Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Contradicts White House On FBI Chief's Firing; Trump, I want Russia Probe Speeded Up; Acting FBI Chief, Broad Support For Fired Director; Senate Hearing Focus On Firing Of FBI Director; CNN Sports; Trump Met With Russian Officials On Wednesday. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 12, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:07] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: Donald Trump reveals new details about the firing of the FBI director and it is quite different from the White House's previous story. James Comey's Deputy gives testimony to lawmakers contradicting another part of the administration narrative. And what do the Russians make of all this political drama in Washington? We'll go live to Moscow for that. Hello and welcome to you. Thank you for joining us. We're live here in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen and you're watching CNN newsroom.

U.S. President Donald Trump is explaining his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. And it is quite different than what the White House and the vice president have been saying. Mr. Trump says he made up his mind before a recommendation from the Deputy Attorney General, and he says the FBI's Russia investigation had nothing to do with it.


LESTER HOLT, NBC: Did you ask him to drop the investigation?


HOLT: Did anyone from the White House --

TRUMP: No, in fact, I want the investigation speeded up.

HOLT: Did anyone from the White House ask him to end the investigation?

TRUMP: No, why would we do this?

HOLT: Any surrogates on behalf of the White House?

TRUMP: Not that I know of. Look, I want to find out if there was a problem with the election having to do with Russia, or by the way, anybody else, any other country. And I want that to be so strong and so good and I want it to happen. I also want to have a really competent, capable director. He is not. He is a show boater. He is not my man or not my man. I didn't appoint him. He was appointed long before me. But I want somebody who's going to do a great job, and I will tell you, we're looking at candidates right now, who could be spectacular. And that is what I want for the FBI. HOLT: What you said a moment ago, about supporting the idea of

investigation, a lot of people would find it hard to believe that the man who just said that, tweeted very recently it's a total hoax. It's a taxpayer charade.

TRUMP: I think that looking into me and the campaign, look, I have nothing to do. This was set up by the Democrats. There's no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians. The other thing is the Russians did not affect the vote. And everybody seems to think that.

HOLT: There is an investigation under way, though, an FBI investigation. Is that a charade?

TRUMP: Well, I don't know if it's an FBI, or -- there's so many investigations, I don't know if it's an FBI investigation or if it's congress, if it's the senate and the house.

HOLT: James Comey testified there was an FBI investigation.

TRUMP: Yeah, but I think they're also helping the house and the senate. So you probably have FBI, but you have house, you have senate, they have other investigations.

HOLT: But when you put out tweets, it's a total hoax, a taxpayer charade, and you're looking for a new FBI director, are you not sending that person a message to lay off?

TRUMP: No, I'm not doing that. I think that we have to get back to work, but I want to find out -- I want to get to the bottom. If Russia hacked, if Russia did anything having to do with our election, I want to know about it.

HOLT: There's already intelligence from virtually every intelligence agency, that, yes, that happened.

TRUMP: I'll tell you this, if Russia or anybody else is trying to interfere with our elections, I think it's a horrible thing, and I want to get to the bottom of it, and I want to make sure it will never, ever happen.


ALLEN: Well, the White House is struggling once again with credibility issues after the ever-changing story on Comey. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more about that.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: 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.


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

HOLT: You had made the decision before they came into the room.

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

HOLT: You said, I accepted their recommendations, so you had already made the decision?

TRUMP: I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.


ZELENY: In an interview with NBC news, the president re-writing his administration's explanation for firing Comey. The president also explaining why he insists he is not at the center of the FBI probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.


TRUMP: I know that I'm not under investigation, me personally. I'm not talking about campaigns. I'm not talking about 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?

[03:05:00] TRUMP: In one case I called him. In one case, he called me.

HOLT: And did you ask him, am I under investigation?

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


ZELENY: But it was the president saying he took the lead to firing Comey that now puts him at odds with his advisers who initially said he was following the recommendation of the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. On Capitol Hill yesterday, Vice President Pence offering that rationale again and again.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENTIAL-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of actions that the Deputy Attorney General outlined to the press and to act on to the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: The president aide mad the same case.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: The president took the advice of the Deputy Attorney General who oversees the director of the FBI.


ZELENY: The original White House timeline hasn't held up to scrutiny, particularly the suggestion that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sparked Comey's firing not the president. At the White House briefing Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders struggled 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? 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 today at the White House she hopes the firing of Comey helps end the controversy.


HUCKABEE SANDERS: The point is we want it to come to a conclusion with integrity. We think that we actually abide by removing the Director Comey taken steps to make that happen.


ZELENY: But removing the director has only added fuel to the fire, emboldening Democratic critics and alienating frustrated Republicans, the president also delivering personal criticism of Comey and the state of the FBI.


TRUMP: He is a show boat, he is 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. It hasn't recovered.


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

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

ALLEN: Josh Rogin is a columnist for "The Washington Post" and a CNN Political Analyst joins us from our D.C. Bureau. Josh, we've had conflicting stories about the timeline leading up to the firing of Director Comey. What do you make of all this? Is it a communications failure or something else?

JOSH ROGAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, of course it's a communications failure in the sense that the White House gave several different versions of the timeline in the last 36 hours. But what ultimately we discovered today is that the president of the United States, in his interview with NBC news, totally contradicted every single timeline that the White House had put out. So that is not just a communications failure, it also reveals a definite breakdown of the process of how this decision was made and how the White House decided to handle it. And what we learned from the president's interview is very revealing. He said that he was going to fire James Comey no matter what the Deputy Attorney General told him. That the recommendation that the White House had been touting as the reason for the firing was just pro forma and that, you know, he didn't really like the FBI director, and he thought he was a show boater and a grandstander, and that he was going to get rid of him, no matter what the professional said. And that totally contradicted everything the White House has been putting out. Of course it's a communications failure, but also reveals a real breakdown in the policy-making process inside the White House.

ALLEN: Well, the president says Comey assured him he is not under investigation. And the White House spokeswoman brushed off ethical issues -- questions today. Let's listen to that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up with of these conversations the president said happened at a dinner where the FBI director was asking to stay on as FBI director? Don't you see how that is a conflict of interest? The FBI director is saying he wants to keep his job and the president is asking whether or not he is under investigation.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I don't see that as a conflict of interest and neither do the many legal scholars and others that have been commenting on it for the last hour. So, no, I don't see that as an issue. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: What's your reaction to that, Josh?

ROGAN: Well, it's not clear that the President of the United States vetted this through his legal counsel before he had that conversation at dinner with James Comey. I think what's going on here, because the White House communications shop is so out of the loop at this point, Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to admit she didn't have full information when she briefed reporters on this yesterday. That they're simply dismissing the fact that there could be an ethical issue at all, so they're not denying an ethical line was crossed. They're denying an ethical line exists, which is sort of, you know, bizarre, but at the same time, prevents them from having to sort of parse whether or not the president did the right thing.

[03:10:33] ALLEN: You know Josh, with all of this swirling around, there's so much going on in D.C. Where is Joe Q. public and Mrs. Joe Q. public in all of this? What are the questions the American people deserve to know with these revelations of this firing?

ROGAN: I think they deserve to know whether or not the FBI director's involvement in the Russia investigation contributed to the president's decision to dismiss him? Sarah Huckabee Sanders seems to suggest that it was a factor today. The president has not admitted that. It seems very likely, but there's no hard evidence. Overall, the president has the legal discretion to do whatever he wants. He can fire the FBI director for no reason, or for any reason. But if we do discover, and I think this is what most people want to know, what most people in Washington want to know, if we do discover that it was an effort to thwart the investigation into the Trump campaign towards Russian investigation, that is a constitutional issue and an issue that affects the very fabric of our democracy.

ALLEN: Absolutely. That would be the one right there. Josh Rogan for us thanks so much, Josh.

ROGAN: Thank you.

ALLEN: Next here on CNN newsroom, what happens to the FBI's investigation into Russia's election meddling now that James Comey is no longer director?

Plus, Donald Trump forced to answer about the awkward timing of his meeting with Russian diplomats at the White House.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: Welcome to CNN sport. Manchester united has reached the final of the Europa league. The one major trophy they have never won. At old Trafford the home fans would have been relieved to see the host take the lead through a Flaney header that heads the semi finals. But the Spaniards never gave up hope and they leveled to make it one each and Veega almost won it in the sixth minute of stoppage time. Man united went through 2-1 overall. To France, they look to overcome a deficit against a youthful team. After falling behind 5-1 on an aggregate, the host would take control of the match, scoring twice. They pushed desperately for one more to take it into extra time, but they would fall short. United will play axe in the final in Stockholm on the 24th of May. Another disappointing setback meantime for the world's top rank men's tennis player Andy Murray, he is been eliminated from the Madrid open, going down to the lucky loser, the world number 59 on Thursday. All a far cry from the way Murray ended 2016. And the fact is that he has failed to reach the quarterfinals at any of his last three master's series events. That is a look at your sports. I'm Patrick Snell.


[03:15:55] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it your experience that people who are innocent of wrongdoing typically need to be reassured that they're not the subject of an investigation?



ALLEN: That exchange Thursday in the U.S. Senate was a follow-up to President Trump's claim that fired FBI Director James Comey told him three times he was not under investigation in the probe of Russian meddling in the election. You just heard the acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe agree that innocent people typically don't need that sort of reassurance. It was just one of several times on Thursday that McCabe publicly challenge the Trump White House's narrative on Comey's firing. Before we get to that, here's what the president said about that to NBC.


TRUMP: 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 that, you know, I'll lengthen the time, because it should be over with. In my opinion it should have been over with a long time ago. But I said to myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation. But I have to do the right thing for the American people. He is the wrong man for that position.


ALLEN: Well, you just heard the president there say he wants the FBI's Russian probe completed properly. Based on what the acting FBI director said Thursday, that is exactly what will happen. For more here is CNN's Jim Sciutto.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't curtail our activities.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, definitive words from the acting chief of the FBI. The investigation into whether Trump associates colluded with Russia will not stop. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCABE: There has been 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.


SCIUTTO: Under tough questioning from lawmakers, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe pledged to notify the senate of any interference including from the president or the White House.


MARK WARNER, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: You commit to informing this committee of any effort to interfere with the FBI's ongoing investigation in the links between Russia and Trump campaign?

MCCABE: I absolutely do.


SCIUTTO: McCabe rejected the assertion that fired FBI Director James Comey had lost the confidence of FBI agents, contradicting one of the administrations many evolving and sometimes contradictory accounts of his dismissal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it accurate that the rank and file no longer supported director Comey?

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


SCIUTTO: Asked about the president's claim that Comey told him he was not under investigation, McCabe refused to answer repeated questions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would it have been wrong for the director to inform him he was not under investigation, yes or no.

MCCABE: Sir I'm not going to comment on any conversations that the director may have had upon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't ask that. Would it have been wrong for the director to inform him he was not under investigation? That is not about conversations. That is a yes or no answer.

MCCABE: As you know senator, we typically do not answer that question. I will not comment on whether or not the director and the president of the United States had that conversation. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: The senate intelligence committee is pressing on with its own investigation. It has invited Comey to testify next week and subpoenaed fired national security adviser Michael Flynn for both documents and his testimony.


RICHARD BURR, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: In the absence of voluntary participation, we're willing to go to whatever basket of tools we feel is necessary.


SCIUTTO: Today the chairman and vice chairman of the senate intelligence committee met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to work out coordination on the Russia investigations. Sources tell CNN that Rosenstein was unhappy with how the president fired Comey, while he was traveling outside of Washington, even though the Deputy Attorney General wrote a memo justifying the dismissal, but he says he is not quitting.


[03:20:11] BURR: Regardless of what happens by the justice department or the FBI that the investigation that is done by the senate intelligence committee will continue on its current course.


SCIUTTO: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokesperson added one more reason for Comey's firing today. She said that it was intended to help bring the Russia investigation to an end with integrity, she said, but that they saw this as a step in that direction. Of course that raised alarm from people not only inside the FBI, but the senate and house intelligent committees to argue that it's certainly not the White House's place to interfere in an ongoing investigation. Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.

ALLEN: And of all the surreal moments to come out of the Trump White House in the past few days, perhaps nothing was quite as startling as seeing both the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador inside the White House shortly after Comey was fired. In his interview with NBC, Mr. Trump shrugged off the awkwardness of that timing.


HOLT: 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?

TRUMP: I never thought about it. 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 took all the time, just spoke with the 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. Should 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 Ukraine, and maybe that discussion will lead to a lot less people getting killed and will lead ultimately to peace. So I'm ok with those discussions, Lester. I think it's a good thing, not a bad thing.


ALLEN: Well, let's talk more about the view from Russia. Let's bring in Diana Magnay who is live for us in Moscow. And just wondering what the view is there, Diana. No matter what, it seems Russia continues to be at the top of this administration's issues.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does, Natalie. And in fact, the photograph of Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, Sergey Lavrov, and Donald Trump, all together in the oval office is the center of controversy here in Russia also. Bear in mind that Sergey Lavrov has not been invited to the oval office since around 2013. The Obama administration had refused to have one-on-one meetings between him and the president. So of course this is a propaganda coup, if you will, for the Russians, to have him there in the oval office, shaking hands with the president.

And clearly if we take the words from the U.S. President, Vladimir Putin had asked him to meet with his foreign minister. Bear in mind also that Vladimir Putin had met with Rex Tillerson when he was here last month. But this photograph, we are being told by a White House official, should not have been published and the White House official telling us that they are outraged and the Russians lied to them. The response from this side has been frustration, anger, the foreign ministry spokeswoman (inaudible) saying this is really beneath CNN, beneath the U.S. media, to be suggesting that the photographer should not have taken that photo. He was accredited, the White House had never told the Russians not to publish the photograph. And so this is all a fuss about nothing.

I think what is interesting too is that rather than blaming the White House from where this information is coming out, whether they did or didn't say that this photograph could or could not be published, she is blaming the U.S. mass media, which is also a tactic that President Trump likes to use, Natalie

ALLEN: The first tactic is to blame the media always. If we can get that picture back up of Donald Trump, either one, for just a moment, because you know what's interesting, Donald Trump is usually kind of scowling a lot, often. He is beaming, taking a picture with Sergey Lavrov and the Russian ambassador, beaming. It's just kind of bizarre. And you wonder, well, behind these big grins, what was the topic of this conversation? Do we know why they were meeting, seemingly having a really good time there.

[03:25:33] MAGNAY: Well, wouldn't you have liked to be a fly on the wall of that conversation.

ALLEN: Yeah.

MAGNAY: They have a lot of important issues to discuss, though. Donald Trump said it himself, we need to talk about Syria, Ukraine, and these are issues of huge concern also to the Russians. Serious issues to address. In relation to how well these men do or do not get on, and what was said about the hacking allegation, who knows. But certainly that photograph could not have been taken on a worse day, really, for the U.S. political system. I mean, you know, the day of Comey's firing, to have Sergey Lavrov in the oval office beaming with Donald Trump is absolutely extraordinary and certainly a win for the Russians. Natalie?

ALLEN: Nothing less than utterly bizarre. All right, but the government ticks on, doesn't it? Diana Magnay for us live at Moscow, thanks you so much, Diana.

The contradictions keep piling up in the White House. So it just doesn't add up, on the firing of the FBI chief.


CONWAY: He took the recommendation of his Deputy Attorney General.

PENCE: To accept the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president accepted the recommendation of his Deputy Attorney General.


ALLEN: Up next, how President Trump's explanation of Comey's firing differs from his own top aides and the vice president. We'll look into that.



[03:30:00] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. We're live in Atlanta. Thank you for staying with us. And here is, again, our top story. President Donald Trump said Thursday he believes the idea that Russia meddled in the 2016 election is a made-up story, that Democrats are using to explain away his victory.

His remarks come despite widespread agreement among U.S. Intelligence officials and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, that Russia did indeed interfere in the United States election. At the same time, the White House is struggling to explain the controversial firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Critics are convinced it has to do with the FBI's investigation of Trump's campaign ties to Russia. But President Trump is offering another explanation entirely, and one that differs from his own administration. To sort it out, here's CNN's Dana Bash.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: You're looking at the wrong set of facts here.

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT FOR CNN: Remember when Kellyanne Conway appeared on this show and cited this letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as the basis for firing James Comey?

CONWAY: He took the recommendation of his deputy attorney general.

BASH: That was so two nights ago.

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

LESTER HOLT, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ANCHOR: 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...

HOLT: Because in your letter, you said you accepted their recommendation. So you had already made the decision.

TRUMP: I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.

BASH: That not only contradicts explanations from a slew of his aides, but even the vice president just yesterday morning.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By accepting the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to remove Director Comey because of the actions that the deputy attorney general outlined to the president. To act on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general.

BASH: Now Trump is coming clean about his ill will towards Comey.

TRUMP: He's a showboat. He's a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil.

BASH: Sources tell CNN Comey's testimony last week enraged President Trump.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF FBI: look, this is terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election.

BASH: Comey unwittingly targeted one of the president's most obvious insecurities, the legitimacy of his election. Sources familiar with the president's reaction said he was, quote, white hot and couldn't let it go, stewing all weekend while at his property in Bedminster, New jersey.

One Trump source tells CNN, he was already holding a deep grudge against Comey since March for publicly contradicting President Trump's apparently false claim, via tweet, that President Obama had his wires tapped in Trump Tower before the election.

COMEY: With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets. And we have looked carefully inside the FBI.

BASH: Also upsetting to Trump, Comey's surprise announcement at that same hearing that the FBI had been investigating the president's associates since July.

COMEY: That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts.

BASH: Sources familiar with the president's thinking say he is perpetually frustrated by the Russia probe, and leaks about its status because of the way it often overshadows his agenda. A critical open question is if the president got the impression the FBI Russia probe was accelerating.

Sources tell CNN the week before Comey was fired, he met with the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and told them he was asking the Justice Department for more resources. The senate's number two Democrat draws a controversial conclusion.

DICK DURBIN, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR ILLINOIS: If you're in the Trump White House and you know that they're looking for collusion by members of the Trump campaign, it's pretty clear they're in hot pursuit, when they're asking for more resources for investigation.

BASH: A Justice Department spokeswoman insists Comey did not ask for more resources for the Russia probe, and the man leading the FBI now was careful today when asked.

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: I cannot confirm that request was made. As you know, mam, when we need resources, we make those requests here. So I don't -- I'm not aware of that request.

[03:35:00] BASH: Whether or not the president thought Comey was expanding the FBI probe when he fired him would raise serious questions about impeding the investigation. Perhaps more startling is this conversation between Comey and Trump.

TRUMP: I think he asked for the dinner. And he wanted to stay on as the FBI head. And I said, I'll consider, we'll see what happens. But we had a very nice dinner, and at that time he told me, you are not under investigation.

BASH: Talking to the FBI director about a probe into his own campaign is out of the norm to begin with. Doing it in the same conversation where they discussed whether Comey would stay in his job, that seems to be dangerously out of bounds. Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Steve Hall is a CNN national security analyst. He is also a former chief of Russia operations at the CIA. Steve, thanks so much for being with us.


ALLEN: Let's start with the conversation the president revealed today, many saying there are ethical issues here. Comey telling the president apparently he is not under investigation, where they also discussed Comey staying on his job. What do you make of that?

HALL: It's difficult to imagine any circumstances under which a conversation like that would be ethical. I'm not a lawyer, so I really can't speak to the legal part of it, but it does sound to me to be something that concerns me greatly because it sounds like stuff that I see happen in Russia sometimes, where you have the senior most guy in charge, talks to his underlings and says, hey, can you be loyal, you know, to me, basically.

That's not how things work in the west. It's not the way things work when you have rule of law. Here in the United States, you pledge your feel to the constitution, not to any individual. That's especially true of somebody like the FBI director. So it's difficult to imagine that could have been a good conversation if it indeed happened.

ALLEN: You're right if he did and yes comparing how we do things, how they do things in Russia. Not a good day when you are doing something like that. Do you think the FBI director would openly tell the president that they were or were not under investigation? That's something to practice, is it?

HALL: No. This has come up in a number of different circumstances. You have been in discussion of ongoing investigations and again this is not just any investigation. I mean, this is an investigation as to whether or not there was collusion or cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russian government so as to increase the likelihood that Trump will win.

So, yeah. I mean, again, these are -- you are not supposed to talk about an ongoing investigations. And you certainly can't talk about something of this magnitude and and of this specialty, and by that, I mean, it's a counterintelligence investigation.

There's lots of classified information that flows back and forth, and I did see an interview with President Trump where he said, well, I know I'm not under investigation because, you know, you don't -- I didn't get any paperwork. And that's not how it works in the intelligence investigation.

ALLEN: Yeah, that just sounds weird. That sounds weird.

HALL: No. The IRS investigating you, maybe. When the FBI is looking at counterintelligence issues, no.

(LAUGHTER) ALLEN: The acting director of FBI testified at the senate hearing Thursday and he's disputing the White House's claim the FBI had lost confidence in Comey. Let's listen to that.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I mean, I've heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said that they're very happy with the president's decision.

MCCABE: Director comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI. And still does to this day. I don't believe there is a crisis of confidence in the leadership in the FBI.


ALLEN: And what's your reaction? Crisis of confidence?

HALL: You know, I left CIA when I was -- when it was latter part of 2015. And I've met Director Comey a couple of times. And I've worked with a number of my bureau counterparts and colleagues. And I have to say, it was certainly not my impression that there was any unhappiness or discontent or morale issues with Director Comey. I mean, he is a boy scout.

There's another kind of strange thing to hear from President Trump when he said, he was sort of a showboat kind of guy, never saw a TV camera he didn't like. That's the antithesis of the Comey that I know and have heard of. The only time he appeared on television was really when he was told to testify in front of congress. So, no, all indications are that he was a popular, well-respected leader in the FBI.

ALLEN: Yeah, and where do you see the Russia investigation headed now?

HALL: You know, this is -- it's -- this is a very bad day, I think, for the Russian investigation. Look, a lot of people have been saying, and correctly, you know, the bureau will continue to do its job. The good officers, men and women, especially who work in the bureau and others who support their work will continue on. That's all true.

[03:40:00] But what's also true is that they're human beings with mortgages to pay and kids to get through college. And unless they have that top level political cover from somebody who is completely political and who is willing to go to bat for that investigation, then it becomes much dicier.

You know, I'm not saying it's not going to go forward and it's completely stopped. I don't think that's the case. But I think it's become harder, unless somebody is named who, you know, who has the sort of gravitas and apolitical nature that Director Comey had.

ALLEN: And the American people certainly deserve to know really what happened with Russia and this election. We really appreciate it. Steve Hall, former chief of Russia operations at the CIA. Thanks, Steve.

HALL: My pleasure.

ALLEN: Coming up here, we have some other news for you that affects millions of people. The U.S. might expand a ban on electronics to flights from Europe. The kind of devices it could affect. We'll tell you about that ahead here.


ALLEN: Europe is bracing for quite a change in the skies and this will affect millions and millions of travelers. It's all over news that the U.S. could expand its airline laptop ban. Several airports from North Africa and the Middle East have been hit by similar measures with gadgets larger than a phone barred from cabins on U.S.-bound flights. Let's get more now from Andy Rose.


ANDY ROSE, CNN JOURNALIST: 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. And while no final decision has been made yet, according to the sources, it's coming soon.

[03:45:00] Electronic devices larger than a smartphone were banned from carry-on 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 larger 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, BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT FOR CNN: The experts are very concerned about all of a sudden having all these lithium ion batteries in the bottom of an airplane. If one catches on fire when explodes and then you have other lithium ion batteries around it, it's like having matches all next to each other.

ROSE: Another hangup 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.

Forty 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.


ALLEN: Britain's Labour Party is offering voters a big government policy agenda intended to shore up its left-leaning base against Theresa May in next month's general election. The plan was revealed in leaks to the British media Wednesday and party leaders are not disputing it.

Under the plan, Leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to re-nationalize large chunks of British industry, the railway and postal service, increase spending on health care and education, and increase salaries for public sector workers. Polling suggests a left-wing populist agenda could have broad appeal when voters cast their ballots June 8th.

Obstruction of justice became an infamous bit of legal jargon during Watergate. We'll tell you how the charge that helped to bring down Richard Nixon works. Just ahead here.


DEREK VAN DAM, WEATHER ANCHOR FOR CNN INTERNATIONAL: Here's a broad look at the weather you can expect this Friday across the United States. We have an area of low pressure that's churning up few showers and thunderstorms across the southeastern parts of the U.S.

In fact, anywhere from Louisiana into Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, we have a marginal risk of severe weather through the course of the day. Mostly sunny conditions for the central U.S. and a storm system bringing cool weather with rain showers for the valleys and even a few mountain snowflakes for the pacific northwest.

[03:50:00] Look at the temperatures near Vancouver 14 degrees, 17 for San Francisco, Albany (ph) 26 near Denver. Look at the east coast, though, New York City 16, compare that to Atlanta 29 with showers and storms. We have cool weather that will stick around basically through Mother's Day weekend across the New England coast.

We feel the cool weather for Atlanta, taking away the humidity and feeling rather comfortable this weekend. Here's the storm system bringing the shower and thunderstorm activity across the southeast, eventually moving into the mid-Atlantic states and moving along the New England coastline.

In fact, Boston to New York has the potential for rain showers mainly from Saturday afternoon into Sunday. We could pick up anywhere between 25 to 100 millimeters of rainfall over the next three days. Temperatures in Havana 33, Kingston, Jamaica 31.

ALLEN: The U.S. president's firing of FBI Director James Comey is raising questions about the investigation into any alleged link between Donald Trump's team and Russia. Many are concerned the dismissal will affect the ongoing investigation. Our Anderson Cooper asked U.S. Senator Angus King about that earlier.


ANGUS KING, JUNIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM MAINE: I don't think it will in the end because the FBI is full of thorough professionals and as the acting director said today, they're going to keep going with their investigation. I do think leadership matters, however. And I do think that we've had that this whole process has tainted the senior leadership of the Justice Department to the point where they have a statutory ability to appoint something called a special counsel.

And I think that's what they should do. I don't know Mr. Rosenstein. He has a great reputation as having high integrity, but he was used in this case. The whole point of this investigation both by the FBI and the Senate and the House is to come to a conclusion the American people can believe. Credibility is the key.


ALLEN: We've heard a lot from officials and lawmakers and Washington watchers. Now we have a story about good old American citizens and what they're up to and what they're thinking. From coast to coast in the U.S., people are getting in the face of their politicians.

President Trump's abrupt firing of the FBI director is generating questions and confusion among opponents and support from loyal Trump voters. The blood pressure is rising at town hall meetings from Iowa to New Jersey. Just listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can the American people have confidence that the four different investigations you talked about are going to be credible? I would like you to stand with me, many of your colleagues and Americans wanting an independent investigation of Trump.


ROD BLUM, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: I respectfully disagree. We have four investigations going on now of the president and we'll see what they produce. Let's see what they produce. And I've heard zero evidence, zero evidence of collusion with Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We seem to have a pattern that most people who are investigating it seem to be getting fired.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you support an independent group investigating Russia's ties into the 2016 election?


BLUM: The answer is, no, not yet. Not yet.



ALLEN: The scenes were reminiscent of the anger recently over proposed changes to the nation's health care. The White House said it had not anticipated a strong reaction to Comey's dismissal.

Well, if you've ever watched TV crime or courtroom dramas, I'm guessing you might have seen one or two. You might have heard the phrase "obstruction of justice." Now, some Democrats and analysts are bringing it up in connection with President Trump's dismissal of the FBI chief. CNN legal analyst, Danny Cevallos, unravels the legal concept obstruction of justice.


DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The one thing you need to know about obstruction of justice, it's an incredibly broadly defined crime. It doesn't just apply to interfering with judicial proceedings. It applies to any conduct where the intention is to interfere with the fair administration of justice. That includes corruptly influencing, obstructing, or impeding any proceeding before any federal department, agency, and including and especially congress.

What does it even mean to act corruptly? It's when you influence anyone else by a lie or a misleading statement, or even withhold or destroy information. Martha Stewart was convicted for obstructing justice and lying to investigators about a well-timed stock sale.

[03:55:00] The House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment charging then President Nixon with obstruction of justice and abuse of power. Abuse of power usually implies that it was done by a government official abusing his or her official power. By contrast, officials, citizens, anyone can obstruct justice under federal law.


ALLEN: There you have a little lesson. Well, the sacking of an FBI director may be no laughing matter, but don't tell that to late night comedians. They had a field day with Mr. Trump and did some grandstanding of their own.


SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN AND TELEVISION HOST: So he just admitted everything the White House has been saying since Tuesday is a lie. Trump's ego is so huge, he can't even let somebody else have the spotlight in his alibi.


MEYERS: He's like a Scooby-Doo villain, that's right, it was me, I was the ghost in the amusement park.


STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN AND TELEVISION HOST: The White House staff kept repeating that the decision came after the recommendation from Rosenstein. And today, Donald Trump backed those staffers up, then ran over them repeatedly by changing his story.


JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN AND TELEVISION HOST: In the middle of all this, Trump met with the Russian foreign minister yesterday, the Russian foreign ministry, yeah. And the White House says Russia tricked them by posting photos of the meeting. I got suspicious when the photographer told Trump, okay, now do silly one where you hold up nuclear codes.


TREVOR NOAH, COMEDIAN, TELEVISION AND RADIO HOST: Trump is so oblivious, who knows if he even realizes what a big deal this is? What's the problem? He's a nice guy. He even gave me some flowers for the room.


NOAH: Great flowers, best flowers ever.


ALLEN: Yes, they're having fun with it, and surely they will continue. Thank you so much for watching. I'm Natalie Allen. The news continues next with my colleague, Max Foster, in London. Thanks for watching CNN.