Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With RNC Chairman Reince Priebus; President Obama Campaigns With Hillary Clinton; FBI Recommends No Indictment of Hillary Clinton; Trump: FBI Findings Show Clinton's "Bad Judgment"; Source: U.S. Gaining New Insight into ISIS Strategy, Structure. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 5, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Judgment call. Donald Trump and his party say the FBI findings prove Clinton isn't qualified to be commander in chief. But, tonight, Trump is facing fresh questions about his own judgment. I will talk to the Republican Party chairman in his first interview since the FBI's announcement on Hillary Clinton.
And political partners. President Obama hits the campaign trail with his former secretary of state for the first time in this campaign. Can they ignore the new fallout from Clinton's e-mail controversy?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking tonight: Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail with President Obama staying silent in public about the dramatic conclusion to the FBI's investigation of her private e-mail servers.
The bureau's director making a surprise announcement that he is not recommending any charges against Clinton. James Comey says there was no evidence of any intent to break laws. But he detailed how Clinton and her staff were extremely careless by sending and receiving more than 100 e-mails with information that was classified at the time.
Tonight, Donald Trump is seizing on the FBI's findings, accusing her of compromising America's security and lying about it. He is also charging the independent investigation led by the widely respected FBI chief was rigged.
The White House isn't commenting, but a short while ago, the president spoke passionately about Hillary Clinton's good judgment and qualifications in his first joint campaign appearance with the Democrats' presumptive nominee.
I will get reaction from a longtime Clinton ally, Lanny Davis, standing by. Also, our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of all the breaking stories.
Up first, let's to go our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Jim, the Clinton camp says it is glad this matter is resolved, but this report gave her opponents certainly a lot to chew on.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, no question each camp will claim something of a victory here. Clinton already claiming the issue is resolved and crucially with no indictment. But we will see GOP campaign ads relentlessly quoting Director Comey's conclusion that while her actions were not illegal, they were -- quote -- "extremely careless."
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: No charges are appropriate in this case.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): With those seven words, FBI Director James Comey spared Hillary Clinton the devastating prospect of an FBI indictment just four months from Election Day.
COMEY: In looking back at our investigations, into the mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts.
SCIUTTO: However, in a surprise announcement of the conclusion of what he called a painstaking investigation, Director Comey issued damming criticism of the presumptive Democratic nominee's use of multiple private e-mail servers.
COMEY: Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.
SCIUTTO: The FBI found that, of the 30,000 e-mails Clinton turned over, 110 e-mails contained classified information at the time they were sent or received, including classifications ranging from top- secret, the highest level, to secret, and confidential, the lowest level of classification.
The FBI's finding contradicts Secretary Clinton's evolving explanations of her e-mail use, beginning with her claim that none of the information she read or e-mailed was sensitive when she read or sent them, implying they were only classified after the fact.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am confident that I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received.
SCIUTTO: In fact, the FBI found numerous e-mails containing information which was classified at the time they were sent
Director Comey also addressed the candidate's more recent claims that none of the e-mails were marked as classified.
CLINTON: I'm confident that this process will prove that I never sent nor received any e-mail that was marked classified.
SCIUTTO: In fact, the process found that a small number of e-mails were marked classified at the time she and her staff sent them. Comey also questioned Secretary Clinton's argument that her private servers were never breached.
CLINTON: Well, the system we used was set up for President Clinton's office. And it had numerous safeguards. It was on property guarded by the Secret Service. And there were no security breaches.
SCIUTTO: In fact, Comey concluded that while the FBI found no direct evidence of such breaches:
COMEY: We assess that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton's personal e-mail account.
SCIUTTO: Secretary Clinton's spokesman quickly welcomed the finding, while repeating the candidate's apology.
"As the secretary has long said, it was a mistake to use her personal e-mail and she would not do it again. We are glad that this matter is now resolved."
Donald Trump was, of course, less convinced, tweeting -- quote -- "The system is rigged. General Petraeus got in trouble for far less, very, very unfair. As usual, bad judgment."
SCIUTTO: One open question tonight is if any of Secretary Clinton's staff will face penalties other than criminal charges. Senior staffers Huma Abedin, Jake Sullivan, Cheryl Mills and others were on the other side of those e-mail exchanges.
Will they, for instance, have trouble getting security clearances in a potential Clinton administration? The State Department said today,Wolf, it does not know the answer to that question yet.
BLITZER: It's an important question, to be sure. All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you.
Now to the president's debut as campaigner in chief for Hillary Clinton. The timing turned out to be a little odd coming just hours after the FBI's very dramatic announcement.
Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Jeff, that's where the Obama-Clinton event wrapped up just a little while ago. How did it go?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It did, Wolf.
Strange timing indeed. But the president went ahead and gave a full- throated endorsement of Secretary Clinton. Of course, he knows her better than most anyone else. He was once her rival only eight years ago. He also gave a pointed rebuttal of Donald Trump. He said this is not a reality show.
But, Wolf, here at the largest rally yet of the Clinton campaign, one thing hung over everything else. That was questions about her judgment. He sought to answer those without directly mentioning the FBI.
ZELENY (voice-over): It was a day Hillary Clinton had long been waiting for, arriving on Air Force with President Obama, who she is counting on to fire up his old coalition for her.
But their appearance today in North Carolina overshadowed by the FBI's decision to recommend no criminal charges for handling classified information as secretary of state. The FBI announcement lifted one cloud hanging over her. Yet it hardly cleared the air. More than ever, Clinton must now convince voters she has good judgment and can be trusted in the Oval Office. And she is turning to the president for help.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have had a front-row seat to her judgment and her toughness and her commitment to diplomacy.
ZELENY: She is relying on his rising to help her own standing and defeat Donald Trump.
CLINTON: After all, he knows a thing or two about winning elections. Take it from me.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: Their debut on the campaign trail came in battleground North Carolina, a blue state in 2008 where Obama narrowly won, and a red state four years later where he barely lost. The Clinton campaign is fighting hard to turn it blue once again.
CLINTON: We're going to fight for every vote in this state. And with your help, we're going to win it.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: Obama and Clinton's relationship has come full circle, from rivals.
CLINTON: Shame on you, Barack Obama.
ZELENY: To allies.
OBAMA: Hillary! Hillary!
ZELENY: And now they need each other. Her election will help his legacy live on. OBAMA: I couldn't be prouder of the things we have done together.
But I'm ready to pass the baton. And I know that Hillary Clinton Is going to take it. There has never been anyone, man or woman, more qualified for this office than Hillary Clinton, ever. And that's the truth.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: Few sitting presidents are popular enough to be invited to the campaign trail. Ronald Reagan IS the last.
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Win one last one for the Gipper.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: Obama plans to campaign far more aggressively. For him, taking down Trump is personal.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama should end this and he should provide the public with a birth certificate.
OBAMA: Yes, in fact, I was born in Hawaii August 4, 1961.
ZELENY: Today in Charlotte, Clinton raised that controversy to rally Democrats and remind them of the stakes.
CLINTON: Someone who has never forgotten where he came from.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: And, Donald, if you're out there tweeting, it is Hawaii.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: The president took his turn belittling Trump, too.
OBAMA: Everybody can tweet, but nobody actually knows what it takes to do the job until you sit behind the desk.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: Now, both Democrats there had plenty of time to make fun of Donald Trump, but President Obama ended on a more serious note.
Wolf, he revived something that he said -- we heard him say so many times four years ago and eight years ago, three words, don't boo, vote.
That is a message specifically, you can't be against Donald Trump. You have to get people out to vote. That was the sole purpose he was here in North Carolina, that key battleground state, trying rebuild the Obama coalition, African-American voters and young voters, who may not be as excited about her candidacy as they were about Barack Obama's -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jeff Zeleny reporting for us, thank you.
Donald Trump also has a campaign appearance in North Carolina later tonight. We're standing by for that. The Trump camp is pouncing on the Clinton e-mail investigation, finding a welcome distraction from the latest controversy swirling around the presumptive Republican nominee.
Let's bring in CNN's Sunlen Serfaty.
Sunlen, the Trump campaign is both on the attack, also a bit on damage control.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Donald Trump is very clearly trying to keep Clinton's e-mail controversy firmly in the spotlight, looking to deflect attention away from his own controversy still engulfing his campaign.
SERFATY (voice-over): Tonight, Donald Trump is trying to keep the fire focused on Hillary Clinton, seizing on the FBI director's announcement that he is not recommending criminal charges against her for using a private e-mail server while secretary of state, Trump tweeting -- quote -- "FBI director said crooked Hillary compromised our national security. No charges. Wow. Rigged system."
But Trump is still facing his own firestorm set off by his tweet of a graphic featuring an image of Clinton with $100 bills and a six- pointed star that resembles the Star of David with the caption, "Most corrupt candidate ever."
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Anti-Semitic images, they have got no place in a presidential campaign.
SERFATY: House Speaker Paul Ryan today criticizing Trump and his campaign for the misstep.
RYAN: I think he has have to clean this up. My understanding is this was done by staff, not by he himself, but more importantly, they have got to clean this thing up.
SERFATY: While Trump surrogate Ben Carson appeared to also take issue with the post, tweeting -- quote -- "Social media provides a great platform for discourse, but we must be careful with the messages we send."
The Trump campaign refuses to apologize, but is trying to explain the origins of the tweet with its social media director Dan Scavino releasing a statement Monday night calling the star a sheriff's badge which is available under Microsoft's shapes and insisting the graphic -- quote -- "was not created by the campaign, nor was its sourced from an anti-Semitic site. It was lifted from an anti-Hillary Twitter user, where countless images appear."
CNN found that graphic appeared on a message board filled with anti- Semitic conspiracy theories and white supremacist ideology 10 days before Trump tweeted, and a Twitter use who frequently posted Islamophobic and racist memes claimed credit for the original image shortly before the account was deleted.
While Scavino says the tweet in question came from him, he's previously spoken about how Trump is the one who calls the shots when it comes to his Twitter account.
DAN SCAVINO, TRUMP CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL MEDIA: The amazing thing about Mr. Trump is any of his messaging and anything that is put out on his Twitter account is 100 percent him.
SERFATY: And Trump has talked about his Twitter habits in the past.
TRUMP: Every day, I'm in the office, I just shout it out to one of the young ladies, who are tremendous, and I will just shout it out. And they will do it. But during the evenings after 7:00 or so, I will always do it by myself.
SERFATY: As Trump attempts to move past the controversy, he is nearing a decision on a running mate, a Trump adviser telling CNN Trump will likely announce his vice presidential choice next week. The latest contender getting a tryout, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who will introduce Trump at his event in Raleigh, North Carolina, tonight.
SERFATY: And tomorrow will bring another high-profile V.P. audition of sorts. Sources tell CNN that Trump is set to campaign with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tomorrow in Ohio.
Certainly these public tryouts just another indication, Wolf, that this search for a running mate is in the home stretch.
BLITZER: Certainly is the home stretch by all accounts. Thanks very much, Sunlen Serfaty.
Joining us now is the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus.
Reince, thanks very much for joining us.
I think this is your first television interview since the FBI's dramatic announcement today. What is your reaction to what the FBI director, James Comey, said, that he will not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton be filed?
REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, as a lawyer, I was listening to his description of what was happening, and I thought for sure, the way he was working through the description, that at least a gross negligence charge would either be recommended or very clear by the evidence. I think it is clearly gross negligence. I don't know how it is not
gross negligence. And I also think it's curious that he had said there is no cases of people like this being charged, when I have got case after case after case of soldiers in many cases being charged for far less than Hillary, being dishonorably discharged, being fined, being sentenced.
I think that it was a very curious decision and something that was a real head-scratcher. And I think it is going to indict Hillary for being dishonest. She was clearly lying when she said that she turned over all the e-mails. That was a lie. She lied when she said that nothing was marked classified. That was a lie.
And so, look, she said that the e-mails weren't classified. That was a lie. So, at every step, and there are stories out there all over the place categorizing this, Hillary Clinton lied about something that was very basic. And no person in America that's listening to this knows that if you did this in your job, would you be fired or would you be promoted? Most people would be fired.
BLITZER: You're a lawyer. You heard the FBI director, the former U.S. attorney, a former deputy attorney general during the Bush administration, say you have to prove intent, that there was criminal intent. They didn't have that evidence.
PRIEBUS: No, you don't to have prove intent.
If you read the statute, Wolf, you do not to have prove intent. It says, in fact, uses the words gross negligence or intentional conduct. And gross negligence is by its very definition highly unreasonable conduct taken in a situation where there is a high degree of risk.
This was highly unreasonable conduct. He said -- he didn't just say that she was careless. He said that she was extremely careless with national security.
BLITZER: Have you lost confidence in the FBI director, James Comey?
PRIEBUS: Well, I certainly don't understand how you describe a textbook definition of gross negligence and you have case after case after case of soldiers and other military personnel being kicked out of the military, fined and sentenced for things that were far less egregious than what Hillary Clinton did.
I don't -- first of all, it is not going to go away. In fact, I think, in many ways, this is going to be even worse for Hillary Clinton, because what's being talked about now is just sort of the inconsistencies, I think, in the system. And when Donald Trump said it is a rigged system, I heard some people
were critical of that. Well, what is it then?
BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Reince. Do you agree with Donald Trump that the system is rigged?
PRIEBUS: Well, look, it certainly appears that way, Wolf, because if you look at the case after case after case of military personnel being discharged, dishonorably discharged, fined, sentenced for things that were far less, what is it about Hillary Clinton?
Why does she get away with these things? Why did Bill Clinton get on that plane with Loretta Lynch? What was discussed? What about the transcript? Maybe -- perhaps Comey or Hillary Clinton should release the transcript of her interview that she had with the FBI over the weekend.
It would be very -- if she is so innocent, it would be great to see what that transcript has to say.
BLITZER: But, basically, what you're suggesting is that what Donald Trump was clearly implying, that there is some sort of conspiracy out there, that the meeting that Bill Clinton had with Loretta Lynch, the attorney general, then the testimony by Hillary Clinton, the three- and-a-half-hour interview she had with the FBI, then all of a sudden today his announcing this decision, do you believe there is some sort of conspiracy?
PRIEBUS: I don't know, Wolf. I don't know what you call it.
But what I look at, and I think what a lot of people are looking at, is an FBI director that came out and for about 12 minutes described a textbook definition of gross negligence, which is what the statute, which would trigger the statute -- it's in the statute. He described gross negligence and then recommended no charge.
If he would have come out and said the opposite of those things, in fact, there was no classified e-mail and the fact that she was telling truth about all of these things and then said and, therefore, you know what, there was no intent, there is not even kind of gross negligence here, and therefore there is no charge, but he didn't do that.
So no one can figure this out right now, how you define gross negligence on one hand as a lawyer, and then you don't recommend it while there are other folks that have been charged and are being charged for far less conduct, without intent.
Some of these cases have no intent. And they have been charged under the same -- for the conduct similar as Hillary Clinton. It doesn't make any sense, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me get a quick reaction. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, referred to it today. I want to talk about Donald Trump. The campaign released, as you know that tweet showing a six-point star, resembling the Star of David. They later corrected it, deleted that tweet. They put a circle up there instead.
Listen to what -- the accusations were that this was an anti-Semitic tweet, if you will. Paul Ryan, your fellow Wisconsinite, he condemned the use of the image today in an interview. Let me play the clip, because I want to get your reaction to what Ryan said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RYAN: I really believe he's got to clean up the way his new media works.
But, most importantly, as you know, one of the few times I spoke out against him during the primary very forcefully was in this area, when he failed to disavow supremacist, white supremacists. And so, look, I made this really, really clear. The point is, I think he has got to clean this up.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: You agree with the speaker?
PRIEBUS: Well, I think they did. They did.
The guy that did this tweet talked about it. He went through every step of how he picked out the star from the -- from Microsoft. I think it is called Microsoft Paint and picked out the star, realized obviously very quickly that it was not a smart idea, went back and changed to it a circle.
I think that they sort of, you know, owned this and changed it. But, obviously, you don't want to see things like that, mistakes like that happen in the future. But I think they figured it out and they fixed it.
BLITZER: But do you really believe that was a sheriff's star or a Star of David with all those $100 bills behind it?
PRIEBUS: You know what? Look, the point is, if you go to Microsoft Paint, Wolf, you will see it. You see all the different stars that the guy could pick from.
I don't even know, obviously, how this all came about. Obviously, it didn't go over well. They fixed it. They realized that it wasn't going over well and they have moved on from it.
BLITZER: But it wasn't designed by the Trump campaign, that graphic.
It was designed days earlier by someone who was clearly involved in anti-Semitic tweets, if you will. It came from there originally. Here's the question. Have you spoken to Trump personally or Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman, about how they use social media? This isn't the first time they have faced a sensitive problem like this.
PRIEBUS: I mean, I have spoken about this particular issue, and they were in the process of cleaning it up and fixing it and putting a statement out and making sure that it didn't happen again in the future.
So I think they're in the process of putting in maybe a better checkoff system on tweets. And I don't know how it was designed, Wolf. I don't know if it was lifted from another art. And some people have said that. But I think the person that actually designed it said that they put -- they chose it on Microsoft Paint.
So I don't know all the details of exactly how their particular person did it. But I do know that they moved very quickly to fix it and make sure that it didn't happen again.
BLITZER: Do you think Donald Trump should apologize, say it was a careless error, I'm sorry that it happened?
PRIEBUS: Look, I don't know.
You have got to talk to Donald Trump, Wolf. Obviously, they fixed and they moved on from it. And it happened pretty quickly.
BLITZER: I raise the issue because the speaker of the House clearly was upset about it, your good friend Paul Ryan.
PRIEBUS: Well, look, everyone is upset when you have things that happen that cause these kinds of -- you have misfires and controversy.
Of course, you don't want to see this stuff happen. But, also, it is something that they realized very quickly had occurred. They fixed the problem. And they have moved on from it. It is not like they just sat around and did nothing about it. The guy realized it was a mistake. He went on and put on an explanation of exactly how he did it. This is not -- there's not people running away from a problem.
BLITZER: Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Reince, thanks very much for joining us.
PRIEBUS: You bet, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to have more on the breaking news that we're following, a very dramatic day in politics today.
Much more right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news, the FBI announcing today it is not recommending any charges against Hillary Clinton after a very lengthy investigation into the private e-mail servers she used during her four years as secretary of state.
But the bureau's director also offered a very stinging assessment of Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information, saying she and her staff were extremely careless.
We heard from the Republican Party chairman, Reince Priebus, just a moment ago.
Let's get some Democratic reaction. We're joined now by the former White House special counsel during the Clinton administration, longtime friend of the Clintons, Lanny Davis, went to law school with Hillary Clinton, I believe, as well.
Lanny Davis, thanks very much for coming in.
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: This was a -- no charges recommended, but a blistering indictment of her judgment, extremely careless in handling not just classified information, but the most sensitive classified information.
How could she do that, not just for a week or two weeks, but for four years?
DAVIS: Well, she already said she made a mistake.
It is very ironic that Donald Trump and now Reince Priebus and other Republicans are accusing an FBI director of rigging his decision. So, instead of moving on and talking about issues the American people care about, Trump is actually now attacking the head of the FBI as being rigged, the way he attacked a federal judge.
So this is where we are. Reince Priebus really questioning the FBI director's...
BLITZER: But, Lanny, you worked in the government. You know what classified information is.
You know that there is confidential information. That is the lowest form. Secret, top-secret, special access programs. She had on her e- mail servers -- and he said today there wasn't just one. There were multiple e-mail servers on her various devices. There wasn't just one. There were several devices she was using.
The most sensitive kind of classified information, and some of it, a small number, but some of it was marked classified when she sent and received that information, which is not what she had been saying for all these months. [18:30:08] DAVIS: So a good faith belief and making a mistake in
Washington is, even in Washington, a distinction between intentional misconduct, which is a crime. The FBI director made the judgment, despite a headline in "The New York Times" of criminal conduct that was withdrawn. There is no intent here. So whatever she looked at, she did not believe at the time.
BLITZER: You heard Reince Priebus say it was gross negligence. Will you at least acknowledge it was gross negligence?
DAVIS: "Mr. Justice" Priebus is disagreeing with the judgment of the FBI director appointed by a Republican president to be U.S. attorney, a professional...
BLITZER: So you trust Comey, right?
BLITZER: You trust him? Because he said any reasonable person should have known this information was classified. It should not have been on her server. You agree with him on that?
DAVIS: I -- actually, I question whether Mr. Comey's role is to express an opinion like that, but I respect Mr. Comey. He's a former prosecutor, a former deputy attorney general.
BLITZER: These FBI professionals, as you know, they spent thousands of hours going through all this. And when they say any reasonable person, let alone the secretary of state, should have known you don't put this kind of information on personal e-mail servers. That was -- that was negligent on Hillary Clinton's part.
DAVIS: Let me repeat. No. 1, she said it was a mistake.
No. 2, Trump played this, and a lot of partisans are making this pure politics, attacking a federal judge, now attacking Comey? Really?
BLITZER: But Comey is the one saying she was extremely careless.
DAVIS: And he said extremely careless, but he said it doesn't rise to the level of having the intent.
BLITZER: No charges. No charges. But she -- he also said she should never have used these personal e-mail devices when she was traveling in unfriendly countries. He didn't say -- mention those countries, but I assume Russia or China or other countries, because those countries can easily hack all of that information. And it's probable, he said, that they had access to her e-mail account for four years.
DAVIS: He actually said the word "possible."
BLITZER: He said it was possible. It was very possible.
DAVIS: And we know that the Russians and the Chinese have hacked the very State Department server that she is supposed to have used. And he also said there was not intent to commit a crime. And Priebus and Trump and partisan Republicans are attacking -- I can't say it enough -- the FBI's director.
BLITZER: They're raising questions about her judgment as secretary of state of the United States.
BLITZER: That because she didn't want FOIA requests to get her information, Freedom of Information Act, she created this private e- mail account, because she didn't want the American public to have access to state.gov information, which she would have used if she were doing the normal government e-mail account.
DAVIS: That's imputing a motive to the secretary by Priebus and Trump, who imputed a motive to a federal judge because of his national heritage. Let me just repeat. She said it was a mistake.
BLITZER: It was a mistake because she didn't want the American public, including her political critics, to get access to that information. That's why she used these private e-mail servers?
DAVIS: That's an accusation made by partisan...
BLITZER: So why did she use the private e-mail server? You're close with her, and you said, "Hillary, what were you thinking? Why were you doing this?" What did she say to you?
DAVIS: I -- I haven't asked her that.
BLITZER: Why haven't you asked her that?
DAVIS: Because I've heard her say that she was concerned about privacy, and that's one of the reasons.
BLITZER: Because of the FOIA requests.
DAVIS: Not because of the FOIA requests. Those are charges made by Republicans.
But let me, one more time, repeat. I am not impugning the director for his integrity the way Trump is. Even one of your guests today, a Republican congressman, and now we have Speaker Ryan impugning the integrity of Mr. Comey.
I do think Mr. Comey went beyond his jurisdiction by expressing opinions on evidence when he's supposed to be an investigator, finding evidence. But I still respect the man. I certainly wouldn't attack his integrity the way you've heard Donald Trump once again attack somebody...
BLITZER: You know all of her closest aides. Why didn't they tell her over four years, not just four days, over four years, "Madam Secretary, this is not appropriate. There's classified information here. We're getting -- you're sending out this information to various people who don't have access to classified information"? Why didn't someone go to her and say, "You know what? This is a mistake."
DAVIS: I'll answer that in two ways. One, I'll repeat: she said it was a mistake and wisdom is hindsight. She didn't realize...
BLITZER: But didn't her aides tell her, "You know what? This is -- this is a problem, Madam Secretary. You should not be using all of this sensitive information with private e-mail servers"?
DAVIS: I said two ways. First, wisdom is hindsight, for you to say when her aides should have done back then.
BLITZER: Well, Comey said this should have been evident to any reasonable person this was a blunder.
DAVIS: That's his opinion, and wisdom is hindsight. And she said she made a mistake. There's no other way I can answer.
The second is this judgment issue, President Obama talked about Secretary Clinton's judgment. Judgment to go in and kill Osama bin Laden. Judgement to settle the intervention in Gaza.
[17:35:05] BLITZER: We're not discussing that.
DAVIS: Her judgment is going to be up to the American people, and if that's what the issue is before the American people, her judgment versus the reckless, volatile, unstable judgment of Donald Trump, we'll leave that to the American people.
BLITZER: All right. Lanny Davis, joining us, back like the old days during the Clinton administration when he was special counsel.
DAVIS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming on.
DAVIS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, is Donald Trump auditioning would-be running mates right now out on the campaign trail? We have the latest on the veepstakes right after this.
[18:40:14] BLITZER: Our breaking news, just hours after the FBI director, James Comey, said he would not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton be filed but sharply criticized her handling of classified information during her four years as secretary of state, the presumptive Democratic nominee campaigned with President Obama, who praised her judgment and qualifications.
Let's go live to our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, in Charlotte, North Carolina, for us.
Brianna, you were there at this first joint campaign event. The timing wasn't necessarily ideal, but how did it play out for both of them?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was interesting, because if you were just here in North Carolina, listening to President Obama and Secretary Clinton, you wouldn't have even known that this had happened today. There was no mention of it.
And yet this trust gap that polls show many voters have when it comes Hillary Clinton was a big reason why President Obama was here: to vouch for Hillary Clinton and her character.
He also took on Donald Trump, not by name but it was very clear who he was talking about. And he just -- he basically said that he was lying. At one point he said even Republicans don't know what he's talking about. And he implored North Carolinians to value Hillary Clinton's experience and her temperament.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes we take somebody who's been in the trenches and fought the good fight, and been steady, for granted. Sometimes we act as if never having done something and not knowing what you're doing is a virtue.
We don't do that, by the way, for airline pilots. We don't do it for surgeons. But somehow we think president of the United States, let's just get, I don't know. Who's that guy? Come on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: President Obama talked about his friendship and partnership with Hillary Clinton, moving from being political rivals to then working together and then becoming friends. And he emphasized that, when she had been running for president in 2008, Wolf, that she had this incredible stamina, basically. He said she would be knocked down but she would come back standing up straight, and she would be even stronger. He said that she had savvy when she was secretary of state.
And a big endorsement, the way he described it. He said there has never been any man or woman more qualified for this office than Hillary Clinton.
And you're seeing a bit of a symbiotic relationship play out between these two. Of course, Wolf, President Obama really needs Hillary Clinton in the White House to protect his legacy. And Secretary Clinton wants to borrow some of the president's popularity as she tries to take on Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar reporting for us. Brianna, thanks very much.
Let's talk about all of this and more. Joining us CNN's Sunlen Serfaty; CNN political director David Chalian; CNN political commentator Hilary Rosen -- she's a Hillary Clinton supporter; and CNN's new political commentator, Scottie Nell Hughes. She's a Donald Trump supporter, as all of our viewers know.
All right. Everyone stand by. We'll take a quick break. We'll follow up on what's going on. There's more information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We'll be right back.
[18:48:07] BLITZER: We're back with our political team.
As Donald Trump pounces on the FBI findings about Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server, as he's also trying to tamp down a firestorm surrounding his own campaign.
Let's talk about the FBI's decision, Sunlen.
How does the Hillary Clinton campaign brush off the very severe harsh criticism that was leveled by James Comey?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think Hillary Clinton is going to quickly brush those aside. I think those words "extremely careless" by the FBI director is something that will continue to come back and haunt her, will be brought up by many Republicans.
I think we're seeing the first indications of how the Clinton campaign is going to attempt to move past this and that's to paint this as the end, the closing of a book. In a statement today by the Clinton campaign, they said, "We're so glad this matter is now resolved, full stop." And Clinton recently, acknowledging she has a trust gap and this is something she needs to work on.
BLITZER: Resolved legally maybe, no criminal charges filed. But politically, it has not been resolved.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, and I think they know that. I what Sunlen just referred to about Hillary Clinton sort of laying the ground work I think in anticipation of this moment, get out there and talk about the fact that she knows she has a trust deficit and she will continue to earn the trust of the American people. I do think this does leave a few lingering questions that she is going to want to answer and sort of try on move beyond.
So, a statement that says it's closure is one thing. You're right, on the legal matter. Politically, she's still -- by the way, her opponents are going to use this all the way through. So there is no final answer. It is not one and done. She is going to have to continue as she's done for the last year to answer these questions.
BLITZER: She certainly is.
BLITZER: All right. Scottie, as you know, Donald Trump responded immediately to the news by the FBI director with a tweet. He basically tweeted this. He said, "FBI director said crooked Hillary, compromised our national security. No charges. Wow."
Here's the question. How does he stay disciplined to capitalize on this major liability for Hillary Clinton?
[18:50:01] Because in the past he squandered some favorable news cycles.
SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, it's an exciting time, Wolf, within the Republican Party as well as within the Trump campaign. We're a week and a half out with many delegates this weekend in Cleveland, so there are a lot of things on their plates as we're sitting here seeing speeches as well as obviously veep stakes happening.
Why I think you will see him remain focused on this campaign, for anybody who wonders yes Mr. Trump has risen to the power he has, just look at the events of this past week and look at the events of today and you will see why people have voted for someone who is an outsider, because it's constant question of integrity and this constant cloud of corruption that seems to always be hovering around Washington, D.C.
The people are tired of it and I think it works in Mr. Trump's favor that he continues to stay focused and Director Comey today delivered probably one of the most eloquent, unflinching criticisms of Hillary Clinton yet, and I guarantee, they're going to continue with that momentum.
BLITZER: How does she deal, Hilary Rosen, with this honest and trustworthy issue because as Scottie just said, it was a blistering series of accusations even though no formal charges recommended, leveled against Hillary Clinton?
HILARY ROSEN, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, let's not forget that what he said two new things that were really important was that mal intent here and she did nothing to stop this investigation. She was transparent and her team operated in good faith. So, the most important thing that happened today is Hillary Clinton moved past a legal cloud and that gives her and the voters the chance to say could we talk about the things that matter to the voters?
BLITZER: But will it reinforce this notion that her judgment is not good?
ROSEN: You know, here's the thing. Donald Trump has 350 or 400 lawsuits filed against him from business associates that feel cheated by what he's done to them over the years. So, elections are about choices. Hillary Clinton, I think, will be totally comfortable moving forward on a campaign that talks about what matters to the American people, how we're going to bring jobs back, what infrastructure investments we're going to make and how education is going to matter.
I think that today's decision by the FBI, the subsequent decision by the Justice Department will end up saying to voters, all right, now evaluate these two people, based on what they can do for you.
BLITZER: She's got to answer a lot of these questions now, and I assume she will in the coming days, David, about all of the blunders that the FBI director leveled against her today.
CHALIAN: And she wants to address that larger question of judgment. But yes, on the specifics there is a lot of videotape out there of her saying that she never sent or received a classified email that was marked classified at the time it was sent and received. James Comey today said that was not the case. So, that was a false --
ROSEN: No, he didn't.
CHALIAN: Yes, he did.
BLITZER: He said there were marked.
CHALIAN: He said that bore markings of classification.
So, it is a -- no, but that's not what he said there, Hilary.
Here's what he said, "a small -- a very small number of the emails here containing classified information bore markings that indicated the presence of classified information." So there were markings. He said she should have known. She didn't and she kept saying none of them were marked and he said some of them, a small number.
ROSEN: Those markings were news to them. We don't know what those markings were.
CHALIAN: I'm not suggesting she knew, but I'm saying her language that exists on tape throughout the last --
BLITZER: Guys, politically, the story is by no means going away. We are also standing by to hear from Donald Trump directly. His rally from North Carolina is about to get under way. Stay with us.
[18:58:06] BLITZER: CNN is learning that the recent deadly wave of ISIS-inspired and ISIS-linked attacks was foreshadowed in the thousands of documents seized in raids on terrorist forces.
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working the story for us.
Barbara, your sources are getting an insight into ISIS' strategy and structure. What are they learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's exactly right. The word "foreshadowed" is very precise and very clear.
There is no direct link, but U.S. officials are telling me that they've had recent intelligence from raids conducted that is giving them new insight into how ISIS is organized, trained, and how it plans for attacks outside of Syria and Iraq. They won't say exactly where the intelligence came from, but quite interesting the Pentagon recently revealed that raids in northern Syria by local fighters scooped up some 10,000 pages of ISIS documents and social media devices, that sort of thing. So they've had quite a haul.
What does this all mean? Nobody had time, date and place for some of these terrible recent attacks we've seen over the last several day, but what they are getting is the clearer picture and this is the way ISIS has been headed, to try and move attacks outside of Syria and Iraq. They believe if they can do that, that's the U.S. assessment that ISIS believes it will show relevance. They will still be able to attract recruits and fighters and this is the way they want to go. They think it will pay off for them in the long run.
The U.S. watching very carefully saying we saw this coming. We didn't see the precise time, date and place, but we have seen this trend and we're watching it very closely -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And bracing clearly for a lot more, right?
STARR: Absolutely. Right now, they don't see a let up in this. If this is a shift by ISIS, they see no way that ISIS is going to back off of it for now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr reporting for us, Barbara, thanks very much.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching and I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.