Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

White House Press Briefing; Trump's Warning to Comey; Spicer Asked about Recording; Accuracy from the White House. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 12, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] QUESTION: -- testimony on Capitol Hill the other day. Is that still the case? He is the acting director at this moment?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have not asked him about the deputy - I have not asked him about his - generally, I don't go through the list of government employees and ask him, so I - I have not asked him specifically about that.

Eamon (ph).

QUESTION: Yesterday Sarah told us that the president expects that the FBI investigation will be wrapped up with integrity. That's what the White House wants. Today the president tweeted and called it a "witch hunt." How does tweeting and calling it a "witch hunt" help wrap that investigation up with integrity?

SPICER: The president - you know, no one wants this done - he wants to know very clearly - there's two pieces of this, right, which is, what was Russia's involvement? And the president is obviously very concerned about any entities attempts to influence the United States' election. And that's one investigation. I think the second, this false narrative that we continue to fight every day that has been debunked by intelligence individuals, members of Congress who have been briefed over and over again, that's where I think he's growingly concerned, as well as a lot - a number of American people who are growingly concerned that there is this perpetuated false narrative out there. That's, I think, the nut of this.

QUESTION: I talked to a former FBI official today who said that the president's tweet, the implicit threat to FBI - former FBI Director James Comey indicates that the president, in his words, is simply out of control. I'd like to get you to respond to that. Is he?

SPICER: I - that's, frankly, offensive.

John. John.

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.

Two questions about the FBI director selection process. You said the names are coming from the Justice Department right now. Is the president consulting with Democratic congressional leaders as well, or Republican congressional leaders on this? Or is he just getting names out of DOJ? SPICER: That's a good question. I know that he was - obviously he's

going to take input from them. I don't know what specific conversations he's had. So I'd be glad to check on who he's spoken to or may be speaking to.

Anita.

QUESTION: I had a -

SPICER: Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot, you have two.

QUESTION: A follow-up question.

SPICER: I got confused that Dave stole one.

QUESTION: Now, I know that, you know, you said you're not disqualifying anyone on this. You also know there has been considerable mention in the last 24 hours of former House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Mike Rogers as the new FBI director. Does the president have a meeting planned this weekend with Congressman Rogers?

SPICER: I'm not aware of anything of that nature on his schedule. But we'll, obviously, as you know, Eamon (ph), we'll put out - if there's a meeting, we'll put it out for you. Right now there's nothing that I'm aware of on the schedule. But, generally, we put out the next day's schedule later in the evening and we will do that, as well.

Kristen.

QUESTION: You already called on me.

SPICER: I'm sorry. I - thank you. I'm sorry. I'm getting a little -

QUESTION: I had a couple of questions about the president's remarks in - to NBC about General Flynn. He said that it wasn't an emergency or he didn't think it was an emergency and that's why the firing, the dismissal, didn't happen right away. So a couple questions about that.

Is it - why didn't he think it was an emergency? And was it because of the messenger? Was it because it - information came from Sally Yates, who you called (INAUDIBLE) I think a political opponent of the president, or was it because Don McGahn downplayed the situation? Can you explain what he meant by that? And I have a follow-up.

SPICER: I can't specifically say what he meant by that, but what I can tell you is, I mean, again, look at the timeline that happened. We went over this the other day and this has been asked and answered many times. The former acting attorney general came and said, I want to give you a heads up on something. Don McGahn, the counsel's office, informed the president. They asked for the documents or materials that she had referred to at - I forgot now, five or six days to get those. They reviewed them. And he was asked to resign shortly thereafter.

But I think that that's - there is a difference. There was a review process. That was the review case. In this case, as the president noted yesterday during his interview, he had been thinking about this for a long time. The Justice Department had done a review. But, again, I'm not really sure in both cases -

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) Comey so then since you just did -

SPICER: No, no, you just asked me - you just asked me what -

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) Justice, though, is that what you're talking about?

SPICER: No, what I'm saying is, you're asking why - why it wasn't an emergency. I think - but it's not a question of, is it an emergency? He took the time to do due process. Someone comes to you with an allegation, I think everyone deserves due process to make sure that that allegation - someone coming in and giving you a heads up. We did exactly what was necessary and the president made the right decision and he continues to stand by it.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) follow-ups. One, why - I'm still unclear, and you've mentioned this several times, why did it take so long for the White House to get those documents?

SPICER: I don't know. I think we've -

QUESTION: It's the White House asking. You couldn't go get the documents?

SPICER: That's not - you're making it sound that is rather - with all due respect, it's not how it worked. They're the ones who possessed the documents. They had them in their possession. I believe they asked for them and it took a while -

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) fired though in between?

SPICER: No. I think part of it is just - there's - some of these things don't happen as easily in terms of where they're stored. I don't know the answer. But I think that in the course of action, if you look at the intervening days, that's a question that you should ask the Department of Justice.

[14:05:11] QUESTION: OK, I still have a follow-up.

SPICER: Oh, sure.

QUESTION: Just explain to us then a little bit, when you compare these two situations with General Flynn and Director Comey. The memo came one day and he was fired that day. That was the review process? And General Flynn was 18 days.

SPICER: No -

QUESTION: That's a huge difference. Why was one so fast when one was 18 days?

SPICER: Well, I think it - to - first of all, they both had a review. They both came and the president looked at the information and the reviews and made a decision. Ultimately, as I mentioned, he - that's his job. He's the decider. He felt as though he had the information necessary in both cases to act, and he did.

Vivian.

QUESTION: Sean, in the tweet about Director Comey, he said - the president says that he'd better be careful before he goes leaking to the press. Yesterday on NBC News the president called him a "showboat" and a "grandstander." Does the White House acknowledge that director Comey has a First Amendment right to speak to the press if he so chooses to set the record straight about any of this instead of just leaking? It's not - it may not be leaking, it may be his First Amendment right to say (INAUDIBLE)?

SPICER: Well, one - of course one - everyone in this country has a First Amendment right. I think the difference, and you've heard the president echo this multiple times, is that sharing information that's not meant to be or is not authorized to be in the public domain in terms of the classification of it is concerning. And I think the president's been very clear over and over again of his concern with respect to information that gets put in the public domain that's not meant to be. But I don't - I don't think that those are - everyone in this country has every right to speak their mind and express themselves in accordance with the Constitution.

QUESTION: OK. And a follow up. Just in terms of the FBI being in disarray, also with the president's comments, is he concerned that if he continues like this that it could jeopardize morale at the FBI instead of actually kind of correcting a problem that he obviously observes there?

SPICER: Well, I think that one of the reasons that he wants to go through the process of finding an individual who can lead the FBI and the men and women who serve there so bravely and have ably is to make sure that morale and the focus is as it's supposed to be and that you have a leader that can do that. And, you know, as you've mentioned, it's the crowned jewel of law enforcement. And I think the reason that he wants to go through this process and choose a leader that can be - restore leadership or, you know, ensure that morale stays where it needs to be, and that there's a focus. That's why he's conducting the process that he has. And - so, Jessica.

QUESTION: I'd like to give my question to Kristen and then take the question back.

SPICER: What's that?

QUESTION: She - she - you called on her first, so I just wanted to give her the question that you promised her before, and then I'll pick up from there.

QUESTION: Thank you. And I'll (INAUDIBLE) you a question. Thank you.

SPICER: (INAUDIBLE) courtesy exchange back there with questions.

QUESTION: I just want to - I want to ask - I want to ask you a - President Trump seemed to rely on James Clapper this morning when he tweeted that virtually he and everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt says there is no collusion. James Clapper himself today told Andrea Mitchell, I don't know if there was collusion or not. I don't know if there's evidence of collusion or not, nor should I, on March 5th on "Meet the Press." When he was asked a similar question, he said, not to my knowledge. So can you describe the discrepancy and explain it?

SPICER: No. I actually think that that's a great question that you should ask Director Clapper. I think -

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) Director Clapper's comments and President Trump, why is he leaning on Clapper when he said, I have no knowledge of whether there was -

SPICER: No, I think on several occasions Director Clapper has said that he has no knowledge of any collusion. That's it. I mean that's - that's the point that he is -

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) said he wouldn't know because he hasn't been briefed on the investigation --

SPICER: He was DNI up until January 20th.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) he was very clear today that he said, nor should I have in this particular context. He made the case that he's not briefed on an FBI investigation.

SPICER: Right, and on -

QUESTION: That that's not his (INAUDIBLE).

SPICER: Fair enough. He's the director of national intelligence. On multiple occasions prior to today, he made it very clear that he was unaware of any collusion.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) point was he wouldn't know.

SPICER: Well, but - but -

QUESTION: There have been no final conclusions.

SPICER: Right. I understand.

QUESTION: There are no final conclusions, but the president seemed to indicate that there was (INAUDIBLE).

SPICER: I understand that, but then - so the question then I would ask then Kristin, is then why did he say what he said before? It seems his testimony and comments on multiple occasions prior to today was, I have no evidence that there was any collusion, right? So to suddenly today shift his story, I believe that the question should be asked to him, you were the director of national intelligence, you said multiple times, including in testimony in front of Congress, under oath, that there was no collusion. I believe that that's a question for him.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) final conclusion made about this investigation, right? There's an ongoing investigation. SPICER: I -

QUESTION: He's not making that argument.

SPICER: I understand. But my point is, is that all we're able to do at this point is that the people who are aware of the former director of national intelligence, the head of the nation's agencies, intelligence agencies, makes multiple statements, as others, Charles - you know, Senator Grassley and others, talking about the involvement, making it very clear that there was none. We took them at their word then and we continue to believe -

[14:10:15] QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) -

SPICER: Well then that, again, I think that -

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) one other question.

SPICER: But the question, Kristen, before you move on is, then why did he make the statements that he did when he did. To turn around now a month later and say, well, even though I made those comments on multiple occasions, you know, I didn't - I wasn't briefed?

QUESTION: But the comments aren't (INAUDIBLE) -

SPICER: I - well I appreciate -

QUESTION: Comment (ph) it's not surprising or abnormal that I would not have known about the investigation -

SPICER: Yes, it sounds like the story has changed -

QUESTION: Or the context of the investigation.

SPICER: Right. OK. Well, ultimately there's been several -

QUESTION: Very quickly about the accuracy (ph) -

SPICER Well, I can - do you mind if I - I just - I think in this case, it is interesting how the story has changed. He made those comments several times over several courses of action. And to say the director of national intelligence, who stated unequivocally what his position was on multiple occasions before today, and now suddenly is saying, I wasn't sure about it, that - the burden seems to be on him, not us.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE).

Moving on to the accuracy (INAUDIBLE).

SPICER: (INAUDIBLE) like a Clapper spokeswoman (ph) (INAUDIBLE).

QUESTION: No, but I just - I'm interested in the discrepancy and drawing a conclusion on the part of the -

SPICER: And I think that that's a great thing to ask him.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) on the part of the president drawing a final conclusion about the investigation.

In terms of the accuracy tweet, should we take that tweet to mean that you don't have the full picture when you stand at that podium?

SPICER: As I said, we come up here every day, not just to the podium, but, you know, we are here first thing in the morning until late at night every day answering your questions on a variety of subjects and throughout issues that are happening in the government. We - as most of you can attest, we work day and night to make sure that we get you the most up to date, accurate information at all times.

With respect to the president, as I mentioned, he's an activist president. He keeps an unbelievably busy and robust schedule. And there are times when we give you the information that we have at the time and we seek to get an update and I believe that you and others will attest to, when we don't have an answer, we try really hard to either update you after the fact or to get you the facts that we didn't have at the time. But we work really hard every day to do that. And I think the president's point that I pointed out earlier is that if there are times when we're asked a question, we do our best to give you the answer. And every word is picked apart to try to figure out how to make an issue out of it, as opposed to allowing to us, you know, talk to the president, get his current thinking and updates, if we hadn't had an opportunity to do that at this time.

Jennifer. Jennifer. Jennifer.

QUESTION: Can I -

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Sean, can I actually pick up there for my -

SPICER: I'm sorry, Jessica. We'll do the j's.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

So I wanted to ask you about the One Belt, One Road summit that starts on Sunday in China.

SPICER: Yes.

QUESTION: You announced yesterday -

SPICER: Sarah did.

QUESTION: Or Secretary Ross did that you're going to send a delegation to that summit.

SPICER: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you talk about how you came to that conclusion, why it's important for the U.S. to be represented at what's ostensibly a major trade initiative by a foreign country?

SPICER: As you point, it's a major trade initiative. There's a lot of ports and infrastructure that they're looking to do. And through those discussions that Secretary Ross and Secretary Mnuchin and others had at Mar-a-Lago and part of this is that that is something they've done. We're going to continue to work with them. Obviously trade is a major issue for us and they're - what they're looking to do is of great importance to our economic and national security. And they've asked us to send people to that. And we have them attend things that we're doing as well. And I think that's - as the president has shown in terms of the relationship that he's built with President Xi and the rest of the team, built with their delegation, those relationships are clearly paying dividends, both on the national security front and on the economic front.

Jennifer.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) signal that the U.S. is going to participate in One Belt, One Road initiative?

SPICER: His - I think - we'll have a readout. At this point, that's all we have on One Belt, One Road.

QUESTION: Two questions. The first one on loyalty and the next one on the visit to the FBI headquarters. So, this president does value loyalty. Was there any sort of - before you were hired, any sort of request or hint that you pledged personal loyalty to him at all before you were hired?

SPICER: No, I pledged my loyalty to the Constitution and to the American people, as has everyone who serves in our government and this administration and we stand by that.

QUESTION: Is it true that the president was warned that he might not be well received at the FBI headquarter if he were to visit there?

SPICER: I don't - not that I'm aware of.

Thank you, guys. Have a great weekend. We'll see you on Monday. Thank you a lot.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And those questions continue and out he goes, Sean Spicer.

Here we are on another incredibly busy Friday. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

Just a massive moment in the firestorm over President Trump's firing of the FBI director, James Comey. The White House trying to insist the president's threat to Comey was, in fact, not a threat after all. The president tweeted earlier that Comey better, quote, "hope there aren't tapes of their conversations."

[14:15:02] So let me bring in my panel.

And, Gloria Borger, to you first on that threat/non-threat. I mean, again, you know, when you read the tweet -

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Right. BALDWIN: How is that not threatening language?

BORGER: Well, it is threatening language to me, and to lots of other people, particularly coming from the president of the United States. Today. Sean Spicer said it was not a threat and then he said he's simply stating a fact. And then he said I'm moving on.

What struck me today, though, Brooke, was that Sean Spicer repeatedly refused to answer the question of whether the president is taping Oval Office conversations.

BALDWIN: Recording devices.

BORGER: And -

BALDWIN: Three different times I noticed - three different times. Let me just point that out.

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: And I think that the answer - actually, we have the sound and we'll talk on the other side.

BORGER: Right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Did President Trump record his conversations with former FBI Director Comey?

SPICER: I assume you're referring to the tweet, and I've talked to the president. The president has nothing further to add on that.

QUESTION: Can - why did he say that? Why did the tweet that? What should we interpret from that?

SPICER: As I mentioned, the president has nothing further to add on that.

QUESTION: Is there a recording - are there recording devices in the Oval Office or the residence?

SPICER: As I've said for the third time, there is nothing further to add on that.

QUESTION: Does he think it's appropriate to threaten someone like Mr. Comey not to speak?

SPICER: I don't think that's - that's not a threat. He's simply stated a fact. The tweet speaks for itself. I'm moving on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And, Gloria, one other time where, again, asked about, you know, recording anything in the Oval, his response, no comment. How is that a "no comment" question? BORGER: Well, he said, "I have nothing further to add" on the taping,

which is not a denial, right? It's sort of, I have nothing further to add on that.

BALDWIN: Not a yes, not a no.

BORGER: Not a yes, not a no. And then on the dinner conversation, on the loyalty - the loyalty pledge question, he said flat-out it was not true. He did not say, as he did in the answer to the other question about taping, that he had talked directly to the president about that. So my question is now, do we always have to say, have you talked directly to the president about this before we get an answer that can be credible?

BALDWIN: Well, as we know, according to the president's Twitter, he's a busy guy -

BORGER: Yes.

BALDWIN: And so there's an accuracy issue, apparently, at times with folks who stand at that podium.

Mark Preston, I want your two cents to Gloria's point about, you know, recording devices in the Oval Office and Sean's sort of non-response.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So let's frame it through the whole idea that Donald Trump thrives on chaos. Well, if he thrives on chaos, then he must be having a heck of a good time today because what he has done has created this level of chaos within the executive branch right now that at some point is going to be unsustainable. You can't have the person speaking for the free world, Sean Spicer, up there at the podium and not able to answer very critical questions.

Now, we don't know if there are recording devices in the Oval Office. There have been in the past with past presidents. But in some ways you have to wonder, even if there are not, was Sean Spicer instructed to go out there and not answer the question in order to create even more mystery around it because that's what Donald Trump likes.

BALDWIN: Wow.

PRESTON: But what Donald Trump likes is not necessarily what's good for the nation, and I think we're seeing that play out right now.

BALDWIN: James Gagliano, former FBI, what's your take?

JAMES GAGLIANO, RETIRED FBI CHIEF OF STAFF, KNOWS JAMES COMEY: Well, I've got to tell you, Brooke, I mean watching that, I mean Sean Spicer's typically described as confrontational, right, or beleaguered. Today, empathetic figure. I'm watching him, as you said, after the three times he was asked a question about the 140-character smoke grenade that was tossed into Washington and I'm watching him trying to field that. And for the president to send him out there, his spokesperson, and not to supply him with some type of context or meaning to what any attorney could only describe as an implied threat. If this was a criminal case, you have - you have the evidence right there in 140 characters.

BALDWIN: What about you?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Untenable. It's just untenable. It reminds me of the day the president posted those unfounded claims about wiretapping and Sean Spicer said -

BALDWIN: Quote, "wiretapping," just as, quote, "tape."

STELTER: He said, we're not going to have any more comments on this. We're not going to say another word about it. Obviously, the White House had a lot more to say about wiretapping. Trump had a lot more to say about it. Trump will have a lot more to say about the claims he made on Twitter today.

I thought Spicer was up at the podium essentially saying, these tweets are no big deal, guys. What's the big deal? Who cares about these tweets. Pay attention to our trade deals with China. But every reporter in that room, I think most viewers watching, know the tweets are a big deal. And he also seemed to be saying, the president's just sick and tired of turning on the TV and hearing Russia, Russia, Russia, about hearing about these investigations. But they're not going to go away just because the president can change the channel.

BALDWIN: On the tapes, though, Pamela Brown, let me ask you because you have all this reporting from your source close to James Comey as he referenced these tapes. What did you learn?

[14:20:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean you heard there in the briefing Spicer basically not even going there, not answering questions whether there even is a recording device in the Oval Office or else around the White House. I spoke to a source familiar with what's going on with James Comey today and this source basically said that James Comey is not worried about any tapes. That if there is a tape, if something like that exists that recorded the conversation he had with President Trump, that he's not worried about it. Essentially that he has nothing to hide regarding what could be on those tapes. And the source said that director - former Director James Comey and President Trump had dinner on January 27th, a few days after President Trump had told James Comey that he would stay on in the FBI. And I'm told that the notion, what President Trump said yesterday, that James Comey wanted to have that dinner to ask if he could stay on in the job is absolutely false. That he already was told he could stay on in the job, and that this came as the president's request and it was a one on one dinner.

Here's what James Clapper had to say about that day to MSNBC today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Jim and I spoke briefly before the ceremony and he mentioned that he had been invited to the White House to have dinner with the president. And that he was uneasy with that because of even compromising the - even the optics, the appearance of independence, not only of him, but of the FBI. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So - but he was going that very night to the

dinner.

CLAPPER: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he explain why he felt he had to go?

CLAPPER: Well, I think anyone who is a serving officer in the government, and you're asked by the president for dinner, I think is a professional courtesy, you're difficult - you're in a difficult position to refuse to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And the source I spoke with said that James Comey knew it was possible that he could lose his job at some point, especially when he did not agree to the loyalty pledge that Sean Spicer denies ever happened. And then, later, of course, a fallout over refuting the president's wiretap claims.

But Comey did not expect it when it happened. He thought, at least, he would get a phone call of some sort from the president or someone else telling him this was coming. He was completely taken aback by the way he found out on television when he was talking to agents in the FBI L.A. field office.

I should note, there is this open question of whether he's going to testify next week in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

BALDWIN: Right.

BROWN: The source I spoke with said at this point that's unlikely, but Comey has not responded to that request as of this morning, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I mean just, ultimately, just quickly, he's a private citizen now, so it's really up to him, right?

BROWN: Yes. It's up to him.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

BROWN: And I think he wants to lay low for a while.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. OK, Pamela, thank you. Excellent reporting from you today.

Maeve Reston, just to Pamela's point, I mean, what do you make of Clapper, once again, refuting the president's words?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I mean, it's really - there's a major credibility problem that the White House has, as we know, and that's been true for several months here. But, you know, the discussion of loyalty and Trump's demands for loyalty, that goes back a long time. I mean I think the broader conversation that we need to be having here is what a chilling effect this firing has had on, you know, people wanting to serve in government. And that's been a problem for the Trump administration for a long

time. There were loyalty tests for even the lowest level employees for a while until the pool literally got too small of people for them to hire. And I think that, you know, the president is attempting to distract, as he often does, with these tweets, to change the narrative. But we need to keep coming back to the question of, who is going to be willing to serve and are those the best people to have - for us to have in government?

BALDWIN: Let me just fill everyone in. So as we're talking about this loyalty pledge, this is CNN's reporting. This is from, you know, Jake Tapper. And essentially hearing from this source close to Comey that when they had this dinner, seven days after the, you know, Donald Trump became President Trump, they had this dinner at the White House. And this source close to Comey says that the president asked him essentially - he requested assurances or a pledge of loyalty and apparently Comey at the time was taken aback by it. He actually had the same response as Sean Spicer did in the briefing when he was asked saying, listen, it's my job at the FBI, I pledge my loyalty to, you know, the U.S. Constitution, not to any one individual. And now you have the White House, Mark Preston, saying, no, no, no, that's not how it went down because, you know, Donald Trump never would have asked him for any sort of loyalty pledge.

PRESTON: Right. Loyalty to the country, which is what we would all expect. I also thought it was very telling at the very top, Brooke, when Sean Spicer was asked multiple times about the conversation and about the taping, and he said, the president has nothing further to add to that. He said that several times. Meaning, that he's laying it at the doorstep of the president, which I thought was very smart on Sean Spicer's part because in many ways he is being put out there and I do agree being this empathetic figure, to try to speak on behalf of a president who doesn't seem to have his back.

[14:25:04] But I do think we have to look at this honestly from about a 50,000 to 60,000 foot look, in looking down at the situation. We had a very serious hearing on Capitol Hill about world threats yesterday. Very scary things were said. We have the president heading overseas right now, his first foreign trip. And he is now being sidetracked by events that he has created, by reactions that he has created to those events. That is not really what a leader should be doing. And certainly not the leader of the free world. And I think that's what has caused a lot of frustration here in Washington, but also throughout the globe.

BALDWIN: On the note of the various iterations of stories that we have all received this week over why he fired James Comey, this is what the president tweeted today. "As a very active president with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at the podium with perfect accuracy." Here is Sean Spicer on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And I think sometimes we don't have an opportunity to get in to see him to get his full thinking. In those cases, we do our best to follow up with you. But I think that there are times when you, more than not, read a story when someone's trying to pin - trying to pull apart one word, one sentence and say, aha, and make it a gotcha thing. We work very hard to get you the most accurate and up-to-date information throughout the day.

QUESTION: Is the president considering canceling the daily press briefings?

SPICER: I think he's a little dismayed, as well as a lot of people, that we come out here and try to do everything we can to provide you and the American people with what he's doing on their behalf, that he's doing to keep the nation safe, what he's doing to grow jobs, and yet we see time and time again an attempt to parse every little word and make it more of a game of gotcha.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's put the press briefing bit to the side. On the point of accuracy, doesn't the American public deserve facts and accuracy from that podium?

STELTER: No matter who's the president, yes. And certainly past press secretaries have been slippery sometimes, tried to avoid answering questions or tried to spin people. But it's categorically different with this administration. The story of this administration so far is the dishonesty from Trump and from his aides. It doesn't start with his aides, it starts at the top with President Trump and then it trickles down from there.

People in power benefit from confusion. Trump benefits from confusion and chaos, as Mark Preston was saying. But I think we're seeing the value of the briefings today, Brooke. At that briefing, I think, reporters were asking the same questions that my mom has, that my brothers have, that my wife have, that people watching at home have. So we're talking about the value of the briefings, whether they're going to continue. I think Trump was just trolling us today by saying, maybe we should rethink the briefings and not hold them anymore. Just trying to stir up the pot some more and create more confusion and uncertainty. But we're seeing the value of the briefings on a day like today.

BALDWIN: Gloria, what do you think on that?

BORGER: Well, you know, I would just argue with Sean's point that we're trying to parse words here. I think we were trying to figure out why the president of the United States fired his FBI director. And I don't think that's a question that's a gotcha question. I think it's a question we ought to be asking. And we didn't get a straight answer to it. In fact, we got one answer from -

STELTER: We still don't know.

BORGER: Right. We got one answer from the podium.

BALDWIN: Right.

BORGER: We got another answer from the president of the United States. And if both of those answers are true and they can somehow be reconciled, then somebody at the podium ought to tell us that. What exactly happened because if the -

BALDWIN: I just don't - I don't understand how Sean Spicer can say that he is dismayed by the coverage this week of this story, when can't we, the media, say we're dismayed over these varying stories from the White House?

BORGER: Right, because, also, if the president fired Comey because he was thinking about the Russia investigation and thought it had gotten out of control, that is a very important story when the president himself is, you know, there are questions of whether his campaign team colluded with the Russians. Or, and indeed, you know, the question of the Russian hack altogether, which most people think is very important. And the president doesn't seem to be coming out there every day and saying, this threatens our democracy. We need to get to the bottom of whether the Russians hacked into our election system and how they did it. And we ought to make sure that it never happens again. Instead, what we get from the president is, you're - you know, this is unfair. I am not - I was told I wasn't under investigation. Comey is a showboat and so I fired him. And what we get from the White House podium is, well, we fired him, he was fired because of the way he treated Hillary Clinton. Well, what is it? What's the answer?

[14:29:52] RESTON: Well, and - and to Gloria's point, I mean the fact that you have this huge credibility problem, and as Mark said, all of these things going on in the world, I mean clearly from the interview with Lester Holt, Trump is still obsessed with this Russia controversy because he thinks it has to do with the legitimacy of his election and that is what he is thinking about and talking about all the time.