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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump: It Was My Decision to Fire FBI Director; Sessions' Role in Comey Firing Examined; U.S. May Expand Laptop Ban to Flights from Europe. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 12, 2017 - 00:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:00:29] SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --

Donald Trump calls his former FBI director a showboat and a grandstander, and says the decision to fire James Comey was his idea.

And later, possible changes to your carry-ons -- the United States is considering banning laptops on flights from Europe.

Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Sara Sidner. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

The White House can't seem to get its story straight about why President Trump fired FBI director James Comey. Critics are convinced it has to do with the investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, but President Trump is offering another explanation.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Never mind what his White House and Vice President have been saying for two straight days, President Trump said today firing FBI Director James Comey was his idea.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was going to fire Comey -- my decision. It was not --

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: You had made the decision before they came in the room.

TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. There's no good time to do it, by the way. They --

HOLT: Because in your letter you said I accepted their recommendation.

TRUMP: Well, they were --

HOLT: You had already made the decision.

TRUMP: I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.

ZELENY: In an interview with NBC News the President rewriting his administration's explanation for firing Comey. The President also explained why he insists he's not at the center of the FBI probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

TRUMP: I know that I'm not under investigation, me personally. I'm not talking about campaigns. I'm not talking about anything else. I'm not under investigation.

ZELENY: The President said he talked to Comey about it directly. A stunning assertion, considering the investigation is ongoing.

TRUMP: Said it once at dinner and then he said it twice during phone calls.

HOLT: Did you call him?

TRUMP: In one case I called him and in one case he called me.

HOLT: And did you ask "Am I under investigation"?

TRUMP: I actually asked him, yes. I said, if it's possible, will you let me know, am I under investigation? He said you are not under investigation.

ZELENY: But it was the President saying he took the lead firing Comey that now puts him at odds with his advisers, who initially said he was following the recommendation of the attorney general and deputy attorney general.

On Capitol Hill yesterday, Vice President Pence offering that rationale again and again.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of the actions that the deputy attorney general outlined to the President, and to act on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general.

ZELENY: The President's aides made the same case.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: The President took the advice of the deputy attorney general who oversees the director of the FBI.

ZELENY: The original White House time line hasn't held up to scrutiny particularly the suggestion deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein sparked Comey's firing, not the President. At the White House briefing, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders struggled to reconcile the contradictions.

SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: They're on the same page. Like why are we arguing about the semantics? Whether or not he accepted it, they agreed. I mean I'm not sure how he didn't accept the deputy attorney general's recommendation when they agreed with one another.

ZELENY: Sanders bluntly saying today the White House hopes the firing of Comey helps ends the controversy.

SANDERS: The point is, we want this to come to its conclusion. We want it to come to a conclusion with integrity. And we think that we've actually by removing Director Comey taken steps to make that happen.

ZELENY: But removing the director has only added fuel to the fire, emboldening Democratic critics and alienating frustrated Republicans. The President also delivering personal criticism of Comey and the state of the FBI.

TRUMP: He's a showboat. He's a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that; everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil -- less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that.

ZELENEY: Testifying on Capitol Hill today, the acting FBI director said it is simply not true.

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI. And still does to this day.

ZELENY: And acting FBI director Andrew McCabe took that one step further, saying it's simply not accurate to suggest that there's a crisis of confidence at the FBI. He also did a bit of pushback to some of the President's comments that he made to NBC News.

[00:05:07] He was asked directly whether any FBI agent would ever tell the President or anyone they were not the subject of an investigation. He gave a two-word answer, he said, "No, sir".

Jeff Zeleny, CNN -- the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: A lot to get through here now. Joining me now here in L.A. CNN senior reporter for media and politics Dylan Byers, and CNN law enforcement contributor and retired FBI special agent Steve Moore.

I am going to begin with Steve -- with you because there are the comments about Comey by President Trump. He called him a showboat, he called him a -- he said that he was just kind of showing off during this whole talk to the intelligence committee. And then he said the FBI was in turmoil.

Are any of those things true from your standpoint?

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Well, if the FBI's in turmoil, it's certainly not because Director Comey was the director. I know of no -- I mean his comments that the FBI is in turmoil just don't ring true.

There's frustration, certainly, with agents who believe that investigations should have gone forward and prosecuted. There's questioning about whether certain things should have been made public. But overall, acting director McCabe was telling the truth, there is broad-based support for former Director Comey. And I just -- I mean I went through four directors, and I can tell you, he was one that the agents generally really liked.

SIDNER: And so these comments, we have to be clear here, that former Director Comey has not made any comments since we've heard this. So there are lots of questions.

MOORE: Because he's not a showboat.

SIDNER: Well, I mean, you know -- but to be fair, he hasn't been able to make comments since we heard this from Trump. And also on the accusation that he actually told Donald Trump that he wasn't investigating him. Is that believable -- Dylan?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: Well, you know, I will say this about Comey not making comments. I think it does show that he's not a showboat. I mean you saw Preet Bahrara when he was ousted by Trump, you know, he's become very vocal in fact. And we might eventually see the same thing from Comey.

Look, so much of what the White House has said here is hard to interpret because it's been so bungled. And a lot of that is the result of the fact that Trump basically threw his communications team out there without really letting them know everything that was going on in terms of his own thinking, in terms of an actual messaging strategy.

They've been tripping over each other. And as a result, we've had to rely on news reports from, you know, accounts of the dinner that Comey and Trump had to actually get some sense, glean some sense of what's actually going on here.

And that only adds to this, you know, already immense sense of sort of secrecy, and this sort of cloud hanging over the entire decision to fire Comey in the first place.

SIDNER: I want to ask you about the media involvement. Can you describe the chaos, if there was any chaos -- there was definitely chaos during this announcement? The spokespeople didn't seem prepared at all for it.

BYERS: They weren't. They were utterly unprepared. I mean really what you were looking at is generously you can say the inexperience of this administration. I think less generously you might say the ineptitude of this administration.

First of all, they didn't even anticipate the media blowback or the political blowback from this decision from -- let's call it the almost unprecedented decision of firing an FBI director while he's in the process of investigating you. How do you not anticipate that?

And then on top of that, the communications team doesn't know what to do. They send out a bunch of different spokespersons -- spokespeople who say different things. One of them ends up having to hide in the bushes before he goes forward and actually addresses it.

SIDNER: That would be Sean Spicer.

BYERS: And then you've got your White House press secretary who's on leave for naval reserve duty. So you have to throw in an even more inexperienced spokesperson to give these press briefings today. She goes out she says our story has been consistent. That's false on its face. It has been entirely inconsistent.

SIDNER: And it's played out over hours and every time it seems to be a different reason.

BYERS: Yes.

SIDNER: Steve -- is it at all concerning to you that the reason for the firing of Comey has changed? Donald Trump is saying one thing. His spokespeople are saying another thing. The letter that sent out said another thing. Is this concerning to you?

MOORE: Well, yes, it's concerning. It's also illuminating to me because as an investigator in the FBI, when somebody's stories change --

SIDNER: Right.

MOORE: -- I always knew that I wasn't getting the straight story. And make no mistake about this -- no president, especially Donald Trump, is going to take the recommendation of a deputy attorney general to fire a sitting FBI president, especially while he's under investigation.

[00:10:05] The letter back might say, are you crazy? So this was Donald Trump telling the Justice Department to give him a letter. So there's nothing besides that going on here.

And the story isn't consistent. Whenever the story isn't consistent, it's just fodder for anybody who believes in conspiracies. And I'm not saying that derogatorily. I don't know if this was a firing aimed at stopping an investigation. If so, it was as dumb as the way they fired him.

SIDNER: You talked about something that I think is worth mentioning. You said as an investigator when stories change, something's wrong. Something's not right.

MOORE: The truth never changes. Like one of my FBI bosses told me one time, if you never lie, you never have to remember anything. And it seems like they're having to remember what they said. And when you're not consistent, it means you're not getting it straight.

BYERS: You know, I would just -- I think this is an incredibly important point because if you think about, we don't know what the FBI knew. We don't know even what the FBI's intentions are necessarily.

If you think about the public discourse surrounding the question of the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia you're almost getting to a point where some conservatives can reasonably make the argument that liberals and the media have grown too conspiratorial in thinking about Trump.

Now all of a sudden it's like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, why are you firing this guy? Why do you keep changing your story? What's going on here?

And like you said, if you were trying to make the investigation go away, you took a big leap in the wrong direction. Because now there are a lot of questions, there's a lot more smoke. And there's going to be a lot of pressure from Capitol Hill. And crucially, if it happens, you know, pressure from Republicans. That will really be the deciding factor here.

SIDNER: Agreed.

I want to get to some sound from the new acting director of the FBI because he faced questions by the Senate Intelligence Committee. And here's what the acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe, said when asked a pointed question on the Russian probe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Has the dismissal of Mr. Comey in any way impeded, interrupted, stopped, or negatively impacted any of the work, any investigation, or any ongoing projects at the federal bureau of investigations?

MCCABE: The work, the men and women of the FBI continues, despite any changes in circumstance, any decisions. You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing -- protecting the American people, and upholding the constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: Steve -- is he right?

MOORE: But you can light a fire under them, if you think you're trying to stop their investigation. Nothing will encourage an FBI agent more than pushback. And as I said --

SIDNER: Even by a president?

MOORE: -- especially by -- FBI agents -- McCabe and I are probably politically opposites. But there is an FBI culture that says we are not a political organization. We are the ones who investigate corrupt politicians. We can't be part of that scene.

And so if you want to light a fire under the FBI, call their agency in turmoil, call their director a showboat, and infer that their investigation is meaningless.

SIDNER: I'm going to ask you now, we're going to move on to a picture that came out of President Trump and Kislyak -- the Russian ambassador to the United States who is someone who is involved in a way in this investigation, who has been mentioned in this investigation that the country is looking into, that the FBI is looking into.

Why did President Trump go ahead with this meeting at this awkward, to say the least, time?

BYERS: Why did he go ahead with the meeting? And why -- while American media was not allowed in -- was a Russian photographer allowed in and then these pictures were disseminated. I mean -- again, if you're trying to get rid of an investigation into ties between your presidential campaign and Russia, having this meeting and letting a Russian photographer come in to take this picture and disseminate it, I mean, it defies all logic. You know, it's almost like he's asking for ramped up pressure.

SIDNER: Is he being defiant? As you say because he's said many times --

BYERS: That's a very good point. That's a very good point.

SIDNER: -- I think this is a fake investigation. This is fake -- there's nothing to see here.

BYERS: It's a very good point. But this gets to the discord between the world that we're living in and the world that the President thinks he's living in. And it is the same reason not anticipating how significant the blowback would be.

He thinks he is defiant. He thinks this will be a popular decision. He thinks he can get away with whatever he wants.

[00:15:03] The signal that he is sending, not just to the media, not just to reporters like myself -- to the entire country, to the American democratic tradition that has operated with certain expectations about ethical behavior, proper behavior, decent behavior. He's thumbing his -- however the expression goes.

SIDNER: His nose -- thumbing his nose.

And now lastly just -- we're getting word from White House sources that the White House says they were tricked. This picture was never supposed to be disseminated. But we all know in the world that we live in now that anytime a picture is taken, social media is the first place it would physically end.

BYERS: He's the President of the United States. If he doesn't want a picture taken, he can tell the guy with the camera don't take a picture.

SIDNER: Right. All right.

Steve, Dylan -- thank you so much.

BYERS: Thanks.

MOORE: Thanks.

SIDNER: Appreciate it. Next on NEWSROOM L.A., Donald Trump accuses his former FBI director of being a publicity hound who wanted to be the center of attention. Is that really why the President fired him?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SIDNER: Donald Trump has offered another possible reason why he fired James Comey, and this one is personal. Apparently the President thought his FBI director was enjoying the spotlight far too much. Here's what he told NBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[00:20:04] TRUMP: He's a showboat, he's a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that; everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil -- less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that.

HOLT: Monday you met with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

TRUMP: Right.

HOLT: Did you ask for a recommendation?

TRUMP: What I did is I was going to fire Comey -- my decision. It was not --

HOLT: You had made the decision before they came --

TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. There's no good time to do it, by the way.

HOLT: Because in your letter you said "I accepted their recommendation".

TRUMP: Yes. Well, they also --

HOLT: You had already made the decision.

TRUMP: I was going to fire him regardless of recommendation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: Let's bring in CNN political commentator Simone Sanders and Republican strategist Andrea Kaye. Ladies -- thank you for joining us.

I'm going to go to one more sound bite here because the explanation that we just heard there from Donald Trump about why he fired James Comey doesn't really match the initial reason announced in Trump's letter, by the spokespeople, and Republican Senator James Lankford. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Did you get clarity? SEN JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: I did. I did. He stated it. He

said it was Rosenstein.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: All right. So he was referring to the deputy attorney general, and that -- who gave the recommendation in the letter that was sent out for Trump firing Comey. Is this troubling to you, Simone, to see the differing reasons for the firing of the FBI director?

SIMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's absolutely troubling. I mean this -- it's just something straight out of "House of Cards". Actually I don't even think I've seen a plot in "House of Cards" that's been this crazy. What this has signaled for me is that there are no lengths to which this White House will go to cover their tracks and bend the truth to make it fit what works for them.

And I'm concerned that congressional Republicans just aren't willing to do what needs to be done to stand up to this president.

SIDNER: What do you make of what you just heard? And the different stories -- are you troubled by it yourself?

ANDREA KAYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I'm absolutely not troubled. And first of all, I would ask Simone here exactly what tracks is he trying to cover? He's right. The FBI director serves at the pleasure of the President. He's absolutely within his right to ask for his resignation or fire him at will. So you know, he doesn't have to cover for that.

You know, I've fired a few people in my day. And you know, what does it matter if I've got three reasons -- if I've got an employee who is constantly tardy, who doesn't meet their quota, causes problems with the co-workers. What does it matter if I choose one, two, or three as my reason, or what does it matter if I say it's because of this reason one day or the second the next?

You know, there's a whole host of things I think that were factored in to the reason why the FBI director needed to go many of which the Democrats agreed to up until about yesterday.

S. SANDERS: Well, look, I don't have any love lost for Director Comey -- Sara.

SIDNER: Most Democrats don't.

(CROSSTALK)

S. Sanders: And someone texted when this happened, they were like, look, the FBI never loved us. So you know, I have no love lost for Director Comey. But this is startling seeing that the President of the United States is under FBI investigation in terms of his campaign's possible collusion with Russia.

And so I just want to remind people what happened, not a couple of months when Bill Clinton sashayed over to Loretta Lynch's plane. Folks were calling for Loretta Lynch's head.

And now we have Donald Trump, there's a report coming out of the "New York Times" today saying that Donald Trump summoned former FBI Director Comey to dinner. And he's questioning his loyalty. There is no reason Director Comey and Donald Trump should be in constant communication like that. It is unprecedented.

And there are laws on the books right now, the tenure for the FBI director was lengthen to ten years to avoid the politicization of the FBI.

SIDNER: And Director Comey himself when he was talking about whether this looked like, when he talked about the Clinton investigation being reopened, that it made him nauseous to think that people would see this as a political move on his part.

I want to get to something else real quick. This is a Democratic member of the House and how he sees it. This is Adam Schiff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: It's simply not credible, I think -- the shifting explanations given by the President and his team. And it's all the more important I think for Congress to make sure we do our job to do a thorough investigation and to oversee what the FBI does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: So Democrats have said that they wanted Comey to go, obviously after what he did with Hillary Clinton.

S. SANDERS: Yes.

SIDNER: But now they're looking at this going, the timing of this. Are you at all concerned about the timing, not that Comey's been fired, but the timing of his firing?

KAYE: Absolutely not. If I would have had my preference he would have been fired the day after the inauguration. But I think that Trump had very good reasons to keep him on at that point. I don't think he wanted to start his first hundred days under controversy. And make no mistake about it, the Democrats wouldn't have gone, oh, he did it after inauguration, we're cool with that. I mean let's be honest here.

And I think that he didn't -- he also didn't just wait a hundred days and drag up some old news. You have to remember that Comey was just recently, what, like a week ago in front of Congress giving misinformation that had to be corrected by his own agents in the field.

[00:25:04] This man has been in charge of one of the most high-profile investigations we've had in our nation's history. And he couldn't get the facts right as to how many pieces of classified information that Huma Abedin transferred to her husband? That is outrageous. And to follow up on Simone's well-made point about Loretta Lynch when she had a completely inappropriate clandestine meeting with Bill Clinton, the husband of someone under her investigation --

S. SANDERS: It was a tarmac meeting.

KAYE: Well, a tarmac meeting and I'm sure they were just talking about the grandchildren, right? To me, that was when there was a constitutional crisis. And the timing to fire, to call for special prosecutor was then. The time to fire Comey was when he came out in July and President Obama could have done that then, when he came out in July and laid out all the reasons Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted. And then stole the identity of Loretta Lynch and then acted as the attorney general and said she shouldn't be prosecuted.

S. SANDERS: I am baffled.

KAYE: So this is way overdue -- girls.

S. SANDERS: I am baffled by the hypocrisy of today's Republicans. This should not even be a political issue, to be honest. Look, we have a president of the United States who is literally under FBI investigation right now. We have the FBI director who was leading that case, who just recently asked for additional resources on this Russia investigation --

KAYE: Actually that's not true.

S. SANDERS: -- who has been dismissed by that same president. And today --

KAYE: No, that's not true -- Simone.

S. SANDERS: -- today we have the President of the United States coming out himself and saying, look, I wasn't really worried about Rosenstein's letter. He was going to go regardless because I decided it was time for Director Comey to go.

KAYE: First of all -- let's talk about the --

S. SANDERS: I would like for there to be some consistency in this White House.

KAYE: Excuse me. Acting attorney general -- FBI Director McCabe said today they are fully resourced. That's absolutely not true. It also has not been confirmed that President Trump is actually under investigation. We do know --

S. SANDERS: Just the campaign.

KAYE: Yes, just the campaign. He's not personally under any investigation --

S. SANDERS: His campaign that he ran. That's a fair point.

KAYE: It's the facts that we're going to talk about it. He is absolutely not personally under investigation.

S. SANDERS: Well, we don't know.

KAYE: Here's what we do know. Here's what we do know. We do know that after a year of an investigation, there has been absolutely no proof, according to Clapper and Dianne Feinstein that President Trump or the Trump Organization colluded at all with Russia. What we do know is that there were crimes that were committed that Comey refused to acknowledge he was actually investigating.

If the left -- talk about hypocrisy -- if the left really cares about an actual investigation into Russia's collusion or anything involving -- anything with the Russian hacking or any of that, I think we need to get Comey out of the way and let the real people conduct an investigation.

S. SANDERS: And let a special prosecutor step and I have yet to hear --

KAYE: A crime has to be proven first for that to happen.

S. SANDERS: I have yet to hear congressional Republicans at the highest ranks call for an independent investigation to restore some integrity and some faith and confidence into what is happening.

(CROSSTALK)

SIDNER: -- special investigator.

KAYE: Absolutely. Well, there shouldn't be because well, I'm not pretending to be a constitutional expert here and I don't know that Simone is, my understanding is there actually has to be a crime that has occurred, you know, for a special prosecutor to actually be assigned.

And then it comes from the Justice Department. However, there have been some high ranking Republicans that have actually called for that. John McCain and others, which is astounding to me, because these are the same people that did not call for a special prosecutor when crimes had been committed by Hillary Clinton for which she should have been held to account. And Mr. Comey, the nauseous --

(CROSSTALK)

SIDNER: Just to be clear -- Hillary Clinton was not charged with a crime.

S. SANDERS: Exactly.

KAYE: I didn't say she was.

SIDNER: Right. So we can't say crimes were committed.

KAYE: I didn't say she was.

SIDNER: She had not been charged with a crime -- KAYE: Well, I would say that there have been, according to -- well,

come on, the FBI --

SIDNER: I think a lot of people are saying, well, come on. But the decision, the fact here is she was not charged with a crime.

KAYE: Under the espionage act, all you have to do is prove gross negligence, which she set up an illegal server next to a toilet somewhere in Colorado. She violated the espionage act.

S. SANDERS: Oh, my god -- the facts are, Hillary Clinton did not --

KAYE: How about after --

(CROSSTALK)

KAYE: How about after subpoenas were --

(CROSSTALK)

SIDNER: Ok. We've got -- ladies, we have to wrap this up. This has been an absolutely fun conversation and I know we're passionate.

S. SANDERS: I think the fact of the matter here is that we need to restore some integrity to the process. And the American people --

KAYE: Yes. And we will have that with Comey out of the way.

SIDNER: We'll leave it there. You can tell in this country, this is really concerning to a lot of people -- a lot of passion behind it. We thank you both for joining us tonight.

Next on NEWSROOM L.A., contradicting stories surrounding James Comey's firing keep filing up. We'll ask a legal analyst to weigh in on the latest developments when we return.

[00:29:28] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Sara Sidner. Our top story for you at this hour, U.S. President Donald Trump says he decided to fire FBI director James Comey before a recommendation from the deputy attorney general.

That contradicts what the White House has been saying. They said that Comey was fired because of an assessment that he mishandled the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.

We're going to dig deeper now. We've got CNN legal analyst Laura Coates who us joining us from Washington.

Thank you so much for being here, Laura.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Of course. SIDNER: All right. Let's jump right in to the president and the FBI probe controversy. The fact that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation into the Russian ties to the Trump campaign and we now learn that he was involved in recommending the FBI director be fired.

Could that be considered breaking his promise to stay out of it, to recuse himself?

And if so, are there any legal ramifications to that?

COATES: Well, it's so peculiar he would do this. But he does have a lifeline here. Remember, his recusal was pretty specific, I wasn't get involved in anything to do with the Russia investigation and also with the campaign of 2016.

So you have him saying, look, I didn't really touch on either of those things. What I did was assess whether or not the person who is my chief investigator, the director of the FBI, whether his credibility has been undermined to the extent that we cannot trust that he has the confidence of his overall department.

That seems to be the basis he will cling to, to avoid people saying, this was an absolute disregard for recusal. I think, legally speaking, you know, it wasn't a legal binding contract that he did with the recusal.

But it will have political implications and it has already caused people to call for his resignation as somebody who has parsed words when the intent behind his words was very clear.

SIDNER: Intent is a big thing, especially now, where people are looking for some clarity. Let's talk about what President Trump said today. He answered a lot of questions in his interview with NBC concerning --

[00:35:00]

SIDNER: -- former FBI director Comey. Here is what he said Comey told him when asked if he was under investigation.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A dinner was arranged. I think he asked for the dinner. And he wanted to stay on as the FBI head. And I said, I'll consider; we'll see what happens.

But we had a very nice dinner. And at that time, he told me, you are not under investigation, which I knew anyway.

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: That was one meeting.

What was it --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: -- when you're under investigation, you're given all sorts of documents and everything. I knew I wasn't under. And I heard it was stated at the committee, at some committee level, that I wasn't, number one.

HOLT: So they didn't come --

TRUMP: Then during the phone call he said it and then during another phone call he said it. So he said it once at dinner and then he said it twice during phone calls.

HOLT: Did you call him?

TRUMP: In one case I called him and one case he called me.

HOLT: And did you ask him, am I under investigation?

TRUMP: I actually asked him, yes. I said, if it's possible, will you let me know, am I under investigation?

And he said, you are not under investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: Now a couple of things here. I want to talk first about the fact that we have not heard from James Comey on this. This is what President Trump says happened.

But if Comey did divulge that kind of information as the director of the FBI, is that problematic when an investigation is still open?

COATES: Absolutely. I would be shocked, as are most of the Justice Department and the FBI and any member of the prosecutorial community, that there would be somebody who would comment on an ongoing investigation or the existence of an investigation.

Remember, we all sat there patiently, you know, willing and praying that Comey would divulge information at any of his hearings. And oftentimes he would say, I will not disclose the existence of an investigation.

So to have him do it in that private setting would be no different. The same rules would apply.

But the timing, Sarah, is so important here.

When did these conversations occur?

I know that I wanted Lester Holt to ask that question. I hoped he did because the timing is important. If he asked the question at this dinner, prior to the March hearing, where James Comey said, look, there is a criminal investigation into the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia, then, at that time, if it was before that, well, you don't have one of the factors you need to show that this particular action or this question was based on an attempt to obstruct justice perhaps.

If it happened after the existence, the confirmed existence of a collusion investigation, then that has very different consequences. But right now, it appears as though that dinner happened before that. You've got a president who was certainly throwing his weight around

and trying to influence this person at the time when his job may have been on the line.

SIDNER: And there are a lot of questions about whether that sort of thing will influence the FBI.

Let's turn now to what the acting FBI director has said today to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever hear Director Comey tell the president he was not the subject of an investigation?

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: Sir, I can't comment on any conversations the director may have had with the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: So he also went on to say that the FBI is going forward with this investigation.

Legally and ethically speaking, he can't really say anything different, can he?

COATES: No. And I think that one of his motivations was found in the letter that was issued by James Comey, that said he wanted people to still view the FBI as a rock of credibility, as a foundational sort of organization that had the will to still carry out justice as best they could.

And so I think what you saw there was, although a very understated version of James Comey; he did not have the grandiose stature or the personality, perhaps, we've seen from the former FBI director, but his words were quite telling.

He said, we're not going to curtail any investigation and I have the resources I need and we can still be fully autonomous without -- with this having happened. So I think it was a little bit of a subtle yet ominous warning to the President of the United States to politely say this, your actions do not stop the investigation.

And if that was your particular motive, it was counterproductive.

SIDNER: Well, it certainly didn't work during President Nixon's time. We'll have to leave it there, Laura Coates. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

COATES: Thank you.

SIDNER: Next on NEWSROOM L.A., the U.S. might be expanding its laptop ban in airline cabins. What region could be affected next. We'll have that for you just ahead.

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SIDNER: Europe is bracing for turbulence over the news the U.S. could expand its airline laptop ban. Several airports from North Africa and the Middle East have been hit with similar measures with gadgets larger than a phone barred from cabins on U.S.-bound flights. For more, here's Andy Rose.

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ANDY ROSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Buckle up, it's shaping up to be a very long and boring flight. The U.S. could soon expand its laptop ban to all flights coming from Europe.

On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to lay out the groundwork, according to two Capitol Hill sources. While no final decision has been made yet, according to the sources, it's coming soon.

Electronic devices larger than a smartphone were banned from carryon luggage on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa back in March. The U.S. said it was because of intelligence suggesting terrorists could hide explosives in those large devices.

But the travel industry is not on board with the ban extension. For one, they don't believe it's any safer for electronic items to be in checked luggage.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: The experts are concerned about, all of a sudden, having all these lithium ion batteries in the bottom of airplanes. If one catches on fire, one explodes and then you have other lithium-ion batteries around it, it's like having matches next to each other.

ROSE: Another hang up is that this could hurt bookings, especially for business travelers who count on having time to work while in the air. More than 350 flights a day travel from Europe to the U.S.

And it's not just the airlines that would be hit. 40 percent of overseas travelers are from Europe and those travelers tend to be big spenders once they get here, averaging between $3,000 and $4,000 per trip according to the U.S. Travel Association.

As of now, there are no plans to extend the ban to flights leaving the U.S. --- I'm Andy Rose reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Sara Sidner. "WORLD SPORT" starts after the break.