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Inspector General's Report Slams James Comey's Actions on Clinton E-mails; New York Attorney General Sues Trump Foundation; Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 15, 2018 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Finding some of stunning DOJ inspector general report.


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.


BRIGGS: Both Democrats and Republicans somehow see redemption in the very same report from the DOJ's inspector general, though no denying one FBI agent's text messages about Mr. Trump is especially damning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump approves tariffs on $50 billion worth of goods from China. It's likely to provoke a strong reaction from Beijing.

BRIGGS: And several people are in the hospital after a rollercoaster derails in Florida. Some victims falling more than 30 feet to the ground. Terrifying.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, June 15th, it is 5:00 a.m. in the East. And this is the big story this morning.

The White House and its allies quick to seize on a report from the Justice Department's watchdog on FBI actions before the 2016 election. The DOJ inspector general calling former FBI director James Comey's actions extraordinary and insubordinate, but says Comey was not politically motivated -- not motivated by political bias. The report details numerous failures by top officials heading the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe, concluding the FBI's actions, quote, "cast a cloud over the bureau."

BRIGGS: One of the more ironic findings, Comey used a personal Gmail account for official government business. Inconsistent with DOJ policy. Hillary Clinton responding with a tweet putting a new twist on an old meme, "But my e-mails."

Another key finding hinges on newly-discovered texts 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?" Strzok replies, "No, he's not. We'll stop it."

ROMANS: The inspector general did not rule out anti-Trump bias motivating Strzok. The report notes he prioritized the Russia 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 so- called deep state conspiracy to damage this president and they're using it as fodder to attack the legitimacy of the Russia probe. Senator Lindsey Graham says he would support a new federal probe of Miller's probe. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is going straight at Peter Strzok.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Tomorrow, Mueller should be suspended and honest people should be brought in, impartial people to investigate these people like Strzok. Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week.


ROMANS: Wow. Our political correspondent Sara Murray has more for us.


In a sweeping new report on the Clinton e-mail investigation, the Justice Department's internal watchdog announcing there was no evidence that conclusions from prosecutors in the Hillary Clinton e- mail probe were affected by bias or other improper considerations.

This is in direct contrast to favorite 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 led to Comey's initial July 2016 recommendation that Clinton should not face charges. It condemns Comey for usurping 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 e-mails 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: 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.


MURRAY: But he said he accepted the findings and vowed to hold people cited 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.

ROMANS: Hope so.

BRIGGS: Yes. Indeed. OK.


BRIGGS: Let's bring in CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano, retired FBI supervisory special agent, joining us from Fort Lauderdale.

Good morning, sir. Good to see you.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: You spent 25 years at the bureau. What is the damage done to the reputation of the FBI and the public trust in it?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Dave and Christine, I think the FBI is looking to put this in the rear-view mirror as quickly as possible. I don't think that's going to be easy to do for a number of reasons. The first, this is the second IG report that has been released and there is a third that is hurdling toward us which is an investigation into the investigation of the Trump Russia investigation.

[05:05:10] So we still got that one sitting on the horizon. But I thought FBI Director Wray did a nice job yesterday of getting out in front of, with these -- they're not allegations anymore, with these -- you know, basically what these findings were and saying we're going to fix these things, we're going to get in front of this, we're going to make sure that we conduct better training, that we give better oversight and that we sanction the people that committed some really unconscionable acts that were in this 568-page report.


GAGLIANO: And I've got to tell you, I started reading it and I was clean shaven. I mean, 568 pages including appendixes. It was a deep dive into the investigation.

ROMANS: I mean, I'm not the first one to say it was a bit of a choose your own adventure kind of reading, though. I mean, there are a lot of people who have spent "New York Post" focusing right in on "will stop it." This really --

BRIGGS: For good reason. That is damning.

ROMANS: Really appalling, you know, appalling anti-Trump sentiment that appears to have been passed along between two FBI folks there during the election. That is a problem here. But also in terms of what it means for Jim Comey. You got Democrats who are saying, yes, we told you, Jim Comey handled this badly. Not with political bias but he handled this badly, the timing was terrible for Hillary Clinton.

Here is what Jim Comey said in a "New York Times" op-ed. "My team believed the damage of concealing the reopening of our investigation would have been catastrophic to the institution. The inspector general weighs it differently, and that's OK even though I respectfully disagree."

In your view, how does your former boss James Comey come off here?

GAGLIANO: Sure. And, Christine, I agree with James Comey. I believe he was thrust into an untenable position by, as he described it, a 500-year flood. The problem is, I just think he was ill-equipped to deal with the rising flood waters.

Look, the inspector general made it clear, and I want to make sure I get this straight.


GAGLIANO: So I wrote it down. The inspector general found no documentary evidence that bias produced specific investigatory decisions. Now that's important. And what that says is James Comey didn't place his finger on the scale purposely. James Comey did not allow anything to infect political bias in decision making. But to Dave's point, and your point in reading those e-mails, there were people in his orbit, young, callow, inexperienced agents that were thrust into senior positions that didn't think the same way that he did.

And I think that was good to get that rooted out. I don't think it impacted any investigation. But I think those people need to be sanctioned and we need to make sure that this doesn't happen again.

BRIGGS: Ironically, Peter Strzok in his anti-Trump sentiment helped Donald Trump and hurt drove the nail in the coffin, some feel, of the Hillary Clinton campaign. But let's play for you what has now become known as the full Rudy.

Here is Giuliani last night.

Well, let me tell you what he said. He said, "Tomorrow Mueller should be suspended, Strzok should be in jail." Does this have anything to do with the Mueller probe and should Strzok be further investigated? Perhaps did he commit a crime?

GAGLIANO: Well, Dave, I have been very vocal in this. I was once an unabashed fan of Mr. Giuliani when he was the United States attorney for the Southern District and was the mayor of New York City. I think he has jumped the shark now with this political surrogacy and acting as house counsel for the president.

Look, it's not right or appropriate for him, and he knows better than this, to weigh in on who should be jailed and not jailed. Those decisions will be made if a criminal referral is to be done. That would be done by the IG to the Department of Justice. He knows the protocol. That's the proper steps that need take place.

I think he is fanning the flames. I think Robert Mueller's investigation should continue. And if there is anything there, there, he will get to it and he will explain it and he will expose it. And if there is there, there, I trust and have utter confidence that Robert Mueller will do the right thing and say, sorry, folks, we investigated this, we didn't find it. And here are our the findings.

So I think we need to let that continue. I think Rudy is just trying to run a propaganda campaign. And it's disappointing.

ROMANS: What are the chances the 2016 election is finally over and we can move on? I mean, I don't think there's very much chances it didn't die.


ROMANS: This has been the election that has never ended.

GAGLIANO: Yes, I think you are right. And again, as I pointed out at the top of this, Christine, we still got one more IG report hurdle to come, which is the investigation into the investigation and then we've got the Robert Mueller probe to basically come to its conclusions and findings. We're going to be at this for a while unfortunately.

BRIGGS: Twenty-five years at the bureau. Some great perspective.

James Gagliano, rocking one heck of a vacation beard. Thank you, my friend. We'll see you in 30 minutes.

ROMANS: Tell your wife thank you for letting us spend this morning.

All right. President Trump approving tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods escalating trade tensions between the world's two largest economies. An official announcement is expected today.

[05:10:02] Sources say the president gave the green light after meeting with his top economic officials including the Treasury secretary, the Commerce secretary, and the U.S. Trade rep.

Tariffs mean that when U.S. companies import Chinese goods they got to pay the government. The U.S. is targeting 1300 items. Aerospace equipment, tech, manufacturing and medical supplies are the categories. The White House first unveiled this list in March. It's moving ahead despite multiple rounds of trade talks with Beijing and the recent summit with North Korea. This is punishment for China stealing trade secrets. It also fulfills Trump's goal of cutting the trade deficit there. Trump's previous economic adviser contradicts his former boss on trade deficits.


GARY COHN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: 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 his former boss does not think that at all. He thinks the trade deficit is actually losing money out of a bank account. Money that America loses. That's not the way Gary Cohn sees it.

China vowed to respond immediately, by the way. It previously threatened U.S. goods like soybeans, planes and cars. The U.S. is now facing also tariffs from the EU, Canada and Mexico. So this -- we're going to see kind of unfold I think today. And June 30th is another deadline. There are new export controls the White House wants to put in effect against what China can buy and invest in the United States. June 30th is that deadline.

BRIGGS: Bob Corker trying to hold all this up to no avail thus far in Congress.

Ahead, details finally emerging of a Republican compromise on immigration. The uproar growing over kids being separated from their parents at the border. The topic provoking raw emotions even in the White House briefing room.


BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You're a parent. You're a parent of young children. Don't you have any empathy for what they go through?




[05:15:59] ROMANS: House Republicans circulating a draft bill that would overhaul the nation's immigration system. Members 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 approach to immigration. $25 billion in border security including the president's wall just in case Mexico doesn't pay for it. 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 administration practice of separating immigrant children from their families at the border.

BRIGGS: The separation issue inflamed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions' biblical defense of the policy.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves.


BRIGGS: CNN's Jim Acosta asked White House press secretary Sarah Sanders about Sessions' comments. Well, she had not heard them but backed the attorney general's line of thinking.


SANDERS: 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 --

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But where in the bible does it say it's OK to --

SANDERS: Hold on, Jim, if you'll let me finish.

ACOSTA: -- take children away from their parents?

SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to comment on the attorney's specific comments that I haven't seen.

ACOSTA: But 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 please don't take my words of out context.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa. Come on, that's a cheap shot there.

SANDERS: But the separation of illegal -- alien families is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refused 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: How is it enforcing the moral policy to take children away from their parents? Can you imagine the horror that these children must be going through?

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


BRIGGS: Wow. It's staggering to see that type of rhetoric. Decorum was thrown out probably with the crowd size lies day one. But it should be noted no law requires families to be separated at the border. We should also note Paul Ryan, Republican House speaker, said he does not -- share this opinion, does not think kids should be separated from their families.

ROMANS: And I have several sources who say that Jim Acosta can understand short sentences.

BRIGGS: I don't think Jim needs us to defend him but yes.

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: I think he can quite understand that. And that type of back and forth is just so unusual in the briefing room.

ROMANS: All right. 18 minutes past the hour. Paul Manafort's freedom on the line. Donald Trump's former campaign manager faces a hearing in Washington. Special Counsel Robert Mueller claims Manafort tampered -- tampered rather with witnesses. An FBI agent and two witnesses Manafort allegedly attempted to persuade could be called to testify. Prosecutors want Manafort's $10 million bill revoked or modified.

BRIGGS: Bring a toothbrush.

A year to the day after being shot, Congressman Steve Scalise back on the field for the congressional baseball game. The highlight that has Washington buzzing next.


[05:22:59] ROMANS: All right. The New York attorney general suing the Donald J. Trump Foundation. The charity of the Trump family accused of illegal conduct 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. The payment the suit says was directly authorized by the president.

BRIGGS: The president dismissing the claims in a tweet blasting the, quote, "sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced and run out of town AG Eric Schneiderman."

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 one example. It talks about that the foundation actually gave money to charitable organizations to settle lawsuits, and that was violative of the law in general. They say, and quote, and this is 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 yesterday 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 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 -

[05:25:07] ROMANS: All right. Jean, thank you for that.

To Florida now where two riders ejected and thrown 34 feet to the ground after the roller coaster derailed on the Daytona Beach boardwalk. Their condition at this hour is not clear. Ten riders were rescued when the Sandblast roller coaster ran off the track. Six of them were transported to a local hospital with unknown injuries. No word on what caused the derailment.

BRIGGS: An emotional moment at the congressional baseball game in Washington last night. Right there at second base is Representative Steve Scalise from Louisiana. A year to the day after he was shot at the GOP baseball practice. He makes the play to first and he's mobbed by teammates.

What a great moment last night. Democrats and Republicans can agree on that. But Dems got the best of the GOP 21-5 is your final score.

ROMANS: It's great to see him back.

BRIGGS: Indeed. One report. Many interpretations. The DOJ weighs in on the FBI's actions before the election. Everyone seems to be angry at one person. One FBI agent whose bias can't be ruled out.