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DOJ Watchdog Faults Comey But Finds No Political Bias; Trump Administration Planning Temporary Shelters for Children Separated from Parents. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 15, 2018 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you "CNN TALK" is next. For U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.

[07:00:09] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You mean right now.

BERMAN: I mean literally right now, this second.

Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY if you're just joining us in the last second and a half.

The Justice Department inspector general's report is out, the president and his allies already using it as ammunition against the special counsel's Russia investigation, even though the I.G. report was not about the special counsel's Russia investigation.

The president wrote about it for the first time just moments ago. His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, sending out an even stronger message. He says that Robert Mueller should suspend his investigation today so that FBI officials and the report can be investigated.

Again, there is nothing in the report on the special counsel probe. But the report also found that former FBI director James Comey was not motivated by political bias in his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

CAMEROTA: Or at least that there was no evidence of that.

BERMAN: No evidence that Comey was. But Peter Strzok, one of the agents --

CAMEROTA: Certainly seemed biased against him.

BERMAN: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile, the House Republican leaders are unveiling an immigration bill that adds new restrictions to legal immigration and asylum seekers and new protections for young, undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers. It would also stop the Trump administration policy of separating parents and children at the border that we're seeing play out right now.

In the meantime, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is using the Bible to defend that practice of separating parents from children. According to the "Washington Post," he used the very same passage from the Bible that has been used to justify slavery.

We begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip. She is live at the White House. What's happening there, Abby


It's 2016 all over again here in Washington. With this inspector general report into the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, sparking both sides claiming some victory here.

And President Trump this morning is tweeting now about the I.G. report. He tweeted earlier this morning about Peter Strzok but in the last few moments said this: "The I.G. report is a total disaster for Comey, his minions and, sadly, the FBI. James Comey, the former FBI director, will now officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI. I did a great service to the people in firing him. Good instincts. Christopher Wray will bring it back proudly."

Christopher Wray being the current FBI director. What we're also seeing in the fallout from this I.G. report some previews of what the messages might be about the special counsel's findings once he finally concludes the Russia investigation.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Tomorrow, Mueller should be suspended, and honest people should be brought in. Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week.

PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump's legal team seizing on the inspector general's report in an attempt to undermine both the special counsel probe and the credibility of former FBI director James Comey.

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.

PHILLIP: The report offers a bruising rebuke of Comey, saying he was insubordinate in his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, and repeatedly departed from normal Justice Department protocol, including with this press conference announcing the end of the probe.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly-classified information.

PHILLIP: Comey did not tell then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch before making this announcement.

The inspector general also criticizing Comey for ignoring the objections of top Justice Department officials and sending this letter announcing the reopening of the investigation just days before the election.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Jim Comey violated practice and procedure. He applied a double standard with respect to the investigation of Hillary Clinton versus the investigation of Russian interference in the election, and its connection to the Trump campaign.

PHILLIP: Comey, defending his actions, writing, "My team believed the damage of concealing the reopening of our investigation would have been catastrophic to the institution."

Nevertheless, the inspector general did not challenge the conclusion that Clinton should not have been prosecuted, and they found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations.

Ironically, the inspector general report did find that Comey himself used a personal e-mail account to conduct official government business. Clinton responding with this stinging tweet quipping, "But my e-mails."

ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Director Comey felt entitled to go in front of the country, unauthorized, and lecture Secretary Clinton about her use when it turns out he was doing the same thing.

PHILLIP: The report is particularly critical of two FBI officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who exchanged a number of texts, criticizing Mr. Trump, including this from August 2016.

[07:05:09] Page texts, "Trump's never going to become president, right? Right?"

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

The inspector general says that, while the text implies a willingness to take official action to impact Trump's electoral prospects, he found no evidence that bias impacted the Russia investigation.

The I.G. adding, "The conduct by these employees casts a cloud over the entire FBI investigation and goes to the heart of the FBI's reputation for neutral fact finding and political independence."

FBI Director Christopher Wray vowing to hold employees accountable but defending the bureau.

WRAY: Nothing in this report impugns the integrity of our work force as a whole or the FBI as an institution.


PHILLIP: And President Trump has no public events on his schedule again today, for the third day in a row since he returned from Singapore and that Kim Jong-un meeting. But we have already seen him rolling out some of his responses to this I.G. report. We'll be on the lookout for more of that this morning -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Abby Phillip at the White House. Just one of the major developments today.

Also, a new immigration bill by House Republicans adds new restrictions in legal immigration and new restrictions on asylum. It would also extend new protections for young, undocumented immigrants and change the new Trump administration policy of separating parents and children at the border.

The measure calls for $25 billion in border security funding that include a wall. It would end the diversity visa lottery and make cuts to family-based visas. And as we said, also provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients.

While this is going on, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is quoting scripture, using the Bible to defend the administration's policy of separating parents and children.

Ed Lavandera is live in McAllen, Texas, with the latest on this.

Ed, tell us what you've seen.


Well, the Trump administration announcing that it is planning to open a new temporary shelter in far West Texas to house more of these undocumented immigrant children that are coming in and being separated from their families.

All of this taking place over the course of the last month or so after the administration rolled out what it's called its zero-tolerance policy of charging everyone who crosses the border illegally with that federal misdemeanor crime of illegal entry.

This is a temporary shelter that has been described to us as it will have soft sides, full heating and air-conditioning, as well. It will be crucial, because those summertime temperatures out in West Texas can easily reach over 100 degrees at times.

So all of that continuing as the administration has been -- there are protests across the country because of the zero-tolerance policy, which is leading to the separation of more families here.

But the administration incredibly -- continues to stand by what it's doing. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as you mentioned off the top, invoking biblical passage for doing what they're doing. And Sarah Sanders at the White House yesterday on the defensive, but not backing down from the administration, calling this the right move.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- your policy to take children away from their parents? Can you imagine the horror that these children must be going through?

SANDERS: It is to follow and enforce the law.


LAVANDERA: And John and Alisyn, one of the confusing things that we've been reporting here in South Texas over the last few weeks is just the -- perhaps the arbitrary and inconsistent nature with which the zero-tolerance policy is being applied.

In the federal courthouse, where we've seen hundreds of undocumented immigrants being prosecuted for the federal -- on the federal charge, just across the street there was a shelter where we've interviewed more than a dozen undocumented immigrants who tell us that they were never separated from their children, never taken into federal court. And trying to understand what the difference is in these different cases has been very difficult. So at times, it appears arbitrary and inconsistent, to be honest.

BERMAN: Again, Ed, it's great that we have you down there, taking a look at this firsthand to get the facts.

Ed Lavandera, down in McAllen, Texas, thanks so much.

A lot going on. We have immigration issue, the I.G. report. Joining us, CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN Politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza. Guys, let me just read you quickly what the president is saying this morning, because he's weighing in for the first time. For the first time in the I.G. report.

He said, "The I.G. report is a total disaster for Comey, his minions and, sadly, the FBI. Comey will now officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI. I did a great service to the people in firing him. Good instincts. Christopher Wray will proudly bring it back."

That's what the president says. Rudy Giuliani, his lawyer, says that because of this report, he's got a -- Mueller's got to quit, basically, right now.


CAMEROTA: I'm sure he'll get right on that.

BERMAN: Well, look, you know, what's going to happen today?

AVLON: I think we've got a couple reality checks here. This report was very much hyped up by Trump and his folks, because the original bar was would there be prosecution for Hillary Clinton? Would there be more even more condemnatory of James Comey legal repercussions? This -- and was there bias seeding it all? The report falls short of those partisan goals. It is condemning of

Comey, I think appropriately, for not following proper procedures. It highlights, really, indefensible, you know, texts from Strzok and to his -- the woman he's having an affair with, his fellow agent, Page. But it doesn't hit those bars.

The idea that Rudy is saying this compels the immediate shutdown of the Mueller probe and its folks should be in jail by the end of the week. There's -- Rudy knows in this heart of hearts, this isn't related to that entirely. That is not -- on what charge would you put Strzok in prison by the end of the week? That is -- is pure public opinion language that has nothing to do with the reality of the report and really diminishes the rule of law. It's beneath him.

CAMEROTA: There -- there are so many headlines from this report. I mean, James Comey was insubordinate. That he broke with protocol. But I can't get past that he used his private e-mail account.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: I know. As we were saying, it now feels to me like, basically, every government official does not use their government e-mail and uses their private account.

I do think Comey -- and John touched on this. Comey does not come across very well here. He is -- it strikes me -- and the I.G. report doesn't say this -- but it strikes me that he is someone who's looking out for sort of how Jim Comey is going to come out of this thing.

The fact that he would go and lecture Hillary Clinton about her use of a private e-mail server while having -- using his own private e-mail, not a server but his own private e-mail. The fact that on October 5, he recommends not coming out with the Russia -- the fact of the Russian investigation for fear of it being an October surprise.


CILLIZZA: But 23 days later he comes out and says, "Oh, by the way, remember that thing in July I talked about. Well, now we are going to look into these e-mails on Anthony Weiner's computer."

CAMEROTA: And didn't they find that he didn't have to do that? Not only was it inconsistent --


CAMEROTA: -- that there was no protocol that he had to.

CILLIZZA: Right. The problem was, I remember that day. He said, "I'm saying this. We won't be able to -- we almost certainly will not be able to figure out what's in these before the election." And then on the Saturday or the Sunday before the election he said, "Actually, nothing's in there."

AVLON: "Never mind."

CILLIZZA: But by then, the damage was done. AVLON: The damage was done. And also, significantly, the tail is

wagging the dog. He's responding to concerns that, in the future, if that news gets out, it will be seen as a conspiracy.


CAMEROTA: There's one thing about bias.

CILLIZZA: And hurt him. He's seen --

BERMAN: And bias, of course, is in fact, a four-letter word here. But it's also the most complicated thing that comes out of this 500- page report. On the one hand, it finds no evidence of bias at all was involved in the conclusions in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. And that's huge.


BERMAN: That's crucial. However, it specifically says that they can't be sure that bias did not play a role in how Peter Strzok --

AVLON: Correct.

BERMAN: -- handled Anthony Weiner's computer in the month before.

CILLIZZA: And the timing of why he -- remember, they had the computer in September. And it wasn't until the end of October that Comey came out and said, "We've got these e-mails."

The report is very clear. It says, "The one thing we cannot determine" -- now people well read that as, well, must be bias. No, cannot be determine there was bias, is why did he -- it take that long on the Weiner thing and the not the Russia thing? Was that prioritized? Was that de-prioritized?

Wit's -- we're never going to know the answer to that. But remember: the Russia investigation, which would have been hugely damaging --

AVLON: Right.

CILLIZZA: -- if it had leaked for Donald Trump, didn't leak.

BERMAN: I understand. And also, you can make an easy case that the delay hurt Clinton way more than it helped her.

CILLIZZA: No question.

AVLON: The absurdity of all this question is that the way the FBI handled all of this helped Donald Trump get elected and hurt Hillary Clinton. So I mean, let's not forget that screamingly obvious fact behind it all.

CILLIZZA: And to John's point there, it is important to remember the things that Comey is scolded for, the July 5, coming out with that and saying, "Well, there are no charges that we're going to press." And then the October 28 coming out and saying, "Well, actually, we're reopening." Those things -- and, oh, not coordinating enough with Loretta Lynch.

None of -- you can argue whether they helped Donald Trump. But none of them certainly hurt Donald Trump in any meaningful way. And I would argue you can make a very convincing case they hurt her.

BERMAN: Well, look, Peter Strzok will still be investigated for his role, I think, in the Mueller investigation.

CAMEROTA: And there are damning texts.

BERMAN: That's a whole other thing.

CAMEROTA: We're sure of that.

But let's talk about what's happening at the border. OK? So as you know, there are something like -- I mean, in the past, I don't know, I've seen different numbers. Somewhere between 500 and 650 kids who have been separated from their parents in the past few weeks.

So Senator -- A.G. Jeff Sessions had a new explanation, a new justification for why this is OK.


[07:15:05] CAMEROTA: Let me play this for you.



SESSIONS: 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. Consistent, fair application of law is, in itself, a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak. It protects the lawful.



AVLON: A couple problems with this. One, James Madison's going to come back from the grave and smack Jeff Sessions upside the head about the separation of church and state.

Second problem is quoting Romans 13. That biblical package, first of all, basic reality check. The heart of the Bible is not submission to worldly authority. That one -- in fact, it's the opposite of much of what the Bible says. That passage gets invoked particularly in the run-up to the Civil War to defend slavery. And by loyalists during the American Revolution.

So let's not get spun around that that's somehow fidelity to the Bible. That is a biblical excuse for an administration policy that is undercutting the essence of family values. CILLIZZA: And the word here "discretion" matters. This is a policy.

Sarah Sanders kept saying this. There is a law that, if you enter the country illegally with a child, the adult will be prosecuted and the child will be placed in care. But it's --

CAMEROTA: There's also a law that we provide protection to asylum seekers. There is a law that you provide protection to them, not that you rip their children away from them.

CILLIZZA: Totally agree. But they would argue -- the argument would be these are not all asylum seekers, No. 1. Right?

CAMEROTA: Sure. But they are doing it to the asylum seekers, as well.

CILLIZZA: And what they are doing is, when you say there's a zero tolerance policy, you are making a choice.


CILLIZZA: It used to be -- and that -- Sarah Sanders is, I think, trying to say, "We're just enforcing the law. Our hands are tied." That's not accurate. You can use discretion. Even -- obviously, I think asylum seekers you put in a different category.

CAMEROTA: They're not.

CILLIZZA: You should. You need to use discretion. And I think we're seeing -- we are seeing the result of what a zero-tolerance policy, which probably sounds good on the campaign trail, what it means in actual real life. And I don't think any of us should be comfortable with it, no matter what our view on broader immigration policy.

AVLON: This is a choice, and as the pope pointed out in a tweet that seemed to be addressed, there is also a biblical package that says love the foreigners among you. So this is a decision.

BERMAN: This is a Trump administration policy. They decided to do this.

AVLON: Right, right.

BERMAN: And they just need to own it, and then you can have the debate about whether it's --

CAMEROTA: Right. But the fact that they're not owning it, maybe it's just a tactic to bring people to the table. Maybe it's just a tactic to hasten the immigration debate, because that does seem to be happening.

BERMAN: It's a -- it's a tactic being played out on babies. So they need to own that.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. Using babies as a tool.

CILLIZZA: That's a problem. If it is a tactic -- and I never know if it is or they're just doing it. But if it is a tactic, OK. But the problem always with this stuff -- and this is the case any time you take any sort of extreme position and say zero-tolerance. The problem is the real world is impacted by these policies.


CILLIZZA: It's just not something you say on the campaign trail, because you know certain people within your base like it.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Chris Cillizza, John Avlon, great to talk to you.

OK. So the Trump and Clinton campaigns are united on one point.

BERMAN: It brought them together.

CAMEROTA: This is a beautiful moment of unity. That former FBI director James Comey did them wrong, both of them. But did he affect the outcome of the 2016 election? And who got hurt? We will hear from both sides, next.


[06:22:38] CAMEROTA: The inspector general's report on the Justice Department's handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail heavily criticized the FBI's handling of the investigation but found no evidence that prosecutors or fired FBI director James Comey were affected by political bias.

Joining us now to discuss all of it, we have Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager Robby Mook and former George W. Bush political director Matt Schlapp.

Great to have both of you. You both had an investment, obviously, in the outcome of what happened with James Comey's decisions.

So, Matt, let me start with you. Who do you think paid the bigger price for James Comey's mishandling and bad behavior?

MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's -- it's a great question. Let me just say at the very beginning, the idea that they were doing an investigation of how Hillary Clinton handled her e-mails and her whole use of personal e-mails, and James Comey was doing the very same thing, I just think from a bipartisan perspective, the hypocrisy and the arrogance coming out of the FBI. And I have to say --

CAMEROTA: That was a jaw dropper. I just want to stop you right there. That was a jaw-dropper that the investigation found out. And I'm sure, Robby, that you agree that James Comey was using private e- mail for FBI business. Not a server, but he was using private e-mail. That was one of them. Go on, Matt.

SCHLAPP: Yes. And just to finish my thought, and I also thought to watch -- look, I dealt with James Comey when he first entered the George W. Bush administration. To watch him lurch in and out with FBI decisions in a way that was clearly going to impact the campaign.

And then to hear after the campaign is over on his book tour that he was consulting polls and that he knew that Hillary Clinton was going to win and so he had to make sure that she was in a credible stance when she took her first step as president, I listened to all of that. And I just say, "Do your job and quit freelancing over on the side. Let the political guys do their job. It's not the job of the FBI."

CAMEROTA: Yes. And it sounds like that is actually the findings, as well, of the I.G.

SCHLAPP: Yes. And the final thing is, is that from Donald Trump's perspective, you know, clearly they had people at the very tippy top at the FBI that were literally in the resistance, literally hashtag #resistance. Five of these folks are being -- are going to have to be investigated by the FBI for these texts. So they also were trying to do everything they could to prevent Donald Trump becoming president.

CAMEROTA: Fair enough. But Donald Trump won.

SCHLAPP: He sure did.

CAMEROTA: So who do you think it hurt more?

SCHLAPP: In the end, in this election? James Comey's -- I think -- I think the I.G. investigation shows that Donald Trump was hurt more. But I think James Comey's --

[07:25:07] CAMEROTA: Hold on. Hold on. How did -- how was Donald Trump hurt more? He won.

SCHLAPP: Well, I think Donald Trump was hurt more because I believe that the tippy top of the FBI --


SCHLAPP: -- that they were more interested in trying to peddle this Russia story, pushing the idea of what was in the FISA warrants.

CAMEROTA: They didn't announce the Russia investigation. They talked only about Hillary Clinton's e-mail investigation, and she lost.

SCHLAPP: Yes, gut what would -- this is my opinion. My --

CAMEROTA: I understand. How can you possibly think that Donald Trump was hurt more?

SCHLAPP: By what the FBI did? Yes, but he could have won by more, Alisyn. It was a little bit of a squeaker.


SCHLAPP: Can you give me that? Hillary Clinton didn't even concede -- she didn't even concede that night, because it was that close.

CAMEROTA: She won the popular vote, you're right. Robby, your thoughts?

MOOK: Yes. I mean, I agree on the first point that Comey got way ahead of his skis here. I believe he's a patriotic person. I believe he thought he was doing what was right, but his judgment was terrible. And the hypocrisy of using private e-mail, that was stunning to me, as well.

But I think we're getting into some very dangerous false equivalencies here in terms of, you know, the FBI's political leanings. I think looking at this, who was hurt more is not the right way to look at it. We have two completely separate matters here.

One is that they totally mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton. They were leaking about it constantly. Comey never should have had the press conference, never should have sent the letters. OK.

But there was a long investigation into President Trump. They never leaked on that. And in fact -- or (AUDIO GAP) It looks like they were leaking to Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. And moreover, the fact that Donald Trump now suddenly cares so much about Hillary Clinton and using -- is using that as an excuse to undermine the investigation into Russia is totally absurd. And I think we're talking about apples and oranges here.

There was a lot of harm done in the election that is totally separate from the question of whether an investigation is required into what the president's campaign may have been doing vis-a-vis Russia.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Here are the texts that you're saying that show bias, certainly between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

"Trump is not ever going to become president, right, right?"

And he says, "No. No, he won't. We'll stop it."

Who knows what that means? Who knows if that was wishful thinking. Who knows? But that -- let's be fair, those were two people. There are 35,000 in the FBI.

SCHLAPP: That's right.

CAMEROTA: So the idea that the Trump administration has impugned much of the FBI because of these two people is unfortunate, or you think fair?

SCHLAPP: No, I do think it's fair. Because these were people at the top levels of the FBI.

But what I'm hoping is, is that, look, this is why you have I.G. investigations. The FBI is a very important institution in our society. There's been plenty of honorable people that have run the FBI, and there are wonderful employees of the FBI. This is not their best moment.

As a matter of fact, if there was any improper involvement in the election, it was actually coming from the FBI. And I'm hoping is we can turn the corner on this. Democrats and Republicans should agree on this. We need an FBI that's functioning and not political.

CAMEROTA: Yes, of course. Robby, what are your thoughts of how we move on from this?

MOOK: I totally agree that the FBI should not be political. I think this report provides a big opportunity for some introspection at the FBI. As I said earlier, I think a piece of this that has not gotten much attention was the enormous amount of leaking that was going on. And again, this was leaking about Hillary Clinton.

CAMEROTA: And so how do -- I hear you. So how do -- why do you think that was happening?

MOOK: I don't know. And I can't tell you. My understanding is there's a separate investigation going on right now into the New York field office specifically, which -- again, it's my understanding. I don't know this as a fact. But that's where a lot of the leaking was coming from.

Let's not forget, Rudy Giuliani on live television preternaturally predicted that something was going to happen to Hillary. And lo and behold, the Comey letters came. So if Donald Trump's lawyer was getting inside information from the New York field office, you know, that's a whole other angle of this that we need to look at.

But again, the big picture here is the FBI has a lot to learn. They are an important institution. They have a tremendous amount of power. They've got to get out of the political process, stop inserting themselves into elections. And I would hope that James Comey would finally just come forward and say, "I made a mistake."

SCHLAPP: I agree with that completely.

MOOK: That's an important part -- that's an important part of learning the lesson.

SCHLAPP: I agree with that. And the leaks come because the New York field office, let's face it, they weren't that high on Hillary Clinton. And there was animosity there. And that was obvious.

CAMEROTA: All right. Robby Mook, Matt Schlapp, a moment of agreement.

BERMAN: I've got to say, James Comey's done the impossible here. James Comey has brought Matt Schlapp and Robby Mook together here.


BERMAN: A moment of comity.

The White House keeps saying a law is forcing them to separate children from their parents at the border. So why was not this law enforced before? We're going to speak to former attorney general Alberto Gonzales. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)