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Video Shows Trump Saluting North Korean General; Poll: Majority of Americans Say Summit Made Trump Look Stronger; Inspector General's Report on Clinton E-mail Server Investigation Expected Soon; Some Lawmakers Have Read Inspector General's Report. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired June 14, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:33:49] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Right now, there are some questions about an encounter between the leader of the free world and the three-star military general in one of the world's most brutal regimes. The president extends his hand, in which the three-star North Korean general salutes. President Trump salutes right back and then extends his hand. This video was shown on North Korea state TV. Today, the White House said the president was briefed on protocol, which is not to salute military officers from other countries, but they are not viewing this necessarily as a mistake. They said it's about showing respect to Kim Jong-Un and his entourage, including his general.
Let's discuss this and more with my next two guests. Lindsey Ford is the director of the Political-Security Affairs Division over at the Asian Society, a policy institute here in Washington, and former senior advisor for the Department of Defense, and CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, a former spokesman for the Pentagon and State Department.
Put on your military hat for a moment. Is it appropriate for the president of the United States to salute a foreign general, let alone a foreign general of a regime like North Korea?
[13:35:03] REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANLAYST: No, it's not. The very valid concern here was he was showing deference and respect to an officer in the military who not only brutalizes their own soldiers but their own people and still have a robust military program capable of destabilizing the region. Then there's the propaganda value. If shouldn't be a surprise to anybody that North Korean state TV is airing this thing on a constant loop. It's cannot exactly the image and respect that Kim Jong-Un was trying to seek.
BLITZER: You're a rear admiral. So would it be appropriate for the president to salute a British or French general as opposed to a North Korean general?
KIRBY: Look, there's not strict protocol on this. He's the president of the United States. He can return a salute to anyone he wants, foreign or domestic. It's typically not done that presidents return the salutes of foreign military officers, but yes, it would be a lot less problematic if it was someone in an allied nation than it would be for an officer in the North Korean military.
BLITZER: Lindsey, the president was strongly defending his decision to say some nice words about Kim Jong-Un at the summit in Singapore. Listen to this. This is what he told FOX News on why he was doing that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: You know, you call people sometimes killers, he is a killer. He's executing people.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hey, when you take over a country, a tough country, tough people. And you take it over from your father, I don't care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have. If you can do that at 27 years old, that's 1 in 10,000 that could do that. He's a very smart guy. He's a great negotiator, but I think we understand each other.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: But he's still done some really bad things.
TRUMP: Yes, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things. I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done. With all of that being said, the answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What did you think of that answer?
LINDSEY FORD, DIRECTOR, POLITICAL-SECURITY AFFAIRS DIVISION, ASIAN SOCIETY POLICY INSTITUTE: Yes, it's a little disturbing to me that honestly he's normalizing the behavior of a dictator here. He's talking about Kim Jong-Un inheriting the family business as if we're talking about real estate. Kim Jong-Un being tough. What that means? It means Otto Warmbier comes home in a coma. It means he has 1,000 people in gulags. It means rape, torture, abuse. I don't think we should be under any illusion what tough love means on Kim Jong-Un's part.
BLITZER: He's trying to prevent a nuclear war, and if it means negotiating and dealing with Kim Jong-Un, he'll do it.
KIRBY: That's what he'll say, and that's what he'll say about the salute, too. Foreign policy can't just be transactional. It does have to be rooted in values and who we are as a nation. When he talks about Kim Jong-Un in this way, he demeans the very values that the United States has historically represented on the world stage.
BLITZER: There's a new poll that's out on how the American people feel about this whole summit. Let me put some numbers on the screen along with the university poll. The question, did Singapore summit make the president look stronger or weaker on the world stage? Stronger 46 percent, only 13 percent weaker, 38 percent, didn't really change, 4 percent, don't know.
What do you think of that? FORD: I think the president would be really happy to see those
results. To me that's not the question we should be asking. The question we should be asking coming out of the summit is did this summit make the United States safer?
BLITZER: Did the summit make the United States suffer?
FORD: To me, the jury is still out, but I don't feel comfortable with that assertion.
BLITZER: Do you think it made the United States safer?
KIRBY: I would say no, not yet. I think the jury is out. They have to have these negotiations and the follow-up process and a framework for getting there. We are all hopeful they can. But we gave up a lot at this summit and got very little in return.
[13:39:00] BLITZER: Let's see what happens, because all of us want to avoid that worst-case scenario.
John, Lindsey, thank you both for joining us.
There are new details just moments away coming out. James Comey the focus of the soon-to-be-released inspector general's report of the Department of Justice. A look back at how it all started, how the FBI director put himself front and center right in the middle of this investigation of Hillary Clinton and her e-mail. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're waiting for what could be either a very damning or exonerating report from the U.S. Department of Justice. Just moments from now, the inspector general at the Justice Department is expected to release his findings on how top federal officials handled the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server.
President Trump has repeatedly accused the FBI of botching the Clinton investigation. Inf act, he cited former FBI Director James Comey's handling of the problem as a reason for his firing.
As we wait for the official document, we want to remind all of our viewers how we all got to this current situation.
Our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is now here to take us through the details of the investigation -- Jessica?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a time line with a lot of twists and turn.
The FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server, that begin in July 2015, in the very early days of the 2016 campaign. Hillary Clinton was secretary of state under President Obama, and, in 2015, it emerged that she was using a personal e-mail account. So on July 10, 2015, the FBI opened that criminal investigation, code named Midyear Exam. That's when agents investigated her handling of e-mails and her handling of classified information.
And really, by the summer of 2016, this case had become enormously politically charged with then-Candidate Donald Trump making comments just like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[13:45:16] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The e- mails, that's bad judgment. It's also dishonesty. That's why we call her Crooked Hillary Clinton.
TRUMP: Frankly, what Hillary has done is criminal, folks. It's criminal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: So after those comments from then-Candidate Donald Trump, then came another twist. On June 27, 2016, it was then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She was sitting on the same tarmac as former president Bill Clinton. He got word that they were there and he boarded a plane at the Phoenix airport. Loretta Lynch said nothing about the Hillary Clinton investigation was discussed, but, of course, the Republicans seized on that meeting that the investigation was fixed.
In the days that followed, FBI Director James Comey, he told Loretta Lynch that he planned to bypass the Justice Department and hold his own news conference announcing the results of the Hillary Clinton e- mail investigation. So there it was on July 5, 2016, when Comey made this surprise public statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Although there's evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: So with that statement, the case seemed to be closed. But then just a few months later, in late September 2016, yes, an even stranger twist. Federal prosecutors began investigating former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner for sexual communications he had with a minor. Of course, Weiner was the husband of top Hillary Clinton aide, Huma Abedin. Then about a month later, 11 days before the election, James Comey wrote a letter to Congress and he alerted them, announcing that e-mails investigators found on Weiner's laptop could potentially be relevant to their old case. Hillary Clinton has pointed to this exact announcement as ruing her chances to win the White House.
It was several days after that, Deputy Attorney General Andrew McCabe recused himself because of his wife's relationship with Terry McAuliffe, who was connected to the Clintons. And then on November 6, just two days before the presidential election, Director James Comey sent a second letter to Congress where he concluded that, "Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusion that we expressed in July." Once again, closing out that Hillary Clinton investigation. But Clinton's team said the damage is done. Wolf, two days later, President Trump was elected president. And now here we are awaiting the I.G. report that will rehash some of this timeline and draw some conclusions on how the investigation was handled -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Very good report from you. Jessica, thank you very, very much. Important stuff.
Some members of Congress have already seen it. They're going through the document right now. I'll speak with one lawmaker when we come back.
[13:52:40] BLITZER: Right now, we're only moments away from getting the inspector general's report detailing how the U.S. Justice Department handled the investigation of Hillary Clinton use of a private e-mail server. Some lawmakers have already seen the report, they've been reading it from a briefing room inside the capitol.
I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Jared Polis, of Colorado.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
We have now learned that the report finds then-FBI Director James Comey did violate FBI norm, protocols, but those actions weren't necessarily politically motivated. Your reaction?
REP. JARED POLIS, (D), COLORADO: The investigator general's report is always good for transparency. If this is being used to in any way discredit the very important special counsel investigation, the Mueller investigation, it's really being used for the wrong end. We need to make sure of course every investigation is done right, including the Mueller investigation and we need to retain his independence.
BLITZER: Do you think there could be some negative spillover from the release of this report on the entire Mueller investigation?
POLIS: I sure hope not. That would be the wrong message. We want to make sure every investigation is done right. And frankly, the Hillary Clinton has had more scrutiny. I wish my Republican colleagues cared as much about the integrity of the Mueller's investigation, to make sure there's no motivation going on to let any of the president's associates off easy if they violate the law.
BLITZER: Where do you think this whole Mueller investigation is headed?
POLIS: Look, what do we have, over 20 indictments, several plea bargains. Who knows where it will go. But making sure it remains independent with a true criminal focus is important, where it leads. The very fact that it might involve the president of the United States involves the fate of the republic itself and the integrity of the republic. It's very important we don't have any political interference, nor does this inspector general report give any reason for anybody to interfere with the Mueller investigation. It's got to maintain its credibility.
BLITZER: What do you make, Congress, of this report containing new transcripts of text messages between two key FBI officials, one FBI, one Department of Justice who were having an affair, and in those messages, they were very, very critical of then-Candidate Donald Trump.
POLIS: Look, FBI agents, law enforcement agents are people, they have their own political opinions, they expressed in the private sphere. They never expected private e-mails to be made public. What's important is that people don't let their political beliefs influence their professional work. I think that's what there will be an accounting for. It's the same with the Mueller investigation. We need to make sure people's personal or political beliefs, whether they like Trump or don't like Trump, make sure that there was no interference in any way with whether criminal laws were violated in any way by President Trump or his associates.
[13:55:19] BLITZER: Congressman Polis, thanks so much for joining us. We'll have you back soon.
POLIS: Always a pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: The report and the White House briefing only moments away. Stand by.