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Trump Administration
  White House Our Story is Consistent on Comey Firing Timeline  CSPAN  May 11, 2017 6:17pm-7:04pm EDT

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shooter, and frankly i'm offended at the president's comments. this is a continuing pattern of disrespecting the men and women who serve in our intelligence community. i think the president will be better served regardless of what is use of supporting the intelligence committee is a questioning and candidly repeatedly calling into question the leaders' integrity. >> thank you, we have a busy day. >> you can watch the senate intelligence committee hearing today at 8:00 p.m. eastern. here is the white house briefing. most of the reporters questions run the firing of james comey. [indiscernible crowd noise]
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>> another like crowd today. good afternoon. before we get started i would like to bring up homeland security advisor tom bossert to tell you about executive order on cyber security at the president just signed. he will take a few of your questions and respectfully i ask that you keep your questions for him on the topic of the executive orders. don't worry, i will come back and answer the rest of your pressing questions when he wraps up. with that i will turn it over to tom. tom bossert: thank you. thank you very much for your time. a couple things positive to report. the first is that president trump about an hour ago signed an executive order on cyber security. that executive order is going to keep his promise that he has made to the american people to keep americans safe. including in cyberspace. i would like to do a few things.
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i promise we will district -- distribute the executive order. i will preview it for you, walk you through it and then take your questions. among other things, at least as an observation for me i think , the trend going in the wrong direction in cyberspace. it is time to stop that transfer -- trend and reverse it on behalf of the american people. we have seen increasing attacks from allies, adversaries, primarily nationstates and not nation state actors. sitting by and doing nothing is no longer an option. president trump's actions today is a very heartening one. there are three sections. they are in priority order. the first priority for the president and for our federal government is protecting our federal networks. i think it's important to start by explaining we operate those federal networks on behalf of the people, and they often contain the american people's information and data. not defending them is no longer an option. we have seen past efforts that have succeeded and we need to do everything we can to prevent
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that from happening in the future. a few things on federal networks. we have practiced one thing and preached another. it is time for us, and the president has directed his departments and agencies to implement the framework. a risk reduction framework. it is something we have asked the private sector to implement and not force upon ourselves. from this point forward departments and agencies shall practice what we preach and implement that framework for risk management and risk reduction. second, of note point, protecting federal networks, we spent a lot of times and inordinate money protecting antiquated and outdated systems. we saw that with the opm packed -- hack and other things. the president has issued a preference from today forward in federal procurement of federal i.t. for federal services to protect ourselves instead of fracturing our security posture. third point i would make is the executive order directs all departments and agency heads to continue its key role, but also centralizes risk.
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we view federal i.t. as one enterprise network. if we don't do so, we will not be able to adequate understand that adequately understand what risks exist and how to mitigate it. a number of thoughts on that. among other things that will be a very difficult task. modernizing is imperative for our security, but modernizing is going to require a lot of deference. the president's american technology council will run it on behalf of the president in the white house. we have great hope there will be efficiencies but also security. i will note other countries have taken two or three years to learn we had in two or three months. you can't promote innovation without first thinking through risk reduction. doing that together is the message we have learned. doing it together is a message we would like to encourage private sector folks to adopt. point number two in the executive order, the president
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directed the cabinet to begin the hard work of protecting our nation's most critical infrastructure. utilities, financial and health care systems, telecommunications networks. he directed them to identify additional measures to defend critical structure. and promote the message that doing nothing is no longer an option. and not only requires the departments and agencies to help those critical infrastructures, but to do it in a productive since. -- sense. a towards action. we have seen bipartisan studies and observations over the last eight years. both parties have made powerful recommendations. they have not been adopted for various reasons. this executive order adopts the best and brightest of those recommendations in my view. i will stop with those three and take questions. actually, if i could --
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brian, go ahead. reporter: was the russian hack in any way responsible or and if it is for this? i talked i.t. people who say putting stuff on the cloud can be problematic as far as security. what additional security measures will you apply to the cloud to make sure it is not as risky as some of the i.t. people tell us it would be? mr. bossert: let me say three things. the third section of the executive order speaks to two halves. its base to not only the need to develop the norms and interoperable open to medication system that is the internet. united states invented the internet and is time to maintain our values on it. it speaks to a deterrent policy is long overdue. the russians are not only adversary on the internet. the russians are not the only people that operate in a negative way on the internet. the russians, the chinese, the iranians are motivated to you cyber capacity and cyber tools
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to attack our people and their government and their data. that is something we can no longer abide. we need to establish the rules of the road and determined those that do not want to abide by those rules. the answer to your first question is no, it was not a russian motivated issue. it was the united states of america motivated issue. reporter: and the cloud? mr. bossert: we don't move to shared services, we have 190 agencies all trying to develop protection and collection efforts. i don't think that's a wise approach. there will always be risk. the question is are we still at risk? yes. i'm not here to promote the year of the president has signed a second order and create a cyber secure world in fortress usa. that is not the answer. but if we don't have shared services, we will behind the eight ball for a long time. >> thank you. reporter: sitting around doing nothing. is it your contention that that was the obama administration's a -- approached the cyber security sitting around doing nothing?
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, you talked about one enterprise network. does that mean every system throughout the federal government under this executive order, the ambition is to make them all the same and protect them in the same way? mr. bossert: no. i will answer those in reverse order. we need to view the federal government as an enterprise as , opposed to just reviewing each department and agency as its own enterprise. the department of homeland security and secretary kelly will play a large role in this effort and lamenting the second -- executive order. the enterprise network covers 340,000 employees and the contractors and so forth. they are responsible and the secretary of each agency will remain responsible for securing those networks. we need to look of the federal government as an enterprise as well so we no longer look at the opm and said he can defend the network but the money commiserate for the opm responsibility. opm is the crown jewel of our information on all of our
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background and security clearances. what we would like to look at that and save the high-risk, bear --t for us to bare. maybe we should look at this is an enterprising put collectively more information to protect them than other was put into opm looking at the relative importance. not just their budget is based -- web-based on what they do. -- not just their budget but based on what they do. each department and agency has a responsibility to protect their networks, but now they identify the rest of the president so we can look at what they have done and what risk they know they are accepting but not not mitigating. there's a lot of identified risk, but not a lot of identified with on remediated risk. we have seen other countries, israel, adopt a centralized view of risk management and acceptance. the second question -- reporter: was that the previous administration's approach from your vantage point? mr. bossert:i think the
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observation is we have not done the basic block and tackling. right? thinking of the internet is something the american people benefit from. what we've done is focus on the federal i.t. portion. i think a lot of progress has been made in the last administration but not nearly enough. i think we will change that. looking at this from the perspective of a deterrent strategy, yes, they should have done that and had an obligation to do it and did not. reporter: i wonder if the administration might know what constitutes an act of war? mr. bossert: there is a lot we will talk about with what constitutes a cyber attack and what is war and not. i think the most important answer is we are not going to draw a red line in cyber war at this point today. that is not in the direct scope of the executive order. it would violate the president's primary mission to not telegraph our punches. if somebody does something that
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we cannot tolerate we will act. , reporter: the goal is to secure the internet as something americans use and enjoy. the technical standards for most things on the internet are put together by many international standards organizations and engineers and things like that it often are not in the united states. has it been any talk of outreach to these sorts of bodies try to build in security for the next generation of protocols? mr. bossert: absolutely. the message is not just protecting the people of america. we have an america first perspective, but the idea of having like-minded people with similar viewpoints like our allies developing with us the open operable internet is something key to figuring out how we will define what is and is not acceptable. cut off the internet
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at our borders and expected to operate in a viable way. if they are good ideas that are germany, we will take them. if there are good ideas on a few peoria, we will take is as well. reporter: will there be tech leaders coming here? there are reports the president had a few phone calls with someone like mark zuckerberg. should we expect to see some of -- someone like mark zuckerberg working closely with administration when it comes to that counsel? mr. bossert: instead of telling you who the president did in not talk to there is a lot to be , learned from private industry. that stuff needs to come into the white house in an appropriate way. we talked on a regular basis to leaders, some that are technical leaders and some that are business leaders. my point of calling out the american technology council is to point out they will have a leadership role in modernizing federal i.t. that has a lot of reasons.
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these are the cost savings that are beyond just security. the executive order speaks to the security component of it. i would directly to the american technology council and their efforts to think about those other efficiencies. as an example, we've heard numbers that suggest the federal government spends upwards of $40,000 per employee on their i.t. service costs. that is so out of line with the private industry that secretary have a hard time believing they are making a lot of money off of a company that poorly invested their dollars. you will see innovation come from those leaders. then in terms of what will you see, i don't know how to answer that specifically. i would like to take the opportunity before sarah pulls me to thank two or three people. one is mayor giuliani. i would like to thank him for the vice given to me and the president and others as we formulate this thinking. i would like to thank representative mccaul and a few other members of congress. senator nuñez, collins, senator mccain in particular. senator burr.
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there are a number of people that provided thought leadership and it taken action to pass legislation all the things that , improved our cyber security in the last eight years. i don't want to be critical of things that happened in the last eight years, but i look forward to improvement. reporter: a former obama administration official who dealt with other countries and other entities in other countries said there were tens of thousands of attempts to hack into government systems daily. can you quantify that, confirm or deny that? mr. bossert: no. the answer is we see that happen and within -- we then start getting into a numbers game. what i think would be a better argument, not the cut off the question, it is a reasonable but one, the better answer is for us to figure out how to provide a better collective sense of -- defense of federal i.t. networks and data we operate. if we do it based on an individual attack basis, we are probably looking at it in the
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wrong way. reporter: where the correct when they said entities from around the world? mr. bossert: without numbers, the trendline is going in the wrong direction. we see additional attacks additional numbers, additional , volume and occasionally additional successes that trouble us. that's how i can quantify that for you today. you are welcome. thank you. reporter: can you say why the cybersecurity order was delayed? this was going to come out one day early in the administration. there has been a lot of talk about concern from silicon valley and tech leaders with the direction it was going. do you have some sense of the kind of support this order has or not from the tech world? mr. bossert: i will answer and reject part of your question. i think it will be clarifying. first of all, i reject some part of your question. we did see some concerns, but i don't think they remain. i look forward to their response after they read the president's executive order today.
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one concern arose when they read the voluntary call from the president's order, which reduces greatly the number of bot attacks in the united states, and reduce the number of denial of service attacks. that will require a lot of cooperation between owners of privately held companies. from service providers to manufacturers of goods. those things are going to have to happen voluntarily. what the president calls for is that for the government to the basis -- provide the basis for the coordination without defining who is in and who is out. it's a voluntary operation. we have have the technical capacity to come together on behalf of the american public. the president was them to do that. he's asking for the secretary of home insecurity and secretary of commerce to facilitate that. what we thought we saw was reflections of a concern that there would be a compulsion. i think that is something i can put to rest today. but if i could, the broader question of delay. i don't take that either. i think we having criticized for doing things too quickly in our
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being criticized for doing things too slowly. maybe i'm right in the middle of the sweet spot, but the president has hit the timing perfectly and i will tell you why. one of the block and tackle things was get the money right. he has picked a cabinet full of know business operations and business functions -- if you don't the right money and back off the infrastructure to implement those things, you have to change your vision or change your amount of money. i thought you might ask that question. the first a predictably answered. we don't take innovate on the policy innovation side and the policy security side without doing that in tandem. he saw the president sign on friday the technology council any sign today the cyber security order. lastly, in between now and then the president's fy 18 budget
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allocated $219 million. an increase of $1.5 billion across all environments -- departments involved in cyberspace. both his first budget request in his future ones the right size and align that amount of money to keep america safe. that might answer all three components of your question. sarah wants to pull me away so you for your time. i appreciate it. reporter: you mentioned facebook, they are very political. sanders: he will be happy to come back to questions later even -- later. he was wrong about one thing. i would've gladly let him stay up here and talk about society security -- cyber security. a few announcements and as promised it will get to all of your many pressing questions. i would like to announce the president also just signed another executive order establishing a bipartisan
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presidential advisory commission on election integrity. this will be chaired by vice president mike pence. the president is committed to the thorough review of registration and voting issues in federal elections. that is exactly what this commission is tasked with doing. the bipartisan commission will be made up around a dozen members, including current and former secretaries of state with kansas secretary of state chris co-op serving as ice chair. that will include individuals with knowledge and experience in elections, election management election fraud detection and , voter integrity efforts. five additional members that have been announced as of today, connie lawson, secretary of state of indiana, bill gardner, secretary of state or new hampshire, matthew dunlap, secretary of state of maine, kim blackwell, former secretary of state of ohio and christie mccormick. reviewmission will policies that enhance or undermine the american people's confidence in the integrity of
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federal elections ever by the president with a report that identifies system vulnerabilities that will lead to improper registration and voting. we expect the report will be complete by 2018. the experts and officials on the commission will follow the facts where they lead meetings and , hearings will be open to the public for comments and input, and we will share updates as we have them. in cabinet news, secretary perdue is in cincinnati to announce the agriculture department's plan for reorganizing to provide better service to the american people as the president directed in his march 13 executive order. with the barges of the ohio river behind him, many with -- many containing roddick several beginning a journey that will ultimately take them to markets overseas, secretary perdue will announce a new mission area for trade and foreign agriculture affairs, recognizing the growing importance of international trade to the agriculture sector of the economy. the united states immigration and customs enforcement will hold a press conference at 2:15 today.
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probably not too far away. to announce the result of a highly successful recent gang search operation. the president has made enforcement of our nation's immigration laws a top priority, and today's announcement will underscore not only that commitment but his focus on targeting transnational gangs and prioritizing the removal of criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety. also today, secretary mattis met with the turkish prime minister in london to discuss a range of bilateral security issues, and as secretary reiterated the united states's commitment to provide tecting our nato allies affirmed theers need for stability and peace in iraq and syria. one other thing i want to point out. last night obamacare suffered another serious blow. they announced the decision to pull out the nebraska and delaware marketplaces which it ends their participation in exchanges completely. they've sustained hundreds of millions of dollars over the last several years and is projected to lose more than $200
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million in 2017. the company attributes those losses to structural issues within the exchanges, quote, "that have led to co-op failures and carrier exits and subsequent risk pool deterioration." this latest news adds to the mountain of evidence that obamacare has completely failed the american people and reinforces why there is no time to waste in repealing and replacing this law before it takes our entire health care system down with it. finally, i know -- hold those hands. i know we sent out a timeline regarding the firing of director comey yesterday because there seemed to be some misperceptions about the meeting between the president and the attorney general and the deputy attorney general on monday. but i'm going to read it to you all again just to make sure we're all on the same page because i want the sequence of events to be perfectly clear to everyone. the president over the last several months lost confidence in director comey. after watching director comey's testimony last wednesday, the
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president was strongly inclined to remove him. on monday, the president met with the attorney general and the deputy attorney general and they discussed reasons for removing the director. the next day, tuesday, may 9, the deputy attorney general sent his written recommendation to the attorney general and the attorney general sent his written recommendation to the president. hopefully that clears up some of those things. and with that i will take your questions. reporter: sarah, why did the lester holt interview the president had made a number of remarks, why did the president think that james comey was a showboater and a grandstander? sarah: i think based on the numerous appearances he made and i think it's probably pretty evident in his behavior over the last year or so with the back and forth and i think that it speaks pretty clearly. those words don't leave a lot of
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room for interpretation, so i think it's pretty clear what he meant. reporter: when were these three conversations that the president had with james comey whether he was under investigation or not? he said one was at dinner, two phone calls. was that since january 20 or when? sarah: i don't have the exact dates on when those phone calls took date. jonathan? reporter: two parts of the comey question regarding the interview the president just gave. first of all, isn't it inappropriate for the president of the united states to ask the f.b.i. director directly if he's under investigation? sarah: no, i don't believe it is. reporter: one of the conversations the president said happened at a dinner where the f.b.i. director was asking to stay on as f.b.i. director. don't you see how that's a conflict of interest? the f.b.i. director saying he wants to keep his job and the president is asking whether or not he's under investigation? sarah: i don't see that as a conflict of interest and neither do the many legal scholars and others that have been commenting on it for the last hour. so, no, i don't see that as an issue.
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reporter: sarah, the other thing i want to ask you is, i asked you directly yesterday -- related to comey -- i asked you directly yesterday, the president already decided to fire james comey when he met with the deputy attorney general and attorney general. and you said no. also, the vice president of the united states said directly to the president acted to take the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to remove the fbi director. sean spicer said it's all him, meaning the deputy attorney general. now we learn from the president directly he had already decided to fire james comey. so why were so many people giving answers that just weren't correct? were you guys in the dark? was the vice president misled again? sarah: i know you'd love to report we were misled and we want to create -- hold on, jonathan. i let you finish and read off every single one of those statements. unless you want to trade places i think it's my turn now.
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, i think it's pretty simple. i hadn't had a chance to have the conversation directly with the president to say -- i had several conversations with him but i didn't ask that question directly. had you already made that decision, i went off of the information that i had when i answered your question. i have since had the conversation with him right before i walked on today, and he laid it out very clearly. he had already made that decision. he had been thinking about it for months, which i did say yesterday and have said many times since. and wednesday i think was the final straw that pushed him and the recommendation he got from the deputy attorney general just further solidified his decision. and, again, i think reaffirmed that he made the right one. reporter: was the vice president -- was the vice president in the dark too? sarah: nobody was in the dark, jonathan. you want to create this false narrative. if we want to talk about contradicting statements and people that were maybe in the dark, how about the democrats? let's read a few of them. you want to talk about them, here's what democrats said not
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long ago about comey. harry reid said comey should resign and be investigated by the senate. senator chuck schumer said, "i don't have confidence in him any longer." senator bernie sanders said it not be a bad thing for the american people if comey resigned. nancy pelosi said comey was not in the right job. former d.n.c. chair debbie wasserman schultz said comey would not be a will to serve in a neutral and credible way. president obama's advisor valerie jarrett urged and the fire comey. just yesterday representative maxine waters said hillary clinton would have fired comey. if you want to talk about people in the dark? our story is consistent. the president is the only person that can fire the director of the f.b.i. he serves at the pleasure of the president. the president made the decision. it was the right decision. the people that are in the dark today are the democrats. they want to come out. they want to talk about all of these -- they love comey and how great he was. look at the facts. the facts don't lie. their statements are all right there.
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i think it's extremely clear that -- and frankly i think it's kind of sad. in washington we finally had something that i think we should have all been able to agree on and that was that director comey shouldn't have been at the f.b.i., but the democrats want to play partisan games and i think that's the most glaring thing that's been left out of all your process stories. john roberts? reporter: sarah, you said from the podium yesterday director comey lost confidence of the rank and file of the f.b.i. on capitol hill today, the acting director of the f.b.i. andrew mccabe directly contradicted that. what led you and the white house to believe that he had lost the confidence in the rank and file of the f.b.i. when the acting director says it's exactly the opposite? sarah: well, i can speak to my own personal experience. i heard from countless members of the f.b.i. that are grateful and thankful for the president's decision and i think that, you know, we may have to agree to disagree. i am sure there are some people that are disappointed but have certainly heard from a large number of individuals and that's just myself, and i don't know
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that many people in the f.b.i. reporter: what you were saying about the democrats, clearly they didn't like james comey too much after the october 28 pronouncement that he was reopening the investigation into hillary clinton's emails. their point now is that timing is different. that this was in the middle of an investigation. do they have a point? sarah: not at all. ccabenk mr. mccain -- mr. m made that point far better than i could today when he said there's been no impediment to the investigation, and as i said before, any investigation that was taking place on monday is still taking place today. so i think that's, again, another sad story by the democrats that they're trying to peddle. reporter: sarah, thank you. another comment from the hearing today. the acting deputy attorney general said -- sorry. mccabe said he considers the investigation into russian
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meddling in the election to be highly significant. in the past the president said that said the investigation was a hoax and he questioned even recently whether maybe it wasn't russia, might have been china. does the president consider this investigation to be highly significant? sarah: look, i think he would love nothing more for this investigation to continue to continue to its completion. i think one of the reasons that the hoax component is the conclusion component that has been the false narrative that you guys have been pushing for the better part of a year. i think that's the piece that he is repeatedly talking about being the hoax. reporter: but in terms of the threats to national security, does he take that seriously? does he think that's significance? sarah: of course he takes national security seriously. to even hint he doesn't i think is to misunderstand this president completely. from the very moment that he
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stepped onto the campaign stage to the day that he took the oath of office to become president, he has talked about national security. he's made that one of the biggest priorities in the administration. you just saw tom talking about cybersecurity on all fronts, whether it's securing the border, whether it's protecting people abroad, here, the president has been focused. reporter: was it a threat to u.s. national security? sarah: you know, i haven't had a chance to ask about that. i think we're waiting on the final conclusion of that investigation. look, i think anytime we have somebody interfering with our election, that would be considered a problem and i think the president would certainly recognize that. matthew? reporter: two questions. first, as has been mentioned, vice president pence said yesterday the firing was based on the recommendation of the attorney general and deputy attorney general. we know now that's not true. was the vice president misled again or did he misled the american people? sarah: i believe i answered that question.
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reporter: i don't believe i caught it. the vice president said yesterday the president chose to accept and support the decision of the deputy attorney general and attorney general. sarah: he certainly accepted the deputy -- that doesn't mean that he wouldn't still accept his recommendation. i mean, they're on the same page. like, why are we arguing about the semantics of whether he accepted it? they agreed. i mean, i'm not sure how he didn't accept the deputy attorney general's recommendation when they agreed with one another. reporter: if i may switch topics slightly. if you knew -- if the president knew he was going to do this, why ask for those memos to begin with? why not just fire comey? why have these memos put out and then explain he did it because of the memos but then say he was going to do it either way? i'm confused why he got those memos? sarah: look, i think he wanted to get the feedback from the director of the attorney general who the director of the f.b.i. reports to. again, it further solidified the
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decision he made. the only person that can fire comey was the president. he made that decision. it was clearly the right one as evidenced by all of the comments, both by house and senate democrats, republicans, and many people within the f.b.i. i think instead of getting so lost in the process that this happened at 12:01 or 12:02, did he fire him because he wore a red tie or blue tie, he fired him because he was not fit to do the job. it's that simple. it shouldn't be a complicated process. the president knew that director comey was not up to the task. he decided he wasn't the right person for the job. he wanted somebody that could bring credibility back to the f.b.i. that had been lost over this last several months. the president made that decision. he made it. he moved forward. it was the right one. i don't think that, you know, the back and forth makes that much difference. reporter: sarah -- do you follow -- call on me? sarah: yes, sorry. reporter: sarah, going back to
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what you said about democrats. yes, there are some democrats that said comey should have been fired, but they're questioning the timing. why now? even though the deputy attorney general did do that they're questioning why now? sarah: i think i've answered this. i hate to, again, just keep repeating myself. we're kind of getting lost on the same questions here. he he had decided that he wasn't fit. there's never going to be a good time to fire someone. whether it's on a tuesday or a friday. he decided he wanted to give director comey a chance. he did. and he felt like he wasn't up to the task. reporter: and then last question. monday, sean spicer when he was at the podium, he said after the testimony with clapper and yates he said -- he talked about there was no collusion but he said the investigation into russia should continue. which one is it, should it
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continue or end because spicer said the president want it had to end monday and then yesterday you said it should continue. i'm trying to find a which one it is. sarah: i said we want it to come to its completion. we want it to continue until it's finished, which we'd like to happen soon so we can focus on the things that we think most americans, frankly, care a whole lot more about. i think the people in this room are obsessed with this story a lot more than the people that we talk to and we hear from every day. we'd like to be focused on the problems that they have. that's the point is we'd love for this to be completed. but we also want it to be completed with integrity. i think that was one of the other reasons frankly i think the decision the president made was the right one because i think it adds credibility and integrity back to the f.b.i. where a lot of people frankly were questioning this. reporter: we now know the president fired the f.b.i. director with more than six years left on his 10-year term because he was a showboater,
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a grandstander. how important is it for the next f.b.i. director not be a showboater or a grandstander? how important is that this person show loyalty to the president? sarah: i think the main factor they're looking for is they're loyal to the justice system, they're loyal to the american people. this president is looking for somebody who can come in that is independent and has the support, i think, across the board, whether it's republicans, democrats, members of the f.b.i. and certainly the american people. again, it wasn't just one thing that caused the president to make this decision. a large part of why he made this decision was because he didn't feel like director comey was up to the job. he had watched. it was just an erosion of confidence that he had in his ability to carry out the task that needed to be done. he's looking for somebody to do that. jordan. reporter: thank you, sarah. two questions. first, i want to follow up about what john asked about the rank-and-file of the f.b.i. don't you think the acting
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director of the f.b.i. has a better handle on the rank and file than you do? sarah: look, i am not going to get a back and forth on who has the better handle. again, i've heard from multiple individuals that are very happy about the president's decision, and i know that it was the right one. i believe that most of the people that we've talked to also believe it was the right decision to make. reporter: and about the meeting yesterday between president trump and the russian foreign minister. can you walk us through how a photographer from either a russian state news outlet or the russian government got into that meeting and got those photographs out? sarah: yes. the same way they would whoever the president was meeting with when it comes to a foreign minister or a head of state. both individuals have official photographers in the room. we had an official photographer in the room as did they. reporter: usually independent media in the u.s. is typically invited into those meetings. why didn't that happen in this case? sarah: it varies actually. not always particularly.
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sometimes the protocol when it is not the head of state and prior to the president meeting with the head of state that wouldn't always take place. so, again, proper protocol was followed in this procedure. reporter: has the president been questioned by the f.b.i. with regard to their investigation to russian or interference in the election? sarah: not that i am aware of. reporter: does he expect to be? sarah: i haven't had the answer to ask that question. i am not trying to guess. major. reporter: there is a general protocol at the justice department that discourages conversation with the president of the united states by the f.b.i. director about anything that might involve the president. that's a general aspect of the protocol. to ensure there is no confusion about political interference or any kind, or even the impression or the appearance of political influence on the f.b.i. that's the standard procedure. you just said here said it's
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appropriate for the president to ask if he's under investigation. why is it appropriate if that's not consistent for the guidelines at the justice department to avoid that very encounter? sarah: we talked to, again, several legal scholars have weighed in on this and said there was nothing wrong for the president asking that question. reporter: so the department should change their protocol? sarah: i am speaking to the information i have. it's not what i think. look at the people that followed up the interview. there were multiple attorneys that came on after and specifically stated that it was not inappropriate, it wasn't wrong for the president to do so. so, again, i can only base it off. i am not an attorney. i don't play one on tv. but what i can tell you is what i heard from legal minds and people that actually are attorneys and that's their opinion. so i have to trust the justice system on that fact too. reporter: would you say based on the experience that you and sean and this communications office had tuesday and wednesday that you were given all of the best information to relay to the american public through us and your job is to relay that information to the american
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public, we're only intermediaries, about what happened with this firing -- sarah: you seem to take a much proactive approach most of the time, but i will take intermediaries today. i think we were absolutely given the information that we could have at that time. it was a quick-moving process. we took the information we had as best we have it and got it out to the american people as quickly as we could. reporter: and would you say that that information was accurate then or more accurate now? sarah: i would say after having a conversation with the president you don't get much more accurate than that. reporter: by that standard, should reporters and the country essentially wait for a pronouncement from the president before believing that which is stated on his behalf by the white house communications staff? sarah: look, major, i am not going to get into a back and forth. like we have to have a direct quote every single time. in this process, i gave you the best information i had at the moment. i still don't think that it
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contradicts the president's decision. you guys want to get lost in the process. it's very simple. reporter: i don't think the answer was lost in the process, with all respect, sarah. sarah: i'm answering those questions. it's very simple. the president decided to fire director comey. nobody else gets to make that decision. and he made it. he stands by it as do the rest of us. mike. reporter: two questions. following up on the -- back in i think october of last year, the former president was highly criticized by members of the f.b.i. and others outside of the f.b.i. for making comments on television that were sort of suggested that he had an opinion about how the hillary clinton email case should go. and the charge was that he was interfering, that he was putting his thumb on the scale of an ongoing active investigation. there was a lot of criticism from republicans on that.
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talk to me how that -- how what this president did in his series of conversations with the f.b.i. director doesn't go far beyond what former president obama did ? and to major's point, how can you argue regardless of maybe some pundits on tv who might be saying otherwise, how can you argue that doesn't have an appearance of trying to influence an investigation that's actively going on? sarah: look, i think the president's encouraged this investigation to take place and complete so we can move forward. we've been as compliant as possible throughout the entire process. we will continue to do so. nobody wants this investigation to go forward and complete and end with integrity more than the president. reporter: people clearly want to know which way he wants it to come out. sarah: on the right side. i think he wants it to come out . he's very well aware of the
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actions he has or has not taken. he reporter: just a follow-up on the fbi income and i am not trying to be overly combative but you said today and yesterday, that you personally fbi talked to countless officials, employees since this happened. sarah: correct. reporter: really? 60? sara: i am not going to get into a numbers game. i have heard from a large number of individuals at the fbi who say they are very happy with the decision of the president. the deputy attorney general -- did he ask the white house council to correct the version of events?
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: i don't know that they have specifically asked for a correction. we want to make sure we get this right and that is what we have attempted to do all along. there were several questions after the briefing yesterday and i addressed that again in the opening today. our goal is to get this as right as we can. -- rter: the department of justice has pushed back and said that was not accurate. rob rosenstein -- was the decision pinned on him? makes the president decision. the book stops with him.
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-- the buck stops with him. no one is saying that this was not the decision of the president. we know that the president has been thinking about this for a long time. wednesday, it certainly expedited -- the testimony of the director last wednesday and getting the recommendation from the deputy attorney general solidified the presidents decision -- the decision of the president. he encouragings that when he has just fired the man that is overseeing that investigation? is, we wantoint this to come to a conclusion. with integrity. by we think that we have -- removing director call me, taken
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steps to make that happen. thank you so much guys. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1970 nine, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. joining us on "newsmakers" is senator chuck grassley. thank you for joining us. and joining us with the questioning is erica werner who covers congress foe