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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Senate Intel Committee Subpoenas Michael Flynn; Sen. Blumenthal: Comey Firing "May Well Produce Impeachment Proceedings; Sources: Comey Sought To Expand Russia Probe Before Firing; Senate Intel Committee Invites Comey To Testify; Rep. Chaffetz Asking For I.G. To Look Into Comey Firing. Aired 9-10p
Aired May 10, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:23] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight's breaking news, at the end of a very eventful day here, a new reporting from our John King that the president was "white hot" this weekend before firing FBI Director James Comey.
Also, the Senate Intelligence Committee issuing a subpoena to fire National Security Adviser Michael Flynn demanding he turn over documents pertaining to his contact with Russian officials. Flynn had -- refused a request for them so the committee made a demand.
Now, this comes, of course, just days after Director Comey told the Senate Judiciary panel that the bureau was ramping up its own investigation. We're going to get reaction to all of that to the firing itself.
And more now from Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee who joins us now. So, Congressman, first of all, your reaction to the Senate Intelligence Committee issuing a subpoena to General Flynn for documents regarding his interactions with the Russian officials? How significant is that?
REP. JIM HIMES, (D) CONNECTICUT: Well, first of all, it's evidence to the fact that the two congressional investigations, which as you know, particularly the one that I'm involved with on the House side and suffered some setbacks. And by the way, not coincidentally that set back in the House suffered shortly after an open hearing. The open hearing at which Director Comey acknowledged an investigation of the Trump administration and campaign, you know.
And, now, of course, we have the firing of Comey after Sally Yates' testimony. I would suggest to you that that's not a coincidence. But the fact that there's subpoena for documents from Michael Flynn indicates that the Senate investigation, like the House investigation, continues. Now, that's not a substitute for an impartial FBI investigation, but that's a good thing.
COOPER: By that implication, you think what, that the president sees these open hearings, watches them, gets annoyed by them and then wants to try to slow them down or interfere in some way? I mean, basically, after you're saying -- after your first one, that's when Devin Nunes made that night time trip to the White House and then claimed to have gotten information that he then brought to the White House, even though they would have already known about that information. And now he saw Comey and then Comey gets fired.
HIMES: Exactly. And, look, Devin Nunes who I know really well and I consider a friend, he didn't cook that scheme up on his own and it's no coincidence that that scheme that sadly resulted in all of the mess on the House investigation and his ultimate recusal from the investigation.
That was -- that scheme was the product of rage and concern within the White House which, you know, we're at a point now where, you know, if you read the memo from the deputy attorney general, if you hear what's coming out of the White House, clearly, Donald Trump had had enough. That the Sally Yates testimony and the questions about, you know, the 18-day period in which Michael Flynn remained as national security adviser.
Again, this is a president who -- I guess to put it kindly, reacts instinctively to thinks he does not like on T.V. And this is the second time, we, investigators have seen that happen.
COOPER: So this letter from the deputy attorney general, you think its just part of a scheme basically that it kind of provides cover for the president to get rid of the director?
HIMES: Well, let me be careful here. I'm not saying that the deputy attorney general, you know, was part of some scheme. I think that the White House decided that Comey's behavior had been difficult.
And, look, there's no dispute about that. This is something we've been arguing about ever since the director made the statement and had the press conference. This is, of course, has occupied legal minds and others for months and months and months.
Lo and behold, after Donald Trump praises Comey and says he's doing a good job, it just happens that, you know, a day -- what are we, 110 or so of the administration, right after the Sally Yates testimony, all of the pieces fall into place to fire Jim Comey.
You read that memo by the deputy attorney general and if you've got a legal mind, if you know how -- if you've ever read a Department of Justice memo before you would say, "Wait a second, quoting editorials and quoting people in a legal memo, a bit odd." So, there's no question in my mind that this was something that the president just decided had to get done.
COOPER: You put out a statement in which you said the investigated has just fired the investigator and said that the interference appears political and adds to a narrative of deception, denial and obscurification. That's the picture you think that this paints, because the White House is saying this has nothing to do with Russia. But the president is not being investigated about Russia and that this has nothing to do with Russia. HIMES: Yeah. But, Anderson, nobody believes that. You know, this has been one of the perplexing things about this whole investigation, which has been going on for a long time now. An innocent White House that wanted to get beyond this would behave in the exact opposite fashion that this White House is behaving.
What they would do is they would say, look, we need to move on to our legislative program, our agenda, which by the way now with the firing of Comey has taken a huge step backwards.
And starting months ago they would have said, you know, as many resources as you need, all documents are available, no one needs to be subpoenaed. We'll provide them. We need to move beyond this.
[21:05:09] Instead, lo and behold, people who've been doing the investigations, whether it's Preet Bharara or Director Comey or Sally Yates, the list goes on and on. The House investigation, we've seen obstacle after obstacle thrown in front of this investigation.
Now, that's not confirmation of guilt, but it is behavior that is consistent with having something to hide, which is, you know, if somebody who operates in politics a little perplexing to me.
You know, all of the White House is doing by generating this noise is making their own legislative agenda an awful lot more problematic and raising even more questions that existed before.
COOPER: Congressman Himes, appreciate your time as always. Thank you very much.
HIMES: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Much more now on White House claims that there's no evidence. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today of any collusion between team Trump in Moscow for months now it's been a steady refrain namely there's no there, there.
However, today statement in the White House briefing room went beyond that. The deputy press secretary suggesting congressional investigators have all but reached just such a conclusion.
Jim Sciutto joins us now with the fact check and what the source is telling is the true state of play. So you spoke today to members of Congress leading both the House and Senate investigations. What did they say?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The White House claim is frankly untrue. I reached out to both the Republican Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, and the ranking Democrat on that committee, Mark Warner, who gave on the record comments saying that the possibility of collusion between Trump associates and Russian is during the campaign, still a subject of their ongoing investigations.
I heard the same thing from multiple Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and the House Intelligence Committees as well that are investigating Russian interference in the election writ large, but also under that umbrella, the possibility of conclusion and they say definitively.
That is still an open question. They're still looking at the evidence. They have not closed the case in effect on that question as the White House and the president, in fact, have repeatedly claimed.
COOPER: As we're just talking to Congressman Himes about, I mean, this investigations into Russian collusion, they are not going away time soon. I mean, there's certainly concerns -- Jeff Toobin has raised concerns about whether they are funded enough, resourced enough, whether they have enough personnel, what the FBI investigation is going to look like after the firing of Comey, but they are ongoing.
SCIUTTO: They are. And there are questions of partisanship, too, splitting along party lines. But, in fact, what we've been seeing in the last several days is an expansion of those investigations.
You have the FBI, for instance, as we reported, looking for more resources for its investigation. We have federal prosecutors that have now issued grand jury subpoenas in the case of Michael Flynn. We know that at least one committee and possibly another, Senator Lindsey Graham talked about this earlier in the week as well, want financial records to look at possible Trump financial ties with Russia.
Yes, I hear from multiple lawmakers involved. They want more resources. They want time. But they're beginning to say they're getting the cooperation they want from the CIA and others. And they're beginning to ask, Anderson, for more resources. They're beginning to demand subpoena, people like Michael Flynn to come testify. Invite the fired James Comey to come testify, expanding their witness list.
So the fact is, these investigations are not disappearing. It's the opposite, quite the opposite. They're expanding.
COOPER: Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
It was quite a scene today at the White House when the president's brief explanation for the Comey firing to his spokesperson's much longer version, to Henry Kissinger's visit to the Russians coming to call. Russia's foreign minister accompanied by the Russian ambassador, yes, that Russian ambassador, the alleged spy and acquaintance of Michael Flynn and others.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny is on the northern -- the north lawn of the end of a very interesting day. So I understand you're learning more details about the president's decision making behind firing Comey.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We are, Anderson. We're also learning about the president's state of mind going into this. I am told by several people familiar and close to the process that the president was growing increasingly agitated, beginning with that hearing a week ago today when the FBI director was speaking to the Senate. He said he was mildly nauseous by, you know, the role he played in the 2016 campaign. The president did not like that. And I am told by people close to him, he kept thinking about that. It kept festering. It kept growing throughout the weekend. Even his small victory on health care last Thursday, which we talked so much about here, of course, apparently did not allay those concerns.
When he came back to the White House on Monday, he had a meeting with the attorney general who was intended to recuse himself from any type of a Russian investigation. He had a meeting with the deputy attorney general. And the president I am told said that he concluded that the FBI director was his own man and he couldn't be sort of, you know, held responsible or trusted going forward with this. So it was at that point on Monday when the president set things into motion.
And over those 48 hours where they're leading into that, he kept this very closely held to the vest. The White House communication operation, Sean Spicer, others, only had less than an hour of advance warning before any of this happened that's why they were caught flat footed last evening.
[21:10:04] COOPER: You asked the White House deputy press secretary about this timeline today. What did she say?
ZELENY: I did. I mean, she said that actually the president did not have, you know, his full faith and confidence in the FBI director since the day he was election. But that, of course, flies in the face of what the president has said, who has said he has a confidence in him and Sean Spicer said that last week. So I asked Sarah Sanders what changed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think one of the big things that took place was the process in the hearing on Wednesday. You have somebody -- the director of the FBI who reports to the deputy attorney general going around the chain of command, that's simply not OK. That along with the corrections that had to take place over the last, I believe 48 hours, those are all big problems.
ZELENY: Do you regret not doing it earlier, like on January 20th or January 21st?
SANDERS: No. I believe the president wanted to give Director Comey a chance, but he feels that he made the right decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, Anderson, we have heard so many different explanations for the reason for the timeline. And the president himself in that letter to his own FBI director undercut a lot of this rational by mentioning the Russia investigation in the first place.
Now, the White House is trying to sort of move forward from this. But, again, the president does not have anything scheduled on his public schedule tomorrow. One of the big fallouts in this, the worry here is I'm talking to advisors and others, what happens to his legislative agenda, his inflamed (ph) things on Capitol Hill? How will this impact tax reform, other matters he was supposed to be talking about this week? That's an open question that we'll have to watch and see, Anderson.
COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, Jeff, thanks very much.
As had having spoken to Democratic Congressman Himes, you're going to here from Republican lawmaker who talked with the president about his decision to fire Director Comey today.
Also next, more new reporting on the continuing fallout from all of this among lawmakers, including other Republicans, including one who is demanding new action from investigators.
And later, James Comey was not the first person investigating the president who ended up being fired by the president. At least three have been axed. Their stories coming up.
[21:15:39] COOPER: Well, in addition to late word on the Flynn subpoena, we've, of course, been dealing all the day with Comey fallout and reaction to how the White House is explaining the move. Much of it is you saw at the top with Congressman Himes as playing out among lawmakers, including Republicans who now find themselves again at the center of a storm that originated with the chief executive.
CNN's Manu Raju was on the Hill for us. So, the fallout obviously continues. What are you learning? What are you hearing on the Hill?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats are united behind their calls for a special prosecutor. They're demanding that, Anderson, but there's some debate internally about how far to take this fight, whether or not to effectively shut down the Senate and to force the special prosecutor to be named, use some leverage by gumming up the works here in this chamber.
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who I spoke with earlier today, said that would not go as far as wanting to ball (ph) down action or to demand a special prosecutor. But they're weighing other things to force the administration's hand, including trying to block the next FBI director nominee in order to get that special prosecutor named.
Now on the Republican side, (inaudible) views from across the map. You hear Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan say that they support the president's decision.
But then you're hearing concerns from very prominent members of the Senate Republican conference, including Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as John McCain, the Senate Armed Services chairman who I spoke with earlier today and he raised concerns about the rational behind the president's decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, CHAIRMAN: And they've been investigating the Trump campaign's connections with Russia for a long time. I just think that it obviously was not done in an efficient fashion. But, when you fire probably arguably the most respected person in America, you'd better have a very good explanation. And so far, I haven't seen that.
RAJU: You don't buy that Clinton e-mail explanation that he mishandled the Clinton's e-mails that's why he was fired?
MCCAIN: I don't believe that that is sufficient rational for removing the director of the FBI. And I regret that it's happened. We have a lot of issues and challenges and this just diverts a lot of that attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Anderson, James Comey was expected to testify tomorrow before the Senate Intelligence Committee. No law going to do that, but he was invited to testify in a closed session next week. He has not yet accepted that offer so we'll see if he actually does do that, Anderson.
COOPER: There is late word, Manu, that Congress has asking inspector general to look into Comey's firing, right?
RAJU: Yeah, that's right. This is from Jason Chaffetz, the House Oversight Committee chairman, sending a letter to the inspector general, the Department of Justice Michael Horowitz, who actually had already launched an investigation back in January looking at the handling of the Clinton e-mail situation and looking at Comey's handling of that situation.
Now, Chaffetz says he wants Horowitz to expand that inquiry to look into the circumstances behind the Comey firing. And this would be a very significant investigation if the inspector general does do that. There are 450 employees of the inspector general's office. So, we'll see if he listens to the Chaffetz's request. Comey already, Anderson, has been interviewed by the inspector general as well. Anderson?
COOPER: All right. Manu Raju, thanks.
We're going to bring in the panel. Joining in right now, Matthew Rosenberg, Matt Lewis and Kirsten Powers as well.
Does it make sense, Dana, that -- I mean, this inspector general investigation was already ongoing and still underway looking into Comey's handling of the Clinton e-mails and yet it -- that seemed to have been ignored by the White House or they didn't wait for that.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They didn't wait for that, which is one of the many potential problems here. But let's just take a step back. So, there was an inspector general and still is an inspector general investigation going on about Comey's actions with regard to Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
Now, Capitol Hill -- Republican on Capitol Hill is calling for an inspector general investigation into the president firing the guy who -- I mean, it's like you need an actual -- you know, one of those is like, you know, Homeland maps up on the wall to know who everybody is and where everybody connects because it's beyond confusing. And it just kind of speaks to the -- sort of "Alice Through the Looking Glass" nature of all of this.
It's mind boggling for us and we cover this every day. Can you imagine being somebody in, like the real world watching this and saying, "What is happening?"
[21:20:02] COOPER: How significant do you think this, Matthew, that it's Jason Chaffetz, a Republican asking for this expansion of the inspector general investigation?
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDNT, NEW YORK TIMES: It's amazing. I mean, Chaffetz has done a complete 180 and it seems to be seriously taking that oversight role.
And if you're -- I don't know how Trump thinks about these things. But if you're a Republican and you see Jason Chaffetz whose incredibly partisan Republican saying, "We need to look into this. We need answers." I think that's an incredibly worrying sign for a White House that is finding -- its move is not as popular as they thought it would be.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Boy, I draw the opposite conclusion from what's happened. I mean, here we have the most catastrophic act in terms of a firing by a president since 1973. And how many Republicans have said boo?
You know, you have a handful who say, "I'm troubled. I'm concerned." But, you know, after 19 -- after the Saturday Night Massacre, you had Republicans talking about impeachment. I think the Republicans here remain very united --
BASH: Can I ask you a question with this historically speaking?
BASH: Wasn't the Saturday Night Massacre after like six years of investigation and drip, drip, drip, drip, drip?
TOOBIN: Well, it wasn't six years. But, I mean --
BASH: Many years. I mean, many years.
TOOBIN: It was 1973 and he had been reelected in '72.
BASH: OK. But there are also been -- I mean, they're been a long investigation.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But still a fair point that the Republicans aren't really speaking out against. Listen, Jason Chaffetz is leaving. I mean, he's already announced that he's retiring, right? So, I mean, you need somebody who is actually -- I think, well, you know, is going to be around for a while. And the only way that anything is going to shift is if Republicans do change their position on this.
TOOBIN: Richard Burr, the chairman of the intelligence committee says, "Well I'm troubled by this." And maybe there should be -- you know, Mitch McConnell runs the Senate. And Mitch McConnell is going to protect Donald Trump.
ROSENBERG: Absolutely. But Burr also issued a subpoena today to Michael Flynn. You know, it's their steps. There is no great breaking of ranks here. But there certainly are steps that I don't think we might not have seen a month ago.
POWER: It's just more of an argument for the independent investigation, right? I mean, it just seems like we just seen an independent investigation because we need somebody who Donald Trump can't fire. And we need somebody, you know, who's not a partisan, which is basically what's happening --
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I think there have been signs today. I mean, it depends. There are so many different contradictory things being said. But, you know, I've watched last night. The sense I got was that the assumption was it that there was something nefarious that had taken place. That this was all about Russia, and maybe it is. I don't know, but there could be about Russia.
But, today when I was reading -- there's a Reuters story that says Comey regretted -- (inaudible) says Comey regretted what he said about Hillary Clinton but not what he said about Trump. It's starting to look like -- at least there's a plausible theory here that Donald Trump's ego, not the cover-up of Russia stuff, but the fact that he took it personal what Comey said and then he's an egomaniac might have actually sparked this sudden that, you know.
And Maggie's piece in "The New York Times," you write that the countdown to dismissal began with the Comey testimony about the -- where he said he was slightly nauseous at the thought that he had helped elect Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is a narcissistic guy. I think he might have taken that personally and fired Comey. That doesn't put Donald Trump in a good light. It actually means that they lied to us yesterday when they said it went back to the Hillary Clinton e-mails. But it's not the same as our assumption that it's a cover-up of the Russia.
JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Not to be underestimated here is the role of conservative media, which is 100 percent in the other direction and in terms of its affect on public opinion and senators and members of Congress. I mean, the essential message there is the people in Washington and the elite media and on Capitol Hill hate Donald Trump. And that is what's driving this and everything else is it just flows from that.
And I would just suggest that when that happens, if in fact that's accurate, then that's a problem, because then eventually people will see that you're not driven by facts. You're driven by, you know, contempt for person A or B -- (CROSSTALK)
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Who's not driven by facts? I don't understand your saying, that everybody who else was writing --
LORD: Just in general. Just generically that that if you in the generic sense are doing whatever because you can't stand the president.
HABERMAN: Right, but that's the framework. I mean, the problem with this is that, like, with respect to the White House, is that this is been respect what you're saying. This is the framework that the White House has created. This is the framework that the president's campaign created this whole time, which is that there is no neutral set of facts. There is no sort of central middle ground that everybody can agree on. There's just black and white and --
HABERMAN: -- and two sides. But that is not actually how life works. That is not actually --
LORD: But that is the way it seen out there.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: The Republicans on the Hill, they have been gutless. They've been (inaudible) and careless. They will find their courage when the American people give it to them. The polling today, the Quinnipiac poll, its -- but it's today. It's before this Comey firing.
The congressional generic ballot that Democrats lead by 16 points, I've never seen it that high, it's not going to be that way I think. The election will be a landslide. Trump's favorable among Republicans where he must have gotten 95 percent. It's down to 84.
[21:25:08] Now, 84 is high, but when you are collapsed with independents, you have to do a lot better than 84. I got to talked to a guy, Nick Gorvich (ph), who was one of our pollsters for Super PAC that I used to advice that took on Mr. Trump in the campaign and say his line is 80. He is one of the best pollsters I know. Trump goes below 80 with Republicans. You will see those Republican --
COOPER: But I got to say, there's a lot of people listening tonight who remember these same conversations during the election where a lot of Democrats are talking about polls and all the polls show this and it didn't turn out to be that way. Are you not skeptical?
BEGALA: Oh, I'm always skeptical, but there is evidence that the guy is doing a bad job, OK. And voters are saying, "I think he's doing a bad job." So, yeah, I think it actually -- as George W. Bush once said "it resonates" actually with us.
(CROSSTALK) LORD: One thing about the special prosecutor, and I'm glad I'm sitting here with Paul to have this particular part of the conversation. When Nixon fired the special prosecutor there was all this outrage. By the time he got to Ken Starr, there were people in the Clinton administration, I don't who that would be, who founded (ph) special prosecutor in to the ground. He didn't get fired. But they still did in his reputation that he was rendered ineffective.
I would suggest, if there is a special move for special prosecutor and that the Trump White House will borrow from the Clinton White House and go after the special prosecutor.
COOPER: We got to take a quick break. Just one recap which means (ph) divine and we said this early mind boggling. Jeff Zeleny is reporting that the White House press office and Sean Spicer only had an hours advance warning that Comey firing was about to happen, only an hour.
Coming up, James Comey at the latest did not the first person to be fired by President Trump. What are these three have in common? All we're involved investigating President Trump. That's next.
[21:30:39] COOPER: The President of the United States fires the man investigating his campaign's possible ties to a foreign government. Safe to say not many people saw the firing coming, not even the FBI director himself who learned about it from -- it appears on television. But it does fit a pattern. James Comey is not the first person that President Trump chopping block who was involved in investigating him. Randi Kaye tonight has details.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a phrase Donald Trump came to be known for on reality T.V.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: You're fired.
KAYE (voice-over): But this is not a television show, this is Washington D.C. where those investigating President Donald Trump have a curiously short tenure.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: This is part of a deeply troubling pattern from the Trump administration.
KAYE (voice-over): January 30th this year, acting Attorney General Sally Yates was first to go down, after instructing the Department of Justice not to defend President Trump's first travel ban.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As someone who has chosen to lead a department, she was rightfully removed. KAYE (voice-over): The White House declared in a statement that Yates was weak on illegal immigration. Yates had questioned whether the president's travel ban was lawful.
(on camera): Keep in mind, Sally Yates also played a key role in the investigation of Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Just four days before she was fired, she warned the White House that Flynn maybe compromised because he had lied about discussing U.S. sanctions with a Russian ambassador.
(voice-over): About five and a half weeks after her firing, the president was added again, firing U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara. On March 11th, Bharara tweeted, "I did not resign. Moments ago, I was fired."
All 46 U.S. attorneys across the country were asked to resign, but Bharara refused so the president let him go. Bharara was stunned, given his meeting last November at Trump Tower.
PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT, NEW YORK: President-elect asked to meet with me to discuss whether or not I'd be prepared to stay on. We had a good meeting.
KAYE (voice-over): Bharara headed the Southern District of New York and would have played a key role in investigations like the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia, as well as Trump's claim that President Obama wiretap Trump Tower.
And just this week, FBI Director James Comey was fired. Comey had clashed to the White House on supposed wiretapping at Trump Tower.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: With respect to the President's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets.
KAYE (voice-over): He was also investigating Russia's meddling into the U.S. presidential election. And just last week, was looking for more resources for that investigation.
COMEY: And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
KAYE (voice-over): Signs that Comey's tenure as FBI Director was in jeopardy though likely started to appear last July, after he cleared Hillary Clinton in her e-mail scandal.
TRUMP: Today is the best evidence ever that we've seen that our system is absolutely, totally rigged. It's rigged.
KAYE (voice-over): Comey announced he was taking another look at Clinton's e-mails just 11 days before the election. And this time, Trump praised him.
TRUMP: And I have to give the FBI credit. KAYE (voice-over): But in the end, Trump parted ways with Director Comey. The White House blamed it on his handling of the Clinton e- mail investigation. But critics pointed to Comey's investigation of Russia's alleged ties to Trump.
Whoever takes over may have good reason to wonder if they'll meet the same fate as those who dare to investigate President Donald J. Trump.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Shortly before air time, tonight I spoke with the Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
COPPER: Your committee has now subpoenaed Michael Flynn --
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, (R) SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Documents.
COOPER: Yeah. Can you explain why he did that?
LANKFORD: He didn't turn them over. We'd give him a deadline of May the 9th to turn over those documents that we requested. He didn't turn them over yet, so we subpoenaed them.
COOPER: Why wouldn't he turn them over?
LANKFORD: We don't know. What were saying is his counsel advised him not to. We told him that's not an option. We've made a request for documents and he didn't turn them over voluntarily, so we're going to subpoena them and get them with the subpoena.
COOPER: So have you scheduled a time to actually have him come in to speak?
[21:35:03] LANKFORD: Typical investigation, you get all the documents. Helps you know what questions they ask, so when they come in, you're fully ready for that. So we've done our own investigations separate. We can gather documents and to be able to go through documents that he is going to present to us that adds through our information and then we'll have him actually with us.
COOPER: There had been some talk that his attorneys were looking for immunity. Is that still on possibility?
LANKFORD: That's not something typically the intelligence committee would do. We're gathering information. I got the deputy chairman and the ranking member. They will work through that. We've made a request for documents. We expect the documents to be there and we try to meet with him.
COOPER: In other news, I mean, the White House says you were among the group of senators openly (ph) briefly now with president in the Oval Office this afternoon. Just do the firing of Director Comey come up?
LANKFORD: It did actually. We were meeting on tax policy issues and we went through a lot of issue over the proposals there. Obviously, we're kind of spin a lot of things right now about the health care, tax issues, with Comey and everything else.
And then I did have a side-by-side time with the president just to be able to ask him personally. And my question to him was the question I had all along in the last 24 hours, "Why right now? Why at this moment?"
I understand there's been a lot of controversy about Director Comey that's been there for months. It depends on the week whether Republicans or Democrats like Director Comey or he hates that week. So the controversy I want to understand are, why right now?
COOPER: Because one of the things you had said is that the American people need clarity and deserve an explanation for Comey's firing. Did you get clarity --
LANKFORD: I did. I did. He didn't state it all. He said it was Rosenstein that he just brought him on in the last two weeks. He was just Senate confirmed. He have met with Comey, Rosenstein that is, had the opportunity to be able to meet with him, able to talk about some things. They had some disagreements on, whatever that was. He didn't get into on that.
And he said, this guy is not going to be able work out long term for this. He has a lot of controversy already. And he said, this is not going to be able work long term. And he -- Rosenstein contact to the president and said long term we've got to resolve this and they did.
COOPER: There has been reporting, CNN, and others saying that Director Comey had asked for more resources from the Department of Justice. We should point out that the Department of Justice categorically denies that that request was made to Rosenstein. Do you believe the Russian investigation had any impact on the president deciding to get rid of Comey?
LANKFORD: President reference that and I didn't bring it up obviously on the select committee on intelligence as we're working through our own investigation. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to be able bring that up with the president one on one, so I didn't even get close to that.
He also didn't mention anything on that in our conversations. I would say Director Comey would get whatever resources and assets that he needs. But I don't know of any request that he made either to our committee or to anyone else --
COOPER: So you can't comment on whether or not you think the Russia investigation, President Trump's obvious concerns about it or dislike of it had any impact on his decision to get --
LANKFORD: He didn't mention it all when I brought it up to him. And I asked him point like why. Why right now? And that the Russia issue never came up in that conversation.
COOPER: The -- you know, the number of people who have been fired so far by this president -- I mean, Sally Yates, Director Comey, the -- (inaudible) the states attorney in New York.
LANKFORD: All U.S. attorneys.
COOPER: Right, all U.S. attorneys. I mean, pretty much everybody had some form of investigation going on or had did something that the president didn't like.
LANKFORD: Right. Well, Sally Yates was obviously carryover from the Obama administration. That's the person that will be replaced and has been replaced. All the U.S. attorney that's typical every president clears the deck on all U.S. attorneys, so those two don't surprise me.
The transition of the FBI director, obviously if they lose trust to the American people and in the administration, that's a serious issue. But, typically, there are 10 years and the reason that there are 10 years in a 10-year term is to be able to have that kind nonpartisan perspective.
And the challenge that you have is with Jim Comey, who I have respect for and I think has worked incredibly hard, he's also been a lightning rod. He's been in front of the media a lot. And the more that you do that, the more you attract that.
COOPER: Do you think this will have a chilling affect on the FBI investigation?
LANKFORD: No, it should not. And we'll actually do oversight to make sure it does not. The career investigators are the ones that are doing the investigation at the FBI. Director Comey is not doing the day-to-day investigation. He's doing signed off. There are some documents statements. There are some interviews that have got to go all the way to the top to be able to get signed off. And there are some things Director Comey has to go to his boss and to be able to get signed off on.
So that may slow that process of signed off somewhat, but that chain is already there and the career investigators are still in place.
COOPER: Bottom line to those who say, well, it looks like they are, you know, ratcheting up the pace, now their director say or you're saying that's not going to have any impact.
LANKFORD: That shouldn't have any impact there. And quite frankly, our committee has a responsibility to be able to make sure that doesn't have an impact. That the same authorities are there, that the same people are still involved in the process and they do have the resources to be able to accomplish it.
Listen, we started from the beginning on this thing. We're going to go where the facts go. I do not have an obligation to do cover-up for anybody. Neither do I have an obligation to be able try to send out a message that's inconsistent with the facts. Where the facts go, the facts go. And that's where we have to go and that our commitment that we made in a bipartisan way.
COOPER: All right, Senator Lankford, I appreciate your time.
LANKFORD: You bet, thanks.
COOPER: All right. There's much more ahead tonight, including one senator's warning about just where the Comey firing could lead, perhaps in impeachment. We've got perspective from Carl Bernstein who's reporting to Richard Nixon's political demise, also David Axelrod and former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, next.
[21:43:56]COOPER: In the 24 hours since President Trump fired the FBI director who is investigating whether his campaign colluded with the Russia, a foreign adversary, the aftershocks keep coming, so does the breaking news.
Just a moment ago, I spoke with Democratic senator, Judiciary Committee Member Richard Blumenthal. I asked him about how serious he thinks this all could get.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It may well produce another United States versus Nixon on a subpoena that went to the United States Supreme Court. It may well produce impeachment proceedings, although we're very far from that possibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Earlier today, Trump slammed Senator Blumenthal on Twitter while he was on CNN this morning. Also today, the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed fire National Security Adviser Michael Flynn demanding he turned over documents regarding his interactions with Russian officials. This, after Flynn's lawyer refused to supply them voluntarily.
Joining me now, legendary Watergate Journalist and Author Carl Bernstein, CNN Political Commentator David Axelrod, host of "The Axe Files" and retired General Michael Hayden, former Director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency.
General Hayden, you wrote an op-ed for the Hill about Comey's firing. You said, "It's beginning to feel a little bit like Nicaragua around here." I'm not sure who Daniel Ortega is and all this, but how do you -- what do you mean?
[21:45:06] GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: In 110 days, the president has fired a national security adviser, an acting attorney general and the director of the FBI. And I was just trying to capture what that must feel like for people on the outside looking in at American. And by the way, my international network has kind of checked in with, "You guys, you're going to be OK, right?" And so, I was trying to describe that this kind of behavior is not normally associated with a mature western democracy. It's associated with autocratic populist states.
COOPER: Do you actually feel that could be the -- I mean, that's where we're heading?
HAYDEN: Look, I've lived enough in the world. America sent me to places -- usually places that weren't happy at the moment. And I have seen how thin the veneer of civilization really is. You walk through --
COOPER: We all think it's solid. We all think it's -- but you walk through (inaudible).
HAYDEN: It walk you through (inaudible) in the '90s and what strikes you is not how different those people are.
HAYDEN: But how much they aren't different from us.
COOPER: Right. In '84, Sarajevo (ph) that this case looks --
COOPER: -- and then there sort of snipers shooting at you.
HAYDEN: And so, you just have that concern. People, be careful here. We're not guaranteed this kind of life that we've experienced for the last period of time.
COOPER: David, I mean that's really chilling. I mean, what do you think the White House thinks it's a good strategy to continue to say there's no evidence of collusion, that there's nothing to see here? There's nothing in any of this when the Republicans and Democrats on the intelligence committee are telling Jim Sciutto, still very much an open question. They continue investigating. There may not be anything there, but they are investigating.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, absolutely. And, look, I think this is being driven by Donald Trump. Every time the subject comes up, he becomes unhinged.
You could see it in those tweets about Senator Blumenthal this morning. And what -- with all the reporting we've seen suggests that it was he who really triggered this yesterday and the set of events we saw yesterday.
I agree with General Hayden about the fragility of our institutions. And the thing that I have said consistently about President Trump was that policies come and go and that's the nature of democracy. That's not my concern. My concern is his wanting sort of disregard for institutions, whether it was the intelligence community or the courts or the media or the former president who he denigrated in ways that were outrageous and unfounded. And now the summary dismissal of an FBI director who was investigating his associates and in the midst of a very, you know, tense and freighted issue for the country.
All of this reflects a lack of appreciation for the importance of institutions. And at the same time, we see him reaching out and embracing autocrats all over the world, whether it's Duterte in the Philippines or Erdogan. He seems to be fascinated with people who don't have to deal with democratic institutions.
So, you know, I'm not sure I would be as dark as the general was, because I do think there's a resilience to our democracy. But, it is being tested right now and the president is the one who is testing it.
COOPER: Carl Bernstein, what do you think stands between a further slide to, you know, to becoming what the general describes?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that Donald Trump destabilized his own presidency. He's done it through his tweets. He's done it through his lies. He's done it through undermining a legitimate investigation of the most serious national security consequences. Remember, we are at a very dangerous moment.
Why, because a hostile foreign power destabilized our electoral process according to all the intelligence agencies of the United States government. And in connection with that, there are serious allegations that the campaign of Donald Trump, his close associates, perhaps the candidate himself, colluded with Russians.
So instead of opening up, instead of saying, "Look, let's get to the bottom of this because, I, the candidate and the people around me had no such collusion with hostile powers." This president has chosen to undermine, demean, obstruct and impede a crucial national security investigation.
And in the process, through his lies, through these tweets, through his temperament, he has destabilized his own presidency to the point where Sarajevo quietly, a lot of Republicans are saying to each other, and I have talked to them and I think probably David Axelrod has as well, they are worried about the temperament and the stability of this man's presidency.
[21:50:06] COOPER: General Hayden, to your conversation with Sarajevo, I mean, you know, an outside, you know, they were serve inspiring. In a more time it's very easy for society to crumble. When it's not an outside factor like that. what prevents a society to crumbling?
HAYDEN: Anderson, a great question. So, we just talk about what the Russian's did. And then somebody who has some experience with covert influence campaigns, let me tell you, they never create fractures in the society. They only work when a society has pre-existing fractures. And what the Russians did, perhaps they knew us better than we knew ourselves, they went after the fractures in American society.
And, look, I'm not apocalyptic. I agree with David. We've got resilient institutions, but we can't take them for granted.
COOPER: It also requires people of good faith to stand up and be honest and respect the truth and respect those institutions.
HAYDEN: The truth really matters. The processes really matters. The separation of powers, co-equal branches, competing branches of government really matter and they need to be respected.
COOPER: I mean, David, how much can actually change unless -- I mean, look, politicians on both sides of the aisle stand up and, you know, aren't just kind of looking out for their own political sides, they're actually looking out for the good of the country.
AXELROD: Yeah. Look, I think one of the things the White House is counting on is that this thing gets depicted as in the minds of many as kind of a partisan squabble rather than a serious constitutional issue and a serious issue about whether there are foreign powers trying to destabilize our country and it is disappointing.
And I was disappointed, frankly, in some of the comments of Senator McConnell today, who seems like he's going to try and stonewall the notion of a special prosecutor or a commission to investigate this, which could restore some confidence in these probes. And I was also, you know, frankly, Senator Blumenthal I thought should not be talking about impeachment at this juncture.
AXELROD: I don't think Democrats should be using that kind of heated rhetoric. Let's be responsible.
COOPER: Yeah. David Axelrod, Carl Bernstein, and General Hayden, thank you so much.
Coming up, something we try to do as often as we can on big stories, namely get outside the beltway, go to Iowa, talk about all this was in especially loyal Trump's supporters. The answer for getting this (inaudible) is always intriguing. Tonight, you might even be surprised. We'll be right back.
[21:56:06] COOPER: We always try to make a point of including as many different voices as possible on this broadcast. With that in mind, what kind of reaction is Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director Comey getting outside of Washington? In places that are especially loyal to Donald Trump. Gary Tuchman went to Iowa to find out.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tiny Delaware County in Eastern Iowa is Trump country. The president winning big here in November. This victory aided by the support of the owner and many of the customers in this deli in the county seat of Manchester, Iowa. People we talked to not troubled at all by controversial things the president has done since taking office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): So we were surprised to hear quite a few of them say the firing of James Comey is different.
Because there's an investigation going on with alleged ties between his campaign and Russian officials, does it bother you the timing of the firing of the FBI director?
MACEY KINTZIE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I would say my opinion, yes. I think that with his reputation that he has for all -- like, all the Americans, but not everyone agrees with his decision, but he should have let the investigation go through before he made a decision like this.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Deli owner, Shelly Schraeder, didn't sound concerned.
What do you think of the decision to fire the FBI director yesterday?
SHELLY SCHRAEDER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think it's a good one.
TUHCMAN: Why do you think it's a good one?
SCHRAEDER: I think he should have done it a long time ago.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But, after a follow-up question.
(on camera): The attorney general recommended the firing to President Trump, Attorney general Sessions.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Attorney general Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation.
SCHRAEDER: I know.
TUCHMAN (on camera): But yet he recommended the firing of the man who was leading the Russia investigation.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Does that trouble you?
SCHRAEDER: That, it does.
TUCHMAN (on camera): You voted for Donald Trump for president.
DICK BOCKENSTEDT, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Yes, I did.
TUCHMAN: So how do you feel about the decision yesterday to fire the FBI director, the timing of the decision? BOVKENSTEDT: Yeah, it was all of a sudden just like that. He should have told the people kind of his feelings or should have probably done it sooner if he knew what was going on with the FBI.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): So you don't think he was open enough about why he did this?
BOVKENSTEDT: No. But that's the way Trump is. He's quick on action. I don't think he should be that way, but sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not good.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): There's no question, many Trump supporters in Delaware County are completely fine with how the Comey matter has been dealt with, like this former mayor of a nearby town.
JIM HEAVENS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think he walked into a tough situation there and I would give him an A for what he's done. As a former politician, when you start to clean up a mess like that, you're not going to be the flavor of the month with a lot of people.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Does it trouble you that Donald Trump fired the man whose investigation could be imperiling his presidency?
BILL LUX, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Not at all. Not at all. He needed to go. It just so happen that it's been -- may be investigating him. He needed to go. You know that and I know that.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But even among those comfortable with the president firing Comey, we did hear this from some.
(on camera): Do you think maybe it would be a good idea now to have an independent investigation of these possible Russia ties with this campaign?
ANGIE DITTRICK, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think that would be the best decision to have, to make -- to do that to investigate. There's no favoritism. There's mutual people involved, you know, trying to investigate so there's not favoritism to one side.
COOPER: And Gary joins me now. You've been speaking with Trump supporters ever since the campaign. Do you see any change in tone from his supporters now?
TUCHMAN: There's a little different feeling right now, Anderson. You know, we've been talking to Trump supporters for almost two years. They're very loyal. It's very rare that a Trump supporter criticizes Donald Trump on our television cameras.
Now, of course, it happened last year during that "Access Hollywood" videotape that was released. Donald Trump walking off the bus, his microphone remaining on, on the bus. It happened then. But it hasn't happened much since then.
But what we're seeing in Iowa today and tonight are many people talking to us, many Trump supporters who are concerned at what's happening now could imperil the future of his presidency and that's the new vibe we're feeling. Anderson?
COOPER: All right. Gary Tuchman, thanks very much.
Thanks for watching "360" tonight. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks Anderson. Lots more on our breaking news right now, growing outrage over President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey. This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon.