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Trump Speaks on FBI Director Firing; Sergei Lavrov Speaks After Closed Trump Meeting; Interview with Sen. John Thune; Comey asked for More Resources for Russia Probe. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired May 10, 2017 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman Nadler, for the record, you are saying that you believe because of this, the president himself colluded with Russians ahead of --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: No proof of that at this point unless there's something --

(CROSSTALK)

REP. JERRY NADLER, (D), NEW YORK: No proof of that.

KEILAR: -- you have to show that. This is just your assumption based on this firing?

NADLER: This is my assumption based on the firing is that there no reason that he would do that if he weren't concerned that the investigation was going to show things that he didn't want shown, and that either means that he was or people close to him were colluding with the Russians.

KEILAR: Congressman Jerry Nadler, thank you so much for that.

"No comment," that is the word from Hillary Clinton on the firing of the FBI director, the same Hillary Clinton who blamed the FBI director for costing her the election. We have much more on that ahead.

Plus, any moment now, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is going to speak live. Those are live pictures of the Russian embassy. We're keeping an eye on that. And it's coming just moments after his closed-door meeting with President Trump at the White House. Will he reveal details from that meeting? We'll bring it to you live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:35:29] KEILAR: Donald Trump has now addressed his firing of the FBI Director James Comey.

Let's go straight to the White House and our Jeff Zeleny so he can tell us about what he said.

Jeff, we don't have the tape yet, and we'll get that momentarily, but what did the president say? JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We will, indeed,

get that momentarily, Brianna. But we are told by pool reporters who are in the Oval Office that the president quite simply said Comey was not doing a good job. He didn't elaborate on that much. We will be seeing that video shortly. But he certainly gave his statement there in a pretty crisp and clear manner. Again, this is far from explaining to the American people, explaining his rationale to the public for the firing of his FBI director. He left that to the vice president, who was on Capitol Hill just a short time ago, but the president explicitly saying that the FBI director did not do a good job.

But, Brianna, h said this in a photo opportunity with Henry Kissinger, the secretary of state in the Nixon administration as well as the national security adviser in the Nixon administration. This comes on a day when the president was meeting with the Russian foreign minister. So with all of this talk of the Saturday night massacre --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: All right, Jeff, Jeff, certainly a very important point. I am so sorry to interrupt you.

We have some breaking news right now. The foreign minister of Russia, Sergei Lavrov, talking at the Russian embassy.

SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translation): -- on the whole territory of the Syrian Republic and this step will help us to come to the political solution on the basis of the resolution of the United Nations Security Council. We agreed to continue working together in (INAUDIBLE), where the United States is present as observer and also in the framework of the Geneva process, it should be renewed. I believe that all of the participants of those talks were constructive and put in the opposition groups. And they also discussed the promise with the international immunity basis and where we, together with the United States, can play decisive role. We mentioned the situation in Afghanistan, and the situation with implementation of the Minsk agreements in the Ukraine. We agreed to continue working in accordance with those issues to seek for the road to resolve the problems and to take into account the interests of all of the interested parties. We also discussed our relations, which are not in the best condition because of a lot of efforts to undermine those relations. And we have to do it from the very low start but we understand quite well that the American citizens and Russian citizens would like to live in peace and we have to remove all of the official obstacles. We discussed with Rex Tillerson the results of our meetings. And just yesterday, we reviewed in New York our meetings. Obviously, we could not remove all the obstacles because the conditions are very complicated, but we agree that we have to try to remove all of those artificial barriers in our relations. And it's quite obvious we cannot resolve all of the issues in our relations at once. And President Trump confirmed his interest in building businesslike relations between our countries and also to resolve problems. And it's very important that President Trump and President Putin aimed at solving the problems which are on the international agenda. That's what I would like to say as ambassador to Russia, and I would

like to hear your questions now.

[11:40:14] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (through translation): Sergei, did you discuss the issue of sanctions and also the problem of access to the Russian property in New York and Washington, and if this issue will not be solved by the American aside, what steps in research in this relation?

LAVROV: We did not discuss sanctions, but in relation to the property, this is a separate issue in our discussion because it's our property and it's confirmed by official legal documents which were issued in the United States. And this is our property --

KEILAR: We are jumping out of this. This is the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who met with President Trump today. We are going to -- let's listen in. This is President Trump, what he just said a moment ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, why did you fire Director Comey?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: He wasn't doing a good job, very simply. He was not doing a good job.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did it affect your meeting with the Russians today?

TRUMP: Excuse me?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did it affect your meeting with the Russians today?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will the new FBI director be in charge of the Russian investigation?

TRUMP: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEAMEL: Thank you. Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you.

Thank you, everybody. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: The "thank you," that is the equivalent of the cane out of the Oval Office there.

And I want to get now to Jeff Zeleny, our correspondent over at the White House.

You heard that, Jeff. We knew he said he wasn't doing a good job. It's always different to see it, to see his reaction, to the demeanor as he says this.

And we should note, this was the present tense. He said he was not doing a good job. He seemed to be referring to -- he currently, most recently, had not been doing a good job.

ZELENY: Indeed, Brianna. Those words are short and simple but, again, he's not doing a good job, he simply was not doing a good job. That is not wholesome explanation from the president of the United States, why he fired the director of the FBI, who was overseeing a Russia investigation into any links between this president's campaign and the Russian operatives. The White House knows that will not be sufficient. He was answering a question that a pool reporter, one of the colleagues, shouted a question at him, and he did answer it briefly. But this does not breathe out to give enough sort of breadth and substance to what went on last night.

The vice president was taking a lead on that earlier today on Capitol Hill, Brianna.

But I'm just struck by, with all the historical comparisons to the Saturday Night Massacre during the Nixon administration and the fact that the president today is making the public appearance with, A, the Russian ambassador to the United States, the Russian embassy sending out a picture with the Russian ambassador, who is at the center of so much of this discussion of any connections, and then meeting there with Henry Kissinger, who, of course, was the secretary of state in the Nixon administration as well here. If this White House is trying to avoid any comparisons to that moment of time and that moment to our history more than four decades ago, they're not doing a good job of it. Perhaps they're doubling down on that. Certainly, the optics today, the only time we're scheduled to see the president is right there before he was meeting with the Russian foreign minister who is also visiting Washington this week -- Brianna?

KEILAR: That's right. Who we just heard live.

Jeff Zeleny there on the North Lawn for us. We appreciate that.

I want to bring in Brian Fallon and Jeff Kingston. Brian Fallon of the Hillary Clinton campaign. Jack Kingston a former senior adviser to Donald Trump and the Trump campaign.

Stay with me, gentlemen. We're going to talk in just a moment. So much to dissect here.

Of course, Republicans are split over the Comey firing and some expressing shock and disappointment while others say the FBI director had to go. We'll be live ahead with our panel and Senator John Thune.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [11:48:48] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, why did you fire Director Comey?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: He wasn't doing a good job, very simply. He was not doing a good job.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did it affect your meeting with the Russians today?

TRUMP: Excuse me?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did it affect your meeting with the Russians today?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: All right. That was Donald Trump, the president, just moments ago, answering questions about why he fired the FBI director, James Comey.

We do have some breaking news, as well. The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman and ranking member, we are told, so a Democrat and a Republican, telling Comey, actually on -- this was just Monday, so just two days ago -- urging him to speed up the Russian investigation and Comey, apparently, acknowledged in this discussion that things were moving slowly. Of course, he had been working with the acting deputy attorney general to work on this -- look into the Trump campaign and whether there were connections, whether there is potentially collusion between Trump campaign officials and associates and Russian officials, as well.

I want to bring in South Dakota Republican, Senator John Thune. He is the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

Senator, I want to ask you, of course, what your reaction is to the firing of the FBI director, but also, we heard from the vice president a short time ago. He said, this was the right decision at the right time. Do you agree with Mike Pence?

[11:50:18] SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R), SOUTH DAKOTA & CHAIRMAN, SENATE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE: I think, obviously, that's a judgment, call, Brianna, that the president and his team make. And I think, like a lot of people, it sort of caught many of us by surprise. It came sort of suddenly. It's not something that, I think, hadn't been anticipated. There's been plenty of support, bipartisan support, for this action in the past. And I think this was just --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: But if you made that judgment call, if you had a decision to make, about whether it was a good idea to fire Comey, as he was in the middle of this Russia investigation, as it pertained to the Trump campaign, Trump associates, would that be a good idea from your judgment?

THUNE: Well, I guess, I -- from my vantage point, I think, yes, the question -- the timing of all of this is something the administration will have to answer questions about, Brianna. But I think, you know, the broader issue here is, did he have the confidence of the agency, did he have the confidence of the American people? Did he have the confidence of the administration? And clearly, the president and his team decided that he did not. They decided to take this action, based upon a recommendation from Rob Rosenstein, who was just confirmed by the Senate, 94-6, a couple of weeks ago, and a man who people have a tremendous amount of confidence in. So that was the result they came to. The conclusion they came to. Like you said, there's plenty of Democrats who have called for that in the past, as well as Republicans. And it happened. It happened sort of suddenly. And again, those are questions the administration will have to answer --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: But there seems to be some -- there does seem to be some confusion about whether Rosenstein's justification for why there was no confidence in Comey would match up with President Trump's.

We're going to play a sound bite of what President Trump has said about Comey in just a moment.

But Rosenstein had said that the director was wrong to usurp the attorney general's authority back in July to announce his conclusion that the case, meaning the case to do with Hillary Clinton's e-mail and e-mail server, be closed without prosecution. Then compounding the error, he said, the director ignored another long-standing principle, we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation. And he also cited that Comey had stood by his decision on both of these things.

Now I want to play something that President Trump said. How he has talked about Comey in the past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And I have to give the FBI credit. It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had within trying to protect her from criminal prosecution. Good job by the FBI.

I have respect that the FBI has given her a second chance.

I really disagreed with him, I was not his fan. But what he did, he brought back his reputation. Because there's a lot -- a lot of people want him to do the wrong thing. What he did was the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Is that a problem, Senator, that what Donald Trump has said about Comey does not square with what his deputy attorney general said in recommending Comey's firing?

THUNE: Well, look, Brianna, there were people who made a lot of comments last year during the heat of an election campaign season, and clearly, you know, I'm also somebody who when I saw the way the FBI director was conducting himself during the course of the presidential campaign, thought that he'd gotten outside of his lanes. I think the FBI does its best work behind the scenes and he took a very public role and very much, I think, got very politicized in the process of doing that. You know, the president said some things last year, I think, again, his professionals, the deputy attorney general made a recommendation to him. He acted on it. And this is an outcome that a lot of people would have cheered --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: So now, are we to believe, do you think, that the president now thinks that it is wrong, what Comey did when it came to the Hillary Clinton investigation, when he was so vociferous about saying it was the right thing?

THUNE: Well, I think he said that it was a gutsy thing, and maybe it was a gutsy thing. To me, it's a question -- a real question about whether that's the right thing for an FBI director to be doing. And I think that's what the professionals at the Justice Department have concluded, which is what led to the recommendation made by Mr. Rosenstein. And that's why we are where we are today. And, obviously, this is going to get batted around a lot and discussed a lot. But I think the next step that we need to take here in the Senate, at least, so to get somebody into that position who is credible, who is independent, who is highly qualified, that can continue the important work that the FBI was doing, with respect to the Russian investigation and all the other tasks that they have in front of them.

[11:55:12] KEILAR: A lot ahead of them.

Senator John Thune, thank you so much. We have much more breaking news ahead.

THUNE: Thanks, Brianna.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Back now with some breaking news. Sources telling CNN that FBI Director Jim Comey actually asked for more resources from top members of the Senate for his investigation to ties between Donald Trump's campaign and Russia. That was before his firing.

I want to talk about this now with my panel. We have Brian Fallon, formerly of the Hillary Clinton campaign; and Jack Kingston, former congressman, also former senior adviser to the Trump campaign.

That's not helpful when it comes to timing about why Donald Trump fired FBI Director Comey now.

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know. He's criticized for dragging out an investigation. This has been going on, apparently, since 2015. He has had no proof whatsoever that there was any collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. And then he's criticized for going slow on it. And he does what every bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., does. That is, I need more money. So I don't know -- so what? You tell to speed up, that's what they tell you, that's the response in Washington, D.C.

KEILAR: Now, this isn't the reason given. The reason, I would assume, is sort of music to Democrats' ears, although it seems a little questionable. Because the deputy A.G. in his letter recommending that Comey go is talking about the Hillary Clinton investigation and how that was handled and that Comey made mistakes in this, Brian.

BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. And there's a lot of merit in what Rod Rosenstein wrote in that memo. However, as your last guest just said, John Thune, the timing is what the administration needs to answer for. The timing here is anything. You can imagine any number of circumstances where John -- Jim Comey being relieved of his duties might encounter less skepticism. If, for instance, the Russian investigation had already been closed and they declined to pursue anything, he would be on solid ground. If they had allowed the internal watchdog review go forward and waited for those findings to be procured and then took action, they would be on firmer ground. It's the fact that we are in the middle of an investigation and Jim Comey was leading it that makes this investigation.

KEILAR: Why not wait for that cover of an investigation that would say, there's cause for this?

KINGSTON: Keep in mind the outcry now is from the same people who are mad that President Trump didn't immediately follow what the distinguished career bureaucrat, Sally Yates, told him to do, which is fire Flynn, and he hesitated --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Look, obviously, politics are involved in this --

(CROSSTALK)

KINGSTON: He was an Obama appointee, a 30-year distinguished career guy. He's just on board, passed by the U.S. Senate, 94-6, and he says, you ought to get rid of Comey.

(CROSSTALK)

KINGSTON: And it's his call.

FALLON: The administration is pointing to Rod Rosenstein's letter and trying to rest on his reputation to suggest that this was appropriate. But just now, at the top of the hour, when you played that foo footage from Capitol Hill of Vice President Pence answering questions from reporter, he was specifically asked if the White House ordered this review and order Rosenstein to engage in it. And he delicately dodged the question. They're not going to be able to sustain that. Rod Rosenstein has to answer questions from Capitol Hill. He will be asked about the sequencing of who asked him to do this. I highly doubt he arrived, and his first order of business --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: We have 30 seconds. Final word to you, and we've got to go.

KINGSTON: I would say it should have been done long ago. Every Democrat in town, up until yesterday morning --

KEILAR: But he didn't answer -- why didn't the vice president answer that question?

KINGSTON: I don't know that he was in a position to answer it. I'm sure, if it's a big issue, it will come out. But what I see is more Democrat resistance, if their hyperbole turned to hysteria. That's all we've got. It's resist, resist, resist. And if they actually got a special prosecutor, we'd start hearing from them, oh, he's going too slow, he's too partisan, he's not interviewing the right people. This is just resistance.

KEILAR: Jack Kingston, Brian Fallon, thank you so much to both of you.

And thank you for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

"Inside Politics" with John King starts now.

[12:00:06] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Brianna.

And welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your time on what is a --