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Trump Administration
  White House President Had Been Considering Firing Comey Since Election  CSPAN  May 10, 2017 1:49pm-2:20pm EDT

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you know? host: where did you read about cleaning out his office for evidence? caller: think about it. i didn't read it. i'm a corrections officer. when you fire somebody like that on the road? he had no knowledge of him being terminated, nobody said anything about it? >> polite crowd. >> [inaudible] heard.'ve good afternoon, everybody. as most of you know, sean is on reserve duty for the rest of the week, so i will be briefing you today and in the following days. i have a few announcements at the top before i take your questions. i have an update at the tunnel collapse in washington state. the incident is moving from the emergency phase to the recovery phase. after extensive testing we remain confident that there has radiological release.
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we expect efforts to be completed today. the site remains closed to nonessential personnel. dedicated experts on the ground are looking closely at the next steps that should be taken with respect to mitigating future breaches. in washington, d.c. today, as sean mentioned yesterday, the president focused on preparations for his upcoming trip. he met with the russian foreign minister following up with tillerson last month. a readout of the meeting went out about an hour ago and i refer you to that for further questions on the meeting. outside of d.c., as part of the administration's ongoing efforts inaddress the opioid crisis america, secretary price continued his listening to her, learning from those on the front lines battling the epidemic. today he will meet with officials in maine in -- in new
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hampshire to discuss how the administration invest combat this tragedy. today,ry inky is in utah visiting national monument sites and local officials to comply with the executive order of a review of national monument designations. another step to advance the president's america first offshore energy strategy by reversing an obama administration action to halt scientific research in the outer continental shelf. secretary devos is an daytona beach, florida, to deliver the commencement address at the university that is a great example of the top-notch education at hbcus's have continued to provide to their students. the secretary is honored to be there today. big news, ast of you guys may have been paying attention in regards to the termination of the former director comey. the president over the last
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several months lost confidence in director comey. the doj lost confidence in director comey. bipartisan members of congress made it clear that they had lost confidence in director comey. most importantly, the rank and file of the fbi had lost their director. accordingly, the president accepted the recommendation of his deputy attorney general to remove james comey from his position. before the news broke the president spoke to several members of congress to inform them of his decision. those members were mitch mcconnell, paul ryan, chuck grassley, chuck schumer, senator feinstein, senator graham, kevin mccarthy, nancy pelosi, and bob goodlatte. evening he spoke to bob corker, chairman of the senate committee on foreign
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relations. in addition to all the big news happening at the white house today, it is also my daughter, her fifth birthday. since you guys are here and i'm wish tofirst birthday her is that you guys are credibly nice. now i will take your questions. alex? a couple of broader questions for you. yes or no, did the president director rob rosenstein to write the letter? no, thekabee sanders: president had lost confidence in director comey and had frankly been considering letting the director go since the day he was elected. but he did have a conversation with the deputy attorney general on monday where they had come to him to express their concerns, the president has to that they put the concerns and the recommendation in writing, which is the letter that you guys ever seen.
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>> he decided on his own to review comey's performance? sec. huckabee sanders: and i think that most of america have -- the that secretary director call me should not be leading the fbi as evidenced by the numerous comments we have seen from democratic members, republican members, and people across -- said thatfeinstein she was told something directly different. issue lying? sec. huckabee sanders: he asked them for a recommendation and asked for it in writing. they came to him on his own. again, the president had lost confidence in comey from the day he was elected. >> on may 3 sean came out and said he had full confidence. why did he say that? sec. huckabee sanders: he questioned director comey's
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reasons for staying at the fbi. he has had countless conversations with members within the fbi. the big catalysts that we saw was last week, wednesday, director comey made a pretty startling revelation that he had essentially taken a stick of dynamite and thrown it into the department of justice by throwing around the chain of takend when he decided to staff without talking to the attorney general or deputy attorney general when holding a press conference and telling them that he would not let them know and that is simply not allowed. do something like -- someone like the deputy attorney general, rob rosenstein, who everyone across the board has unequivocally said, that this guy is a man of character, the gold standard of the department anjustice, when you take action like that, go around the chain of command, you have to take steps and action to make a
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recommendation to the president and that is what he did. john, go ahead. >> how do you decide -- sec. huckabee sanders: we will come back to that, i'm sure. >> just now you talked about the president losing confidence in him over the last weeks and months, but we thought this was all rosenstein's doing. when was it that the president lost confidence in james comey? sec. huckabee sanders: i think it has been an erosion of confidence. director comey has shown over the last several months, last year, a lot of missteps mistakes, certainly i think that as you have seen from many of the comments from democratic members, including senator schumer, they didn't think he should be there. they thought he should be gone. frankly, i think it is startling that democrats aren't celebrating this, as they have been calling for it for so long.
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>> got another one to ask you. sec. huckabee sanders: i think there's a to question limit around here. [laughter] >> back at the end of october, the president was applauding the fbi director when he reopened the investigation into the clinton emails. he seemed quite happy with him at that link. what changed? sec. huckabee sanders: one, his position. he was a candidate for president. not the president. those are two different things. want to take over leading the department of justice that's different from being a candidate in a campaign. as you all know there is a clear distinction between no things. also, having a letter like the one that he received, having that conversation, that outline in the basic atrocities circumventing the chain of command and the department of justice, any person of legal mind and authority knows what a
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big deal that is. particularly in the department of justice for somebody like the deputy attorney general, who has been part of the justice department for 30 years and is such a respected person. when he saw that he had to speak up and i think that was the final catalyst. >> the president meets with the russian foreign and minute -- for an ambassador, he reads with -- meets with the nixon secretary of state. the timing of all of this, is this ironic or is it the president poking a finger in the eyes of his critics? sec. huckabee sanders: these meetings have been on the books for a while. there is not a strategy to go after the democrats. the saddest thing is that the democrats are trying to politicize and take away from something the president should be doing.
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he should be meeting with the foreign minister. he should be meeting with people like kissinger. for them to attack him for doing his job? maybe they should spend more time doing their job and we wouldn't have the problems that we do. >> is in it true that the president had already's -- already decided to fire james comey and he asked the justice department to put together that rationale? sec. huckabee sanders: no. >> went did you make that decision? he madekabee sanders: the final decision yesterday, but i know he has been contemplating it for a while. you explain what dianne feinstein said, that the president told her that he was concerned with the fbi and the justice department? i can'tkabee sanders: speak for senator feinstein, but i spoke directly to the president and heard directly from him that he had been considering letting director since theretty much day that he took office, but that there was no request by him
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>> was the reason for the firing -- was that what he did it? sarah: that was the final piece that moved the question make that decisive action yesterday. >> with the evening in the liturgy wrote informing comey he was being fired? on three separate occasions comey told him i am not under investigation. what were the stre -- what were the three occasions? sarah: i will not get into the specifics of the conversation, but director comey relay that information to the president. areo the president asterisk comey if he was under investigation? sarah: i will not going to the specifics of their conversation. >> he obviously made a decision to put that in a letter and make it public. today have a type of
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conversation?? sarah: no. hisow important was failure to stop the leaks? sarah: i think that was one of the many factors. you can't deny somebody that that wasn't a problem. i think it was another one of the many reasons he was no longer having the confidence of the president for the rest of the fbi. >> can we expect more firing from the justice department? sarah: not that i am aware of today. >> going forward, does the president want the department of justice to shut down what he called a taxpayer-funded charade? sarah: he wants them to continue with whatever they see appropriate. the house andged senate committees to continue any ongoing investigations. the bottom line is any investigation happening on monday is still happening today. that has not changed.
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in fact, we encourage them to complete the investigation so we can put it behind us and we continue to see exactly what we have been saying for nearly a year. there is no evidence of collusion between the trump campaign and russia. we would love to be that completed so we can move on and focus on the things differently i think most of americans are concerned with. >> he wanted to continue? sarah: nobody wants to waste taxpayer money. it's another reason we would love for it to come to completion. i know you alle will not let this go until it does. we would love for that to be completed. let's put it behind us and move on and let's focus on what we need to do to turn our country around. >> to questions. was the white house aware at the time the decision that the grand jury subpoenas against michael flynn had just gone out? sarah: no, nor should we have been. >> did you know anything about the process? sarah: no.
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>> though the investigations are going to proceed against these allegations of russian support funding and who is going to be running that right now? will have to be somebody else? sarah: i believe that would fall to the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. we are confident in his abilities, as i believe he can tell by the rest of the senate, including many democrats are as well given the fact he was confirmed 94-6 and has an overwhelming praise from both sides of the aisle. i think it is complete confidence in him and another reason for director call me to the out-of-the-way -- director comey can be out of the way so that everyone else has respect and confidence. no one wants is to be finished and completed more than us so we can focus on what we need to do here. sean spicer said a week ago
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today the president has confidence in the director. again, i'm sorry if i don't understand, for what happened in the last seven days to shake the confidence? was sean lying? sarah: of course you would love to add that in. certainly not. i think one of the big things that took place was the process on wednesday where again, not the seleka broken record but since you guys keep asking the same questions i guess it's only fair keep giving the same answers. you have somebody, the director of the fbi who reports to the deputy attorney general going around the chain of command. that is simply not ok. that is not something allowed in the justice system, nor should it be. that's a huge problem. that along with the corrections that had to take place over the last 48 hours, those are only problems. thatnother final piece
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pushed the president to make the decision he did. >> does he regret not doing it earlier like on january 20? sarah: i believe the president wanted to give director comey a chance. he feels he made the right decision. >> why did he do it as he did it? why have one of his longtime security advisers hand-deliver a letter to the fbi on the fbi director was in los angeles? did he deserve a phone call or a face-to-face conversation? sarah: we followed the proper protocol in that process, which is a hand written notification. at the same time, no matter how you fire someone, it is never an easy process. he felt like following protocol was the best thing to do. i'm not aware of that conversation. >> was the president aware that james comey asked for more resources in the russian
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investigation? i think that would be a better question for the department of justice. >> a follow-up. on the campaign trail, president trump said locker up in not -- he the fbi for praised director comey for opening investigation. how was he moved by letter that said director comey was too harsh on hillary clinton? whiter than the president to fire him? sarah: i think you're looking at two different positions. the president was wearing a different hat the time. he was a candidate and other president. the circumstances change when you become the president. around the you go chain of command at the department of justice, when you throw a stick of dynamite into the department of justice, that the big problem and when they cannot be ignored. >> we already knew what mr. comey had done.
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sarah: my understanding was wednesday was the first time the director had openly and publicly made that statement and made that clear. [indiscernible] violence in chechnya -- with the president not informed on the issue? sarah: could you speak a little bit? >> is a because the president is not informed on the violence? sarah: a lot of times there are parts of the conversation that are not specifically included in a readout. i'm not aware. i have not had a conversation. i was not part of that meeting so i can't speak to every detail and i would have to refer you to the readout on the specifics of what i know was discussed. has the president in breach of this issue at all? sarah: that is something i will
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have to get back to you on. >> you said you want the russian investigation to continue with doj. whenthe white house special prosecutor to continue to look into it? sarah: you have a house committee, a senate hearing and the department of justice all working on this. i don't think there is necessarily a need at this point tab that. deputy death of g -- attorney general who is has up independent as it comes because of his bipartisan support. >> what gives you confidence rank-and-file in the bureau have lost faced in the -- faith in the fbi director? "the vast majority are in favor of director comey. this is not supposed to happen. the real losers are 20,000 front-line people in your organization because they lost the only guy working here in the past 15 years who actually cared about them." what is your response to these rank-and-file fbi agents who
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lost faith -- we have heard from countless members of the fbi is a different things. in fact, the president will be meeting with acting director mccabe later today to discuss that everything. the morale at the fbi, as well as making an offer to go directly to the fbi if he feels it's necessary and appropriate. we will certainly provide further information. a voiceare asking for in the selection process of his successor. is that something the president is for? have ai have not conversation but i know it's being run through the department of justice. i would refer you to them on what that process looks like at this point time. who did the president consult before making the final decision to fire james comey? sarah: he spoke with a number of individuals, but at the end of the day is the president's
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decision. could he speak again with the deputy attorney general or the attorney general? sarah: i know they spoke on monday. i believe the next follow-up was in writing. i would have to double check to be clear. >> is it accurate to follow a from the information we have that monday night the president made the final call and set of want this in writing as a recommendation and took the recommendation as the evidence he wanted to provide the fire james comey? sarah: the decision was made on tuesday. the first conversation he had was on monday when there was an --l recommendation may i made in the president requested to see that in writing further. >> he say you want to move on and focus on things the americans care about. you are somewhat halfway home on health care. yet tax reform to do, a spending bill, that ceiling and infrastructure.
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pretty big list. what happened yesterday, you can argue it widened the divide in may d.c. politics more toxic. how do you go about it, wishing all those things without a heightened political environment we are in? sarah: frankly i'm surprised it did create a divide since you had some republicans and democrats repeatedly calling for director comey to be gone. i don't to get matters what this president says, he will have democrats come out and fight him every single step of the way. i think that's one of the things that's wrong with washington, and i think it's one of the reasons we have got to get back to focusing on the issues entering the swap further. >> that he anticipated democratic backlash? sarah: how could he have considering the fact that most of the people that are declaring war today for the very ones that were begging for director comey to be fired?
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if hillary clinton had won the election, they got she didn't, --god she didn't, she would've fired comey immediately and the very democrats criticizing the president today would be getting in the streets celebrating. is the purest form of hip-hop receipt. jennifer? there's a report in israel that indicated the president made a decision not to move the u.s. embassy from tel aviv to jerusalem. can you confirm that? sarah: the president has not made a decision yet. >> follow-up. morning a speech this the president was warned against moving it to jerusalem. does that warning from other arab leaders play into his decision? sarah: i will not get into the decision-making process here. all i can tell you is he is still reviewing it. as soon as we have a decision i know we will be happy to report to you guys.
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john? >> to questions, both related to the selection of a successor to director comey. carter chosen fbi director he had a blue-ribbon panel advising him. presidents clinton, obama, interviewed several candidates. is the president going to follow this pattern or does he have some individual in mind at this point? sarah: i know there are several individuals being considered and the first step will be determining the acting -- the interim director. that is being handled through the department of justice. . i would refer you to denver right now >> the other question i was going to ask was -- i have two. i'm pretty nice, are not. -- aren't i. sarah: is a southern thing.
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i want to make sure we got that in agin, happy birthday scarlett. gone with the wind. come on. it is a going to say fact the association of former fbi agents and veterans of the peoplegenerally prefer who have been agents themselves or have a background in the fbi. only two former agents have been director in the last four decades. while the president consider former agents for the position? sarah: i would say he's not willing anything out of this. -- this point. the department of justice this handling the first step in the process. generald the attorney had any role in the selection of
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a successor? given the fact in his 100 days, the president himself said he had confidence in director comey at this podium. valueople take it face what the president said about personal issues like this when just two weeks later he is out? sarah: absolutely you can take full confidence in the words of the president. in terms of whether or not attorney general sessions should have a role, the fbi is doing a whole lot more than the russian investigation. i know everybody in this room and probably most of the media around the world would like to that the fbi's sole responsibility, but that is probably one of the smallest things they have got going on their plate. there are 20,000 employees that work there. you should have a role in seeing who runs that agency and that department. does the president have
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confidence in the acting director/ sarah: yes, he does. encouraging the fbi to move on from the russian investigation. is it appropriate for the white house to the -- sarah: i don't think that was the nature or intent of my comment. it was not to direct the fbi, by think it's simply we are fully compliant with help in the process move along. we would like to see a complete it's a friendly all of us can move on and focus on things that blake was it earlier like tax reform and health care and infrastructure. those are big programs, big priorities. frankly but we would like to be is the number one thing we are talking about here today, every single day, is not fbi investigations but things that frankly affect americans, voters and taxpayers. [indiscernible]
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was that because of the hearing last week or to the monday meeting the president have with dod officials have a longer -- doj officials -- sarah: the department of justice officials were here for other business, not specifically to meet with the president. askedpic came up and they to speak with the president and that's how it moved forward. >> did he talk to attorney general sessions about the possibility of firing director comey? sarah: not that i'm aware of. >> [indiscernible] the talk about -- sarah: not that i'm aware of? >> the president's statement he talk to comey about whether or not he was being investigated raises several questions. can you talk about why you're not willing to at more to that,
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about who asked her that? sarah: who asked for what? >> the president seems to be trying to exonerate himself in this. why he will about not add any more about what the conversation was, when it took place? >> can you clarify the three occasions? sarah: i will not get into specific details. i will check and see we have follow up on that. at this point i want comment further. -- i will not comment further. >> my was a put in the letter in a first-place? sarah: that is something far above my pay great that was decided to be included. i will not get into specifics. thank you so much. [crowd noise]
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>> in the briefing, sarah huckabee sanders sang the president this afternoon will be with the acting fbi director andrew mackay. director said to testify before open hearing for the senate intelligence committee. we will cover that live on c-span tomorrow at 10:00 eastern. this also as news organizations coming april call in politico report the former fbi director james comey has been invited to testify tuesday before the senate intelligence committee. no word on whether he has accepted. you will keep you posted on that. coming up in just a few minutes we will take you live back to capitol hill. democrats on capitol hill, the policy and communications hearing from those impacted by change in the health care law. they will have that liberty gets underway at 2:30 eastern.