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Interviews for Comey Replacement Happening Now; Trump to Meet with Top Finalists for FBI Director; Comey Firing Divides Republicans; Conservatives Conflicted Over Support for Trump; Russians Don't Know Whether "To Laugh or Cry" about Trump; Computers and Data Held for Ransom Worldwide; Pence Family Bunny Becomes a Star. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired May 13, 2017 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with the last fallout from the presidential bombshell that has been shaking 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 did not think would get so much blowback. Instead, the past few days, arguably, could be the worse of President Trump's young presidency. Now, we are told that he's eager to move on.

Interviews with potential candidates to replace Comey are taking place as we speak and the president says we can expect a decision soon.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think you will make a decision or announcement



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

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How long? Next week is possible?

TRUMP: Even that is possible.


CABRERA: Let's bring in CNN White House correspondent, Athena Jones, live outside the White House with the latest.

Athena, tell us of what's happening and what's the mood inside the West Wing?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. This is not a good week for moral when it comes to White House staffers, particularly, the communications staff. We are talking about a press shop that did not know and was kept out of the loop about the president's decision to fire the FBI director until practically when it happened. They had maybe about an hour to prepare, to deliver a closing argument of explanation for the president's decision to the press. And you say that the explanation they provided changed over time and was ultimately contradicted by the president himself. That left people feeling dejected and rattled. That's how one official described that the vice president. He was one of the officials who went out and spoke to the press and delivered this story line that the president was relying on the advice of the Justice Department, specifically, this recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Vice President Pence said that something like seven times when he was talking to reporters on Capitol Hill. So we're learning he's rattled by once again finding himself in a situation where he's sharing inaccurate information.

The president's own twee speak directly to this. These are a couple of tweets from yesterday morning when he said, "As a very active president with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at the podium with perfect accuracies. Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future press briefings and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy."

The president himself saying his own spokespeople, the people tasked with speaking for him, speaking for the administration, don't always have the accurate information. So not a good thing to hear if you are on the president's team.

Take a listen to what he said about White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in his interview on FOX. Watch.


JUDGE JEANINE PIRRO, FOX HOST: Are you moving so quickly that your Communications Department cannot keep up with you?


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: Just don't have them. Unless I have them every two weeks and I do them myself, we don't have them. I think it is a good idea.


TRUMP: First of all, you have a level of hostility that's incredible. And it is very unfair. Sarah Huckabee is a lovely young woman. You know Sean Spicer. He's a wonderful human being. He's a nice man.

PIRRO: Is he your press secretary today and tomorrow?

TRUMP: Yeah --


PIRRO: Will he be there tomorrow?

TRUMP: Well, he's doing a good job but he gets beat up.

PIRRO: Will he be there tomorrow?

TRUMP: Yeah, he's been there since the beginning.


JONES: There you hear the president not answering a direct question about the future of his press secretary.

Overall, it has been a tough week messaging-wise for this White House. And keep in mind, while we are talking about this, talking about the firing of James Comey, they're not talking about pushing this health care repeal or this tax over haul -- Ana?

CABRERA: The agenda seems to have stalled at this point.

What impact are those tweets, specifically, the one, the president's suggestion that there could be tapes of his conversations with James Comey. What impact is this happening?

JONES: This is leaving a lot of people scratching their heads. At one point in the briefing yesterday, Sean Spicer was asked about an FBI source saying that those tweets show the president is out of control. Spicer responded by saying that's an offensive question. But it does raise a lot of questions because Spicer himself, and neither Spicer nor the president in an interview later, would get into whether there are recordings, whether there are conversations in the Oval Office or elsewhere that the president is having are being recorded. They are avoiding answering that question. That's very, very odd. Of course, we are already seeing Democrats on Capitol Hill demanding to have those tapes turned over, if they do exist. It is just an odd subject to raise, a suggestion for the president to make and did not have any more clarification -- Ana?

CABRERA: Athena Jones, at the White House for us. Thank you.

As we mentioned, candidates are being interviewed right now to replace James Comey. We have some new reporting that just crossed our wire, saying the president will, ultimately, meet with the finalists, however many that ends up being, and that interviews are likely continuing into tomorrow as well. The timing, again, of the selection still unknown. But the person selected will serve a 10-year term and he or she could also lead the investigation that involves the president themselves.

CNN's crime and justice producer, Shimon Prokupecz, is following this interview process.

Shimon, you have been looking at your phone. I know you're trying to get the latest information. You've been working your sources. Let's talk about what we know of the candidates that we know of.

[15:05:39] SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE PRODUCER: Let's start with Andrew McCabe, the current acting director. He's been with the FBI for 20 years. He's been in this role for a couple of years working for Comey. But he's been working for Comey for a long time. He was the head of the Washington field office, has run the National Security Division at the FBI, so a lot of history, career agent. Probably knows the FBI very well.

Interestingly enough, today also we learned that Alice Fisher (ph) could be the first female and the first woman to lead the FBI. She was interviewed earlier this morning at about 8:00. Last for about an hour. She also had some history in the government. She worked at the Department of Justice and led the Criminal Division and has a national security background.

It seems like all of the people that have been named have some history and some knowledge of how the Department of Justice works.

We also heard Mike Garcia. He ran the southern district in New York of the U.S. attorney office. One of the biggest cases he oversaw --


PROKUPECZ: Here in New York. And one of the biggest cases he over saw was the Eliot Spitzer investigation, where he got tied up with that prostitute. He's one of the people.

We heard of the name Adam Lee. He was there today. Adam Lee, interestingly, had connections to Dana Boente, who was the acting attorney general, deputy attorney general, and is now running the National Security Division over at the Department of Justice, which is overseeing the Russian investigation. But Adam Lee has a history and a personal relationship with Dana Boente. That's another interesting person.

These are all people, probably, really well known to the national security, within the Intelligence division, within law enforcement and within the Department of Justice. So far, none of these names have sort of surprised anyone or have -- or are not unknown to the people of the government or people of the FBI or people of the Department of Justice.

CABRERA: We have seen Senator John Cornyn, who were mentioned --

PROKUPECZ: Yeah. That's --

CABRERA: -- in an interview today.

PROKUPECZ: That's an interesting, would be an interesting choice. You know some folks would signal -- would politicize the position a little bit. If you've been supporting Donald Trump throughout, has voiced his support, and he's a pretty strong Republican, and there is some concerns that he may be quite partisan. And --

CABRERA: So you're saying he may not get Democratic support, should he be somebody who is selected?

PROKUPECZ: Yeah, it would be tough. It would just keep this scandal going.


PROKUPECZ: And questions would be continued to be raised about what is Donald Trump trying to do. There's a lot of agents concerned that Trump is trying to interview in their investigations. So would a guy like Senator Cornyn be the right decision remains to be seen.

CABRERA: To that point that you just made in your reporting, unique to CNN, has to do with what is going on inside the FBI right now. And you report that people are worried that administration will try to interfere with ongoing Russia probe. Why?

PROKUPECZ: Sure. The biggest concern is, I think, in some ways, funding, but also the mission of FBI. There's a counter intelligence mission within the FBI. There are thousands of agents who are assigned to the intelligence. Part of what they do, we don't hear almost everything that they do. That is, they investigate potential spies that want to come into this country. The Russians are very well known for doing this, for wanting to come here and spy on us and infiltrate our government and institution. And the FBI, working with overseas sources and some of their intelligence, does a pretty good job of identifying these people and trying to prevent them from coming here. The concern can be, if we appoint a different director, would the mission change with that, with funding for that. It takes a lot of money to do this. The surveillance that's involved in the counter intelligence is massive. You're talking dozens of agents on any one person, following them around, listening to their conversations, all believed being done legally, but this takes time and this takes money. And who knows, you know someone can come in and say, why are we spending all this money.

CABRERA: Right, it's priorities --

PROKUPECZ: It is priorities. It's a concern.


[15:10:12] PROKUPECZ: You know, no one really thinks the Russia investigation, this is collusion. Obviously, there is some concern that he can interfere and stop it, or maybe they want to pursue a certain angle, and the Department of Justice may say, no, we are not doing this. There is always that concern. But, no one really thinks -- there are so many checks and balances in place that the president can actually say, no, don't do this or let's not look at Russia.

CABRERA: Right. Right.

PROKUPECZ: It is all about funding. There's different ways.

CABRERA: But it can impact how they go about the investigation?

PROKUPECZ: Of course, yes. CABRERA: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, thank you for the reporting. We appreciate it.

The Comey firing has even some Republicans divided. Let's explore that and what it means for Russia and FBI investigation as we bring in our political panel.

You are live here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.


[15:15] CABRERA: The Republican Party divides are on display as the White House interviews new candidates to lead the FBI this weekend. Many high-profile Republicans are expressing different viewpoints over President Trump's controversial decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, the man investigating Russia's election interference and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Let's talk it over with our panel, conservative radio host, Ben Ferguson; former South Carolina House member, Bakari Sellers, a Democrat; and managing editor of, Zachary Wolf.

Zachary, to you first.

For the Republican party, how important is this choice of the FBI director, what's on the line?

ZACHARY WOLF, MANAGING EDITOR, CNNPOLITICS.COM: A lot on the line for the Trump presidency, in particular. They need to find somebody that can be perceived as being independent but, at the same time, you know, they can be accepted by Donald Trump, and I don't think there are a lot of people out there necessarily who fit that bill. They need to re-introduce some confidence in these governmental structures that people are starting to wonder about under this president from all political strikes. There is a lot on the line.

CABRERA: Based on what we know in who they are interviewing, Alice Fisher (ph), Adam Lee, Andrew McCabe, Senator John Cornyn and Judge Michael Garcia, Ben, who of those people will get the most bipartisan support?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Mike Rogers is somebody and Ray Kelly is another one.


CABRERA: You are mentioning a couple of guys that we don't know if they are even interviewed yet.

FERGUSON: Yeah, I think they'll be on that short list based on the people that I have talked to. What you will see here, and the list that you described, the first people going in, interviewing, these were not people that were heavily involved or even involved at all in the Trump campaign. Early on, people were saying it is definitely going to be a Rudy Giuliani or definitely Chris Christie. Their names are literally at the bottom of the list. I doubt they would even be on the short list for even an interview. What you are seeing is a well-thought-of list of individuals, many who served in law enforcement. Some have even served, like Mike Rogers, for example, as the FBI level. I think what you're seeing is that a lot of people are hoping to play politics with this and they're hoping it will fit that political narrative of, oh, Giuliani is a "yes man" or Chris Christie can never say no to Donald Trump. But if you look at the people that are actually being interviewed, the politics are not in these people. These people have stayed far from the political side of things and very far away from the Trump --


CABRERA: Some would argue that Senator John Cornyn is the outlier in what you are saying.


CABRERA: I'd argued that a lot of people --


CABRERA: -- are hoping politics aren't involved.

Bakari, what do you think of what you heard from Ben? Are any of these names that have come up to your liking?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First and foremost, for Democrats, we are not going to -- I don't think, Mr. President, we are going to get someone that we truly want, someone that Democrats would fawn over in this position at the FBI. Nor should we. I think it needs to be someone outside of the political spectrum. Senator Cornyn is a nonstarter. If you want the left go outrageous, including myself, choose Senator Cornyn.

There is someone else who has been mentioned, who has actually been interviewed recently in kind of an investigatory panel, and that's Andrew McCabe. He held himself to be independent. He's familiar on what's going on, so he gives you that continuity. He's not a "yes man" to the president of the United States. This is a time in the country where we want somebody who'll pledge fidelity not to the man or a party but to the Constitution. So I have no faith in Giuliani or Christie or Cornyn or any of those people are going to do it. I may have a little faith that McCabe would do it. So I look forward to someone like him being the utmost look over.

CABRERA: It sounds like you all agree --


CABRERA: -- about what kind of qualities.

Go ahead. Go ahead, Ben, follow up.

FERGUSON: Let me say about Cornyn, one of the things we talk about in politics, Cornyn I cannot imagine he would get this job, because of the slim margin of the lead that the Republicans have as the majority of the Senate. This would put things -- completely disrupt the Senate and it would take a more senior member of the Senate out. It would be highly partisan, politically. And that's what I go back to at the beginning. If Democrats are hoping to score points politically by keep talking about Cornyn -- who, again, I would put him at the bottom of the list, or Giuliani or Chris Christie. They're not going to be there, in my opinion, at the end of this. I think what you're seeing is you are going to see people that will be able to get bipartisan or, in the past, have received bipartisan support. I think there's many in the White House that do not want someone in the FBI who is political.

CABRERA: Guys, I want you to listen to what conservative Republican commentator, Amanda Carpenter, had to say regarding to the FBI firing, and how this all unfolded. Let's listen.


[15:19:54] AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I see way too many all over the media on the Republican side who want to take this position that we're just anti-liberal. They cannot defend Donald Trump on these merits, so they blame the liberals, they blame the media. They say you cannot understand the situation, unless you live in some one-stoplight town in the middle of America, and that you have to take the president -- you have to believe the best about what might in his heart rather than what he says on Twitter every day. This is ridiculous. It's not tenable. Republicans -- just think politically. This cannot last. So go ahead and start holding the president accountable. The booking is not going to come out under your bed. Donald Trump's special people are not going to get you in the middle of the night. If you say, Mr. President, please respect the three branches of the government, please respect the American institution as it is supposed to work, and then you will be much better off.


CABRERA: Ben, she was fired up about how GOP lawmakers have reacted or have not in some cases. They have been very quiet regarding the fallout of this FBI dismissal, dismissal of the FBI director. What is your reaction of what we just heard?

FERGUSON: I think there is a couple of things here. I know Amanda, and I respect her, but I disagree with her on this point. I don't think every single time the president does something, as a Republican, you have to go out and somehow start a war with the president.


CABRERA: Is this different from other times in the past?


CABRERA: Don't you think of what he's done is troll controversy?

FERGUSON: I do think it is very different than maybe some of the things he said during the campaign. This is an issue at the White House. This is an issue the president has been clear about. This is also an issue of placing the FBI director, for example, that the top leading Democrats, all seven of the top Democrats are calling for him resign or be fired in the last five months. So for, you know, people to say, oh, don't be afraid of Donald Trump, I don't think there is a lot of concerns on Capitol Hill. Remember, this is the same conservative group that did not give him the votes needed to repeal and replace Obamacare the first time and he had to fight a lot harder the second time to get those votes. So to say that somehow all the Republicans on Capitol Hill around the country are just walking behind Donald Trump, his legislative agenda is proof that that's not accurate. There are plenty of people --


FERGUSON: -- but you don't have to grandstand.


FERGUSON: You don't have to go on national TV and try to make a name for yourself while doing it.

CABRERA: So, Zach, do you think it's the legislative agenda, is that why a lot of Republicans are not wanting to criticize wholeheartedly this director's firing?

WOLF: At the end of the day, it is against the Republicans' self- interest to criticize Donald -- to attack or eat their own, you know, sort of things. I don't think a lot of Democrats, for instance, want to have a special counsel. I don't think a lot of Republicans -- we have some who have gotten aboard with it. You are not going to see this mass exodus of Republicans turning on Donald Trump, unless something else happens, because it is not in their interest to do that. We are, at base, a two-party country, it does not make sense for them.

CABRERA: Bakari, I will let you have the last word here.

SELLERS: I think there are a lot of Democrats who are in favor of a special investigators or special prosecutor in this matter. You are starting to see some Republicans come out and stop right short of wanting a special prosecutor.

But Amanda is so right. This is not Watergate. The reason this is not Watergate is because, during the era of Watergate, Republicans had convictions. Republicans were not pledged to a man. They were pledged to this country. The disappointment that some Republicans are starting to see and the grassroots around the country is that people are literally allowing Donald Trump to break the very fundamentals and foundations of our democracy. He fired someone who was investigating him based on a recommendation from someone who was recused from the investigation. Anyone, even a blind person, can see that something is wrong with that. More is going to fall out and --


SELLERS: -- we need a special prosecutor. Those who don't say it are just being callous. CABRERA: Got to go there.

Bakari Sellers, Ben Ferguson, Zach Wolf, we'll have you both.

Thank you both, and all of you for joining us.


[15:24:13] CABRERA: President Trump spent this morning in friendly territory, at Liberty University. And he had a lot of support there in Lynchburg, Virginia, on election day. Are people there still behind him? We'll have a live report next in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: Back in front of a big crowd, President Trump appeared in good spirits today following a tumultuous week over his controversial firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Today, Trump delivered his first commencement speech as president at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The president appealed to the faith of thousands of graduates at the world's largest Christian college.


TRUMP: When the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they invoked our creator four times. Because in America, we don't worship government, we worship God.


CABRERA: Polo Sandoval joins us live from Lynchburg, Virginia.

A lot of evangelical supporters of the president there, Polo. Are they still firmly behind him after the events of this past week?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, the short answer is yes. There is no shortage of support for President Trump here in the heart of the Bible Belt. But there's also more layers to the story here, another dynamic in play. For example, there are some individuals who we have met who are not quite sure how to feel about the president's recent tweets and the firing of Director Comey. But for the most part, there are those hard -- that hard support that President Trump has here, and they continued to stand by the man they elected president last November.

[15:30:00] We saw a little bit of both as we spent some time with a local family.



SANDOVAL (voice-over): The White family tackles everything at the dinner table, from the projects to the politics behind the controversial firing of FBI Director James Comey. LARRY WHITE, TRUMP VOTER: Those of our -- which is probably the

majority here, those who are pro Trump, voted for Trump, I think something like this doesn't of will-isn't going to shake them.

SANDOVAL: Larry White and his wife, Kathy, are raising their family in Lynchburg, in the center of Virginia, but leaning right. More than 50 percent of the city voted for Donald Trump.

LARRY WHITE: We all basically have the same world view with that a Christian world view. But when it gets in to politics, there will certainly be some variations.

SANDOVAL: The Whites are highly conservative, but also conflicted when it comes to their views on President Trump.

ANNA WHITE, CLINTON VOTER: I didn't actually vote for him.

SANDOVAL: 23-year-old Anna White is one of a few in her family who did not cast a vote for the President Trump last November. Recent Trump tweets have only reassured Anna of her decision. Her Trump voting family members however still stand by their choice.

ANGIE WHITE, TRUMP VOTER: I don't think there is ever going to be any one time where I'm like, OK, shouldn't have voted for him. He was not the hero I thought he was. Like he wasn't a hero to begin with.

LARRY WHITE: You didn't vote for him because


LARRY WHITE: -- just thinking he was a hero.

KATHY WHITE: But I would add, too, I had trust issues with the former president and the president before that. So the idea of trusting this president or not trusting is not new.

SANDOVAL: This is the kind of dialogue you will find at the White's dinner table.

ANNE WHITE: We all get intense and passionate. We don't get angry, but passionate.

ANGIE WHITE: And there are a lot of us, so hard to get a chance to talk.


SANDOVAL: This part of Virginia is home to some of Trump's steadfast support, says the city's Republican Party vice chair, Tim Griffin.

TIM GRIFFIN, LYNCHBERG REPUBLICAN PARTY VICE CHAIR: Jerry Falwell was a part of the Reagan resolution and the moral majority. That why it's so important for people to come through Lynchburg, meet voters, meet people and see what it's all about, see what Liberty is all about.

SANDOVAL: Over 100 days into Trump's presidency, Griffin and fellow Republicans seem unfazed by the cloud of controversy swirling over the White House.

KATHY WHITE: I want to support the real that he plays, the job that he is doing. I want him to be a good representation of America. America, I love this country.

SANDOVAL: The Whites' faith in President Trump is being tested. But their faith in the office is unshakeable, a feeling shared by many in this brass buckle of the Bible Belt.


SANDOVAL: You speak to some of those individuals and families, like the Whites, and say this is a territory for Trump because of the way they voted in November. Still, mixed opinions when it comes to the firing of Director James Comey. Some are questioning the timing and there are others who felt the president should have full confidence into the people that work beneath him here. So It is interesting to see two dynamics at play here, Ana

But there was one thing that clearly bring a consensus about when it came to the White family and that is they all feel President Trump should lay off Twitter, at least for a while -- Ana?

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: It is great to take the pulse of the people.

Polo Sandoval, Thank you so much.


CABRERA: Just one day after President Trump fired the man in charge of the Russia investigation, he welcomed Moscow's ambassador to the U.S. and the foreign minister into the Oval Office. How unusual is this? We'll talk to a former KGB spy.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:37:34] CABRERA: Breaking news ow. U.S. military officials just confirmed a second close encounter between a Russian military fighter jet and an American Navy surveillance plane operating in international air space. We're just learning this. It happened yesterday over the Black Sea more than 100 miles south of Crimea, which is right now Russian-occupied territory. U.S. officials say the Russian fighter flew within 45 feet of the Navy P-8 surveillance plane. This is the second close encounter in just the past week.

Back to Washington now. President Trump said the so-called Russia thing was on his mind when he fired FBI director a few days ago. The U.S./Russian relationship was also the main topic of Senate testimony this week. And the White House says a meeting between Trump and Russia's top diplomats was, quote, "very good." It's making a lot of people in Russia wonder where they stand with the U.S. and this White House.

Our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, was in Moscow. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Trump fired his FBI chief, James Comey, provoking renewed allegations of a Russia coverup. Then he holds a first meeting with the Russian foreign minister in Washington and he even allows himself to be photographed, smiling and greeting the Russian ambassador at the center of the allegations of Trump officials colluding with the Kremlin.

I actually think the Russians don't know whether they should laugh or cry at the messaging chaos in the United States right now. They have been doing some of both, starting with the Russian foreign minister himself, who joked about the Comey dismissal, sarcastically claiming he had no idea what had happened. Perhaps it was an ill-judged attempt to lighten the mood. But it also revealed the extent to which Russian officials are almost reveling in their rival's mess. Because, after all, undermining the credibility of the credibility of the United States political system is what Russians want to do.

Kremlin-controlled media has also been having a field day, scoffing at how Comey continuously made up stories about the Ruskies, they say, but never find anything.

The Russians foreign ministry spokeswoman has lampooned the fuss about the photographs, joking that if they had not been released, they would have been presented as secret evidence of collusion with Russia.

Behind all the mocking, though, the Kremlin is concerned about what Trump's unexpected move to fire Comey means for them. Russian President Vladimir Putin was pictured playing ice hockey when asked about the rage in Washington. He told one reporter the issue had nothing to do with him. But the episode has underscored for Russians just how unpredictable the Trump administration can be. They may laugh at it, but they don't like it.

Matthew Chance, CNN Moscow.


[15:40:31] CABRERA: I want to bring in Jack Barsky, a former KGB agent, who spied on the U.S. in the last years of the Cold War.

Jack, thanks so much for bringing your insights to our viewers.

First, I want to get your take on how you view the way Comey's dismissal went down and the contradictions from the president and his staff about why he was removed.

JACK BARSKY, FORMER KGB AGENT: Quite frankly, I have a longstanding relationship with the FBI, and I have nothing but good things to say with the FBI in terms of their professionalism and of in terms of them playing by the rules. And I strongly believe that Mr. Comey was becoming of a political football. He was criticized left and right. He was untenable in his role. Now, what happened here with the way this all transpired still makes me scratch my head that the team -- the Trump team, doesn't ask as a team at all so, which, of course, gives rise to the whole idea they don't know what they are doing.

CABRERA: And it makes you wonder what foreign leaders are thinking as they are watching from afar.

Earlier this week, President Trump tweeting this, "Russia must be laughing up their sleeves watching as the U.S. tears itself apart over Democrat excuse for losing the election."

Is he right, how Russia might be perceiving this?

BARSKY: Well, he's right with the first part of that tweet. Russia is laughing up their sleeves. Secretly, Putin is doing victory laps. I mean, to --


CABRERA: Why is that?

BARSKY: To the extent they wanted to create of what they are doing. They've succeed widely, beyond expectations. So I have to agree with the gentleman that was on before me. He gave a very succinct, very good summary of what I -- based on my background, what I thought to be true.

CABRERA: That's not all Trump tweeted this week. The president also alleged there are tapes inside the Oval Office. He floated the idea of cancelling press briefings. What does this and what he's tweeting out tell people like Putin?

BARSKY: And that is where we get into danger territory, and because, you know we are dealing with a very shrewd and somewhat aggressive, maybe a very aggressive adversary, and we need to have a clear message to them. You know, it can't be highly hostile but it has to be consistent and it has to be an appreciation that we -- while we are adversaries, we also have something in common, we want to survive, we don't want to throw the world into a third world, which would be the death of all of us.

CABRERA: The day after President Trump fired James Comey, we see a picture of the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, shaking hands with the president inside the Oval Office. Big smiles on their faces. What do you make of the timing and the optics of these pictures?

BARSKY: You said the operative word, "optics." Now, having said that, if you go back into your archives, you will find Roosevelt smiling together with Stalin and Kennedy smiling with Khrushchev. This is not unusual that this happens. The timing of it, you wonder whether the White House has a working P.R. department.


CABRERA: That's a question. We know they have their spokespeople who the president contradicted this week over this whole Russia investigation and his decision making behind firing James Comey. Beyond that, though, the fact that Sergey Kislyak, somebody who the U.S. has said is a spy for Russia, is in the Oval Office, is that risky?

BARSKY: Well, spy, that is somewhat of a loose term here. You cannot assume -- historically, KGB diplomats either had a loose relationship with the KGB or were KGB themselves, most likely not the ambassador. But this tradition has not changed. Yes, there is some cooperation between the diplomats, the Russian diplomats and the --


CABRERA: Would you have let him inside the Oval Office if you were the president of the U.S. knowing what you know about Russia and how everybody operates?

BARSKY: I would not think that he would be one of those spies who can secretly plant a bug or do something, really find secrets. But I would not let him in just because of the optics and the timing of all of this.

CABRERA: Got you.

Jack Barsky, thanks so much for joining us.

BARKSY: You're welcome.

[15:45:10] CABRERA: Having you ear and your advice.

Computers around the world, taken hostage. The only way to unlock them is to play a ransom. This story is just ahead, in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: We're used to seeing young people take to the street in protest. A very different crowd in Venezuela yesterday. It was a grandparent's march that captured the headlines. Take a look. Thousands of elderly Venezuelans took to the streets in Caracas to protest the President Nicolas Maduro. Some pushing against the riot shields of police officer, who responded with bursts of pepper spray to their faces. 38 Venezuelans have died during the unrest over the growing economic crisis there. It's created a severe shortage of food, medicine and other staples. It's a desperate situation for the people in Venezuela right now.

New information for you now on that massive cyberattack that hit hospitals, government offices in 99 countries. For now, cyber experts tell CNN the ransomware, called "WannaCry" has been halted but we've been warned to stay vigilant because attacks could be rebooted. A security firm identified more than 75,000 individual attacks worldwide with the hackers demanding ransom after the malware locks computers.

CNN's technology correspondent, Samuel Burke, is following the new developments. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[15:50:45] SAMUEL BURKE, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRSEPONDENT: A cybersecurity researcher had accidentally detained the spread of this ransomware, but we're not out of the woods yet because this doesn't help the computers that have already been infected. So people could show up to work on Monday and see that same ransomware screen demanding $300 in Bitcoin in order for people to get back into their files. Many researchers are afraid that the code is already out there now, so there could be copycats or other strains of this virus.

It really comes down to a flaw that's in Windows that's Microsoft has been trying to patch since March. If you've updated your commuter since then, you're fine. But if you've seen one of those seemingly annoying pop-up windows and avoided them, you didn't want to restart your computer, that's something you need to do immediately because, once you've done that, your commuter is safe.

Samuel Burke, CNN, New York.


CABRERA: News you can use.

Thanks so much, Samuel Burke.

You could call one event this week at the White House a hare-raising experience. The vice president pet hops into the spotlight. Much more straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

But first, two "CNN Heroes" joined forces last month to assist women struggling in refugee camps in Greece. Once already works with refugee families in the U.S. and the other helps women who live on the streets in Tennessee. Together they've created a unique project helping refugee women rebuild their lives using the life vests they and others wore on their journey.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: The project is making welcome mats from the life vests. So they're weaving these and getting paid to weave them. We are going to sell these in the U.S. And the idea is that we are laying down to welcome mat for them.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: We can do so much better in welcoming people into our country. This is a direct way to give empowerment and hope in something as simple as purchasing a mat.


CABRERA: To find out more about the welcome project and how you can buy a welcome mat, or to nominate a "CNN Hero," go to

We're back in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BERAK)

[15:57:13] CABRERA: The kids of military families had their time at the White House this week, and they were eager to meet the guest of honor at a military appreciate event, Marlon Bundo, the rabbit.

As Jeanne Moos tell us, the Pence's family bunny is now quite a star.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- of the United States.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vice president and his wife could kiss the audiences' attention good-bye once Marlon Bundo was introduced.

KAREN PENCE, WIFE OF MIKE PENCE: He was the first bunny to ever ride on Air Force Two.


MOOS: At this White House event to honor military families, kids got up close and personal with the Pence's pet.

Marlon Bundo may not be as famous as Bugs.

BUGS BUNNY CARTOON CHARACTER: Gosh, ain't I a stinker?

MOOS: He may not have his own storybooks, like Peter Robert.


MOOS: But he already got his own acronym.

(on camera): You know there's POTUS, short for president of the United States, and there's FLOTUS, for the first lady of the United States. Now there's BOTUS.

PENCE: He's the bunny of the United States.


MOOS (voice-over): BOTUS has got his own Instagram account, regularly updated with photos and videos. A spokesperson says he thinks he's a cat. He likes to hang out with Oreo and Pickle.

Some have the nerve to criticize Marlon's grooming. "OMG, his nails need to be trimmed."

And it's true he could have used a mani-pedi in his first Instagram photo.

Sure, he's been overshadowed --


MOOS: -- by imposters. But BOTUS would never speak like this.

MELISSA MCCARTHY, COMEDIAN: Don't push me. I'm sweating my Easter eggs off in this building.


MOOS: Then there's that name Marlon Bundo, sometimes mocked.

UNIDENTIFID MALE: They could have gone with, I don't know, Rabbit Redford.

MOOS: Pence's daughter, Charlotte, a film student, got the bunny to be in a movie. Charlotte's roommate named in Marlon Bundo.

MARLON BRANDO, ACTOR: I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse.

MOOS: But at least this doesn't apply to Marlon Bundo.

BRANDO: I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody.

MOOS: He is somebody, BOTUS. He and his namesake have at least one thing in command, both Brando and BOTUS like to be petted.

PENCE: Say good-bye to Marlon.


MOOS: Jennie Moos, CNN --


MOOS: -- New York.


CABRERA: Hello. You're in the NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. As always, great to have you with us.

President Trump is eagerly trying to move forward, move on from a week that has left Washington in crisis mode and sent shockwaves throughout the nation. The focus now appears to be finding a replacement for former FBI Director James Comey as quickly as possible.

Here's what the president told the press earlier today.


[16:00:01] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think you will make a decision or announcement


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- before Saturday?

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

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How long? Next week is possible?

TRUMP: Even that is possible.