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DOJ IG Report to be Released; Comey Violated Norms; Criminal Charges from IG Report; New York Attorney General Sues Trump. Aired 1- 1:30p ET
Aired June 14, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
We start with breaking news.
The imminent public release of the long, anticipated report on the U.S. Department of Justice and its handling of the Hillary Clinton e- mail investigation. Some details are already leaking, like the determination that the then-FBI Director James Comey deviated from longstanding protocol but was not motivated by political bias. Comey is one of the major players in all of this, along with the former deputy FBI director, Andrew McCabe, Hillary Clinton, of course, and the president of the United States.
The major questions are simple. Was proper protocol followed by the then FBI director? We now know the answer there. Did inside forces in the FBI compromise the Clinton investigation? And was any campaign aided by the inclusion or exclusion of critically important information?
Let's bring in our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, and our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. He's up on Capitol Hill.
Shimon, so what do we know already about the report that's supposed to be publicly released within the hour?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, certainly some key findings here by the inspector general here. So the idea, you know, that the president has been touting this notion that this -- that the Clinton investigation was rigged, that there was bias somehow by the FBI in favor of Hillary Clinton, and that they didn't bring charges against her. Well, now we have our answer here from the inspector general who has been looking at this now for over a year, Wolf. And he's saying essentially in his report, we're told, is that there was no pro-Clinton bias. There was nothing to indicate that anything that the FBI did in their investigation would give any credibility, anything to the idea that as the president has said, that this was somehow rigged. We've also learned here that Comey error -- that he made errors here in his decision not to coordinate with superiors at the Justice Department, at key moment in the Clinton e- mail investigation.
And that relates to, of course, to that press conference he held where he announced a decision and the result of the investigation. It also relates to essentially when the FBI, when James Comey decided to reopen the investigation just days before the election in November 2016. We all remember that that happened as a result of e-mails that were found on the Hillary -- on Anthony Weiner's laptop. And it was a letter that he had sent to The Hill, to lawmakers, essentially saying that a new review was underway, and that certainly was controversial.
And now we have the inspector general here saying that these moments, these key moments in the investigation, it appears that Comey made some mistakes.
BLITZER: Yes, it certainly does.
Manu, I know members of Congress are getting briefed on all of this. What's the reaction so far up on Capitol Hill?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually you're hearing people from both sides picking out things that advance their narratives about exactly what happened in 2016. The Democrats say that, in fact, what Comey did in his mishandling of the e-mail investigation actually helped Trump become president. This is a statement from Jerry Nadler and Elijah Cummings, two top Democrats who reviewed the report. They say the stark conclusion that they have come up with after reviewing the report is that the FBI's actions helped Donald Trump become president.
Now, Republicans see it differently, including Darrell Issa, a Republican who was in that briefing with officials from the inspector general's office. And what he heard was major problems in the way that the Justice Department handled this investigation, James Comey's handling of this investigation, and other members, too, on the Republican side of the aisle say that there actually need to be further investigations perhaps by a second special counsel to look into exactly what the FBI did wrong in 2016.
Here's Senator Lindsey Graham just earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If we find systematic abuse at the Department of Justice and the FBI, then who's going to do something about it? I just -- I think you would need some independent eyes. If he suggests that the DOJ and the FBI got off the rails and did inappropriate things when it came to the Clinton e-mail investigation, who's supposed to go figure out what should have happened? And, to me, that's got to be somebody out of the Department of Justice, somebody that we all trust. You know, I think Mueller was the right guy. I think he's doing his job in a professional manner. Pick somebody like him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[13:05:00] RAJU: And, Wolf, the release of this report is only going to intensify this debate going forward. Come Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is going to have a hearing about this 500-page report. And invited to that hearing is the former deputy director, Andy McCabe, who is addressed in this report. And McCabe himself is facing a separate criminal investigation, and he wants immunity to testify at that hearing. The chairman of the Senate Judicial Committee told me earlier today that he does not expect immunity to be dealt with before Monday, but they're considering this subpoena to issue -- to compel his appearance, maybe not by Monday, but maybe at a later date.
So, Wolf, this is not ending anytime soon. Republicans and Democrats still have a lot of questions, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, they certainly do.
All right, Manu, Shimon, guys, stand by. I know you're working your sources and you'll bring us new information.
In the meantime, I want to bring in our panel.
And, Gloria Borger, you know, the Republicans, or at least a lot of the supporters of the president, his top aides, they certainly have been hoping this long-awaited report would give them some ammunition to try to delegitimize the -- to derail the overall Russia probe that Robert Mueller is leading.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Right. And, you know, where you stand depend on where you sit in this -- in this investigation. And as Manu said, everybody's going to find something.
And, you know, the important point here is that Comey behaved -- misbehaved. He didn't -- he didn't behave according to Justice Department norms. He's severely criticized for it. So the president will say, see, I did the right thing in firing him. That was a good thing to do. I should have fired James Comey.
But the inspector general also did not find any evidence of a conspiracy at the heart of the FBI to hurt Donald Trump. In fact, I think it's just the opposite. And what Donald Trump has always been saying is that because Comey appointed some of these same people who worked with him on the e-mail investigation to the Russia investigation, that there was a conspiracy against him. And the whole Russia investigation is, therefore, rigged against him. This clearly does not -- does not support that point of view. It -- it, you know, Trump will use it to say, Comey's a bad guy and I think that the inspector general said he did not behave as he should have.
BLITZER: The president has often said, Margaret, that someday the American people will all stand up and thank him for firing Comey as the FBI director. Will this report bolster that?
MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I -- it's hard to see that this report really changes the game. The two sort of sides of how you perceive this seem pretty well set. We know that what the president has been hoping for, wanting for all these months, is a recommendation for some sort of a criminal procedure to follow. And given what we've seen of the conclusion so far, it doesn't -- you know, there's no evidence that that's going to be the conclusion at all of this process.
You know, if you've listened to Comey, either if you've read his book or if you've listened to his many kind of public, expository discussions about this, he's always sort of indicated that he didn't feel there was a rule book for what was the right thing to do, that he knew that he was maybe stepping outside of the norms and kind of did what he thought was the right thing anyway. I doubt he would be shocked by the findings.
But the fact there is no kind of partisan putting the thumb on the scale I think is going to make it difficult for the president to get what he wanted to out of this.
BLITZER: Evan Perez, our justice correspondent, is getting some more information, specifically, Evan, on whether any criminal charges are likely to emerge from the inspector general's report.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think that's one of the things that the president has been pushing for. Certainly he's been tweeting about it and saying that he believes people should go to jail for this. Certainly we have already a criminal referral that has come out of this against Andrew McCabe, who was the former deputy director of the FBI, for lying to investigators. And that's the one that we -- that is still being look at by prosecutors here in Washington.
But as far as charges against James Comey, or perhaps even against Hillary Clinton, which is what you've heard repeatedly from some Republicans, and the president in particular, it doesn't appear, from what we're seeing in this report, that that is going to be coming forward. And so the president is probably going to be disappointed. But as Gloria and I think Margaret have pointed out, I think the president will certainly be able to use some of the findings in this report to support his claim that he was right to fire James Comey. That Rod Rosenstein's memo was -- in which he described the reasons why James Comey had lost the confidence of the Justice Department were -- was reason for him to be fired.
And so, look, I think there's plenty of here -- of stuff here for the president to work with politically. But as far as getting criminal charges against Comey and against other people, I think he's going to be very disappointed when he reads this -- this report.
BLITZER: There are apparently, Evan, and you correct me if I'm wrong, some new transcripts that are being released of text messages between some FBI agents, FBI personnel, who were involved in the investigation, which show a pretty negative attitude toward Donald Trump.
[13:10:06] PEREZ: Right. Exactly. And I -- we're talking about two FBI employees, Pete Strzok and Lisa Page, who -- whose, you know, years- long affair and apparent texting that was going on for years was revealed as a result of this investigation. A lot of inappropriate texts were sent, including some which showed some definite political biases against Donald Trump. It appears they didn't like Hillary Clinton very much either if you read some of these text messages.
And certainly, I think, there is enough here for the attorney general and for the FBI to take action against those -- against those people. I think the attorney general just today, in a an interview said that he expect that there might be some additional disciplinary action that might be forthcoming. And I suppose it's easy to expect that those two people are who he has in mind.
But, look, I think those text messages, not withstanding, I think the top line from this inspector general report is that even though you had these inappropriate messages being exchanged by people who were involved in this investigation, it did not affect the ultimate outcome. After all, Wolf, the people who were controlling this investigation were way above these two. And the inspector general found that there was no political bias in the way the investigation was ultimately conducted.
BLITZER: Good point.
You know, April is with us, April Ryan, our CNN political analyst, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks.
Let me play a clip. This is Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. He's obviously gone through this inspector general's report. The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, highly regarded, seen by almost everyone as responsible and credible.
Here's how Sessions described what he saw in the report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it will be a lengthy report and a careful report. It will be released soon. And I think it will help us better fix any problems that we have and reassure the American people that some of the concerns that have been raised are not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It's unclear what exactly he's referring to, but he's suggesting that, you know what, he has total confidence in this inspector general's report.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And it almost sounded a little bit like he could have been taking a jab at the president too as well.
But, you know, it's interesting to hear what he has to say. I think back about the reputation of the FBI, over the years how it has been sullied and he's trying to fix the reputation of the FBI by this 500- page report. And it's good that it comes from someone that people respect. But, at the same time, you have to remember, if what we're hearing about this report is true, what Comey did was not political. It was not political. Was it the right timing, though? And I talked to someone from another administration who was a high-ranking official in the Justice Department who said, and I'm going to give you the word, they said, he should have kept his a-s-s off the podium.
And -- strong words. And that is really -- I mean what did Loretta Lynch have to do with that? What did she play in that, you know, to allow him to do that? That was wrong. And going back to what Margaret said, you know, there was no rule for that, but he should not have done that.
And did it help Hillary Clinton. It -- I don't think so. It seemed like it hurt her. Did it help Donald Trump win the presidency? We don't know. But this report is critical and it's important that Jeff Sessions, who has recused him from the Russia investigation, take this seriously because the FBI, once again, is now under a cloud because of this IG report.
BLITZER: You know, and April makes a good point. Seth Waxman is with us, former federal prosecutor.
You understand how all this works. The FBI does investigating, but they leave it to the deputy attorney general or the attorney general or a U.S. attorney to say there is enough evidence for criminal charges to be filed or not. He, instead, did that himself as the FBI director, and that was seen as inappropriate.
SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I mean, typically you have your FBI agents out there doing the field work, making referrals to prosecutors and then the prosecutors make the decisions. So the fact that he went out front and center, you know, without consulting with the attorney general, without consulting with prosecutors is outside the norms and, you know, it strikes, at least me, as kind of outside the normal scope of what he would typically do.
You know, what strikes me also is that the chants of "lock her up," you know, that we heard throughout this entire political campaign, this report does not seem to support that kind of finding.
BLITZER: Well, we're going to go through that 500-page report obviously throughout the day.
Everybody stick around. There's more we need to discuss.
There's other breaking news we're following.
New York state suing the president of the United States and his children, alleging they illegally used money from their charity for the political campaign. How serious is their legal trouble right now?
Plus, North Korea releasing video of President Trump saluting one of Kim Jong-un's generals. We'll discuss that and more. Stay with us.
[13:18:57] BLITZER: Breaking news, New York's attorney general is suing President Trump and his three eldest children, alleging, quote, self-dealing and other persistent, illegal conduct at the president's charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Among other things, the president is now accused by New York state of treating his non-profit like his personal checkbook and using the tax exempt funds to pay off his business creditors, promote his hotels, decorate a Trump golf club and even stage a multi-million-dollar giveaway at a 2016 presidential campaign event in Iowa just days before the crucial caucuses there.
Let's go to CNN's Jean Casarez. She's joining us from New York.
So, Jean, walk us through these allegations.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And there are many. This is a 41-page verified petition. The defendants are Donald J. Trump personally, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, Don Junior, Eric and Ivanka Trump. And it alleges that the board of directors of this charitable foundation have not met since 1999. That it is merely a shell to benefit Donald Trump personally and his businesses.
[13:20:03] It does says, in part, quote, the petition filed today alleges a pattern of persistent illegal conduct occurring over more than a decade. That includes extensive, unlawful, political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump's personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for non- profit foundations.
And it cites many examples. One being, and you may remember this, the Iowa fundraiser in January of 2016. It was a fundraiser for veterans, and Mr. Trump, presidential candidate at that point, participated in Iowa, collecting those monies, in lieu of a Republican presidential debate. Well, they say that the foundation raised the money for veteran's organizations, but the verified petition says that it was planned, organized, financed and directed by the campaign, a violation of New York state law and charitable laws.
Well, we also now have a response from the Trump Foundation, and it is very strong. We -- it says in part, this is politics at its very worst. The foundation has donated over 19 million to worthy charitable causes, more than it even received. The president himself, or through his companies, has contributed more than 8 million. The reason the foundation was able to donate more than it took in is because it had little to no expenses. This is unheard of for a charitable foundation.
And Trump -- what they are asking the court to do, is to close down this foundation. They want it done under the responsibility and observation of the court. And they are saying that Donald Trump should no longer be able to participate in any form or fashion of a charitable foundation for the next ten years. And his children, who are also, as I said, those co-defendants, they cannot involve themselves with a charitable foundation under New York state law for one year.
BLITZER: Yes, they also want the president to pay $2.8 million and additional penalties as a result of this as well.
Jean Casarez, thank you very much. The president indicating he plans to fight this lawsuit. He says, in
part, and let me quote, the sleazy New York Democrats and their now disgraced and run out of town A.G., attorney general, Eric Schneiderman are doing everything they can to sue me and a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000. I won't settle this case.
New York's attorney general just tweeted a response and she also had an interview on CNN. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Mr. Trump has tweeted a response. Here we go. The sleazy New York Democrats and their now disgraced and run out of town A.G. Eric Schneiderman are doing everything they can to sue me for a foundation that took in $18.8 million and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19.2 million. I won't settle this case.
What do you make of that? What's your reaction?
BARBARA UNDERWOOD, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, there's several points that are made there. This is not either a sleazy or political action, nor was it brought by Mr. Schneiderman. This is a straightforward case of violation of the laws governing charitable foundations and non-profit corporations in New York.
AMANPOUR: So, attorney general --
UNDERWOOD: That's my response to the --
AMANPOUR: All right, that's your response. So you're saying it was not brought by Mr. Schneiderman. But the tweet goes on to say, Schneiderman, who ran the Clinton campaign in New York, never had the guts to bring this ridiculous case, which lingered in their office for almost two years. Now he resigned his office in disgrace, and his disciples brought it when we would not settle.
UNDERWOOD: We brought this case when we were confident that we had the evidence and the legal arguments to back it up. And it was not -- it obviously was not settled. That's usually how cases are brought. There's nothing unusual about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Barbara Underwood, the attorney general of New York state, speaking with CNN's chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour.
All right, let's get back to the panel.
Seth Waxman, you've a former federal prosecutor. You've looked through this document. All of us have read the document by now. How strong of a case does New York state have against the president and his children?
WAXMAN: Well, it seems very strong. But let's be clear at the outset that there's a difference between a civil case and a criminal case. So at the end of this civil case that the A.G. has brought, the worst thing that can happen to Mr. Trump and his family is a monetary fine. So no one can go to jail for this lawsuit.
[13:25:15] On the other hand, as I've understood it, there have been referrals made to the Federal Election Campaign Commission and the IRS when Donald Trump, the president, signed this tax form that's associated with charitable foundations, a 501(c)(3), he signed and said that all the money being brought in was going to be used for charitable purposes. If that is a lied, that is perjury. That could be a federal crime.
In addition, if monies are taken from donors under the auspices that it's going to go for some charitable purpose and it's diverted to someone's personal bank account to their personal interest, but it -- be it political campaigns, you know, dressing up a golf club or whatever, that can be fraud and that can be, under the federal law, wire fraud, which is a 20-year criminal penalty in jail at maximum. So, for me, what is most concerning about this, if I'm the president, isn't that at some day he might have to pay some monetary fines. I don't know that he much cares about that at the end of the day. My concern if I'm him and his lawyers is that there could be a criminal referral to a U.S. attorney's office and now he's back in the soup of yet another criminal investigation.
BLITZER: Yes, it's a significant allegation made by the New York state attorney general, Margaret, that they used this charity for political purposes in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses and that they've got text messages here from the then Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski explaining what should be done with this money that's being raised. Charitable foundations are not supposed to be involved in politics.
TALEV: Yes, that's right. And I think Seth is certainly right, that if this were to take on some sort of a criminal element or aspect on a parallel track, it would, obviously, be a huge story at that point. But there is a softer impact to this right now that is potentially real also, and that is that it goes to the credibility and the trustworthiness of the Trump Organization in general and charitable claims.
And, don't forget, the president is currently engaged, not just in midterm campaigning, but has a re-election campaign that has been up and running for some time. And among some segments of his base or supporters, his -- the ability to trust his word and to know that when he says he's trying to help coal miners, that he's trying to help, you know, recovering, you know, veterans who were home and looking for jobs, all of that matters too. So there's sort of this parallel track of potential impacts. And one deals with the unknown. Something we haven't seen yet is whether there are -- whether there's going to be a criminal aspect. But the other, it just goes to this question of trust and credibility.
BLITZER: And the president, in his tweets a couple times, April, he said, I won't settle this case.
BLITZER: He said the former New York Attorney General Schneiderman, he resigned his office in disgrace and his disciples brought it when we would not settle.
He has settled cases in the past after declaring he won't settle.
BLITZER: The Trump University case, for example.
BLITZER: He wound said he wouldn't settle. He wound up settling.
RYAN: But, you know, there are also a lot of other cases that he hasn't settled out of court, people that worked for him building his buildings or building whatever he's built and he's tied them up in court forever.
But the bottom line is, you know, you don't want to hear the president of the United States saying, I'm not going to settle something that could have wire fraud implications or credibility implications. This is the president of the United States of America. Every American basically has to follow the rule of law, follow the patterns of justice and settle something. And for him to say I'm not going to settle, it doesn't bode well. If anything you would want to kind of work this out.
The one thing that really sticks out about this case to me, just like what's happening with Mueller, they're following the trail of money. There are trails of money everywhere that's pointing to the family. And it just -- it just screams to me -- all of this is about money from a charity that's gone to different places that weren't supposed to happen. And then you have what's happening over here with Mueller. They're pulling records and pulling computers, trying to find out the trail of money, because that all leads to whatever the end case is. (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: It's just another legal headache also for the president. The Mueller investigation.
BLITZER: The Michael Cohen investigation. The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
BLITZER: There's a lot of legal stuff going on right now that the president of the United States has to worry about.
Guys, thank you --
RYAN: On his birthday.
BLITZER: Happy birthday.
RYAN: Seventy-two. Happy birthday, Mr. President.
BLITZER: Happy birthday to the president of the United States.
BLITZER: Not necessarily a nice birthday present from New York state for the president.
All right, we've got a lot more news that's unfolding even as we speak. North Korea releasing some new video showing President Trump saluting one of Kim Jong-un's generals during the summit. We're going to get White House reaction. Stick around.