White House counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN to defend President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey on Tuesday.
When Cooper asked Conway about the motivations behind Trump’s decision, given his prior praise for Comey, she replied, “I think you’re looking at the wrong set of facts here. In other words, you’re going back to the campaign. This man is the President of the United States, he acted decisively today. He took the recommendation of his deputy attorney general, who oversees the — “
“That makes no sense — ” Cooper said.
“It does make sense, Anderson, I get that’s a new talking point — ” Conway said.
“He said one thing as a candidate and now he’s concerned as president?” Cooper interjected.
“It makes complete sense because he has lost confidence in the FBI director and he took the recommendation of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general to whom the FBI director reports,” Conway said. She added that Rosenstein was confirmed to his position two weeks ago by a vote of 94-6 and that he served as a US attorney under former president Obama. Rosenstein’s recommendation to fire Comey was based on his desire to restore “public confidence in the FBI,” Conway said.
Cooper also raised questions about the timing of Trump’s decision, given that the FBI was in the middle of conducting a probe into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia when Trump, at the urging of Rosenstein and attorney general Jeff Sessions, fired Comey.
“Senator Schumer just said this raises real concerns … [He essentially said] this is a cover-up today,” Cooper said.
“Well, he’s wrong. It’s not a cover-up,” Conway said. “In fact, the president makes very clear in his letter the fact that Mr. Comey, on at least three occasions, assured the president that he is not under investigation.”
When Cooper asked when Comey made those assurances, Conway replied, “That’s between the President of the United States and Director Comey.”
Cooper also brought up Trump’s past praise of Comey after Comey revealed in October that the FBI was reopening its investigation into then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. Clinton, as well as her allies and supporters, have said on multiple occasions that Comey’s bombshell announcement, along with Russia’s interference, cost her the election.
“Now, your White House is saying that what [Comey] did was wrong, but previously, as a candidate, Donald Trump was saying it was the right thing,” Cooper said Conway, referring to Comey’s handling of the Clinton probe.
“You’re conflating two things that don’t belong together,” Conway said. “Thanks for the trip down memory lane, I was on your show often last fall saying we were going to win Michigan and how we were going to do it, so that was fun. But here’s what happened today. Today, not in a campaign, in the White House, the President of the United States took decisive action — “
Cooper cut Conway off and said, “So, that person doesn’t exist anymore? Candidate Donald Trump, that’s a fictional character we’re no longer allowed to refer to? We can now only refer to the Donald Trump who exists today?”
“Anderson, I’ll ignore how unkind that is and all I’ll say is that as President of the United States, he needs confidence in his FBI director and he doesn’t have it,” Conway said.
Cooper also brought up the optics of Trump deciding to fire Comey based on Sessions’ advice. Sessions announced in February that he would be recusing himself from any current or future investigations into Trump associates’ ties to Russia after it emerged that he had undisclosed contacts with Russian officials during the campaign.
“Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from anything to do with Russia … why was he involved in this decision? Why’s somebody who’s recused himself from anything having to do with the Russia investigation involved in the decision to fire the guy who’s heading the Russia investigation?” Cooper asked.
“The FBI director reports to the deputy attorney general,” Conway replied. “The deputy attorney general reports to the attorney general. They attorney general reports to the President of the United States. This had nothing to do with Russia … it has everything to do with whether the current FBI director has the president’s confidence,” she added.
Watch parts of the exchange below:
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