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CONNECT THE WORLD

Political Fallout Over Firing of FBI Director; Russian Foreign Minister Visits White House; U.S. to Start Sending Weapons to Syrian Kurds. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 10, 2017 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We will see as our coverage continues right now with Brianna Keilar.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan. I do want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around

the world. You are watching live pictures there of the vice president on Capitol Hill. He is there to cast two tie- breaking votes.

However, we are going to see if we can get a question into him. Our reporter is not too far away from him and we'll see if he says anything

about the president's firing of FBI Director James Comey, so we're keeping an eye on that right now.

As far as bombshells go in this young Trump administration, James Comey's dismissal from the FBI is the mother of all of them. The administrative

MOAB, if you will, and the shock wave will probably reverberate for a very long time.

President Trump is defending his decision. He tweeted earlier today, "Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and

Democrat alike. When things calm down they will be thanking me."

CNN learning this morning -- and I want to listen in as we hear the vice president coming towards the microphone.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yesterday President Donald Trump provided strong and decisive leadership to restore the trust and

confidence of the American people and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

I am grateful for the action the president has taken, and I am confident as we go forward that the president will choose an individual who will be able

to restore the confidence of our nation and our leading law enforcement agency.

President Trump made the right decision at the right time to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, to

ask for the termination, to support the termination of the director of the FBI.

It was simply the right decision. Now we go forward. We go forward with confidence that the president as he's done so many times in this

administration. He'll select that individual who will be able to lead that agency and all of the outstanding men and women to the FBI back to a place

where that agency can enjoy the confidence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the president fire Director Comey to impede the Russia investigation?

PENCE: Well, as you know very clearly and has been stated repeatedly and the president has been told, he's not under investigation, and as former

Director Clapper, the director of National Intelligence said, there is no evidence of collusion between our campaign and any Russian officials.

That's not -- let me be clear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible).

PENCE: That is not what this is about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible).

PENCE: That's not what this is about. The president took strong and decisive leadership here to put the safety and the security of the American

people first by accepting the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI.

The American people have to have confidence in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and because of the actions that the deputy attorney general

outlined to the president that were endorsed and agreed with by the attorney general, the president made the right decision at the right time.

And now we look forward to finding that individual who will be able to leave that agency and all of the outstanding men and women of the FBI back

to a place where we move past the difficult politics of the last year that have swirled around Director Comey's leadership and we can move back to a

place where every American can know that the FBI is able to do its job to enforce our laws and protect our nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the president's dissatisfaction with the Russia probe? Did that put into this, sir, and --

PENCE: Let me be very clear that the president's decision to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to

remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI was based solely and exclusively on his commitment to the best interest of the American people

and to ensuring that the FBI has the trust and confidence of the people of this nation.

The president's leadership here I think represents the kind of strong leadership that the American people expect. The American people expect a

president to act on the recommendations of those within the administration who are charged with oversight. In this case, the deputy attorney general

provides the oversight to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. [11:05:02]While the deputy attorney general was confirmed just a few short

weeks ago by the United States Senate, when he brought the recommendation to the president that the director of the FBI should be removed, President

Trump provided a kind of strong and decisive leadership the American people have come to be accustom from him and he took the actions necessary to

remove Director Comey.

And now already this morning, the president is in the process of evaluating individuals who will be able to fill that spot, lead the FBI and restore

the confidence in the American people. That's why this was the right decision at the right time.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Given the bipartisan kind of concern we've seen over the last 24 hours and the administration's assertion that

there was no wrongdoing, why not support an independent panel or an independent prosecutor?

PENCE: The evidence or the facts that are in public today are very clear. The former director of National Intelligence has said there is no evidence

of collusion. The president and I remain confident that the committees in the House and the Senate that are looking into every aspect of issues that

arise out of last year's election will be able to do their work and do it in an orderly way.

The president himself was informed several times by the former director of the FBI that he himself is not under investigation. The simple fact is

Director Comey had lost the confidence of the American people.

The support that I heard from members of the Senate today when I was over by the Senate chamber, the support for the president's decision that's

being expressed in this capital building and around the country I think is reflective of the fact it was time for a fresh start at the FBI, and I

think the president did as he's done in so many other cases.

He took decisive action. He provided strong leadership and to act on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general, and I think the American

people welcome that and they know that as President Trump has done so many times before, the president is going to take the time necessary to find an

individual of great experience and great integrity to lead the nation's law enforcement agency at the FBI, and I look forward to being a part of that

process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Vice President, did the president ask the deputy attorney general to conduct a review of Director Comey?

PENCE: The new deputy attorney general who was just sworn in two weeks ago and confirmed by the FBI came to work. He is a man of extraordinary

independence and integrity and a reputation in both political parties of great character, came to work, sat down and made the recommendation for the

FBI to be able to do its job that it would need new leadership.

He brought that recommendation to the president, and the attorney general concurred with that recommendation, and I personally am grateful that we

have a president who is willing to provide the kind of decisive and strong leadership to take the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and

the attorney general to remove an FBI director who had lost the confidence of the American people.

That being said, let me be very clear, we have some great men and women who serve in the Federal Bureau of Investigation every day. They make enormous

sacrifices for the people of this country and I am very confident that the president will go through a process and choose an individual who will lead

the FBI.

Not only back to credibility to restore the trust and confidence of the American people and lead the FBI to even greater heights to ensure that it

does its job in forcing our laws and protecting our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, when did you become aware that the deputy attorney general is conducting a review?

KEILAR: All right. Extraordinary timing there to see Vice President Mike Pence addressing the cameras there on Capitol Hill as this news has been

breaking that the FBI Director James Comey has been fired by President Trump.

I want to bring in now as we break all of this down, we have retired FBI official, James Gagliano. He knows James Comey. We have CNN political

director, David Chalian, CNN political analyst and national political reporter at "Real Clear Politics," Rebecca Berg, and CNN justice

correspondent, Evan Perez.

That last question was very interesting, David. He was asked, Mike Pence was, if the deputy attorney general was asked for this justification to

fire the FBI director because you have White House officials who say, look, we're going along with that the DAG said.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. So, obviously, the vice president is the first big senior administration official to get out in

front of the camera and really start trying to explain some of this beyond the justification in the letters that were released yesterday.

[11:10:07]Which is important except he sort of hung it, as you were saying so much on AG Sessions and Deputy AG Rosenstein that it sort of begs the

question when will we hear from them to flush this out to get precise the timeline here.

When did it first come into Rod Rosenstein's mind that part of his job in this new role and maybe the answer is, I don't know, is part of his job was

to look at the FBI director's tenure and his fitness for office.

Was that his own making or was that a request that came to him because we know that the president has been thinking about this for the better part of

a week and that was a week into Rosenstein on the job.

So where did the idea of looking at Comey's tenure originate and then how did that then formulate into this memo from Rosenstein to Sessions and

Sessions on to the White House yesterday which resulted in the firing of the FBI director?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think it wouldn't surprise people to know that Rod Rosenstein like many people in the Justice

Department were very disturbed by James Comey's press conference last July in which he not only said that there were no charges coming as Hillary

Clinton usurping the role of the attorney general and everybody else inside the Justice Department, but also then reciting all of the different things

she did wrong.

It was a very unusual, very unprecedented decision that he made and there was a lot of criticism from everybody inside the Justice Department. Career

people who believed that was not his role. So Rosenstein is one of those people who thought he had definitely gone beyond what he should have done.

That much we know. What we hear from people from the Justice Department officials now is that Rosenstein felt the last straw was watching Comey on

Monday -- sorry, on Tuesday testify, last week, rather, testify that he stood by his decision that especially nothing that he did he would change.

KEILAR: He has no regrets and it was in the letter from the deputy AG, from Rosenstein. We just have some new information in and that is that we

learned from the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman that James Comey is not going to be testifying tomorrow as we expected and instead it would be

Andrew McCabe, the deputy FBI director right now, acting director.

And of course, ever since this happened yesterday evening, what does that say, Rebecca? That now James Comey is going away. He will not give more

testimony and the likes of which we know President Trump certainly did not appreciate.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, he will become a private citizen now and he is a private citizen so this isn't necessarily the last

we hear of James Comey. I think we should expect to hear from him at some point, but he won't be in a position as FBI director to be weighing in on

this ongoing investigation.

He won't be receiving updates on a regular basis on how the investigation is progressing and he won't have any direct oversight or impact into where

this investigation goes. It's worth noting that the FBI director is not involved in every investigation into the FBI, not by a long shot, but he

was intimately involved in this one.

As we're asking the question of what happens now with the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Russia and their inquiries into Mike

Flynn, et cetera. It's easy for Republicans to say and they have been saying that this will continue, this has no impact. The White House is

saying this has no impact.

This does have an impact because Director Comey was -- had an intimate role in this investigation and where it was going was getting the regular

updates so you can't say that this investigation is not going to change. KEILAR: I want to go to Capitol Hill. We have Phil Mattingly for us there.

Phil, you were there throwing a question at Vice President Mike Pence and this was as David Chalian said the first time that we've seen a top

administration official addressing this.

MATTINGLY: Yes, and this was a deliberate effort. That needs to be made clear up front. The administration knows that the vice president is a good

voice, a strong voice to represent what they wanted to do and that's exactly why they had him not just stop and you know this quite well.

On Capitol Hill, if you want to get an administration official you can lob a question at them as they walk by. The vice president stopped and

essentially did a two-person press conference for about 10 minutes there.

Really outlining why the decision was made, why he supported the decision, and kind of repeating what we've been reporting over the course of the last

15, 16 hours which is this was the deputy attorney general's decision. The deputy attorney general that was confirmed with bipartisan support.

The president acted off his recommendations that were given to the attorney general and forwarded on to the president and that this was necessary to

kind of restore the good will, the faith within the institution of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Now, I asked the vice president specifically as he stated that there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence

officials, if they're comfortable with that and if there are all these bipartisan concerns up on Capitol Hill about the appearance of what's

occurred over the last 24 hours and why not endorse or allow a special prosecutor or an independent panel.

[11:15:09]And the vice president made clear that's just something that they're not interested in right now and they believe the facts that have

been laid out up to this point make that completely unnecessary.

So I think you saw a very deliberate effort by the administration to get one of their voices out to underscore what we've been reporting and hearing

behind the scenes over the course of the last couple of hours.

And really try and address head-on the very real and very bipartisan concern we've been hearing all day up here on Capitol Hill about what

transpired so dramatically.

KEILAR: Phil, I want to bring in some news that we're just getting in. Apparently, Senate Democrats are objecting to committee meetings today.

They are protesting the firing of the FBI director and they're using Senate rules that require unanimous consent, an eye on the part of all of the

senators for these committees to meet after the Senate has been in session for two hours.

So they were using a loophole in the rule to protest and stop these committee meetings, a number of which our producer on the Hill, Ted

Barrett, points out are critical issues Russia, North Korea, China and cyber-security.

Let's get now to the White House and our correspondent there, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, we just heard from the vice president and we had not heard aside from

Twitter and we heard a lot on Twitter from President Trump himself.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We've not, Brianna. I am told by a top White House official that we are not likely to hear from the

president on this extraordinary decision that he made last evening to fire the FBI director.

I was talking to a top White House official just a few moments ago before the vice president began speaking and he said, look, the vice president has

taken the lead on this at least for now. This could always of course evolve as the day goes on here, but the president is not expected to speak about

this.

Now one of the issues here, the White House was caught flat footed, almost inexplicably last evening once this announcement happened. They are trying

to regain control of this and as Phil Mattingly was reporting there, that's the whole reason the vice president was out there making a comment and also

taking questions from reporters which is very unusual.

The vice president is on Capitol Hill a lot, several times a week. He seldom stops like that to actually answer reporters' questions here, but

Brianna so many questions remain. And they of course will be opposed to the White House briefing this afternoon.

I think first and foremost, did the president actually ask his deputy attorney general as David Chalian was saying earlier to investigate or to

sort of put this together here. So that is one of the things that is still unfolding.

But Brianna, we've seen so many controversies in the Trump administration that he is the only one who he believes can sufficiently explain things. We

will see how long the president himself is able to go without sort of addressing this, explaining this.

Because last evening, I am told he was very upset at how this was unfolding that their side of the story was not getting out. That's simply because

they were caught flat footed by this. Very few people in the White House knew this was happening, that speaks to the fact this happened without much

planning -- Brianna.

KEILAR: They did not seem ready for the blowback at all. Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thank you. I want to bring James Gagliano in here. He's a

retired FBI chief of staff.

So, James, you obviously talked to a lot of people who are in the FBI. How are they responding to this and how are they responding to the timing of

this and what do they think it's all about?

JAMES GAGLIANO, RETIRED FBI CHIEF OF STAFF, KNOWS JAMES COMEY: Brianna, all I can say is here it is 18 hours later and I'm still dealing with the

emotions of stunned disbelief. Look, anybody with a basic high school civics background, understands that the FBI director is a political

appointee and he serves at the pleasure of the director.

It wasn't the fact that he was fired or removed from the position. I think it was the indignities that he suffered on the way out the door and the

treatment or the mistreatment by the Trump administration as well as the Department of Justice.

And look, Andy McCabe, I've known him a long time, the deputy director and the number two who is now the acting FBI director, he'll make certain that

the bureau won't miss a beat. I know that he had a secure video teleconference last night with all of his special agents in charge.

And basically told him to keep the faith and keep doing the work that they're supposed to be doing so I have no doubt that the bureau is going to

continue. If there's anything to any of these investigations, the career FBI agents and prosecutors at the Department of Justice will continue to

ferret that out.

I'm disappointed, and I know that's just a personal reaction to it. I've spoken to a lot of FBI agents, rank and file as well as folks that are

executive managers at headquarters, and they're blown away. The bureau is probably split quite evenly 50/50 on whether or not the director had made

the right judgment.

But no one doubts his moral rectitude. No one doubts that he did what he thought was in the best interest of the United States, people as well as

FBI as an institution.

[11:20:03]And I think it is a sad day that he's gone, but I understand that a leader has to be aligned with their boss and he wasn't.

KEILAR: James, everyone, thank you so much for that. We do appreciate it. We have much more ahead on this breaking news.

Also any moment now the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is going to speak live after his closed-door meeting with President Trump today. What

did he and the president discuss? We'll have that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Now I want to bring in Congressman Jerry Nadler. He is a Democrat from New York. He also serves on the House Judiciary Committee and he calls

FBI Director James Comey's firing, quote, "terrifying." Congressman, obviously, you have a lot of concerns here. You have voiced concern that

this is Nixonian.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: This may be worse than Nixonian. The fact is that the -- there are very serious allegations and suspicions that the

president's campaign colluded with the Russians in what we know is an attempt to buy them to subvert our election. That has to be investigated

and the questions removed. We've got a Senate and a House investigation that I don't take terribly seriously because the Republican leadership has

refused to give it any staff at all. They have no extra staff, and the Benghazi commission --

KEILAR: You don't take the Senate investigation seriously?

[11:25:10] NADLER: No, I don't. I think although Senator Burns and Senator Warner I think they're sincere, but they've been given the staff with which

to do it. The Benghazi committee had millions and millions of dollars of staff, they do want, that tells me that if they reach any kind of a

conclusion it will be a long way down the road. The president has now fired the one person in a position, who was apparently conducting an honest and

thorough investigation. And you --

BOLDUAN: What do you make of the timing then? You think this was done in reaction to that, being in the middle of this investigation?

NADLER: Well, this comes in the context of his firing of the Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates after she informed them of former national

security person, Flynn's contact with the Russians. This comes after Pete Barrara (ph) was fired because when he had jurisdiction over Trump Tower

after he was told he would stay. There is a pattern of firing people who can investigate and who can look into this.

KEILAR: One of their arguments is, look, Democrats also did not think that Director Comey was doing a good job and had not done a good job in the

past. That was an opinion that you shared.

NADLER: It certainly was.

KEILAR: I want to share with our audience something that you said just several days after the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADLER: What Jim Comey did was so highly improper and wrong from the very beginning in July, he was putting his thumb on the scales right then and

it's unforgivable for a police agency to opine, frankly, publicly about legal conduct. The president ought to fire Comey immediately and he ought

to initiate an investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: You were upset at that time about --

NADLER: I was and I --

KEILAR: -- Director Comey and how he had been very public about the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of her private e-mail server while

secretary of state --

NADLER: I thought --

KEILAR: -- just so that our audience is aware. And then that he had said several days before the election raised this question of looking back into

the investigation. So why -- you wanted him fired then.

NADLER: Yes, and he should have been fired then because President Obama would have appointed a new FBI chief who would not be beholden to the

subject in the investigation. The context has changed. The problem with firing Comey now is that President Trump is -- who is subject of the

investigation, we know as to the collusion of his campaign with the Russians to subvert the election, he is now firing the chief investigator.

You can't have the investigated firing the investigator and then have any credibility as to the ensuing investigation, and you put this also in the

fact that the president has been systematically attacking the press and the judiciary and he's attacking every institution that we depend on to

restrain the power of the presidency.

So this is very dangerous for the American democracy. Yes, I think what he did was very wrong, but that was last year. Now he's fired by the person

he's investigating who will now appoint his investigator. That's intolerable.

KEILAR: I want you to listen to something that Vice President Mike Pence just said up on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: President Trump made the right decision at the right time to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general

to ask for the termination to support the termination of the director of the FBI, it was simply the right decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: He said there first, though, the right decision at the right time. Was it the decision to you or was it the timing of the decision that's an

issue?

NADLER: It's the context of the decision. Namely that Comey was directing the investigation of very serious allegations against the president's

campaign or maybe the president himself, we don't know and he fires the investigator and that's what makes it wrong.

And anyone who believes the nonsense being put out by the administration that this firing was because Comey was too mean to Hillary Clinton or too

nice to Donald Trump last year is ridiculous.

It is clear that this was fired -- that the firing was because the president didn't like the investigation or perhaps was afraid of where it

was going and I, until today, I would have said that I had suspicions about the president's campaign's collusion with the Russians.

This firing leads me to conclude that there was collusion, that the president was involved in it because otherwise there is no reason the

president would undertake this cover up and this is clearly part of a cover up.

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

ahead of --

(CROSSTALK)

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

(CROSSTALK)

NADLER: No proof of that.

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

NADLER: This is my assumption based on the firing is that there no reason that he would do that if he weren't concerned that the investigation was

going to show things that he didn't want shown, and that either means that he was or people close to him were colluding with the Russians.

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

"No comment," that is the word from Hillary Clinton on the firing of the FBI director, the same Hillary Clinton who blamed the FBI director for

costing her the election. We have much more on that ahead.

Plus, any moment now, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is going to speak live. Those are live pictures of the Russian embassy. We're keeping

an eye on that. And it's coming just moments after his closed-door meeting with President Trump at the White House. Will he reveal details from that

meeting? We'll bring it to you live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:42] BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Right, you've been listening to coverage with my colleague Brianna Keilar there.

Hello and welcome, this is Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi for you.

Staying with the fallout over the firing of FBI Director James Comey. A spokesman for the Kremlin is dismissing it as a, quote, strictly domestic

affair that won't affect the relationship, they say, between the U.S. and Russia.

The firestorm erupting as the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visits the White House.

Today, the Russian diplomat just met with the U.S. Secretary of State and followed up with a closed-door meet with President Trump, the highest level

encounter so far between Moscow and the administration.

Well, the foreign minister set to begin speaking from the Russian embassy in Washington at any moment. And we will get you that as it happens.

Before that, and as we get to that, Matthew Chance joining me now live from Moscow.

What should we expect Sergey Lavrov to say if anything about the story that is roiling in Washington and reverberating around the world, that being

Donald Trump's firing of his FBI director right in the middle of what is this investigation led by Comey into alleged collusion between the Russians

and the Trump administration.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, I mean, first of all, the optics on all of this, the timing of this announcement

really couldn't be worse, because just after this announcement has been made and the firing has happened, there is Rex Tillerson, standing shoulder

to shoulder with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. And Lavrov even made a joke about this whole controversy that is playing out in the United

States. He was asked whether he thought this Comey firing was going to overshadow the talks between him and Tillerson and him and of course Donald

Trump, he'll be speaking with the president as well.

And he said, what, he's been fired? You're kidding. It was kind of a sarcastic remark which I think betrayed a sense in which the Russians are

enjoying this. They're seeing the political chaos in the United States. They think that this whole scandal is further discrediting the political

system in the United States and other western countries as well. And they're enjoying

this on one level.

There's another level, of course, in which they're not enjoying it at all. They see Donald Trump as increasingly unpredictable. And I think it's the

concern about that and about what areas they can actually cooperate on, that the Kremlin itself will be worried about.

ANDERSON: You talk about the timing. You talk about the optics. And to all intents and purposes you're saying it couldn't be worse for the Trump

administration.

We could do a 180 on that, because I know this isn't a normal administration. Everybody will tell you that who has been covering

Washington for years. But this is nothing if not an administration who at least tries to choreograph things. So do you see nothing in this as being

convenient, as it were?

CHANCE: I don't know. It clears the way, I suppose, doesn't it, in a sense, for -- it raises the profile, if you like, of this Russia meeting,

if that was the intention.

But look, I think the real issue from the Russian point of view is what does Donald Trump stand

for when it comes to his policy towards Russia? It's been a roller coaster ride. I mean, when Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state from the United

States, came to Russia a few weeks back, he came just a few days after the United States had bombed Russia's main ally in Syria, the Syrian government

of Bashar al-Assad.

Nobody knows, when he campaigned - when he campaigned Trump said he was going to improve the relationship with Russia. Then the bombing came, the

political issue came. And so the Russians I think, like many of the rest of us, are left in a situation where they're wondering where this

relationship is going to go. Is there going to be an improvement or are they going to be rivals?

[11:35:00] ANDERSON: Yeah, Matthew. You're making some really, really good points.

Look, I mean, let's talk about what is top of the agenda, as we certainly understood it 24 hours ago, for Sergey Lavrov, as we await his comments in

front of the gathered press.

I mean, we know that Russia has repeatedly framed this investigation and accusations into collusion between the Trump administration and Russia, as

a distraction from what are the real issues facing the U.S. and Russia. One of those, or certainly the center of those, at the center of those,

being Syria.

CHANCE: Yes. And I expect that that will be what the majority of these talks with Lavrov and Tillerson and Lavrov and Trump will be about.

Because this is one area where the United States, and certainly the Russians, believe they can cooperate with the United States.

They call it international terrorism, the fight against international terrorism, that's become kind of code for basically getting on the same

side.

ANDERSON: Let's stop you there, Matthew. Let's stop you there. We've got Sergei Lavrov speaking now. Let's get to that. Thank you.

(RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PRESS CONFERENCE)

[11:44:02] ANDERSON: Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister who when told about the firing of the FBI director earlier on today, the man leading

the investigation into alleged ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign said sarcastically was he fired? You are kidding.

And all this going on. Check this our, just now Trump just met the Russian ambassador to America, Mosow's man in Washington at the White House. The

Russian embassy putting up this photo.

Well, you've just heard Sergey Lavrov speaking in front of reporters about the importance of working with the United States to solve the crisis in

Syria, including the Russian-backed plan for what has been described as deescalation areas. Now, we all share common scars nowadays, unable to forget the images we've seen from Syria like that of

horrific chemical gas attacks. So much huge tragedy tied up in this serious geopolitical mess.

Now, the American president is going to start sending guns to some Kurdish forces who Washington see as their main ally on the ground against ISIS in

Syria, but it's not so straightforward. It doesn't sound straightforward, does it, at all. But it isn't, I promise you.

Washington's other big ally, Turkey, calls many of those same Kurds terrorists. Now listen to what Turkey's president told me in a worldwide

exclusive, just a few weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): For the purpose

of destroying other organizations such as Daesh is not something that we approved of. We said, let us join in that formation and that we have the

coalitions forces. Let's make that stay like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: That was Mr. Erdogan arguing against U.S. support for Kurdish forces fighting ISIS, something Turkey is, again, echoing today.

Let's dig deeper into what is an incredibly complicated situation on the ground with so many

players involved. Our guest is Borzou Garagahi. He's Middle East correspondent for Buzzfeed news. Let's just start, if we can, with what

we've just heard out of Washington. It's a incredibly busy day there, we know the FBI director has been fired right in the middle of his

investigation into the alleged collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign in the run-up to the U.S. election.

No comment on that by Sergey Lavrov, who is in Washington today. But he was talking about the importance of Russia working with the U.S. in Syria

to solve the crisis and talking about deescalation zones.

How do you read what you are hearing from those proxy actors, as it were, in Syria at present?

BORZOU DARAGAHI, BUZZFEED: Well, I mean, essentially what you see right now in Syria is a whole bunch of regional and international powers, trying

to do very different things with the conflict in Syria. Russia, for example, is much more interested in using Syria as a wedge, so to speak, to

get itself out of its isolation post the Ukraine war.

Iran sees its main goal as supporting Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. is actually fighting ISIS, that is its main goal right now. Meanwhile,

Turkey's main goal is not fighting ISIS, it's fighting the rebellious Kurds. So you see these various forces working various cross-purposes.

ANDERSON: Borzou, when I spoke to President Erdogan in that exclusive interview just a couple of weeks ago, I asked him specifically whether U.S.

support for the Kurdish Syrian fighters on the ground in the effort to root out ISIS in Syria would negate Turkish support for any U.S.-led coalition

efforts against that scourge that is ISIS in Syria today.

He is emphatic, as are his representatives who have been back and forth to Washington recently, that they will not get Turkish support should the U.S.

continue to use those Kurds on the ground.

Do you expect that to continue? And if that is the case, how will that affect the fight against ISIS on the ground in Syria?

DARAGAHI: Well, I mean, this is an extremely complicated puzzle. And you know, what's really kind of interesting is you can't really blame the Trump

administration for the cards they've been dealt. This is really a policy decision taken under Obama. Many people

wondered out loud whether it was such a great idea to place all these bets on the Kurds. They are argue that it was an untenable sort of alliance,

given the dependence on Turkey.

Is Turkey bluffing? Turkey plays an incredibly important role right now in terms of the war against ISIS. Its bases are crucial for the U.S. to

launch air strikes against ISIS. I kind of don't see Turkey taking that very extreme step of barring the U.S. from using its base at Incirlik and

also at Diyarbakir, to launch these air strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

But there might be other ways they could complicate the U.S. strategy.

ANDERSON: What do you expect Mr. Erdogan wants from his trip to Washington in what is just days from now?

[11:55:08] DARAGAHI: I mean, they are very, very concerned about this emboldening and empowering of this brand of Kurds in northern Syria. They

did not want the particular Kurds who are in charge of this huge swath of land in northern Syria to get any more powerful, because it very much

undermines their counterinsurgency efforts against rebellious Kurds.

And so they're going to probably take one more last ditch effort to try to convince the U.S. administration to pursue a different strategy. The

problem is, there's no other strategy at this point. The situation on the ground is such that there is no other people, there is no other force that

could take on ISIS in its Raqqa stronghold.

ANDERSON: Sure.

With that we'll leave it there. I enjoy your reporting, I read your stuff. Thank you for joining us. It's been a pleasure having you on, out of

Istanbul today.

I'm Becky Anderson. That was Connect the World. We're in Abu Dhabi for you. Thank you for watching. From the team here, it's a very good

evening. CNN of course though continues which - with what are incredibly important stories at present.

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