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tv   White House President Had Been Considering Firing Comey Since Election  CSPAN  May 11, 2017 1:29am-2:03am EDT

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secretary sarah huckabee sanders to questions on the james comey firing. she said the president had lost confidence in comey's ability to lead the agency. [indiscernible] >> polite crowd. >> [inaudible] >> so i've heard.
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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 been no radiological release. personnel begin taking steps to stabilize and fill the hole over the partially collapsed tunnel last night. 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 tunnel 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
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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 to address the opioid crisis in america, secretary price continues his listening tour, learning from those on the front lines battling the epidemic. today he will meet with officials in maine and new hampshire to discuss how the administration can best support initiatvies to combat this tragedy. secretary zinky is in utah today, visiting national monument sites and local officials to comply with the president's executive order that ordered a review of national monument designation. the secretary also took 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
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university that is a great example of the top-notch education that hbcus's have continued to provide to their students. and i know the secretary is honored to be there today. there is also another nugget of big news, as you guys may have been paying attention in regards to the termination of the former fbi director comey. the president over the last 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 confidence in 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 senate majority leader mitch mcconnell,
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speaker of the house paul ryan, senator chuck grassley, senate minority leader chuck schumer, senator feinstein, senator graham, house majority leader kevin mccarthy, nancy pelosi, and congressman bob goodlatte. later in the evening he spoke to bob corker, chairman of the senate committee on foreign relations. in addition to all the big news happening at the white house today, it is also my daughter, scarlet's fifth birthday. guys i am here and you are, i get to wish her a happy birthday. i think her first birthday wish would be that you guys are incredibly nice. now i will take your questions. alex? >> i have a couple of broader questions for you. number one, yes or no, did the president direct rob rosenstein to write this memo on james comey? sec. huckabee sanders: no, the president had lost confidence in director comey and had frankly been considering letting the
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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 asked they put those concerns and the recommendation in writing, which is the letter you have received. >> so the white house and rob rosenstein decided on his own to review comey's performance? sec. huckabee sanders: and i think that most of america have decided that director comey was not the person that should be leading the fbi as evidenced by the numerous comments we have seen from democratic members, and the house and senate, republican members, members of the fbi and people across the nation. >> senator dianne feinstein said that she was told something directly different. the president said he asked rosenstein and sessions to review this. is she lying? sec. huckabee sanders: he asked them for a recommendation and asked for it in writing.
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they came to him on his own. again, the president had lost confidence in comey from the day he was elected. he wasn't sure that he should be fired. >> 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 reasons for staying at the fbi. he had countless conversations with members from within the fbi . i think one of the big catalysts we solid last week on wednesday. director comey made a pretty startling revelation that he had essentially taken a stick of that in my and thrown into the department of justice and thrown into the chain of command when he decided to take steps 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 what he was going to say. that is simply not allowed.
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and somebody like the deputy attorney general, rob rosenstein, who everyone across the board has unequivocally said, this guy is a man of character, the gold standard of the department of justice, when you take an action like that, go around the chain of command, you have to take steps and action to make a recommendation to the president and that is what he did. john, go ahead. we will come back to that. podium thatfrom the the president was 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? what was the tipping point? 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 and mistakes, and certainly i think
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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. follow-up. a two questions limit around here. [laughter] >> you said he made a lot of missteps and mistakes. back at the end of october, the president was applauding the fbi director when he reopened the investigation into hillary clinton's emails. he seemed quite happy with him at that point. what changed? sec. huckabee sanders: one, his position. he was a candidate for president. not the president. those are two different things. once you 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
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distinction between those two things. also, having a letter like the one that he received, having that conversation, that outline for the basic atrocities in circumventing the chain of command and the department of justice, any person of legal mind and authority knows what a big deal that is. particularly in the department of justice, particularly 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. >> just a real quick question on the meetings this morning. the president meets with the russian foreign minister and ambassador. he's accused of being nixonian. he meets with the nixon secretary of state. the timing of all of this, is this ironic or is it the
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president poking a finger in the eyes of his critics? sec. huckabee sanders: these meetings have been on the books for a while. they did not just happen this morning. there is not a strategy to go after the democrats. i think frankly that saddest thing is that the democrats are trying to politicize and take away from something the president should be doing. 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. jonathan? >> isn't it true that the president had already decided to fire james comey and asked the justice department to put together that rationale? sec. huckabee sanders: no. >> when did he make the decision? sec. huckabee sanders: he made the final decision to move forward yesterday, that i know he has been contemplating for a while. >> how do you explain what dianne feinstein said, that the
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president told her that he was concerned with the fbi and the justice department was asked to look into it? sec. huckabee sanders: i can't speak for senator feinstein, but i can speak directly for the president and heard directly from him that he had been considering letting director comey go pretty much since the day that he took office, but that there was no request by him to have a review at the department of justice. >> was the reason for the firing what was written by the deputy attorney general? is that why he did it? sec. huckabee sanders: that was the final piece. it moved the president to make that quick and decisive action. >> what did he mean in the letter he wrote informing comey he was being fired? he said on three separate occasions comey told him that "i am the under investigation." what were those communications the fbi director told the
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president he was not under investigation? sec. huckabee sanders: i won't get into the specifics. again, i'm not going to go to the specifics of their conversation. but he did relay that to the president. askid the president director comey if he was under investigation? >> i am the going to go into the specifics of that conversation. >> are there any concerns it was inappropriate that they had that type of conversation? sec. huckabee sanders: no. charlie? >> how important was the fbi director's failure to stop the leak. sec. huckabee sanders: i think that is probably one of the many factors. you cannot deny that it was not a problem. i think that was another one of the many reasons he no longer had the confidence of the president or the rest of the fbi. >> should we expect more firings from the justice department? sec. huckabee sanders: not that i'm aware of today. >> going forward, does the
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president want the department of justice to shut down the taxpayer charade investigation? sec. huckabee sanders: he wants them to continue doing what they see as appropriate. the bottom line is, any investigation that was happening on monday is still happening today. that hasn't changed. them to we encouraged complete this investigation so we can put it behind us and we can 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 for that to be completed so we can all move on and focus on the things that most americans are concerned with. >> even if it's a waste of -- even if they keep on wasting taxpayer money, he wants it to continue? sec. huckabee sanders: nobody wants to waste taxpayer money. the president wants to make a priority of this.
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at the same time, you will not let us go until it is completed. we would love for that to be completed. let's move on. we need to on what do to turn our country around. >> was the white house aware of the decision and the announcement that the grand jury subpoenas for michael flynn had just gone out? sec. huckabee sanders: no, nor should we have been. >> do you know anything about that? sanders: no. >> and if the fbi investigations are going to proceed in these allegations with russian interference, will that continue funding? and support who? who will run the investigation? are you confident in mccabe? sec. huckabee sanders: i believe that would fall to the deputy attorney general rosenstein. and we are incredibly confident in his abilities, as i believe you can tell by the rest of the senate, including many democrats. given the fact he was confirmed
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94-6 and had overwhelming praise from both sides of the aisle, i think there is complete confidence in him. and another reason for director coming to be out of the way so they can have somebody leading this effort that everybody across the board has respect and confidence in. nobody wants this to be finished and completed more than us, so that we can focus on what we need to do here. said one week ago today that the president had confidence in the director. , i am sorry if i have not understood this, but what has happened in the last seven days to shake the confidence? was sean lying at that point? sec. huckabee sanders: of course you would love to add that in. but certainly not. one of the things that took place was the process and the hearing on wednesday where, again, not to sound like a broken record, but since you keep asking the same questions,
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i guess it is only fair i keep giving the same answers. you have somebody, the director of the fbi that reports to the deputy attorney general, going around the chain of command. it's simply not ok. it's not something allowed in the justice system, nor should it be. that is a huge problem. that along with the corrections that had to take place over the last 48 hours, those are all big problems and the other final piece that pushed the president to make the decision that he did. >> does he regret not doing it earlier, like on january 20 are january 21? sec. huckabee sanders: i believe the president wanted to give director, a chance. as he did he do it it? why did he have one of his longtime security advisers hand-deliver the letter to the fbi when fbi director was in los angeles? didn't he deserve a phone call or a face-to-face conversation? why did he decide to do it that way? sec. huckabee sanders: he
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followed the proper protocol in that process, which is a handwritten notification. at the same time, no matter how you fire someone, it is never an easy process. and so, he felt like following protocol was the best thing to do. naudible] sec. huckabee sanders: i'm not aware of the conversation. >> is the president aware that james comey asked for more resources in the rush investigation, and i did that factor into his decision? sec. huckabee sanders: not that i am aware of and i think that would be a better question for the department of justice. >> to follow up. on the campaign trail, president trump said -- he criticized the department of justice for not being harsh enough on hillary clinton. he praised director comey for having the guts to reopen the investigation. why was he moved by a letter that said director comey was too harsh on hillary clinton? why did that move the president to fire him? sec. huckabee sanders: again, i think you are looking at two very different positions.
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the president was wearing a very different hat at that time. a candidate, not the president. the circumstances certainly change when you become the president. again, when you go around the chain of command in the department of justice, like i said before, you throw a stick of dynamite into the department of justice, that is a big problem. >> we already knew what mr. comey had done. sec. huckabee sanders: i think this was -- my understanding is wednesday was the first time the director had openly and publicly made that statement and made that clear. >> that role did not include anything -- the violence in chechnya. is there a reason that was not put in? sec. huckabee sanders: could you speak up? >> is there a reason that was not included in the readout?
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sec. huckabee sanders: a lot of times there are parts of the conversation that are not specifically included in a readout. but i am not aware. i have not had that conversation. i was not part of that meeting. i cannot speak to every detail and i would have to refer you to the readout on the specifics of what i know was discussed. that is something i will have to get back to you on. i am not 100% sure. >> was the white house opposed to the appointment of the special prosecutor? sec. huckabee sanders: we do not think it was necessary. the department of justice is all working on this. there is not a necessary need at this point to add that. you have the attorney general who is as independent as it comes, due to the fact that he has bipartisan support.
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>> confidence and rank and file in the bureau. a special agent wrote us that said the vast majority was in favor of director company. this was a total shock. this was not supposed to happen. the real losers here are 20,000 people in the organization because they left the only guy working here in the last 15 years who cared about them. what is your response to these agents who disagree? sec. huckabee sanders: we have heard from countless members of the fbi that say very different things. in fact, the president will be meeting with acting director mccabe today to discuss that very thing, the morale at the fbi, as well as make an offer to go directly to the fbi. if he feels that is necessary and appropriate and we will certainly provide further information on that meeting. -- asking for a voice in the
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selection process of director comey's successor. sec. huckabee sanders: i have not had that conversation, but it is being run through the department of justice. i would refer you to them on what that process looks like at this point in time. >> who did the president consult before making the final decision to fire james comey? sec. huckabee sanders: the president spoke with a number of individuals but at the end of the day, it was the president's decision. andn between monday night tuesday when he decided to fire the fbi director, did he speak again with the deputy attorney general or the a attorney general? sec. huckabee sanders: i know they spoke on monday. i would have to double check to be clear. >> is it accurate to pull from the information that we had that monday night the president made the final call, that i want this in writing as a recommendation and then took that recommendation as the evidence that he wanted to provide to fire james comey? sec. huckabee sanders: my understanding is the decision
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was actually made on tuesday, but the first conversation that he had was on monday, when there was an oral recommendation. requested he see the and writing to review it further. >> you say you want to move on and focus on things america cares about. let me ask you about that. you are halfway home on health. you still have tax reform to do. sec. huckabee sanders: a pretty big list. >> but what happened yesterday, you could argue just widened the divide and made bc politics more toxic. ,ow do you go about ou rushing all of those things in the heightened political environment we are in? sec. huckabee sanders: frankly, i am surprised it did create a divide because we had some new republicans and democrats repeatedly calling for director comey to be gone. frankly, i don't think it matters what this president says. you will have democrats come out and fight him every step of the way. i think that is one of the
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things that is wrong with washington and one of the reasons that we have got to get back to focusing on those issues and frankly, during the swamp a little bit further. >> was he surprised by the democratic backlash? did he anticipated? sec. huckabee sanders: how could he have? considering the fact that most of the people that are declaring war today were the very ones begging forakin director comey to be fired. if hillary clinton had won the election, and thing god she didn't, but she would have been in the same position. she would have been fired. this same people -- the same people criticizing today would be dancing in the streets celebrating. >> there is a report in israel that indicates the president has made a decision -- has he made a decision? sec. huckabee sanders: the president has not made a decision yet.
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he is the reviewing it. >> i have a follow-up. president erdogan in his speeches morning, warned the president. did that warning and other leaders play arab into his decision-making? sec. huckabee sanders: i will mock it into the decision-making process, but he is still reviewing it. two questions, both related to the selection of the successor of director comey. when president carter chosen fbi director, he had a blue-ribbon panel advising him. presidents clinton and obama interviewed several candidates. is the president going to follow this pattern, or does he have some individual in mind at this point? sec. huckabee sanders: right now i know there are several individuals being considered and the first step will be determining the acting -- or
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excuse me, the interim director. that is being handled through the department of justice. i would refer you to them right now. >> the other question i was going to ask was -- sec. huckabee sanders: right, you have got two. >> i have got two. i'm pretty nice, charlotte, aren't i? [laughter] sec. huckabee sanders: that's ok. it's a southern thing. her daughter has a birthday. [laughter] sec. huckabee sanders: i just want to make sure we got that in again. happy birthday, scarlet. "gone with the wind," come on. >> i was going to say, it is a fact that the association of the former fbi agents and members of the bureau generally refer people who have been agents themselves or have a background in the fbi.
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only two former agents have been director in the last four decades. will the president consider current or former agents for the position? sec. huckabee sanders: i would say he is not ruling anything out at this point, but again, as of today, the department of justice is handling the first step in this process. >> should the attorney general , who has recused himself in the russian investigation, have any role in the successor selection? given the fact that in the 100 day process, the president felt he had confidence in director comey. can people take at face value what the president says about personnel issues like this? or will he be out two weeks later? sec. huckabee sanders: absolutely you can take confidence in the views of the president.
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the fbi is doing a lot more than the russian investigation. a lot of the people in this room would like to thank that is the fbi's sole responsibility, but that is probably one of the smallest things they have got going on their plates with the more than 20,000 employees that work there. he can absolutely have a role in seeing who runs that agency and that department. >> does the president have confidence in the acting director? sec. huckabee sanders: yes, he does. >> secondly, you mentioned he wanted the fbi to move on from the russian investigation. is it appropriate for the white house to be directing be fbi? sec. huckabee sanders: i don't think that was the nature or the intent of my comment, not to direct the fbi. , we areit was simply fully compliant in helping this process move along. we would like it to be completed so frankly, all of us can move on and focus on things that
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blake listed earlier -- like tax reform, health care, infrastructure. those are big priorities for this administration. and frankly, the number one thing we are talking about here today, every single day, is not fbi investigations, but things that frankly affect the american voters and taxpayers everything will day. what exactly proceeded the monday meeting. was that because of the hearing last week and what he said there? or did the monday meeting the president had with doj officials come out of a longer process of consideration? sec. huckabee sanders: the department of justice officials were here for other business, not specifically to meet with the president on that. the topic came up and they asked to speak with the president and that is how it moved forward. >> but they did not specifically talk to attorney general sessions about the possibility of firing james comey?
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sec. huckabee sanders: not that i am aware of, no. the president was considering nominating rosenstein. did he talk about that then? sec. huckabee sanders: not that i am aware of. >> the president's statement that he talked to comey about whether he was being investigated, that raised several questions. did he talk about why he was not willing to add any to that about who asked for that and why it was discussed? sec. huckabee sanders: who asked for what? >> about whether or not -- the president seems to be trying to exonerate himself. can you talk about why he will add anymore to what the conversation was and how that took place and when it took place? sec. huckabee sanders: again, i will not get into the specific details. will check and see if we have follow up on that, but at this point i am not going to comment any further than what was spelled out in the letter. i'm sorry? >> what was in the letter? if you don't want to clarify our comment. sec. huckabee sanders: i think
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it was something above my pay grade. again, i will market into the specifics. thank you so much. >> c-span "washington journal," live every day with news and policy issues the impact you. coming up thursday morning, acting president heather mcghee will join us to talk about the progressive agenda and the trump presidency and george washington university law school professor on the next steps after the firing of fbi director james comey. be sure to watch washington 7:00 a.m.ive at eastern thursday morning.
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7:00 a.m. eastern thursday morning. join the discussion. >> cr gives on the black women who worked as spies during the civil war. >> she was the wife of edward bannister, one of the leading african-american artists. she became involved on the underground railroad. she was a proud and consistent supporter of the u.s. colored troops. >> on lectures and history, professor margaret o'mara on the 1968 presidential election and events that affected the outcome . >> hero after hero was slain, john f. kennedy, martin luther king and now robert f kennedy. kennedy's assassination precipitates a broader national morning and it grows -- it
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throws the democratic nomination into turmoil. >> lynne cheney, author of the book "james madison: a life reconsidered." >> he was lucky enough to encounter doctors who told him to exercise. what a modern thing to think. it is often recommended today for people who suffer epilepsy. >> this month marks john f. kennedy's 100th birthday. kennedy's nephew reflect on the life and career of the 35th president. >> he was a decorated veteran. he did believe in a strong had a muchut he broader conception about what american identity really was. >> he reached out across the aisle. he launched the peace corps in 1961, an incredible program for young people.
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anything -- he engaged in the space race. >> for the complete schedule, go to >> president trump spoke about the firing of the james comey during a meeting with henry kissinger. following the remarks, we will hear from mike pence. >> one final matter. whatever anyone thinks of the manner of director comey's handling of the clinton investigation, it is clear what our democratic colleagues thought of it at that time and thereafter. last year the current democratic leader said it appeared to be an appalling act, one that he said goes against the tradition of prosecutors at every level of government.


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