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Trump Contradicts White House on FBI Chief's Firing; Trump: Russia Probe an "Excuse" for Democrats; Acting FBI Director: Russia Probe "Cannot Stop"; Trump Defends Meeting Lavrov After Firing Comey; U.S. Considers Expanding Airline Laptop Ban. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 12, 2017 - 02:00   ET



[02:00:11] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --


SESAY: Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay.

NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

The White House can't seem to get its story straight about why President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Critics are convinced it has to do with the investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, but President Trump is offering another explanation.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Never mind what his White House and vice president have been saying for two straight days. President Trump said today firing FBI Director James Comey was his idea.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not --


LESTER HOLT, ANCHOR, NBC NEWS: You had made the decision before they came into the room?

TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. There's never a good time to do it, by the way. They --


HOLT: -- accepted their recommendation.

(CROSSTALK) HOLT: You had already made the decision?

TRUMP: I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.

ZELENY: In an interview with NBC News, the president rewriting his administration's explanation for firing Comey.


ZELENY: The president also explained why he insists he's not at the center of the FBI probe in the Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

TRUMP: I know I'm not under investigation, me, personally. I'm not talking about campaigns or anything else. I'm not under investigation.

ZELENY: The president said he talked to Comey about it directly, a stunning assertion considering the investigation is ongoing.

TRUMP: Said it once at dinner and then he said it twice during phone calls.

HOLT: Did you call him?

TRUMP: In one case, I called him. In one case, he called me.

HOLT: And did you ask if you were under investigation?

TRUMP: I actually asked him, yes. I said, if it's possible, would you let me know am I under investigation? He said, you are not under investigation.

ZELENY: It was the president saying he took lead firing Comey that now puts him at odds with his advisors, who initially said he was following the recommendation of the attorney general and deputy attorney general.

On Capitol Hill yesterday, Vice President Pence offering that rationale again and again.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of the actions that the deputy attorney general outlined to the president and the to act on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general.

ZELENY: The president's aides made the same case.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: But the president took the advice of the deputy attorney general who oversees the director of the FBI.

ZELENY: The original White House timeline has held up to scrutiny, particularly, the suggestion deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, sparked Comey's firing, not the president.

At the White House briefing, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders struggling to reconcile the contradictions. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They're

on the same page. Like, why are we arguing about the semantics of whether or not he accepted. They agreed. I'm not sure how he didn't accept the deputy attorney general's recommendation when they agreed with one another.

ZELENY: Sanders bluntly saying they hopes the firing of Comey ends the controversy.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: The point is we want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity, and we think we actually, by removing Director Comey, have taken steps to make that happen.

ZELENY: But removing the director has only added fuel to the fire, emboldening Democratic critics and aliening frustrated Republicans.

The president also delivering personal criticism of Comey and the state of the FBI.

TRUMP: He's a showboat. He's a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that.

ZELENY: Testifying on Capitol Hill today, the acting FBI director said it's simply not true.

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.

ZELENY (on camera): Acting Director Andrew McCabe took that one step further, saying it's not accurate to suggest there's a crisis of confidence at the FBI. He also did a bit of pushback to some of the president's comments he made to NBC News. He was asked directly whether any FBI agent would ever tell the president or anyone they were not subject of an investigation. He gave a two-word answer. He said, no, sir.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


SESAY: Let's discuss this with CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen. He's also been an advisor for Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.

David, thank you so much for joining us.


[02:05:11] SESAY: For the past 48 hours, White House officials have been front and center with the explanation that the president fired Comey on the recommendation of the acting attorney general, only for the president himself to come out on Thursday and say it was all his own idea. What do you make of this administration's inability to get on the same page as they scramble to explain this to everyone?

GERGEN: This has been one of the most chaotic periods in any American presidency. I must tell you what they basically did was the president fired the head of the investigatory unit that was looking at the White House. The White House essentially invented a cover story for why he did it. We never had a cover story that collapsed quite so quickly, that unraveled right in front of our eyes. Everybody's not sure what the public reaction is going to be. It's early to judge, but I must tell you, from the point of view from those who've been around Washington a long time, this was a shocking two days. It reminded us a lot of the Nixon administration. I worked there, was there during the Watergate period. This is different in many ways, but the mendacity along with the incompetence of how they tell the story is very striking.

SESAY: More details emerging in the midst of all of this. We're getting, from the "New York Times," on one occasion where the president met with James Comey during dinner at the White House, according to "The New York Times," the president tried to extract some kind of loyalty pledge, which is extraordinary in and of itself --


SESAY: -- trying to extract a pledge from the man who is leading an investigation into your campaign's alleged ties with Russia. Can you even begin to make sense of that reporting?

GERGEN: What we do know is, and Jake Tapper was reporting this yesterday, that one of the major reasons President Trump was so unhappy with Mr. Comey was that he was disloyal, that he wasn't following wishes of the president. It seemed, on one hand, that may reflect President Trump's inexperience. On the other hand, it's extraordinarily inappropriate for a president of the United States to tell the FBI to do anything, especially when they're investigating his own associates.

SESAY: What about the fact the president casually tells NBC's Lester Holt that he spoke with James Comey on three occasions about the FBI's Russia probe, and he doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong with that, beyond the fact of it seeming improper, that some people go as far as to say that that smacks of obstructionism.

GERGEN: Yeah. Well, there are those who put the interpretation on it that he was saying to Mr. Comey, well, listen, if you're investigating me, I'm going to fire you, but if you're not investigating me, I'll hold on and I'll keep you. I actually think that's a little more innocent. And I think anybody talking to head of an investigatory unit might well ask are you coming after me, too? That, to me, is less offensive than demanding a loyalty oath or firing the head of the FBI, doing various things which come very close to what we call obstruction of justice. That's a crime in the United States. Is this White House in that zone now? Are they, in fact, pushing up against the boundaries of what one would normally consider obstruction of justice.

SESAY: There are many questions this evening. GERGEN: Many questions.

SESAY: David Gergen, we appreciate your insight.

GERGEN: Thank you.

SESAY: We appreciate it. Thank you.

The FBI have been investigating alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia since last summer. Still, Mr. Trump insists it's a fake story manufactured by Democrats because he won the presidency.


TRUMP: In fact, when I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won. And the reason they should have won it is the Electoral College is almost impossible for a Republicans to win, very hard, because you start off with such a disadvantage. So everybody was thinking they should have won the election. This was an excuse for having lost an election.

[02:10:02] HOLT: Are you angry with Mr. Comey because of his Russia investigation?

TRUMP: I just want somebody that's competent. I am a big fan of the FBI. I love the FBI. I love the people at the FBI.

HOLT: Were you a fan of him taking up that investigation?

TRUMP: I think that -- about the Hillary Clinton investigation?

HOLT: No, about the Russia investigation and possible links between --


TRUMP: Let me tell you. As far as I'm concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly. When I did this now, I said I probably maybe will confuse people, maybe I'll expand, I'll lengthen the time, because it should be over with. It should have been over with a long time ago because all it is, is an excuse. But I said to myself I might not even like the investigations, but I have to do the right thing for the American people. He's the wrong man for that position.


SESAY: Joining me now in L.A., CNN political commentator and Democratic consultant, Symone Sanders; and talk radio host and Republican strategist, Andrea Kaye.

Ladies, welcome. Good to have you with us.



SESAY: Andrea, let me start with you.

Is this a White House that is trying to back into a credible explanation for why they fired James Comey?

KAYE: I don't think it's about trying to find a credible reason to fire James Comey because if we look at all the reasons the Democrats have given in the past few months as to why James Comey needed to be replaced with another director, I think it's already documented why he needed to do it. I think those wanting to undermine the Trump administration are looking for something wrong.

There was a combination of reasons why James Comey needed to go, most recently, when he went before Congress and misrepresented the facts involving the most important investigations we've had on the Clinton e-mails. Yes, that was at a previous administration but it's still coming up in hearings. His facts had to be corrected by people below him and he still double downed on his misbehavior in the way he handled the situation, overstepping his bounds and when acting as though he was Loretta Lynch. There were plenty of good reasons he needed to fire Comey, a variety of reasons. If he says one, one day, and the next, the next day. I think it's just people looking to undermine Trump. He had enough incredible reasons.

SESAY: Symone, this is a White House that said one thing, for the first 48 hours, that this decision to fire Comey was predicated on the deputy attorney general member, so much so that the vice president went out and said that, and said that this is the reason Trump fired him, only for the president to come out and say it's all my idea.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Poor Mike Pence. He had the history going out there and saying one thing and find out days later that actually, Mr. Vice President, that wasn't the truth.

I do believe that we cannot ignore the fact that literally the president of the United States went out there today and he said, hey, I know my White House told you yesterday, let me tell you the truth. Totally undermining his entire team and his vice president. I think folks should be concerned. I know we know from recent polling the American people are concerned. They're concerned about the timing. You have high-ranking Republicans and Democrats saying this is concerning.

I'm not shedding any tears over James Comey. I absolutely believe he has egregiously handled a lot of differentiate things, all the way back to this summer. But the timing is definitely suspicious. And we cannot forget that that there are questions about this president's ties to a foreign country, not just any foreign country but a foreign country that the entire intelligence community is united in saying it interfered in our election. SESAY: Andrea, to that point, this White House has gone to great

pains to say this had nothing to do with the Russia investigation that Comey was leading. Then you have the deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, say we want the investigations to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to a conclusion with integrity and we think, by removing Comey, we've taken steps to make this happen. Is this about the Russia investigation or isn't it, by the White House's very own words?

KAYE: It's about making sure we have a Russia investigation. Here's what we know after a year under James Comey's investigative leadership. There's been absolutely no crimes they've been able to uncover involving Trump and his campaign colluding with Russia. But we do know crimes were committed, felonies, involving leaking. We know that was unmasking of Americans and Susan Rice is still refusing to come before Congress to discuss that.


KAYE: I let you speak. I let you speak.

James Comey, while going at great length to mindread Russians in terms of what their intentions were with their hacking or attempts to interfere in the election, he refused to even acknowledge that there was an investigation into the only crime so far we know exists. How about getting new leadership in that will look into every aspect of the investigation? I would like to actually see some investigation into Russian compromise of the previous administration and Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation in terms of donor money and speaking fees that Bill Clinton got, in terms of Russian compromise after the Russian reset. I would like to see if we're going to talk about hacking of elections and influence of elections. Let's talk about the DNC and their influence and how they interjected --


[02:15:11] SANDERS: This is so absolutely ridiculous.


KAYE: Did it not happen?


SESAY: Let me just say -- I'm assuming you said everything you wanted to say.

Symone --

SANDERS: The entire intelligence community is united saying that the Russians interfered with our election. Not just the Russians. I think it's important we ruse if right terminology here. Not that the Russians actually got Donald Trump elected but they influenced the election and their influence definitely affected the way our elections played out. And that Russians had no love for Hillary Clinton. Clearly, they were intervening on behalf of Trump. Now the question is, was there collusion with the campaign and the Russians? We they directly connected to that? We do know because an investigation is currently underway, an investigation which the former Director Comey was leading. The lines are very clear here. So, yes, there are lots of people questioning what is going on. There are folks calling for a special prosecutor in this case. We have to remember the integrity of our government, of the way we are interacting is at stake. I was just in Switzerland last week and I was embarrassed. First time I've been embarrassed, to step on American soil, answer questions about my president.


KAYE: I think you should have been --


SESAY: We're out of time. We could go on forever. I tell you what we're going to, we're going to come back both of you.


SESAY: We'll keep this going.

Great conversation, ladies. We appreciate it. Thank you.

KAYE: Thank you.

This will go on.

KAYE: Yes.

SESAY: Thank you.

Lively times.

Next on NEWSROOM L.A., what happens to the FBI's investigation into Russia's election meddling now that James Comey is no longer director? We'll have the answer when we return.




[02:20:33] SESAY: James Comey may be out of the FBI, but the bureau's investigation into Russian meddling will go on. In fact, the new acting director says the probe, quote, "cannot stop."

Here's CNN's Pamela Brown.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The acting director for the FBI, Andrew, McCabe, assuring the Senate Intelligence Committee the Russia investigation has not and will not be hindered by the firing of former Director James Comey.

MCCABE: There has no effort to impede our investigation to date. Simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people, and upholding the Constitution.

BROWN: McCabe pledging he will alert the committee if there are any indications the investigation is being tampered with.

SEN. MARK WARNER, (D-VA), RANKING MEMBER, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Mr. McCabe, as long as you are acting FBI director, you commit to informing this committee of any effort to interfere with the FBI's ongoing investigation into links between Russia and the Trump campaign?

MCCABE: I absolutely do.

BROWN: While the interim director would not comment on conversations President Trump says he had with former Director Comey, where Comey allegedly told the president he was not personally under investigation --

MCCABE: I can't comment on any conversations the director may have had with the president.

BROWN: -- he did say that reports of Comey asking deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, for more the resources conduct the probe are contrary to the normal procedure.

MCCABE: I'm not aware of that request and it's not consistent with my understanding of how we request additional resources. I strongly believe the Russia investigation is adequately resourced.

BROWN: But McCabe did contradict the White House assertion that Comey lost the confidence of FBI rank-and-file and that morale of the bureau was low.

MCCABE: I can confidently tell you that the majority, the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.

BROWN: The White House even saying it believes Comey's firing will help bring the Russia investigation to an end.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: We want it to come to its conclusion with integrity and we think that we've actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen.

BROWN: In a telling sign of where the Senate investigation is focused, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden grilled CIA Director Mike Pompeo about what the CIA did to mitigate any potential damage surrounding former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, continuing in his role despite being compromised by the Russians. The committee has subpoenaed Flynn.

SEN. RON WYDEN, (D), OREGAN: Director Pompeo, did you know about the acting attorney general's warnings to the White House or were you aware of the concerns behind the warning?

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: I don't have any comment on that.

WYDEN: Were you aware of the concerns behind the warning? I mean, that is a global threat. This is a global threat question. It's a global threat hearing. Were you aware?

POMPEO: Senator, tell me what global threat you're concerned with, please. I'm not sure I understand the question.

WYDEN: The possibility of blackmail. Blackmail by an influential military official, that has really ramifications for the global threat.

BROWN: The ranking members of the committee meeting with the deputy attorney general on Capitol Hill to discuss the Russia investigation's path forward.

SEN. RICHARD BURR, (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Regardless of what happens by the Justice Department or by the FBI, that the investigation that's done by the Senate Intelligence Committee will continue on its current course as aggressively as we're able to.

BROWN: Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


SESAY: Donald Trump has offered another possible reason why he fired James Comey and this one is personal. Apparently, the president thought his FBI director was enjoying the spotlight too much.

Here's what he told NBC.


TRUMP: He's a showboat. He's a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that.

HOLT: Monday you met with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

TRUMP: Right.

HOLT: Did you ask for a recommendation?

TRUMP: What I did is I was going to fire Comey, my decision. It was not --


HOLT: You had made the decision before they came in the room?

TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. There's no good time to do it, by the way. They -- they were --


HOLT: In your letter, you said, "I accepted their recommendation."

TRUMP: Yeah, well --

HOLT: So you had already made the decision?

TRUMP: I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.



[02:25:08] SESAY: For more insight into what the FBI was like under Comey, let's bring in CNN law enforcement contributor, Steve Moore, who's a retired FBI special agent.

Steve, good to have you with us. Lots to talk about.

Let's start with the headline from the interview with Lester Holt from NBC. The president saying that James Comey was a showboat and a grandstander. Do you agree with that assessment?

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: No, not at all. I think James Comey was -- even if what he did was a mistake, am I'm not putting a value judgment on it, he was certainly forced, felt forced into his public statements. Certainly, he didn't ask for any of these audiences with the Senate. They called him. So I don't see that at all and that's never been part of his character that I've seen.

SESAY: The other question to ask is this issue of morale within the FBI, because this is something the White House is doubling down on, saying there was low morale. The president saying the FBI was in turmoil. Your retired, but you know people.

MOORE: Yeah.

SESAY: What's the truth?

MOORE: I have many friends in the bureau. This is going to come as surprise that they're in turmoil. I think Director Comey was a popular director. There was a feeling of purpose. There's always a feeling of purpose in the FBI. But you know how that outside threat equals internal cohesiveness? Right now, you have the most unified FBI probably that you had in a long time because, now they're unified because their director was fired and a lot of them probably think it was unjust. Again, I'm not making a value judgment, but you've got a lot of angry agents and suspicious agents. If anything, this is going to light a fire under any espionage investigation that might involve the Russians where this administration might come into it.

SESAY: What about having it exist at the FBI right now? It could likely be compounded by some reporting by "The New York Times." "The New York Times," on Thursday, reporting that James Comey had dinner with the president, which we knew, the president himself said in the NBC interview. But according to "New York Times" reporting, at that dinner, the president tried to extract a loyalty pledge, one James Comey refused to give him. This ties in with reporting from our own Jake Tapper that the issue of loyalty, that he wasn't loyal enough to the president, is one of the reasons he was fired. What do you make of all of this?

MOORE: First of all, any loyalty pledge to a president violates your loyalty oath to the Constitution, which you take when you bring -- when you join the FBI. He has a higher purpose. The FBI is not loyal to any president any more than is due his office. You are loyal to the Constitution. You are loyal to the nation. You are loyal to its founding principles. You are not loyal to an individual. I mean, that's how things get turned sideways. That's how you become a banana republic. That's offense, if that happened. I can't --


MOORE: If the "New York Times" is correct, that's offensive to me, and I'm sure it was offensive to the director. But we spoke two days ago, and I think I said at that point. I don't think this is necessarily about the Russian investigation specifically. I think it's Trump not believing that Comey was going to follow policy guidance.

SESAY: That it was his own man, which is what we've been hearing.

MOORE: Yes. I hope I get fired one day for being my own man.

SESAY: We'll see what happens in time.


MOORE: Steve Moore, we appreciate it. Thank you.

Next on NEWSROOM L.A., the pictures that are causing an international uproar. We'll hear from the photographer behind the images.


[02:32:07] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I've Isha Sesay.

U.S. President Donald Trump is defending his decision to meet with the Russian foreign minister just a day after he fired FBI Director James Comey.

Here's how he explained it the situation to NBC's Lester Holt.


LESTER HOLT, ANCHOR, NBC NEWS: Did you worry at all when you made the decision to fire Comey when you did, the day before Lavrov was here in the White House and the Russian Ambassador? Did you think through the optics of the way this would look?


It was set up a while ago. And, frankly, I could have waited, but what difference does it make?

I'm not looking for cosmetics. I'm looking to do a great job for the country. I'm looking to create jobs. I'm looking to create strength and security. I'm looking to have strong borders. I'm looking for things like that.

I think it's a good thing that I meet with people. This is a public meeting, because, you know, when you cover this, the people watching, they say, oh, he met with Lavrov. This was an announced meeting with Lavrov. Just like several days ago, I spoke, had a very good conversation, very public in the sense that everybody knew this was taking place. I took all the time. Just spoke with the new head of South Korea who just got elected. I speak with the head of India. I speak with the head of China. I have to speak with Putin also. It's called Russia. But when I spoke with Putin, he asked me whether or not I would see Lavrov. Do I say, no, I'm not going to see him? I said I will see him. During that discussion with Lavrov, I think we had a great discussion, having to do with Syria, having to do with the Ukraine, and maybe that discussion will lead to a lot less people getting killed and will lead ultimately to peace. So I'm -- I'm OK with those discussions, Lester. I think it's a good thing, not a bad thing.


SESAY: Joining me now here in L.A., CNN's senior reporter for media and politics, our own Dylan Byers.

Dylan, good to have you with us as always.

This is a White House scrambling to get on the same page when it comes to its explanation for why the president fired James Comey. Why is this administration so bad at messaging?

DYLAN BYERS, CDNN SENIOR MEDIA & POLITICS REPORTER: Well, if you want to be generous, you can say they're inexperienced. If you want to be less generous, you can say they're inept. They -- you've got a president of the United States making a lot of his decisions on the fly. He's not necessarily keeping his communications shop in step with what he's doing. And then, you know, most notably when you talk about the inexperience or ineptitude here, you have an administration that didn't even anticipate the media blowback and the political blowback and, indeed, the public blowback and the scrutiny surrounding what is an extraordinarily abnormal decision, to fire the FBI director who is currently conducting an investigation into ties between your campaign and Russia. There is -- you know, it's -- you and I so often on this show have talked about the alternate realities of people living in this country due to the sort of partisan nature of our politics and our media. Trump lives in a different word. I don't think he expected so much blowback from this decision. It's happening now. The entire White House staff is scrambling to address it. They've got mixed messages. Nothing about their story is consistent, despite the claims of the press shop that the story is consistent. Look, the move to fire Comey has raised so many more questions, it has

raised so much more scrutiny. If his goal here, if you expect the worst, was to get rid of the investigation, he has only encouraged not only FBI but the public and the media to pay far more attention to it.

[02:35:49] SESAY: But you said there are so many inconsistencies in the White House story but what is consistent is that the president would come out and say, no, no, no, it wasn't anybody else. It was all me. I made the decision.

BYERS: Right.

SESAY: The president who was always right, to taker of all credit.

BYERS: Well, yes, but at the same time, leading his -- all of his folks, all the president's spokespeople --


BYERS: -- to go out and say, well, he did this at the recommendation of the deputy, you know, and then he goes out and he undercuts his whole staff effectively throwing them under the bus.


BYERS: Even his vice president. Of course, he would take credit for this. He cares about being defiant. He cares about being the guy who calls the shots. He likes having the authority to fire the director of the FBI. He probably likes having the ability to then go and be photographed with Russian officials. It's a way of saying, I'm above it, I don't care.

SESAY: To that point of the first draft of the Washington officials, they were asked, did you think about the optics of getting Sergei Lavrov, and let's not forget, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak, in the Oval Office, and he said, no, he didn't think about it, which is, again, strange and contradictory coming from this White House.

BYERS: Yeah. It would not be fair of me to sit here and say that he is lying --


BYERS: -- but he is a president who is obsessed with optics. He has defined everything he has done about the sort of stage craft of the presidency. If you think it -- it was not lost on him who he was meeting with. Also, while American media was not allowed into those meetings, a Russian photographer was allowed into those meetings. Those pictures were widely disseminated. It sent a message. You know, he's basically sticking his thumb in the eye of Comey, of all of his critics, and I would argue of the --


SESAY: The White House seems to be surprised that the image captured by the Russian photographer was released by the Russians. A White House official telling CNN, they tricked us, that's the problem with them, they lie.

BYERS: They lie, right. That's a convenient argument to say afterwards. If you're the president of the U.S., you look at previous administrations, the way they treated anyone holding a camera -- you know the media environment we live in. You know that you have no sort of jurisdiction over what a photographer for a foreign state and his organization does with that photograph. I mean, it's very hard for me to accept the argument that he's somehow believed those photos weren't going to come out.

SESAY: Dylan Byers, it's a busy time.

BYERS: It's a busy time.

SESAY: Thank you.

BYERS: Isha, thank you.

SESAY: See you soon.

Next on NEWSROOM L.A., the U.S. might be expanding its laptop ban in airline cabins. What medium could be affected next? That's ahead.


[02:40:53] SESAY: Europe's bracing for turbulence over news the U.S. could expand its airline laptop ban. Several airports from North Africa and the Middle East have been hit by similar measure, with many gadgets barred from cabins on U.S.-bound flights.

For more, here's Andy Rose.


ANDY ROSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Buckle up, it's shaping up to be a very long and boring flight. The U.S. could soon expand its laptop ban to all flights coming from Europe.

On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to lay out the groundwork, according to two Capitol Hill sources. While no final decision has been made yet, according to the sources, it's coming soon.

Electronic devices larger than a Smartphone were banned from carryon luggage on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa back in March. The U.S. said it was because of intelligence suggesting terrorists could hide explosives in those large devices.

But the travel industry is not on board with the ban extension. For one, they don't believe it's any safer for electronic items to be in checked luggage.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: The experts are concerned about, all of a sudden, having all these lithium ion batteries in the bottom of airplanes. If one catches on fire, one explodes, and then you have other lithium-ion batteries around it, it's like having matches next to each other.

ROSE: Another hang up is that this could hurt bookings, especially for business travelers who count on having time to work while in the air. More than 350 flights a day travel from Europe to the U.S.

And it's not just the airlines that would be hit. 40 percent of overseas travelers are from Europe, and those travelers tend to be big spenders once they get here, averaging between $3,000 and $4,000 per trip according to the U.S. Travel Association.

As of now, there are no plans to extend the ban to flights leaving the U.S.

I'm Andy Rose, reporting.


SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

"World Sport" starts after a quick break. Stay with us.




[03:00:09] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump reveals new details about the firing of the FBI director and it's quite different --