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Comey "Respectfull Disagrees" With IG Report; Jeff Sessions' Bible References; The New York Attorney General Suing the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 15, 2018 - 04:00   ET




SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly there are a lot of things in this report that not only worry those of us in the administration but should worry a lot of Americans,


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's allies seizing on a report about the Hillary Clinton email investigation. James Comey's actions under scrutiny. His bias is not in question but the same can't be said for everyone at the FBI.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump approves tariffs on $50 billion dollars worth of goods from China. A move likely to provoke a strong reaction from Beijing.

ROMANS: It's terrifying several people are in the hospital after a roller coaster derailed in Florida. Some victims falling more then 30 feet to the ground. I put that on my list of worst nightmares. (Inaudible) Good morning and welcome to Early Start I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Note to self, do not ride roller coaster. I'm Dave Briggs it's Friday June 15th. It's 4AM in the East. You know we waited for weeks for this IG report.

ROMANS: 17 months ...

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: ... in the making.

BRIGGS: And now we're waiting for the tweets from the president that did not come.

ROMANS: Interesting it is sort of as one analyst called it a two (ph) year old adventure report.

BRIGGS: Isn't it?

ROMANS: There's a lot in there that fits a lot of narratives if you want to be narrow. We're going to take the big view today.

BRIGGS: We will get to truth of it with James Galiano on the 5AM hour, former agent. The White House and its allies quick to seize on a report form the Justice Departments watch dog on FBI actions before the 2016 election.

The DOJ Inspector General calling former FBI director James Comey's actions extraordinary and insubordinate, but saying Comey was not motivated by political bias. A phone book size report details numerous failures by top officials heading the Hillary Clinton email probe concluding the FBI's actions quote "Cast a cloud over the bureau."

ROMANS: One of the more ironic findings, Comey used a personal g-mail account for official government business. A move the report calls inconsistent with DOJ policy. Clinton responded with a tweet putting a new twist on an old meme about my emails. Another key finding hinges on a newly discovered text between FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. In August of 2016 Page writes Trump is not ever going to become president, right? Right? Exclamation mark.

Strzok replies no, no he's not. We'll stop it.

BRIGGS: The Inspector General did not rule out anti-Trump bias motivating Strzok. The report notes he prioritized the Russian investigation for a month instead of following up on a cache of Clinton e-mails. Strzok's lawyer denies the bias claim. The report is also being touted by Trump allies as proof of a deep state conspiracy that damaged the president and has faltered to attack the Russian probe. Senator Lindsey Graham says he would support a new federal probe of Mueller's investigation.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giliani going straight at Peter Strzok.


RUDY GILIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Tomorrow Mo (ph) should be suspended and honest people should be brought in, in partial people to investigate these people like Strzok. Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week.


BRIGGS: He's a beauty. Political corresponded Sarah Murray has more on the report.

SARAH MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Christine and Dave. In a sweeping new report on the Clinton e-mail investigation the Justice Departs internal watch dog announcing there was no evidence that conclusions prosecutors in the Hillary Clinton email probe were affected by bias or other improper considerations.

This is in direct contrast to favor talking points from president Trump, who has made a habit of smearing the FBI's work. The report finds former FBI director James Comey's actions though were extraordinary and insubordinate. They were a sharp departure from Justice Department protocol but not fueled by political motivations according to the report.

The 500 plus page report lays bare the series of events that lead to Comey's initial July 2016 recommendation that Clinton should not face charges. It condemns Comey for resurfacing (ph) attorney general Loretta Lynch's authority at the time and affirmatively concealing his intentions. But Comey also broke protocol in October 2016 by disclosing to Congress the discovery of new emails just days before the election. The Inspector General calling Comey's controversial decision insubordinate. FBI director Christopher Wray said he was disappointed after reading the report.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The report does identify errors of judgment, violations of or even disregard for policy and decisions that at very least with a benefit of hindsight were not the best choices.


MURRAY: But he said he expected the findings and vowed to hold people sighted in the report accountable for any misconduct. And to take steps to address what went wrong so these mistakes will never be repeated. Back to you guys.


BRIGGS: All right. Sara Murray, thank you. James Comey responding quickly to the Inspector General's report, in an op-ed in the New York Times he writes, "my team believed the damage of concealing the reopening of our investigation would have been catastrophic for the institution. Inspector General weighs it differently, and that's OK even though I respectfully disagree." The former FBI Director also urging public support for law enforcement and the rule of law.

ROMANS: All right, five minutes past the hour, President Trump approving tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. This will escalate trade tensions between the world's two largest economies. And official announcement is expected today. Sources say the president gave the green light after meeting with his top economic team including the Treasury Secretary, Commerce Secretary, and the U.S. Trade Rep.

Tariffs mean that when U.S. companies import Chinese goods, they have to pay the government. The U.S. is targeting 1,300 items like aerospace equipment, tech, manufacturing, and medical supplies. The White House first unveiled this list in March and it's moving ahead despite - despite multiple rounds of trade talks with Beijing, the recent summit with North Korea, and the fact the U.S. already faces tariffs from the E.U., Canada and Mexico. But this move is punishment for China stealing trade secrets and fulfills Trump's goal of cutting the trade deficit with China.

But Trump's previous Economic Advisor, there he is, Gary Cohn, he contradicts his former boss on trade deficits.


GARY COHN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISOR: I have always said a trade deficit doesn't matter. In many respects, it's helpful to our economy because if we could manufacture something in the United States cheaper or better than we could import it, we would do that.


ROMANS: So this got a lot of attention yesterday. That's the voice inside the White House that kept these tariffs from going into effect -

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMAN: - much, much earlier. Cohn added that he believes very strongly in global free trade. Again, those remarks got a lot of play.

BRIGGS: Didn't shock any of us -


BRIGGS: - though. So what kind of reaction to the new tariffs from the Trump administration expect from China? Matt Rivers has the answer live in Beijing for us. Matt -

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, the reaction will be swift, and it will be an equivalent amount of tariffs that the United States plans on putting on China. The Chinese have said as recently as in the last hour or so that the second that list becomes finalized on Friday they will retaliate in kind (ph) what products are going to be targeted by the Chinese? Small list - soy beans, beans, certain types of cars, fruits, small planes. These are all the kinds of goods that the United States has part of the $130 billion or so per year in exports that come from the U.S. to China. That's some of the things that the United States is sending here to China.

China's consistent position on this, guys, has been they will not take this lying down. They will retaliate in kind (ph), and don't forget what they have said already is any agreement that were come to as apart as previous trade negotiations, they're out the window if these tariffs go forward. So that is what we can expect now - tariffs from the Chinese soon after the U.S. issues theirs.

BRIGGS: Game on for we (ph). PM there in Beijing, Matt Rivers live for us. Thank you.

ROMANS: House Republicans are circulating a draft bill that would overhaul the nation's immigration system. Members are expected to vote on it next week after weeks of intense negotiations, it is still not finalized and changes could be made. Right now, it reflects President Trump's call for a four pillars approach to immigration. There's $25 billion in border security, including the wall. It also ends the diversity Visa lottery, cuts family-based Visas, and offers a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. It also ends the Trump administrations practice of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border.

BRIGGS: That hot button issue inflamed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Biblical defense of the policy, he suggest God supports the government taking children from their parents.


JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: -- our sight (ph) due to the apostle Paul and is clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained or dain (ph) the government for his purposes. Orderly and lawful process are good in themselves.


BRIGGS: CNN's Jim Acosta asked White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, about Sessions comments. She had not heard them but backed the Attorney General's line of thinking in this tense exchange.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible. However, this -


SANDERS: Hold on, Jim, if you'll let me finish. Again, I'm not going to comment on the Attorney's specific comments that I haven't seen.

ACOSTA: You just said it's in the Bible to follow the law -

SANDERS: That's not what I said, and I know it's hard for you to understand even short sentences I guess, but - and please don't take my words out of context, but the separation of illegal -- alien families is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refuse to close and these laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade and the president is simply enforcing them.


ACOSTA: Moral policy to take children away from their parents. Can you imagine the horror that these children must be going thorough?

SANDERS: It's a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.


BRIGGS: Should be noted no law requires families to be separated at the border and aside from your political opinion on this that's the White House press secretary saying hard for you Jim Acosta to understand even in short sentences. That is stunning. That is something we have never heard from a White House podium --

ROMANS: What about love thy neighbor.

BRIGGS: -- in this nation's history.

ROMANS: Love thy neighbor. I think there's no love thy neighbor.

BRIGGS: Aside from the biblical defects of the policies.

ROMANS: I would say it's probably dangerous to have a bible study argument about immigration because there's an awful lot in there about treating the weakest and littlest among us as the best -

BRIGGS: There's a couple of versus that were trending on Twitter yesterday that didn't exactly back up the argument.

ROMANS: Yes, all right. Here we go. President Trump spent years going after President Obama for bowing before a Saudi king. So, how's the White House explaining this salute to a North Korean military general?



ROMANS: Welcome back. There was apparently some real drama in the days and hours leading up to the historic North Korean summit this week. The Washington Post reports after President Trump arrived in Singapore Sunday he became antsy and bored and told his aids to get the meeting with Kim Jong-un moved up a day.

Ultimately he was talked out of it by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. The Post says the president was told moving up the summit could decrease the TV news coverage. The president had boasted he did not prepare much for the Kim summit.

One thing he might have missed, protocol on whether it was appropriate to salute a North Korean military officer. Let's got to CNN's Nic Robertson live in Seoul, South Korea. And, of course everyone remembers that the ribbing and the ridicule the President of the United States Barack Obama received for bowing to a Saudi prince and then this, an actual salute there to a North Korean general. Remarkable, Nic. What do you - what's the - what's the blowback?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, there is a sense of irony to it, isn't there. That the North Korean media would latch onto that and put it as a big part of their 42 minute documentary of, sort of, Kim's greatest triumphs in Singapore at that summit.

They used words to describe President Trump's relationship with Kim Jong-un as affectionate, as respectful. So, when the president does something like that, that really feeds into the North Korean narrative. He was apparently - President Trump was apparently briefed that you don't salute generals in other army's. However, Sarah Sanders of the White House does have an explanation. This was it.


SANDERS: It's a common courtesy when a military official from another government salutes that you return that.


ROBERTSON: So, while North Korea is making hay out of this, if you will, in South Korea here it's not a big topic of conversation. It's not something that's being asked of officials what they interpret that as. The officials here believe that the summit went well, that it was a good start.

The questions that are being asked here, what is the future relationship between South Korea and the United States for the military. Broadly speaking two thirds of the population here in a poll have said that they believe that the summit was successful with or without that salute. Christine?

ROMANS: Interesting. All right. Nic Robertson for us in Seoul this morning. Thank you, Nic.

BRIGGS: All right, ahead, a year to the day after being shot, Congressman Steve Scalise back on the baseball field for a congressional baseball game. The highlight that has Washington buzzing, next.



BRIGGS: The New York Attorney General suing the Donald J. Trump foundation. The charity and the Trump family accused of illegal conducting spanning more than a decade. It allegedly includes a $100,000 payment by the foundation to settle legal claims against the Mar-a-Lago Resort, a payment the suit says was directly authorized by the President and a $10,000 payment by the foundation to purchase a painting of Donald Trump. The painting was then displayed at a Trump property in Miami.

ROMANS: The president for his part dismissing the claims in the tweet last evening. The quote, "sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced and run out of town (ph) A.G. Eric Schniederman". He said Schniederman's disciples in the A.G.'s offices filed the suit when the Trump's and their foundation refused to settle. We get more now from CNN's Jean Casarez.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, we're now waiting to see legally how the Donald J. Trump charitable foundation will respond to these very serious allegations. What the Attorney General of New York is alleging is that the foundation itself was not for charity, that it was a shell and it was for Donald J. Trump personally as well as his business interests. Let me give you on example. It talks about that the foundation actually have money to charitable organizations to settle lawsuits, and that was violative (ph) of the law in general.

They say and quote, and this was the petition that was filed Thursday that it 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 nonprofit foundations.

Well, the foundation responded very strikingly in a response saying, quote, "this is politics at its very worst." The foundation has donated over $19 million to worthy charitable causes, more than it even received, and the Attorney General is asking a court (ph) to actually dissolve the foundation and $2.8 million they want paid as restitution.

They're also saying that Donald Trump cannot be involved with a charitable foundation in New York for 10 years, and his three children Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. cannot participate in one for one year. Christine, Dave -


BRIGGS: Stay tuned. Thank you, Jean Casarez. Two rider ejected and thrown 34 feet to the ground after their roller coaster derailed on the Daytona Beach boardwalk. Their condition at this hour is not clear. 10 riders were rescued when the Sandblaster roller coaster went off the track. Six were transported to a local hospital with unknown injuries. No word on what caused the derailment.

ROMANS: A salmonella scare involving cut melon has spread to more than 10 states. According to the FDA, cut watermelon, honey dew, and cantaloupe are now being recalled in 23 states. The cut melon was sold in Walmart, Kroger, Walgreens, Sprouts Farmers Market, Costco, and Whole Foods. According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 60 people have been sickened by this outbreak since April 30.

BRIGGS: An emotional moment at the Congressional baseball game in Washington last night. Representative Steve Scalise starting at second base for the GOP squad a year to the day after he was shot. At practice, the pitch of the game hit directly to Scalise who made the play and was mobbed by everyone there on the field. What a great moment there for Steve Scalise. Now, as for the game, there was not much to celebrate for the Republicans after that. 21 to 5, Democrats smoked the Republicans.

ROMANS: Great to see Scalise back.

BRIGGS: It is great, indeed. OK, the FBI back under scrutiny in the Hillary Clinton email probe, specifically the actions of one agent whose bias can't be ruled out. Now the president's allies are pouncing their latest efforts to undercut the Russia investigation.