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THE SITUATION ROOM
I.G. Report: Comey Violated Agency Norms, But No Bias Found; FBI News Conference Reacting To DOJ Watchdog Report; FBI Director: We Accept DOJ Watchdog Reports Findings. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 14, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Blame but no bias. A blistering report by a Department of Justice watchdog says former FBI director James Comey deviated from department norms in handling the Clinton e-mail probe but was not acting out of bias. Why does the report say key officials cast a cloud over the bureau?
[17:00:19] The director responds. We're standing by for a live news conference by the FBI director, Christopher Wray. Will he announce new steps to repair the bureau's damaged reputation?
Suing the president. New York's attorney general sues President Trump and three of his children, alleging illegal conduct by the Trump Foundation and saying the president used the charity to settle legal claims and promote his businesses.
And North Korean spin. Kim Jong-un's regime puts its own spin on the summit, showing a video of President Trump saluting a North Korean general. Why would the president do that? And why is the former reality TV star letting Kim control the imaging?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news, the Justice Department's internal watchdog finds that former FBI director James Comey violated agency norms in the Clinton e-mail investigation but was not motivated by political bias.
On the other hand, the sweeping and scathing 568-page report says the handling of the Clinton case and anti-Trump texts by key officials cast a cloud over the FBI and did lastly damage to its reputation.
I'll speak with Congressman Darrell Issa of the Judiciary and Oversight Committees. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by with full coverage.
But let's begin with the blockbuster report by the Justice Department's internal watchdog. Our justice reporter Laura Jarrett has been going through it. She has the details -- Laura.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a surprising report on a variety of levels but perhaps most importantly because it concludes, quote, "We found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations. Rather we determined that they were based on the prosecutor's assessment of the facts, the law and past department practice," Wolf.
BLITZER: Is that the most surprising element in this lengthy, nearly 600-page report?
JARRETT: For me it is, because there was always a question of how far the inspector general would go. He typically looks at protocols and whether they were flouted and whether they were ignored. Process violations like this.
But this really gets to the heart of the matter. And it's important, because we've heard a drumbeat, an uninterrupted narrative from President Trump that this entire investigation was rigged in Clinton's favor. And this report says no, it wasn't.
BLITZER: Because the White House, as you heard at the briefing, the White House says these text messages between these two Justice Department and FBI officials show clear bias against the president. So what exactly the conclusion from the inspector general? What exactly did the inspector general find?
JARRETT: So there's no question the text messages cast a cloud over the FBI. The inspector laid that out pretty clearly.
But he also says it didn't it didn't taint the ultimate outcome of the prosecutor's decisions, at least from the evidence that he's looked at on a variety of different judgments. He looked at everything from the reason certain fact witnesses were sitting in the room with Hillary Clinton to why certain subpoenas were used. He looked at why queen- for-a-day immunity agreements were used. And all of those various prosecutorial decisions. He said there was no bias,
But what he did find is an appearance of impropriety, because the text messages, obviously, are unabashedly trashing the president repeatedly.
BLITZER: Well, let me read from those text messages. Lisa Page, a Justice Department lawyer. She says -- and she was having a relationship with Peter Strzok, the FBI official.
Lisa Page: "Trump's not going to become president, right? Right?" Question mark.
Strzok: "No, he won't. We'll stop it." Those words, "We'll stop it" clearly raising lots of concern.
JARRETT: Yes. This is clearly the biggest red flag for the inspector general, and it's also newly-discovered evidence. He only found this text message in May.
So obviously, thousands of text messages have been turned over and seized by Republicans on Capitol Hill as Exhibit A of political bias. But this one was only recently uncovered.
And on this particular one the inspector general makes an interesting point, and he says the decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the mid-year-related investigative lead, meaning finding the Huma Abedin e-mails on Anthony Weiner's laptop is concerning. And he says, "We do not have confidence that Strzok's decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on this lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was from free from bias."
So that's the one piece of this where you can see the inspector general is clearly worried about the state of mind of these officials, Wolf.
BLITZER: Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is with us, as well. So what impact does all this have on the legitimacy of the overall Clinton email server investigation?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think, Wolf, the people at the Justice Department, people at the FBI who were very concerned about how this would come across, I think have to be very relieved that the inspector general went through the extra step of actually saying that he found no evidence to support the idea of political bias. I think that's a huge finding for the legitimacy of this investigation because, look, they looked at all of the facts.
And the inspector general even points out that there are other things that support the decision, the ultimate decision not to bring charges against Hillary Clinton that apparently Jim Comey, the FBI director, the former FBI director, didn't even mention when he did his solo press conference in July of 2016.
So it's clear that this investigation was, by the view of this inspector general, who spent 18 months going over this, he views it as it was done properly. The problem is, as Laura just pointed out, there are all of these things that have created this cloud of impropriety and a cloud of doubt for people who want to criticize the investigation.
BLITZER: Because the inspector general's report concludes that the FBI director, Comey, did many things wrong.
JARRETT: Absolutely. But he says there was no bias.
What's clear is that he usurped the attorney general, Loretta Lynch's, authority. He made ad hoc decisions. He even concealed his intent on a variety of different issues, specifically leading up to that infamous statement in July of 2016 where he made the announcement that he found her extremely careless. This report finds that he concealed that from both Loretta Lynch and Sally Yates. So that's obviously a damning conclusion. But ultimately, Wolf, no bias found.
BLITZER: The FBI director, the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, is about to speak, give official reaction. How much damage has been done to the FBI?
PEREZ: I think a great deal of damage is being done by the revelation of these text messages by these two key people, Pete Strzok, who was a key person in this investigation, in the counterintelligence division of the FBI. One of the top experts in Russia and counterintelligence at the FBI.
He's a person who was exchanging these inappropriate text messages with somebody he's having a relationship with. And saying things like this really does call into question a lot of things that he was involved in, including, of course, the fact that he worked on the Mueller investigation for a brief period.
So it will lead the president and others to raise questions about it. Look, it does appear, though, that despite the fact that they were involved, and they were part of both of these investigations, according to the inspector general, it didn't ultimately affect the final work product.
Because one of the good things about the FBI and Justice Department is that it just -- it's more than just these two people, obviously. There are dozens of people, hundreds of people, even who are involved in these investigations and they arrive at these conclusions and if you're a politician who wants to exploit that, it's there.
BLITZER: Lisa Page is no longer at the Justice Department, but Peter Strzok is still at the FBI. Right?
PEREZ: He's a career FBI agent.
BLITZER: And look, there's a procedure for him to be fired. If they find reason for him to be fired, I suspect we're going to hear more from -- from Christopher Wray in the next hour. And certainly, the attorney general this morning in a speech suggested that there was some disciplinary steps that are being taken, because it's not just Pete Strzok and Lisa Page. There are three additional FBI people who were exchanging these inappropriate messages.
And, of course, the inspector general also points out that there were some inappropriate -- in his view, inappropriate contacts with the media that occurred during the process -- during the course of this investigation.
BLITZER: Nobody comes out looking good from this report. A very, very damning report, indeed. Although no political bias, as both of you have pointed out.
We're going to hear from Christopher Wray this hour. He's about ready to begin his news conference. We'll have live coverage of that.
President Trump has consistently and repeatedly attacked James Comey. Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. So what's the reaction over there to this watchdog report?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- on the findings of this watchdog report to basically lay into how the FBI and Justice Department conducted themselves during the Clinton e-mail investigation. Here's how White House press secretary Sarah Sanders addressed the matter when she was asked about it earlier today at the briefing. Here's what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It reaffirmed the
president's suspicions about Comey's conduct and the political bias among some of the members of the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, she said that given -- we should also point out, though, even though she said that, we should note that, in the inspector general's report, it did not find political bias on the part of James Comey, though it did seize upon those pages, those texts going back between those two FBI agents, talking about how to stop President Trump during the 2016 election.
[17:10:09] But Wolf, up on Capitol Hill, Democrats like Chuck Schumer are standing firm that this should not undermine the Mueller investigation. The Senate minority leader putting out a statement earlier this afternoon, saying that Republicans should not be in a rush to condemn the Russia investigation in light of this inspector general's report -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What -- you know, and another issue I want to get to, and it's a sensitive issue right now, Jim. North Korean TV showing this video of President Trump saluting a North Korean general while they were all in Singapore for the summit with Kim Jong-un. So what are they saying over at the White House? And what is in line with protocol?
ACOSTA: Well, it's protocol when you're overseas when you're president to bow and salute to show common courtesy to other foreign leaders and other dignitaries that you're exchanging pleasantries with. And you see President Trump doing that there.
But of course, people are raising questions, because obviously the North Korean regime is special onto its own, in that they've been accused of mass atrocities for decades. You saw President Trump there in that video saluting that North Korean military official. I asked Sarah Sanders about that, why the president was saluting that military official and here's how she responded to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: That's a common courtesy, when a military official from another government salutes, that you return that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And of course, we should point out, Wolf, one of the problems that the president has with this whole situation is that back in 2012, he went after President Obama, then-President Obama for bowing when he met with the Saudi king during a visit to Saudi Arabia during his administration.
So, of course, when the president salutes a North Korean military official, Democrats are going to quickly refer to those tweets from the president's past. As there is always the case, there's always a tweet with the president, Wolf. BLITZER: Good point. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California. He's a key member of both the Judiciary and Oversight Committees.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Let me begin right away with today's report from the inspector general over at the Justice Department. I saw that you released a statement afterwards which says in part that FBI officials, in your words, continuously disregarded rules and procedures to the detriment of Donald Trump and the benefit of Hillary Clinton.
But the bulk of this report makes it clear that then-Director James Comey took action that harmed the Clinton campaign in defiance of Justice Department policy. So can you point to any specific actions taken by FBI officials that directly harmed Donald Trump during the campaign?
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think one good example is, again, Peter Strzok, who he and a number of other people, maybe two dozen became aware at various times that Anthony Weiner's computer was there with classified information on it, sitting there with those very emails that had been lost, and they allowed them to sit for about four weeks not being touched. And four weeks in October of a presidential election year is not just any four weeks.
Wolf, if I can do one thing --
BLITZER: Let me just interrupt for a second. With all due respect, 11 days before the election, Comey did come out and say that the FBI was reopening the investigation, which Hillary Clinton and all of her supporters saw as a clear piece of evidence that it would hurt her in her bid to win the presidency. And only two days before the actual election did Comey come back out and say they saw no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing.
ISSA: Well, there's reasons that Democrats until the president fired Comey wanted Comey fired, and you know, in California, probably 25 percent of the voters had already voted by the time they made people aware of the Anthony Anthony Weiner email cache.
BLITZER: That was made -- that was public 11 days. How long is early voting in California?
ISSA: It's about a month. We're an absentee from the time you get the ballot.
BLITZER: Realistically, Congressman, you never thought that Donald Trump was going to carry a heavily Democratic state like California.
ISSA: Well, we can all talk about this state or that state. There were plenty of states that were very, very close, and it only takes a few votes.
Wolf, I can't let something go by, though. With more than a decade as an Army officer and as a captain, I never failed to return a salute that was given to me, as I have never failed to return it as a congressman, as a matter of absolute courtesy. You do not insult any military person who renders you a salute.
And I just hope that your viewers understand that returning a salute is not the same as saluting someone. You always return a salute given to you. It's a sign of respect for you, not the other way around.
BLITZER: Even a general from a country that the U.S. government regards as a major state sponsor of terror?
ISSA: This president was conducting foreign policy at the highest levels. He was doing something that president after presidents of both parties failed to do. If he had failed to return a salute, if he had, in fact, insulted, he would have been working to the detriment; and people would have said, "Oh, he showed disrespect."
[17:15:14] I understand about the history of the bowing with -- with the king but the reality is, as a military officer, as commander-in- chief that the president is, he did exactly the right thing to return a salute from a military officer.
That officer may or may not have done things wrong in their career, but he wore a uniform. He rendered a salute to the president, and the president returned it.
And I would hope your viewers understand that every man and woman who has served in a uniform understands you return a salute. And if you don't, you'd better darn have a good reason that you don't respect that person. You might remember, I think it was "A Few Good Men" at the end when the salute wasn't returned. But you know, you've got to pretty much show disrespect. And that's the last thing we wanted.
BLITZER: Well, I just want to point out, we've spoken to several senior military personnel, active duty and retired, and you get different views. Some of them agree with you, clearly.
But many of them say sure, you return a salute, you show respect when you actually respect that officer saluting you. And the question is should the president show that kind of respect to a general from North Korea?
But let's end that debate.
ISSA: Of course.
BLITZER: Let me get back to this -- the inspector general's report. Does the FBI need to pursue, from your perspective, Congressman, some systemic reforms right now in light of this report?
ISSA: Well, they do for a number of reasons. First of all, you have a clear conspiracy by Strzok, and he's still there. He said he was going to stop it, being the election of President Trump, and he did that with Lisa Page. That is all you need to have, in fact, a conspiracy by two high-ranking officials in the Department of Justice. And he's still there. But I think the important thing to understand is when I was asking questions of the inspector general's staff just a few hours ago and I asked them, "If you took all of these mistakes, all of these statements and you attributed them to one person, would it be clear bias," and they said, "Of course it would be." And I said, "So it's only because it's a group of a dozen or more that seem to consistently make inconsistent with policy decisions that you're saying you don't have enough evidence for bias?" And they said yes.
So when people say there was no evidence of bias, just the opposite. There was evidence of bias, but they couldn't get enough on one person, with the possible exception of Peter Strzok, to say that there was clear bias that was acted on, and I think that's important. You know, that you look at somebody who's clearly got a bias, and then they do something or a number of things they shouldn't do. Most people would say that's evidence, even if it's not enough to prosecute.
BLITZER: Well, they did -- the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, and his team,, they did conclude that it was totally inappropriate. It was wrong; it was awful, this e-mail exchange that was going on between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.
But they did conclude this in their report, quote, "Our review did not find evidence to connect the political views expressed in these messages to the specific investigative decisions that we reviewed."
Do you have believe, do you have confidence in the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, and this lengthy, nearly 600-page report? Do you accept it?
ISSA: I accept the report. I find that -- that Michael Horowitz and his team do good work. Again, though, you have to look at how they carefully parse the words.
Nobody on that team is going to say that there weren't things that happened by people who showed that they had an opinion and a bias. They're simply saying, "We can't connect them."
But the question I asked about the group activity, if you will the preponderance of what happened, and I was given an unambiguous straightforward "yes, there was a bias if you look at it all."
And that's one of the problems, is you had dozens of people who believed Hillary Clinton was going to be the next president, and by action and inaction, they clearly had an opinion that this was something they did not want to upset the future president. And that's part of the challenge is --
BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Congressman, because that's not the conclusion of Michael Horowitz, the inspector general, and his team. They say that, yes, there were many blunders; there were many awful things that occurred and they shouldn't occur. And the FBI and the Justice Department has to learn important critical lessons from all of this, but they conclude in the bottom -- the bottom line there is no political bias. ISSA: Well, again, Wolf, you weren't in the meeting I was in, where I
asked the question which had to do with, if you look at each and every one of them rather than as an individual, do you have collectively what you would call bias? And the answer was yes.
So asked the question, which was, was there a bias in the totality? The answer was yes. Is there an individual criminality that can be shown between somebody's political feelings of, you know, using the F- bomb on the future president and then their actions? Well, it may have come short.
[17:20:06] But again, when you ask, the real question was should they have a house cleaning at the Department of Justice? Should they make people accountable for failure to, for example, comply with the Federal Records Act when they unlawfully circumvent and use private e- mails? Should they do some of those things? The answer is yes.
So I think the important thing is we don't expect prosecutions to come out of what happened today. We do expect real changes to be done at the highest career level, as it should be.
BLITZER: And they go after -- the inspector general's team, they go after Comey for using a private -- private e-mail account that he had for FBI business, although there was no classified information there.
Congressman Darrell Issa, thanks so much for joining us.
ISSA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're standing by once again for a news conference. The FBI director, Christopher Wray, he will be making a statement, answering reporters' questions. Will he announce new steps to repair the FBI's damaged reputation?
And a new legal challenge for President Trump. He and three of his children are now being sued by New York state's attorney general who alleges a long period of illegal conduct by the Trump charitable foundation.
[17:25:31] BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures from the FBI headquarters here in Washington, D.C. You see the lectern there, the flags. The FBI director, Christopher Wray, is about to walk out, make a statement and then answer reporters' questions. We expect him, clearly, to respond to the inspector general's report criticizing former FBI director James Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton e- mail probe. The report says Comey's actions were not the result, though, of political bias but did hurt the agency's image and impartiality. Stand by for the news conference.
In the meantime, let's bring in our political and legal experts. Laura Coates, what stands out to you from this lengthy report?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, for starters, it's that it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. In this endeavor to try to improve or retain the credibility of the FBI, there were actions that were taken that really undermined it in the long run.
The other part of this, however, is that there has been a lot of talk about the ability and, certainly, the FBI is able to do so, to compartmentalize their personal views from the political views and how they act on it.
Now, much ado has been made about the e-mails and the text messaging, suggesting that there was, in fact, perhaps a personal bias against Donald Trump. But ultimately, that last final hook was not there. It did not actually go over into the world of influencing the prosecution or the strategy employed.
And so I think there is some saving grace there, but this is, to be sure, damning of the FBI agents involved, the investigative teams, and certainly, James Comey and Loretta Lynch.
BLITZER: Yes. Nobody looks good in this report. Susan Hennessey, how did you see it?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I largely agree. I think the most important thing about finding that the political bias did not influence the investigative steps.
FBI agents, federal employees are human beings. They have First Amendment rights; they have political views. They aren't -- they aren't supposed to be expressing them in particular ways. And I think the I.G. is right to condemn the really astonishingly bad judgment shown by particular individuals.
But this report really is an exoneration of any allegation that the FBI here was motivated by a desire to harm Donald Trump or help Hillary Clinton. The specific steps that people are sort of pointing to ultimately are things that hurt Hillary Clinton at the end of the day. So people who are sort of on the president's side that are trying to claim this as a victory, really, they are ignoring the basic facts and the basic findings in this document.
BLITZER: What's going to really hurt the FBI, this relationship that the -- this FBI official, Peter Strzok, had with a Justice Department official, Lisa Page. Lisa Page has left the Justice Department. She was a lawyer there. Peter Strzok is still working at the FBI. We'll see what Christopher Wray says about him at this news conference.
But in one of the text messages released today Page says, "Trump's not ever going to become president, right? Right?"
Strzok: "No, he won't. We'll stop him."
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's completely inappropriate, dumb, should not -- should not have occurred. I'm presuming that the FBI director is going to address that, as you point, in a few minutes and maybe he'll start the beginning of some kind of ethics investigation into -- into Mr. Strzok, who still is employed over there at the FBI.
And I think, look, what these texts do, for better or worse, right, is they just cast a cloud over the entire FBI, and that's -- you know, that's tough. This hasn't been a great day for them, although they were exonerated, as you point out, on the fact that there was no political conspiracy there. The head of the FBI at the time, James Comey, was roundly criticized for being insubordinate, for you know, essentially being arrogant in the way -- in the way he behaved.
And while the conclusions about not prosecuting Hillary Clinton were not challenged, it seems to me that the FBI does have a lot of questions that they need to answer; and that's why we're seeing the current head of the FBI out there tonight.
BLITZER: and Phil Mudd, you worked at the CIA, but you also worked at the FBI, so you obviously know the agency. What's your conclusion?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: They dodged a bullet. I mean, this reinforced what we knew through many months. That is things like the inappropriate text messages; things like the activities of James Comey, which I still find inexplicable; what Loretta Lynch did. And the inspector general, who was a sledgehammer when I was at the FBI, rightly went after all of them.
But seeing all that information, many of us, myself included, expected the dog to not only bark but bite. That is to say, in the midst of all of that information, we also found that that had an impact on the integrity of the investigation.
[17:30:00] And I got to tell you when I read this at 2:30 this afternoon, I came away saying, I expected the other shoe to drop butt it never did. They never said the FBI as a result of this inappropriate behavior ran an investigation that was fundamentally flawed.
BLITZER: You know, I just want to show our viewers the live pictures. You see aides that were handing out some papers, some documents to reporters who have gathered there at FBI headquarters here in Washington D.C. The Director Christopher Wray is about -- we're told about to walk out to the lectern and make a statement and answer reporter's questions. Josh Campbell, as we await the start of this news conference -- you were a special assistant to the then-FBI Director James Comey, I don't know if you know Peter Strzok or Lisa Page. But if you do, tell us how they could get involved. They had a personal relationship but then they were exchanging these e-mails. I take it on official government, you know, servers?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's right. We are all accountable for our actions, the actions that we take. I look at the instant involving these two. And the amount of damage that they have caused to the reputation of the FBI, they may have been good at their job, a good lawyer, a good counter-intelligence agent, but if you look at that damage, it's something that's going to hunt the FBI for a long time.
BLITZER: They were texting on their respective phones.
CAMPBELL: They were texting. There was obviously questionable judgment. There's a lot of, you know, political hay being made what they spoke about. Obviously, the main point as Susan mentioned, the main takeaway here is that there was no evidence of political bias. But still, it looks really bad and there are a lot of questions the FBI will have to answer. As we look at the screen there, Wolf, I have to tell you a lot of nostalgia looking in that room, the (INAUDIBLE) conference room, at FBI headquarters, a lot of historic events took place in there, including our buddy, Phil Mudd's farewell. He may have litten (ph) a -- lit up a cigar in that room, sources say, but that was also the place where, if you think back to it, where Jim Comey stepped up to the lectern and made that historic, you know, those remarks, essentially indicating that Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted, and now we're going to hear another FBI director step to the lectern and tell us what the consequences, what the results will be, how the FBI can get its house in order.
BLITZER: Yes. You know, Gloria, they -- in this report, Comey made mistake after mistake after mistake. He shouldn't have gone out in July and issued that statement the way he did. He should have deferred to his bosses over at the Justice Department, then later, 11 days before the election came out, the reopening announcement reopening the investigation. Here comes Christopher Wray, he's about to make his statement.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: Good morning, everybody. Thanks for being here on such short notice. As you all know, of course, the Justice Department's office of the Inspector General issued its report today about DOJ and FBI activity in the run-up to the 2016 election. Let me say up front that I appreciate the Inspector General's work on this important review. Thought I'd take a few minutes to talk about the report and then I'm happy to take a few questions.
The FBI's mission is to protect the American people and uphold the constitution. But to carry out that mission, we're entrusted with a lot of authority so our actions are subject to close oversight from the courts, from our elected leaders, and from independent entities like the Inspector General, and that's how it should be. That kind of examination, that kind of oversight makes the FBI stronger as an organization, it makes the public more safe. With that in mind, let me briefly address the findings in the Inspector General's report. I take this report very seriously and we accept its findings and recommendations. It's also important though to note what the Inspector General did not find. This report did not find any evidence of political bias or improper considerations actually impacting the investigation under review. The report does identify errors of judgment, violations of, or even disregard for policy and decisions that, at the very least, with the benefit of hindsight, were not the best choices.
We've already started taking the necessary steps to address those issues. First, we're going to hold employees accountable for any potential misconduct. We've already referred conduct highlighted in the report to our disciplinary arm, OPR, which is the FBI's independent Office of Professional Responsibility. We need to hold ourselves accountable for the choices we make and the work we do. We're doing that fairly but without delay in the way that people should expect. We're going to adhere to the appropriate disciplinary process and once that process is complete, we won't hesitate to hold people accountable for their actions.
[17:35:07] Second, we're going to make sure that every FBI employee understands the lessons of this report. Because change starts at the top, it starts with me, we're going to require all of our senior executives from all around the world to convene for in-depth training specifically focused on learning the lessons that we should learn from this report. Then, we're going to train every single FBI employee, both new hires and veterans alike, on what went wrong so these mistakes will never be repeated. Third, we're going to make sure that we have the policies, the procedures, and the training that are needed for everyone to understand and remember what is expected of all of us. That includes drilling home the importance of objectivity, of avoiding even the appearance of personal conflicts or political bias in our work; ensuring that recusals are handled correctly and effectively and communicated to all the right people; making all of our employees fully aware of our new policy on media contacts which I issued last November; and making painfully clear that we will not tolerate non- compliance; ensuring that we follow all DOJ policies on public statements about uncharged conduct or ongoing investigations; and ensuring that our employees adhere strictly to all policies and procedures about the use of FBI systems, networks and devices.
I've also directed our associate deputy director to lead a review of how the FBI handles sensitive investigations and to make recommendations on how those should be staffed, structured, and supervised in the future, so that every sensitive investigation is conducted to the FBI's highest standards. We're going to continue also to work with the department to gauge our progress in each of these areas. The OIG report makes clear that we've got some work to do. But let's also be clear on the scope of this report. It's focused on a specific set of events back in 2016 and a small number of FBI employees connected to those events. Nothing in this report impugns the integrity of our workforce as a whole or the FBI as an institution.
As I said earlier, fair and independent scrutiny is welcome and appropriate accountability is crucial. We're going to learn from this report and we're going to be better and stronger as a result. But I also want to be crystal clear about the FBI that I get to see. In the past 10 months, I've been able to visit over 30 of our FBI field offices around the country and a whole bunch of our (INAUDIBLE) offices overseas. I've visited with folks from every FBI division at headquarters. And in office after office, meeting after meeting, I see extraordinary people doing extraordinary work. Again and again, I hear remarkable stories, frankly, inspiring stories about the work the men and women of the FBI are doing to protect the American people and uphold the constitution.
Just in the past several months, we've disrupted terrorist attacks in places ranging from the Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco to a crowded shopping mall in Miami. In March, we charged a ring of Iranian state-sponsored hackers with steeling terabytes of data from scores of American companies, universities, and government agencies. In Austin, we deplored more than 600 of our people to assist in the investigation of the package bombings down there. This year alone, we've rescued 1,305 kids from child predators, some of them as young as seven-month-old. We've arrested more than 4600 gang members, violent gang members in just the past several months. Our FBI lab has closed thousands of cases through fingerprint analysis and DNA analysis, and our hostage rescue team has deployed something like 27 different times on missions around the country. I could go on and on.
[17:40:00] The FBI's men and women are doing that work with the unfailing fidelity to the constitution and the laws that it demands, the bravery it calls for, and the integrity that the American people rightly expect. As FBI Director, I'm laser-focused on ensuring that our folks get to continue that great work and do it with the fidelity, and bravery, and integrity that we've always had. As I've been saying since as far back as my confirmation hearing, I'm a huge believer in the importance of process, of doing this job by the book in every respect, and I expect all our employees to do the same. I've tried to emphasize that at every opportunity.
In my view, the FBI's brand over the past 110 years is based less on all of our many, many successes than it is on the way in which we've earned those successes. Following our rules, following the law, following our guidelines, staying faithful to our core values and our best traditions. Trying to make sure we're doing the right thing but to doing it in the right way, treating everybody with respect and following the facts independently and objectively no matter who likes it. That is the best way. That, in my view, is the only way to maintain trust and credibility with the people we serve. I appreciate this chance to respond to the I.G.'s report and I would also refer you for more detail in our written response that's attached at the end of the Inspector General's report. And with that, I'm happy to take a few questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anything--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- in particular that's singled out in the report has been referred to OPR, which what are you referring to in particular?
WRAY: I can't comment on any specific personnel matter. I would just say that there are a number of instances in the report where there's conduct that's highlighted. We've had that referred to our -- as I say, our disciplinary arm, our OPR. There's a process for that. It's a tough process, it's a rigorous process, and we expect that process to be followed, and once that process is complete, we won't hesitate to hold people accountable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to follow on that, I know you can't talk about a specific conduct but here it does say that Director Comey, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok all used personal e-mail accounts but only Peter Strzok is being referred for an investigation to see if that's a violation of policy. Is that investigation ongoing and are there any individuals besides Peter Strzok who are being investigated internally?
WRAY: Well, again, I'm not going to talk about any particular personnel matter because I don't think that would be appropriate. As I said at the beginning, I'm committed to doing the right thing in the right way and by the book. And by the book does not include talking about pending personnel matters with all of you, much as you might like for me to (INAUDIBLE) so, yes, thanks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director (INAUDIBLE) I'm with POLITICO. You said there's nothing in the report that impugns the integrity of the FBI's workforce as a whole but the report does say that there is a culture of leaking at the FBI. Do you disagree with that finding in the report, and what do you plan to do about it if you do agree with it?
WRAY: Well, as I said, we accept the findings of the report and the recommendations. We're doing a number of things on that regard. First, we issues a new media policy that's much stricter and much more clearer than what had been in place before. Second, we're going to be doing intensive training on exactly those issues, things like the one that you alluded to, that includes contact with the media. Third, we're going to make painfully clear to everybody that we won't tolerate non-compliance. And then, last, I've asked our OPR to take a hard look at whether or not they think the penalties that exist right now are sufficient to deal with that kind of conduct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director Wray --
WRAY: Yes. Sure.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: I want to (INAUDIBLE) I want to ask you about sort of the reputation of the FBI. Certainly, the FBI has taken a lot of hits from the President and his tweets and (INAUDIBLE) certain things he's said about certain investigations, members of Congress have certainly hit at you guys. And now, certainly this report, you know, take some issues with the FBI. And a lot of what we've been hearing is that, you know, people are worried that the reputation of the FBI has suffered as a result of all the activity in the last several months. And I'm just wondering, if you think that's the case and if so, what you intend to do to try and fix some of the perception perhaps that the public may have of the FBI now.
WRAY: Well, that's a subject that's near and dear to me. I guess, I would say, a couple of things. One, is there's no shortage of opinions about us out there. I will tell you that the opinions that I care the most about are the opinions of the people who actually really know us and know us through our work.
[17:45:05] So, I'm focused on what the juries think when our agents take the stand. I'm focused on what the judges thinks when we give them a search warrant. I'm focused on what victims and their families think when they are asked, who do you trust to get your child back? I'm focused on what do our state and local law enforcement partners think when they think who do they trust? Who do prosecutors want to work with on cases? To me, it's the work that matters. I look at things like that, I look at how our recruiting is doing, I look at how our retention is doing. Our recruiting, we get about 12,000 plus people, for example, trying to be special agents every year. Our admission rate, our selection rate, five percent. That's better than the admission rate at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford. And it's not a fluke. You know, we just recently hired a whole new crop of honors interns. So, the young people coming out of college who have lots of choices about what they want to do with their careers.
We have the highest numbers of applicants we've ever had for our honors intern program. You want to know what that admission rate was? Five percent. If I look at things like that, I look at what people think when they know us and I look at what people think when they express their views through their actions. I look at our attrition rate. Our attrition rate in the agent population in the FBI is 0.8 percent. So in my view, the views that matter, the opinions that matter are the views of the people who know us through our work. And when I go around the country and around the world and I talk to our partners, and I talk to the victims, and I talk to the people who know us, our brand is doing just fine there. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you read this report, if you could sum up your reaction and your -- from having read it in one word, what is that word and how would you describe your emotional reaction to it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) why disappointed? (INAUDIBLE) using personal (INAUDIBLE) FBI business?
WRAY: Not that I can think of.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director, (INAUDIBLE) some people are going to use this report to criticize the Mueller investigation (INAUDIBLE) conclusions. What assurances can you give that the Mueller investigation has integrity and credibility and also some people are already criticizing you for making this statement by sharing documents to Congress, investigative documents. And so, how do you respond to criticism? (INAUDIBLE) making mistakes right now by sharing investigative material to the Congress?
WRAY: Well, I think on the first point, I'm not going to speak for the office of special counsel. I would note that there are a number of things that we've done both in terms of referring people to OPR but also in terms of reassigning people to try to ensure that we're bringing the right kind of integrity to staffing in all sensitive investigations. As to the congressional question, my view is we have an obligation to be responsive to legitimate congressional oversight. That's part of our job, as I said, at the beginning, we are entrusted with enormous power. And so, we should expect we're going to get tough questions and we need to be responsive and cooperate with that. But we also have an obligation to protect sources and methods and not to compromise ongoing criminal investigations and to adhere to things like grand jury secrecy and things like that. And so, the challenge is how do we make sure we do both? We're committed to trying to do both and I think we've struck the right balance so far.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you -- WRAY: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- specifically about the president's criticism of the FBI. He has over the last year or so attacked the credibility of the FBI. Do you think this DOJ/I.G. report now validates his criticism?
WRAY: Well, again, I'm not going to comment on any other person's opinions no matter where they're communicated, what I am going to do is talk about the opinions that I think matter, the opinions to me that matter are the opinions of the people that are relevant to our work day-in, day-out all across this country. We have 37,000 FBI employees, agents, analysts, and staff, and scores of task force officers that work with them. And every day, every day all around this country and around the world, those people are having to make important decisions that protect lives. The opinions of the people that they have to engage with on that work, those are the opinions that matter to me. That's what I'm focused on. As far as the report goes, there's some silvering lessons in there and we're going to learn those lessons and we're going to act on those lessons, and that's the way the FBI has always handled these things in the past, and that's what made the FBI stronger over the last 110 years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, do you think members of Congress are acting in good faith in their oversight efforts given that you -- that the FBI has disagreed with some of the characterizations of meetings and various things that have come out?
[17:49:56] WRAY: I think Congress has a job to do. And we have a job to do. And together, we're trying to work through the various issues that are presented by the tensions between congressional oversight and as I said earlier, protection of sources, methods, trade craft, ongoing investigations and things like that. We're committed to trying to work through those things with Congress. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One more question. One more question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you don't want to identify the people who were involved or have been referred to OPR. But can you tell us how many have been referred to OPR as a result of this report?
WRAY: I can't. That's not a topic I can comment on. I really want to be careful. I know why you're asking the question, and I respect that. But it's really important to me to make sure that we don't compound the mistakes that are found in this report by deviating from our process. And so, I think it's very important that we respect the appropriate process that it'd be done right, as I said earlier, by the book. And once that process is complete, we will not hesitate to hold people accountable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director, (INAUDIBLE)
WRAY: The lessons are the importance -- number one, the importance of trying to make sure that we avoid even the appearance of bias in all of our work, that objectivity and the appearance of objectivity matters. There's lessons in there about contacts with the media and appropriate engagement with all of you. There's lessons in there about the appropriate uses of devices. There's a number of things. And the I.G. has a number -- I think nine recommendations at the end. And I think those are the lessons that we're trying to learn from this report. And we take it very seriously. And we accept the findings and the recommendations. Thank you.
BLITZER: Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, making it clear he fully accepts the recommendations, fully accepts the report from the Inspector General, a blistering report severely criticizing the FBI in its handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation, at the same time, concluding there was no political bias in that investigation. Although, he says that there will be individuals over at the FBI who will be held responsible. The Office of Professional Responsibility will be reviewing what they did. He refused to discuss specifics about individuals named in the Inspector General report. He said in one word to describe his reaction, he was disappointed, disappointed in what he read. Phil Mudd, what's your reaction to what we just heard?
MUDD: Let me give you a little picture and big picture. Little picture here is a dignified man in Washington, D.C. who says A, I disagree with the former director of the FBI, that is James Comey, he did something wrong. B, for anybody who can't read between the lines, I just almost heard the FBI director say if you're asking about Peter Strzok, he's going to be fired. And I can explain why he judged that but that's inside baseball. Let's go to the big picture. There's a message there in a way that we don't see today in Washington, D.C., that's a subtle way to the President of the United States. Let me read two quotes. We follow the facts no matter where they go. Quote number two, we are interested in the views mostly of people who know us best and the people he listed are people like judges, other prosecutors, people who are victims of crimes, who he didn't mention, the President of the United States. There are subtle language there that says, Mr. President, if you don't like the investigation that's underway on Russia, we will not stop. And we will not look for opinions of people who don't work with us, every day. We work for the people whom we work for since 1908. I thought that was very dignified.
BLITZER: Gloria, what do you think?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I totally agree with Phil. You know, this is a new director who's looking for a reset of the FBI here. I mean, this is -- cast a huge cloud over the FBI. He accepted the recommendations, pointed out no evidence of political bias. But said, yes, we're going to work with this, and here are -- here are the lessons learned. But one of the greatest critics of the FBI which he continued to defend and gave a long list of ways the FBI has made a difference in our lives recently. One of the greatest critics is of course, his boss, the President of the United States, who has said that the FBI is in tatters, and he's accused it of being politically biased, et cetera, et cetera. And I think he is walking a very fine line here, and I agree with Phil, that he did it pretty well. That, you know, he has to defend his agency, he understands the criticism. But the President himself is the greatest critic, and that's a problem for him. BLITZER: Hillary Clinton just tweeted, responding to someone who had noted that in the report Comey also used a Gmail account, a personal e-mail account to conduct official FBI business. Also, they say no classified information was there. She tweets, but my e-mails, because she was investigated because she used her personal server. What's your reaction, Laura?
[17:54:57] LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what she could have said to add that is extremely reckless or careless and just kind of added that tit-for-tat moment if she wanted and she's justified to do so. But what I really heard from the Director Wray were three things, I heard process, I heard objectivity, and I heard accountability. Three things that every criminal should actually fear, that you have a process by which you're going to investigate. It's going to be free from bias of any kind. And you'll be held accountable. But I think he was very, very careful not to conflate the President's present criticism of the FBI based on the Russia collusion investigation from the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's, but my e-mail scandal. He was cautious to do so to ensure that everyone realized the FBI is only a sliver of the work they do focused on that, and the breadth -- overwhelming breadth of what they do was on other things.
And so, to impugn the integrity and credibility of one or two is a fair critique. But does not do anything to do a broad stroke. So, I think he was trying to make sure in a very subtle and also a very overt way that the FBI's objective will remain -- and he said, no matter who doesn't like it. Well, President Trump, I guess you're in that category.
BLITZER: Josh, you used to work with Comey at the FBI. What was your reaction?
CAMPBELL: Well, so I agree with Gloria. This is a reset. This is someone who's been on the job for 10 months in August 2nd last year, he walked into a storm, and he's been asked to clean up the mess. This isn't someone that we hear from often. But I think that there was maybe some signaling there to many different parties including the White House that this is an agency that's going to stay true to its mission, in a tough job, but he laid out the case.
BLITZER: Susan, very quickly.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, one thing I think is clear and not just clear from the I.G. report is that James Comey accepts personal responsibility for everything that happened in the past. This is Christopher Wray stepping up, and saying I'm accepting personal responsibility for everything that happens in the futures. He has an incredibly important job to do, and his boss, the President of the United States, is the person who makes it harder every day.
BLITZER: We've got a lot more news to assess. We're going to take a quick break. Much more on the breaking news right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Missteps and mistakes, the
long-awaited Inspector General's report faults former FBI Director James Comey and others for their handling of the Clinton e-mail probe but says there's no evidence of political bias.
Like a check book, New York state --