For the Record with Greta, Transcript 5/11/2017

Guests: Robert Deitz, Katty Kay, Ron Hosko, Lester Holtz, Amy Klobuchar, Matthew Schofield, Christopher Ruddy, Tim Carny, Tamara Keith

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, NBC NEWS HOST FOR THE RECORD:  Thank you Chuck and tonight there is breaking news Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer just invited Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to brief all U.S. Senators on how and why FBI director James Comey was fired.  And tonight, right here the NBC news exclusive interview with President Trump, the expanded interview that you have not yet seen.  The president`s first sit-down since that bomb shell firing, he is talking about that, Michael Flynn and so much more.  This interview comes as his White House is engulfed in a fire storm.  Today President Trump unloading on James Comey, here is a part of that exclusive with NBC`s Lester Holt. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

DONALD TRUMP, THE 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Look, he is a show boat.  He is a grand stander.  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. 

LESTER HOLT, NBC:  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 in the room? 

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 so you had already made the decision. 

TRUMP:  Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.  He made a recommendation.  He is highly respected.  Very good guy, very smart guy and the Democrats like him.  The Republicans like him.  He made a recommendation.  But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. 

HOLT:  Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey.  You write I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.  Why did you put that in there? 

TRUMP:  Because he told me that.  I mean, he told me that. 

HOLT:  He told you weren`t under investigation for the Russia investigation? 

TRUMP:  I heard that on others. 

HOLT:  Was it in a phone call, did you meet face to face? 

TRUMP:  I had dinner with him.  He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on. 

HOLT:  He asked for the dinner? 

TRUMP:  A dinner was arranged.  I think he asked for the dinner.  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. 

HOLT:  That was one meeting. 

TRUMP:  First when you`re under investigation, you`re given all sorts of documents.  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:  That didn`t come --

TRUMP:  Then during the phone call he said it and then during another phone call he said it.  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 in one case he called me. 

HOLT:  Did you ask him, am I under investigation? 

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

HOLT:  But he is given sworn testimony that there is an ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government.  You were the center piece of the Trump campaign.  So, was he being truthful when he said you weren`t under investigation? 

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. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, the rest of that interview is coming ahead in this hour.  President Trump insists he was going to fire James Comey no matter what.  But that contradicts what his team said.  Press Secretary Spicer first saying, President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  And they were all on the same page. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENTIAL-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Because of the actions that the Deputy Attorney General outlined to the president that were endorsed and agreed with by the Attorney General, the president made the right decision at the right time. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Isn`t it true that the president had already decided to fire James Comey and he asked the justice department to put together the rationale for that firing? 

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When did he make the decision? 

HUCKABEE SANDERS:  He made the decision for the final decision to move forward with it was yesterday. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What was the reason for the firing what was written by the Deputy Attorney General is that why he did it? 

HUCKABEE SANDERS:  That was I think the final piece that moved the president to make that quick and decisive action yesterday. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  So, I know what you`re thinking.  So, what is going on is what you`re thinking.  Does someone have something to hide or not?  And is it bizarre that the president asked James Comey if he was under investigation and included the alleged response in his termination letter?  "The Wall Street Journal" reporting Comey`s associates are now hitting back and saying, that is literally farcical.  White House Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders talking about both major stories today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One of these conversations the president said happened at a dinner where the FBI director, according to the president, was asking to stay on as FBI director.  Don`t you see how that is a conflict of interest?  The FBI director is saying he wants to keep his job and the president is asking whether or not he is under investigation? 

HUCKABEE SANDERS:  I don`t see that as a conflict of interest and neither do many of the legal scholars and others that have been commenting on it for the last hour.  Wednesday, I think was the final straw that pushed him and the recommendation that he got from the deputy Attorney General just further solidified his decision.  And, again, I think reaffirmed that he made the right one. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Was the vice-president -- was the vice-president in the dark, too? 

HUCKABEE SANDERS:  Nobody was in the dark, Jonathan. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ron Hosko is the former assistant FBI director who until 2014 worked directly for former director James Comey.  Robert Deitz, former senior counselor to the CIA director and former general counsel for the National Security Agency and Katty Kay Washington correspondent for BBC world news America, Katty, first to you.  The thing that is caught most people`s attention is that the president said and it`s hard to get the sequence of this, but he had dinner with the former director of the FBI and that at that dinner which apparently the dinner was whether to see if the FBI director in part would keep his job is that the FBI director said, you`re not under investigation.  So that naturally everyone is wondering if there is some sort ever quid pro quo.  You keep your job if I`m not under investigation.  Is that what people were thinking? 

KATTY KAY, BBC WORLD NEWS AMERICA HOST:  yes and there were two more phone calls as well in which he said the former FBI director said he was not under investigation.  The problem here is that there may be no impropriety whether it comes to the Russia investigation or any other issue, but the White House, by confusing the way it has rolled this out and by mixing its messages has made it look like there is an impropriety and therefore we are suspicious of everything that comes out of the White House and we`re suspicious of what comes out of the president, too, because we have James Comey`s associates already pushing back against this and saying, he never said that he was not under investigation. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  You know, Ron, I don`t know.  I wasn`t at that dinner and I don`t know about the private conversations the president had with James Comey.  But would you agree that it would be highly unusual for a director of the FBI, even a line prosecutor doing an investigation into an armed robbery to tell someone whether they are under investigation? 

RON HOSKO, FORMER ASST. FBI DIRECTOR:  Generally yes.  I`ve walked up on somebody for an interview and, you know, you`ve gotten the reaction, hold on, am I under investigation?  And it`s ridiculous.  You`re looking at them as a witness and say, no, of course not.  Here`s what I need to ask you about.  But under these circumstances where there is an ongoing investigation of Russian influence where it has publicly touched people around the president, I think it`s much more concerning in this context. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  You know Bob, lots of times things can look bad.  Maybe look like bad judgment, but not be against the law.  When you look at this, your thoughts about this dinner and the allegation that the White House -- the president said that he was not under investigation or the director said that, rather, and that the FBI director is there to check on his job? 

ROBERT DEITZ, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY:  You know, I find this all very puzzling and the absence of facts is always disturbing.  I have worked with Jim Comey.  I have enormous respect for him.  I just have a very difficult time imagining that kind of conversation with Jim. 

KAY:  That is the problem because the White House has told us different stories during the course of the last two days.  Our belief in what the president says is questioned and so we don`t know whether President Trump is saying what actually happened or whether he is saying something completely different. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  The thing that of course caught my attention, perhaps you, too, the vice-president seems to be in the dark.  He was sort of put out to pasture by General Flynn in early January with the discussion about what Flynn, conversation with the Russian ambassador or no conversation.  So, it seems like the president is sort of putting his people out there and they`re stepping into all sorts of things. 

HOSKO:  It does.  And for those of us who have children, you`ve had subordinates in your work position, if you ask a direct question that might be concerning to that person three times and it`s answered three times differently, you start to wonder whether you`re getting the truth in any of those answers.  And I feel like we`re in the middle of that now where the truth seems to be constantly shifting.  And we all know, those of us -- you`re one of them who have prosecuted a case -- the truth comes naturally to a witness who is telling the truth, who has one recollection.  They will pass that muster every time.  It comes out the same way every time.  The lie constantly shifts and you catch people in that. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Is it -- Katie, I don`t want to put words in your mouth.  Is he just an exaggerator and he keeps -- we`re seizing it everywhere.  I`m trying to look for an explanation with this and I`m struggling with it. 

KAY:  This is a president who talks in superlatives.  It doesn`t mean he acts in superlatives whether it`s foreign policy, domestic policy or recounting what he did, his conduct of the American economy.  He is going to talk big.  That doesn`t necessarily mean that he reflects big.  I think the other thing that is going on here is that people in the White House clearly are kept out of the loop on certain things.  I don`t believe that Sara Huckabee Sanders went on television yesterday and deliberately lied when she said that the president believed that director Comey had lost the support and the respect of the rank and file of the FBI.  We then had the acting director of the FBI saying it`s totally not true.  He has not lost the respect of the FBI agents.  They still respect him, two totally different stories.  Is somebody lying, was somebody lying to somebody or is somebody keeping somebody out of the loop?  That is why this looks so confusing to everybody. 

DEITZ:  Greta, I can`t help thinking about the timing of all this.  We know that requests went out from the senate committee to General Flynn for various documents.  We know he apparently turned them down and a subpoena is going out.  I can`t help wondering whether there is a connection in the following way.  Flynn, I suspect, his counsel would speak to White House counsel just kind of a logical sort of conversation.  And as you know, when you receive documents or you receive document requests, you can often get a sense of what the legal theory is that is being looked at.  And I can`t help wondering whether there is a connection there between that on the one hand and the timing of the Comey thing on the other. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  And there are at least reports that the grand jury in the eastern district of Virginia has been asking for documents from associates of Flynn so the plot does sort of thicken.  That is around Flynn. 

DEITZ:  Right.  One doesn`t know what else is there. 

KAY:  This is what happens, right, when you don`t have a clear picture, conspiracy theories can quickly jump in. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  The thing is they have all the facts.  It`s like sort of pulling teeth.  We want more facts out.  I must admit that unfortunately the first part of that tape that I saw -- I don`t know if there`s more interview that starts before it that we just didn`t get to yet -- but he refers to Comey as show boat and grand stander.  And the first thing I`m thinking is oh, brother, you know, because frankly love him or hate him or something in between, that is the president`s a show boater, sort of interesting that he was calling him that. 

DEITZ:  Absolutely. 

HOSKO:  It is, you know.  To the point about whether he is under investigation or not, anybody who has this sort of experience knows that you may not be under investigation right now.  But when documents come back in, records come back in, interviews come in, and you`re under investigation tonight. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  There is a big difference between, Trump being under investigation, the Trump campaign under investigation, Trump officials. 

HOSKO:  Absolutely. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  What you said, Katie, we need more facts and the truth.  It play well be he is not under investigation. 

KAY:  Right.  There could be nothing in all of this.  There could be nothing to do with the Russia investigation at all in why he fired James Comey.  Maybe he really did watch James Comey go to the senate, somehow say he felt nauseous about the election and Trump felt that was undermining his election victory and he is thin skinned and that is why he fired General Flynn that is an equally plausible scenario. 

DEITZ:  This whole show I think kind of lack of adult supervision in the White House.  Seems to me that somebody like David Gurkin would said, wait a minute, is this the timing you would want to do this thing? 

VAN SUSTEREN:  He said I wanted to drain the swamp and shake things up.  He is done that. 

DEITZ:  Whether the swamp is empty is a different issue. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Indeed.  I want a quick question.  Rosenstein being called at the Hill and that will be interesting to see what he has to say as to the firing. 

HOSKO:  Yeah, I suspect he may not wish to have as much credit for the firing placed upon him as the White House is at least initially placed upon him. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, I hope we get more of those facts that Katie thinks we should get.  I agree.  Who knows what this is.  Anyway, there is so much more ahead of NBC news exclusive interview.  You`re going to see portions of that interview other you have not seen yet and that you will not see anywhere else on cable news.  Plus, and this is intriguing.  Was James Comey about to hand over classified documents to house investigators?  We`re going to talk to the journalist who broke that story. 

And now this, the presence of Russians in the oval office raising all sorts of national security questions tonight, did the Kremlin lie to the White House?  New questions about the Russian photographer who took these photos, but first Amy, former classmate of James Comey, does she believe President Trump or not? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  If President Trump thought firing James Comey would put the brakes on the Russia investigation, he needs to think again.  Today the acting FBI director Andrew McCabe made it clear he will stand up to any pressure from the White House. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So, 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? 

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FBI DIRECTOR:  As you know, senator, the work of the men and women of the FBI continues despite any changes in circumstance, any decisions.  So, there has been no effort to impede our investigation to date. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  He wasn`t the only one on the hill today.  Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who wrote the memo recommending Trump fire Comey, he was also on the hill today meeting with leaders from the senate intelligence committee. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL:   I still find the timing of Mr. Comey`s dismissal, Sally Yates` testimony on Tuesday and the fact was Jim Comey was supposed to be in the hearing today.  Very troubling to me, I expressed that to Mr. Rosenstein.  I think he took it under advisement. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you mean he took it under advisement, special counsel taking that under special advisement? 

ROSENSTEIN:  I think he listened.  I think this is an individual that listened carefully and I think he will weigh those. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Joining me Senator Amy Klobuchar from the state of Minnesota, nice to see you. 

AMY KLOBUCHAR, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Good, thank you Greta, it is great to be with you. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  What the president said is on three occasions that Director Comey said to him that he was not under investigation and the one that is now been highlighted we see in Lester Holt`s interview on NBC, is that one of those events was a dinner in which the -- James Comey was purportedly or said to be by the White House there to see if his job was secure, and that at that point the president said or at some point, I don`t know which came first, the chicken or the egg, the president said am I under investigation, he said no, you`re not under investigation.  We don`t have the sequence and that may not be fair how I laid it out.  You shake your head. 

KLOBUCHAR:  I just don`t know what`s true.  I just find the whole thing hard to believe.  I know.  And that is what I`m basing that on and I want to know what Comey says about this.  At some point he`ll testify about what happened as a private citizen, and we will see what happens.  I cannot assess what`s true or not, but I will say when all this -- the incident that should not have happened when Bill Clinton got on the plane with Loretta Lynch and just said, hey, how are you doing, no case was discussed, look at this.  The president of the United States -- I do believe it.  What I`m saying is that was a big deal.  That shouldn`t have happened, right?  So now we hear that the president is asking the FBI director whether or not he is under investigation?  I just -- I am looking very forward to hear the other side of that story. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right.  Do you believe the president? 

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, clearly a lot of what he has said has turned out not to be factual. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Let`s jump ahead hypothetically.  Let`s say what he said turns out not to be true, what are you going to do? 

KLOBUCHAR:  It`s just one more thing.  I think what is most important is to protect our democracy.  We know he has a tendency to say things that aren`t true, including President Obama wiretap the Trump tower that was not true.  And we know it has been going on.  A lot of people dismiss these things.  He is just making a point.  If something he did was illegal or if something that his campaign did was wrong or people who work for him was wrong, that is why we have to get to the bottom of this. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  What do you think about the firing by Donald Trump, the president of FBI director Comey? 

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, I am very troubled by this.  I go way back with Jim Comey.  We were law school classmates at the University of Chicago, and he was someone that people respected back then.  And as the acting director said today at the intelligence committee, he is someone people respect today.  And that is the agents that he works with.  The law enforcement in Minnesota has great respect for him.  And I didn`t agree with how he handled the Hillary Clinton investigation this summer, but that doesn`t mean he should have been fired and certainly not in the manner he was fired. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  I didn`t like the manner either.  I thought he should have brought him back from California put him in the oval office and had the discussion.  If you were a Republican I`d ask the flip question.  You`re a Democrat.  What do you make of the fact you have like the Democrats who are calling for his head before and now they love him, and the flip side, the Republicans loved him before and now they might have a different view? 

KLOBUCHAR:  You know, first of all, a lot of Republicans have said to me, especially today, that this is just messed up.  I`m not going to name who they were, but I think that is pretty obvious.  Some of them have publicly said it like Senator McCain and Flake and Senator Burr.  But I also think there`s Democrats that believe what I`ve said.  Some of them are much more severe than I was about Comey at the time.  But in the middle, smack in the middle of a major investigation about Russia and the connections to the Trump campaign, what we learn today from the acting director is not a small thing.  He said it`s actually a major investigation.  To fire the head of the FBI, I just think it is not showing the respect that we should show for the rule of law and for our law enforcement. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Why do you think President Trump fired him? 

KLOBUCHAR:  That I do not know, but there are some clear implications now. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  What do you think? 

KLOBUCHAR:  Let me say what I think.  I think he got more and more mad as time went on.  He himself said he thought of firing him for a while.  You have the fact that Comey actually told the truth before congress and said that, no, President Obama did not wiretap the Trump tower, and that is a direct refuting of what the president had said in his own tweet at 6:00 in the morning one day when he accused Obama of doing that.  You have that escalation into the Sally Yates testimony where she does -- basically also tell the truth.  Said she warned them formally and for 18 days they let Flynn stay in the White House.  I mean, these are things that bothered the president.  It`s very clear this stuff is leaking out now how he felt.  And on your own -- the interview with Lester Holt now, he said contrary to what they said at first, where they said, oh, hey, the justice department did this memo and this is why we did it, he`d been thinking of firing him for a while. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, certainly a lot of unanswered questions indeed, a mystery. 

KLOBUCHAR:  That is true. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  That is all I can say.  We live in interesting times, senator. 

KLOBUCHAR:  We do. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  That is to put it very politely. 

KLOBUCHAR:  That is why I`m going to the fishing opener picnic in Saint Cloud tomorrow.  That will ground me. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Indeed, I think it probably will.  Anyway, thank you very much for joining us. 

KLOBUCHAR:  Thank you. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  And still ahead, more from Lester Holt`s exclusive interview with President Trump, his comments on General Michael Flynn and so much more. 

Also, did the president derail the house investigation into Russia by firing James Comey?  I`ll talk to the reporter who says Comey was in talks to hand over classified documents. 

Plus, is there anything wrong with this picture?  Well, new security questions about the Russian photographer who snapped those photos in the oval office.  That is next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Who was in charge of securing his files and devices when that information came down that he had been fired? 

MCCABE:  That is our responsibility, ma`am. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And are you confident that his files and his devices have been secured in a way that we can maintain whatever information or evidence he has in connection with the investigation? 

MCCABE:  Yes, ma`am, I am. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  The new FBI director saying James Comey`s files are being protected.  And today, we have new reports Comey was stepping up his involvement with larger Russian investigation.  Wall Street reporting that Comey has start receiving daily instead of weekly updates in the investigation and McClatchy was working to get classified documents from Comey, but he was fired at the time, with me Matthew Schofield, the McClatchy reporter who broke the story, nice to see you. 

MATTHEW SCHOFIELD, THE MCCLATCHY: Good to see you, Greta. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Tell me about these documents, what do you know about them? 

SCHOFIELD:  We don`t know much about these documents.  In proper procedures the congresswoman -- Congressman Spear wouldn`t tell me what they were.  She said they were classified and they were in the process of negotiating to get these documents and Comey is now gone. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  So -- and this now the acting director has indicated at least that he was going to preserve any documents or records? 

SCHOFIELD:  Right and she would assume this would happen.  If you talk to other members of the house intelligence committee, they assume the investigation will move forward.  There is a catch in that, and the catch is will there be some kind of, just a practical break?  Will the process slow down some? 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Is there any indication -- we know that the investigation is slowing down.  Typically investigations, once you go up to the top for a lot of decision makers, more of the heavy lifting is done farther down the totem pole. 

SCHOFIELD:  There is no indication it is slowing down.  The piece you played a second ago, Comey was getting daily briefings.  There is a lot going on here.  If you`re going to keep congress fully informed, you need the daily briefings. He was up on the hill a lot, and this is going to be a break in the rhythm at least. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right.  Now, your beat is actually the Russia beat. 

SCHOFIELD:  My beat is Russia. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Naturally because you`re the Russia beat you got this. 

SCHOFIELD:  Yes. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  How is this being played in Russia? 

SCHOFIELD:  I`ll tell you this.  I`m in the Russia beat in Washington, D.C. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  I understand that, but this has got international ramifications. 

SCHOFIELD:  It does have international ramifications.  I haven`t been in Russia now for quite a long time.  I actually don`t know exactly how it is being played in Russia.  I know it is being played around Europe.  It is being met with a bit of shock, a bit of -- the same sorts of things, the reactions we had here. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Do you have the sense that this investigation is going someplace, that there really is something there, or is this much ado about nothing?  It`s hard to tell, at least from my perspective.  I don`t have these documents.  I hear people saying weird things, inconsistent things.  I hear this cloak and dagger.  We have the Russian photographer in the oval office.  We have a lot of intrigue.  But I don`t know.  Is there anything there? 

SCHOFIELD:  I think it`s difficult to say right now if the ultimate there is there.  But we do know that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn had contacts.  He was being paid by the Russians.  We do know he was being paid by a Turkish company that had tight ties with the Erdogan government.  We do know that he is now being investigated.  There is a federal grand jury. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  The meddling with the election, that is where this all started. 

SCHOFIELD:  That is where it all started.  We know that is the case. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  We got to figure out some way to stop Putin from doing that. 

SCHOFIELD:  That is one of the consistent things you get every Republican or many Republicans and every Democrat on the hill to agree with. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  I think every American wants Putin to stay out of our elections.  Thank you for being with us. 

SCHOFIELD:  Thank you. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  There are new questions about that Russian photographer, like it was mentioned this story yesterday, he was in the oval office for President Trump`s meeting with Russian officials, the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and the Russian ambassador who is at the center of the General Michael Flynn controversy.  The Washington Post reporting, White House officials did not realized the photographer were from the Kremlins Sate Run news agency.  The White House was surprised when the news agency published these photos.  The post reporting former U.S. Intel official citing the danger that surveillance equipment could have been hidden in cameras.  The White House saying the oval office is swept routinely for listening devices, today, the White House finally releasing their own photos from this meeting.  And still ahead, more from Lester Holt`s exclusive interview with President Trump.  Does the president want the Russian investigation to continue under a new FBI director?  His answer may surprise you.  That is next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  And we are back with breaking news.  In just a few moments we will have Lester Holt`s expanded interview with President Trump.  But first today the president, trying to stick to business as the Comey controversy dominates Washington.  Today the president signed two executive orders, one creating a new advisory commission on election integrity to investigate voter fraud, and the other to strengthen the cyber security of federal networks and critical infrastructure, with me News Max CEO and long time friend of President Trump, Christopher Ruddy, nice to see you. 

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, NEWSMAX CEO:  Greta, great to be on with you. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Do you have any idea how this firing has resonating within the Trump circle, his friends, the White House, his associates -- tell me a little about it. 

RUDDY:  I think people that know the president know that he is the type of guy that would not be trying to close down an investigation and they see the relentless spin.  Bill Clinton fired Jeff Sessions the FBI Director 1993, on grounds far less convincing than what the president had.  He had very serious concerns about director Comey and it was a one-day news story.  You remember back then, Greta.  It was a one-day news story.  Nobody said there was anything improper.  It was in the purview of the president to do this.  What we`re seeing -- I`m watching some of these cable shows.  They`re talking about impeachment, they`re talking about he was trying to close down -- what investigation has President Trump sought to close down?  He is not directing the FBI to close down any investigation.  If anything, this is going to heighten interest by the press and the public and congress in this investigation.  I don`t think that is what the president intended, but I think it will be a heightened interest. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Does he have -- if I take your view on it or your thoughts, does he have perhaps a tin ear on this because he happens to have done it in the midst of the Russian investigation which is, though, on the heels of this letter from the deputy Attorney General which says the firing -- the reason for the firing is the mishandling of the e-mail investigation, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton which if that were the reason, you would think he would have fired him on day one of the Trump presidency, which is 112 days and some change ago instead of waiting till right now, right after Comey testifies and says some things that I`m sure the president didn`t like. 

RUDDY:  Well, I think the president, if he made a mistake, he didn`t fire him sooner.  He should have done it on inauguration day because frankly I think the director.  Director Comey had lost the confidence of congress, both Republicans and Democrats.  You could look at the reels going back and the clips and see Chuck Schumer, many Democrats calling for him to leave the FBI.  I thought what he said, many of the statements he made during the Hillary Clinton e-mail were over the top and not what we would expect an FBI director.  And he just gave testimony --

VAN SUSTEREN:  So, why did he wait?  The problem is -- that is still something I don`t understand why he waited.  Maybe he is too busy with other things in a new administration.  I don`t know.  That is a suspicious sticking point. 

RUDDY:  Well, I think it`s a legitimate question, but then remember, you`ve seen the press reports that just over a week ago Director Comey gave testimony.  And he said that he was nauseous thinking about the fact that he possibly or probably impacted the election.  I think that is a pretty serious revelation, and then some of the other things that he said in that testimony, I think there is General agreement that what he had made on public disclosures about investigations is not in keeping and consistent with the legal process that FBI directors usually adhere to.  So, you know, he made these comments and apparently, according to press reports, the president didn`t tell me this, he was pretty miffed by some of the things he said at that hearing and even suggesting that he might have interfered - - he violated long time justice department -- you`re a lawyer so you know this.  They`re not supposed to come out 30 to 60 days before an election with potentially damaging information in an investigation and he certainly did that. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Christopher Ruddy, thank you.  News Max, thank you.  As promised here is more from Lester Holt`s exclusive interview with President Trump including new comments on General Michael Flynn and the Russia investigation.  Let`s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

DONALD TRUMP, THE 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Look, he is a show boat.  He is a grand stander.  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. 

LESTER HOLT, NBC:  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 in the room? 

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 so you had already made the decision. 

TRUMP:  Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.  He made a recommendation.  He is highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy.  The Democrats like him.  The Republicans like him.  He made a recommendation.  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, and the reason they should have won it is the electoral college is almost impossible for a Republican to win, very hard.  Because you start off at such a disadvantage.  So, everybody was thinking they should have won the election.  There was an excuse for having lost an election. 

HOLT:  Are you angry with Mr. Comey because of his Russia investigation? 

TRUMP:  I just want somebody that is competent.  I am a big fan of the FBI.  I love the FBI.  I love the people of the FBI.  I think about the Hillary Clinton --

HOLT:  No, about the Russia investigation and possible links between --

TRUMP:  Let me tell you, as far as I`m concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly.  When I did this now, I said, I probably maybe will confuse people.  Maybe I`ll expand that -- I`ll lengthen the time because it should be over with.  In my opinion it should have been over with a long time ago because all it is an excuse.  I said to myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation.  But I have to do the right thing for the American people.  He is the wrong man for that position. 

HOLT:  Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey.  You write I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.  Why did you put that in there? 

TRUMP:  Because he told me that.  I mean, he told me that. 

HOLT:  He told you, you weren`t under investigation with regard to the Russian investigation? 

TRUMP:  I heard that from others. 

HOLT:  Was it any a phone call, did you meet face to face? 

TRUMP:  I had dinner with him.  He wanted to have dinner, because he wanted to stay on.  We had a very nice dinner at the White House. 

HOLT:  He asked for that? 

TRUMP:  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. 

HOLT:  That was one meeting.  What were the other two? 

TRUMP:  First of all, when you`re under investigation, you give all sorts of documents.  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 that didn`t come --

TRUMP:  Then in the phone call he said it and then during another phone call he said it.  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 in 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 if I am under investigation.  He said you are not under investigation. 

HOLT:  But he is given sworn testimony there is an ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government.  You were the center piece of the Trump campaign so was he being truthful when he said you weren`t under investigation? 

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

HOLT:  Did you ask him to drop the investigation? 

TRUMP:  No, never. 

HOLT:  Did anyone from the White House --

TRUMP:  In fact, I want the investigation speed up. 

HOLT:  Anyone from the White House ask him to end the investigation

TRUMP:  No, why would we do that? 

HOLT:  Any surrogates on behalf of the White House? 

TRUMP:  Not that I know of.  Look, I want to find out if there was a problem with an election having to do with Russia or, by the way -- anybody else, any other country.  And I want that to be so strong and so good, and I want it to happen.  I also want to have a really competent, capable director.  He is not.  He is a show boater.  He is not my man or not my man.  I didn`t appoint him.  He was appointed long before me.  But I want somebody who is going to do a great job.  And I will tell you, we`re looking at candidates right now who could be spectacular, and that is what I want for the FBI. 

HOLT:  What you said a moment ago about supporting the idea of investigation, a lot of people would find it hard to believe that the man who just said that tweeted very recently, it`s a total hoax.  It`s a taxpayer charade. 

TRUMP:  Well I think looking into me and the campaign -- look, I have nothing to do.  This was set up by the Democrats.  There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.  The other thing is the Russians did not affect the vote, and everybody seems to think that. 

HOLT:  There is an investigation underway, though, an FBI investigation.  Is that a charade? 

TRUMP:  Well, I don`t know if it`s an FBI or -- there are so many investigations.  I don`t know if it`s an FBI investigation or if it`s congress, if it`s the senate --

HOLT:  James Comey testified there was an FBI investigation. 

TRUMP:  Yeah, but I think they were also helping the house and the senate.  So, you probably have FBI, but you have house, you have senate, they have other investigations. 

HOLT:  But when you put out tweets, it`s a total hoax, it`s a taxpayer charade and you`re looking for a new FBI director, are you not sending that person a message to layoff? 

TRUMP:  No, I`m not doing that.  I think that we have to get back to work, but I want to find out, I want to get to the bottom.  If Russia hacked, if Russia did anything having to do with our election, I want to know about it. 

HOLT:  There is already intelligence from virtually intelligence agency, yes that happened. 

TRUMP:  I`ll tell you this.  If Russia or anybody else is trying to interfere with our elections, I think it`s a horrible thing and I want to get to the bottom of it and I want to make sure it will never, ever happen. 

HOLT:  Were you angry with James Comey when he went public and said he can`t support your unsubstantiated charges of wiretapping, that your predecessor wiretap you? 

TRUMP:  I was surprised he said it, but I wasn`t angry.  There is a big thing going on right now which is spying, and you can call it anything you want.  The unmasking, and the spying, and to me that is the big story right now.  That is a very, very big story. 

HOLT:  You didn`t take that as a sign of disloyal at this that he came out and contradicted you? 

TRUMP:  I don`t think of it as loyalty.  I want whoever the director is.  I want him to do the right thing. 

HOLT:  What about when he went public and said there was in fact a FBI investigation looking at your campaign and Russia?  I asked that because there is a sense that you -- there is a building anger here. 

TRUMP:  I know every once in a while you`ll see that in the newspaper, everyone will report or they have false sources that don`t exist, because of the media the way the media is.  I will tell you, I think I want very simply a great FBI director. 

HOLT:  And will you expect that they would continue on with this investigation? 

TRUMP:  Oh, yeah, sure.  I expect that. 

HOLT:  General Flynn is a part of this investigation as you know.  Sally Yates recently testified that the White House was notified that he had been compromised.  He was at risk of being blackmailed.  It was 18 days later that he was finally fired.  During those 18 days, I assume he had access to all the nation`s top secrets.  One day you meet on the issue of Comey, and you fire him in a humiliating way when he is with his colleagues appearing on TV.

  TRUMP:  Because my White House counsel Don McGahn came back to me and didn`t make it sound like it was an emergency.  She actually didn`t make it sound that way either in the hearings the other day, like it had to be done immediately.  This man has served for many years.  He is a General.  He is -- in my opinion, a very good person.  I believe that it would be very unfair to hear from somebody who we don`t even know and immediately run out and fire a General. 

HOLT:  He was acting Attorney General at the time. 

TRUMP:  My White House counsel came to me.  They had I believe two meetings, and we ultimately fired, but we fired for a different reason. 

HOLT:  You`re talking about General Flynn. 

TRUMP:  General Flynn, yes. 

HOLT:  Because of lying to the vice-president. 

TRUMP:  Yeah, but everything plays in.  Everything plays into it.  But we fired him, because he said something to the vice-president that was not so. 

HOLT:  Did you know that he had had that -- received payments from the Russian government, that he had received payments from the Turkish government? 

TRUMP:  No, but Obama perhaps knew because he had clearance from the Obama administration, and this is something they never want to report.  He had clearance from the Obama administration, the highest clearance you can have, and I think it`s a very unfair thing that the media doesn`t talk about that.  You know, you`re talking about 2015.  I don`t know that I knew him in 2015. 

HOLT:  The senate intelligence committee wants information from the treasury department`s financial crimes unit about your finances, your business`s finances.  Can you tell us whether you, your family, your businesses, your surrogates have accepted any investments, any loans from Russian individuals? 

TRUMP:  Yeah.  In fact, I just sent a letter from Lindsey Graham from one of the most prestigious law firms in the country that I have nothing to do with Russia.  I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever.  I don`t have property in Russia.  A lot of people thought I owned office buildings in Moscow.  I don`t have property in Russia, and I am in very -- I mean I`m in total compliance in every way.  Now, I have to tell you, I file documents, hundreds of pages` worth of documents with the federal elections bureau.  Everybody`s seen them.  I built a great company, but I`m not involved with Russia.  I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago.  I had the Miss Universe pageant which I owned for quite a while.  I had it in Moscow a long time ago.  But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia. 

HOLT:  And one last question on this matter.  Did you ever --

TRUMP:  And I have a certified letter just so you understand.  I`m not just saying that.  I`ve given the letter.  I`ve given the letter to Senator Lindsey Graham.  He has the letter, and I think frankly I assume he is going to give the letter out.  But it says I am not involved in Russia.  No loans, no nothing. 

HOLT:  Did you worry at all when you made the decision to fire Comey when you did, the day before Lavrov was here in the White House and the Russian ambassador?  Did you think through the optics of the way this would look? 

TRUMP:  I never thought about it.  It was set up a while ago, and frankly I could have waited.  But what difference does it make?  I`m not looking for cosmetics.  I`m looking to do a great job for the country.  I am looking to create jobs.  I`m looking to create strength and security.  I`m looking to have strong borders.  I`m looking for things like that.  I think it`s really a good thing that I meet with people.  Now, this is a public meeting, because you know when you cover this, the people watching may say, oh, he met with Lavrov.  Well, this was announced at a meeting with Lavrov just like a number of days ago I spoke, had a very good conversation, very public in the sense that everybody knew this was taking place.  I talk all the time.  I just spoke with the new head of South Korea who just got elected.  I speak with the head of India.  I speak with the head of China.  I have to speak with Putin also.  It`s called Russia.  But when I spoke with Putin, he asked me whether or not I would see Lavrov.  Should I say, no, I`m not going to see him?  I said, I will see him, during that discussion with Lavrov, I think we had a great discussion having to do with Syria, having to do with the Ukraine, and maybe that discussion will lead to a lot less people getting killed and will lead ultimately to peace.  So I`m okay with those discussions, Lester.  I think it`s a good thing, not a bad thing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell is live in the White House briefing room, also with me, Tim Carny, the commentary editor for the Washington examiner, and Tamara Keith, NPR`s White House correspondent, Kelly, first to you.  How is this firing of Comey and the controversy over the interview with Lester Holt where the president said that he had had this dinner with the now fired director of the FBI -- how does that resonate inside the White House? 

KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL:  Well, they believe that the president was able to, in a more thoughtful, lengthy way describe some of the interactions, not the tweet length where sometimes he has a burst of a thought that can be hard to interpret.  Here you saw the president explain things.  The White House has pushed back on any suggestion that the president`s conversations with then Director Comey were in any way a conflict or applying of political pressure or things like that.  Others have said for the president to be dining with or speaking by phone with the FBI director and to ask the question if he was personally under investigation might be perceived, at least politically or just in the realm of perception, as an attempt to influence by a legal standard, and I`ll defer to you on that, people say this isn`t, on its face, an attempt at obstruction.  It would be an element in a case if there were many other examples.  But they`re taking a much more sort of every person`s view, that the president asked the question.  The then director responded to it. 

And they`re saying this was a chance for the president to interact with James Comey at those times to be in a sense reassured that he was not the focus.  Politically I think it plays quite differently.  From the White House point of view, the president had a chance to talk about things like not seeing a conflict in the optics of meeting with the Russian foreign minister right after the Comey firing even though Comey`s portfolio included the Russia investigation.  You see the president sort of working that out in the conversation with Lester Holt.  And it seems on its face like he is not trying to manage this.  Again from a political lens you look at it and it raises other questions.  But this was the president in a more unfiltered way, trying to explain his pattern.  I think what is really striking to me that I still don`t have a handle on is that he is so willing to praise at a minimum the service and friendship and loyalty of Michael Flynn who was ousted from this administration, who arguably has brought a lot of criticism upon the administration, and yet he was at the same time so willing to be personally critical of James Comey, who has a broad level of respect for his public service.  We didn`t hear that from the president today.  Terms like showboating and grandstanding are really sort of a character hit on James Comey, and it`s hard to figure out how he can praise Flynn or be respectful of Flynn and be quite so harsh on Comey, Greta. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Tim, what do you think? 

TIM CARNY, WASHINGTON EXAMINER:  I thought the most interesting -- I thought Lester Holt asked a great question when he said, you`re saying this is a bad investigation, it`s a waste of tax payers money and it`s a total hoax.  It`s a charade, and you`re looking for a new FBI director.  Are you not sending that person a message to lay off?  That was the first time that struck home to me why this could be -- the biggest way this could be seen as improper to fire him, to be searching for this new person, and to be expressing constantly his very strong opinions that the investigation into Russia shouldn`t focus on the Trump campaign at all.  I think that is really the question that they`re going to have to ask and that we ought to drive home. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Tamara? 

TAMARA KEITH, NPR`S WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  What stood out to me is the conditional that President Trump was still talking about Russia interfering in the election as an if.  If Russia interfered in the election, that would be a horrible thing.  This comes on the same day that the senate intelligence committee has a hearing where basically the entire intelligence community shows up and says Russia interfered in the election. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  What strikes me is it`s so hard to get the facts on this.  It`s so easy to get this one wrong.  And, you know, I mean like the president could be very clever, and we could be very sloppy.  Maybe the president -- President Trump is not under investigation, but maybe the Trump campaign is. 

CARNY:  Yeah. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  And the Trump associates in the campaign are involved, and yet we sort of blur together and he is playing the definition of, is and we`re doing a different thing. 

CARNY:  He even used the same verb tense as Bill Clinton back there when Clinton said there is no relationship.  There was a moment where he said that about there is no connection between the -- there is no collusion between Trump and --

VAN SUSTEREN:  He says that he sent a letter off to -- he doesn`t name the law firm.  I was curious what the law firm was, but that a law firm has sent a letter off to Senator Lindsey Graham and he has absolutely no connection to Russia, no financial ties.  Now, has anyone been able to show that he has ties? 

KEITH:  Well, they`ve quoted -- people have quoted his son, who said that, you know, we get a lot of business from Russians.  There are things like that.  But I don`t think that yet there have been -- that is why everybody wants to see the tax returns among other reasons. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  You know what?  If it is as he says, it seems to me that he could clearly clear this up, but he doesn`t.  I mean I think to myself, why not just clear it up if it`s so easy? 

CARNY:  This happens a lot.  When he was first asks about Russia, he said I`d never had any dealings with it.  Here he was more precise when he said we did host the pageant there.  I did sell something to a wealthy Russian.  But whenever he gives these blanket denials that we know aren`t totally true, it doesn`t clear it up.  Is it just that he is so uncareful, because he is remarkably uncareful for a politician.  Or is it that he is just constantly -- you know, he is covering something up. 

KEITH:  And a certified letter is sort of an unusual tack.  It`s not clear that a certified letter will satisfy people who want to see something more than just a letter from your lawyer. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  They can`t make him come up and testify.  You know, he could make this a lot easier to get to the bottom, and sometimes he just spins everybody upside down as we try to get these facts.  Anyway, thank you both.  Thank you for watching.  I`ll see you back here tomorrow night, 6:00 p.m. Eastern.  If you can`t watch live, set your DVR, follow me on twitter @Greta.  Check out my Facebook page for behind the scenes video and so much more on my Facebook page.  Check it out, and also like it, while you`re there.  "Hardball" with Chris Matthews starts right now. 

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

 

  GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, NBC NEWS HOST FOR THE RECORD:  Thank you Chuck and tonight there is breaking news Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer just invited Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to brief all U.S. Senators on how and why FBI director James Comey was fired.  And tonight, right here the NBC news exclusive interview with President Trump, the expanded interview that you have not yet seen.  The president`s first sit-down since that bomb shell firing, he is talking about that, Michael Flynn and so much more.  This interview comes as his White House is engulfed in a fire storm.  Today President Trump unloading on James Comey, here is a part of that exclusive with NBC`s Lester Holt. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

DONALD TRUMP, THE 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Look, he is a show boat.  He is a grand stander.  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. 

LESTER HOLT, NBC:  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 in the room? 

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 so you had already made the decision. 

TRUMP:  Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.  He made a recommendation.  He is highly respected.  Very good guy, very smart guy and the Democrats like him.  The Republicans like him.  He made a recommendation.  But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. 

HOLT:  Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey.  You write I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.  Why did you put that in there? 

TRUMP:  Because he told me that.  I mean, he told me that. 

HOLT:  He told you weren`t under investigation for the Russia investigation? 

TRUMP:  I heard that on others. 

HOLT:  Was it in a phone call, did you meet face to face? 

TRUMP:  I had dinner with him.  He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on. 

HOLT:  He asked for the dinner? 

TRUMP:  A dinner was arranged.  I think he asked for the dinner.  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. 

HOLT:  That was one meeting. 

TRUMP:  First when you`re under investigation, you`re given all sorts of documents.  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:  That didn`t come --

TRUMP:  Then during the phone call he said it and then during another phone call he said it.  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 in one case he called me. 

HOLT:  Did you ask him, am I under investigation? 

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

HOLT:  But he is given sworn testimony that there is an ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government.  You were the center piece of the Trump campaign.  So, was he being truthful when he said you weren`t under investigation? 

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. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, the rest of that interview is coming ahead in this hour.  President Trump insists he was going to fire James Comey no matter what.  But that contradicts what his team said.  Press Secretary Spicer first saying, President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  And they were all on the same page. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENTIAL-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Because of the actions that the Deputy Attorney General outlined to the president that were endorsed and agreed with by the Attorney General, the president made the right decision at the right time. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Isn`t it true that the president had already decided to fire James Comey and he asked the justice department to put together the rationale for that firing? 

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When did he make the decision? 

HUCKABEE SANDERS:  He made the decision for the final decision to move forward with it was yesterday. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What was the reason for the firing what was written by the Deputy Attorney General is that why he did it? 

HUCKABEE SANDERS:  That was I think the final piece that moved the president to make that quick and decisive action yesterday. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  So, I know what you`re thinking.  So, what is going on is what you`re thinking.  Does someone have something to hide or not?  And is it bizarre that the president asked James Comey if he was under investigation and included the alleged response in his termination letter?  "The Wall Street Journal" reporting Comey`s associates are now hitting back and saying, that is literally farcical.  White House Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders talking about both major stories today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One of these conversations the president said happened at a dinner where the FBI director, according to the president, was asking to stay on as FBI director.  Don`t you see how that is a conflict of interest?  The FBI director is saying he wants to keep his job and the president is asking whether or not he is under investigation? 

HUCKABEE SANDERS:  I don`t see that as a conflict of interest and neither do many of the legal scholars and others that have been commenting on it for the last hour.  Wednesday, I think was the final straw that pushed him and the recommendation that he got from the deputy Attorney General just further solidified his decision.  And, again, I think reaffirmed that he made the right one. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Was the vice-president -- was the vice-president in the dark, too? 

HUCKABEE SANDERS:  Nobody was in the dark, Jonathan. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ron Hosko is the former assistant FBI director who until 2014 worked directly for former director James Comey.  Robert Deitz, former senior counselor to the CIA director and former general counsel for the National Security Agency and Katty Kay Washington correspondent for BBC world news America, Katty, first to you.  The thing that is caught most people`s attention is that the president said and it`s hard to get the sequence of this, but he had dinner with the former director of the FBI and that at that dinner which apparently the dinner was whether to see if the FBI director in part would keep his job is that the FBI director said, you`re not under investigation.  So that naturally everyone is wondering if there is some sort ever quid pro quo.  You keep your job if I`m not under investigation.  Is that what people were thinking? 

KATTY KAY, BBC WORLD NEWS AMERICA HOST:  yes and there were two more phone calls as well in which he said the former FBI director said he was not under investigation.  The problem here is that there may be no impropriety whether it comes to the Russia investigation or any other issue, but the White House, by confusing the way it has rolled this out and by mixing its messages has made it look like there is an impropriety and therefore we are suspicious of everything that comes out of the White House and we`re suspicious of what comes out of the president, too, because we have James Comey`s associates already pushing back against this and saying, he never said that he was not under investigation. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  You know, Ron, I don`t know.  I wasn`t at that dinner and I don`t know about the private conversations the president had with James Comey.  But would you agree that it would be highly unusual for a director of the FBI, even a line prosecutor doing an investigation into an armed robbery to tell someone whether they are under investigation? 

RON HOSKO, FORMER ASST. FBI DIRECTOR:  Generally yes.  I`ve walked up on somebody for an interview and, you know, you`ve gotten the reaction, hold on, am I under investigation?  And it`s ridiculous.  You`re looking at them as a witness and say, no, of course not.  Here`s what I need to ask you about.  But under these circumstances where there is an ongoing investigation of Russian influence where it has publicly touched people around the president, I think it`s much more concerning in this context. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  You know Bob, lots of times things can look bad.  Maybe look like bad judgment, but not be against the law.  When you look at this, your thoughts about this dinner and the allegation that the White House -- the president said that he was not under investigation or the director said that, rather, and that the FBI director is there to check on his job? 

ROBERT DEITZ, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY:  You know, I find this all very puzzling and the absence of facts is always disturbing.  I have worked with Jim Comey.  I have enormous respect for him.  I just have a very difficult time imagining that kind of conversation with Jim. 

KAY:  That is the problem because the White House has told us different stories during the course of the last two days.  Our belief in what the president says is questioned and so we don`t know whether President Trump is saying what actually happened or whether he is saying something completely different. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  The thing that of course caught my attention, perhaps you, too, the vice-president seems to be in the dark.  He was sort of put out to pasture by General Flynn in early January with the discussion about what Flynn, conversation with the Russian ambassador or no conversation.  So, it seems like the president is sort of putting his people out there and they`re stepping into all sorts of things. 

HOSKO:  It does.  And for those of us who have children, you`ve had subordinates in your work position, if you ask a direct question that might be concerning to that person three times and it`s answered three times differently, you start to wonder whether you`re getting the truth in any of those answers.  And I feel like we`re in the middle of that now where the truth seems to be constantly shifting.  And we all know, those of us -- you`re one of them who have prosecuted a case -- the truth comes naturally to a witness who is telling the truth, who has one recollection.  They will pass that muster every time.  It comes out the same way every time.  The lie constantly shifts and you catch people in that. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Is it -- Katie, I don`t want to put words in your mouth.  Is he just an exaggerator and he keeps -- we`re seizing it everywhere.  I`m trying to look for an explanation with this and I`m struggling with it. 

KAY:  This is a president who talks in superlatives.  It doesn`t mean he acts in superlatives whether it`s foreign policy, domestic policy or recounting what he did, his conduct of the American economy.  He is going to talk big.  That doesn`t necessarily mean that he reflects big.  I think the other thing that is going on here is that people in the White House clearly are kept out of the loop on certain things.  I don`t believe that Sara Huckabee Sanders went on television yesterday and deliberately lied when she said that the president believed that director Comey had lost the support and the respect of the rank and file of the FBI.  We then had the acting director of the FBI saying it`s totally not true.  He has not lost the respect of the FBI agents.  They still respect him, two totally different stories.  Is somebody lying, was somebody lying to somebody or is somebody keeping somebody out of the loop?  That is why this looks so confusing to everybody. 

DEITZ:  Greta, I can`t help thinking about the timing of all this.  We know that requests went out from the senate committee to General Flynn for various documents.  We know he apparently turned them down and a subpoena is going out.  I can`t help wondering whether there is a connection in the following way.  Flynn, I suspect, his counsel would speak to White House counsel just kind of a logical sort of conversation.  And as you know, when you receive documents or you receive document requests, you can often get a sense of what the legal theory is that is being looked at.  And I can`t help wondering whether there is a connection there between that on the one hand and the timing of the Comey thing on the other. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  And there are at least reports that the grand jury in the eastern district of Virginia has been asking for documents from associates of Flynn so the plot does sort of thicken.  That is around Flynn. 

DEITZ:  Right.  One doesn`t know what else is there. 

KAY:  This is what happens, right, when you don`t have a clear picture, conspiracy theories can quickly jump in. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  The thing is they have all the facts.  It`s like sort of pulling teeth.  We want more facts out.  I must admit that unfortunately the first part of that tape that I saw -- I don`t know if there`s more interview that starts before it that we just didn`t get to yet -- but he refers to Comey as show boat and grand stander.  And the first thing I`m thinking is oh, brother, you know, because frankly love him or hate him or something in between, that is the president`s a show boater, sort of interesting that he was calling him that. 

DEITZ:  Absolutely. 

HOSKO:  It is, you know.  To the point about whether he is under investigation or not, anybody who has this sort of experience knows that you may not be under investigation right now.  But when documents come back in, records come back in, interviews come in, and you`re under investigation tonight. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  There is a big difference between, Trump being under investigation, the Trump campaign under investigation, Trump officials. 

HOSKO:  Absolutely. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  What you said, Katie, we need more facts and the truth.  It play well be he is not under investigation. 

KAY:  Right.  There could be nothing in all of this.  There could be nothing to do with the Russia investigation at all in why he fired James Comey.  Maybe he really did watch James Comey go to the senate, somehow say he felt nauseous about the election and Trump felt that was undermining his election victory and he is thin skinned and that is why he fired General Flynn that is an equally plausible scenario. 

DEITZ:  This whole show I think kind of lack of adult supervision in the White House.  Seems to me that somebody like David Gurkin would said, wait a minute, is this the timing you would want to do this thing? 

VAN SUSTEREN:  He said I wanted to drain the swamp and shake things up.  He is done that. 

DEITZ:  Whether the swamp is empty is a different issue. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Indeed.  I want a quick question.  Rosenstein being called at the Hill and that will be interesting to see what he has to say as to the firing. 

HOSKO:  Yeah, I suspect he may not wish to have as much credit for the firing placed upon him as the White House is at least initially placed upon him. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, I hope we get more of those facts that Katie thinks we should get.  I agree.  Who knows what this is.  Anyway, there is so much more ahead of NBC news exclusive interview.  You`re going to see portions of that interview other you have not seen yet and that you will not see anywhere else on cable news.  Plus, and this is intriguing.  Was James Comey about to hand over classified documents to house investigators?  We`re going to talk to the journalist who broke that story. 

And now this, the presence of Russians in the oval office raising all sorts of national security questions tonight, did the Kremlin lie to the White House?  New questions about the Russian photographer who took these photos, but first Amy, former classmate of James Comey, does she believe President Trump or not? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  If President Trump thought firing James Comey would put the brakes on the Russia investigation, he needs to think again.  Today the acting FBI director Andrew McCabe made it clear he will stand up to any pressure from the White House. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So, 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? 

ANDREW MCCABE, ACTING FBI DIRECTOR:  As you know, senator, the work of the men and women of the FBI continues despite any changes in circumstance, any decisions.  So, there has been no effort to impede our investigation to date. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  He wasn`t the only one on the hill today.  Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who wrote the memo recommending Trump fire Comey, he was also on the hill today meeting with leaders from the senate intelligence committee. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL:   I still find the timing of Mr. Comey`s dismissal, Sally Yates` testimony on Tuesday and the fact was Jim Comey was supposed to be in the hearing today.  Very troubling to me, I expressed that to Mr. Rosenstein.  I think he took it under advisement. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you mean he took it under advisement, special counsel taking that under special advisement? 

ROSENSTEIN:  I think he listened.  I think this is an individual that listened carefully and I think he will weigh those. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Joining me Senator Amy Klobuchar from the state of Minnesota, nice to see you. 

AMY KLOBUCHAR, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Good, thank you Greta, it is great to be with you. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  What the president said is on three occasions that Director Comey said to him that he was not under investigation and the one that is now been highlighted we see in Lester Holt`s interview on NBC, is that one of those events was a dinner in which the -- James Comey was purportedly or said to be by the White House there to see if his job was secure, and that at that point the president said or at some point, I don`t know which came first, the chicken or the egg, the president said am I under investigation, he said no, you`re not under investigation.  We don`t have the sequence and that may not be fair how I laid it out.  You shake your head. 

KLOBUCHAR:  I just don`t know what`s true.  I just find the whole thing hard to believe.  I know.  And that is what I`m basing that on and I want to know what Comey says about this.  At some point he`ll testify about what happened as a private citizen, and we will see what happens.  I cannot assess what`s true or not, but I will say when all this -- the incident that should not have happened when Bill Clinton got on the plane with Loretta Lynch and just said, hey, how are you doing, no case was discussed, look at this.  The president of the United States -- I do believe it.  What I`m saying is that was a big deal.  That shouldn`t have happened, right?  So now we hear that the president is asking the FBI director whether or not he is under investigation?  I just -- I am looking very forward to hear the other side of that story. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right.  Do you believe the president? 

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, clearly a lot of what he has said has turned out not to be factual. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Let`s jump ahead hypothetically.  Let`s say what he said turns out not to be true, what are you going to do? 

KLOBUCHAR:  It`s just one more thing.  I think what is most important is to protect our democracy.  We know he has a tendency to say things that aren`t true, including President Obama wiretap the Trump tower that was not true.  And we know it has been going on.  A lot of people dismiss these things.  He is just making a point.  If something he did was illegal or if something that his campaign did was wrong or people who work for him was wrong, that is why we have to get to the bottom of this. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  What do you think about the firing by Donald Trump, the president of FBI director Comey? 

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, I am very troubled by this.  I go way back with Jim Comey.  We were law school classmates at the University of Chicago, and he was someone that people respected back then.  And as the acting director said today at the intelligence committee, he is someone people respect today.  And that is the agents that he works with.  The law enforcement in Minnesota has great respect for him.  And I didn`t agree with how he handled the Hillary Clinton investigation this summer, but that doesn`t mean he should have been fired and certainly not in the manner he was fired. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  I didn`t like the manner either.  I thought he should have brought him back from California put him in the oval office and had the discussion.  If you were a Republican I`d ask the flip question.  You`re a Democrat.  What do you make of the fact you have like the Democrats who are calling for his head before and now they love him, and the flip side, the Republicans loved him before and now they might have a different view? 

KLOBUCHAR:  You know, first of all, a lot of Republicans have said to me, especially today, that this is just messed up.  I`m not going to name who they were, but I think that is pretty obvious.  Some of them have publicly said it like Senator McCain and Flake and Senator Burr.  But I also think there`s Democrats that believe what I`ve said.  Some of them are much more severe than I was about Comey at the time.  But in the middle, smack in the middle of a major investigation about Russia and the connections to the Trump campaign, what we learn today from the acting director is not a small thing.  He said it`s actually a major investigation.  To fire the head of the FBI, I just think it is not showing the respect that we should show for the rule of law and for our law enforcement. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Why do you think President Trump fired him? 

KLOBUCHAR:  That I do not know, but there are some clear implications now. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  What do you think? 

KLOBUCHAR:  Let me say what I think.  I think he got more and more mad as time went on.  He himself said he thought of firing him for a while.  You have the fact that Comey actually told the truth before congress and said that, no, President Obama did not wiretap the Trump tower, and that is a direct refuting of what the president had said in his own tweet at 6:00 in the morning one day when he accused Obama of doing that.  You have that escalation into the Sally Yates testimony where she does -- basically also tell the truth.  Said she warned them formally and for 18 days they let Flynn stay in the White House.  I mean, these are things that bothered the president.  It`s very clear this stuff is leaking out now how he felt.  And on your own -- the interview with Lester Holt now, he said contrary to what they said at first, where they said, oh, hey, the justice department did this memo and this is why we did it, he`d been thinking of firing him for a while. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, certainly a lot of unanswered questions indeed, a mystery. 

KLOBUCHAR:  That is true. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  That is all I can say.  We live in interesting times, senator. 

KLOBUCHAR:  We do. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  That is to put it very politely. 

KLOBUCHAR:  That is why I`m going to the fishing opener picnic in Saint Cloud tomorrow.  That will ground me. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Indeed, I think it probably will.  Anyway, thank you very much for joining us. 

KLOBUCHAR:  Thank you. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  And still ahead, more from Lester Holt`s exclusive interview with President Trump, his comments on General Michael Flynn and so much more. 

Also, did the president derail the house investigation into Russia by firing James Comey?  I`ll talk to the reporter who says Comey was in talks to hand over classified documents. 

Plus, is there anything wrong with this picture?  Well, new security questions about the Russian photographer who snapped those photos in the oval office.  That is next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Who was in charge of securing his files and devices when that information came down that he had been fired? 

MCCABE:  That is our responsibility, ma`am. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And are you confident that his files and his devices have been secured in a way that we can maintain whatever information or evidence he has in connection with the investigation? 

MCCABE:  Yes, ma`am, I am. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  The new FBI director saying James Comey`s files are being protected.  And today, we have new reports Comey was stepping up his involvement with larger Russian investigation.  Wall Street reporting that Comey has start receiving daily instead of weekly updates in the investigation and McClatchy was working to get classified documents from Comey, but he was fired at the time, with me Matthew Schofield, the McClatchy reporter who broke the story, nice to see you. 

MATTHEW SCHOFIELD, THE MCCLATCHY: Good to see you, Greta. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Tell me about these documents, what do you know about them? 

SCHOFIELD:  We don`t know much about these documents.  In proper procedures the congresswoman -- Congressman Spear wouldn`t tell me what they were.  She said they were classified and they were in the process of negotiating to get these documents and Comey is now gone. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  So -- and this now the acting director has indicated at least that he was going to preserve any documents or records? 

SCHOFIELD:  Right and she would assume this would happen.  If you talk to other members of the house intelligence committee, they assume the investigation will move forward.  There is a catch in that, and the catch is will there be some kind of, just a practical break?  Will the process slow down some? 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Is there any indication -- we know that the investigation is slowing down.  Typically investigations, once you go up to the top for a lot of decision makers, more of the heavy lifting is done farther down the totem pole. 

SCHOFIELD:  There is no indication it is slowing down.  The piece you played a second ago, Comey was getting daily briefings.  There is a lot going on here.  If you`re going to keep congress fully informed, you need the daily briefings. He was up on the hill a lot, and this is going to be a break in the rhythm at least. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right.  Now, your beat is actually the Russia beat. 

SCHOFIELD:  My beat is Russia. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Naturally because you`re the Russia beat you got this. 

SCHOFIELD:  Yes. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  How is this being played in Russia? 

SCHOFIELD:  I`ll tell you this.  I`m in the Russia beat in Washington, D.C. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  I understand that, but this has got international ramifications. 

SCHOFIELD:  It does have international ramifications.  I haven`t been in Russia now for quite a long time.  I actually don`t know exactly how it is being played in Russia.  I know it is being played around Europe.  It is being met with a bit of shock, a bit of -- the same sorts of things, the reactions we had here. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Do you have the sense that this investigation is going someplace, that there really is something there, or is this much ado about nothing?  It`s hard to tell, at least from my perspective.  I don`t have these documents.  I hear people saying weird things, inconsistent things.  I hear this cloak and dagger.  We have the Russian photographer in the oval office.  We have a lot of intrigue.  But I don`t know.  Is there anything there? 

SCHOFIELD:  I think it`s difficult to say right now if the ultimate there is there.  But we do know that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn had contacts.  He was being paid by the Russians.  We do know he was being paid by a Turkish company that had tight ties with the Erdogan government.  We do know that he is now being investigated.  There is a federal grand jury. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  The meddling with the election, that is where this all started. 

SCHOFIELD:  That is where it all started.  We know that is the case. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  We got to figure out some way to stop Putin from doing that. 

SCHOFIELD:  That is one of the consistent things you get every Republican or many Republicans and every Democrat on the hill to agree with. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  I think every American wants Putin to stay out of our elections.  Thank you for being with us. 

SCHOFIELD:  Thank you. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  There are new questions about that Russian photographer, like it was mentioned this story yesterday, he was in the oval office for President Trump`s meeting with Russian officials, the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and the Russian ambassador who is at the center of the General Michael Flynn controversy.  The Washington Post reporting, White House officials did not realized the photographer were from the Kremlins Sate Run news agency.  The White House was surprised when the news agency published these photos.  The post reporting former U.S. Intel official citing the danger that surveillance equipment could have been hidden in cameras.  The White House saying the oval office is swept routinely for listening devices, today, the White House finally releasing their own photos from this meeting.  And still ahead, more from Lester Holt`s exclusive interview with President Trump.  Does the president want the Russian investigation to continue under a new FBI director?  His answer may surprise you.  That is next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  And we are back with breaking news.  In just a few moments we will have Lester Holt`s expanded interview with President Trump.  But first today the president, trying to stick to business as the Comey controversy dominates Washington.  Today the president signed two executive orders, one creating a new advisory commission on election integrity to investigate voter fraud, and the other to strengthen the cyber security of federal networks and critical infrastructure, with me News Max CEO and long time friend of President Trump, Christopher Ruddy, nice to see you. 

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, NEWSMAX CEO:  Greta, great to be on with you. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Do you have any idea how this firing has resonating within the Trump circle, his friends, the White House, his associates -- tell me a little about it. 

RUDDY:  I think people that know the president know that he is the type of guy that would not be trying to close down an investigation and they see the relentless spin.  Bill Clinton fired Jeff Sessions the FBI Director 1993, on grounds far less convincing than what the president had.  He had very serious concerns about director Comey and it was a one-day news story.  You remember back then, Greta.  It was a one-day news story.  Nobody said there was anything improper.  It was in the purview of the president to do this.  What we`re seeing -- I`m watching some of these cable shows.  They`re talking about impeachment, they`re talking about he was trying to close down -- what investigation has President Trump sought to close down?  He is not directing the FBI to close down any investigation.  If anything, this is going to heighten interest by the press and the public and congress in this investigation.  I don`t think that is what the president intended, but I think it will be a heightened interest. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Does he have -- if I take your view on it or your thoughts, does he have perhaps a tin ear on this because he happens to have done it in the midst of the Russian investigation which is, though, on the heels of this letter from the deputy Attorney General which says the firing -- the reason for the firing is the mishandling of the e-mail investigation, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton which if that were the reason, you would think he would have fired him on day one of the Trump presidency, which is 112 days and some change ago instead of waiting till right now, right after Comey testifies and says some things that I`m sure the president didn`t like. 

RUDDY:  Well, I think the president, if he made a mistake, he didn`t fire him sooner.  He should have done it on inauguration day because frankly I think the director.  Director Comey had lost the confidence of congress, both Republicans and Democrats.  You could look at the reels going back and the clips and see Chuck Schumer, many Democrats calling for him to leave the FBI.  I thought what he said, many of the statements he made during the Hillary Clinton e-mail were over the top and not what we would expect an FBI director.  And he just gave testimony --

VAN SUSTEREN:  So, why did he wait?  The problem is -- that is still something I don`t understand why he waited.  Maybe he is too busy with other things in a new administration.  I don`t know.  That is a suspicious sticking point. 

RUDDY:  Well, I think it`s a legitimate question, but then remember, you`ve seen the press reports that just over a week ago Director Comey gave testimony.  And he said that he was nauseous thinking about the fact that he possibly or probably impacted the election.  I think that is a pretty serious revelation, and then some of the other things that he said in that testimony, I think there is General agreement that what he had made on public disclosures about investigations is not in keeping and consistent with the legal process that FBI directors usually adhere to.  So, you know, he made these comments and apparently, according to press reports, the president didn`t tell me this, he was pretty miffed by some of the things he said at that hearing and even suggesting that he might have interfered - - he violated long time justice department -- you`re a lawyer so you know this.  They`re not supposed to come out 30 to 60 days before an election with potentially damaging information in an investigation and he certainly did that. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Christopher Ruddy, thank you.  News Max, thank you.  As promised here is more from Lester Holt`s exclusive interview with President Trump including new comments on General Michael Flynn and the Russia investigation.  Let`s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

DONALD TRUMP, THE 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Look, he is a show boat.  He is a grand stander.  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. 

LESTER HOLT, NBC:  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 in the room? 

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 so you had already made the decision. 

TRUMP:  Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.  He made a recommendation.  He is highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy.  The Democrats like him.  The Republicans like him.  He made a recommendation.  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, and the reason they should have won it is the electoral college is almost impossible for a Republican to win, very hard.  Because you start off at such a disadvantage.  So, everybody was thinking they should have won the election.  There was an excuse for having lost an election. 

HOLT:  Are you angry with Mr. Comey because of his Russia investigation? 

TRUMP:  I just want somebody that is competent.  I am a big fan of the FBI.  I love the FBI.  I love the people of the FBI.  I think about the Hillary Clinton --

HOLT:  No, about the Russia investigation and possible links between --

TRUMP:  Let me tell you, as far as I`m concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly.  When I did this now, I said, I probably maybe will confuse people.  Maybe I`ll expand that -- I`ll lengthen the time because it should be over with.  In my opinion it should have been over with a long time ago because all it is an excuse.  I said to myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation.  But I have to do the right thing for the American people.  He is the wrong man for that position. 

HOLT:  Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey.  You write I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.  Why did you put that in there? 

TRUMP:  Because he told me that.  I mean, he told me that. 

HOLT:  He told you, you weren`t under investigation with regard to the Russian investigation? 

TRUMP:  I heard that from others. 

HOLT:  Was it any a phone call, did you meet face to face? 

TRUMP:  I had dinner with him.  He wanted to have dinner, because he wanted to stay on.  We had a very nice dinner at the White House. 

HOLT:  He asked for that? 

TRUMP:  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. 

HOLT:  That was one meeting.  What were the other two? 

TRUMP:  First of all, when you`re under investigation, you give all sorts of documents.  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 that didn`t come --

TRUMP:  Then in the phone call he said it and then during another phone call he said it.  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 in 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 if I am under investigation.  He said you are not under investigation. 

HOLT:  But he is given sworn testimony there is an ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government.  You were the center piece of the Trump campaign so was he being truthful when he said you weren`t under investigation? 

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

HOLT:  Did you ask him to drop the investigation? 

TRUMP:  No, never. 

HOLT:  Did anyone from the White House --

TRUMP:  In fact, I want the investigation speed up. 

HOLT:  Anyone from the White House ask him to end the investigation

TRUMP:  No, why would we do that? 

HOLT:  Any surrogates on behalf of the White House? 

TRUMP:  Not that I know of.  Look, I want to find out if there was a problem with an election having to do with Russia or, by the way -- anybody else, any other country.  And I want that to be so strong and so good, and I want it to happen.  I also want to have a really competent, capable director.  He is not.  He is a show boater.  He is not my man or not my man.  I didn`t appoint him.  He was appointed long before me.  But I want somebody who is going to do a great job.  And I will tell you, we`re looking at candidates right now who could be spectacular, and that is what I want for the FBI. 

HOLT:  What you said a moment ago about supporting the idea of investigation, a lot of people would find it hard to believe that the man who just said that tweeted very recently, it`s a total hoax.  It`s a taxpayer charade. 

TRUMP:  Well I think looking into me and the campaign -- look, I have nothing to do.  This was set up by the Democrats.  There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.  The other thing is the Russians did not affect the vote, and everybody seems to think that. 

HOLT:  There is an investigation underway, though, an FBI investigation.  Is that a charade? 

TRUMP:  Well, I don`t know if it`s an FBI or -- there are so many investigations.  I don`t know if it`s an FBI investigation or if it`s congress, if it`s the senate --

HOLT:  James Comey testified there was an FBI investigation. 

TRUMP:  Yeah, but I think they were also helping the house and the senate.  So, you probably have FBI, but you have house, you have senate, they have other investigations. 

HOLT:  But when you put out tweets, it`s a total hoax, it`s a taxpayer charade and you`re looking for a new FBI director, are you not sending that person a message to layoff? 

TRUMP:  No, I`m not doing that.  I think that we have to get back to work, but I want to find out, I want to get to the bottom.  If Russia hacked, if Russia did anything having to do with our election, I want to know about it. 

HOLT:  There is already intelligence from virtually intelligence agency, yes that happened. 

TRUMP:  I`ll tell you this.  If Russia or anybody else is trying to interfere with our elections, I think it`s a horrible thing and I want to get to the bottom of it and I want to make sure it will never, ever happen. 

HOLT:  Were you angry with James Comey when he went public and said he can`t support your unsubstantiated charges of wiretapping, that your predecessor wiretap you? 

TRUMP:  I was surprised he said it, but I wasn`t angry.  There is a big thing going on right now which is spying, and you can call it anything you want.  The unmasking, and the spying, and to me that is the big story right now.  That is a very, very big story. 

HOLT:  You didn`t take that as a sign of disloyal at this that he came out and contradicted you? 

TRUMP:  I don`t think of it as loyalty.  I want whoever the director is.  I want him to do the right thing. 

HOLT:  What about when he went public and said there was in fact a FBI investigation looking at your campaign and Russia?  I asked that because there is a sense that you -- there is a building anger here. 

TRUMP:  I know every once in a while you`ll see that in the newspaper, everyone will report or they have false sources that don`t exist, because of the media the way the media is.  I will tell you, I think I want very simply a great FBI director. 

HOLT:  And will you expect that they would continue on with this investigation? 

TRUMP:  Oh, yeah, sure.  I expect that. 

HOLT:  General Flynn is a part of this investigation as you know.  Sally Yates recently testified that the White House was notified that he had been compromised.  He was at risk of being blackmailed.  It was 18 days later that he was finally fired.  During those 18 days, I assume he had access to all the nation`s top secrets.  One day you meet on the issue of Comey, and you fire him in a humiliating way when he is with his colleagues appearing on TV.

  TRUMP:  Because my White House counsel Don McGahn came back to me and didn`t make it sound like it was an emergency.  She actually didn`t make it sound that way either in the hearings the other day, like it had to be done immediately.  This man has served for many years.  He is a General.  He is -- in my opinion, a very good person.  I believe that it would be very unfair to hear from somebody who we don`t even know and immediately run out and fire a General. 

HOLT:  He was acting Attorney General at the time. 

TRUMP:  My White House counsel came to me.  They had I believe two meetings, and we ultimately fired, but we fired for a different reason. 

HOLT:  You`re talking about General Flynn. 

TRUMP:  General Flynn, yes. 

HOLT:  Because of lying to the vice-president. 

TRUMP:  Yeah, but everything plays in.  Everything plays into it.  But we fired him, because he said something to the vice-president that was not so. 

HOLT:  Did you know that he had had that -- received payments from the Russian government, that he had received payments from the Turkish government? 

TRUMP:  No, but Obama perhaps knew because he had clearance from the Obama administration, and this is something they never want to report.  He had clearance from the Obama administration, the highest clearance you can have, and I think it`s a very unfair thing that the media doesn`t talk about that.  You know, you`re talking about 2015.  I don`t know that I knew him in 2015. 

HOLT:  The senate intelligence committee wants information from the treasury department`s financial crimes unit about your finances, your business`s finances.  Can you tell us whether you, your family, your businesses, your surrogates have accepted any investments, any loans from Russian individuals? 

TRUMP:  Yeah.  In fact, I just sent a letter from Lindsey Graham from one of the most prestigious law firms in the country that I have nothing to do with Russia.  I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever.  I don`t have property in Russia.  A lot of people thought I owned office buildings in Moscow.  I don`t have property in Russia, and I am in very -- I mean I`m in total compliance in every way.  Now, I have to tell you, I file documents, hundreds of pages` worth of documents with the federal elections bureau.  Everybody`s seen them.  I built a great company, but I`m not involved with Russia.  I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago.  I had the Miss Universe pageant which I owned for quite a while.  I had it in Moscow a long time ago.  But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia. 

HOLT:  And one last question on this matter.  Did you ever --

TRUMP:  And I have a certified letter just so you understand.  I`m not just saying that.  I`ve given the letter.  I`ve given the letter to Senator Lindsey Graham.  He has the letter, and I think frankly I assume he is going to give the letter out.  But it says I am not involved in Russia.  No loans, no nothing. 

HOLT:  Did you worry at all when you made the decision to fire Comey when you did, the day before Lavrov was here in the White House and the Russian ambassador?  Did you think through the optics of the way this would look? 

TRUMP:  I never thought about it.  It was set up a while ago, and frankly I could have waited.  But what difference does it make?  I`m not looking for cosmetics.  I`m looking to do a great job for the country.  I am looking to create jobs.  I`m looking to create strength and security.  I`m looking to have strong borders.  I`m looking for things like that.  I think it`s really a good thing that I meet with people.  Now, this is a public meeting, because you know when you cover this, the people watching may say, oh, he met with Lavrov.  Well, this was announced at a meeting with Lavrov just like a number of days ago I spoke, had a very good conversation, very public in the sense that everybody knew this was taking place.  I talk all the time.  I just spoke with the new head of South Korea who just got elected.  I speak with the head of India.  I speak with the head of China.  I have to speak with Putin also.  It`s called Russia.  But when I spoke with Putin, he asked me whether or not I would see Lavrov.  Should I say, no, I`m not going to see him?  I said, I will see him, during that discussion with Lavrov, I think we had a great discussion having to do with Syria, having to do with the Ukraine, and maybe that discussion will lead to a lot less people getting killed and will lead ultimately to peace.  So I`m okay with those discussions, Lester.  I think it`s a good thing, not a bad thing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

VAN SUSTEREN:  NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell is live in the White House briefing room, also with me, Tim Carny, the commentary editor for the Washington examiner, and Tamara Keith, NPR`s White House correspondent, Kelly, first to you.  How is this firing of Comey and the controversy over the interview with Lester Holt where the president said that he had had this dinner with the now fired director of the FBI -- how does that resonate inside the White House? 

KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL:  Well, they believe that the president was able to, in a more thoughtful, lengthy way describe some of the interactions, not the tweet length where sometimes he has a burst of a thought that can be hard to interpret.  Here you saw the president explain things.  The White House has pushed back on any suggestion that the president`s conversations with then Director Comey were in any way a conflict or applying of political pressure or things like that.  Others have said for the president to be dining with or speaking by phone with the FBI director and to ask the question if he was personally under investigation might be perceived, at least politically or just in the realm of perception, as an attempt to influence by a legal standard, and I`ll defer to you on that, people say this isn`t, on its face, an attempt at obstruction.  It would be an element in a case if there were many other examples.  But they`re taking a much more sort of every person`s view, that the president asked the question.  The then director responded to it. 

And they`re saying this was a chance for the president to interact with James Comey at those times to be in a sense reassured that he was not the focus.  Politically I think it plays quite differently.  From the White House point of view, the president had a chance to talk about things like not seeing a conflict in the optics of meeting with the Russian foreign minister right after the Comey firing even though Comey`s portfolio included the Russia investigation.  You see the president sort of working that out in the conversation with Lester Holt.  And it seems on its face like he is not trying to manage this.  Again from a political lens you look at it and it raises other questions.  But this was the president in a more unfiltered way, trying to explain his pattern.  I think what is really striking to me that I still don`t have a handle on is that he is so willing to praise at a minimum the service and friendship and loyalty of Michael Flynn who was ousted from this administration, who arguably has brought a lot of criticism upon the administration, and yet he was at the same time so willing to be personally critical of James Comey, who has a broad level of respect for his public service.  We didn`t hear that from the president today.  Terms like showboating and grandstanding are really sort of a character hit on James Comey, and it`s hard to figure out how he can praise Flynn or be respectful of Flynn and be quite so harsh on Comey, Greta. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Tim, what do you think? 

TIM CARNY, WASHINGTON EXAMINER:  I thought the most interesting -- I thought Lester Holt asked a great question when he said, you`re saying this is a bad investigation, it`s a waste of tax payers money and it`s a total hoax.  It`s a charade, and you`re looking for a new FBI director.  Are you not sending that person a message to lay off?  That was the first time that struck home to me why this could be -- the biggest way this could be seen as improper to fire him, to be searching for this new person, and to be expressing constantly his very strong opinions that the investigation into Russia shouldn`t focus on the Trump campaign at all.  I think that is really the question that they`re going to have to ask and that we ought to drive home. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  Tamara? 

TAMARA KEITH, NPR`S WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  What stood out to me is the conditional that President Trump was still talking about Russia interfering in the election as an if.  If Russia interfered in the election, that would be a horrible thing.  This comes on the same day that the senate intelligence committee has a hearing where basically the entire intelligence community shows up and says Russia interfered in the election. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  What strikes me is it`s so hard to get the facts on this.  It`s so easy to get this one wrong.  And, you know, I mean like the president could be very clever, and we could be very sloppy.  Maybe the president -- President Trump is not under investigation, but maybe the Trump campaign is. 

CARNY:  Yeah. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  And the Trump associates in the campaign are involved, and yet we sort of blur together and he is playing the definition of, is and we`re doing a different thing. 

CARNY:  He even used the same verb tense as Bill Clinton back there when Clinton said there is no relationship.  There was a moment where he said that about there is no connection between the -- there is no collusion between Trump and --

VAN SUSTEREN:  He says that he sent a letter off to -- he doesn`t name the law firm.  I was curious what the law firm was, but that a law firm has sent a letter off to Senator Lindsey Graham and he has absolutely no connection to Russia, no financial ties.  Now, has anyone been able to show that he has ties? 

KEITH:  Well, they`ve quoted -- people have quoted his son, who said that, you know, we get a lot of business from Russians.  There are things like that.  But I don`t think that yet there have been -- that is why everybody wants to see the tax returns among other reasons. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  You know what?  If it is as he says, it seems to me that he could clearly clear this up, but he doesn`t.  I mean I think to myself, why not just clear it up if it`s so easy? 

CARNY:  This happens a lot.  When he was first asks about Russia, he said I`d never had any dealings with it.  Here he was more precise when he said we did host the pageant there.  I did sell something to a wealthy Russian.  But whenever he gives these blanket denials that we know aren`t totally true, it doesn`t clear it up.  Is it just that he is so uncareful, because he is remarkably uncareful for a politician.  Or is it that he is just constantly -- you know, he is covering something up. 

KEITH:  And a certified letter is sort of an unusual tack.  It`s not clear that a certified letter will satisfy people who want to see something more than just a letter from your lawyer. 

VAN SUSTEREN:  They can`t make him come up and testify.  You know, he could make this a lot easier to get to the bottom, and sometimes he just spins everybody upside down as we try to get these facts.  Anyway, thank you both.  Thank you for watching.  I`ll see you back here tomorrow night, 6:00 p.m. Eastern.  If you can`t watch live, set your DVR, follow me on twitter @Greta.  Check out my Facebook page for behind the scenes video and so much more on my Facebook page.  Check it out, and also like it, while you`re there.  "Hardball" with Chris Matthews starts right now. 

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