Return to Transcripts main page


Possible Political Consequences of President Trump's Firing of FBI Director Comey Examined; FBI Interviewing Possible Replacements for Comey; President Trump Announces Replacement for FBI Director May be Selected As Soon As Next Week; President Trump's Relationship with Communication Team Examined; Republican Lawmakers Confronted by Constituents at Town Halls; Autistic Person Excels at Tennis; Malware Threatening Multiple Countries Temporarily Halted. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired May 13, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: But today the Justice Department is interviewing candidates for his replacement. And these are the names that CNN have confirmed that are being interviewed today. As of now whoever is chosen will be in charge of continuing the investigation into whether the Trump campaign had any ties to the Russian government. But will the candidates be impartial. This morning the president says the decision will come sooner or rather than later when asked on Air Force One.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think you might make a decision or an announcement?

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can make a fast decision. These are outstanding people that are very well known, highest level. So we can make a fast decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before the trip next week do you think it's possible?

TRUMP: Even that is possible.


WHITFIELD: All right, I want to bring in now CNN crime and justice producer Shimon Prokupecz. So Shimon, what of the many rationales for Comey's firing, we heard it from the president himself during the interview early in the week. He said Comey was a grandstander and a show-boater. So what are people in the circles of intelligence saying about why they believe he was fired?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: No one is really publicly, right, talking about why he was fired. But many close to Comey, some people within the FBI, feel like this had something to do with the Russian probe. But even aside from that, I am sure that they do feel that Comey was a bit of a different kind of leader of the FBI in the past. You would never really hear from FBI directors. But for years Comey just took a different position. His thing was he wanted to meet with the press. He wanted to be out there, and it seems to have really come to bite him.

And now basically they're just sort of in the process of reeling with his dismissal. Many of the FBI agents that I certainly have talked to and others here at CNN have talked to don't feel that there was a morale problem unlike what the president have said and people around him have said. They don't see it. They don't know where that's coming from. No one was calling for a new FBI director.

You know, Comey had sort of a kind of an interesting relationship with a lot of agents. He will call them. He would write notes. He would write letters. He had a habit of reaching out to the everyday line agent, the everyday street agent. And he also made a point to visit different field offices throughout his time in the FBI. It's how he basically found that he was fired. He was visiting the L.A. field office when he saw it pop up on the news.

So Comey had a special relationship with agents. Not everyone always agreed with his policies, but this notion that there somehow was a morale problem, I certainly have not heard it and none of us here at CNN who cover the FBI have seen it or heard it.

WHITFIELD: You also got that feeling from the interim director McCabe who was testifying and spoke very highly, very kindly of Comey. So now are any of your sources talking about the next step of McCabe, perhaps he may not necessarily be a top contender because he has shown that he has some deference and admiration for Comey, but what are people within the intelligence community hoping or saying about the other candidates potentially?

PROKUPECZ: So I briefly had conversations with people about some of the names that have surfaced. And everyone has had nice things to say about the candidates, all qualified, positive reactions to some of the names, you know, like Judge Michael Garcia who was the U.S. attorney here in the southern district in New York, famously oversaw the Eliot Spitzer's case, which you might remember where he was caught up with a prostitute. Alice Fisher, she has a pretty good reputation. She worked in the criminal division of the FBI. She's considered as a really well-respected and highly qualified attorney now.

Andrew McCabe is kind of an interesting guy. He's a career agent. The problem with McCabe is that he had some political history that could potentially be a problem for him. His wife has ties to the Democratic Party. He had some controversy several months ago when he was at the White House and he was talking about the investigation. When the White House asked the FBI to knock down some of these reports, he was there, he was present, and word was that he basically was telling the White House, oh, none of this is true.

So it is going to be interesting to see what's happening here going forward. And today maybe we'll get some indication of who and which way they are leaning.

WHITFIELD: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, thank you very much.

All right, President Trump telling graduates of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, the world's largest Christian college, to relish being an outsider. He compared his victory as an outsider to what they may experience in the world. But he says, it is OK.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In your hearts are inscribed the values of service, sacrifice, and devotion.

[14:05:03] Now you must go forth into the world and turn your hopes and dreams into action. America has always been the land of dreams because America is a nation of true believers.


WHITFIELD: It just might be the case that some of Mr. Trump's White House staffers just might need a little pep talk. Several White House insiders telling CNN the president's actions lately have left them rattled and feeling dejected. Joining me right now is CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones. So Athena, what are you hearing about staffers?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. Well, exactly that. This has not been a good week certainly messaging-wise for this White House. You have a lot of White House staffers, especially in the communications shop, who were caught off guard by this announcement to fire the FBI director. We know that many on the communications team didn't learn about it until maybe about an hour before, so that's the time they had to put together an argument to explain the president's decision. And as we saw, we saw shifting stories, and we had White House aides telling a story that was later contradicted entirely by the president.

In fact, one of those White House officials caught up in this is the vice president. Vice President Mike Pence, who went to Capitol Hill and said seven times in talking with reporters over just a few minutes that the president was relying on the advice, on the recommendations of the Department of Justice. We later learned that the president was going to, he says, fire Comey all along. So that's why you have staffers feeling dejected and feeling like they are struggling to know how to communicate what the president is thinking.

And as you mentioned, Fred, these tweets we have been talking about, they are important. They are telling tweets, a series of tweets from the president early yesterday morning. I will read you a couple of them. He said "As a very active president with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at a podium with perfect accuracy." He went on to say "Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future press briefings and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy."

That goes directly to this question of credibility. Can we believe that the people who are tasked with speaking for the administration, with speaking for the president, have the information, have the correct information to provide to the press and the American people? Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Athena Jones at the White House, thanks so much. All right, a whirlwind of questions, contradictions, doubts and anger

swirling around the White House this week starting with the dismissal of the FBI Director James Comey and then ending with President Trump Publically threatening Comey in a tweet.


WHITFIELD: It was Tuesday that the news broke. In this dismissal letter, Trump cited a recommendation from deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and attorney general Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from anything having to do with the Russia investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you fire Director Comey?

TRUMP: Because he wasn't doing a good job. Very simply he was not doing a good job.

WHITFIELD: Upon his firing sources told CNN Comey asked the Justice Department for more resources for the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. A DOJ spokeswoman denied that and did acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe Thursday.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D) CALIFORNIA: I understand that you're saying that you don't need any additional resources?

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: For the Russian investigation, ma'am, I think we are adequately resourced.

WHITFIELD: The White House in a tailspin, pledging that Russia was not the reason Comey was fired.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: This absolutely has nothing to do with any investigation into Russia.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: This has nothing to do with Russia. It has everything to do with whether the current FBI director has the president's confidence.

MIKE PENCE, (R) VICE PRESIDENT: Let me be clear, that was not what this is about. That's not what this is about. The president took strong and decisive leadership here to put the safety and security of the American people first.

WHITFIELD: President Trump contradicting that in an NBC interview on Thursday, saying Russia was on his mind when he decided to fire Comey.

TRUMP: And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It is an excuse by the Democrats by having lost in the election.

WHITFIELD: In that same interview President Trump criticized Comey as a showboat and a grandstander, and argued that Comey had thrown the FBI into turmoil.

TRUMP: He's a showboat, he's a grandstander. WHITFIELD: Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe presenting a very

different view of Comey to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

MCCABE: Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does this day. I can confidently tell that the majority, the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.

WHITFIELD: All of this comes after a January 27th dinner conversation between Trump and Comey where Trump claims Comey assured him that he was not under investigation.

[14:10:07] TRUMP: We had a very nice dinner, and at that time, he told me you are not under investigation. 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.

JUDGE JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: People suggest that the question that apparently "The New York Times" is selling that you asked Comey whether or not you had his loyalty was possibly inappropriate. Could you see how they would think that?

TRUMP: I read that article. I don't think it is inappropriate.

PIRRO: Did you ask that question?


PIRRO: What about the idea that in a tweet you said that there might be tape recordings?

TRUMP: That I can't talk about. I won't talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest, and I hope he will be.


WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk more about all of this this with CNN political analyst Patrick Healy. He is also the deputy culture editor for "The New York Times." Also with me Mike Allen, former majority staff director of the House Intelligence Committee. All right, good to see both of you.

All right, so Patrick, you first. You know, this is really fascinating, all of it, because "The Washington Post" reports today that Trump is known to record conversations at Trump Tower and even listen in on talks at Mar-a-Lago. So why wouldn't there be some sort or recording device in the White House?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There may well be, Fred. Donald Trump when I was covering him as a candidate was someone who very much wanted people to know that they had to very careful about what they were going to write about them, that he would be pushing back very hard if he didn't like what people wrote. He paid a lot of attention to what was said about him out there.

He's a man who as president as well cares very much about his public image, so much so that he allowed his deputy press secretary, Kellyanne Conway, as well, senior adviser, even Vice President Mike Pence to go out and say things about how from their point of view that Russia had nothing to do with the Comey firing. And then President Trump went on NBC the following day and totally contradicted them, because, again, his view, throughout the campaign and in the White House is that he alone can fix it. He knows best, and even if he is contradicting aides, even if it hurts staff morale in the White House, you know, he is the one that's going put forward the version events that he sees it as the right ones. And then sends these messages that again fall under, if not conduct unbecoming a president, at least different from what we are used to, with making threats against now the former FBI director saying that there may be tapes and he better watch out.

All of this, Fred, has left the White House in a place where morale is low, people are frustrated. They are going into month three or four of this where they are not sure what's going to happen day after day, what's going to be tweeted. It is getting to be a very frustrated situation.

WHITFIELD: So might just today, former adviser to Nixon Pat Buchanan, said he doesn't believe that there are tapes that Donald Trump was tweeting about. But he says every Oval Office should have some sort of taping device. But at the same time we know that that could really present a big problem if Donald Trump does have taping, if he really did tape Comey and that conversation, how problematic could this be.

MIKE ALLEN, FORMER MAJORITY STAFF DIRECTOR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It would be very problematic because as we saw in the Nixon case, these tapes, while Nixon supposedly just wanted it in order for history, it came back to bite him. And we of course have had a historic Supreme Court case, a missing 18 minutes on some of the tapes that historians still debate about today. So taping I think is very risky. I am not sure Trump actually did it. I think Trump's style is to introduce uncertainty into a situation, rock the boat, keep everyone guessing. But otherwise I think that he is trying to keep everybody on their toes here.

WHITFIELD: And interviews are taking place today for a new director, Patrick. But what does a candidate want to know, so why was James Comey fired? And wouldn't they have to get some kind of concrete understanding about that before they know what the expectation is if they are indeed offered the job?

HEALY: Fred, these are delicate conversations, whether it is a cabinet secretary, whether it's a potential Supreme Court nominee who is going in to meet the president who may nominate him or her, whether it's a candidate for the FBI. These people are coming in and trying to share their worldview, see the president, if he or she is on the same page with him.

[14:15:00] WHITFIELD: Wouldn't they also then have to share what their view is on the investigation being led by the FBI on the White House and Russia?

HEALY: Well, this goes to that point, Fred, in that would President Trump sit there and say, what is your view on the Russian investigation? How quickly would you want to get it wrapped up? Would you ever come forward asking for resources? Those are questions that one would think would lead a candidate for the FBI who cares about independence and putting the agency and the integrity of the agency ahead of any political concerns of a sitting president, you know, that would catch them in a vise.

We know, Fred, that President Trump asked Director Comey basically for a pledge of loyalty, sort of asking as "The Times" has reported and CNN has reported that whether Comey would be loyal to him or, you know, would he give him honest loyalty. That's sort of a pledge if President Trump is asking of Senator Cornyn or others who were going in there to interview, I mean that puts him in a very, very awkward position. You have to ask what the Senate or whoever confirms the FBI director would probably ask the nominee, did you pledge loyalty to President Trump, and if so, how are you going to be independent?

WHITFIELD: Right. And then, Mike, even before any kind of confirmation hearings, we are also talking about the A.G. Sessions who recuse himself from all things related to the Russia investigation. But then reportedly he is part of the interviewing process. So how can that be taking place today?

ALLEN: That makes perfect sense to me. Look, the Russia investigation while undoubtedly is a big part of what the FBI is doing and we heard as much from Andrew McCabe this week, there are thousands of things the Department of Justice does, and much of that is run through the FBI. And so of course it would be appropriate that the attorney general would have something to do with, and really make one of the key recommendations to the president on who the next FBI director is going to be.

WHITFIELD: Bu he can't ask that candidate about Russia, can he?

ALLEN: I don't think he will ask about it per se, but any candidate would want to say, hey, listen, I am not sure of all the facts, I am not sure, but I can tell you that I would be fair and honest and I will try and wrap this up as quickly as possible. So I think it is appropriate for Sessions to be involved in the decision making process. After all, the FBI director is its subordinate so that makes sense to me.

WHITFIELD: Right, well there are lots of investigation, but we got the info from McCabe that this really is still one of the biggest investigation ongoing even though conflicting reports about whether new resources were needed or not, Patrick.

HEALY: That's right. I mean, basically, Director Comey, a few weeks ago, had been preparing for and asking for additional resources, sort of signaling if not directly saying that this was a major investigation. And President Trump clearly has said that he does not believe, he believes this is kind of the hoax put forth by Democrats to explain their loss in the election and that he feels like the investigation should come to a swift end.

WHITFIELD: OK, we're going to leave it right there. Thank you so much, gentlemen. Patrick Healy, Mike Allen, appreciate it.

Coming up, after a week of contradictions, President Trump proposes cutting a White House's staple.


PIRRO: Are you moving so quickly that your communications department cannot keep up with you?

TRUMP: Yes, that's true.

PIRRO: So what do we do about that?

TRUMP: We don't have press conferences.


WHITFIELD: So what can the White House do to present a clearer message, and could a shakeup be in the works?


[14:22:46] WHITFIELD: President Trump is once again threatening to end White House press briefings. The president floated the idea during a series of tweets Friday and then said this in an interview on FOX News.


PIRRO: Are you moving so quickly that your communications department cannot keep up with you?

TRUMP: Yes, that's true.

PIRRO: So what do we do about that?

TRUMP: We don't have press conferences and we do --

PIRRO: You don't mean that.

TRUMP: We just don't have them, unless I have them every two weeks and I do it myself, we don't have them. I think it's a good idea. First of all, you have a level of hostility that's incredible, and it's very unfair. Sarah Huckabee is as lovely young woman. You know Sean Spicer. He is a wonderful human being. He's a nice man.

PIRRO: Is he your press secretary today and tomorrow? Will he be tomorrow?

TRUMP: Yes. He's doing a good job, but he's getting beat up.

PIRRO: Will he be there tomorrow?

TRUMP: Yes. Well, he's been there from the beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Joining me right now to discuss is Bill Carter, a CNN media analyst and author of the book "The War for Late Night." Bill, good to see you. All right, so the president is threatening to end press briefings. Would that fix the messaging?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: I doubt it. I also think he says a lot of things off the cuff and you don't know how serious he is. But I think this president doesn't really think himself as answerable to the people. But he is answerable to the people. It's the government of the people, by the people, for the people. He has to somehow give them access to that he is doing in his decision making.

WHITFIELD: He said he is moving just so fast that his communications department just can't keep up. Is it too fast or is it just too erratic?

CARTER: It is very chaotic. And he also apparently doesn't trust the people around him. If you have read some of the reports today, he was afraid people as close to him as Steve Bannon might leak the firing of Comey before he got out. So I think it's partly this chaotic situation surrounding him, which is of his own making.

WHITFIELD: And when he's talking about Huckabee Sanders and Spicer, he says she's very nice and he's a great human being. "The New York Times," however, is reporting that Trump is actually considering dropping Sean Spicer in the shakeup of the communications team, but then who would be on deck?

[14:25:00] CARTER: Apparently he's interviewing producers from FOX News. That is another report that was out today. I think he can't like the fact that Spicer becomes the butt of jokes. He doesn't like that. This whole thing of him being on the bushes giving a briefing.

WHITFIELD: And then the "SNL" skit, I mean, Donald Trump has said he doesn't like that.

CARTER: Of course. And I think tonight you are bound to see Melissa McCarthy hosting the show tonight, you are bound to see Spicer getting really beaten up. He doesn't like that. He's very uncomfortable with that. I think he also just doesn't just doesn't feel like Spicer is his guy. He was Reince Priebus's guy. He's clearly not been totally comfortable with him.

WHITFIELD: OK, so you have these communications problems, they really did hit home this week when the White House kept changing the story on why the president fired FBI Director James Comey. It didn't help that then the president himself came out with a completely different story than his communications team. But take a listen.


TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. My decision.

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: You made the decision before they came in the room.

TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. I was going to fire him regardless of the recommendation.

MIKE PENCE, (R) VICE PRESIDENT: The president took strong and decisive leadership here to put the safety and security of the American people first by accepting the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to remove Director Comey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So is the White House's assertion that Rod Rosenstein decided on his own after being confirmed to review Comey's performance?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it true that the president had already decided to fire James Comey and he asked the Justice Department to put together the rationale for that firing?



WHITFIELD: So the communication team is only as good as, you know, the place in which the origin of the message. So is the problem in the messaging the communications team, or is the problem in the messaging the president?

CARTER: Clearly they didn't get the information. It was sprung on them, so they had a very difficult times responding. And then he let it go for how much time. He didn't let the vice president go out there with false information again. Someone else was fired for that previously for letting the vice president go out and lie. So I don't think it is very comfortable for the communications team when they don't have the information, so you have to feel a little bad for them. But also they're in that position then, and they're spinning as hard as they can. And it is getting to be really awkward for everybody.

WHITFIELD: All right, Bill Carter, thank you so much. Always good to see you.


WHITFIELD: Coming up, GOP town halls getting heated across the country as voters demand answers on everything from Russia to health care. They're concerned, next.


[14:31:38] WHITFIELD: Many House Republicans are back in their home districts facing constituents head on in town halls and taking votes for their votes on health care and President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey. CNN's Gary Tuchman has more.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump said during the campaign he would be a great unifier for the country. But there has been no evidence of that at Congressional town halls this week. Many of the Republican congressmen who held town hall during this recess have heard the wrath of many of their constituents. In New Jersey, Congressman Tom MacArthur got an earful. It was his amendment to the health care act that helped push it over the finish line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is rape considered a preexisting condition under your amendment?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes or no? Yes or no? Yes or no? One word, please. One word, please.

REP. TOM MACARTHUR, (R) NEW JERSEY: Folks, you get to ask the questions and I get to answer them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So answer them, so answer them.

MACARTHUR: I will not describe a violent act against a woman as a preexisting condition. That to me -- but what I will, but what I will say is that this bill does not allow discrimination in health insurance based on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point, you can say what you want but I think we all know the truth here. And thank you.

TUCHMAN: In North Dakota, Congressman Kevin Cramer heard from a woman for a disabled child. She asked him not to repeal Obamacare with her family facing bankruptcy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what $3.5 million looks like, and she is two-years-old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A man upset for the woman started walking towards the congressman. Another town hall participant then grabbed his neck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raise my taxes and give it to that woman. And take the billionaires' money and give it to that woman. Here you go. Take it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's too far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both he and the man who grabbed his neck were taken out by police.

TUCHMAN: Then there was this woman asking a question to Republican Congressman Rod Blum in Iowa about how he can still support President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How come Bill Clinton can get impeached over -- job and this things that's in the White House now brings the Russians into the Oval Office with their news cameras. Why is he not being impeached?

TUCHMAN: The answer did not satisfy most in this audience.

REP. ROB BLUM, (R) IOWA: New proof so far of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

CROWD: Do your job!

TUCHMAN: Representatives Blum three other town halls this week as and ended up leaving this mostly combative one without even telling the au audience goodbye.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


WHITFIELD: Coming up, after days of those angry town halls, what can Republicans do to get back on track? Our panel weighs in next.



[10:38:51] DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Twenty- six-year-old Brittany Tagliareni needs help fixing her hair and tying her shows. But give her a tennis racket and she turns into an ace on the court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm glad that she found something where she can be successful.

GUPTA: As a baby, Brittany never learned to crawl or make babbling sounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So every time I went to the pediatrician that went, oh, don't worry, don't worry. Some babies are later.

GUPTA: Brittany was diagnosed with motor control issues and an auditory processing disorder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it wasn't until she was nine that we heard the word "autism." Before tennis, she didn't have any friends. She has always loves her brother. So now, A.J. started tennis, Brittany wanted to start tennis.


GUPTA: She picked up the racket and with patient coaching and repetition, she started winning.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When she plays Special Olympic competitions they pair her up with men because she's always usually in the top division.

BRITTANY TAGLIARENI, COMPETITIVE TENNIS PLAYER: I like competing and the trophies and beating the men.

GUPTA: She also competes against people without disabilities.

[14:40:00] TAGLIARENI: I am very happy about tennis because it is a lot of fun.

GUPTA: And it has helped her improve her social skills.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being out there and being able to be more independent and think for herself, that has changed her life.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.



WHITFIELD: President Trump's firing of James Comey and his tweet seemingly threatening the former FBI director, his phrasing, both those things are raising questions if there is something in the Russia investigation worrying the president. This weekend the president didn't want to elaborate on his suggestion that there may be taped conversations between him and Comey.


PIRRO: What about the idea that in a tweet you said that there might be tape recordings?

TRUMP: That I can't talk about. I won't talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest, and I hope he will be. And I'm sure he will be, I hope.


WHITFIELD: House Speaker Paul Ryan wouldn't comment on Trump's tweet about Comey, saying he's focused on other issues.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I'm going to leave it to the president to talk about and defend his tweets. You know what I am focusing on? I'm focused on what is in my control, and that is what is Congress doing to solve people's problems? I am working on healthcare reforms. I'm working on tax reform. Those are the things that I got elected to do. Those are the things that are within our purview in Congress. So I am working on making good that we actually make good on our promises and fix people's problems. That's what's in my control and that's what I'm focused on.


WHITFIELD: Let me bring in CNN political commentators Jeffery Lord and Ana Navarro. It is good to see both of you. Jeffery, you first. The D.C. attorney general, among 20 attorney general with a letter demanding a special prosecutor. He says that Republicans are silent about this firing and that it is cowardice. Are Republicans paying a price by their silence?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Democrats want to make them pay the price. Democrats used to love special prosecutor when they were going after Richard Nixon. And when Nixon fired Archibald Cox, they were agog and made the idea of the special prosecutor into something like a secular saint. Then we got Ken Starr investigating Bill Clinton, and he was sleaze on earth. And then went out there every day with the White House, in the lead, I might add, smearing Ken Starr.

WHITFIELD: What now where today there is very little utterance from Republicans about a special prosecutor or about whether the White House is actually right or wrong. So let's talk about the silence and how potentially damaging --

LORD: Sure, sure.

WHITFIELD: Is it potentially damaging?

LORD: No, I don't think it is damaging. I think they ought to take it right to it. There is no there, there, with this investigation. So what is there to say? Democrats keep on pushing this. Where is the proof? There is none. If they want a 9/11 style commission, then do one. But leave the special prosecutor alone. They are the ones who made the idea --

WHITFIELD: So nothing should be said about the Republicans even of the firing of James Comey and the manner in which it was done? Jeffery?

LORD: Well, the president has the right to do that. And I think he did the right thing. There is a column I believe in "The Washington Post" this morning from former attorney general William Barr, a Republican, who says that no Democrat or Republicans who has held these positions or attorney general or deputy attorney general disagrees.

WHITFIELD: OK, so, Ana, I heard you said early the GOP lawmakers are enabling Trump, and you said if you the shoe were on the other foot, if this was the kind of sequence of events and it involved Hillary Clinton if she were in the White House, it would be a very different story and there wouldn't be the silence that is so deafening right now.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Definitely. Does anybody doubt that if it had been Hillary Clinton who had won the presidency and fired Comey after the things he did in October and July regarding her campaign that Republicans would have investigated her to an inch of her life.

If you ask me today what the biggest problems we face in politics and government is and why Congress has gotten an approval rating in the teens and President Trump has got an approval rating of 36 percent, I would tell you it's the combination of polarization -- we live in a polarized world where we see everything as blue or red, and add to that, hypocrisy and inconsistency where is good for the goose ends up not being good for the gander when you are the gander.

WHITFIELD: Are you disappointed that Republicans, Republican lawmakers are not saying more about every increment of what we've been seeing this week?

NAVARRO: First, there are some lawmakers who are speaking. Certainly John McCain, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake. Some of them have expressed reservations. They've been disturbed. They've been asking for a select committee. They've been asking for a special prosecutor. They've been asking for an independent commission, some sort of entity that can investigate this is a bipartisan or nonpartisan way.

So let's just say there are some honorable exceptions in the Republican Party.

WHITFIELD: A handful who have been outspoken.

[14:45:00] NAVARRO: But by and large, I think a large swath of the country feels like the Republican Party is Nero playing the violin while Rome is burning, in this case while Washington is burning. And I just think it is this level of unbelievable tone deafness towards the feeling by so many Americans that this government is in crisis.

WHITFIELD: So Jeffery, Paul Ryan says he is focusing on other things. He says he wants to concentrate on things, quote, in his control, "in my control" in his words. But can anything really get done, is anything is in control right now in terms of him and other leadership on the Hill to be able to carry through an agenda?

LORD: Speaker Ryan is exactly right. That's his job, and he did his job here with much criticism, I might add, including some from me.

WHITFIELD: But he's the House speaker. He is leadership in the House.

LORD: Correct. Correct. And that's his job is to get that healthcare reform bill passed, to get tax reform passed, to get legislation passed. That's his job. Ditto with Senator McConnell over there in the Senate. That is their job. They need to stick to their knitting and get this stuff done.

WHITFIELD: OK, Ana, what's your challenge to Republicans?

NAVARRO: Look, I hate picking a bone with Paul Ryan. He's a friend of mine. I happen to love the guy. But I think he needs to walk and chew gum at the same time. I think you can applaud President Trump's efforts on healthcare if that's where you lie. I think you can applaud his naming of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

But I think that when he does something like threaten, make a veiled threat against the former FBI director, I think that when he tries to intimidate Sally Yates on the day of her testimony, I think that when he tweets out against judges, I think people expect for leaders to step up and condemn that. That you are a Republican leader does not mean that you are a cult member of the Donald Trump cult. It means that you call him and you see them, and that when he does things that should be applauded you do, when he does things that should be condemned, you have a spine, you have a conscience, and you have loyalty to the country and the Constitution of the United States that you will speak up, you wake up, and you act on it. WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it right there. Ana Navarro and

Jeffery Lord, good to see both of you. Thank you so much.

LORD: Thanks. Thanks, Ana.

NAVARRO: Happy mother's day to your mom.

WHITFIELD: And happy mother's day to you, too. Thank you so much. And to the mother of your world as well, Jeffery Lord, appreciate it.

All right, coming up, a virus locking up thousands of computers around world, holding files for ransom. But one man says he has found a key to disabling it. We'll talk to him live, next.


[14:51:53] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We are getting new information of the massive cyber-attack that has hit users in nearly 100 countries. Security experts say the hackers have been paid at least $20,000. But a cyber-expert tells CNN the malware called WannaCry has been halted at least for now, but not before it infected thousands of computers, locking down and telling users to pay up or risk losing all of their data.

Let me bring in our Darien Huss, senior security research engineer at Proofpoint cyber security firm. He is the one who figured out how to halt this malware. Congratulations. And I know a lot of folks are super grateful of what you have done. So do you want to explain to us non-tech folks, and that would be me probably leading the pack, how did you do this?

DARIEN HUSS, SENIOR SECURITY RESEARCH ENGINEER AT PROOFPOINT: So one of my colleagues was following the recent incident that was happening yesterday and just kind of asked for my assistance to reverse engineer the sample. And so I just plugged in into one of the programs that I use to analyze malware and also immediately noticed that there was a domain name that was hardcoded in the malware. And it appeared initially that if the malware could reach out to the domain, the deadly infection would halt. And sure enough that was the case.

WHITFIELD: So you found this loophole and you found an off switch, so to speak, that you were able to engage. So you saved a lot of people, but then there are a lot of people trying to retrieve some of their data and perhaps they even paid a lot of money. But in your view, how temporary is this halt, or is this a permanent fix?

HUSS: So this is very temporary. It would not be very complicated for these actors or some other person that is wanting to do a similar attack, it would not be very difficult to re-implement the exploit that was used and kind of start this whole chain of events all over again.

WHITFIELD: Oh gosh, OK, so it could happen again. What can anyone do to protect their data or protect themselves from this virus? Anything? HUSS: Yes. So first and most important, people should patch their

systems. If their computer was patched from an update that was released by Microsoft in March then they would have been protected by this. But there are also legacy systems that a lot of, for example healthcare system have to use and a patch that was not released for those such as Windows XP. But I recently learned that Microsoft has provided a patch for even legacy systems such as Windows XP. So they should install that patch.

WHITFIELD: So a patch. OK, so then do you or does anyone know the origin of this. Where did it come from? How traceable is it?

HUSS: Yes, so as far as I know it is currently unknown who or what group is responsible for this activity. So right now it is still unknown.

[14:55:09] WHITFIELD: All right, Darien Huss, thank you so much. Thanks for your time.

HUSS: Thanks. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, that's going to do it for me. Thanks so much for being with me today. I am Fredricka Whitfield. I will be back tomorrow at 2:00 eastern time right here on CNN. The next hour of the Newsroom continues right after this.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are in CNN Newsroom. Thank you for joining me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. We begin with the latest fallout from the presidential bombshell that has been taking Washington and the nation, for that matter all week. Sources inside the White House describe the West Wing feeling dejected, the vice president as rattled, and the president himself as agitated and isolated. All of this because of the single decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, a decision we are told the White House didn't think would get so much blowback.