For the Record with Greta, Transcript 5/12/2017

Guests: Eamon Javers, Michael Scherer, Bill Kristol, Ken Delaney, Matt Miller, Nancy Savage

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, MSNBC HOST:  Chuck, I never miss Meet the Press on Sunday.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE:  I appreciate that.

VAN SUSTEREN:  See you Sunday.  Breaking news tonight, former FBI director James Comey says, no, he will not be testifying on Tuesday.  The answer is no.  He will not testify before the senate intelligence committee.  That committee had invited Comey to testify and that invitation coming after Comey was fired on Tuesday night.  The leaders of the committee say they do hope to hear from Comey soon.  So for now, no response from Comey to President Trump`s early morning tweet, this morning`s tweet has rocked Washington.  James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.  Now, that tweet created a brand-new fire storm.  Did the president tape his dinner conversation with Comey?  The dinner where the president says Comey assured him he was not under investigation, is the president threatening the former FBI director, and did the president record anyone else?  In his briefing today White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not make any of those questions go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED MALE:  Did President Trump record his conversations with former FBI director Comey?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I assume you`re referring to the tweet, and I`ve talked to the president.  The president has nothing further to add on that.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE:  Why did he say that?  Why did he tweet that?  What should we interpret from that?

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

UNINDENTIFIED MALE:  Are there recording devices in the oval office or in the residence?

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

UNINDENTIFIED MALE:  Does he think it`s appropriate to threaten someone like Mr. Comey not to speak?

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

UNINDENTIFIED MALE:  Does anyone in this White House have an audio recording of what unfolded during the January 27th dinner between the former FBI director and the president of the United States?

SPICER:  I`m not aware of that.

UNINDENTIFIED MALE:  Is the president of the United States currently recording conversations taking place in the oval office?

SPICER:  I think the point that I made with respect to the tweet is the president has no further comment on this.  See you on Monday.  Thank you.  Good-bye.

(CROSSTALK)

UNINDENTIFIED MALE:  listening devices in the White House, did you ask the president if he installed listening devices?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  And in a new interview out late today, no answers from the president either.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What about the idea that in a tweet you said that there might be tape recordings?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  That I can`t talk about -- I won`t talk about that.  All I want is for Comey to be honest and I hope he will be.  I`m sure he will be.  I hope.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  With me from the White House CNBC`s, Eamon Javers.  Eamon, you were in the room.  Tell me what it was like when Spicer wouldn`t answer that question.

EAMON JAVERS:  Yeah.  You know, Greta, it was a packed house in that room and it was an intense day for Sean Spicer returning after two days off into this very heated moment here in Washington, D.C.  And there are really two possibilities here, either the president of the United States is bluffing about having secret tapes, or he`s telling the truth.  If he`s bluffing there is a problem for the president because it`s an empty threat from the White House.  If he`s telling the truth, that lays out another series of potential problems for this White House because Democrats on Capitol Hill will want access to those tapes, investigators will want access to those tapes.  They could eventually at some point face a subpoena situation and there is a history to this.  Richard Nixon, the president of the United States, faced a similar situation with his secret tape system and didn`t end very well for him.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Eamon, as the day marched on we`re trying to get more information.  Seems to me the question is a simple yes or no.  But all we hear is that nobody has anything further to add.  Is there any sort of confusion or what`s going on in the communications division of the White House?

JAVERS:  Well, we don`t know.  They`ve clearly decided to stand on the explanation that they stand on a lot around here, which is the tweet speaks for itself.  But in this case, it is an implication threat of the FBI director who`s just been fired by the president of the United States.  And you`ve also got a situation here where he`s raise the possibility of a secret taping system.  People are going to want to know the answers to that.  I imagine that they`re going to be inbound questions from Capitol Hill investigators, inbound questions from FBI investigators who are going to want to know what`s on those tapes, how extensive is that system, what other conversations were captured here?  Today is just the beginning of a series of questions that the president has raised for himself.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Thank you very much.  And we may not know yet if there are White House tapes, but if there are, Democrats in congress want them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED MALE:  The president is saying that there may be tapes.  If there are tapes, I believe -- maybe it`s not our committee`s jurisdiction, but we should, one, make sure they`re preserved and, two, we should make sure that the appropriate committee and congress should take a look at them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  That was Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the senate intelligence committee.  And a top Democrat on the house intel committee, Congressman Adam Schiff is tweeting.  Mr. President, if there are tapes relevant to the Comey firing, it is because you made them and they should be provided to congress.  And the top Democrats in the house judiciary and oversight committees also today sending a letter to White House counsel Donald McGahn writing they are compelled to ask whether any such recordings do in fact exist.  If so, we request all copies of all recording.  With me, Bill Kristol, editor at large at Weekly Standard, and Michael Scherer, Washington bureau chief for Time, who sat down with the president for nearly 100-minute interview and a four-course dinner on Monday.  So naturally the question to you is did you feel taped?

MICHAEL SCHERER, TIME:  You know, it`s funny when we sat down at the meal, he looked at the table, we were in the blue room.  And there was a digital recorder by the flower display next to a candle.  He says, whose is that?  He wasn`t sure.  It was actually one of his staffers who put it there.  So he was aware when he sat down, you know, where the recording devices were in the room.  And we were recording, too. We were recording on our iPhones.

VAN SUSTEREN:  You were recording, everybody was recording.

SCHERER:  There`s no secret.  If the White House has tapes it will match the tape I have on my iPhone, I`m sure.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Bill...

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDRAD:  Congress is probably more interested in the tape of the dinner with Comey three months ago.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL:  I mean, I think -- I mean, the president is in serious trouble for a couple reasons.  We`re used to him -- tweeting things he can`t back up and Sean Spicer has a tough day.  And the media tends to understand and it`s all bad P.R., bad couple days.  This is way beyond that.  There`s congress, which now is going to say -- I mean, how do we find out that Nixon had tapes?  Because Alexander Butterfield as I recall -- read about it was testifying to congress, right?  And they asked him is there a taping system in the White House?  And he said, yes.  And the tapes had to be made public, and there was an 18-minute gap, etcetera, etcetera.  So congress is now a real player. 

And secondly, and more importantly, this is an FBI investigation.  I mean, you`re a lawyer.  You`ve gone through this.  This is not like, oh, I just said something a little misleading.  The FBI is investigating -- a criminal and national security investigation.  You are now -- he is part of that investigation.  That`s a whole different level of problems.  And third point I would make is, what is the effect that everyone is so focused on the media, the media effect, what happened this week?  Comey was fired.  What has to happen now?  He has to nominate another FBI director.  How is that going to work out?  He can`t put an old Trump loyalist, obviously.  He is going to put in someone from all -- he`s going to have to put in someone from all the pressure going to be to have a very serious investigation, not to back at all.  Have a huge oversight from congress -- scrutiny from the media.  Trump has created almost a nightmare for himself, I think.

SCHERER:  The White House has a phrase they use, a lot of staff I`ve heard say it, the controversy elevates message.  And it`s a rule that Trump lived by during the campaign.  He`s living by right now in the White House.  I don`t know if there is a taping system.  I doubt there`s a taping system in the White House.  I think what he did with that tweet today was take everyone`s attention off, what looked to be a very damaging New York Times story from yesterday in which people close to James Comey are quoted saying there was basically a loyalty test issue to me by the president.  We are now talking about taping systems in the White House.  I think that`s probably not...

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL:  It doesn`t matter because James Comey is going to speak at some point.  And he will testify and he will tell -- he`ll say yes or no.  So the president is getting short-term maybe, slight diversions in message at the cost of slight laying unbelievable traps for himself down the road.

VAN SUSTEREN:  But he did the same thing, he accused President Obama of wiretapping him.

SCHERER:  Trump has -- I think the big drama that we`re seeing play out this week, the last several weeks is that a president who is not used to being a president, is used to being Donald Trump, is trying to figure out how to fit into the box of the presidency.  Now, these are tactics techniques, the short term gain, the long term...

Bob:  You`re being too nice.

SCHERER:  He`s always used -- I`m not disagreeing that this might not hurt him down the road.  This could hurt him down the road.

Bob:  It`s hurting him now.  Look, the tapping of Obama charging -- he`s paying a huge price for that.  That elevated the whole question.  There`s an FBI investigation going on, I did nothing wrong, let them investigate.  They`re not going to find anything, thank you, good-bye.  That would have been it.  Why are we discussing all of this now.  Partly because he said President Obama tapped him which required Director Comey to testify to congress to say, no, he didn`t, which requires Trump -- in his mind to fire Comey.  I mean, he has laid down -- he has started down a path that is way beyond P.R. embarrassment.  Oh, he`s not used to being president.  Oh, he`s an unusual type of guy, I think really.  He is now -- he has put his presidency at risk.

SCHERER:  I`m agreeing with you that it`s hurt him.  I think what he is thinking, the reason he is doing this is he is falling back on his own techniques.  And that`s a different point.  He thinks of himself as a gut player.  When he gets insecure, when he`s unhappy with a situation, he returns to his gut play moves.  And that`s what he did.  He had a couple quiet weeks on twitter.  The White House had kind of calmed down.  And then, he gets into a jam and he kind of lashes out again.

VAN SUSTEREN:  You know, we focus here, everything is happening in D.C. because it really has consumed us.  The promise -- we`re not keeping this issue in the family, this weird tweets, the whole world is watching.  And you know when you think of the role of the United States in the world, and the president is about to launch on a tour of many important nations to our national security, that now we have this dragging us.

KRISTOL:  The president fired the director of our leading law enforcement organization.  It happened once before.  It was done because with good cause by President Clinton who immediately explained that he immediately nominated a successor who was a Republican.  There was no issue after about a day.  He is now left -- this is hanging out there.  Again, I come back to the reality.  The reality is there is not -- he fired the FBI director.  That`s the fundamental thing that happened this week.  The tweets have just compounds it.  He now set up situations where the FBI director and others are going to have to explain themselves and explain what happened.  His staff -- the congress can find out whether a taping system has been put in the White House.  They can call the people who would have to do that.  Either Trump is just blatantly, I mean, lied and kind of ridiculous bluff.  But I agree with Michael, this is what he worked from in business, right, tough negotiation.  I`m going to bluff.  Hey, I`m going to walk away from this deal.  This is different.  He`s president of the United States.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And, of course, you have the weird thing is the whole sort of drama about whether it was his decision or whether he`s taking the recommendation from the DOJ.  I mean that wasn`t very helpful.

SCHERER:  No.  You know, they came out with a cover story initially, the cover story immediately clasp because the president comes out and says the cover story isn`t true.  I don`t think -- this is also the other thing that has been highlighted again is that there is not a coherent White House operation around Trump.  There are several operations inside the White House.  They cater to him differently.  He has different teams working on different things.  And then he is rolling with his gut move, and those different teams aren`t communicating with each other.  You mentioned Bill Clinton`s planning his firing of an FBI director.  There simply was no planning in this.

KRISTOL:  That`s what struck me about the statement they put out.  He put up a written statement that night or Tuesday night, and in the middle of it is I had three conversations with Director Comey in which he said...

VAN SUSTEREN:  He was not under investigation.

KRISTOL:  How could the White House counsel allow him to say that?  Would you allow any...

VAN SUSTEREN:  I didn`t think the White House counsel saw it.

KRISTOL:  So they`re putting out statements in a legal...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN:  It came out through his office.

KRISTOL:  Yeah.  I was just saying, the staff -- this is Michael`s point.  The staff has so little ability to tell him this is extremely unwise for you to do.  This is like the defendant in the murder case totally ignoring his counsel.

VAN SUSTEREN:  I have had that.  Anyway, gentlemen...

KRISTOL:  Did it workout well?

VAN SUSTEREN:  Didn`t work out well, that and the confession.  Thank you both.  Still ahead, who invited who to that now infamous dinner at the White House and why?  You might be surprised to find out what was happening behind the scenes in the days before the dinner.  Also, is President Trump at war with the FBI?  We`ll hear from FBI leader with decades of experience who met with James Comey just days before he was fired.  Plus, are we about to see the end of the White House press briefing as we know it?  You`ve got to hear who President Trump thinks should take over the job.  And what does a trending hashtag have to do with the Russians?  That`s ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNINDENTIFIED MALE:  Did President Trump record his conversations with former FBI director Comey?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  A shocking refusal by the White House to deny that President Trump is recording conversations.  Now this all stems from the president`s tweet threatening fired FBI director James Comey about, quote, tapes from their dinner and phone conversations.  So, what do we actually know about the dinner?  Well, it all starts back on January 24th, when then national security advisor Michael Flynn is interviewed by the FBI.  The next day, January 25th, the justice department gives details about that FBI interview.  Then, the following day, January 26th, then acting attorney general Sally Yates warns the White House that General Flynn is vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.  And just one day later, January 27th, President Trump has dinner with then FBI director James Comey.  And it was at that dinner President Trump says he asked Comey if he was under investigation.  The president insisting Comey said no, but FBI officials telling NBC News this is not true, even former director of national intelligence James Clapper talking about it today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

  UNINDENTIFIED MALE:  He mentioned that he had been invited to the White House to have dinner with the president, and that he was uneasy with that because of even compromising even the optics, the appearance of independence, not only of him but of the FBI.

  (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  With me former justice department spokesperson, Matt Miller, and NBC`s national security correspondent, Ken Delaney.  Ken, what can you tell me about any details surrounding this dinner?

KEN DELANEY, NBC NEWS:  Well, Greta, the story we`re getting about how the dinner came about is completely at odds to the way President Trump described it to Lester Holt.  What we`re being told that this was a last- minute invitation that came the 26th, the day before, or the 27th, the day of.  And by that time, Sally Yates had made her warning, and according to Sean Spicer, the president had been briefed about it.  So, he knew that Sally Yates had said his national security advisor Mike Flynn was subject to being blackmailed.  He then asked Jim Comey to dinner according to our sources.  Comey was reluctant to do it because he wants to preserve the independence of the FBI.  So he didn`t even want the rank and file of the FBI to know about this dinner, we`re told.  But he felt like he couldn`t say no to his boss.  Now, the people we`ve talked to find it inconceivable that Jim Comey would tell Donald Trump he was not under investigation, but they don`t know for a fact because they weren`t at the meeting.  Only Comey can testify to that, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ken, is there -- usually when the FBI director or any of these cabinet officers travel, they have assistants or deputies with them.  Was there anybody else at that dinner besides the president and James Comey?

DELANEY:  I don`t know the answer to that, but my understanding is it was mainly a one on one dinner.  But you`re right, both these men have staffs.  It`s hard to imagine they were completely alone at all times.  But it was billed as a one on one dinner, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Matt, is there any information that there is a taping system in the White House?

MATT MILLER, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON:  Well, other than the president`s strange threat of blackmail to Jim Comey on twitter today, not necessarily.  But we don`t know whether he was making that up, whether it was just a bluff to try to intimidate Jim Comey into not testifying, whether he`s just trolling the press core, or whether there is a taping system.  But it`s pretty remarkable that the White House won`t answer that question now.  That`s a fairly big thing to reveal given the historical ramifications of that.

VAN SUSTEREN:  They`re pretty coy with this sort of cat and mouse game with the media, which is not -- I mean I don`t think it is right to do, but nonetheless they have been doing that.

MILLER:  About many things.  But given -- you know, talk about the history here, when you go back to the only president to have ever been impeached and had to resign, Richard Nixon, it was larger because what the taping system revealed about the ongoing criminal conspiracy that emanated in the White House.  For the White House to dangle that out and not answer the question it`s obviously something that`s not tenable.  They won`t be able to stick with that answer for very long.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ken, to put it in context, if this were the only dinner that the president had it would be obviously more suspicious than if he has dinner often with different people.  So, tell me, is this sort of routine that he has dinner was cabinet officers or directors of the EPA, the FBI, or members of congress?

DELANEY:  Well, he may have dinners with other cabinet officers, but I just know that for Jim Comey, this was a real source of unease because it`s one thing for Comey to go brief the president in the oval office, but to have a one on one dinner at a time when there is an investigation swirling around looking at whether the Trump campaign is colluding with Russia, Comey felt really awkward about that.  That that didn`t send a good message, and he wished he didn`t have to do it as we were being told, but he also felt he couldn`t refuse -- go ahead.  Sorry.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Go ahead.

DELANEY:  Our sources find it inconceivable, as James clapper said on the air today, though, that Comey asked to be retained in his job at this dinner which is the story that President Trump told to Lester Holt.

VAN SUSTEREN:  This is unusual.  I mean, the president keeps making it more unusual by things that he does, even making this sort of veiled remark about Comey being a leaker.

MILLER:  Yeah.  I mean, it makes no sense for the president to do this, but I think one of the things that we`re going to see.  Look, Jim Comey has been in this town a long time.  He served in very senior jobs.  And he`s shown that when he thinks there is something inappropriate, he usually leaves a written record of that.  He did that in the Bush administration in 2005, and sat on something until four years later when he had to leak an e- mail to the New York Times.  He testified at a very dramatic hearing in 2007, where he revealed allegations of wrongdoing in the Bush administration.  If there`s something in that conversation between him and the president that Jim Comey thought was inappropriate, I guarantee you we`re going to hear about it from Jim Comey sooner or later.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Ken, is the White House staff concerned about this at all?  Are they rattled by this?

DELANEY:  Well, they seem to be out of the loop.  I mean, the explanation that they gave for the firing of Jim Comey has completely crumbled, right?  But I just want to echo what Matt said, I mean, the people that we`re talking to who know Jim Comey and are speaking to Jim Comey are very confident that the truth of this will come out.  And they`re angry about the way he was treated and they believe that at some time he will tell his story and it won`t be pleasant for the Trump administration.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Gentlemen, thank you.  The plot thickens.  Keep trying to dig at facts.  Thank you both.  After the break, concerns about an all-out war between the FBI and President Trump, I`ll talk to a former agent who met with James Comey just days ago.  And will President Trump ditch the White House press briefings because he moves too fast for his aides to be accurate?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN:  We`re back.  Tonight, there are reports of bad blood between President Trump and the FBI.  And today, the White House press secretary denying that President Trump was threatening former FBI director James Comey with this today`s early morning tweet, quote, James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.  And today, somebody in FBI saying, yes, that is a threat and it`s a big deal.  A former high ranking FBI official warning the agency feels its independence is under attack.  That former high ranking official is telling CNBC, quote, first he started war with the intelligence agencies and now he wants one with the FBI.  The official adding that the president is, quote, out of control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

SPICER:  I -- that`s frankly offensive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  With me former FBI agent Nancy Savage.  She is the executive director of the society of former special agents of the FBI.  Nice to see you.

NANCY SAVAGE, FORMER FBI AGENT:  Nice to see you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right.  You saw James Comey when, when did you last speak to him?

SAVAGE:  It was a week ago.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And then when he was fired on Tuesday, your reaction was one of what?

SAVAGE:  Shock.  I think everyone was pretty much devastated, especially how it was enacted by the administration.

VAN SUSTEREN:  I mean, I agree.  If you`re going to fire somebody, bring them into the oval office and have a discussion and do it better.  But anyway, I don`t like that either.

SAVAGE:  Yeah.

VAN SUSTEREN:  What`s Comey like?

SAVAGE:  I mean he`s just a great individual.  He`s easy to talk to.  He has, you know, fantastic grasp of the issues very, very quickly, even complex issues.  He remembers almost everything verbatim.  That`s very impressive.  He`s very supportive to the active duty agents.  And I`ve seen him in situations where he`s talking to our group, which are mainly former agents, but I`ve seen him when he`s talking to all FBI agents on critical investigative matters, and he gets down in the weeds and is very supportive of them.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right.  There were reports of the White House that the morale at the FBI was bad, suggesting that as the leader he was responsible for morale.  Do you have some sort of feel for what was going on at the FBI before and now since this firing?

SAVAGE:  I think from all of the -- my associates who are still active duty, they`re very, very positive about him as a leader.  I think there was some concern because it was a difficult situation that they were put in, you know, as FBI agents are used to very sensitive investigations.  But the Hillary Clinton investigation was especially sensitive because she was a front runner on the Democratic side, and there was a lot of pressure to get that investigation completed, but do it correctly.  And the country evenly divided, the FBI is going to call it like they see it.  I know my career, I mean, no one tries to force an FBI agent to do something for political reasons.

VAN SUSTEREN:  I read back then, or at least I think I did, that there were some who thought that Comey was wrong in not pursuing -- and the way that he handled that July 5th press conference, and he sort of bypassed justice department.

SAVAGE:  Well, I just think it`s important to bring out the situation where essentially A.G. Loretta Lynch came forward and said she felt very sorry that she had had that meeting on the tarmac with Bill Clinton, and that came out in the press.  And because of that, she said she wasn`t going to make a recommendation on this, and she sort of informally said, hey, I`m going to follow the recommendations of the FBI.  That put him in a highly unusual situation.  It put the FBI in an unusual situation.  Normally, you do what Jeff Sessions is doing.

VAN SUSTEREN:  In a big organization, like a big prosecutor`s office, decisions are made by the people handling the cases.  To what extent does the departure of the director of the FBI impact the investigations, more specifically, the one of whatever is going on about the Trump campaign?

SAVAGE:  Right now, you`re talking about the Russian?

VAN SUSTEREN:  Yeah, yeah.

SAVAGE:  Potential alleged Russian involvement.  I don`t think that that -- anything political is going to impact those.  I really don`t.  I mean, FBI agents are going to bring the facts out.  They`re going to write the reports.  They`re going to pursue it aggressively.  And then they`re going to present that over to the department of justice.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Thank you very much for joining us.

SAVAGE:  OK.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Next we have a letter, President Trump`s lawyers, just wrote him, this letter now sparking a viral internet joke including a top trending Twitter hashtag and a whole bunch of new questions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN:  President Trump this morning making a surprise suggestion about daily press briefings. Tweeting, as a very active president with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy. Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future press briefings and hand-out written responses for the sake of accuracy? Obviously, that did not go into effect today. Press Secretary, Sean Spicer was asked about the president`s tweets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the president considering cancelling the daily press briefings?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I think he`s a little dismayed that we see time and time again an attempt to parse every little word and make it more of a game of gotcha, as opposed to really figure out what the policies are, why something is being pursued or what the update is on this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  President Trump also later talking about this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you moving so quickly that your Communications Department cannot keep up with you?

TRUMP:  Yes. That`s true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So, what do we do about that, because--

TRUMP:  We don`t have press conferences and we do--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You don`t mean that.

TRUMP:  Well, you just don`t have them or unless I have them every two weeks and I do it myself. We don`t have them. I think it`s a good idea. First of all, you have a level of hostility that`s incredible and it`s very unfair. Sarah Huckabee is a lovely young woman. You know, Sean Spicer, he is a wonderful human being. He`s a nice man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is he your press secretary, today and tomorrow? Is he going to be tomorrow?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP:  --well, he`s doing a good job, but he gets beat up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Will he be there tomorrow?

TRUMP:  Yes. Well, he`s been there from the beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  With me Jonathan Swan, National Political Reporter for Axios; Kathleen Parker, Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist for the Washington Post; and Susan Ferrechio, Chief Congressional Correspondent for the Washington Examiner.

Jonathan, first to you, your thoughts about the president suggestions who do not have any at all press conference -- press briefings rather or that he have them every two weeks and that they handle them himself, or he also said answer questions in writing.

JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS:  Well, I can tell you the president has been incredibly frustrated with Sean Spicer specifically and his press team in general. He`s been venting all week privately about Spicer. He thinks that he`s been poorly served. He views the whole Comey incident not as a failure of himself as not giving them enough time, but he thinks that their response was incompetent and that he was completely exposed on air, so that`s where all this is coming from.

And he also has always thought that he is his own best messenger, he is his own best messaging strategist. He was very proud of that freewheeling press conference he did earlier this year when he was just getting fed up with seeing, you know, people not representing the way he wanted to. So, he just stood up for an hour and just riff. So, I think all these things are coming together.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Kathleen?

KATHLEEN PARKER, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST:  The interesting thing about his concerns about accuracy it`s, you know, the briefings are public. You can tune in and watch them yourself. You can actually, the public can.

And you can -- you can follow the conversation, you can follow the questions and the answers, but the problem isn`t -- the problem with accuracy is that his staff people, his surrogates are unable to give an answer that will hold for more than a couple of hours because he keeps changing the message.

I don`t know how much -- I don`t know how he can claim as you say that he`s great at controlling the message and directing the message. That may work in the rally scenario, but working with the media who are actually, I don`t think, badgering so much as they`re trying to get a straight answer that is in fact answers the question they pose.

You know, so often it`s -- they sort of -- they deflect or say something that`s just basically an end to the conversation rather than a response that the media can actually use. I`m not, you know, I`m not -- I`m not saying the media are perfect certainly, and they are certainly aggressive because that`s kind of what our job is.

SUSAN FERRECHIO, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER:  Well, aggressive, but I do -- I do agree with Trump that they play gotcha more with him than with any president that I`ve seen in my lifetime. But his message is different than even what the vice-president`s message was this week. I prefer the briefing stay every day. I would hate for them to go away, but if he`s going to be an unconventional president maybe he should come up with an unconventional way of communicating with the press instead of doing it--

VAN SUSTEREN:  But he has, Twitter.

(CROSSTALK)

FERRECHIO:  Well, no but then -- what he`s trying to do is, he`s trying to combine both worlds, you know, where he has Twitter in his own way of communicating with his people, his base, answering back to the media. And then you`ve got the classic traditional structure of the daily press briefings and his messengers going out and it`s clashing all the time.

(CROSSTALK)

FERRECHIO:  And that`s why--

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN:  Susan, the problem the other day, I don`t think Spicer was spinning everybody about whether Comey was going to go or not and a couple hours later Comey was gone. I think Spicer was relaying what he knew or didn`t know.

FERRECHIO:  Right, that`s my point is that -- is that, he is unconventional and he kind of goes his own way. He operates like a person who runs a company with nobody to answer to which is what he was before he came to the White House.

He is not the big -- he`s not someone who is used to running of, you know, working in a big team which is what`s really essential in the White House. So, you know, for him to say maybe we`ll just get rid of the press briefings I`ll talk to you myself every two weeks, that doesn`t sound too crazy--

VAN SUSTEREN:  But, but--

FERRECHIO:  --that`s kind of what he`s doing anyway.

VAN SUSTEREN:  But he had some--

(CROSSTALK)

PARKER:  I think it sounds pretty crazy. Look, at Bush definitely was dealt with rather, you know, scathingly and lots of gotcha questions in those press briefings.

FERRECHIO:  Yes, and I like--

(CROSSTALK)

PARKER:  President Obama definitely had it a lot easier--

FERRECHIO:  Yes, yes.

PARKER:  --but he also had a much cooler way of communicating some of and I think--

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN:  But I think -- but I think, that the thing with twitter, though, and I`ll go to you Jonathan, he said, is the president tweets some provocative things and he, you know, he lays out his 140 characters, he punches and then he runs and then his communications department is supposed to pick it up and they`re supposed to pick up the pieces and explain well, what he really meant to say essentially.

I mean, he`s making it rather difficult for them. You know what, you know, I mean if you`re a big Trump fan, you still have to admit that he`s making it very difficult for his team.

SWAN:  Yes. And privately they`re all trying to sort of keep up. I mean, like there`s times when you`re on the phone to them and he`s tweeting, you know, and they are like, oh, what did he say now?

(LAUGHTER)

SWAN:  You know, it`s like -- this is the reality.

VAN SUSTEREN:  He makes it -- he makes it--

(CROSSTALK)

SWAN:  You know, they wake up in the morning and it`s OK, what has my boss said that I need to like get up to speed on, you know?

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN:  --I think it`s some sort of sympathetic as this, you don`t have--

SWAN:  Well, he is not, let me be clear. He is not sympathetic.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Oh, no, no. I know he`s hard on them.

SWAN:  Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Anyway, all right, another big story today, the question whether President Trump has any business dealings in Russia. Here`s what he told Lester Holt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  That I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever. I don`t have property in Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  Today, the letter emerged from his law firm trying to make that point it says, the president has no income from Russia over the last 10 years, "with a few exceptions such as the Miss Universe Pageant and third-party revenue". Now, the hashtag with few exceptions immediately popped as the top trender in the U.S. and number 3 worldwide.

Of course, the president did not release the tax returns that might prove what the letter is saying. And here is the punch line, it does fall under the headline, you just can`t make this up. The law firm that handled this for him that sent him this Letter for the president, last year that law firm was named, you got it, Russia Law Firm Of The Year. I kid you not. Susan?

FERRECHIO:  Well, he needs to tell us what the exceptions are, I think at this point.  If -- we know Trump and his sensitivity the way he`s reacted to negative responses that he will see that he`s being ridiculed over this and will try to hopefully clarify what those exceptions are because--

(CROSSTALK)

PARKER:  Yes, the exceptions are a $95 million real estate sale.

FERRECHIO:  Or it can be other things too, we don`t know.

(CROSSTALK)

SWAN:  No, no. They stipulate -- the problem from my view is that we don`t have -- to your point, we don`t have substantiation but the letter does specify exactly what those exceptions are.

FERRECHIO:  But from--

(CROSSTALK)

SWAN:  That`s my point. No, no that`s my point.

PARKER:  --the headline, you know, there are -- he does have some financial dealings with Russia, but they are minor and here`s what they are.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Here`s what I don`t know and first of all, it said March and not May, but I can make that typo. There was a typo in the letter, I think, anyway had the wrong date. But does it -- and I`m a little rusty on this I admit, but the letter was written from the law firm to President Trump and then released.

And I`m curious and I have to go back and research and get Alan Dershowitz where the attorney/client privilege has now been broken. And now, you know, maybe we can get more information now. I don`t know. I don`t know, you know, how that will be pursued.

PARKER:  --attorney/client, I think work both ways. So, if he -- if the client says release it, then there wouldn`t seem to be any violation.

VAN SUSTEREN:  But the client released it. He and the client--

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN:  --the client has the privilege.

PARKER:  Right.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And so, I mean, I don`t know. Like I said, I`m pretty rusty. But, obviously the president wanted to get that out today.

SWAN:  Yes. And I think it was designed for a very narrow audience which was Lindsey Graham and a few other Republican senators who were starting to cause a bit of trouble for him by talking about his Russia dealings. He doesn`t care about the Democrats so much but when you have some of these Republican senators that start--

PARKER:  Yes.

SWAN:  --to get people pretty concerned.

PARKER:  He is working closely with Lindsey because as soon as he was ready to--

SWAN:  Lindsey is--

PARKER:  --fire Comey, he called Lindsey Graham and gave him a heads up beforehand.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right, next a whirlwind week from that blockbuster, Sally Yates hearing to the Comey firing. And getting revved up, we`re staring at live literally, Melissa McCarthy in her Sean Spicer costume motoring around New York City.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN:  Remember when Sally Yates was the big headline? That seemed like years ago, doesn`t it? Well, the former acting attorney general testifying before the senate how she warned the White House about General Michael Flynn that he was, in essence, Russian blackmail bait. Now, that was on Monday. By Tuesday night, there was a different headline dominating. Here`s a look back at this whirlwind week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The clouds of suspicion related to Russia, the Trump Organization, and what happened with the former national security advisor comes back in a big wave today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sally Yates, the Former Acting Attorney General who warned the White House about Michael Flynn testifies publicly today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  To state the obvious, you don`t want your national Security advisor compromised with the Russians.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  NBC News reporting that President Obama warned President-elect Trump about Mike Flynn`s Russian connections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The investigation of Russia`s hacking during the election and whether any Trump Campaign associates were involved, that work goes on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Breaking News, Jim Comey is out at the FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sending shockwaves across Washington this evening, the president dismissing the man who was leading the investigation into his campaign. UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The president informed Comey that he`s been terminated and removed from office.

VAN SUSTEREN:  The Trump White House getting extreme heat tonight for the firing of now Former FBI Director James Comey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Congressional sources say Comey was seeking to step up his investigation at the time of his firing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did the president fire Director Comey to impede the Russia investigation? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did the White House oppose the appointment of the special prosecutor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Has the dismissal of Mr. Comey in any way negatively impacted any investigation?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We need a special prosecutor right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He`d been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The story has changed and it`s simply not clear why.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Behind the scenes report of the Comey firing claiming President Trump has been enraged and fuming about the Russian investigation.

TRUMP:  He`s a showboat, he`s a grandstander.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And did you ask him are you under investigation?

TRUMP:  I actually asked him, yes. He said you are not under investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  What a week in D.C. and President Trump has one more week of holding down the fort here in D.C. before he jumps on Air force One for a whirlwind trip, his first overseas trip as president. He will visit four countries in about nine days.

The president is normally a homebody, but right now he might be eager for a change of scenery. Back with me Jonathan, Kathleen and Susan, Susan, I mean if I were the president, I`d be anxious to get out of town.

FERRECHIO:  Well, actually the best thing he could do right now before he leaves town is appoint a new FBI Director who`s credible and acceptable to both parties. You know, he can appoint anyone he wants and he get it through with 51 votes now because of the change of the rules in the senate, but I think it would serve him well to pick somebody who the Democrats would embrace. I mean, they are floating Merrick Garland, the Supreme Court nominee picked by President Obama as a possible replacement--

VAN SUSTEREN:  Yes, he got to get 100.

FERRECHIO:  Right.

VAN SUSTEREN:  --to get all of them.

FERRECHIO:  Well, in this instance, if he gets -- picks somebody who Democrats like, you know, he could -- things would simmer down with Comey and the Russian investigation because there would be more faith in how it would be carried out. But if he picks somebody that looks like he chose simply to be a loyalist or to improve the chances somehow that he won`t be implicated in anything, I just think this is going to go -- it`s going to escalate in congress and eventually -- eventually, enough Republicans will come around and put some real pressure on him. It`s not there yet, but I know it`s percolating because I hear it.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Kathy there is nothing like a bigger store to make the other headlines disappear like the Yates story disappeared with the Comey story. I mean if the president does name someone very quickly and gets this sort of like, you know, throws the bait out, well, I`ll go for the bait and we`ll forget the other stories, a little for a while.

PARKER:  That`s true.

VAN SUSTEREN:  A little bit for a while.

PARKER:  And I think everything he says is accurate. And there are, you know, finally there is a lot of maybe not enough quite yet, but a lot of Republican pushback for Trump to do the right thing. And, you know, the senate is going to continue with their own investigation. We`ll see how that unrolls. But I`m intrigued by Trump`s trip, you know, and the inclusion of the, you know, the hitting all three major religions.

VAN SUSTEREN:  --for a little trivia, Kathleen Parker and I went to Saudi Arabia together with First Lady Laura Bush--

PARKER:  Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN:  --that`s a little trivia for the viewers.

PARKER:  Yes. That was a great trip. And we both came back with a whole new attitude about, you know, just how we see women in those countries and it was so--

VAN SUSTEREN:  Oh, yes, it`s very different.

PARKER:  It`s very different than one thinks.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And indeed it is. All right, Jonathan, this is a trip that`s coming up, getting out of town, good for the president? He`s going to Saudi Arabia, going to Israel, NATO, he`s going to be -- busy.

SWAN:  Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And seeing the pope, I should add.

SWAN:  And seeing the pope. And what`s really interesting, you know, listening to H.R. McMaster talk about this trip, Donald Trump is trying to do two things, isolate Iran on this trip and get the gulf states to kind of coalesce around a vision for attacking ISIS and countering Iran, and he wants to be more inclusive in terms of a religious message, which is very clear and Jared and H.R. McMaster are pushing that as well.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And I just want to add one little bit, I read in the Sudan Tribune, this is self-interest, that President Bashir of Sudan is under indictment for genocide and the ICC is also going to be in Saudi Arabia at that event. He is under indictment. I think he should be arrested, let him answer that indictment, but anyway that`s me.

Finally, the Russian controversy and Vice-President, Mike Pence, he has mostly been able to stay out of it except for two times when he relayed the information and turned out to not be true. Here`s what the vice president said on Wednesday about the Comey firing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE-PRESIDENT:  President Trump made the right decision at the right time and to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to ask for the termination, to support the termination of the Director of the FBI.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  But we learned yesterday from President Trump that he had planned to fire Director Comey regardless of that DOJ recommendation. And then there was the time back in January when the vice-president said this about General Michael Flynn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE:  Conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  But of course now we know that General Flynn did, in fact, discuss sanctions with the Russian Ambassador, and that discrepancy and making the VP, the vice-president look bad that got Flynn fired. Jonathan, back to you, you know, the vice-president, a very busy man. We jump on every time he seems to have information that may be a couple hours old. Fair or not fair?

SWAN:  Well, it`s fair -- it`s fair reporting. All I can tell you is I`m told that privately he views those two incidents very differently. Like Flynn, he was genuinely distressed, angry, upset. He saw it as a man to man thing. Flynn told him something that was false. He went out and humiliated himself on Sunday television. I think he sees this as much cloudier. He doesn`t want to get in front of the president, and I don`t know, we watched that tape I don`t -- I think it`s hard to call it a lie, you know. It`s -- he said--

VAN SUSTEREN:  Oh, I didn`t say the vice-president lied. Oh, no, no. I didn`t say--

(CROSSTALK)

SWAN:  No, sorry. I wouldn`t even go so far as to say like, OK, it`s somewhat misleading.

VAN SUSTEREN:  We were -- we were all saying that.

SWAN:  Right, right.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Let`s get it straight, although we`re not the vice president, but--

(CROSSTALK)

SWAN:  All I`m saying is that everything was far more clear cut.

PARKER:  All right. Well, I think he now knows how Susan Rice must have felt.

(LAUGHTER)

PARKER:  You know, he`s been given incorrect information and going out in good faith and reported it, and now--

VAN SUSTEREN:  Yes, that was a one-time deal. She went to five -- I think five shows--

(CROSSTALK)

PARKER:  --in one day, but nonetheless, she was giving the information she was given. But, I think you know, with the -- I feel sorry for Vice President Pence because the impression is that he`s not in the inner circle, that he is not the person that the president holds close.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, I -- but I think he`s got his own portfolio and--

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN:  --communications department.

(CROSSTALK)

PARKER:  --this speaks to the president is continuing changing -- continuously changing his own narrative and everybody having to quickly respond to it.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right, 30 seconds, Susan.

FERRECHIO:  He`s an incredibly important messenger on Capitol Hill for the president. It`s really important for the Trump White House to make sure to protect Pence`s credibility on Capitol Hill. He`s so important out there. He`s there every week, sometimes every day working on legislation. He`s such an important ambassador for the White House. I`m curious how this will change or shape his behavior in the future.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Anyway, thank you all. Coming up, something you need -- actually, something we all need.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN:   I have something to say "For The Record", and I don`t know about you, but I think this has been a headspinning week. It started Monday with Former Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates` testimony, which now seems years ago, then FBI Director, Comey`s firing that likewise now seems years ago. Meanwhile, we were sprayed with all sorts of presidential tweets including a threat to stop press briefings which is how you find out what`s going on in your White House.

And of course, this week, we have lots of name calling, insults, accusations, allegations, some even going for the throat. It goes on and on, so bad this week. So, it`s easy to forget we`re all on the same team. We`re all Americans. So it helps if we can laugh at ourselves and I admit I don`t need to take myself so seriously all the time. I need to laugh at myself. So I resurrected this, "Saturday Night Live" making fun of me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  Good evening. Now, I`m Greta Van Susteren. Now, I`m going to try this again now. She sells, she sells -- no, I can`t do it. I can`t do it. Senator Chris, do you support a ban on Muslims, yes or no?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well put simply, nyes.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN:  Nyes. Is that no or yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is indeed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  And while I figure now that I`ve made fun of myself, it`s OK for me to laugh not at, but with White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`m here to swallow gum, and I`m here to take names.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you kidding me?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You better run. You don`t have a chance. It`s spicy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  And it looks like Melissa McCarthy is taking her Sean Spicer act on the road literally. Here she is cruising through the streets of New York City today on a mobile podium in full Sean SPICER gear.

 

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