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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS
Special Coverage Of The Fall Out Over President Donald Trump's Firing Of Fbi Director James Comey; Aired 11:00-12:00mn ET
Aired May 10, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:23] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Good evening everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. You are watching CNN's live special coverage of the fall out over President Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey. Comey's termination has been raising all kinds of questions throughout Washington and the country about what will happen now with the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign and any possible coordination with the Russians interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
A source close to me-I'm sorry a source close to Comey told me today that the FBI director was fired for two reasons, one, Comey's refusal to provide President Trump with any assurance of personal loyalty. And two because the FBI Russia probe is not only disappearing as President Trump would clearly like it to, it is accelerating. In fact we learn today that director Comey's firing right as he was seeking more resources for the Russia probe.
"The Wall Street Journal" is reporting this evening that their sources say beginning three weeks ago director Comey began receiving daily instead of weekly briefing on the probe. And quote "Mr. Comey was concerned by information showing potential evidence of collusion," unquote.
If the President had hoped the firing of Comey would make all of this g away, his logic seems to have boomeranged. Republicans in Congress now showing increased interest and energy. The first Republican is now calling for an official review of the Comey firing. That would be chairman of the House oversight committee Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, asking for the justice department inspector general to investigate the matter.
Also this evening, the bipartisan senate intelligence committee subpoenaed former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn for documents related to his interactions with Russian officials.
Also this evening, the White House released its official timeline laying out the events surrounding the decision to fire James Comey. And as happens with this White House not in frequently, new statement completely contradict others made just a few hours ago.
First the White House says quote "the President over the past several months lost confidence in director Comey." Then quote "after watching director Comey's testimony last Wednesday, the President was strongly inclined to remove him. Quote "on Monday, the President met with the attorney general and deputy attorney general, that would be Rod Rosenstein, and they discussed reasons for removing the director quote "the next day, Tuesday, May 9th, that is yesterday, the deputy attorney general sent his recommendation to the attorney general who sent his written recommendation to the President," close quote.
That very clearly suggest that's this was the President's call. And that is the complete opposite of the story the White House was telling until candidly just a few hours ago when they said the President was merely heeding the advice of deputy attorney general Rosenstein. Kellyanne Conway said that to Anderson Cooper last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: It has nothing to do with Russia. It is everything to do with whether the current FBI director has the President's confidence and can faithfully and capably execute his duties. The deputy attorney general decided that was not the case. He wrote a very long memorandum about it. He has presented that to the attorney general, the attorney general presented it to the President. The President took the recommendations as he says in his brief, very powerful letter today. He took the recommendations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Also last night, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters quote "it was all him, him," referring to Rosenstein. And here's what he told FOX Business News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He made a determination that the FBI director lost his confidence, made a recommendation to the attorney general. The attorney general concurred with that and forward that recommendation today on to the President who agreed with their conclusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Well, the narrative that this was all driven by Rosenstein is so 6:00 p.m. eastern. Now, the public is being told that the President wanted Comey gone.
Now, we also know that the FBI investigation into possible collusion with Russia is accelerating. That also must have something to do with this. And speaking of Russia, the President welcomed Russian officials into the oval office earlier today. The White House barred American media from witnessing the encounter with foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak. These photographs come courtesy from the Russian foreign ministry press office and the Russian state run news agency task, they were allowed into the oval office unlike the American media.
The firing was no doubt the Siberian woolly mammoth in the room during that meeting.
CNN's Athena Jones joins us now live near the White House which put out that curious timeline just a few hours ago.
Athena, what more are we learning about the official story about what drove this decision by President Trump?
[23:05:03] ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well for one thing when it comes to one of the points on the time line the second point about how last week during the testimony James Comey gave on Capitol Hill the President grew increasingly angered by that testimony especially that comment from director Comey that he was mildly nauseated to say that might have swayed the election. That his actions might have made the difference in the election. That is something that we are hearing from sources, very much angered the President.
And this is something that even the success of the health care bill, the passing the House was not enough to lay his other concerns. And so my colleague John King was told by a long-time friend of the President that he was quote "white hot over the weekend" in Bedminster. Really stewing about this. Stewing about the Comey testimony.
My colleague Jeff Zeleny reporting that the President was concerned that director Comey was his own man. That he couldn't be trusted to lead this important investigation. This Russia investigation that could prove to be so pivotal for this presidency. So there's clearly distrust of director Comey in the White House. But what is interesting is that just they did not predict this huge backlash -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Athena Jones, right outside the White House although the cameras are turned around.
Let's bring in our panel.
Jeff Zeleny, you are learning more about the 48 hours leading up to this moment and some of the discussion and debate within the White House about whether or not this was the right move. Tell us about it.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I'm told that this was incredibly closely held. So many of the President's decisions are out there in the open if it is Afghanistan or a variety of things, health care, it is climate change. He likes debate. This was held very closely by just a handful of people. It's one of the reasons of the bad roll out last evening because the White House communications job gave about an hour's worth of head's up here to roll this out.
But I'm also told there was some disagreement inside including chief of staff, Reince Priebus. Initially I'm told he was against this. This was not in favor of this abrupt firing because he was concerned what it would could to the legislative agenda. Now, he doesn't have the juice necessarily to enforce or to stop the President. I'm told that he didn't even go that far but initially he was resistant to this. But others sort of allow this to go forward. There was no one that I have heard in my reporting. We will see how this platys out, of course. We are still very early in this. They told the President, this maybe a bad idea. And I think that is significant.
TAPPER: Stunning that the White House chief of staff is supposed to be the juice master wouldn't have the juice in this telling.
And Maggie, we have heard much about what President Trump thought of Comey. You have, you reporting this evening, both about what he thought of Comey and what Comey thought of the President.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. We have heard exactly what Jeff heard about what played out in those rooms. Comey had communicated to people that he felt the President is beyond normal, almost crazy. The president very frustrated.
TAPPER: Using the word crazy?
HABERMAN: That's the description of what sources are describing, unclear if that his word or sort of what was communicated. The President repeatedly said the aides there is something with him. There is something with that guy, talking about Comey. And the President got very upset watching the testimony last week. That Comey delivered to a Senate committee, you know, he talked about Russia. He did was clearly affirming again that there is some investigation. It did not just (INAUDIBLE). And the President was particularly bothered by Comey saying that he was - I forgot the exact word.
TAPPER: Mildly nauseous.
HABERMAN: Mildly nauseous at the prospect of his role in the election. That was upfront to the President. He took it that way. He was very upset about it throughout the weekend. And by the time this week began this was already in process.
To your point, you know, they learned also, this in one step, that there was an issue about what Comey had testified about Huma Abedeen.
TAPPER: Or that he got something wrong.
HABERMAN: And he got something - and that's mean small wrong. Something pretty big wrong. And then there was a very long lag to cleaning it up. And when it was cleaned up, it was not like Comey himself, it was by somebody else in the bureau. That gave them as to west wing officials put it to me and open it. They saw that that was their opportunity to sort of go ahead with it where there was a massive miscalculation to just point of such a close hole, you can't do a massive thing like this. And did not understand which a lot of them didn't, that this is going to set off a massive bomb, essentially, not just in Washington but everywhere. This is not, you know, just sort of D.C. chatter. This is a huge deal. You have a president in the state of Washington and a lot of advisors who have never been in government or didn't understand it. They didn't have a communication strategy. So while the press as other, you know, reported about Sean Spices and the bushes and so forth --.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jeff was there with them.
HABERMAN: OK. You eyewitness the bushes.
But to be fair to Sean Spicer, who has had some rough outings, clearly, what are you supposed to do with that when you have no notice? You have not been told.
[23:10:09] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Listening to you Maggie, I know that they maybe inexperienced. It seems unimaginable to me that even a close hold of advisors that may not have that much experience couldn't understand what everybody understood within 20 seconds of the story being reported which was - that was enormous and that when the President fires the guy who is overseeing or organization investigating, that that is going to be.
BASH: Sure. But you covered the campaign.
HABERMAN: At a certain point, it just - we keep repeating.
BASH: If we do, and we all know from covering the campaign and now the early weeks and months of the presidency that when this President gets a bee in his bonnet, and even if it is a bee as big as the FBI director investigating him, it's hard to dissuade him of that. It is really is. And that is, just as you all hearing, I'm hearing as well, that is what set him off or the bee actually started buzzing in his bonnet last week during the Comey hearings. Over and over and over he would hear him say things that he was upset about.
You know, they are saying that it was erroneous testimony and son and so forth, but that nauseous line goes at the heart of what we have seen as the Achilles heel for Donald Trump over and over again which is question about whether he is legitimate President.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's it.
TAPPER: Everybody stick around. We have more to talk about. When we come back, lawmakers taking action in the wake of the firing of FBI director Comey. Now, one Senate committee has subpoenaed ex-national security advisor Michael Flynn for documents about his interaction to Russian officials. Will Flynn will he provide them. We will discuss it. We will learn more. Stay with us.
[23:15:28] TAPPER: We are back with more breaking news. The Senate intelligence committee's decision to subpoena former national advisor Michael Flynn could signal that the Russian investigation is still moving forward, at least for now, but there are remain many questions about what will happen to the FBI probe once the President hand selects the replacement for James Comey.
Let's bring in CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.
And Jim, now, with multiple sources telling CNN that the President had grown increasingly agitated with former FBI director James Comey for being quote his own man, God forbid, can the FBI still continue with the Russian probe and protect the integrity of the investigation to say nothing of the bureau.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, everybody in the FBI who was involved in this investigation below the level of James Comey still has their job. And we are told that they are committed to this investigation and will stick with it. But the fact is the director of the FBI has enormous power. So to some degree the answer to the question is up to the President and Republicans and others as to who President Trump chooses to replace fired James Comey.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): The intensifying probe in the possible collusion between Russia and associates of Donald Trump now has a growing list of star witnesses. Michael Flynn, Trump's fired national security advisor now subpoenaed by the Senate intelligence committee which is demanding quote "documents and his testimony."
Also on the witness list, James Comey, the newly fired FBI director. He led the investigation and now has been invited to testify before the committee on Tuesday. The acting director FBI director Andrew McCabe will speak to the group Thursday as part of the intelligence threats panel.
A total of four congressional committees are looking into ties between Russia and Trump's team along with the FBI and the Pentagon's inspector general.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: He always want to talk about Russia, Russia, Russia.
SCIUTTO: And yet, the White House is pronouncing the question of collusion closed despite continuing investigations.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The FBI is doing a lot more than the Russian investigation. That's probably one of the smallest things they have got going on their plate.
SCIUTTO: Whether tone deaf or just ironic, Donald Trump met with two senior Russian officials today giving a warm reception to foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Comey's ouster now has a growing number of lawmakers demanding the justice department to appoint special prosecutor, independent of the administration and Capitol Hill to lead the probe.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Were those investigations getting too close to home for the President. If there was ever a time when circumstances warranted a special prosecutor, it is right now.
SCIUTTO: The multiple existing investigations are already expanding. Sources tell CNN just days before being fired, Comey asked deputy attorney Rod Rosenstein for more resources to devote to the bureau's Russia investigation, an account the justice department denies.
Senate Russia investigators have sent to request to the treasury department for any financial information related to President Trump, his top officials and campaign aides. And federal prosecutors have grand jury subpoenas to associates of Michael Flynn.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The decision to fire Comey raises questions about the appropriateness and timing of firing the person in charge of an investigation that could, I won't say would, but could implicate the administration.
SCIUTTO: Now, in addition to claiming that the investigations a whole are going nowhere. The White House, the President, have repeatedly said that the question of possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials, about the Russian known to U.S. intelligence. They have said that that going nowhere as well. That that it is a case close. The fact is, that is just not true.
I spoke today and On the Record from both the Republican and top Democratic on the Senate intelligence committee, Richard Buss and Mar Warner. On that question, I put it to them and I said is the question of collusion closed, both of the said On the Record, back to me, to CNN, the answer is to that question is no. They are still investigating -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jim SCIUTTO, thank you so much.
We was Hillary Clinton's running mate so does Virginia senator Tim Kaine think firing the ex-FBI director was justified. Stick around.
[23:23:40] TAPPER: Welcome back. One interesting query raised by a former federal prosecutor. I was speaking with her earlier today in President Trump dismissal letter to Comey. He said that Trump informed him on three separate occasions that he, Trump, was not under investigation a claim that seems quite hard to believe, according to one FBI official who knows Comey.
But more importantly, the question is does the President's discussion of his private conversations with Comey using it as a public defense, does that put in jeopardy possible future claim of exactly the privilege to prevent those conversations from being made public.
I'm back with the panel.
And David Chalian, let me go with you because there is this alarming breathtaking, stunning report. We can't -- every two minutes my phone goes off with some breaking news. "The Washington Post" is reporting that the President - this was again, it was not Rod Rosenstein's decision. The President has made the decision. And then after Rosenstein had been given as the reason by the White House, he quote "threaten resign" after the narrative emerging from the White House in Tuesday, cast him as a prime mover of the decision.
CHALIAN: So if this is bares out as true --.
TAPPER: "Washington Post" reporting. CHALIAN: "The Washington Post" reporting that Rosenstein who has been
on job for three week, two-and-a-half weeks is threatening to resign because they had hung the entire justification on him as to why the President, again, fired the FBI director who is overseeing the investigation into him. Clearly this helps to explain why we saw if true a shifting rationale coming out of the White House today starting with the President himself in the oval office. All of a sudden saying, he wasn't doing a very good job.
So Mike Pence was still on last night's talking point this morning when he was on the hill. But then the President in the oval office and then Sarah Huckabee Sanders, all of the sudden, emerging rational that this has been a long and in President Trump's mind since he became President.
[23:25:32] TAPPER: You know, I feel bad because you guys are all such excellent reporters and I know if you weren't on TV right now, you would all be working your phones to confirm this "Washington Post" story but it really is a stunning turn of events.
ZELENY: It is. And you could feel something happening today at the White House when there was sort of, you know, a changing narrative in timeline. But interestingly, if you look at the memorandum we talked about last night so much from the deputy attorney general, it was not to the President. It was sent to Jeff Sessions here. And he was talking about (INAUDIBLE) that history of Comey. It did not look like necessarily rational for firing papers. And it also was not - if you look at the President's letter, he undercut his entire thing. He is the who talked about the Russia in his letter.
ZELENY: So, it was just an example of the fact that things were thrown into together not necessarily planned out.
BASH: And for people who might not be all that familiar with Rod Rosenstein, he is somebody who has had a long history as a career justice department official who has had a very, you know, he has had a lot of applause from Democrats and Republicans alike which is the reason, let's be honest here, why the White House hung this whole thing on him, anyway. Because it goes to the notion of the White House, the President on down thinking this will be fine we will have the guy that just got in there that all of Democrats love because they just even the Democrats voted to confirm him to be --.
TAPPER: He is a former Obama U.S. attorney general.
BASH: A former Obama U.S. attorney. Yes, but even before that. He is a career guy. But, you know, in this -- it's not very often that Trump appointees nominees get wide bipartisan votes and that just happened. So that's the reason why they were trying to hang it on him. And the question has been quietly among people who knew him, just on people I were talking to. When is going to speak up?
TAPPER: But also, Maggie, I mean, what was so disingenuous about it is that I believe that Rod Rosenstein believed the letter he wrote. That he thought that Comey's behavior during the Hillary Clinton investigation was appalling. I take him at his word. Donald Trump doesn't agree with one word of it. Couldn't care less. His only objection to how Comey about Hillary Clinton is he didn't throw Hillary Clinton (INAUDIBLE).
HABERMAN: Correct. That is exactly right. I mean, look, and to be clear, I take him of his word but I have no idea whether this letter is real or not. Now every reason of the "Washington Post" hands it to Dana's point, what a lot of people have been hearing which was this was likely not the former career prosecutor's will in writing this. At a certain point, look.
TAPPER: How many times can they just lie? I mean, it is just - I mean, we are on day, 112 now. I mean, they give a reason. It's a complete lie. And the next day they have to give a complete only reason.
HABERMAN: There are several problems of this. And to be clear, this begins and ends with the President. However this also loops before it begins and ends with him, through his staff, through what they say publicly day by day. There's a corrosive dishonesty about some of what they have said since they came into office. Certainly, back during the campaign. We have yet to have a global crisis that is not of the President's making where they are going to have to American public to believe them but all this does is completely undermine them.
This report is pretty breathtaking. And you have to ask at what point are Republicans in Congress going to feel pressure to do something more than say yes we're concerned. The only person really saying anything new is Jason Chaffetz who is on his way out. He is not running for re-election.
ZELENY: At the same time, it has compares the legislative agenda.
TAPPER: Yes. What ever happen to tax?
ZELENY: It is a put on hold, the Afghanistan decision which were supposed to happen this week. So this except real consequence beyond politics. \
TAPPER: Thanks on and all. Great panel. Really appreciate it.
Another Republican raising a red flag, the lawmaker who want an inspector general to look in to the President's firing of James Comey. That story next.
[23:33:03] TAPPER: Welcome back.
As more top lawmakers express their concerns about the firing of FBI director James Comey, a key Republican congressman just called for an internal justice department investigation to include President Trump's decision to fire Comey.
CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly is live on Capitol Hill of us.
Phil, what is the latest?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well a lawmakers, Jake, as you note have tried to really get their heads round really grapple with what's transpired over the course of the last 30 hours. We are starting to see major substantive movement. And it really starts with House oversight and government reform chairman Jason Chaffetz. Now, he had already requested to the justice department inspector general Michael Horowitz conduct an investigation into the FBI's actions in the lead up to the 2016 election. He has now requested they expand that inquiry into what exactly happened in the lead up to the firing of James Comey.
Now, what is that actually mean? The justice department inspector general should they decide to pursue this aspect of the investigation really has wide-ranging latitude. This means interviews with top justice department officials. This means access to documents as well. So those lingering questions which you guys were just talking about, about how this actually transpired, what actually occurred, who told who what to do? These are the types of things that could be uncovered should Michael Horowitz, the inspector general, decide to pursue this.
And Jake, it is worth noting that this happened at the same time the Senate intelligence committee took an entirely different very aggressive posture in their bipartisan investigation issuing a subpoena to former national security advisor Michael Flynn for documents related to their investigation.
They have asked for documents from several figures involved in their investigation. Michael Flynn said he would not provide those documents. Now, he is being subpoenaed to do this. And it is worth noting Jake, this is the first subpoena from the Senate intelligence committee since their 9/11 inquiry.
So historically, this is a very important moment. This is something that doesn't happen very often. And it makes very clear they are ramping up their efforts right now in that committee, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly, on Capitol Hill for us. Thank you.
And joining us now senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of the Commonwealth of Virginia and obviously the vice Presidential running mate of the candidate once at the center of the Comey email investigation Hillary Clinton.
Senator, thanks so much for joining me. Good to see you again.
[23:35:09] SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Yes, Jake. Good to be with you.
TAPPER: So you tweeted quote "Trump firing Comey shows how frighten the administration is over the Russia investigation," unquote. So you don't buy the White House excuse that the President was alarmed by how Comey went outside of the realm of standard procedure during the Clinton investigation.
KAINE: Jake, I don't buy it at all. And I don't buy it for two reasons. The first is, the pattern that is now developing, when deputy AG Sally Yates, you know, went to the White House and said, hey, Flynn is compromised by contacts with Russia, Trump didn't fire Flynn. He fired Sally Yates. Few weeks later when the Flynn contact and lies about Russia hit the press, Flynn gets fired. Then Sessions has to recuse himself as attorney general from the most important investigation that is being done by the justice department now, the investigation into the Trump collusion with Russia, because Jeff Sessions had misled the Senate judiciary committee about his contact with Russia. And now they let FBI director Comey go when he is in the midst of this investigation in a Trump collusion with Russia days after he has asked the justice department for more resources to conduct that investigation. This pattern is very, very troubling.
Add it to it the wording of President Trump's letter. The one-page letter to Comey letting him go. He is unusually fixated upon, I really appreciate the fact three times you told me I wasn't under investigation. That shows you what the President's concern is. He is deeply, deeply insecure and worried about the investigation into collusion with Russia.
TAPPER: Five days ago you said this about director Comey, take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAINE: Director Comey testified this week and he made it very plain that he broke the FBI rules with respect to the Clinton campaign and he chose not to break the rules with respect to the Trump campaign. And I think will go down as probably the lowest moment in the history of the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Removing Trump in the Russia investigation from this for a second, from what you said there, it sounds like you would applaud his firing theoretically.
KAINE: No, Jake. You give the FBI pursuant to law a ten-year term for a reason and that's to immunize them from criticism. I ought to be able to criticize an FBI director. And I do think that director Comey made some mistakes. And the President should be able to criticize and FBI director. But you get ten-year term when you an FBI director so that you can be free of effect from that criticism and do your job independently for ten years.
This, as you know, is completely without precedent in our history for a President to fire an FBI director in the middle of an investigation into the White House itself. The only president that is all similar was the effort by the Nixon White House to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor for Watergate. And this is a very, very serious matter.
TAPPER: Last week, your former top of the ticket running mate, Hillary Clinton, was asked about why she lost the campaign. Here is part of what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was on the way to winning until a combination of James Comey's letter on October 28th and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Secretary Clinton clearly seems to blame Comey significantly for her loss, do you?
KAINE: You know, I think the FBI letter, there were million factors. And it's hard to untangle them. The FBI letter was Russia was Nate Silver's done an investigation of that and come to the same conclusion but there were other factors too.
Bottom line, Jake, is I'm a united state senator. I'm on two committees, armed services and foreign relations where our posture vis-a-vis Russia is absolutely critical. My son was deployed on the border with Russia during the entire campaign as the United States marine along with his entire battalion.
We cannot be involved in making these decisions about Russia who the head of our joint chiefs of staff Joe Dunford said is our principle state adversary with doubts about the White House. Not just the campaign, but then the transition and the administration itself whether there's collusion with the Russian government over the election or anything else. So we got to get to the bottom of this. And this is not about 2016. This is about what or who is in the White House right now.
TAPPER: The attorney general Jeff Sessions as you mentioned just a minute ago recused himself from any matters having to do with any investigations into any presidential campaign. Do you think that he violated that recusal in his forwarding of his deputies' memo about Comey? Session's own recommendations that Comey be terminated and now Sessions is heading up the search for the next FBI director.
[23:40:11] KAINE: I definitely think that attorney general Sessions violated the recusal. I definitely do. I can't see how he could be recommending the firing of Jim Comey engaged in this Russian investigation when he had declared that he would recuse himself from this matter.
And that's why, Jake, the Democrats today basically have asked for two things. We think it's time for a special prosecutor to be appointed. It should not be political. Even the appointment should not be made by a political appointee, who was nominated by President Trump. There needs to be a special prosecutor to give people confidence. And the second thing we have asked for, we need to have Jeff Sessions,
Rod Rosenstein and James Comey back up to the Senate to answer questions about this. And in Sessions' case particularly, there will be very, very pointed questions about how he could be involved in this at all given the fact that he had recused himself.
TAPPER: Given the termination of Comey, are you worried that the FBI will no longer be able to pursue a fair and impartial investigation into any possible Trump campaign coordination with Russia?
KAINE: Jake, I am concerned about it. Now, look, down the line with the FBI, and I have worked with them before I was mayor and governor, worked with law enforcement agencies including the FBI. I think look, this is an effort by the Trump administration and the President himself to thwart or undermine this investigation. And I know what folks in law enforcement do when they feel that pressure, they really redouble their efforts. But if there's leadership at the top that is trying to undermine them that leadership can do a lot of damage.
Obviously the nominee to be the next director of the FBI is of critical importance. And I think what you are going to see here in the Senate is that nominee will probably get the most searching examination that any nominee in this body has ever gotten with the possible exception of Supreme Court justices because we will have to make sure that the FBI director is somebody who will independently get to the bottom of this story and the Democrats and Republicans need to assure ourselves of that.
TAPPER: Pride of Richmond, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.
KAINE: Thanks, Jake. Good to be with you.
TAPPER: Sources telling CNN that President Trump felt that former FBI director Comey was too much his own man. Should FBI director's pledge allegiance to sitting Presidents? That question next.
[23:46:45] TAPPER: We are back with more on our continuing coverage of President Trump firing the FBI director Comey.
Joining me now is my political round table.
And Mary Katherine, let me start with you. Just before the break we heard senator Tim Kaine talked about his feelings that while he disagreed with a lot of what Comey did, he never called for him to be fired and he thought he should serve out his ten year term? What do you think?
MARY KATHERINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think look, the rational for the firing didn't make sense. And late this morning, we are coming to find out they were different reasons for it. And I think there are many reasons but it doesn't look good for the Trump White House. For Democrats now, and I think politically, just on the shoe political
of it, they may pay bid of a price for having convince people that Comey is a really bad dude. Because they went really to the max, telling folks that. And now that he is fired many people will go, who are not paying that much attention to all of the ins and outs here will go is that a good thing, I thought it was a good thing.
TAPPER: It's actually interesting because when Steven Colbert, I believe, announced last night on his show that President Trump had fired Comey, his audience applauded. They didn't know that they were supposed to be opposed to that. And in fact President Trump earlier today put out a tweet video, I don't know what you call it, that showed all these Democrats calling for Comey to be fired.
HILLARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, but at the time, we didn't know that, for instance, Comey had gone to Rod Rosenstein at the justice department just a few days ago and ask for more money to investigate --.
TAPPER: Justice department is denying that but yes, that's our reporting, though.
ROSEN: But it is well reported, right. That he is asking for more money to expand the investigation in Russia so we didn't know that, you know, whether or not the President actually knew that. So there are so many unanswered questions here.
I don't think we should be lionizing James Comey. I have no interest in doing that. I do think that he handled this past year really badly. And I suspect there is a reason behind it. But I don't think that changes the under lying bad behavior of the President and trying to stifle this investigation.
TAPPER: But does it now take some of the wind out of the sails of Democrats? I know there are a lot of people in the White House who legitimately or seeing at least legitimately surprise that there are so much Democratic push back because they thought I thought these Democrats pay for it.
Chuck Schumer said he had no confidence on him. Nancy Pelosi said he should seek another job.
ADRIENNE ELROD, FORMER DIRECTOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Look, we certainly had - I was on the Clinton campaign, we certainly had a lot of issues with the way Mr. Comey handled the investigation of Hillary Clinton's email server. But at the end of the day, the way Trump handles this who actually believes that Trump fired him because of the way he handled the investigation in Hillary Clinton's server. Such a joke that anyone would actually believe that. So, you know, lots of unanswered questions that was exactly why we need a special prosecutor and independent commission to look into this.
TAPPER: And congressman Kingston, the Trump White House is now completely changed story. They said that this was because -- the firing was because of the attorney general Rod Rosenstein. Then this evening, they put out a new timeline that suggest that it was not Rosenstein, it was Trump who was the driving force. And now "the Washington Post" is reporting that when Rosenstein felt he was being thrown under the bus yesterday, he threatened to quit.
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER RO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Yes. I think there are a lot of people in this town and in the White House who felt Comey's term was time to go. You know, he was a political pretzel. He was a (INAUDIBLE). He is a loose cannon.
And I got to say, the people who branded fire Comey were the Democrats. And they really don't have credibility at this point to be complaining about. In fact, I was come in a minute ago, it's a double-gift to the Democrats. They got rid of somebody they wanted to have fired. And now, they get to complain about it.
[23:50:17] ROSEN: Come on, Jack.
KINGSTON: So it's a present to them.
ROSEN: This has really nothing to do with the Democrats.
ROSEN: Wait, wait, wait.
This has actually zero to do with Democrats. This is about an FBI director who said he is investigating the White House, the campaign and President Trump's behavior and then he gets fired. The Hillary Clinton investigation is long past gone. This is about whether or not the President is acting this way.
KINGSTON: If you go fire Comey, most of it -- it will be all over the internet. And now, they are trying to erase these things.
TAPPER: OK, Mary Katherine.
HAM: I was going to confess my unpopular opinion and say that it stick up for Comey a tiny bit and say, throughout all this, America put him in a very bad position by nominating two major party candidates, one of whom Hillary Clinton was actually under investigation, and others who had associates who are under investigation. And so, I'm not sure there was a good way to handle any of this. And you know, that makes --
TAPPER: People in the FBI, we interviewed earlier today, Ernie Babcock, who was deputy general counsel for three years under Comey, people there revere him. And they think that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and his associates put him in an impossible positions.
I take your point on Democrats changing their tune. But you have to concede the point that President Trump has changed his tune on James Comey, as well. He loved James Comey in what he did when it came to the letter on October 27th. And he has said many, many nice things. Do you not think it looks even remotely fishy that after Comey comes out and says there's an FBI investigation at the possible collusion with the Trump team and Russia, that all of a sudden he gets fired which is very - it is an unusual thing to do the fire an FBI director?
KINGSTON: I frankly think that people wanted him fired in both parties. And there would not have been a time when you could fire somebody like him without having fingers pointed at you in different directions.
You know, Hilary was just talked about him wanting more resources. I can say this. He was also criticized for going slowly. And haven't been in appropriator. I know the first thing any bureaucracy says when they are accused of going slow is we need more money.
Well, surprise, surprise. Sometimes they actually slow down on purpose so that they can get more money. So, the fact that he is saying that now. But we don't even know the department of justice --
ROSEN: Maybe he was fired because he wasn't moving quickly enough on the Russian investigation.
KINGSTON: The department of justice denied it. And of course, they would be the ones who would be the appropriate authority to ask an appropriations committee member or the president for more money. So I don't think that's actually legit. But I was saying that if it was, it's probably -- what bureaucrats do.
TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We are going to take a quick break. We will have much more about where we go from here after this quick messages.
[23:56:03] TAPPER: Welcome back to our coverage of the fallout after President Trump fired the FBI director James Comey.
Back with me is my political round table.
I want to get your final thoughts, more than a day out from this bombshell firing. What do you think might happen next? Where might we go, congressman?
KINGSTON: You have 150 agents investigating this. This is going to continue to happen. The Senate and the House are going to continue investigating it. Meanwhile, the White House is going to continue governing. They are going to take on the economy, job creation, ISIS, and meet with world leaders. And I think that that's what's going on in the major emphasis of the White House.
ELROD: I mean, look. Who knows what's going to happen next? The story keeps changing by the minute. But what I do know is there has got to be a special prosecutor that is appointed and there has got to be an independent commission that looks into this.
TAPPER: But do you think it is actually going to happen?
ELROD: Who knows? But it needs to happen. That's the only way democracy can move forward.
TAPPER: Mary Katherine?
HAM: Yes. I think this was an impulsive decision. I think it's a mistake to ascribe too much strategy to it and sometimes not to think it so sophisticated or sinister as it looks on its face. I think the next step for Republican senators and for the White House will tell us more about this current step that we are seeing here because I think many Republicans senator -- many of them have questions about the Russia issue, will want to play their hand here, instead of on a commission or something and make him fix it or sort of push and pick somebody who is really a responsible person. And then we will know what that investigation looks like going forward.
ROSEN: You know, the White House has had a very messy 24 hours. And we have gotten four stories out of them about what happened. I think we have a President who feels quite unaccountable to the truth. And that this White House staff scrambles to keep up with the stories that come out. But the only way we are going to get the truth is if Republicans on Capitol Hill demand it. If they step up and say, you know what, this isn't going to be acceptable. And they will only do that if they start to feel like in their districts Donald Trump is losing popularity, is losing the honesty factor and that they need to do something to save themselves.
TAPPER: Adrianne, let me just ask you because we do have about 45 seconds left. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary of the White House today said that if Hillary Clinton had won she would have fired James Comey.
You are on the campaign. I'm old enough, you are not, but I'm old enough to remember Bill Clinton hated his FBI director, Louis Freeh and he would have fired him in a second if he could. He thought he could get away with it. Do you disagree with that assessment?
ROSEN: No. He would have but he didn't.
TAPPER: But he didn't, exactly.
TAPPER: What do you think?
ELROD: Look, I think it's hard to get into hypotheticals. But I will tell you is that if Donald Trump had any intention before yesterday of firing James Comey, he should have done it the day he stepped into the presidency, the first day that he was sworn into the White House.
HAM: Just saying, whatever went on here, if the point was to take the eye off of Russia and to tamp this down --
HAM: Strategically, the incorrect move. ROSEN: Right.
TAPPER: Adrianne, Hilary, and congressman Kingston, thanks so much.
That's it for me tonight. I'm Jake Tapper.
Be sure to log on to CNN.com for all of the latest breaking news.
Thank you so much for watching.