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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  May 11, 2017 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT

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. tonight, stunning revelations from tonight, stunning revelations from president trump in our nbc news exclusive interview, his first since firing fbi director james comey. >> regardless of recommendation, i was going to fire comey. the president contradicting the white house story and his own vice president saying he was going to fire comey no matter what calling him a showboat and another bombshell, the question the president says he asked comey directly. >> i said if it's possible, would you let me know if i'm under investigation. he said you are not under investigation. >> tonight, our wide-ranging conversation and the fallout from it. "nightly news" from washington begins right now.
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♪ >> announcer: this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt. reporting tonight from washington. good evening. the white house just behind us on this rainy evening in washington as we come on the air with an nbc news exclusive. my one-on-one interview with president trump in the west wing earlier today where he made several headlines in discussing for the first time his firing of fbi director james comey. the man who was leading the investigation into possible ties between the trump campaign and russia. the president offering a new timeline if and when he made the decision to fire him and raising eyebrows as he described to me three separate conversations with comey about whether he, the president, was under investigation. the president says the firing had everything to do with comey's poor handling of the clinton e-mail case. the conversation began with the stinging rebuke of the ex fbi boss. >> look, he's a
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he's a grandstander. the fbi has been in turmoil, you know that. i know that. everybody knows that. you take a look at the fbi a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil less than a year ago. it hasn't recovered from that. >> monday you met with the deputy attorney general rob rosenstein. did you ask for recommendation? >> what i did, i was going to fire comey, my decision. >> you made the decision before they came in the room. >> i was going to fire comey. there is no good time to do it, by the way. >> because in the letter you said i accepted their recommendation, you already made the decision. >> i was going to fire regardless of recommendation. >> he made a recommendation, highly respected. very good guy. very smart guy. the democrats like him. the republicans like him.
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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 they could have won and the reason they should have won is the electoral college is almost impossible for a republican to win. very hard because you start off at such a disadvantage so everyone was thinking they should have won the election. this was an excuse for having lost an election. >> are you angry with mr. comey because of his russia investigation? >> i just want somebody that's competent. i'm a big fan of the
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fbi. i love the fbi -- >> are you a fan of him taking up that investigation -- >> i think -- about the hillary clinton investigation? >> no about the russia investigation and possible links between -- >> look, look, 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, you know, i'll lengthen the time because it should be over with in my opinion, should have been over with a long time ago because all it is is an excuse. i said i might lengthen out the investigation but i have to do the right thing for the american people. he's the wrong man for that position. >> let me ask you about your termination letter to mr. comey. i greatly appreciate informing me on three separate occasions that i am not under investigation. why did you put that in there? >> he told me -- >> he told you -- >> i've heard that from others -- >> in a phone call. did you meet face-to-face? >> we had a dinner at the white house -- >> he asked -- >> the 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. we had a very nice dinner and at that time he told me you are not under investigation, which i knny
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you're under investigation you've given all sorts of documents and everything. i knew i wasn't under and i heard it was stated at the committee level that i wasn't. number one -- >> is that didn't come -- >> so during the phone call he said it and during another phone call he said it. he said it once at dinner and twice during phone calls. >> did you call him? >> in one case i called him and one case he called me. >> did you ask him, am i under investigation? >> i actually asked him, yes. if it's possible, would you let me know am i under investigation? he said you are not under investigation. >> but he's given sworn testimony that there is an on going 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 -- >> let me tell you one thing, i know i'm not under investigation.
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campaigns or anything else. i'm not under investigation. >> did you ask him to drop the investigation? >> never. >> did anyone from the white house -- >> i want the investigation speeded up -- >> did anyone from the white house -- >> why would he do that? >> any surrogates on behalf of the white house? >> not that i know. look, i want to find out if there was a problem with an election having to do with russia or 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's not. he's a show boater. he's not my man or not my man.boater. he's not my man or not my man. boater. he's not my man or not my man. i didn't appoint him. he was appointed long before me. but i want somebody who's going to do a great job and i will tell you, we're looking at candidates right now that could be spectacular and that's what i want for the fbi. >> what you said a moment ago about supporting the idea for investigation. people believe it's hard to believe, it's a total hoax, it's a ta
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>> oh, i think that 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, the russians did not affect the vote. everybody seems to think that. >> there is an investigation underway, though, an fbi investigation. is that a charade? >> i don't know if it's fbi -- there are so many investigations. i don't know if it's fbi investigation or congress or the senate -- >> james comey testified there was an fbi investigation. >> yeah, but i think they are also helping the house and senate. so you probably have fbi. you have house, you have senate, other investigations. >> when you put out tweets it's a total hoax, it's a taxpayer charade, are you not sending that person a message to lay off? >> no.
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[000:07:58;00] 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. >> there is already intelligence from virtually every intelligence agency that yes, that happened. >> 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. >> were you angry with james comey when he went public and said he can't support your unsubstantiated charges of wiretapping that your predecessor wiretapped you? >> 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. to me, that's the big story right now. that's a very, very big story. >> you didn't take that as a sign of
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disloyalty that he came out and >> i don't think of it as loyalty. i mean, i want -- whoever the director is, i want him to do the right thing. >> there was in fact an fbi investigation looking into your campaign and russia? did that anger you? i ask that because there is a sense -- >> i have that -- >> building anger here. >> no, i know every once in awhile you'll see that in a newspaper, anger, somebody will report or have false sources that maybe don't exist because of the media, the way the media is. no, i will tell you i think that i want very simply a great fbi director. >> and will you expect they would continue on with this investigation? >> sure, i expect that. >> general flynn is part of this investigation, sally yates testified the white house was notified he had been compromised and at risk of being blackmailed. it was 18 days later he was finally fired. during that 18 days he
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had access i assume to the nation's top secrets. one day you meet on the issue of comey and tire him in a humiliating way while he's sitting in a room of colleagues and it's appearing on the tv. >> my white house counsel came back to me and didn't sound like an emergency or sound like he was, you know, 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 served for many years. he's a general. he's -- 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. >> so you're acting attorney general at the time. >> my white house counsel came to me. i believe they had two meetings and we ultimately fired but
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we fired for a different reason. >> you talking a >> general flynn, yes. >> because of lying to the vice president. >> yeah, but everything plays in. everything plays into it. we fired him because he said something to the vice president that was not so. >> did you know that he had had -- received payments from the russian government, that he received payments from the turkish president. >> no, but obama perhaps knew because he had clearance from the obama administration, and this is something they didn't 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 the media doesn't talk about that. you know, you're talking about 2015.
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i don't know that i knew him in 2015. wants information from the treasury departments's financial crimes unit about your finances, your businesses' finance, can you tell us whether you, your family, your businesses, surrogates accepted loans -- >> i sent a letter to lindsey graham from a tremendous, highly-rated law firm 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'm in total compliance in every way. i have to tell you, i file documents, hundreds of pages worth of documents with the federal elections burro. everybody 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,
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which i owned for quite awhile, it had it in mosc time ago, but other than that, i have nothing to do with russia. >> one last question on this matter -- >> 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's going to give the letter out but it says i am not involved in russia. no loans, no nothing. >> did you worry at all when you made the decision to fire comey when you did? the day before lavrov was here? did you think through the optics? >> it was set up awhile ago and frankly, i could have waited, but what difference does it make? i'm not looking for cosmetics. i'm looking to do great job for the country. i'm looking to create jobs. i'm looking to create strength and security.
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i'm looking to have i'm looking for things like that. it's a good thing i meet with people. this is a public meeting because when you cover this, the people watching may say oh, he met with lavrov like a number of days ago i spoke in a good conversation, very public in the sense they knew this was taking place. i talk all the time. i spoke with the new head of the south korea that 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. i said i'll see him. during that discussion, i think we had a great discussion having to do with syria and 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. >> just part of my conversation with president trump today
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and in the fallout about the president saying he planned to fire director comey regardless and the shifting events the white house has been offering about the surprise dismissal. hallie jackson looks at the tape. >> reporter: in this tale of two days, the story keeps changing. >> regardless of recommendation, i was going to fire comey. >> reporter: flash back to tuesday night when the white house said the president acted. >> no one from the white house. that was a d.o.j. decision. >> reporter: rob rosen stein's role. >> because of the actions to act on the recommendations, take the recommendation of the deputy attorney general. >> reporter: late there day, a shift. >> frankly, he had been considering letting director comey go since the day he
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was legislated. >> reporter: now the white house deflecting questions on the revised rational. >> he should have know director comey was not up to the task. >> he has the right to fire for any reason, the problem is inconsistent. >> frankly, i'm offended at the president's comments today. >> reporter: in a senate hearing, the acting fbi director defended the man he replaced. >> director comey enjoyed broad support within the fbi and still does to this day. >> reporter: back at the white house today, a different story again. >> i've heard from countless members of the fbi that are grateful and thankful for the president's decision and i think that, you know, we may have to agree to disagree. >> reporter: sources in the fbi says the president damaged relationships for
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firing comey like he against that predicting he won't be well received, lester? >> hallie jackson across the park from us, thanks. we'll have more tomorrow morning an "today". in the meantime, there is much more ahead. what will the fallout be from the reaction of trump? we get reaction next. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ sfx: engine revving ♪ (silence) ♪
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moderator of "meet the press" chuck todd and te break any laws or cross lines in asking the fbi director if hes the subject of a special investigation? >> lester, i talked to several officials and they agree the president didn't break any laws and asking it wouldn't be considered an attempt to interfere with the federal investigation, though, many of these same people i talked with also said they thought it was unwise to ask and said the fbi director could have said that it would no be best if he answered the question. by the way, andrew mccabe, who is now the acting fbi director told congress he will not give any updates to the president on the investigation, lester? >> all right. let me turn pete to chuck and chuck, what about the man in the center of this, rod rosenstein? >> look, rod rosenstein is the new capitol hill catnip at this point. you got a lot of members of congress that want to see him up there and testify because a lot of members want to know what did he know about
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this comey decision and when did he know it and did somebody ask him to do this? how did that go about? because frankly, even though the president now is is taking personal responsibility for the decision to fire comey in the interview with you, lester, the fact that the story changed so much in 48 hours has really unsettled a bunch of republicans on capitol hill and that will lead to a lot more questions. >> thank you. we're back in a moment with more from my exclusive interview with the president. h we never stopped tasting... and tinkering. until we had... a line of the world's best hot dogs. we removed the added nitrates and nitrites waved goodbye to by-products. and got rid of the artificial preservatives in all of our meat. every. single. one. for every. single. one of you. what else would you expect from oscar mayer. we eat, sleep and even drive hot dogs. essential for him,
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i'm the president. i wanted to be in your do you still have moments where you think, how did i get here? >> i think everybody does. i think when you become president, it's very special when you're in the white house, it's very special and i had all of my republican friends, who frankly have been in politics all their lives and done a great job. their congressman and we had senators and et cetera, but i did, i looked around and said, sorry, folks, can you believe, it's me? the truth is, i think anybody that becomes president of the united states has to every once in awhile say that's really amazing. >> president trump there with his thoughts on being commander in chief. after our interview, president trump signed an order to investigate alleged voter fraud. the president and the white house repeatedly made unsubstantiated statements including mr. trump's claim he lost a popular vote from millions of people that voted illegally. we'll take a break and be back from the
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for all of us on nbc news, thank you for watching and good night. right now on "access hollywood," idol between kelly and ryan? separating fact from fiction. dance mom star app by abby lee miller's fear heading to prison. >> that terrifies me.


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