions League final is one of the biggest events in the sporting calendar. And for the second time in three years, Juventus will play in it with a chance to prove that they are the best in Europe.

To be fair, they did most of the work in their first leg of their semifinal against Monaco. They had a 2-nil lead coming into this one, and two for the goals from Mario Mandzukic and Dani Alves has put this one to bed, 2-1 on the night, 4-1 on aggregate. They will play either Real Madrid or Atletico 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 world governing body has written to the Premiere League club in order to seek clarification on the deal.

Pogba is in his second spell at Old Trafford 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 said he was out training in Monaco when he was rammed on purpose by an impatient driver where he said followed him onto the pavement. Froome said he was OK but the bike was (Inaudible). According to Froome the driver didn't even stop. It's not clear whether or not the driver knew who he hit.

That's a quick look at your sports headlines. I'm Don Riddell.

CHURCH: South Korea has a new president. And he could drastically change how his country has dealt with North Korea for about a decade. Moon Jae-in was sworn in just a few hours ago. He says he's willing to visit North Korea under the right conditions. Mr. Moon favors dialogue and economic cooperation to stop the nuclear

threats. He's replacing Park Geun-hye who took a hard line approach on Pyongyang. She was impeached and is facing corruption charges.

Our Paula Hancocks joins us now live from Seoul in South Korea to talk more about this. So Paula, South Korea's new president favors dialogue with North Korea and other changes in relations including a review of the use of the THAAD antimissile defense system. But this could put him on a collision course with U.S. President Donald Trump, how complicated could this get?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, Rosemary, there are issues that now the leader of the United States and the leader of South Korea simply do not agree on. As you mentioned, the THAAD U.S. missile defense system. Moon was not a big fan of that from day one really. So that could be a potential obstacle.

But he specified just after taking the oath this Wednesday morning he is willing to travel far afield to try and sort out any potential issues.


MOON JAE-IN, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH KOREA (through translator): I will urgently try to solve the security crisis. I'll always be on the move for peace in the Korean Peninsula. If necessary, I will fly straight to Washington. I will go to Beijing and Tokyo. And if the conditions allow, to Pyongyang, as well.


HANCOCKS: Now that is certainly one thing that those outside of South Korea have been focusing on, those in Washington will be focusing on, the fact that Moon Jae-in is pro-diplomacy and pro-engagement with North Korea and would be willing to meet with Kim Jong-un.

He also had sort of a victory lap throughout the streets of Seoul earlier this Wednesday. He was standing up outside the sun roof in his motorcade waving to the crowds that watched him go by. Clearly, a very happy man.

The man of the hour, Moon Jae-in was all smiles Tuesday night, clearly enjoying the crowds and the moments.


JAE-IN (through translator): From tomorrow, I will be the president for all the people.


HANCOCKS: Rewind to the 1970s. Moon was a Special Forces commando. Not by choice but as punishment for fighting for democracy against a then dictatorship. His former colonel, Ro Chang-nam (Ph) 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 that time when such talk could brand you a traitor.

"He told me we should punish the leader but talk to the North Korean people. I was in shock, I told him don't talk rubbish and do not repeat this to anyone else."

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 he could meet his siter for the first time in decades. He is pro-engagement, pro-dialogue, but against North Korea's nuclear program.


[03:25:01] 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.

"The president should not be a war maker but a peacemaker," Moon said recently.

Moon organized the last summit between North and South Korea in 2007 while he was chief of staff to the last liberal president. He supports economic integration with the north. His critics say he is soft on Pyongyang and slammed comments he would be willing to visit North Korea.

There are certainly for some in South Korea there is a real sense of relief that the past several months are over that this power vacuum has been filled. And of course, the former President Park Geun-hye is as you say on trial right now for corruption. And there is a sense of relief that that moment is now past and there is this president in power.

But of course more than 40 percent of the vote doesn't mean that he has a massive mandate. Doesn't mean it's a landslide victory, but it does mean that he does have a fair majority that he could use going forward.

CHURCH: Yes, it's very true. But what do most analysts think that Moon Jae-in can really achieve with his very different approach to North Korea, favoring dialogue with Pyongyang and economic cooperation?

HANCOCKS: Well, one thing that was interesting was when the U.S. President, Donald Trump, actually said to Bloomberg News that he would be honored to meet Kim Jong-un. Now of course that surprised many people around the world. The Moon camp actually said to me that they felt that showed that there could be places where there was common ground between President Trump and now President Moon. So certainly it's not beyond the realm of imagination that they would

disagree on everything. But of course this Mr. Trump's attitude of sanctions must work, China must be pressed to try and isolate North Korea further -- that's not the way that Mr. Moon sees things. He doesn't see the necessity of isolating North Korea. He sees the necessity of engaging North Korea.

So we could well see some turbulence in the future between the relationship between those two men. And of course, it's very difficult to see what either one could do unilaterally. The alliance is that U.S. and South Korea are potentially supposed to work together to try and solve the North Korean issue. Rosemary?

CHURCH: And we shall see a very new chapter in second quarter. Paula Hancocks, joining us there from Seoul, where it is nearly 4.30 in the afternoon. Many thanks.

Well, President Trump's firing of James Comey is drawing comparisons to another U.S. president whose administration ended in scandal. We will hear from Richard Nixon's White House counsel. Back in a moment with that.


CHURCH: A very warm welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour.

U.S. President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey who was leading investigations into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The White House said Comey was dismissed because of his 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 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 a low point in their relationship.

The U.S. will arm Syrian Kurds who are fighting ISIS in the battle for the city of Raqqa. A U.S. official says the Kurds will receive small arms, machine guns, construction equipment, and armored vehicles. The move is expected to anger Turkey, which considers the Kurdish fighters closely linked to terrorists.

President Trump's dismissal of James Comey is raising questions about the timing. Critics on both sides of the aisle are asking, why now?

Our Sara Murray has the latest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director Comey...

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In one of the president's most controversial moves since taking office, Donald Trump firing FBI Director James Comey. The move oust the man overseeing the probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election.


JAMES COMEY, UNITED STATES FBI DIRECTOR: Secretary Clinton's use of a personal e-mail.


MURRAY: But the White House says the reason Trump fired Comey was because of his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e- mails, a probe that Trump often praised during the presidential campaign.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, DONALD TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: I think that you are looking at the wrong set of facts here. In other words, you are going back to the campaign. This man is the president of the United States. He acted decisively today. He has lost confidence in the FBI director.


MURRAY: The administration defended Trump's decision saying it came at the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But in his letter dismissing Comey, Trump turned back to Russia writing, "While I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau."

It's a perplexing assertion after Comey testified publicly that the FBI is investigating ties between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: You have confirmed, I believe, that the FBI is investigating potential ties between Trump associates and the Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, correct?



MURRAY: Trump's bombshell announcement inspired fierce political blowback and prompted democrats to call for a special prosecutor to take over the investigation into Trump and Russia.


SCHUMER: I simply said to him, Mr. President, in all due respect, you are making a very big mistake. And he didn't really answer. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: But concerns spread to both sides of the aisle Tuesday evening. Senate intelligence committee chairman, Richard Burr, a republican, saying in a statement "I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey's termination."


TRUMP: He has become more famous than me.


[03:34:56] MURRAY: The firing caps off a roller coaster relationship between Trump and Comey. Trump gave Comey a warm welcome once he was in office. But by Tuesday, the president was relying on one of his most trusted aides to hand deliver a letter to the FBI dismissing Comey. The only problem, Comey was in California. He learned of his firing through TV news reports while visiting a Los Angeles field office.

Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: Democrats and republicans are raising concerns about the firing with some making instant comparisons to former President Richard Nixon's down fall with Watergate. Nixon fired Archibald Cox the special prosecutor investigating the break in at the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate building.

The attorney general and his deputy both resigned after refusing Nixon's order to fire Cox. It was dubbed the Saturday night massacre. But the Nixon Library is making this distinction in a tweet, "Fun fact, President Nixon never fired the director of the FBI."

Joining me now to talk more about this is John Dean, a former Nixon White House counsel. Thank you, sir, for being with us.


CHURCH: And I do want to start by asking you for your reaction once you heard word of the firing of James Comey. And why do you think President Trump did this at this particular time?

DEAN: Well, the timing is the mystery. We don't have enough facts to know it. What is very conspicuous is how hand-fisted it was. It was done without any forewarning to the person who is being fired, Mr. Comey. It was done for reasons that at best look like something of a reach because they have been out there for some time and no action was taken on them.

So we don't know the full reason. There have been a lot of historical efforts -- excuse me -- efforts to historically compare it to Watergate and the firing of the Watergate prosecutor. I don't find -- I watched that live, and I don't find any parallels there. I do finds it is in a sense misguided as that was, and I find it surprising that the Trump White House is not -- was not ready for the reaction they are getting all they had to do was look at that history and understand what they were messing with.

CHURCH: And now of course, President Trump can do this. But what sort of fallout would you expect in the days ahead from this action?

DEAN: Well, probably the most likely fallout will be -- and the thing that could be the worst for Mr. Trump is it could result in a special prosecutor being selected. I'm not sure that will happen. It will take maybe another 48 hours to get the public reaction to this. And that in turn will reflect the congressional reaction to it.

But that's probably the ultimate downside for Trump at this point. He does have the problem now of having to replace Mr. Comey and as a head of the FBI. And that's not going to be easy because he's now suspect for having done this in such a preemptive way. And I think it's going to have to be somebody who is conspicuously non-partisan to get that done without a lot of public upset over it.

CHURCH: And going forward, what impact do you think the firing of James Comey will likely have on the investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia?

DEAN: I don't know that it will affect the leak investigation very much. There don't tend to be many investigations of leaks. We don't have an official secrets act so we don't look at leaks unless they are really thrust in front of us.

What more likely to happen on the Russian investigation will be nothing. The professionals and the career people and the counter intelligence division at the justice Department will proceed as if there is no difference. In fact, they may be more vigilant. There was concern that this was an effort to somehow slow down their investigation.

But I don't see it really resulting in any change in the investigation that's going forward. We know as of tonight there is a grand jury now looking at this. And that was announced after the -- or leaked out anyway after the Comey firing.

So, investigators are not likely to pull back as a result of this.

CHURCH: And the reason for the firing of James Comey was given as the way he handled the Clinton e-mail investigation. Do you buy that?

DEAN: That's very hard for anyone to buy that coming from Mr. Trump as the reason -- the real reason, given his saying just days ago that he thought that Hillary had been given a pass by the FBI director.

[03:40:00] And now to be turning around and be critical of the FBI director's handling of it is really sort of at odds with all of his other statements and positions on the investigation of Hillary Clinton and how it was handled.

CHURCH: John Dean, thank you so much for joining us. We do appreciate it.

DEAN: Thank you. CHURCH: And let's take a very short break here. Still to come,

President Trump is considering revising U.S. strategy in America's longest running war. The plans for Afghanistan. That's still to come. Stay with us.


CHURCH: U.S. President Trump is considering sending thousands more troops to America's longest war. That's as Afghan forces battle Taliban fighters outside the northern city of Kunduz. There have been days of heavy fighting as part of the Taliban's announced spring offensive.

Barbara Starr reports the U.S. troop surge is part of an overall review of military strategy there.

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.


TRUMP: 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 are talking about, 5,000 soldiers.


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


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

[03:44:59] CHARLES KUPCHAN, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: 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.


JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: In Afghanistan we are up against a determined enemy. As I said, ISIS has been thrown back there, Al Qaeda have 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 becomes 20,000, and 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 overseeing 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 counter- terrorism operations. A total of 12 killed in combat in the last year. A warning from the top commander.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are 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 is no indication of how seem 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 Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

CHURCH: And now a quick programming note. Coming up later today, it was a horrific attack that shocked the world.

CNN's 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 out at 1 this afternoon in London, 8 o'clock tonight in Hong Kong.

Well, Venezuela's opposition is calling for a march to the Supreme Court Wednesday to protest President Nicolas Maduro's proposal for a new constituent assembly. That body would have the power to change the nation's Constitution, an idea that's fuelling more chaos for a country already facing political and economic turmoil.

There were more violent demonstrations Tuesday. Police shot tear gas into crowds of anti-government protesters but amid all of this unrest a remarkable scene. That violinist was playing the Venezuelan national anthem right in the

middle of the chaos there in Caracas. And last week, another violinist has died when a protest turned violent.

We'll take a short break here. But coming up, he is taller than basketball star Michael Jordan and led the charge to put Martha Stewart behind bars. More on the former FBI Director James Comey. That's next.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Let's talk weather. I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri at CNN Weather Watch.

And very predominant feature across the southern United States. It's a pretty large area of high pressure pumping in of warm air keeping it rather dry the next 24 or so hours. While back towards the west of it, it is as active as they come with some stronger thunderstorms, and across parts of southern Canada into the northeastern U.S. Big broad circulation that has sat in place for a couple of days cause significant flooding, at least really accumulated some of the rainfall in recent days across this region.

Now we are seeing some of the energy. I want to shift a little farther towards the south. And look at the forecast indication over the next five days. Right there, the northeastern U.S., but not only that, parts of northern New Jersey, southern New York, potentially that the New York City could see excessive rainfall.

So we will watch that carefully. And it just doesn't want to warm up across that region. All of it locked in back out towards the west. In fact, it just gets cooler as you go in towards the middle of May. New York City, down to 12 degrees. And the U.S. capital there down into around 13. Parts of the south also beginning a little bit of a cooling trend.

And notice this, winter weather radar beginning to light up there. If you look up at the forecast indication across the four-corner states of the U.S. as well.

So here's what it looks like across parts of the Pacific. We have a tropical storm in the way of Adrian. It looks like it will strengthen potentially to category one as it approaches Selena Cruz.

I'll leave with you this. If you have any photos, go to hash tag CNN weather.

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, U.S. President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey, the man heading the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.

Comey may be out of a job, but he leaves behind a fascinating legacy, spanning several presidencies both democratic and republican. He put a celebrity behind bars. And in his presence, most people look up to him, quite literally.

Here's Randi Kaye.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I, state your name.

COMEY: I, James P. Comey.


RANDI KAYE, CNN'S INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: It was 2013, and the start of President Obama's second term. That's when James Comey was named Director of the FBI. It was supposed to be a 10-year term.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so help me God.

COMEY: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. Director Comey.


KAYE: Director Comey has long had a reputation for bipartisan fairness. He was the number two at the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush. Just so happens he was a registered republican for much of his life who donated to both Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bob Mueller and Mr. Jim Comey.


KAYE: When Comey took over as FBI director his predecessor sang his praises.


ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE FBI: I have had the opportunity to work with Jim for a number of years in the Department of Justice and I have found him to be a man of honesty, dedication, and integrity.


KAYE: Comey has made a name for himself over the years. Long before he investigated Hillary Clinton's e-mails, he had investigated Bill and Hillary Clinton for their whitewater land deal. He served as deputy special counsel for the Senate Whitewater committee. But he was especially well-known for stopping two of President George Bush's top aides from convincing then Attorney General John Ashcroft to endorse a warrantless eavesdropping program.

Ashcroft was very ill in the hospital at the time. And Comey rushed to his side, stopping his boss from approving the controversial program.


COMEY: I was very upset. I was angry. I thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man.


[03:54:57] KAYE: As a federal prosecutor, Comey brought charges against Martha Stewart in 2000 for a questionable stock deal. She was convicted in 2004.


COMEY: Martha Stewart is being prosecuted not because of who she is but because of what she did.


KAYE: He prosecuted members of the mafia, too.


COMEY: We are here this afternoon to announce the unsealing of three separate indictments against 14 alleged members & associates of the Gambino crime family.


KAYE: And just last week, Comey appeared before Congress where he found himself explaining why he announced the FBI was taking another look at Hillary Clinton's e-mails just 11 days before Election Day, 2016.


COMEY: It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election. But honestly it wouldn't change the decision.


KAYE: At 6 foot 8, James Comey was likely the tallest FBI director this country had ever seen. President Obama once referred to him as a man who stands very tall for justice and the rule of law. With Comey now out of a job. History will be the judge of that.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

CHURCH: And late night comedians in the U.S. reacted to Comey's firing with a bit of shock and a lot of snark.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump fired the FBI director. You can just fire the FBI director. Like I mean if he's gone who is going to investigate Russia's ties to -- oh!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That shows no gratitude at all. I mean, did Trump forget the Hillary e-mails that Comey talked about. I mean, thanks for the presidency, Jimmy, now don't let the door hit you where the Electoral College split you.

JIMMY KIMMEL, TV HOST: This is the kinds of thing dictators do. This is the kind of thing reality TV hosts do. They fire someone every week. Maybe that's what happened. He thinks he is still on the "Celebrity Apprentice." It was between James Comey and meat loaf and well, the loaf won again.


CHURCH: And there will be more to come. Thanks for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. The news continues with our Max Foster in London.