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New Details On FBI Director's Firing; Press Secretary Spicer "Benched"; Comey Firing Fallout On Capitol Hill. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 11, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] ALISON KOSIK, CNN HOST: Will he respond to the subpoena and how will it change the Russia investigation? Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: And I'm Dave Briggs. Thirty minutes past the hour. It is National Twilight Zone Day. Did you know?

KOSIK: I thought that was yesterday.

BRIGGS: It feels like Twilight Zone in the nation's capital with all of the developments coming out this morning regarding the firing of James Comey. Let's start with new details this morning painting a startling picture of a scorned President Trump, increasingly consumed by a now former FBI director whose Russia investigation was picking up too much steam for the president's comfort. A source close to Comey telling CNN's Jake Tapper James Comey was fired for two reasons.

KOSIK: First, Comey never gave the president any assurance of personal loyalty. And second, the FBI investigation into possible collusion by team Trump with Russia, that was accelerating, so that may explain the timing of all of this. Sources tell CNN that Comey was fired just a week after asking for more resources to investigate the Russia connection. The White House, for its part, denies Comey made that request. Regardless, there is progress reported in that probe. A Senate committee issuing a subpoena to former national security adviser Michael Flynn. More on that in a moment.

BRIGGS: First though, the White House doggedly defending its rationale for Comey's firing. Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders using blunt language to describe the FBI director's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I think one of the big catalysts that we saw was last week, on Wednesday, Director Comey made a pretty startling revelation that he had essentially taken a stick of dynamite and thrown it into the Department of Justice by going around the chain of command, having a letter like the one that he received and having that conversation that outlined the basic just atrocities in circumventing the chain of command in the Department of Justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: Now, the circumventing Sanders is referring to is a news conference Comey held about Clinton's emails without telling his boss, then-attorney general Loretta Lynch, what he would say.

KOSIK: Now today, the new acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, he's set to testify in front of a Senate committee after meeting face- to-face with the president on Wednesday. It's likely he's going to face questions about Comey's firing as the White House intensifies its search for a new FBI director.

BRIGGS: James Comey refusing to dwell on his dismissal in a farewell letter to his former colleagues at the FBI. Comey writes, "I have long believed that a president can fire an FBI director for any reason or for no reason at all. I'm not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed. I hope you won't either. It is done, I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply."

KOSIK: Sources inside the White House tell CNN President Trump kept his decision to fire Comey very close to the vest in the 48 hours before dropping the bombshell. He did not seek a wide range of viewpoints and he grew increasingly angry with the FBI director after reaching the conclusion that Comey was "his own man and could not be trusted."

A longtime friend who spoke to the president over the weekend describes him as white hot and complaining repeatedly about "Russia, Russia, Trump and Russia." That friend says the president has regularly expressed frustration that they can't make this "all go away." Apparently, he's referring to Comey and his staff, among others.

BRIGGS: Yes. The president also particularly angry with Comey for testifying he was "mildly nauseous" about the possibility that he, himself, influenced the presidential election. The president also upset that Comey was not putting enough emphasis on investigating leaks.

Also developing, the White House closely monitoring the performance of Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She's been filling in this week for Sean Spicer who is out for Naval Reserve duty, but multiple administration sources say Spicer has been benched and could be replaced.

KOSIK: And there's new intense reaction to Comey's firing this morning from both sides of the aisle. Some criticism from Republicans including Congressman Jason Chaffetz. He's a Trump supporter and he's calling for a full review by the Justice Department. Chaffetz says this in a statement, saying, "Previously, I asked Inspector General Horowitz to review the FBI's actions in advance of the 2016 election. Today, I sent a letter urging I.G. Horowitz to expand the scope of his review to include the decision to fire Director Comey. I look forward to receiving the I.G.'s findings.

BRIGGS: Other top Republicans coming to the president's defense, like House Speaker Paul Ryan and his first comments since the firing.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: James Comey, who is a worthwhile and dedicated public servant, I think he had just basically lost the confidence of a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats based upon his conduct, his actions, and some of the comments that he had made. And most importantly, he lost the confidence of the president. And it is entirely within the president's role and authority to relieve him and that's what he did.


[05:35:18] BRIGGS: Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who Trump personally targeted on Twitter yesterday, suggesting this could become a crisis along the lines of Watergate.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: It is a looming constitutional crisis because it involves a potential confrontation, as did Watergate, between the president and other branches of government. It may well produce impeachment proceedings although we're very far from that possibility.


KOSIK: Meantime, President Trump still hanging tough on his decision, taking to Twitter last night to post a video of Democrats who've been critical of Comey, tweeting this, "The Democrats should be ashamed. This is a disgrace! #DrainTheSwamp."

BRIGGS: To discuss all the fallout from the firing of FBI Director Comey, let's bring in "CNN POLITICS" reporter Tal Kopan, live in Washington.

KOSIK: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning to you, Tal.


BRIGGS: A tall task for you this morning. We could go through some of the reports this morning. "The New York Times," by the way, quoting 30 administration, Department of Justice, and other officials, so that will drive the president nuts. "The Washington Post" says Rod Rosenstein, the number two at the DOJ, threatened to quit after being made the fall guy. We could go on and on. "The Wall Street Journal" says that Comey was getting daily briefings on the Russia investigation instead of weekly. How does the president get out from under any of this?

KOPAN: I don't know. I don't see a path for that to happen, you know. It's really interesting how the White House sort of made its decision on this and, you know, you hear our reporting that the president kept this relatively close to the vest. That's entirely understandable. If you're considering something like this I understand being very concerned about leaks. But at the same time, when you make that decision with such a close circle of advisers -- I have a feeling if they had floated this on the Hill with just a few Republican senators they would have had a barometer of how swift the pushback was going to be.

Instead, it seems they miscalculated and if their goal was to try to tamp down the fire and, you know, subdue the investigations into Russian meddling in the U.S. election last year, all that this has done is sort of poured fuel right on that fire. And as you mentioned, it's dominating every newspaper, every newscast, and that's entirely because this move just raises so many questions and we're still getting the answers to many of those questions.

KOSIK: And speaking of the investigations underway, the fact that Comey's out doesn't mean those investigations are going to slow down any. We know the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Mike Flynn, requesting documents for him to hand over. His lawyers refused to do that in April. Well, now he's got the subpoena. You've also got Republican leaders -- hey, you know what, they can call for an independent commission but it really doesn't sound like they have interest. McConnell says it will only serve to impede the current work being done. Listen to what he had to say.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: Today, we'll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation which could only serve to impede the current work being done. Partisan calls should not delay the considerable work of Chairman Burr and Vice Chairman Warner. Too much is at stake.


KOSIK: Is it possible, Tal, that a special council could be set up to go ahead and have this independent investigation or is this just a pipedream at this point?

KOPAN: Well, and there are two ways that you can have sort of an independent investigation. One is that the Justice Department, itself, could appoint a sort of special prosecutor -- a special investigator to look at into things and then Congress could decide to create a select committee. You know, think of sort of the Benghazi committee that was formed to look into Hillary Clinton and the decisions that were made in the Obama administration. That's another option.

You know, right now we'll say the idea is sort of picking up steam but not really getting off the ground. So you're seeing more Republicans who are sort of bucking their leadership and saying they'd be interested in some sort of select committee. You know, some people who were calling for it from the beginning.

But we're not yet seeing leadership relent and, you know, their point is that, as you mentioned, the Senate Intelligence Committee full steam ahead, House Intelligence Committee regaining its footing after some stumbles of controversy over the chairman. Those investigations are definitely still underway and so the argument is let those run its course. As soon as you start picking and choosing senators to be on a select committee you open up a whole new can of worms in terms of the politics of this investigation.

BRIGGS: Tal, loyalty has always been huge for Donald Trump -- President Trump -- loyalty at the heart of the firing of James Comey, according to Jake Tapper's reporting. Could loyalty be part of his downfall here?

[05:40:07] KOPAN: Well, you know, what's interesting about the notion of loyalty is that the FBI director is specifically designed not to be loyal to any administration. That is why they specifically serve 10-year terms which, by definition, if you serve that out you would straddle at least two administrations. And so, you know, the notion that somehow James Comey was supposed to show loyalty kind of runs counter to all the things we ask of the FBI, which is to be an independent investigation that follows the facts as it leads.

I mean, think of the absolute outcry that would have come out if it was reported that President Obama had demanded James Comey's loyalty, you know, in the investigation of Hillary Clinton. I mean, it would be absolutely torn apart. And so, you know, I don't know if it's an undoing but certainly there are parts of the government that are designed not to be loyal to any politician and you're seeing a little bit of chafing now.

And, in fact, you know, myself and some of my colleagues reported this has rippled through FBI moral because there are a lot of agents who really appreciated Comey's independence and are now very concerned about what comes next. So the biggest thing here is who they appoint and that is going to be a spectacular show on the Hill when they actually give us a name of who is going to go through some confirmation hearings.

KOSIK: Yes, will it be a Trump loyalist?


KOSIK: That will cause outrage.

BRIGGS: Certainly, and still some questions about Jeff Sessions. Did he truly recuse himself from this Russian probe? A lot of questions as this story continues to evolve. Tal Kopan, great to have you this morning. Thank you.

KOSIK: Good to see you, Tal.

KOPAN: Thank you, guys.

BRIGGS: All right, up next, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos getting an earful from a commencement crowd in Florida.



BRIGGS: We'll explain what happened and tell you what DeVos' reaction was to all of this, next.


[05:46:18] KOSIK: Welcome back. The big question on Wall Street, what does James Comey's firing at the FBI really mean for the Trump rally? The so-called 'Trump Bump' is essentially a bet that the White House will pass pro-business policies, especially tax reform, but here's the thing. Investors see the current turmoil as just another distraction. After a historic run since the election, stocks have barely budged since April 26th. That's the day the administration released its tax -- its tax outline. Investors, though, they want to know more details and they want a guarantee that the White House is going to go ahead and work with lawmakers to pass reform.

And the president's Commerce secretary is blaming Congress for the holdup. He spoke to Reuters and said this. Wilbur Ross says, "Three percent growth won't happen this year because Congress has been slow- walking everything." Ross added that target growth could happen next year if all of the administration's policies get passed. You know, he's not so far off the mark. You're going to see lawmakers really kind of hold lots of legislation hostage, trying to get that special council in place for an investigation.

BRIGGS: Even without that it's clear that the Senate wants to take a ton of time with health care --


BRIGGS: -- wait for CBO score --

KOSIK: Right.

BRIGGS: Craft something that can then get through the House. Look, you're looking at a long way out. They need health care to get tax reform.


BRIGGS: Long way out. All right. Betsy DeVos no doubt hoping her next commencement speech goes better than her first as Secretary of Education. DeVos addressing the hostile crowd of graduates at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black school in Florida.


DEVOS: Dr. Jackson, board of trustees, thank you so very, very much for this great honor and privilege.

CROWD: (Booing).


BRIGGS: Graduates booed, standing, turning their backs on DeVos as she spoke, drowning out some of her remarks. The rude reception prompting the University president to intervene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) EDISON JACKSON, PRESIDENT, BETHUNE-COOKMAN UNIVERSITY: If this behavior continues your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go.


KOSIK: Students had petitioned school officials to choose another commencement speaker. A primary reason for protesting DeVos' appearance is her statement in which she later recanted that founders at historically black colleges and universities were "real pioneers of school choice." After the speech, DeVos tweeted this, saying, "I have respect for all those who attended Bethune-Cookman including those who demonstrated their disagreement with me today.

BRIGGS: All right. Time for a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Alisyn Camerota joining us this morning.

KOSIK: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Alisyn -- all right -- so we know from "Politico" that Trump yells at the T.V. when he sees Russian reporting.


BRIGGS: What's he going to do this morning?

CAMEROTA: I suggest perhaps potting down his television because there's going to be a lot of yelling in that case. We have all of the new threads on the James Comey firing. And there's so many developments that what we've decided to do on "NEW DAY" is to book all of the reporters from "The New York Times," from "The Washington Post," from CNN who got all these big scoops so they can share all of their new reporting and developments with us.

We also have a very interesting guest. We have Roger Stone, longtime Trump ally. He's going to be on to tell us how often he speaks to the president, when he last spoke to him, what his connection is to James Comey's firing, as well as all the Russia threads. So yes, there might be a lot of yelling at the television this morning when Chris and I start at the top of the hour.

[05:50:08] BRIGGS: Yes. I see Cuomo somewhere back there. Tell Cuomo to keep his eye on Twitter because a tweetstorm is brewing in the West Wing.

CAMEROTA: First, he's fighting with Phyllis for some reason. I don't know why they're arm-wrestling but after you're done I --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: It wasn't my shade.

BRIGGS: He's like Putin.

CAMEROTA: Keep an eye on Twitter. They think that you should be monitoring it this morning.

CUOMO: What is Twitter? CAMEROTA: Yes, OK.

KOSIK: Yes, the guy who never gets off Twitter. All right, Alisyn, thanks. We'll be watching.

BRIGGS: See you in a bit.

KOSIK: Oh, snap. Shapchat's first earnings report wasn't good and now it's watching investors disappear. We're going to tell you just how bad it is on CNN Money Stream, next.


[05:55:00] BRIGGS: Happening right now, crews in New Orleans taking down the statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, under heavy police protection. It's the second of four Confederate monuments the New Orleans City Council voted to remove back in 2015. Overnight, monument supporters held a vigil and hoisted Confederate flags. People who want to see the monuments go gathered and cheered at the sightof the trucks and cranes moving into place. The two sides chanted and yelled at each other as police kept them apart with barriers.

KOSIK: The Department of Homeland Security looking close to announcing an expanded ban on laptops and other large electronics which could include all flights from Europe to the U.S. Officials are meeting today with representatives of the airline industry to discuss security issues. The initial ban on laptops and tablet devices -- they applied only to U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in the Mideast and North Africa. It was based on fears that terrorists have found a way to convert laptops into bombs capable of bringing down a commercial airliner.

BRIGGS: The ACLU protesting the arrest of a reporter in West Virginia who shouted questions at Health Secretary Tom Price, calling it a direct assault on the first amendment. Public News Service reporter Dan Heyman tried to get a comment from Price on the effort to replace Obamacare. After persistent questioning and reaching over Secret Service agents with his recorder he was charged with willful disruption of government processes. Heyman spent eight hours behind bars before being released on bond. He could face up to six months in jail if found guilty of a misdemeanor here. Heyman says he was just doing his job. Secretary Price, though, commended the police for doing what they felt was appropriate.

KOSIK: OK, let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning. U.S. futures are down. Global markets slightly higher after Wall Street finished mixed. The S&P and the Nasdaq closing at records, the fourth in a row for the latter, while the Dow slipping lower as investors digesting the firing of FBI Director James Comey. So investors, they want the White House to focus on passing policy. They don't want the White House focusing on politics. Good luck with that. The market is essentially waiting to make a move until that happens. On deck today, more earnings as Wall Street gets close to the end of a strong earnings season. In fact, the best since 2011. Good news from the housing market. Foreclosures are hitting levels that we haven't seen since the housing boom. Filings in April are at their lowest level since November of 2005. That's according to a report from Attom Data Solutions. So why the drop, you ask? Well, the report credits seven years of low mortgage rates for bringing foreclosures to pre-Recession levels.

OK, I'll say it again -- oh, snap. Snapchat's parent company losing $2.2 billion last quarter. Investors aren't happy about it. In its first report as a public company, Snap announced that staggering loss and weak user growth. This is its worst in two years. We saw shares plummet as much as 25 percent overnight. It erased all of the stock gains that Snapchat had since it went public in March. A big contender in this is Instagram Stories. It's a big competitor for Snapchat. Similar to Snapchat where you've got the videos. At least in Instagram Stories, the videos -- they go away after 24 hours.

BRIGGS: I don't get any of it.

KOSIK: I don't either.

BRIGGS: You can see my glazed look.

KOSIK: I don't --

BRIGGS: We're going to try Snapchat --


BRIGGS: -- in just a moment.

KOSIK: You pay attention to our Twitter feed. Is that where you can put in on Twitter?

BRIGGS: We will tweet on Snap.

KOSIK: No, it disappears.

BRIGGS: All right.

KOSIK: We'll give it a try now.

BRIGGS: That will do it for us. I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" is going to have all the latest on the Trumper tantrum and all the developments concerning the firing of James Comey.

KOSIK: I'm Alison Kosik. Thanks for watching.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very simply, he was not doing a good job.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: When you fire probably, arguably, the most respected person in America, you better have a very good explanation. BLUMENTHAL: What we have now is really a looming constitutional crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jason Chaffetz has now asked the Department of Justice to look into the firing of James Comey.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: Were those investigations getting too close to home for the president?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: He's been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: It is clear that it's now time for a special prosecutor.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, May 11th, 6:00 here in New York.

President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey has ignited a firestorm in Washington. We have new details for you about what led the president to this decision as the White House continues to change their explanation for why this happened.

CUOMO: Amid all the indications that the president ousted Comey because of the Russian investigations, the probe grinds on. The Senate Intel Committee has now issued a subpoena for fired National Security adviser Michael Flynn. And in just hours, they're going to question the acting FBI director, the man who took Comey's place, in a public hearing. We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris, and that firestorm over the firing of James Comey only intensifying here in Washington.