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State of the Union

White House's Crisis of Credibility; Trump's Political Earthquake; Interview With Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper; Interview With New York Senator Chuck Schumer; Trump: There Was No Good Time To Fire Comey; Democratic Senators Calls FBI Firing "Nixonian"; From Hollywood To Washington Is the Subject of This Week's "State of the Cartoonion" Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 14, 2017 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're fired -- a political earthquake, as President Trump cans FBI Director James Comey.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He wasn't doing a good job, very simply.

TAPPER: And threatens to leak secret tapes of his conversations with Comey.

TRUMP: He's a showboater.

TAPPER: With Comey out, who will take over the FBI leading the investigation into the Trump team's potential collusion with Russia?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Were those investigations getting too close to home for the president?

TAPPER: Democratic Leader Senator Chuck Schumer joins me in moments.

Plus, warm welcome. Top Russian officials pose for private photographs inside the Oval Office, as President Trump insists the Russia investigation is a witch-hunt.

TRUMP: I'm not under investigation.

TAPPER: Where do things stand now?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: I don't know if there was collusion or not.

TAPPER: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will be here live.

And one-man show. The president says no one at the White House speaks for him.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is nothing further to add on that.

TAPPER: As he contradicts his staff's explanations and publicly burns his own press secretary.

TRUMP: He's doing a good job, but he gets beat up.

TAPPER: Is there anyone in the West Wing who can be trusted to tell the truth?

The best political minds will be here on Washington's wild week.


TAPPER: Hello.

I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is reeling, first President Trump's surprise firing of FBI Director James Comey, the man heading the investigation into possible collusion by Russia, by the Trump team, then a series of hard-to-believe explanations from the White House staff that Trump himself revealed to be, well, not believable, and then a stunning admission by the president and what seemed like a threat to the FBI director about secret tapes of their conversations.

Answers about what really happened are in short supply. Director Comey has declined an invitation to testify before Congress this week, though Comey did manage to take in a musical yesterday, posing for this photo with the cast of "Fun House" (sic).

We asked the White House to provide us with somebody who could answer our questions, the ones you want to answered, but the White House declined.

President Trump did speak to FOX News, insisting again that the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is a waste of time.


TRUMP: I would like it to move fast, if possible, but I will tell you what I really want. There is no collusion. We have nothing to do with Russia and everything else.


TAPPER: Meanwhile, Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein spent yesterday interviewing at least eight candidates vying to replace Comey as the new FBI director.

President Trump says there could be a pick as early as this week, although the Senate, of course, will have to approve his choice.

We have lots to talk with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer from New York, who joins me now from Rochester.

Good morning, Senator Schumer. Good to see you. SCHUMER: Good morning, Jake.

And a happy Mother's Day to all the moms, including my mom, who, God willing, will turn 89 in a few weeks.

TAPPER: All right, God bless to her.

So, let's turn to the news here.

President Trump said this week that, when he fired the FBI director, he was thinking about the Russia investigation. Take a listen.


TRUMP: ... fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it.

And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


TAPPER: Does that admission, when combined with the fact that President Trump, according to a source close to Comey, asked Director Comey for his loyalty, does that constitute obstruction of justice?

SCHUMER: Well, look, obstruction of justice is a very complicated issue. It involves intent.

I have asked for and our Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have asked for the inspector general to do a complete and thorough report about anyone, anyone at all, interfering with this investigation. Once we get those facts, we can then consult some of the great legal minds and come to a conclusion.

TAPPER: Well, what is your response to the fact that President Trump said that, when he made the decision to fire FBI Director Comey, he was thinking about the Russia probe?

SCHUMER: Well, again, you know, this is an issue that's a serious issue and needs a thorough, thorough investigation by the attorney general.

And -- by, rather, the inspector general, not the attorney general. He should be recused. And I look forward to seeing the results. The inspect general, as you know, Jake, is independent and has a great reputation for being able to get to the bottom of stuff.

TAPPER: On Friday, President Trump warned former FBI Director Comey against leaking any negative information.

Let me read you the tweet -- quote -- "James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press." What steps can the Senate take to determine if these tapes or audio files or whatever exist? And, if they do exist, will Democrats demand that they be subpoenaed?


SCHUMER: Well, first of all, if there are tapes, the president should turn them over immediately, of course. To destroy them would be a violation of law. But he should turn them over to Congress and to the investigators. If there are no tapes, he should apologize to both Jim Comey and the American people for misleading them.

But what happened this week makes it all the more important that we get a special prosecutor. A special prosecutor can look into these tapes, can look into if they exist, can examine everything in an independent way.

And I want to say one thing, Jake. The silence of my Republican colleagues is choosing party over country at a time where we can ill afford it. Foreign manipulation of our elections, no matter who did it, is a very, very serious issue. It damages people's faith in our government. It is one of the things the founding fathers most, most warned about.

So, our Republicans should be stepping up to the plate and joining us in asking for a special prosecutor. Where is the Howard Baker of 2017?

TAPPER: Are Republican colleagues of yours saying anything to you off the record, obviously, without naming them, about all of this, about the Comey firing, and the explanation, and the tweets, and the seeming threat?

SCHUMER: Yes, well, I have had conversations with a good number of Republican colleagues. They're my friends. These are one-on-one. I wouldn't make them public.

And I have told them more or less what I have said here, that this is so serious about the republic, there is a need to get to the bottom of this. There is a crisis of credibility with the president. I mean, so many things, I mean, there's so much factual fabrication, and then backsliding and contradiction.

We need our Republican colleagues, not every day, but on the occasions when it's necessary, such as for a special prosecutor, such as what has happened in the last week, to speak out, because this is country. This is an issue of country, not party. And our credibility, the credibility of the presidency with the American people, and of our country with the world, is rapidly eroding because of this crisis of credibility.

And one more thing I would say. The people in the White House have an obligation, if they know something is false, not to say it. I know they work for the president. I know they're supposed to be loyal, but they don't have to say things if they know that they're deliberately false. TAPPER: Eight candidates for FBI director were interviewed on


I'm going to put their photos up on the screen there, Senator John Cornyn, Andrew McCabe, who is the acting FBI director, Alice Fisher, Judge Michael Garcia, Adam Lee, Judge Henry Hudson, Frances Townsend, and former Congressman Mike Rogers.

I want to ask you specifically about one of those individuals, Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas. He was quoted by "The Texas Tribune" on May 10 saying that the idea Trump fired Comey to squelch the Russia probe is a -- quote -- "phony narrative."

In your mind, does that taint Senator Cornyn's ability to serve as director of the FBI?

SCHUMER: Look, I'm not going to get into any specific names, but I would say this more generally, Jake.

First, the nominee should be not a partisan politician, not part of either party. This demands a serious, down-the-middle investigation. Second, it ought to be somebody who is experienced. You need a really good prosecutor here, somebody who knows how to do it.

And, third, it should be someone with courage. If there is interference or attempted interference to shut down the investigation, to misdirect it, you need somebody who is going to stand up. So, those are my three criteria. I'm not going to name any specific people, nor criticize or evaluate any people who have been named until they name somebody. But the criteria are pretty obvious.

TAPPER: You just called for a special prosecutor to investigate this possible collusion between the Trump team and Russia. Your party, however, has not settled on a strategy for how to make this happen.

As you know, the Justice Department would have to appoint a special prosecutor.


TAPPER: Now, Senator Mark Warner, he is the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. He wants the Democratic Party to refuse to vote on the nomination of a new FBI director until a special prosecutor is appointed.

Do you support that move?

SCHUMER: Yes, I think there are a lot of Democrats who feel that way. We will have to discuss it as a caucus, but I would support that move, because who the FBI director is, is related to who the special prosecutor is.

Remember, the criteria for a special prosecutor, independent in making day-to-day decisions from the hierarchy in the Justice Department and the White House, can only be fired for cause, has to report to Congress, and, very importantly, can look into any attempts to thwart the investigation, are all really important criteria.

And to have that special prosecutor, people would breathe a sigh of relief, because then there would be a real independent person overlooking the FBI director. So, I think the two are related. I think Mark Warner's idea is a good idea. And I think it will get some broad support in our caucus.


The key here, of course, is getting some of our Republican colleagues to join us. We're hoping. We're waiting. We understand it's difficult, but I think patriotism and the needs of this country demand it.

TAPPER: The Senate Intelligence Committee called for James Comey to testify on Tuesday, but Comey has said he's not going to be able to.

Do you think that the Intelligence Committee should issue a subpoena and compel him to testify?


In fact, I believe -- I read this in the papers -- but that Mr. Comey has said he does want to testify, but he'd like it to be in public. I think public testimony is very important. He can leave out things that are classified, or they can go into a SCIF for the parts that are classified.

But public testimony would be very important. And there are lots of different forums to do it. I hope he will testify. I think he wants to testify, from everything I have read. And he has an obligation to testify, because what happened is serious stuff. And we ought to know every side of it.

TAPPER: As you know, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who had said he would recuse himself for anything having to do with these probes, raised eyebrows when he participated very directly in the firing of Comey.

And then, of course, there are questions about him interviewing candidates to replace Comey. But what do you think about Sessions' claim to have recused himself? Do you think he should be investigated by the Senate? And should it be investigated by the inspector general at DOJ?


I have asked the inspector general. And the request I have made is not only to look into any interference to thwart the investigation, but whether Attorney General Sessions should have participated in the firing of Comey and should participate in FBI director.

You know, Attorney General Sessions has a much higher obligation. He didn't tell the truth about meeting with the Russians, so he recused himself. Now he seems to be violating that recusal. That would seem, on its face, to be part of this. And, look, I called for him to step down when he didn't tell the truth about the Russians, because it's the highest law enforcement officer in the land. The actions of the last week make all the more reason that he should not be attorney general.

TAPPER: Leader Schumer, please pass on our happy Mother's Day wishes to your mother and to your wife. Thanks so much for joining us.

SCHUMER: Thank you. To you and yours, Jake, too.

TAPPER: Thank you.

President Trump continues to cite one man as proof that there's no evidence of Russian collusion within his campaign. That man is here with me live.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back.

In the midst of this backlash against President Trump's firing of Director James Comey, the president tried to defend himself against allegations he was trying to shut down the FBI's investigation into his campaign's possible ties to Russia.

He tweeted -- quote -- "When James Clapper himself and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch-hunt says there is no collusion, when does it end?"

The president was referring to this testimony by the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who served under President Obama.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Does intelligence exist that can definitely answer the following question, where there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials? You say, "No, not to my knowledge."

Is that still accurate?



TAPPER: Is President Trump right that Clapper has closed the book on this question?

Well, we will talk to the man himself, former Director of National Intelligence under the President Obama administration James Clapper.

Thanks so much for being here. Appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Jake, for having me.

TAPPER: So, first of all, the president says you said there was no collusion. Is that a fair depiction?

CLAPPER: Well, what I first need to explain, Jake, is the way in which I treated counterintelligence investigations during the six-and- a-half years that I was DNI.

I deferred to the FBI director, both Director Mueller and then Director Comey, as to whether, when and what to tell me about any counterintelligence investigations that they might have under way.

So, it was kind of standard practice. So, my statement was premised on first the context of our intelligence community assessment on Russian interference with the election. We did not -- there was no -- no reporting in that intelligence community assessment about political collusion.

We did not -- I did not have any evidence, did not know about the investigation.

TAPPER: You didn't even know that the FBI was conducting an investigation?

CLAPPER: I did not, and, even more importantly, did not know the content or the status of that investigation.

And there's all kinds of reasons why that's so, but this -- these are sensitive. We try to keep them as compartmented as possible. And, importantly, these invariably involve U.S. persons. And so we try to be very differential to that.

So, my statements should not be considered exculpatory, as -- to use a legal term.

TAPPER: So, the president's obviously trying to use them.

Let's go back to the original statement that you made on "Meet the Press" in March that the president's referring to that Lindsey Graham asked you about.

Let's roll that tape.


CLAPPER: We did not include any evidence in our report -- and I say our -- that's NSA, FBI, and CIA, with my office, the director of national intelligence -- that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians.


TAPPER: So, you mentioned the FBI there, but, at that point, it was March 5. You did not even know that there was an FBI investigation... CLAPPER: That's right.

TAPPER: ... until Comey testified a few days later?

CLAPPER: I did not know. That's right. And that was my first official knowledge of such an investigation, particularly as it addressed potential political collusion.

So, the bottom line is, I don't know if there was collusion, political collusion, and I don't know of any evidence to it, so I can't refute it and I can't confirm it.


TAPPER: When you say official knowledge, what does that mean?

CLAPPER: Well, I took Director Comey's announcement that he made at the House Permanent Select Committee for Intelligence hearing on, I think, the 20th of March, I treated that as an announcement that...


TAPPER: Right. But that's not official knowledge, because you weren't director of national intelligence anymore.

CLAPPER: Well, I treated what he said as official.


Let's take a wider view of this for one second, and then I want to get back to some of these more detailed questions. This week, with the president firing the FBI director while this investigation is going on, and then saying that he was thinking about the Russia probe when he was making the decision, have we crossed a line here?

CLAPPER: Well, I will just say that the developments of the past week are very bothersome, very disturbing to me.

I think, in many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally -- and that's the big news here, is the Russian interference in our election system. And I think as well our institutions are under assault internally.

TAPPER: Internally from the president?

CLAPPER: Exactly.

TAPPER: Because he's firing the checks and balances?

CLAPPER: Well, I think, you know, the founding fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances.

And I feel as though that's under assault and is eroding.

TAPPER: Are you surprised at how quiet Republicans on Capitol Hill have been?

CLAPPER: Well, I can't -- I can't say.

I think each senator or congressman has got to -- I hope will think in terms of their own conscience. And I can't -- I can't characterize it as being surprised. I just -- I hope they will speak up.

TAPPER: General, on Friday, you said that Director Comey told you he was uncomfortable about going to this private dinner that he went to with the president shortly after the inauguration.


TAPPER: Did he talk to you at all about the content of their conversation?


TAPPER: And the reason I ask is because a source close to Comey told me about the dinner, about President Trump asking Comey for a pledge of personal loyalty, and Comey said no.

CLAPPER: No, my only knowledge of this was before the dinner. I was at the Hoover Building on the 27th of January for another event, and spoke briefly with Director Comey.

He mentioned to me the invitation he had from the president for dinner, and that he was, my characterization, uneasy with it, both from a standpoint of the optic of compromising his independence and the independence of the FBI.

But I don't know. He's not debriefed me or spoken to me about what went on during the dinner.

TAPPER: Have you talked to him this week?

CLAPPER: I have not spoken with him. I have exchanged e-mails with him.

TAPPER: And did he say anything that we should know?

CLAPPER: No, he didn't. And, if he had, I probably wouldn't talk about it anyway.



You are, I imagine, as an intelligence professional, even though you're retired, in touch with people in the intelligence community. Without getting into names or the like, what's been the impact in the intelligence community of the firing of James Comey?

CLAPPER: Well, I think, at large, there is concern about it.

I do know that it came as a great shock to and was very disturbing to FBI employees. I spoke to one last night at a dinner that was quite upset about it. And I think that reflects the feeling, the widespread feeling in the FBI.

I'm fairly familiar with the bureau. I have worked with it for a long time. And I have a relationship with the bureau through our domestic DNI reps and through the overseas legal attaches. And I'm pretty familiar with the bureau and its people.

It's a national treasure. And it's very disturbing to me that the -- the negative morale impact this event has had. I mean, people had issues, I'm sure, with Director Comey's -- some of his decisions. That's fine. People took issue with decisions I made. That's part of the deal.

But I think, as far as his stature as a leader and his integrity, people are very upset about the way he was treated.

TAPPER: Back in March, Clint Watts of the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at G.W. testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee about Russian efforts to influence the U.S. election, which you say is the most important thing for us to focus on.

Take a listen to what he had to say.



CLINT WATTS, CENTER FOR CYBER AND HOMELAND SECURITY: Follow the trail of dead Russians. There's been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation who have assets in banks all over the world. They are dropping dead even in Western countries.


TAPPER: Follow the trail of dead Russians.

Is there anything you can tell us about that?

CLAPPER: Well, this obviously has been a curious pattern.

We have had difficulty, though, in actually generating an evidentiary trail that could equate convincingly and compellingly in a court of law a direct connection between certain figures that have been eliminated who apparently ran afoul of Putin.

So, it's an interesting pattern. I will put it that way.

TAPPER: But nothing conclusive?


TAPPER: President Trump raised the prospect this week of secret White House recordings. When asked about it, Sean Spicer refused to comment. He was asked several times.

Would the U.S. intelligence community be aware of any such recordings or any devices?

CLAPPER: I can't say. I would hope so, certainly from a security standpoint, if nothing else.

I don't believe there was one in the administration I served in. I certainly can't comment on this one.

TAPPER: There are a lot of Americans out there who are scared this week, Democrats, Republicans, independents, because of the behavior by the president.

Are you among them?

CLAPPER: I'm concerned. I will say that.

TAPPER: General Clapper, thanks so much for your time. We really appreciate it. Thanks for coming on.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Jake, for having me.

TAPPER: Good to see you.

Are there secret tape recordings of meetings and phone calls inside the White House? If so, who has access to them?

We will have more on that next.




TRUMP: But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election, that they should have won.


TAPPER: A stunning admission by President Trump that the FBI's investigation into possible collusion with Russia by the Trump team was on his mind when he decided to fire the man heading up the FBI which was conducting that investigation, James Comey.

It has been to say the least a remarkable week in Washington here with their insights we have with us Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative "Weekly Standard," Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Neera Tanden who's president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, and Amanda Carpenter former communications director for Ted Cruz Republican of Texas. Thanks one and all for being here.

Bill, let me start with you. Does that combined with the statement saying that he was thinking about the FBI investigation when he made the decision to fire the FBI director combined with his request for a pledge of loyalty according to his source close to Comey, does that constitute obstruction of justice?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't know but I'd also combine the statement in the written statement Tuesday night the FBI director assured him that he was not under investigation.

I was with a Republican lawyer who served the Republican administrations who I think probably voted for Donald Trump who said all the alarm bells went off, the combination of the written statement and the comment that you just showed on television. And again, I think the media sort of is treating this as, oh gee, another bad week for Trump, very entertaining. Sean Spicer has a tough time at the press briefing. You're in a whole different world when you're talking about an FBI investigation.

TAPPER: Congresswoman, Attorney General Sessions said he was recusing himself from the matter but obviously played a leading role in the firing of Comey, he's playing a leading role in the hiring of his replacement. Do you have concerns about that?

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D), FLORIDA: Absolutely I do have concerns about that. We know that Attorney General Sessions recused himself because he had had contact with Russian government officials and I'm somebody who has had one of the highest clearances in this country and I know that --

TAPPER: You used to serve at the Pentagon.

MURPHY: That's correct.

And I know that there's no such thing as appropriate contact with a hostile foreign government, and so he's recused himself from the Russian investigation. I don't believe that he should be involved in selecting the FBI director. We need to have somebody who is beyond reproach in that position.

TAPPER: Amanda, do you think that there is something different about this week than all the previous fun filled weeks of the Trump administration? Has -- has a line been crossed with the firing of the FBI director and all the subsequent explanations and tweets?

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER TED CRUZ COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, here's the thing. I think the strangest things about all this have happened right before our very highs. To four incidents, at the convention where Donald Trump stood up and called on Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton's emails, Paul Manafort mysteriously disappearing from the campaign after the A.P. published all the money that he was getting from Russian sources that he failed to disclose, Flynn lying about the conversations he had with Russia sanctions in retaliation for malicious cyber activity, and now not even the threatening of the tapes but Donald Trump actually inviting Russian officials into his Oval Office and smiling and taking photos after we all know all the intelligence agencies agree that they meddled in our elections. They said, oh, we don't know how it got out. Well, either something is very wrong or you are a mark. TAPPER: Something just a note on that off Oval Office visit is the only reason the photographs are because the Russians took pictures of them and then released them on their foreign ministry website and then TASS released them. And before those photos came out we have no idea that Ambassador Kislyak who, Neera, as you know is a central figure in a lot of these controversies. He was the one Flynn was talking to in the conversation Flynn lied about.



TAPPER: He was the one that Sessions -- Sessions met with that require -- that did not -- was not forthcoming about that required his recusal.

TANDEN: Yes, I think actually even more important if you look at what happened in January, the FBI investigates, goes and meets with Mike Flynn January 24th. Sally Yates informs Don McGahn, White House Counsel --

TAPPER: The White House Counsel.

TANDEN: The White House Counsel February 26. It's so urgent she goes to the White House to meet with him in a skiff, a place where she can have --

TAPPER: A secure briefing. Yes.

TANDEN: Secure briefing. The next day Comey is summoned to the White House by the president of the United States and asked for loyalty in the investigation of the Mike Flynn matter. If there isn't a reason for a special prosecutor, there has never been one in our history.

TAPPER: Here's -- here's the thing special prosecutors as you know need to be appointed by the Department of Justice.

So, Congresswoman, I don't think Jeff Sessions or Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein are eager to appoint a special prosecutor. I don't think president Trumps wants them to. Is there anything that could be done?

MURPHY: I think that one of the things that could be done is an independent commission could be set up through passage of legislation that I have co-sponsored. What we're looking for though is a few good men or women on the Republican side who are willing to put their country above their party loyalty. It's real in the best interest of this entire country for us to get to the bottom of the issue with the Russian hacking.

Make no mistake about it, they made a direct attack against our democracy through cyber attacks and the use of information operations warfare. And we need to find the facts, follow those facts to wherever or whomever they lead and the only way we can do that is through an independent investigation. TAPPER: And, Bill, speaking of information warfare take a look at

this tweet from President Trump: "James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"

What do you make of that?

KRISTOL: That's a little nuts. I'd say that also. Alarmed people who wish Trump sort of wished Donald Trump well on the Republican side, and whether there's a special counsel or not there is an FBI investigation. That goes on. There is -- there will be an acting director, there will be a new director and that person will not be a loyalist because the Senate will not confirm a Trump loyalist.

So I happened to chat with one FBI agent I know light slightly this week. They are unhappy and they are going to prove that the FBI is an institution of integrity by carrying out this investigation in a full throated way. The notion -- Trump has this childish notion you fire the -- James like there's no institution there. You fire an individual, James Comey and the whole thing stops. That's ridiculous.

TANDEN: That's the FBI --

KRISTOL: So that's again why I come back to sort of Neera's point too.

I mean, we are in just different waters than, oh, he tweeted something foolish or maybe something a little offensive of our allies.


KRISTOL: We are talking about a real investigation where people are now going to, James Comey will testify as to what happened in that meeting on January 27th, there's going to be, you know, people will have to be put under oath so this is a different moment.

TANDEN: I know but I would just say that you need both prosecutors and investigators for a thorough investigation. I think the reality no one can trust this Department of Justice.

Jeff Sessions --

TAPPER: Do you agree with that, Amanda?

CARPENTER: Well, here's the thing. I mean, a lot of Democrats are asking for a special prosecutor. Prosecutor can only look at crimes. I'm not sure that -- (INAUDIBLE) exactly (ph) to where you're going because if there's no bright line crime they'll say we're cleared, Donald Trump will say I didn't do anything wrong when I think they're probably likely a lot of ethical bad judgments. I think a commission might be a better way to go.

TANDEN: Let's know if there's a crime or not. Let's know if there's a crime or not.

KRISTOL: Yes. CARPENTER: I think it's too narrow to focus on that.

KRISTOL: Well, but it's not too -- there is --

CARPENTER: Find out what happened is more important.

KRISTOL: Well, there is an FBI investigation.

CARPENTER: Yes. Right.

KRISTOL: I mean, people are being too silly about this. They launched this investigations half (ph) hazardly (ph) for nothing. There's a lot of circumstantial evidence that leads to you worry both about collusion in the campaign, whether or not that's a crime is a question though, and then what happened once Donald Trump became president-elect and especially once he became president.


KRISTOL: I very much agree with Neera on this that has to be investigated.

TANDEN: And whether it's obstructing justice.

KRISTOL: Whether it's a special counsel, whether it's a (ph) serious (ph) FBI director making sure that it's (INAUDIBLE) resourced and -- that they go ahead with a serious investigation is I'm sort of neutral on that but it has to be a serious investigation.

TAPPER: Let's take a quick break and then we're going to stay with our panel.

Coming up Democrats are threatening to bring the Senate to a grinding halt until they get answers about President Trump's decision to fire FBI Director Comey. What can they actually do? That's next.




WARREN: This is a moment in history. Donald Trump has tried to put himself above the law and that's not how it works in America.


TAPPER: Senator Elizabeth Warren echoing many Democrat this is weekend, some called Trump Nixonian. The Nixon Library weighed in and said, hey, Nixon never fired an FBI director -- not Nixonian. On Capitol Hill -- well, Republicans however remained largely silent on his calls for a special prosecutor this week after the president fired the FBI director.

The panel is still with me. And we were talking during the break about the statement that President Trump put out there back when the White House was still sticking with the apparent lie that this was all because of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and his recommendation that Comey be fired because of how poorly and unprofessional he had treated Hillary Clinton back when that was the story, like five years ago, but it was just Tuesday. So and the president wrote something in his letter, Bill, that you found stupid, to put it --


KRISTOL: The president put out a statement I think it was Tuesday night in the President's Day where he had this claim that the claim FBI Director Comey assured him that he was not under investigation when they had -- when they met previously.

I mean, any -- I'm not a lawyer but any lawyer -- I've talked to enough lawyers -- any lawyer would have said you cannot put that in there. You are opening an incredible can of worms for yourself. Director Comey is going to be asked about that. He can't -- now say I don't discuss private conversations with the president because the president has discussed it. He has to set the record straight. There are issues of whether he -- there would be lawyer/client privilege or executive privilege to that conversation now that the president has already spoken about it.

So it's such -- and any normal White House, that would be staff, the White House counsel would say Mr. President we have to take that paragraph out. The president says, I want it in there because I'm innocent. The White House counsel would say -- with the chief of staff and everyone else, Mr. President, you've got to take it out or they would take it out.

And what's most unnerving I'd say to people who've been around government a little bit is that it stayed in. Trump is ignoring what presumably would be obvious counsel from anyone who knows what he's doing.

TANDEN: But then he did the Lester Holt interview...


TANDEN: ... where he basically admitted that the reason why he fired him is because of the Russian investigation which is what most people would consider obstruction of justice because there is a Russia investigation into him. And then he tweeted that he had tapes.

So obviously I hear you on that, but that is like evidence number 1,000 of the fact that he is not taking any counsel from anyone and truly if anything feels like he has a guilty conscience or something out there because he keeps coming back to an investigation of him in his descriptions of why he's taking the action.

TAPPER: Amanda.

CARPENTER: Here is the problem, when Trump tried to unilaterally clear himself of accusations he ends up incriminating himself more. This situation is very much like when he posted that tweet about how President Obama allegedly wiretapped him in early February. He was inviting everyone to say it, well gee, did -- were you wiretapped? Was there -- did people go to a FISA court to find out what your people were doing?

And now he's saying, I have these secret tapes maybe that would clear my conversation with Comey. And now he's saying, well are there tapes? He cannot defend himself. He's changing the story and sometimes I ask myself, if he did something really bad, we would be doing anything different? The conclusion is no.

TAPPER: Congresswoman, let me ask you because majority leader -- I'm sorry, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer this morning said this morning said that he supported the proposal from Mark Warner that Democrats refuse to vote on an FBI director unless a special prosecutor or special counsel whatever is named to investigate this matter.

I think it remains an open question of what tools Democrats have. You're in the House where you have fewer tools than they do in the Senate, but beyond appealing to the better angels of the nature if you're Republican colleagues what can you do to try to get some sort of assurance of independence in the investigation?

MURPHY: Well, I think there are a couple of things that we can do. One is to keep up the pressure that we've been putting on this administration to be forthcoming and be willing to have an independent investigation.

They should be the ones that want an independent investigation more than anybody so that they can clear the air and have room to advance an agenda. And I think the idea of holding up the Senate, holding the Congress hostage in order to get this done isn't exactly what our constituents sent to us to Washington to do. They didn't send us here for more gridlock.

My hope is that we do pass legislation that sets up an independent commission and it really does depend on members of Congress to put their politics aside and recognize that this is a real threat to this country. It's a national security threat. We deserve to know the facts of how a hostile government attacked our democracy. It's a direct attack on the democracy.

And the other thing is that in the House, we're up for re-election in about 18 months and I don't know about them but I want to run against a fellow American on the issues that matter to my constituents. I don't want to be running against the Russians in their misinformation campaign.

TAPPER: I just want to put up this quote from the "New York Times." Charlie Sykes, conservative radio talk show host in Wisconsin wrote, "The real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism" -- meaning those who are against the resistance, et cetera -- "is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump's base is unlikely to hold to him either to promises or tangible achievements because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish."

Bill, is that -- is that fair?

KRISTOL: I think so. Richard Nixon held on to a (INAUDIBLE) poll like 28 percent approval rating in the polls, but think about that that would be about two-thirds of the Republicans, right, who stuck with him until the very, very end. Why? And I'm old enough, I was in college or grad school then -- you know, everyone hated the left that was after him so much that they wanted to rally to Nixon and there were a few of course unjust charges, who would forget, all of the chaos of Watergate things were said that weren't false. So every -- one of the six false-- one of the five times there's a false accusation against Trump and then the anti-anti-Trump force say see the media is unfair, this isn't true, right?


Total missing of the forest through the tree there is.


TAPPER: What a great -- what a great panel. I'm sorry I have to cut you off. Stay around. I want to hear what you have to say.


TAPPER: President Trump's historic win is inspiring celebrities to run for office. Who is thinking of jumping into the ring? It's this week's "State of the Cartoonion" next.


Welcome back. President Trump talked about stacking his cabinet with guys out of central casting. But now the T.V. star turned president is showing his fellow celebrities that they too may be able to tackle the role of commander in chief.

Who else might be looking to make the move from Hollywood to Washington? That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."


TAPPER (voice-over): Is "The Rock" cooking up a presidential run?

Movie star and former professional wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson said this week, a run for office is a -- quote --"Real possibility." In the age of the celebrity president can success at the box office translate to a win at the ballot box?

We can envision campaigning using some of the lines from "Fast and Furious".

DWAYNE JOHNSON, ACTOR: There ain't no team. It was just one man. He's standing right in front of you. TAPPER: He's not the only celebrity thinking about a run. Soap opera star Antonio Sabato Junior recently announced he is running for Congress in California with President Trump as his inspiration.

ANTONIO SABATO JR., ACTOR: Donald Trump will get it done and put us back on the right track. We can no longer afford to be silent.

TAPPER: Comedian Dave Chappelle also said he is considering a future in politics. He even made an appearance at his local city council.

DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: In this Trump era there's an opportunity to show everyone that local politics reigns supreme.

TAPPER: Will 2020 put President Trump between "The Rock" and a hard place?


JOHNSON: "The Rock" is the great one. "The Rock" is the chosen one. "The Rock" is going to do what he does best. And let's lay the smack down.


TAPPER: Be sure to join me and CNN's Dana Bash this Tuesday for the next CNN debate. Governor John Kasich and Senator Bernie Sanders will be facing off live on health care, taxes and what comes next with the Russian investigation. That's Tuesday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us. Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there, especially to my mother, my step- mom, my mother-in-law, and of course most importantly my dear wife and the mother of our children, Jennifer.

I'm Jake Tapper in Washington.